Jan 17
“I bust my ass and no one appreciates me,” they both say.
Ah, the two-working-parents household, where both parents work non-stop all day, and neither feels like the other notices. There’s a silent competition going on between them for the winner of the “Most Depleted” and the “Least Appreciated” award.
She works a full time job and maintains the upkeep of kids, home, doctors’ appointments, homework, school forms, carpools—essentially the CEO of the home.
He has a very stressful job that involves frequent travel. When he’s home, he’s exhausted, burdened by decisions he’s made—and still trying to make—and feels like he doesn’t know how to fit back into the routine established by his wife and kids.
She believes it doesn't even cross his mind to help with mundane kid-related chores, offer to make dinner or even start a load of laundry. She knows she could ask him to help, but a part of her wishes he would just step up to the plate and consider her needs once in a while.
He senses her resentment and resents her right back. Does she think he likes working around the clock, fending for himself in airports when storms cancel his late night flights home? Does she think he likes feeling as though everyone at home has an easy rapport, but he’s just a visitor who’s in the way?
She resents that when he’s finally home on a Saturday and has some energy, his first choice is to take off with his buddies and play golf.
How could he possibly care about her or the kids if, whenever he’s home, he’s preoccupied with work or running off to play golf?
He finds it curious she badgers him about never exercising, but when he finally has the energy to play golf, she complains.
When they hire a babysitter for a long awaited “date night,” they are onto their litany of charges against each other by the second glass of wine. Most times their arguments end with her telling him she feels unloved, followed by him rolling his eyes and wondering why everything is always about her.
“You never ask me about my day, or seem to care about what I do,” he says. “You don't appreciate the stress I feel or what I have to do to keep this family financially healthy!" Doesn’t she understand he’s doing this for the whole family?
She wonders why he doesn’t understand all she is asking of him is to be involved?
They wolf down their entrées in silence, pay the bill and go home.
She goes to bed alone, secretly hoping he’ll join her, apologize and then they’ll make love. He opens a bottle of wine alone in the den and wishes she’d come have a glass with him. He wants to start the evening over and then make love.
Both are too stubborn to make the first move to reconciliation.
Eventually, they quit getting sitters, quit going on dates, quit having sex and become Comfortably Numb. Neither one is paying attention to how close they are to becoming another infidelity statistic.
At work, a new man is fascinated by something she has accomplished and tells her so. He notices her family picture and asks about her kids. As she talks, he listens to her intently. They laugh together the way she and her husband used to. Eventually they plan to meet for lunch away from work.
On the plane, a woman sits next to him. She too has had to change planes for the second time that week. She listens to him talk about his job. She seems to genuinely care about his life (unlike you-know-who). When the plane lands, they exchange phone numbers.
The couple in this column is engaged in the painful dance of many working couples. Both are consumed by their family’s needs and mounting financial pressure, all the while feeling neglected by their spouse.
Sound familiar?
I regularly see couples like this in my practice. In my next column, I will discuss the dramatic paradigm shift that needs to happen to ward off apathy, infidelity, disconnection and divorce.

Gerald Drose is an Atlanta-based couples’ sex therapist.  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. Visit Dr. Drose at Powers Ferry Psychological Associates, LLC.  

More Gerald Drose articles, click here.

© ShareWiK Media Group, LLC 2009 
Jul 02

Rednecks and fireworks are a standard Independence Day combination.


Something about the adrenaline rush from the flame, short fuse, and subsequent explosion.  And the retelling of close-call stories.


This Fourth of July, I’m a little more concerned than usual.  Kentucky recently changed their fireworks laws, which means we no longer have to travel to Tennessee to purchase “the good stuff.”


Yes, when it comes to fireworks, there are categories.  And we definitely want the good stuff.


Because where there is fire, there should be something to blow up.  And not those whimpy little red things that you can find at any gas station. 


Unless you’re going to tie a dozen packs together.


As a kid, my family often took our vacation in the early summer.  My Mother made sure we brought back a supply of explosives that would put on a nice show for the neighbors. 


She was never the only one.


My husband grew up in the south and was a hero to his cousins who lived in Ohio, where there were stricter laws regarding fireworks.  They would place orders.  Large orders.  After narrowly escaping serious bodily injury and annoying all seven of their aunts with an evening of mayhem, they made money selling off the remaining supply.


In high school, a friend used to entertain himself by driving around neighborhoods with his windows down, throwing M-80s into people’s yards.  Until one blew back into his car.  And exploded in the back seat. 


Our kids have grown up loving July 4th.  Even the year that he had the stomach flu, my older son watched from the living-room window while we shot off the year’s supply of pyrotechnics.


As he got older and became fiscally conservative, he would set aside money all year in order to blow it on something combustible for the Fourth of July celebration.  More than once, he would offer to pitch in for fuel if my husband was willing to drive to another state to get … “the good stuff.”  Because if you’re going to waste money on fireworks, they had better be good ones.


One of the best stops we ever made was a fireworks warehouse in Alabama.  We brought one of the purchases to friend’s house, as a hostess gift.  Her boys, ignoring all safety precautions, quickly set it off in the front yard of their beautiful home, right under the telephone wires, causing several moments of panic during the very loud and very volatile display. 


Whatever we purchase, we always make sure there is a supply to last all year.  Because after the celebration on the fourth, there is the last day of summer break, New Year’s Eve, birthdays and other celebratory occasions.  There is also the occasional stray cat or goat who wanders into the yard and isn’t deterred by a loud “Shoo.” 


