Friday, May 31, 2013

My SNL Experience

One of the items on my so-called bucket list actually happened and I still pinch myself about the experience.
After watching Saturday Night Live on the television for many, many years, I finally got to go to a LIVE SHOW!!

It was fascinating, it was great fun, it was high energy, it was pure entertainment!

It was everything I ever thought it would be and more!!!  Talk about kick down the door, put yourself out there, over-the-top creativity!!

I could go on and on about the skits, the people, the host, the musical entertainment but then this post would be about SNL's content and there is really nothing to debate about SNL's content.  It's just the best!!!!

Bill Hader Playing Stefon
Instead, I would like to talk about what I learned from my SNL experience.  What I learned, no really what I soaked in from this live television experience, is that even though you might be scared out of your mind (Or Not), taking a risk is something everyone should do.
Find out something new about yourself.
How will you know if something will work if you don't ever try doing it?
When my son comes to me and asks me if he should pursue something, I almost always say, "Yes! Go ahead and try it.  If you don't, you will always look back and wonder what would have happened if you had done it."  And I know that regret is not a good feeling.

I also know that risk is a relative term.  Something you consider risky may not be risky to me at all.  But that's okay.  The point is push yourself, dig down deep and break some new ground for yourself.
Surprise yourself!  But most of, my SNL experience taught me once again the value of being with people you love and just having a good time.  
Having a good spontaneous out loud laugh.  Laughing so hard you can't get your breath.
We have to be able to laugh at ourselves and at life's humorous situations.
Laughter is very powerful medicine and here's a dose that should make you feel A LOT better; it's a quick clip of a very popular character -- Stefon -- played by the incredibly talented Bill Hader:


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Your Personal Path

Unlike many things in life, there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

There's really just your way.
Whether it's through talking, crying, or slowly processing your feelings privately, grief must be acknowledged.  If you try to suppress your grief feelings, they will only come back later on and sometimes they come back in unhealthy ways.
Even though others will probably try to suggest that you should do certain things at certain points in your grief process, it really and truly is up to you and what you feel comfortable doing.  There is no schedule.

Some people bury their feelings and hope that their sadness will go away on its own because life feels like a bad dream.  Others talk openly about their loved one and try to constantly share the fear, disappointment, frustration and guilt of their stories.  Many people find it comforting to set up memorials to their loved one and the process of setting up such a memorial starts the healing process for them.
But grief shakes us to the core and makes us question aspects of our lives that we once took for granted.

Below is a different kind of story about grieving that appeared on the website Hello Grief (  It is a story of a woman who grieved privately, away from others as she searched for the facts and the reasons for her loved one's death.  She tried to use the process of searching for answers as a distraction so she wouldn't have to think about what happened to her.
This story is one more way of creating a dialogue about grief and coming to an understanding about the complicated yet personal way that people decide to process their feelings of grief:

My Life As An Analytical Griever
By Emily Clark

How being an intellectual helped – and sometimes hindered – my grief.

Numerous studies have been done over the years that look at the ways that people grieve. A number of theories about the styles or patterns of grief have evolved from this research. Perhaps one of the best theories I have heard over the years contrasts emotional and analytical grieving.

Emotional grievers are probably the people we stereotypically imagine – loud outbursts of emotions and tears, heavily dependent on those around them, weeping on the shoulders of friends and strangers alike, fully immersed in the emotion of grief whether they are in public or at home.

Analytical grievers, on the other hand, are the people who often get a bad rap when it comes to their grief. These are the grievers who often experience their emotions when they are alone – they save the crying, weeping, and wailing for when they are alone. For me this usually meant breaking down in the car on the way to or from work or, when I just couldn’t take it anymore, in my office at work (thank goodness I didn’t work in a cubicle).

Because analytical grievers don’t often display much emotion in public, people around them often think they aren’t grieving “correctly” or at all. I remember a family member telling me 9 months after my husband had died that he didn’t think I was all that heartbroken because he hadn’t seen me ever cry. The truth was, I cried all the time. For hours and hours, every day. I just did it when I was by myself and didn’t have to worry about what others might think or how uncomfortable I might make them feel. It wasn’t until much later on in my grief journey that I realized that letting go and crying in public from time to time might actually have made me feel better. It would have saved me hours of agony trying to hold in my emotions as they built up and built up until I burst.

We analytical grievers also spend a great deal of time and our grief energy on trying to figure things out and get things done. For some this could mean hours poring over medical researching online, filling out forms, reading every book on grief possible, planning a funeral, or taking up every ounce of busy work available. While my family sat around scratching their heads in confusion, I insisted on going over every detail of my husband’s vehicle accident, over and over. I read the coroner’s report, witness testimony, and practically interrogated the first officers on scene until even they couldn’t take it anymore. I insisted on seeing what was left of my husband’s wrecked vehicle, despite all advice to the contrary. I immersed myself in book after book, seeking out literature that might hold the key to saving me from the mess I was in. For me this was all a part of trying to understand the how and the why of what had happened. I needed information. I needed answers.

Sadly, these answers never came. With every new detail I acquired, I felt as if I understood less and less. All the facts in the world couldn’t take away the simple truth: that my husband was gone and never coming back. Over time, my obsession of analyzing his passing became a distraction from my grieving. Rather than facing the truth and finding healing, I was distracting myself from the pain. Well…as much as one could anyway.

Eventually I began to realize that I would always be left with a multitude of unanswerable questions, and let myself drift into an ocean of pain and emotion. While I never lost that tendency towards trying to “intellectualize” my grief, I began to appreciate and embrace my emotional side as well. There was a delicate balance between trying to understand and just letting myself feel.

