Lessons Learned: Grief in Stages

The common stages to grief include denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and then acceptance. Going through grief doesn’t apply only to losing a loved one. The stages also apply to those with a terminal illness, losing a job (even when retiring), ending a marriage or partnership, or any other loss that affects our lives.

Each person handles grief in different ways based on the circumstance. Each person handles grief different than how another person may handle it. With this in mind, I thought about my brother passing away 3 ½ years ago and my dad passing away a year ago today.

I remember when my brother’s girlfriend told me that he had stage 4 lung cancer. I began the grieving process at that time. First words that came out of my mouth were, “What? You’re kidding me.” At the time, the doctors guessed he had about three to four months to live. You hear the words, but you don’t put two and two together on what it means. We were dealing with my mom having her stroke, wondering if she was going to make it through, and then this came as a double whammy. I had to research stage 4 lung cancer to realize how serious his condition was at the time.

The anger that came next wasn’t the physical or shouting anger but more on how it wasn’t fair. He was only in his mid-fifties and too young to die. The anger and the bargaining stages were close together for me. I wished he had gone to the doctor sooner. I wished that I would’ve pressed him to go in, knowing that he was having pain in his shoulder. Depression came next. The sadness in knowing that I would never see him again had me burst in tears without warning. When he went into hospice, I was depressed, but I was accepting of the outcome as well. No one wants to see someone you love go through the pain. Even when medicated, he was miserable.  

On the other side, my brother was going through all four stages of grief right until the end. He was angry. He knew he’d been around Agent Orange. He knew he’d been on a Navy ship that had asbestos. He wasn’t ready to die. He thought he could beat the cancer even up until the very end. My sister was able to get my mom and dad out to see him a couple days before he died. My mom asked him if he was ready to die. He said, “No. Maybe tomorrow.” The morning he died, his friend was there to see him. The day started as it normally did. His friend greeted him and then went to get a cup of coffee. On his return to the room, my brother had died. It was quick, and I wonder if that’s when he accepted the inevitable.  

When my dad died, we knew for a while his health was failing. He had chronic kidney failure, a bad heart, and we guessed that he may have had cancer as well. After he died, I didn’t go through all the stages of grief. I went through two stages: depression and acceptance. Acceptance came first. I was relieved when he passed. Again, like my brother, it’s miserable seeing someone you love being in so much pain. At least now, he wasn’t suffering. The depression came later. In late summer, I was feeling in a funk. I was having a hard time writing. I wasn’t my normal self. I couldn’t pinpoint why until one day when it dawned on me that I was depressed. I was missing my dad.  

For me, my stages of grief were different between brother and father. They were two different scenarios yet still the same. I had lost two members of my family. I think what helps, for anyone going through a major loss is knowing that no matter what, it’s okay to go through the different stages. Grief may only take a few days, while at other times it could take a year or longer. Life always changes. It’s okay. Just remember to keep your memories. The time you had the person can stay in your heart.

Grief flowers

Lessons Learned: Time Crunch

My husband told me that I have half an hour to finish my blog. Most times I can start the draft, during my lunch hour and then finish the blog when I get home. Today I was too busy at work to draft my blog. We had “Pi” day over the lunch hour. Normally Pi day is on March 14. And this year, Pi 3.14159 was the exact date: 3/14/15 (at 9:26:53).

Since the day landed on a Saturday, our work celebrated today. We gathered in one of the larger meeting rooms to eat lunch and enjoy a piece of pie…or two…or three. I sampled three to coincide with the “3” of Pi day: pecan, carrot, and chocolate. Okay, the chocolate was actually a sheet cake. The co-worker who ordered the cake wanted the baker to write “Happy Pi Day.” The person at the counter was totally confused. The co-worker changed the cake order to read “Happy St. Patrick’s Day.” This the person understood.

With that said, I’m taking on my husband’s challenge to finish in 30 minutes or less. There’s paperwork that we need to review, and tonight’s the best night to do it. I have ten minutes left. I believe I’ve won the challenge. :)

PS: Have a fun and safe St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow!


Writing Romance

Saturday, March 7, I attended a writer’s group event in Amery, Wisconsin, that was hosted by the Northern Lakes Center for the Arts. One of our WisRWA members, Helen C. Johannes, spoke at the event to discuss romance and what it means. The writer’s group in Amery, chartered by the Wisconsin Writer’s Association, wanted to learn more about what constitutes a romance novel and how to write one. Tina Susedik, Danielle Johnson, and I, members of the WisRWA – Chippewa Falls Area, went to support Helen and to help answer questions about romance writing if needed.

Helen did a great job explaining the definition of a romance novel. The Romance Writers of America (RWA) organization defines a romance novel as having a central love story with a happy or optimistic ending. She explained how romance writing received a bad rap in the 80’s when people began to stereotype romances as “bodice rippers.” Not so much anymore. Today, romance is a big business with over $1 Billion in sales.