There’s nothing like watching your husband chase goats out of the yard with a roman candle. 


This year, thanks to the new laws, or lack thereof, the good stuff is available locally at every roadside tent that has popped up since early June.  My boys have been frequenting  these places, sizing up the goods, and planning their purchases. 


I’m looking forward to the show.  And some new stories.


 Humor writer Hallie Bandy is the mother of four children and lives on a farmette in rural Kentucky--both of which provide more than enough fodder for her writing. She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. 




©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC





My dad is a World War II vet. He signed up when he was 17 and worked the railroad. He told us a few stories when we were growing up, but he really started sharing his experiences after my daughter interviewed him for a high school class project. He hasn’t stopped. A few years back we arranged to have him interviewed for the National Archives Veteran’s History Project. Now we have a treasured CD with his voice telling his stories.

When I listen to the CD, I hear a few hints of his now very obvious memory loss. His stories morph with each re-telling. A few months ago I would say Don’t you mean … Wasn’t that …. Now I just listen to the new version and enjoy him reveling in the storytelling.  

While I experience the ongoing grief that accompanies loving a person with memory loss, my dad experiences his own grief. He’s very aware of his decline. Getting old is hell. We usually think of a loss as the death of a person, but there are many losses that can be experienced by a person with a chronic or terminal illness.  In addition to cognitive loss, there is the loss of physical ability, energy, hope, meaning and purpose.

One positive is that my dad finds meaning in the telling of his stories. A positive for me is the gift of time we get to spend together - as trying as it can be at times. The other truly amazing gift is the CD that I cherish and will be able to share with my grandchildren who will get to hear great-grandpa’s voice sharing stories of the Great War.

If your WWII vet is still alive, consider getting his or her story recorded, either on paper or digitally.  Let your veteran tell the story in his or her own way. Go to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project for more ideas http://www.loc.gov/vets/vets-home.html

Here are a few suggested topics taken from the history project.  Always begin by thanking your veteran for their service.

1.  A Few Biographical Details

  • Where and when veteran was born.
  • Family details: parents’ occupations, number and gender of siblings.
  • What veteran was doing before entering the service.


2. Early Days of Service

  • How veteran entered service—draft or enlistment.
  • If enlistment, why and the reason for choosing a specific branch of service.
  • Departure for training camp, early days of training.


3. Wartime Service

  • Where veteran served.
  • Action witnessed, or duties away from the front line.
  • If applicable, emotions relating to combat—witnessing casualties, destruction.


4. War’s End, Coming Home

  • Where veteran was when war ended.
  • Reception by family and community.


5. Reflections

  • How wartime experiences affected veteran’s life.
  • Life lessons learned from military service.


Embrace the moment.


Additional Resources:


For access to a new publication entitled “The American Veterans and Service members Survival Guide:  How to Cut through the Bureaucracy and Get What You Need – and Are Entitled To”, go to:  http://www.veteransforamerica.org/survival-guide/survival-guide-download/ published by Veterans for America.

For more information and links to the VA regional offices, go to:  http://www1.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp?isFlash=0.

Diane Snyder Cowan is the mother of two grown daughters and a national leader in using music in grief therapy, as well as the director of Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Bereavement Center of Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio.   She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. To learn more about Diane, visit her blog.

Read other Diane Snyder Cowan columns here


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC











Every holiday season you will be tricked into thinking the perfect holiday exists.  Here’s what you can do to avoid the Holiday Perfection Syndrome (HPS):


1.        Do not believe you must decorate every square inch. That amazing décor on HGTV you will try to emulate? Costs too much. The fab hot handyman on TV who can wear a tool belt well? He’s not coming over to help. Uncle Fred, aka Clark Griswold, will. Try not to let him on the roof.

2.        That holiday party where you get to wear a sexy dress, have adult conversation and dance with your husband? Well, while you are enjoying your one dance a decade, thieves broke into your minivan.  You did not foil the seasoned criminals by hiding your purse under a baby blanket.  They snagged your wallet, your daughter’s car seat, the CDs in the visor and stripped the ignition.  (However, the joke’s on the thugs – can they truly “jam” on a joyride to your Mamma Mia and Jersey Boys soundtracks?)

3.        Toys come put together only on TV. That intricate castle with rotating life-size dragons, which your boys can shoot laser guns at? It comes in 7,500 pieces and triple Z batteries, which haven’t been invented yet. Directions are not in English. Your spouse will use words reserved for prison gang tattoos.

4.        All holiday movies are not created equal.  Please do not get sucked into the fallacy “It’s a Christmas movie so it must be good.” Certain films—“It’s A Wonderful Life”, “Christmas Story”, “Elf” -- are staples. You do not need to watch 3,000 nights of the Woman’s Holiday Channel because though it’s technically a “script” they call a “tearjerker,” you will find yourself laughing at some dialogue. Also, things end well. You can guess this; so don’t bother staying up till 1 a.m. to make sure, because you have to get up in four hours to buy the 5 a.m. door buster special.

5.        If you are going for joy on your child’s face on Christmas morning, it is best to not get him socks and underwear. Save that for the big shopping trip to the mall and food court during the after-Christmas letdown.  Also, it’s best to not get him anything like a subscription to “Catholic Digest” or anything that preaches the meaning of the holidays. “Modern Warfare 3” seems to be in, however.  Nothing says Christmas like massive violence.

6.        You do not have to bake cookies for your entire neighborhood in the shape of a menorah on top of a manger in front of a Kwanzaa candleholder over a solstice snowflake, iced in red for the upcoming Chinese New Year. This is too hard to bend the dough. A $10 gift card to the grocery store is acceptable.