So if you or someone you know is grieving, I urge you to take a moment to consider your own grief style as well as theirs. Instead of questioning the way they express themselves, try to remember that there is no right way to grieve. For some, our comfort is in being alone and keeping busy. For others, healing comes from crying on the shoulder of a friend (or stranger). Whatever the case, I urge you to embrace your grieving style and respect the grieving style of those around you.

Our thanks to guest author Emily Clark for sharing her story here with us. You can read more of Emily’s journey through young widowhood on her blog.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Keeping Love In Your Heart

The best and most beautiful things in the world
 cannot be seen or even touched --
they must be felt with the heart.
                                    ~ Helen Keller
The human heart is an amazing organ isn't it?  We fall in love, break up, and then perhaps fall in love over and over again, testing the resiliance of our courageous yet vulnerable hearts.
Somehow, throughout our lives, we ride this emotional rollercoaster and our hearts manage to survive the ride and keep on beating. When a relationship doesn't work out, we are sad but eventually we pick ourselves up and carry on until we meet the next person who catches our fancy.   
We must keep love in our hearts for love teaches us everything about the richness of life.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Friend's Good Bye Letter

Last week a childhood friend of my father's died.  They had known each other since they were in grade school and met each other while playing on the black top when they were about seven or eight years old.  They both went on to attend the same high school, playing basketball, and later both went into the insurance business working for different companies.

Over the years, they stayed in touch with each other as best they could.  They both worked very hard while trying to raise large Irish Catholic families.  My father and mother had six children and my Dad's friend and his wife had eight children.  Our families didn't really mix, not because we didn't want to, but more because the ages of the children were different we didn't live close to their neighborhood and there basically was just too much stuff going on to try and coordinate anything.
When you have known someone for as long as my Dad and his friend knew each other it is hard to let go.  My Dad knew that his friend was not well but didn't know how sick he was until he received the news of his friend's death.  One way to keep the person connected to you is write a letter to the person now deceased.  I don't think this is morbid.  In fact, I think it's very healthy.
The person who died is someone who had an important place in your life.  The person is physically gone but the friendship is still there.  Sharing memories -- whether it's through writing a letter or talking to others about this person -- is a healthy way to process your feelings of grief and to establish  to yourself that the friendship or perhaps love in other cases, is still there and will always be.

Now my Dad is writing a letter to his friend's widow and their adult children about his special friendship with this man and it is bringing back a lot of great memories for him which he hopes will also be a comfort in the days and years ahead as they and my Dad work through their loss.
Don't ever unestimate the importance of a note written from the heart.  After my husband died, I received cards from people who worked with my husband or were friends with him and some wrote notes to me about how they knew him and their experiences with him.  I saved those cards because those notes were like little pieces of a puzzle that was my husband.  Sometimes the stories caught me by surprise and other times I only knew the story from my husband's point of view and the handwritten note reveal a different side of him to me.

Let me be honest, sometimes the stories weren't always the best but either way, the notes were part of dealing honestly and openly with our feelings of grief and trying to find comfort in reaching out and sharing.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Freedom & Bravery on Memorial Day

The smell of charcoal lighter fluid has been in the air in my neighborhood this weekend which means that grilling is not far behind.
Cookouts and parades are just two of the many ways we Americans mark the holiday of Memorial Day, a day when we pause and remember the bravery of the Americans soldiers who are thankfully still with us and those who are sadly deceased because without them we would not have the freedom to enjoy such leisure and peace.
American flag displayed at
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
I recall as a teenager when the draft was still on and the family of one of my best friends posted the military draft number of her brother on one of their kitchen walls.  We saw that number and we were scared.  We were scared for him and the possibility that his number would come up in the draft and he would be called to serve in the Vietnam War.
Seeing that number brought the Vietnam War home for all of us every day and even as young as we were, we knew the seriousness of the situation and that other families across the nation were being called upon to make the same sacrifice.
My friend's brother was lucky and his number was not called but others were not so lucky.
Memorial Day is a day to remember, pray and salute the endless sacrifices made by so many so that we could live in a country where freedom and democracy are preserved.
If you have an American flag, put it out today and proudly display it.
If you have a hero in your family, tell and share the story of what he or she did to bravely serve and defend the United States.
Take a moment to remember and be thankful for our strong and resilient veterans and their families.

I know I will!

Photo by AFP Getty


Friday, May 24, 2013

Positive Vibes

I remind myself every day, all the time in fact, that I have a choice in how I decide to view the world.
I can be negative about things, which is self-perpetuating and draining and doesn't really get me anywhere.
Or I can choose to think positively about the amazing and beautiful world around us.
Positive thinking brings about positive energy which keeps me going and continually connecting with others.
Abraham Lincoln once said, "Most folks are about as happy as they choose to be."  Each day, I think it takes a conscious effort to emphasize the positive and disregard the negative.  Open yourself up to the positive vibes of life and try to shut the door on the negative ones. 

Choose happiness day after day.

Get outside and move around.  Get your heart pumping and breathe in fresh air.  Drink in the natural beauty around you.  Studies show that as little as 5 minutes of walking in a natural setting can increase your self-esteem, boost your mood, and slash high-blood pressure, according to Prevention magazine. New research also says that people who are active outdoors exercise longer than those who work out inside only.

As we move into a long holiday weekend (YEAH!!), please check out this beautifully photographed video about Mother Earth and her amazing resources.  We really do live on an incredible planet! 

Please enjoy the video which was made by the people who wrote The Secret and the calming music was composed for the clip by Jo Blakenburg.


Thursday, May 23, 2013


There's a place where we all want to end up. 

We know it by name but where is it?  Where is Heaven?

I was thinking about Heaven yesterday while attending the wake of a man who was one of my father's best friends.