Today’s romance stories are sophisticated, fun, comedic, smart, suspenseful, etc. There’s different genres within romance which includes, but not limited to, historical, young adult, suspense, contemporary, and erotica. The question was asked whether or not Romeo and Juliet was a romance. The classic is a love story but not a romance because the ending is tragic. A few good examples of romance in movies include: The Princess Bride, The Sound of Music, and Shrek. I remember my nephew, a producer, telling me that romance doesn’t sell. I beg to differ – note the three movies above.

Helen also discussed how she writes. Her style is pretty much free form. She creates the story in her head, she may have a loose outline, but mainly she writes. She won’t know how the story ends until the last word is written. Tina Susedik is the same way. For me, I will create a detailed outline, but it always changes.

I think the writer’s group enjoyed learning about romance. I had a fun time as well. It’s nice to have a refresher on the basics of romance and to confirm why we write. In the world that we live in today, it’s nice to read a story with a happily ever after or an optimistic ending. We can live in someone else’s world for a short period of time.


Lessons Learned: Nobody is perfect.

We should remember the saying “nobody is perfect.” But many times in our daily life, the words are forgotten.

In relationships…

Marriages or partnerships can crumble because one partner believes he or she has to be perfect or the other person should be perfect. No one can be perfect. A relationship can become a fine oiled machine, but even the machine needs care or breaks down at times. Why? Because we make mistakes. For example, at times I can get lost into my own little world. My head has so many thoughts racing around that I get caught up on what I need to do instead of having fun or enjoying moments with my husband. He catches me when I do this and waves the red flag. I know then I have to slow down and remember to balance myself.

As a parent…

Throughout the raising a child process and even when they are adults, you make decisions that you wish you wouldn’t have made. You wish that you hadn’t said those words or had pushed so hard. You wish you had been stricter or spent more time with your kids. Some decisions will be right on and you can give yourself a pat on the back. Other decisions may stick with you for a long time. For example, I remember when my daughter, in fourth or fifth grade at the time, was excited for her upcoming birthday party. A few weeks before the party (after the invites were out), she was being a terror and wouldn’t listen. Because of it, I cancelled her birthday party a few days before the event occurred. At the time, I thought it was a good decision. Afterwards, I felt terrible. We did celebrate her birthday as a family, but she didn’t get the friend party. Did this event affect her self-esteem? Was I too harsh? I think I was and I still feel bad about it.

At work…

Expectations can be critical to your job. If a deadline has to be met or you’re expected to work on a task, you want to finish the work and do a good job. At times, other events or people get in the way. Maybe you’ve become sick with the flu or cold and it’s taking longer to recover. Your heads not in it. Give yourself a break. Or, you’re tackling so many different things that you can’t devote enough time to deliver the best product. You have to move forward, tackling the most important tasks and let go of the others. Go for the 80/20 rule. And if you’re super busy go for the 70/30 rule. You have to do your best under the circumstances without getting too stressed and wrecking your health.

Just remember that no one can be perfect. Not you. Not me. The important thing is that you do your best. You may need to be reminded to keep your balance. You may make decisions that you’ll regret later, or you’ll plain flat-out make a mistake. Forgive yourself. Also, remember that others can’t be perfect either. You may need to be understanding, help them out, or accept what happened. Just don’t expect perfection.

Lessons Learned: I don’t want a root canal

Last night my husband Mike was in pain. We had the sneaky suspicion that he needed a root canal. Neither one of us had experienced one before, but we know others who have had experienced it. While I went to work this morning, Mike went to his regular dentist and they checked out his tooth. They referred him to an endodontic specialist and said that the endodontic office would call him right back to set up an appointment. Mike waited in the vicinity in hopes that he’d get the call. The pain grew. He waited. The pain was intense. He called the dentist back. They said they’d call the endodontic office again. No word. Mike went home. He called me. Frustrated. In pain.

I then called the regular dentist to find out what was going on. I asked about the process and what options we had if we couldn’t get the endodontic office to call back. I found out that he could go to any endodontic specialist within the area as long as they took our insurance. Good to know. However, the dentist office said that they would try calling the endodontist again. If Mike didn’t hear back within 15 minutes then I should give them a call. The specialist called back. Mike wasn’t happy. The appointment was for tomorrow at 1:00.

In the meantime, I did my research. I looked up other specialists. I found one in the next town and his reviews were excellent. And they had an appointment for this afternoon. I booked the appointment for Mike. This afternoon he had his root canal. I couldn’t imagine being in pain for another 24 hours if he had waited for the other endodontic specialist.