7.        After you put up the tree by yourself because the husband is busy, and the kids don’t care about revisiting every ornament purchased on every vacation, be sure to stand back and admire your work. Take a picture. It is the last time you will see everything intact, because the dog will visit, whacking the tree with his tail breaking several ornaments.

8.        When co-workers suggest an ornament exchange, do not agree to it. Our landfills are being overtaken with candy cane ornaments. Do we really need another one? Should we perhaps suggest an exchange of cash?

9.        Realize there is no perfect holiday dinner.  Twenty minutes into your family eating your turkey, the timer will pop up, alerting everyone they may now have salmonella.

10.      Acknowledge you may find yourself at a hospital on the supposed most glorious days of the year. You will curse and cry, but then you will hug your family and tell them “It’s a wonderful life.”  You might even be able to get the IV to beep along to “Jingle Bells.”


 Kristine Meldrum Denholm is an award-winning freelance writer, published in best-selling anthologies, newspapers, magazines, and online.  Visit her at www.KristineMeldrumDenholm.com, or join in the talk on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KristineMeldrumDenholm or Twitter @writerandmom.


 For more Kristine Meldrum Denholm columns, click here 


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

There is nothing worse than forced, obligatory enjoyment to bring on a solid bout of holiday blues. Seriously, it is absolutely no fun to be any place out of obligation, especially when nearly everyone else there is either: 

  1. Thrilled to be there, or
  2. There out of obligation just like you (misery loves company notwithstanding)

For many, the holidays are a command performance of a show that should have been closed – or revised – years before. In the name of tradition, we allow ourselves to get stuck in routines that no longer work for us or that we do not really enjoy. The thought of not following the tradition makes us feel disloyal, and yet our feelings of apprehension and dread leave us feeling resentful. Not exactly a lovely way to go into a holiday celebration. 

Now, I’m all about tradition, so don’t mistake these comments for a diatribe against it. In my family we love to celebrate and we have traditions for everything! But sometimes – when we are on our game – we allow room for those traditions to shift and evolve. 

Holding tradition does not mean we need to keep things static or the same. Traditions are about capturing the spirit of an observance or celebration, not about repeating them precisely. 

As life progresses, we may hold on to certain rituals that we consider sacred, like Uncle David’s turkey at Thanksgiving, or Aunt Lisa’s apple pie. But the practice or experience of those rituals must be allowed to change. We could eat Aunt Lisa’s apple pie just as easily at my house as at Grandma’s house! 

Now, for some of us, the holidays are a joyful time of anticipation and connection. We love our rituals. We don’t really care whose house we visit as long as we can see our family. We are the lucky ones. Gratitude abounds. 

But many of us enter the holidays with apprehension, a dutiful sense of obligation, and not a little bit of reservation. We know we’ll have a good time when we get there – at least, we hope we will – and we cannot imagine not going. But we aren’t exactly looking forward to it. 

So, how can we avoid the “Holiday Blues” that come from knowing that Grandma is counting on us, while we are filled with resentment and annoyance? Take some time before the holidays to take stock. 

Start with these questions: 

1.   (1)  What’s really most important to you about the holidays? What are your values around them? Is family important to you, even if it’s not always an easy time together? Or is there something you want that you feel never seems to get honored? Spend some time thinking about what you want (not how to make it happen). For me, having a “home-made gift night” during the holidays is critical, but the rest is negotiable. What’s non-negotiable for you? 

2.   (2)  Next, identify the person(s) you want to make sure you get to spend time with. Is there someone you really want to see? If you see him/her, does it matter what else happens? I know that as long as I get to see Francye sometime during the break, I’m happy to make everyone else happy the rest of the time! Who is your make or break connection? 

3.   (3)  Think about what activities are really important for you to do/eat/see/experience? Is it light shows? Hot chocolate? An annual movie? What spells out “holidays” for you that is a crucial element? I need a game-night sometime during the break to feel complete. What do you need? 

4.   (4)  Next, create a list of the most important things from each of the categories above. Not an exhaustive list of everything you might want to do during the holidays – although that could be fun, too – but a short list of fundamental treasures (I suggest no more than six).   

5.   Now that you’ve gotten clear about what you actually WANT for the holidays, measure it against what you have planned. Do you need to tweak or change anything to get your needs met?

6.   Okay, here’s the last, and perhaps most critical step: what expectations do you have, and how might you need to shift them in order to get your needs met? If you know that your family tends to bicker, then expecting that to change will likely leave you frustrated. But if you anticipate the bickering, and have a plan for what you’ll do when it starts to get on your nerves, then you can let go of the dread and just enjoy your time together! So be honest with yourself here – what can you do to improve your holiday season just by shifting your mindset? 

Operating out of obligation is a set-up to feeling resentment. But here’s the catch: we are always at choice. When we choose to go see our neighbor’s community play because we want to spend the afternoon on a fun outing with our family, then we are no longer going to the play “because we have to.” And that alone opens up a world of possibilities. 

So as you enter into this holiday season, I urge you to find the joy. Not because you’re supposed to, or because it’s expected of you, or even because it will make others happy. No, I urge you to create joy because you want to, because you know what you want, and you make the effort to make it happen for yourself. Before you know it, you might find that you’ve become that annoying family-member who is “thrilled to be there.” 

Elaine Taylor-Klaus is a Life, Leadership and Parenting Coach and the founder of Touchstone Coaching and ImpactADHD™. She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

Read more articles by Elaine Taylor-Klaus here. 