This man was a good man, worked hard, had a wonderful wife and children and tried to do his best for others.  I'm sure he is in Heaven, wherever that is.

I'm also sure that other people that I knew and loved are in Heaven: my husband, all of my grandparents, my aunt and uncles and some friends.

I believe in Heaven but the idea of not knowing where it is nags at me.  It's a concept that rolls around in my head.  Maybe it is up above us, waaay up above us, but who knows? And what do they do there?  I imagine that people in Heaven are different ages, not the age they were when they died, and that they do things that they loved such as playing baseball, or having parties or being at the beach.
This is my idea of Heaven
I also like to think that they are with us and try to guide and help us.

I think not knowing where your loved one is located is one of the big frustrations about grief.  You are physically cut off from a loved one when they die and there's no way to find out where they are or even how they are doing.

Is it asking too much to know these things?  I don't think so.

I think it's the least they could do after leaving us.  They should at least call, email or text us about what's going on with them.  They must know that we wonder.  They must know that we think about them all the time.

People who have had near death experiences have described what has happened to them and that is probably the closest we will come to finding out what Heaven is all about.

A lot of people talk about seeing a bright light and also seeing people they know.  Katie Couric aired an episode on her daytime show addressing the subject of Heaven and interviewed people who had been through traumatic experiences and spoke of going to heaven and then coming back to their lives.  In an interview Katie Couric did with Dr. Mary Neal, Neal describes being trapped underwater for  15 minutes and losing consciousness.  Neals' description of heaven is of a place filled with love, a love we have not felt here.

Maybe your ideas about Heaven are completely different.  Please share if your thoughts if you would like to!

Here is the link to the Katie Couric interviews with Dr. Mary Neal and others:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Socially Yours

Stories are constantly written about why we should strive to unplug from our computers, ipads, Smartphones and other electronic devices but I read a work colleague's Facebook post yesterday and was reminded of how amazing social media truly is.
I work with a young guy named Aaron Knights and he was at the incredibly tender age of seven when his beloved father died from cancer at the age of 38.  Think about that for a minute.  Think about what you were like when you were seven.  The idea of losing a parent at that stage of your life is profound and pretty scary, right?
They say that when you have a child you sometimes end up reliving moments of your own childhood in the process of raising your own child.  Now, Aaron's daughter is seven years old and Aaron said she is asking Aaron a lot of questions about his Dad and she wants to know things like: What was he like? Was he funny? What would you two do together?
Aaron added that recently he was putting his daughter to bed and they were talking about what happened at school when spontaneously, in only the way a seven-year-old could, his daughter directly said to him, "I wish your Daddy didn't get sick and die.  I wish there was no sickness in the world. . .ever!"

Aaron said he tries to be as honest with his daughter as he can (I would be crying) but he only has so many stories that he remembers of his wonderful Dad because he was so young when his Dad died.  He wanted more stories for himself and for his daughter and he posted on Facebook a simple query about how he misses his Dad every day and asked people who might have known his Dad to share their memories with him and his daughter.
Social media does offer vast human connections which can be impersonal but are also immediate.  At last count, Aaron received more than 75 responses to his question about his Dad which to me is amazing!
Without Facebook, Aaron would have had to sit down and write emails or letters or made telephone calls and then waited for something to arrive in the mail or someone to call back.

Talking about a loved one who has died is good for everyone who knew the person because the conversations and the sharing of memories continues to connect you to that person you lost.  You are also passing along or even trying to recreate that person so that others who never had a chance to get to know the person feel in some way that they too do know this loved one who meant so much.

My son and I always talk about his Dad, some of the weird things he would do or say and also some of the wonderful and treasured things he achieved as a writer and a reporter.  I talk to my friends about him too and they sahre their stories with me.  It just makes us feel better and we never tire of it.  He may not be with us physically but he will never leave our hearts.

Aaron did an extraordinary thing by posting his request for stories about his Dad on Facebook.  He was opening himself up to stories he might never have heard before and even though he wanted those stories, he knew it would be painful to hear them because it would make him miss his Dad even more.  But he chose to get a dialogue going and help his daughter understand what her grandfather was like.

Sometimes you should plug in!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Celebrity's Healing Breakfasts

When I was a young girl in elementary school, my favorite breakfast was a cinnamon twist doughnut and orange juice. 
My father was the "Doughnut Man" on Sundays and would ask me and my five siblings what kind of doughnuts we wanted and then he would bring them back for us warmed up in a large white baker's box.  I still have a thing for cinnamon cake doughnuts but I hardly ever indulge in those bad boys.
Here's the funny thing: after my father would get us doughnuts he would then make himself a cereal bowl full of Total cereal, lots of fresh fruit and wheat germ.  We, the smart aleky children, would laugh and look at his breakfast and turn up our noses and make fun of it, especially the wheat germ.
"Yuck, Dad! Whaaaaaat is that stuff you are eating?"
But my father was on to something that I finally learned for myself.
A great breakfast really sets you up for the day and can set the tone for how you're going to eat the rest of the day.
A Healing Breakfast
When you are going through a stressful time and trying to process a loss of any kind, the last thing you want to do is eat or even eat something that's healthy for you.  You want to eat something that's comforting and makes you feel better.  Even if it's only for the time that you are eating it.
Please don't.  Those things such as doughnuts are chock full of empty calories and empty promises because they leave you empty; with nutritious for your body to run on and build on.
Ironically, I have come full circle and almost eat the same breakfast as my father.  I found a cereal that's low in sugar, I put the freshest fruit I can find on top and then I pour almond milk over it.  I haven't converted to the wheat germ but I'm trying.
If that kind of a breakfast doesn't do it for you, here's how some celebrities wake up and eat their first meal in the morning:

--Justin Timberlake is a fitness buff and he told Bon Appetit that he eats two breakfasts.  The first one is eaten before he works out: waffles with flax and almond butter and a scrambled egg; then for post-workout, Justin has a protein shake and another egg.
--Khloe Khardashian is always watching her weight and she told People magazine that she eats cereal -- Kashi's GOLEAN with 2% milk and coffee.
--The "Call Me Maybe" hitster Carly Rae Jepsen told Bon Appetit that she has the same breakfast every day: vanilla yogurt with granola and fruit and sometimes some boiled eggs.
--"Dancing With The Stars" celebrity Stacy Keibler told People magazine that her breakfast is a smoothie made of organic fruit and veggies.