Ohh-ohhh. Wait. Mike’s in pain again. The Novocain is wearing off. Specialist had given him Ibuprofen but that’s not enough. Killer, throbbing pain happening. Time for Tylenol 3. Let’s hope the pain goes away, and he doesn’t have to go back in.

Yep. Confirmed. I hope that I don’t ever need a root canal.


Lessons Learned: Reading Books as an Author

I love to read novels, and I have enjoyed reading hundreds of books throughout my life. What I didn’t realize, until recently, is how my style of reading has transformed in the last few years. I learned that I have different ways of reading books, a perspective that has changed since becoming a professional writer and author.

My boss from my full-time job was the one who got me thinking about this. He said that when he read my book “Gitana – Life Plan,” he could “hear” me tell the story. I didn’t think too much of his comment until a few weeks later when I started reading “Click. Date. Repeat.” by K. J. Farnham. I found myself doing the same thing. I read the book as if K. J. was telling me the story. Thinking back, I did the same for Tina Susedik’s book “Riding for Love.” Because I knew the authors, I could “hear” their voices as the narrator. I really enjoyed reading their books having that different perspective.

I then thought about books that I read because I’d met or heard the author speak at a local or national conference. Authors will provide their point of view on how to construct a plot or to give characters depth by using examples from their books. Later on, I’ll read the books to understand more on what they were referring to within those sessions. By doing this I can improve my writing skills.

Next, I’ll read books by major bestselling authors. I’ll read their books to find out why the novels became hits. Was it the action? The way the story was written? The characters? I read “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Fifty Shades Darker,” and “Fifty Shades Freed” to understand why they were popular, especially after hearing the negative feedback about the books. I also wanted to read the books to see how E.L. James continued the storyline of Christian and Anastasia since my next writing adventure will be a trilogy. Could I have read the Hunger Games trilogy? I could have, but the Fifty Shades books had me curious.

And finally, which I’m pleased to say, is that I still have my old style of reading as well. I enjoy reading books by authors that I’m not familiar with. I’ll pick out the book by its cover, by the way the back blurb sounds interesting, and or if I’ve heard about the book from friends or in reviews. I’ll then snuggle in and read the story. I love discovering new favorite reads.

So which perspective do I like best? I like them all. I’m glad I have the variety.

Lessons Learned: Blogging and the Las Vegas Area

Last week I was on vacation in Nevada, just outside of Vegas. I soaked in the warm weather, blue skies, and wonderful sunshine. I discovered two things on this trip: it’s hard to write a blog when on vacation, and there’s more to Las Vegas than the Strip.

I have blogged before while on vacation. I will either write the blog and post it early (even the day before), or I’ll write the blog a few days in advance and then post on Monday night. This time I decided to write at the hotel and then post on Monday night. I was wrong to think that it would go smooth. I had issues with getting the internet connected, and my passwords weren’t working. Even so, I continued onward. I had a subject Freedom to Roam. I had what I wanted to say in my head. I began typing on my Microsoft Surface. After the first paragraph I looked up. Half the words didn’t make sense on the screen. Some words had no spaces between words. I went back to correct the errors, thinking that when I typed I had my fingers on the wrong keys. Nope. Still garbled and getting worse. Paying closer attention, as I tried again to type, I realized my keyboard wasn’t working. I snapped off the keyboard and then reattached it. I began typing again. Snap on and snap off didn’t work. Now that I was totally frustrated, I decided having a Monday off would be okay. I called it quits. My Surface went back into its pouch and stayed in my briefcase for the rest of the vacation.

Dude and Vegas M Jan Feb 15 009

The second thing I discovered on this trip is that Las Vegas has more to it than neon lights, gambling, and shows. We stayed off the Strip at a smaller, less expensive casino hotel. Our mission wasn’t  to spend time in the hotel but to see what the Vegas area had to offer. For our first day we visited the Desert Wildlife Refuge where my sister and her husband volunteer. I learned about washes (where land is washed away from mountain water) and the different birds in the area. We also went hiking in Red Rock Canyon National Park. I found out that a moderate trail is different in Nevada than in Wisconsin or Minnesota. Moderate trails for Nevada means climbing steep rocks and searching for the path, while in Wisconsin it means path is somewhat rocky yet still manageable. Even so, I loved every minute of it. I couldn’t believe the rock formations and how deep some of the canyons were. We also ventured to Death Valley. Grant it, Death Valley is in California, but it’s still in the area and was a day trip. Before our adventure, I thought Death Valley was a flat desert with one continuous road. Not so. We were driving through beautiful mountains. We took the Artist’s Palette drive and weaved our way round the mountains. I loved watching the colors change in the rocks. We were there at sunset, the best time of day. Before this trip, I would have had no interest in going to Death Valley. Now I can’t wait to get back and explore Death Valley and the other areas around Vegas.

My sisters Deb and Pam and Dean

My sisters Deb and Pam and Pam’s husband Dean