 ©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC



Nothing like a nonagenarian celebration to bring out the walkers, hearing aids and endless stories about health, surgical procedures and medications!  My mother-in-law just turned 90.  My father is 92.  Last weekend we celebrated her birthday with her 94- year-old brother and the other four surviving siblings, the youngest of whom is 70.  Nothing like a gathering of the elderly to make a 65-year-old feel like a spring chicken!

We had a wonderful time…lots of conversation…actually, the same five stories told repeatedly.  We ate well…actually, the food was good, but lots of medications were also consumed to counter the effects of the sugars, oils, and acids they contained.  We had great entertainment…well, if you count the several hours spent singing (acappella/ harmony) to the first three lines of every song we ever learned, but trailing into humming as we forgot the rest of the song.  We even resorted to several rousing versions of “She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain”. 

Truth be known, this was a lively group.  They took very little for granted and appreciated being together…hell, they appreciated being on this side of the green grass!  I cannot say that they owe their longevity to living right.  Except for my father, a retired Air Force pilot who partied all over the world, all the others are of Italian descent. There was more booze consumed this weekend than Harry’s Bar in Venice serves on Saturday night!  Enough garlic.pasta and bread were served to feed The Salvation Army.  We averaged about five hours of sleep each night since none of us wanted to leave the party. Sufficient fiber was found in the celery sticks in the Bloody Marys that greeted us each morning and in the olives in the martinis that night. Of course, let’s not forget that wine is in the fruit category, so that helped raise the health-o-meter a bit. 

Yeah, I can see my future.  At least, I hope it is my future!  Regardless of the challenges that aging brings, I saw a sparkle this weekend that trumps all others.  It may take these folks a little longer to move from place to place, but their resilience and enthusiasm brightened every place they arrived.  Those stories told over and over?  Well, they really are good ones….and I’d listen to them all over again, given the chance.

As the weekend came to a close and the partiers returned to Texas, Florida, Virginia, Oklahoma and New Jersey, a little piece of me went with them.  As I move through the next two-and-a-half decades, I only hope I can stay as positive and loving as this crew…laugh as often…and remember what makes life, at any age, worth living!

Jacque Digieso has been an educator for over 40 years.  She and her husband Joe co-founded The Cottage School in Roswell, GA, to educate adolescents with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and other special educational needs. The school currently serves close to 150 middle and high school students.  Jacque and her husband have two sons, one of whom is adopted, and a handful of grandchildren. 

The link to Jacque's Blog.  

To follow on Twitter: @cottageschoolGA

Facebook Page

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC




Jan 19

Dear Children,

The years have turned over and suddenly you are 16 and 19 years old—a young man with a 4G phone and a young woman in college.  You have never known anything but wireless and mobility.

You are living in interesting times, dear children. You have seen our nation attacked and have felt truly threatened. You see acts of violence presented on television and on videos; did you know that you will have seen 100,000 murders, real or portrayed, on media screens in your lifetime? You have seen presidents and presidential candidates lie on television about their personal lives.  You have seen the first nonwhite president elected since the Republic was founded. 

You have seen corporate directors behave deceptively and callously. You have embraced sports heroes who make more money in a week than your best teacher who actually gave you something to believe in as a moral coordinate in your life will earn in his or her lifetime. You have seen kids and parents die in endless suicide bombings. You have sometimes seen religious leaders that compromise theological convictions while in service to the Bible they purport to teach you.

You have gotten used to cynicism and you have seen and heard patriotism – one of the best principles of human life – be turned over to marketing experts. You have been confused, scared, angered, and used. But I've watched you. And you have refused to become disheartened, and I stay certain that you remain optimistic and in good spirits about a world that just won't ever be as good as you are.

Your mother and I want you to be free, and we want you to be healthy. We want you to discover the sciences, the texts of the poets, the dreams of the stargazers, and the flights of the mapmakers. We thank God that, unlike your grandparents' generation, you will be able to apply in America to any university or college that gets your attention. You will be judged for admission by who you are and likely not by what you are.

We are thankful that you have not been raised in an era of abject racism and that most Americans with whom you will interact are free to vote and shop and eat anywhere that you do. We are certainly grateful as much as we are hopeful that you will come of age in a country that evidently cannot be stopped by terrorists. You will still be young when downtown New York City will finally be completely rebuilt. We are proud of each and every one of you and we will rely on you to turn the Scripture from just plain text into the ethics of your life. 

We can't fool you because you are young people who actually think and calculate and question and make choices. You have already chosen to take a stand in favor of moderation – even though you clearly know that these are not easy times for moderates and those who don’t just scream and even kill. 

I want to thank you for every question you raise, for every song you sing, for every hope you express, and for every idea you share.  Obviously, both of you are unique and different and separately challenged, but the quilt of our national youth is the blanket of our future.


Love ... 'Ben'


Ben Kamin is one of America's best known rabbis, a multicultural spiritualist, NYT Op-ed contributor and author of seven books, including his latest, "NOTHING LIKE SUNSHINE: A Story in the Aftermath of the MLK Assassination."  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.


More Ben Kamin articles, click here  


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

My Christmas cards are still in a basket on the counter. I adore them, lingering over our lifelong friends. I love the family pictures through the years, watching how the kids grow.

But the holiday letters where the kids have qualified for the Olympics while obtaining a 4.25 GPA and starring in a Broadway musical—while you rock climb at 100,000 feet like in the commercial? Those letters make the rest of us feel bad, if our accomplishments amounted to – getting dinner on the table every night.