Take a step towards healing yourself and eat something your body will thank you for!!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Shrinks Redefine Grief

Grief is the normal, natural response to the death of someone you care about.
Grief happens because you connect with another human being through love.
But if it's up to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), people who experience the fundemental yet normal process of grief could be routinely diagnosed right away as in a major depression and then prescribed anti-depressants before they have even had a chance to try and work through their feelings of loss on their own.

That's because the APA is changing the definition of certain behaviors such as grief, hoarding and binge eating, among others, in the handbook that contains the guidelines psychiatrists use for diagnosing people. 
When I was in the throes of new grief, I may have made people feel uncomfortable in my reactions to daily life and I know I felt lost, but I also know my reactions were normal.  Yes, I cried and I felt pain and sadness but anyone would have felt the same way in the same situation.  I was trying to deal with the sudden death of my husband, becoming a single parent and all the emotional baggage that comes with that kind of a traumatic event.
It takes time to deal with pain.  No one wants to feel pain it but it is your body's way of telling you that you have been hurt.

Normal grieving is not a mental disorder.
According to Wikipedia, a psychiatrist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.  I did feel at times as though I was "losing it" while I was grieving but I also sensed that it was a feeling that would feel less raw as time went on.  Grieving that continues for years and progressively gets worse to the point that the person is immobilized and stuck and unable to move forward with their life is called complicated grief and it can require psychiatric help but not all the time. 
Psychiatrists are trained to try help us and improve our mental wellness, not take the easy way out and automatically write a prescription.  Medication prescribed to me in the beginning of my grief process might have made me feel better, but I don't it would have been helpful.  I think it would have been an artificial way of feeling better and that feeling eventually would have disappeared as soon as I stopped taking the medication.  Sooner or later, I would have had to work my way through the pain of grieving.
But maybe that's the APA's point: people sometimes don't want to do the hard or painful work and when that happens the APA is sending the message that it is ready with its prescription pad.

Please read the Associated Press story below and see what you think.

Shrinks, Critics Face Off Over Psychiatric Manual
by The Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — In the new psychiatric manual of mental disorders, grief soon after a loved one's death can be considered major depression. Extreme childhood temper tantrums get a fancy name. And certain "senior moments" are called "mild neurocognitive disorder."
Those changes are just some of the reasons prominent critics say the American Psychiatric Association is out of control, turning common human problems into mental illnesses in a trend they say will just make the "pop-a-pill" culture worse.
Says a former leader of the group: "Normal needs to be saved from powerful forces trying to convince us that we are all sick."
At issue is the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, widely known as the DSM-5. The DSM has long been considered the authoritative source for diagnosing mental problems.

