crazy good grief


I don’t usually invite a high profile person, whose positive attitude I admire, work I highly respect, and who I met on the internet, for coffee. But I did. And she showed!

When I started entertaining ideas of starting a blog and writing a book down the road, I began following more websites in the grief community. One I’m particularly glad I stumbled upon is Paula Stephens’ Crazy Good Grief. I signed up for her newsletter, “liked” her Facebook page, and immediately started receiving valuable gems. Simple and healthy recipes… because she understands short attention spans. Articles on health and wellness… while acknowledging that sometimes it’s hard to Do Anything. Main courses of getting out there and moving your body… served with sides of grief support. And not just any grief. She, too, survives the loss of her oldest son. Brandon was an outdoorsman. A Colorado boy. A vivacious kid who had just joined the Army.

Over the weeks, viewing her different posts, I pieced together that we have more in common than our glaring losses. We both live in the Denver area. We’re both remarried to husbands who aren’t the fathers of our boys we lost. And we both have subsequent little boys. I had to meet her.

We took turns sharing our stories. It’s surreal, by the way, to be sitting in a neighborhood coffee shop, facing a mom of similar age, engaging in conversation containing the words, Died. Coroner. Autopsy. It’s horrendously, almost laughably, surreal and at times I can’t believe it is real. It’s Crazy. Crazy Good Grief is aptly named.

She’s two years farther out than I and imparted some of her experiences. Asher’s questions will get harder as he gets older. Great—something to look forward to. When and if I ever choose to get out our box of Christmas ornaments, it will suck. Really really suck. Like with her postings, I appreciated this candor. For example, she has a private Facebook page about how the holidays totally suck now I mean, about how the holidays can present difficulties to those who have undergone profound loss. In the beginning she had a lot of anger. Meee toooo! I was—am—can be—downright pissed, too. She wondered why her new husband, who certainly didn’t sign up for this sort of thing, stuck around for this hell trip. She was speaking my language. There’s just something about a shared experience. A shared unspeakable experience. You get the picture: there was a lot of relating. I could have chatted away the rest of the afternoon and evening. But we each had young boys to pick up from school—who were both nearly exactly two years old when their great big brothers left this world.

One regret is that I didn’t get a picture of the two of us, sipping our chestnut praline lattes (nonfat of course!), hopefully not horrifying adjacent tables. One thing I want for my blog is to be visually-appealing with lots of pictures, because that’s what I find I like in the ones I follow.

I got a new book recommendation, A Bed for my Heart by Angela Miller. I learned that a Blue Christmas service is a thing. She told me about interviews she orchestrated with mentors in the grief community just this past September called Healthy Grief Tele-summit; its archives I look forward to perusing. I found she is as peppy as she appears online. Aahh, fitness professionals. Seriously though, I loved her spirit. And I’m thinking it may even be a teeny bit contagious.

a crafty weekend


Saturday my friend, Terri, and I traveled to Boulder for a photo candle luminaria workshop. I love any excuse to go to Boulder and this was a good one. I got to take home beautiful hurricanes with Kade’s picture, and catch up with a friend on the drive. The Boulder Compassionate Friends chapter hosted. The luminarias can be used for TCF’s annual Worldwide Candle Lighting, always the second Sunday of December. I’ve been in love with luminarias since visiting Santa Fe the first Christmas without Kade. The town is illuminated with the bags at Christmas-time.



It was a gorgeous sunny fall day, in the sixties. Looks like it was the last of the unseasonably warm November days, because today it snowed and GOT DOWN TO SIXTEEN DEGREES. The workshop was a block from Pearl Street Mall. Afterward we strolled, ducking into Terri’s favorite jewelry shop (now a favorite of mine!), and a toy and Tibetan store. I knew the Tibetan store would be tough, though I knew I would go in.

Flash back to about 2009 when Kade was probably 16. He wasn’t living at home. He was living at Synergy Residential Treatment Center. Treatment for behavior and substance issues. He was living a tough consequence for some choices he had made. He was on a cherished-by-us-both, days-counted-down-to, home pass. Brian, Kade, and I spent the day in Boulder. We toured the National Center for Atmospheric Research and walked Pearl Street Mall. At lunch Kade had oysters on the half shell for the first time. Loved ‘em, like all seafood. He was transfixed with the shells and even took one with him. We picked out selections to sample at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, an authentic Tajikistan teahouse.