So, here are suggestions for the annual holiday letter to your friends that will invoke camaraderie instead of jealousy.

Let’s go beyond writing that our children were accepted into a Harvard Pre-K program and are currently, under the oversight of the President, overseeing troop withdrawal from Iraq. (Me, I'm just happy if my kids don't kill each other after playing any sport involving "fair" and "foul.”)  Perhaps we can say HOW we accomplished our parenting feats. Were you Tiger Mother? Mommie Dearest? Can you share parenting strategies that don’t involve wire hangers? 

I’m a nonfiction writer, thus I deal with reality and asking questions. I think we should answer the following questions for our next holiday letter. Here's what all suburbanites really want to know about each other:

1.      How early was the earliest soccer game/swim meet you attended? Did you curse? How much coffee? How did you get your kid up?

2.      Is bribery your main form of parental motivation? If so, please state an affordable bribe here. ____________________________

3.      How do you afford that nice house, vacation, landscaping and private school? Your latest debt ratio, according to Suze Orman?

4.      How much did the dog cost this year, to include kennels, vet, and electronics and drywall eaten? Did he thank you? If so, please state what he said. ______________

5.      How many times did you ground the kids? Over what?

6.      What did you and your spouse fight over? *Fines levied if answer: “We don’t fight.”

7.      With teenagers in the home, what do you pay for car insurance?

8.      Do you have a lawyer on retainer?

9.      How many arguments with your child, tween or teen started with "You did what?"

10.     How many of the teen’s calls home were answered with you saying, “You are where?”

11.     How many times did you miss church or synagogue? Would you be able to recognize the priest/rabbi if he weren't the one standing up front?

12.     How many hours of reality television?

13.     Did you ever attempt to hold an intervention after watching “Intervention”? Do you spend hours trying to figure out who these celebrities ARE on “Celebrity Rehab”? Do you have a crush on Dr. Drew?

14.     Are you more likely to identify a CNN correspondent or Snooki?

15.     Have you ever tried any extreme sport including couponing? Were you bludgeoned while standing at the register, by customers behind you in line?

16.     Do you watch “Hoarders” in order to feel better about your cleaning habits?

17.     How many hours on social media did you log? Have you ever been kicked off a plane for not turning off Words with Friends? Do you dwell in a mythical land named Farmville?

18.     How much haggling with insurance claim reps and water heater repairmen did you do? Did you win? If so, provide the winning phrase. ______________________

19.     Did the repairman ever come between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.?

20.     Are your partner and you still speaking after negotiations over parenting, cleaning, money, sex, in-laws or who was calling the plummer after the toilet overflowed?  

For this is what we want to know: how you’re coping with the stresses of life, and how you reconnect with your loved ones in the work-life balance. Share your real experiences. Maybe by answering these questions in our year-end letters, by getting real, we can help each other on the journey. If not, at least tell us how much financial aid Harvard gives. 

Kristine Meldrum Denholm is an award-winning freelance writer published in best-selling anthologies, magazines, newspapers and e-pubs.  Visit at www.KristineMeldrumDenholm.com, or join her updates at www.facebook.com/KristineMeldrumDenholm or Twitter @writerandmom.  


For more Kristine Meldrum Denholm  columns, click here 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

There is a life-size laundry basket full of socks staring at me right now.

“Socks” have become an overwhelming issue in my house, right up there with “whom should we vote for?” The subject of socks—black and white, holy and unholy—has unseated health, dog, kid and marital issues as Public Enemy #1.

I have no sox appeal.

The problem started simply: the ole one-got-eaten-in-the-washer conundrum. Sorting the clean laundry, I’d toss the single one in a pile in a laundry basket. The socks would find each other eventually, right?

Over time—just like kids—they grew. Unmatched socks found other strays and they lived a life in that basket that was rich and full, I suppose. As the lonely ones mingled and repopulated, I continued to ignore the pile. Nothing ever matched in there. It was a game of concentration one could not win.

When we moved, the movers put the pile in a box and labeled it “Socks.” I did open up the box at the new house and put them right back into a fresh laundry basket.

The kids soon learned whenever they needed a clean matching sock, go to the huge basket in mom and dad’s room.  Once in a while they found a match, and it was utter jubilation.

I soon devised a brilliant scheme: always buy the same brand and color of socks. Genius!

So I began buying the same brand of boring low rise white socks for my boys and there was always a match! But, boys grow, so the idea didn’t work for long. Then along came our little girl, whose feet called for nothing but the pinkest and purest, the frilliest and sweetest pastels. Her socks were easier to find and match, but yet, extras still appeared and found their way to the Pile. Add to that, my husband's vast collection of black socks, and it was a smorgasbord of socks.

Today, my son is in my room as I wake up. He is searching for matching socks. “Mom, seriously, when will we ever get a grip on these socks? This is terrible!”

I don’t know what to tell this barefoot kid of mine. "I cannot find the matches! They elude me! They are in a black hole!" I claim, but he shakes his head. I know he is making a mental note to marry a beautiful woman whose washing machine is superior.

My daughter joins us. “Don’t worry,” she consoles us. “It’s the style now to have unmatching socks.”

She is right. I have verified this in her favorite store. They were selling unmatched socks in a “pack of 3.” They told me this was “in.”

I breathe a happy sigh of relief and contemplate running and overturning the Sock Basket, like when Jesus angrily overturns goods at the temple in Jerusalem. I am convinced I could make a big scene doing this.

Socks no more, I chant. I begin to sprint to the basket.