The psychiatric association formally introduces the nearly 1,000-page revised version this weekend in San Francisco. It's the manual's first major update in nearly 20 years, and a backlash has taken shape in recent weeks:
— Two new books by mental health experts, "Saving Normal" and "The Book of Woe," say the world's most widely used psychiatric guide has lost credibility.
— A British psychologists' group is criticizing the DSM-5, calling for a "paradigm shift" away from viewing mental problems as a disease. An organization of German therapists also attacked the new guide.
— Even the head of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health complained that the book lacks scientific validity.
This week, the NIMH director, Dr. Thomas Insel, tried to patch things up as he and the psychiatrists group issued a joint statement saying they have similar goals for improving the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.
The manual's release comes at a time of increased scrutiny of health care costs and concern about drug company influence over doctors. Critics point to a landscape in which TV ads describe symptoms for mental disorders and promote certain drugs to treat them.
"Way too much treatment is given to the normal 'worried well' who are harmed by it; far too little help is available for those who are really ill and desperately need it," Dr. Allen Frances writes in "Saving Normal." He is a retired Duke University professor who headed the psychiatry group's task force that worked on the previous handbook.
He says the new version adds new diagnoses "that would turn everyday anxiety, eccentricity, forgetting and bad eating habits into mental disorders."
Previous revisions were also loudly criticized, but the latest one comes at a time of soaring diagnoses of illnesses listed in the manual — including autism, attention deficit disorder and bipolar disorder — and billions of dollars spent each year on psychiatric drugs.
The group's 34,000 members are psychiatrists — medical doctors who specialize in treating mental illness. Unlike psychologists and other therapists without medical degrees, they can prescribe medication. While there has long been rivalry between the two groups, the DSM-5 revisions have stoked the tensions.
The most contentious changes include:
— Diagnosing as major depression the extreme sadness, weight loss, fatigue and trouble sleeping some people experience after a loved one's death. Major depression is typically treated with antidepressants.
— Calling frequent, extreme temper tantrums "disruptive mood dysregulation disorder," a new diagnosis. The psychiatric association says the label is meant to apply to youngsters who in the past might have been misdiagnosed as having bipolar disorder. Critics say it turns normal tantrums into mental illness.
— Diagnosing mental decline that goes a bit beyond normal aging as "mild neurocognitive disorder." Affected people may find it takes more effort to pay bills or manage their medications. Critics of the term say it will stigmatize "senior moments."
— Calling excessive thoughts or feelings about pain or other discomfort "somatic symptom disorder," something that could affect the healthy as well as cancer patients. Critics say the term turns normal reactions to a disease into mental illness.
— Adding binge eating as a new category for overeating that occurs at least once a week for at least three months. It could apply to people who sometimes gulp down a pint of ice cream when they're alone and then feel guilty about it.
— Removing Asperger's syndrome as a separate diagnosis and putting it under the umbrella term "autism spectrum disorder."
Dr. David Kupfer, chairman of the task force that oversaw the DSM-5, said the changes are based on solid research and will help make sure people get accurate diagnoses and treatment.
Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, the psychiatry association's incoming president, said challenging the handbook's credibility "is completely unwarranted." The book establishes diagnoses "so patients can receive the best care," he said, adding that it takes into account the most up-to-date scientific knowledge.
But Insel, the government mental health agency chief, wrote in a recent blog posting that the guidebook is no better than a dictionary-like list of labels and definitions.
He told The Associated Press he favors a very different approach to diagnosis that is based more on biological information, similar to how doctors diagnose heart disease or problems with other organs.
Yet there's scant hard evidence pinpointing what goes wrong in the brain when someone develops mental illness. Insel's agency two years ago began a research project to create a new way to diagnose mental illness, using brain imaging, genetics and other evolving scientific evidence. That project will take years.
The revisions in the new guide were suggested by work groups the psychiatric association assigned to evaluate different mental illnesses and recent research advances. The association's board of trustees decided in December which recommendations to include.
Advocacy groups have threatened Occupy-style protests and boycotts at this week's meeting.
"The psychiatric industry, allied with Big Pharma, have massively misled the public," the Occupy Psychiatry group contends. Organizers include Alaska lawyer Jim Gottstein, who has long fought against overuse of psychiatric drugs.
The new manual "will drastically expand psychiatric diagnosis, mislabel millions of people as mentally ill, and cause unnecessary treatment with medication," says the website for the Committee to Boycott the DSM-5, organized by New York social worker Jack Carney.
Committee member Courtney Fitzpatrick, whose 9-year-old son died seven years ago while hospitalized for a blood vessel disease, said she has joined support groups for grieving parents "and by no means are we mentally ill because we are sad about our kids that have died."
Gary Greenberg, a Connecticut psychotherapist and author of "The Book of Woe," says pharmaceutical industry influence in psychiatry has contributed to turning normal conditions into diseases so that drugs can be prescribed to treat them.
Many of the 31 task force members involved in developing the revised guidebook have had financial ties to makers of psychiatric drugs, including consulting fees, research grants or stock.
Group leaders dismiss that criticism and emphasize they agreed not to collect more than $10,000 in industry money in the calendar year preceding publication of the manual.
American Psychiatric Association:
Occupy Psychiatry:
Committee to Boycott the DSM-5 :

AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner can be reached at

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Picturing The Calm

I'm picturing myself in a place near the water that is quiet and calm.

Shutting out the noise and distractions.

Hoping this feeling will carry me through the day!

Photo courtesy of Delaware National Estuarine Research

A Delaware Bay Haiku (c) KBC
Horseshoe crabs spawning
Lots of shorebirds arriving
The Bay inviting

Friday, May 17, 2013

White House Market Day Is Back!

The farmer's market near the White House is now open for business on Thursdays and I'm so happy that fresh fruits and veggies are close to my office for the picking.
I'm so proud of myself! I took these pics myself!

There was almost a party atmosphere as I arrived at the market today around 1 pm.  When I walked to the market area which is one block from the White House (, there were almost 200 people shopping and sampling local produce.  People were spilling out of their office buildings, shaking off the cold weather, happy to be outside and become reaquainted with the farmers and other vendors they hadn't seen for months.
Browsing through the stalls today, I saw the season's freshest selections of kale, spring onions, baby cucumbers, leeks, beets, sweet potatoes and even some tomatoes.  I was really looking for strawberries but it is not yet their time.  I was told that it might be another week or two for ripe and juicy strawberries because Washington, DC had a bit of an unseasonable cold snap.
I came to the market for the opportunity to support local farmers and buy fresh produce but I also made a wonderful connection.  I was at the FRESHFARM Markets table looking for information about the vendors when a woman named Terry started chatting with me.  She asked if she could help me and I told her about Cry, Laugh, Heal and how I write about working through grief by trying to take care of yourself through exercise and eating healthy and generally staying resilient and positive.
She said she loved the name of the blog and she had experienced a time of laughing that turned into crying and then laughing again.
Terry said she was at a relative's funeral and this relative happened to be the kind of person who really liked playing jokes on people and making people laugh.  The person who got up to deliver the eulogy at her uncle's funeral walked to the front of the room to start talking.  Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, the speaker's zipper on his pants was unzipped.

People in the audience tried to make signals to him that he needed to zip up his pants and in the process of signaling, people began to laugh.  But then in the laughing they remembered they were at a funeral.  And then they started crying a bit but then they also couldn't stop laughing because the speaker was oblivious to his zipper being open.
EXACTLY!!  That's what's so great about the FRESHFARM farmer's market.  Every week is an opportunity to meet new people and share our stories about crying or laughing or healing.
Today I'm so glad to have met Terry and know that the farmers' healing fruits and vegetables are just a couple of blocks away for me for the rest of the summer and early fall!

Rock on farmers!!!!!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

What Am I About?

One of the presents that my insightful son gave me for Mother's Day is a book about blogging.

From the very first post I wrote, he has always been my biggest supporter.  I love it!

He is always asking me what I am going to write about and I run ideas by him to get a younger point of view and I also ask him for permission to write about him or something he said or did.  Some writers would disagree with requesting permission from him but I feel it is the polite thing to do and asking also prevents angry or hurt feelings. 