We shopped at the Tibetan store. We picked out a red jolly buddha for Uncle Andy. Kade might have gotten one, too, I don’t remember. If so I don’t have it. I might have bought him incense for his room, as I sometimes did (Oh yeah–I should burn incense in his room when I’m down there reflecting or journaling!).

Walking in that store with Terri was hard. But she got it, since she lost her 18-year-old son Patrick almost four years ago. Browsing among the tight quarters of tapestries, bejeweled elephants, and scent of incense, she told me about some of the pieces her daughter, adopted from China, used to have in her room, and I got to tell her about our exploits in Boulder five years ago. And now, I got to tell you.

Sunday one of my best friends, Angela, came over for a craft day. A grief center in Aurora called The Heartlight Center is having a Holiday Market Dec. 6th and we’re donating our wares. We made notecard stationery sets, a decoupage picture frame, hurricane candle holder, boxes, and candle (yes, she decoupaged a candle). If you haven’t done decoupage yet, you should try it. It’s easy—and addicting. You can use nearly ANY material: newspaper, magazine, even fabric. Angela used a music sheet and wrapping paper. You seal it on by brushing with Mod Podge. Look how darling her hurricane turned out! I promise I won’t keep it, Ang.

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My kitchen table looked like Joann Fabric or Michael’s threw up. After Angela left, I continued to decoupage my little heart out into the night. The table’s finally cleared off… enough for my laptop at least. Most of my crafting supplies are nestled back into their bins… until my next project obsession.

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movie review: “This is Where I Leave You”


There wasn’t much at the theater we wanted to see for Date Night. I had seen the previews for “This is Where I Leave You” weeks if not months before, so was surprised it was still in a theater. It was my pick, Brian was luke-warm on all of them, so it won.

And thank goodness it did. How can you go wrong with Jason Bateman and Tina Fey? His affiliation with Arrested Development made me a fan for life, and her hilarity on SNL: “I can see Russia from my house!” Though I haven’t seen Jane Fonda in anything in… decades? she pleasantly surprised and impressed. Brian and I also liked Dax Shepard’s character. I only saw a couple seasons of him on TV’s “Parenthood,” and didn’t care for his wishy-washy role. But in the movie he perfectly portrayed a loud-mouthed, egotistical a-hole radio personality. So funny.

I dig screwy family dynamics movies. Do you remember “Home for the Holidays” from the 90’s, directed by Jodie Foster with Robert Downy Jr. and Holly Hunter? If done well those movies can make you laugh along and realize your own life isn’t so messed up. Be it that I’m a chick, sensitive soul, or naive movie consumer, I definitely eat up a happy ending. And whether laughing out loud or bawling my eyes out, which may not be so different from each other after all, it’s good to let loose. Doesn’t take much.

I knew from the previews it was about the loss of the family patriarch, and his estranged grown kids having to spend days with each other after the funeral. I don’t know if it’s morbid curiosity that draws me to grief and loss films now, or perhaps because we want to see ourselves in shows we watch and books we read. Maybe because I’m curious to see what THEY do, and how THEY react after a death. Or if Hollywood will get it right… or irritatingly wrong. I remember more right than wrong. Some scenes were irreverently, uncomfortably, funny. Sometimes no one knew quite what to do. At times it was awkward. Check, check, check.

One of my favorite parts was Bateman and Fey’s brother/sister bond. I feel that kind of connection with my brother. I can see us climbing out our bedroom windows onto a rooftop, sharing an adult beverage, and sorting out life. Their connection was really cool and watching it, I wanted my brother to see it. Rent it, Andy!

The more I write the more I remember. That’s how writing goes!  More nuggets:

  • The youngest brother couldn’t shake his “screw-up” role, but spoke from his heart and always said Just The Right Thing
  • My Brian, who sadly lost his dad about 15 years ago, was touched by the scene where Bateman remembered his dad helping him ride a bike. I’m tearing up here at Starbucks. Pretty sure they think I’m crazy here by now.
This movie has everything: grief and loss (remember, I’m crazy), plenty of irreverent humor, and messy but loving relationships. I give it eight out of ten flannels.

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