In an act of motherhood rebellion, I contemplate throwing them all away after I overturn them, in reckless abandon!  I am in the acceptance stage, and it's joyful here! I plot their purging, and how I will buy everyone 7 new pairs of socks, x5, for 35 new pairs of socks, and re-charge our socks life!

I stop.  I cannot perform this rebellion. It seems so risky --what if matches could someday be found for the strays?  What if they find their mate because of The Pile in Our Room?


There are too many shoulds in my head. I should remember all the people in the world who do not have any socks. I should go buy some socks for them. I should make my family happy and attempt to channel Martha Stewart and organize this mayhem. I should make environmentalists happy by not filling up a landfill with unmatched socks.  

I realize I cannot possibly make everyone happy. So I ignore The Pile, for another day. Unmatched socks are in, you know. 


Kristine Meldrum Denholm is an award-winning freelance writer published in best-selling anthologies, magazines, newspapers and e-pubs.  Visit at www.KristineMeldrumDenholm.com, or join her updates at www.facebook.com/KristineMeldrumDenholm or Twitter @writerandmom.  


For more Kristine Meldrum Denholm  columns, click here 


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Mar 18

They were two anonymous young people born in the British mandate of Palestine about 20 years before the British quit and the UN unsuccessfully partitioned the territory into two projected states.  They were among just several thousand faceless heroes that created the State of Israel and miraculously fought a regional onslaught from the neighboring Arab regimes—which obviated the declared Arab state that Israel recognized in 1948.


The two of them, my father and mother, lost an alarming number of their school chums in the one-year war that ended with ceasefire lines and predicated more than 60 years of conflagration and terrorism.  But they were already pledged to one another and remained life mates till his sudden and dreadfully premature death in 1976.


My father was a soldier of Israel, and he wrote haunting poetry in Hebrew about war and fleeting youth and flames that consume trees and life and that burn people’s hopes.  He embraced America as a fervent immigrant when we formally arrived in 1962 and he loved baseball and Chevrolets and the privilege of voting in polling stations located in the simple halls of public schools.    He was complex and brilliant and volatile and, though bulky, remained fiercely athletic—from his days as a star collegiate soccer player to the night he dropped dead playing handball in a Cincinnati court.


This week in Israel is a bittersweet milestone for me and my large and extended family—although the family here includes my second daughter (now living in the hip metropolis of Tel Aviv), my younger brother and his family, and my mother—who returned here, with my father’s disinterred bones—after some 50 years in the United States.


Yesterday, I visited my father’s final resting place for the first time; tomorrow the family will celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday.  When we lighted upon the memorial field, and I saw the stone, and the copper slate of some of Dad’s poetry sealed on the tomb, I wept into the head and hair of my elder daughter, who has arrived here from New York. 


My tears were the salty waters of relief and acceptance.  My father, perpetually restless, appeared to have found a place to sleep at last.  Torn between his American citizenship and his Israeli blood (some of which he shed as an infantryman in 1948), his soul lingered comfortably above the field.  His long-traveling bones mingled with a number of the family elders; my mother’s plot laid next his, like an eternal bed that makes her feel safe.  It was all, well, okay.


I walked over to my mother, the cross-currents of life and healing thoughts lifting our spirits and softening the harshness of the realities—his absence, her age.  We embraced like we hadn’t in decades.


My daughter watched and learned a lot.  And it was evening and morning, a new day.  And it was good.

Ben Kamin is one of America's best known rabbis, a multicultural spiritualist, NYT Op-ed contributor and author of eight books, including his latest, "ROOM 306: The National Story of the Lorraine Motel."  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. To find out more about Ben, go to:www.benkamin.com

More Ben Kamin articles, click here 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

For a species as enlightened as we are, we have some surprisingly closed-minded ways of handling life and death. I mean, we know we’re mortal, we are aware that no one lives forever, and yet we have entire industries founded on postponing the inevitable, prolonging life at all costs. We fight death at every turn, and often consider it a defeat. 

Yet, there is so much life to be found in the dying process. This is not just a pollyanna approach, seeking a silver lining to sadness. In truth, there is opportunity to take advantage of, to appreciate, to find joy and celebrate. 

I called my grandmother “The Mighty Sylvo,” and she called me “gorgeous.” We were a mutual admiration society of two, though we occasionally let my mother and grandfather in to play with us. Let’s just say: we were tight.

I’ll never forget the day my mother called to tell me “The Mighty One,” my other name for that 4’10” master of the Toll House chocolate chip cookie, had been diagnosed with cancer. The news wasn’t good. Her days were measured.

I cried all the way from my office to her apartment, “NO!” screaming loudly inside my head. I wasn’t ready to lose her. I had so much more life I wanted to share with her. It just wasn’t time for her to go.

Of course, all those messages were about me, not her. But that understanding came later.

It turned out, she wasn’t quite ready, either, and we had two more wonderful, intentional years to share with each other. It got harder for her over time. The pain intensified. I still didn’t want her to go, but it was increasingly more difficult to hold onto that position.

It’s crazy the conflict we often feel, wanting to keep our loved ones alive for us, and yet wanting them out of their misery. As the cancer grew, large cell after another taking up residence in her lungs, battling with fresh air for breathing room, the conflict intensified.

That, I believe, is the essence of grief – it is love locked in a tug-of-war with death.

Meanwhile, as the cancer’s foothold became a stronghold, I was busy growing joyfully in a pregnancy I hoped would lead to the birth of my first child. I was anxious – I’d lost a previous pregnancy quite late, an IUFD (intra-uterine fetal death) discovered in a routine ultrasound. It was a pretty harrowing experience for me. Apparently, my grandmother had taken it to heart, as well.