At 22 years old, my son has very good instincts about life plus he visits completely different websites than I do.  He is happy to give me a heads up about an idea that he thinks might translate into a timely post and I am glad he does.  He has given me some great ideas! And so has my son's book!

One of the first exercises the book suggests is to make sure that you know who you are as a blogger.  Are you a baker? A decorator? An athlete?  I am a little bit of all of those things but that's not why I chose to start writing my blog.

I started Cry, Laugh, Heal in December 2010 because my husband died in 2003 and I was raising our son by myself and working a full-time job.  I had spent two years attending a support group for widowed persons and then decided that I wanted to contribute to the online conversation about grief.
In the beginning, I only wrote once a week and I only wrote about grief.  As I started to work my way through some major grief feelings, I began to see that I was doing more than surviving and getting through a day.  I was slowly but surely, with the help of others, rebuilding my life.  It's not the life that I thought I would be leading, but it's a life I feel good about and a lot of it has to do with blogging.
I am still working a full-time job but I always find time to write.  I too am still working through my grief and just like you I need support.  In every post, I try to be as honest and as straightforward as I can be.  It is important to me to call things what they are, for that is when you truly start to untangle a feeling, a problem or a situation.  I love the comments that readers leave and I look forward to all the different kinds of feedback that blogging makes possible.

So to answer the question of the exercise in my son's book asking who are you as a blogger?  I am a widow, a mother, a former journalist and a dancer.  I love life and I try to do something every day that scares me, that challenges me and that I am passionate about.  I try to stay authentic about what grief is and how I deal with it; how sometimes it just pounds you down.
But you can't give in to the pain for there is so much in life to discover anew and it's usually on the other side of the pain.
Thank you so much awesome readers for visiting my blog, Cry, Laugh, Heal.

I'm not sure where life is taking me but let's travel together.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Angelina's Health Decision

Angelina Jolie made a powerful decision.

It's not a decision that every woman has the opportunity to make, but I stand and applaud her courage and wish her a future of wellness.
Faced with medical information from her doctors that she had an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of developing ovarian cancer because she carried the BRCA1 gene, she decided to take control of her health and be proactive.  She decided at the young age of 37 to have a double mastectomy which means she had both of her currently healthy breasts surgically removed.
Jolie didn't want to wait around for the cancer to come and claim her.
Jolie, the winner of an Academy Award, two Screen Actors Guild and three Golden Globe awards, wrote an op-ed piece which appeared in yesterday's New York Times about her medical decision and I think every woman who read it paused afterwards and thanked God for their good health and blessings and maybe at the same time they also thought about someone they had already lost to breast or ovarian cancer or is in treatment.

Whether a mother or a daughter, grandparent, sibling, or friend, chances are very good that almost every New York Times and Cry, Laugh, Heal reader knows someone affected by fbomb cancer.

Actress Angelina Jolie and her partner, Actor Brad Pitt, with their six children
I imagine that every woman, when first diagnosed with breast cancer has two burning questions, "What am I going to do?" and "Will I lose my breast?"  As the mother of six children and the daughter of a woman who died from cancer at age 56, Jolie said she had all the information she needed to face her scary health dilemma, stare down her future and go forward.

Her New York Times op-ed is amazing and for me, her most inspirational words came in the last two sentences:

"Life comes with many challenges.  The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of."
Cancer can many times take us to the land of grief and, believe me, it is not a place anyone wants to visit.  But once we find ourselves thrown there, we can and must find a way to get through the tears and the pain and work to find a new way of living our lives.
It is about trust, and love, and being human.  And it is most of all about hope.
Please don't ever give up.
You've got the power.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Needing Sleep

Lots of great things happen to you while you are asleep.
Your skin repairs itself, your mind relaxes and resets itself and your body strengthens its immune system and reduces levels of stress.

But you have to do it to reap the benefits.
These days people like to brag about how little sleep they need.  I remember reading somewhere that Martha Stewart only sleeps four hours a night.  I thought to myself, "You've got to be kidding!  I could never last very long if I only got four hours of sleep a night!"

Even Charlie Brown & Lucy Need To Sleep
One of the key elements of a healthy life and healthy grieving is allowing your emotions to surface in order to work through them.  You can put off dealing with your emotions but sooner or later they will come back at you, even stronger than before.  Unfortunately, you have to come face-to-face with your pain.  Oherwise you block the grieving process.  If you continue to ignore these emotions, then you end up holding them inside yourself and eventually you will affect your ability to sleep and other areas of your life.
Do you feel tired all the time?  Part of grieving is feeling fatigued.  I was exhausted after my husband's death and I found that dealing with my husband's death made my sleeping patterns change in a way that had never happened before.  After working all day, I would fall asleep sometime around 7:30 pm or 8 pm and then sleep until 4am.  On the weekends, I would fall alseep during the day.  This went on for a number of months and then my sleeping pattern finally changed again.  It felt weird but it was okay. 
Even if you can't sleep because you are upset or anxious about a loved one's death, I also found you can sometimes sit still and breathe quietly and find a focal point in which to loose yourself.  It might not work the first few times you try this but it is worth the effort.
Sleep is critical to our well-being and resting your body will help your emotional recovery.
Listen to this great TED talk that Arianna Huffington gave on the value of getting a good night's rest and how sleep is essential to our creativity and recovery.  She makes some great points!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Grief In the Office

Even though your world probably stopped when you lost a loved one, the world around you has continued  with its usual routine.
I know it's kind of a shocker to find this out but it's true.
You are racked with pain but unfortunately you still have bills to pay and possibly children to feed and keep on track as best as possible.
In my case, my husband's funeral was on a Monday and the work project I was involved with required that I go into the office on the Thursday of that same week to participate in a conference call.  I did go into the office which felt totally surreal, and somehow kept it together.  The young girl who sat in the conference room with me during the call did her best to let me know she was sorry I had to sit in on the call but was still uncomfortable because I think she thought I was going to randomly start crying.
I didn't start crying but I wanted to.  There were no tears because I was afraid to cry.  I was fearful that if I showed my work colleagues what a mess I was, then I would lose my job and then I would really be up a proverbial creek.
Coming off the elevator to my work floor, I began to see that there were usually two reactions from my work colleagues: either people acknowledged to me in their own way that they were sorry to hear that my husband had died or they acted like nothing had happened.  There was no middle ground.
Having been through this experience, I have to say that the best reaction is the honest reaction: someone either hugs you, holds your hand, says "I'm sorry for your loss," or asks if there is anything they can do.  I never understood the people who came up and talked to me as though nothing had happened.  You may also find yourself dealing with a vibe that seems like you are contagious with some kind of disease that NO ONE wants to be exposed to.
Even if you are uncomfortable or nervous in talking to someone who has just lost a loved one, I think you can always manage to say something that indicates you are a human being and that you and others have feelings about what happens to them.
God knows that today's competitive workplace is hard enough to navigate.  Work is a place of business but work is also a place made up of human beings.  Offices with forward looking management probably have thought about this already and have policies in place to help co-workers deal with their colleagues personal crises.  Or maybe not.  If not, it's definitely time to pull one together.
The Washington Post's Karla L. Miller addresses the issue of work bereavement policies and how being unprepared can lead to hurt feelings and graceless comments from colleagues.  Here's the link to her column in the Washington Post magazine: 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Being A Mommy

On June 25, 1990 my life changed forever.
I gave birth to a magical baby boy and I discovered a kind of love I had never known before.
A fierce, unconditional and wonderous kind of love that continues to take my breath away!
I say surprising because I was totally unprepared for the depth and the size of this love for my son.  As the oldest of six children and one of 35 first cousins, I grew up constantly surrounded by babies and toddlers.  Also, there is only seven years separating me and the youngest of my siblings, who are twins.  That's a lot of bottles and diapers but also a lot of fun!
I adore children and find them to be exhausting but special little creatures who I automatically love for their spontaneity and ability to constantly reveal the world to you in fresh and exciting ways.  I thought I had figured out what motherhood would feel like because I had been taking care of children since I was six or seven years old.
Until I gave birth to my own child. 
Holding my baby boy after giving birth was a truly powerful and emotional experience.  All those feelings of love, protection, hope, joy and expectations came at me all at once as I gazed down at his beautiful face!

My son is now 22 years old and I can definitely say that I love him more than anything else in the whole world!   But I also can definitely say that I like him as a person and enjoy hanging out and talking to him whenever we can.

I love this picture of my son!!! He is so happy!!

Raising my son with his father and then later as a widow, has made me dig down within myself and try to work on the twisty sides of myself and put him first.  In other words, to consider what life is like from his perspective, not in an indulgent way, but in the way of trying to understand that he has been dealt something in life that is entirely different from what I knew as a child.

He has brought out a different side of myself and helped me become a better person.  Being mother and father has not been easy but I have to say that I wouldn't trade one second of it because those jobs are the most important jobs we are ever asked to do.

Today I think of those early days when a sticky kiss and a hug from my son as a baby and a toddler where the best things I could ever receive to the current days of animated and quiet conversations about life that end with "Thanks Mom! I love you!"

Thank you Ryan!!!!!!!!  Being your mom is the best!!!!

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Summer Itch

I talked to one of my great friends today on the telephone.  I thought she was at home or running errands but then she said she had to get off the phone because she was getting ready to cross the Bay Bridge. 

As in the Bay Bridge over the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.

Ding! Ding! Ding! She's. Going. To. The. Beach!

Right away, I began to feel the symptoms of an incurable condition called "Beach Fever."

My friend's news dovetailed perfectly with the recent warming of the sun in Washington, DC (predicted 82 degrees today!) and turning the calendar to the mojo month of May.  My thoughts of being at the beach have now been kicked into high gear and I know I am off and running and will be like this for the rest of the summer. 

Don't You love This Picture?
  Makes You Feel As If You Are There!
The past week has found me going on the internet at all times of the day and watching the Bethany Beach live cam so I can gaze at the sand dunes and a bit of the incredible ocean for myself.  I'm pathetic.  I just sit there and stare at the screen for God knows how long as my eyes travel around the screen going from the sand to the water and from the water back to the sand.

When I'm at home, I go into the linen closet and open up the brownish plastic bottle of Coppertone sun screen and smell it over and over again.  It's one of my favorite scents!!  I can't even put into words the colorful flood of memories that fill my brain when I smell Coppertone. 

And then I start to think about and of course start to crave beach food -- pizza, steamed crabs, french fries, lobster.
I am really ridiculous about the whole beach thing! 

It's one of the few places on the planet that totally relaxes me and helps me refill my inner reserves of patience, peace and energy.  When I am at the beach, I am all into my healing zone of reading, relaxing and being entirely off schedule.

I am an incurable beach nut and that's all there is to it!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Odometer Rolls to 90

Work, children, friends, lovers, spouses. . . So much is happening in all of our lives and it all seems to zip along a lot faster than we want.
At 90 years young, Regina Brett has a unique perspective on the rhythms of life and how to get back up and dust yourself off after life has kicked you in the teeth.  I have no idea whether I will live as long as Regina, but if I do, I hope to have her wisdom.
Brett is a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper and she says that to celebrate getting older she once wrote a column about the 45 lessons that has life taught her.  It is now the most requested column she has ever written.
I thought it would be fun to share Brett's insightful lessons of life list once more (My picks are #10, #13, #25 and #45).  Here goes:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short – enjoy it.