Around the time we prepared to bring in hospice for my grandmother, I was approaching my 20-week ultrasound. The interplay of life and death in my world was palpable. I entered the technician’s theater with a good deal of fear. 

We emerged tearfully, excited and confident in a healthy pregnancy, and drove immediately to my Mighty Grandma, videotape in hand. We wept together, celebrating the potential life that was flourishing.

About 12 hours later, my grandmother died.

Now, all the time I was holding tight to not wanting to lose my grandmother, I am convinced that she was waiting to let go. She wanted to know that all was okay with my pregnancy, and she’d held on until she felt confident she could leave me. I must admit, I have a mixture of gratitude and guilt about that.

When my daughter was born, nearly five months later, I knew from the moment she arrived that she had a guardian angel. Now, 18 years ago today, I am more certain of that than ever before. It’s a good thing, too, cause that kid has definitely needed extra loving, watchful eyes.

When I think back on the loss of my grandmother, and I merge it with more mature experiences when my grandfather died 15 years later, I’ve come to understand a few things about life in the midst of death.

Here’s What I Know Now:

“Losing” people is all about us, about those of us who stay behind. While it is a legitimate perspective, we honor our loved ones when we are aware enough to try to keep the focus on their needs, not ours.

“Letting go” is a job for all parties involved with the dying process. 

           • For those of us who stay behind, we must try not to focus so much on ourselves, and let our loved ones go. 

For the dying, peace comes with the “letting go.”

Our loved ones often need our encouragement, our permission to let go. We don’t have to be afraid to share it clearly, out loud. They know they are dying. It helps them when we acknowledge it and remember that its part of life.

We keep people alive with our memories. It’s not just a saying – it’s true. None of my children ever met The Mighty Sylvo, but you’d never know that to talk to them. As she has been alive in my heart and mind, she has been a presence in my children’s lives. Over time, the pain of her death has absolutely shifted to the joy of knowing … that she would have loved a moment, or a gesture, or even a particular piece of cake.

As such, our relationships with relatives no longer alive take on a new quality, but the relationships remains. Human bonds are, indeed, eternal. 

Elaine Taylor-Klaus is the co-founder of ImpactADHD.com, a virtual coaching community for parents of kids with ADHD. She is a regular columnist on ShareWIK.com and MySpecialNeedsNetwork.com, and writes for “Living Without” magazine. Elaine coaches women and parents from around the country, on the telephone, to live full and empowering lives. She works together with her husband, David Taylor-Klaus, in their company, Touchstone Coaching.

Read more articles by Elaine Taylor-Klaus here.

 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Apr 22

Shortly after I answered the phone, I realized this was not just any call.

There was a voice speaking to me with great sincerity, and that was all I could understand.

I kept asking, “Who is this?” until I discerned the voice saying, “This is Tut from Sudan.”  Not knowing anyone named Tut from anywhere didn’t give me enough information to quickly make sense of what else he was saying.  I could, however, hear the words “church” and “ride,” and I gradually figured out he wanted a ride to church the next morning.  After several more minutes I did my best to learn his address and tried to communicate a time when I would pick him up. 

Even so, I wasn’t sure until Sunday morning that we actually understood each other.

There is misunderstanding and then there is not understanding.  

We rendez-vous-ed at the right time, but it was about the only thing I understood.  

For instance, why did Tut call me?  It took me weeks to figure out, but Tut and his family were members of the Covenant Church in the Sudan.  As far as Tut was concerned, even though we were thousands of miles away, since I was a pastor in the Covenant Church in America we were brothers.  We were part of the same tribe, and as kinsmen, why wouldn't he call me and why wouldn't I help?

That's how things looked to Tut.  That's how things should have looked to me, but I had to be taught to see.

In the last decade Tut and his countrymen have given me a tutorial on life and faith.

My city is a refugee resettlement city, and this was my first encounter with the Sudanese.  Our new neighbors have enriched the life of our community, and while I am grateful for the many who have come, it seems to be cruel and unusual punishment to send the lost boys of Sudan to a climate that includes fall, winter, and spring.

Driving Tut and assorted “relatives” to church on Sunday became both a welcome and uncomfortable routine. Welcome because Tut is joy.  He smiles virtually all the time; even with little apparent reason.  He was cold all the time, in a strange country, separated from his family by the uncivil war, and had no knowledge of whether his parents and most of his family were still alive.  When the war came to his village with no warning, those who could escape did so, with nothing but their lives and no means to discover the fate of friends and family.  

But no matter the weather or the personal challenges, he always greeted me with the smile that comes from the soul.  Given the contrast of his white teeth and dark complexion it was impossible to miss.  

At first I couldn’t relax with him. He had a smile I didn’t understand and it unnerved me.  I always felt that there was something I should do for him and his “cousins.”  When I drove to his meager dwelling, and when he emerged in a winter coat when I was wearing only a shirt I sensed inequity I couldn’t solve.  Learning his life story only compounded it, especially when I saw firsthand the difficulties of being removed to a foreign country, with few resources, a minimal understanding of English, and less understanding of New England culture.

Despite the fact I have travelled the world, Tut helped me come to see the sheltered shallowness I tolerate within me.  I  fancied myself a "Good Samaritan until I met Tut.  But I am not the Samaritan who dropped everything to help a stranger in need.   Had Tut not called, my new neighbors would still be strangers.  