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Stay true to yourself.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye, but don't worry, God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful. Clutter weighs you down in many ways.

18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It's never too late to be happy. But it’s all up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive (and try to forget).

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time, time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative of dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. Accept what you already have, not what you need.

42. The best is yet to come...

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield (at least once in a while).

45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a "gift"

Amen Regina!!!!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Solid Sistahood

When I am with my good solid girlfriends -- women whom I have known for years and years and years -- I know I am blessed.

When we get together we may be going on about our children, our hair color, a new diet or some story we heard about on the news, but the under current of all of that warm wonderful and familiar chatter is the inner knowledge that we are sistas who have each other's backs and always will!

Through beautiful and great times, times of trauma and then those other ugly times when you need to just pull up your big girl pants and get on with your life as you heal and rebuild, my girlfriends have been there for me and I have been there for them.  Life is richer with my amazing friends for they are the glue that holds me together and in turn, I hope I do the same for them.

Whether you have girlfriends from childhood or adulthood or if you are extremely lucky you have a mix of friends from diffferent ages of your life, please read Ann Hood's compelling story recently published in PARADE magazine that takes us to her mother's house on a Friday night where a group of women known as "The Girls"  have gathered to play cards.
Views by Ann Hood: Remember 'The Girls'
Photo: Tim Klein/Gallery Stock
Loyal, loud, tough-talking—these were friends impossible to replace.

The Girls
By Ann Hood
Every Friday night, they gathered at one of their houses in a cloud of cigarette smoke and Aqua Net. They came in twos or threes, dressed in velour sweat suits, skirts with matching sweaters, elastic-waist jeans, and shirts that said BEST MOM or DECK THE HALLS. In their hands: coffee cans filled with pennies that clanked as they walked. Some wore wigs, big bubbles of fake hair. Or wiglets or falls, bobby-pinned in place like the mantillas they wore to church on Sunday. There were 12 in all. The Dirty Dozen, they called themselves. But more often, they were just The Girls.

Most had grown up together in Natick, R.I., a small village in a small state. Their houses all sat within a mile of each other. Yet they arrived in station wagons, the ones they drove to and from school, the beach, and the park, overloaded with kids.

Their husbands were foremen in factories. Others worked on the army base or ran the produce department or the deli counter at the local store. One of The Girls—no one could remember how she came to join them—was married to a doctor. She wore a blond fall, cat-eye glasses, drank Chablis. She didn't fit in, really. The Girls married young and stayed married. This one had an affair and left town. Then they were 11 around the kitchen tables covered with plastic cloths.

My mother was part of this group. For as long as I can remember, Friday nights were sacred, hers. The hurried dinner—maybe tuna casserole, eggs in purgatory, fish and chips from the takeout place. Then her disappearance to get ready. She left my father in charge for the evening, which meant popcorn and Dr Pepper and staying up late. But never late enough for me to hear her come home.

Best was when it was my mother's turn to host. She began cooking on Wednesday. Marinating. Peeling. Simmering. Friday we were banished to the TV room so she could set up metal trays with small bowls of chips and dip, platters of cold cuts or fried chicken or meat loaf. Always a salad. Always cake or pie.

On my mother's nights, it was impossible to fall asleep. The excitement of The Girls, so many of them! All squeezed around our small table, laughing and smoking and playing poker. I would creep down the stairs and sit on the harvest gold carpet, listening. They shared worries: about husbands and children and money, always money because there was never enough. They told each other "I hate you" and "I love you" with equal passion and frequency. They were not like mothers on television. No, they were rough around the edges, high school dropouts, secretaries, and assembly-line workers. They spoke with a hard accent that dropped r's and added s's. Kmahts, they said, instead of Kmart. "Your deals" instead of "your deal."

Years of Friday nights passed. Three of The Girls moved away. Then cancer struck. Colon. Lung, twice. The Girls dwindled from 11 to eight to five. Alzheimer's dropped them to four. They broke hips and had cataract surgeries, knee replacements, and lumpectomies. Still, they met every Friday night.

After their families were grown, they took trips. To Atlantic City. To Foxwoods casino in Connecticut. Overnights and weekends and afternoons. They met for coffee and counted their pennies and planned more trips to more casinos.

Then one day, one of them was driving home from my mother's when she was hit broadside by a teenager in his brand-new car. She died instantly. That Friday was the first Friday that The Girls didn't play. The next week, another one was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer; she lived only four months.

Unsure how to help my mother heal, I signed us up for bridge classes with my 19-year-old son. I imagined finding a fourth player, setting a new routine. I imagined I could convince her that things weren't as bad as they seemed, even though I knew they were.

The day before the last class, the teacher announced that we were all bridge players now. "You can go home and teach your friends," he said triumphantly.

"My friends are all dead," my mother said softly.

I glanced over at her. She had turned her head so that no one could see her crying. How foolish I was to think that a new foursome, could replace The Girls. I realized in that moment that there are some things for which there are no substitutes. There are some things that we must mourn and cherish and say goodbye to.

Every so often now, on a Friday night, I drive to my mother's. I bring her treats that make her smile: a bouquet of zinnias, an apple pie warm from the oven, a bunch of flat-leaf parsley. I drink coffee with her and talk about things that don't matter. She'll look around the empty table and say, in a voice filled with wonder, "Just yesterday, we were all here playing cards." I take her hand, bent with arthritis, rough from hard work, and I hold on tight. Or as tight as I can before I let go.

Ann Hood's new novel, The Obituary Writer (W. W. Norton & Company), will be published this week.