I do not hold onto things lightly.  I am not free with my time.  I am not spontaneously generous, and I don’t how to relate to someone who lacks the world and only wants to connect with my soul. 

When I was with him I was always conscious of what I possessed and what he didn’t.  He, however, was wired differently. He’d ask for rides to church and somer help in navigating life in New England, but never money.  When I was with him I knew I was holding back, but I wasn’t aware of precisely what I was withholding.

As the years have passed I’ve come to appreciate Tut in a deeper way.  His unassuming demeanor and faith has impacted me.   God has provided, not just for Tut, but also through Tut.  Tut was always caring for his Sudanese neighbors.  To hear Tut speak of them, the many young men I drove to church with Tut were brothers or cousins.  At first I understood him literally, but as time passed I came to realize that even without family planning, it was not humanly possible to have so many relatives.  

Tut has shown me what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.  I can’t do it as well as he, but now I can see what I’m missing.

Tut has helped me develop a profound appreciation for Africa. I now pay more attention when I hear Africa on the news.  Almost always it is in the context of disease, corruption, and their need for charity and justice.  I’ve had friends visit Africa and come back in love and I’ve never been able to understand why.  Until now.

Tut has shown me that God has made something wonderful under African skies.  People who embody, with a depth I've never known, faith, hope, and the greatest gift of all-- love.

Africa may need our help, but we need Africa even more than Africa needs us.

Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Dale serves the Evangelical Covenant Church of America as an ordained minister. He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  

Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Apr 22

Loudelle Riggs Smith was a food visionary who fed my body, mind, and soul so well, that she continues, long after her death, to feed my children and me.


My tiny grandmother, with whom I was blessed to spend many days and nights growing up, loved nothing more than turning the riches of her little garden into a groaning board of food-as-love.  


She could see a little plot of land as a fount of all blessings, and take that vision to reality with her precious seeds from the prior year’s garden, her rake, hoe, trowel, pie-pans (to keep the birds away) and the fastidious attention of someone who deeply, truly, madly loved the earth and the mysterious opportunities growing from it. I think that came, in part, from her being part Cherokee Indian, and her having fed so many children during the Great Depression.


As soon as she could each year, my grandmother would get at the dirt with her mule and plow. A hard two or three days later, I could FEEL her thrill at having those rows splayed open, ready to receive her precious seeds or seedlings. There was so much promise in that dirt!


Thinking back, I don’t doubt that she said a blessing over them as she carefully buried each seed or seedling in the dirt made richer by the special mix of stuff she had composted throughout the winter.


I am remembering this from 50 years ago, that she composted before composting was cool. She saved every coffee ground, eggshell, fruit or vegetable paring or peeling she had to put into the earth. Under this pungent fusion, her green babies were to be watched and tended and loved and then picked, prepared, and offered up as the fuel that would keep her family able to do their chores, schoolwork, fishing, and hunting.


There was so much Good Orderly Direction – God – in that cycle of saving the seed (hope) having the vision for the garden (faith and inspiration), putting her faith into work, using the seed to create abundance, and then working through the seasons of the year and cycles of the moon and the days of the week (except Sunday, of course), and the hours of the days to produce the produce for the days, months, and year(s) ahead.


There was spring for planting. Summer for gardening and harvesting. Fall for harvesting and putting up cans and jars of food for the winter, along with the seeds for the planting in the spring.  No doubt when, in a fit of rage at his father, my daddy ran away from home to join the Navy, that calm order of the seasons, and the way my grandmother was so in tune with them, was part of what he missed most. Grief over that loss was probably a big part of why he drank so much. Grief and fear.


I didn’t know it when I was a child, of course, but the comfort in that year-in and year-out cycle with my grandmother – all set to the music of her humming her favorite hymns, and punctuated by her Bible readings, soap operas, Sunday School lessons, and Sunday dinners – put a rhythm in my life that probably saved my life.


Psychological studies of Children of Alcoholics (COAs) show that those children who have at least one person who pays special attention to them are the ones who tap into the COA resilience that empowers us to be resourceful survivors.  I had three; my grandmother was chief among them.


Loudelle Riggs Smith paid special attention to me, to share her earth-wisdom while she gardened. I was probably a lousy helper, as I was usually much more interested in the summer litter of kittens, bugs, frogs, and fish at her place, where she and my grandfather had pecan and pear orchards, lakes, and a big pasture. But I did let in some of that love she had for her dirt and her hymns; her God and me.


And I did realize, many years later, that the order that came from my being with her rubbed off on me, and helped me as I worked to break the cycle of addiction that killed her son and had been passed on to me. It was a cycle that I did not want to take me or my children.


She might wince that my family traditions with food didn’t always include growing it, but instead centered on ordering, for my children and me, the same quesadillas and chicken soup at the same Mexican restaurant at about the same time most Friday nights.  


But I will say that I did think of her often as I savored the avocados, tomatoes, corn, onions, and potatoes in the soup I was so good at ordering when my children were little and time was short, and that I became pretty good at making, and making a ritual out of, as they grew older.


Those rituals that bring sanity and order into the lives of children of chaos help lead us out of chaos, and feed our bodies, minds and souls. A calm family food ritual is nourishment against the insanity of addiction, I believe. It is nourishment that builds the character muscles needed to make good, healthy choice; choices that bring joy to nurturers like my little grandmother, whose love of good dirt, great food, stirring hymns, and curious children, lives on in me, thank God.

Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Her book is available here. For more columns by Carey Sipp, click here

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


May 07

I thank God every day that I am a mother in recovery.

I grew up in an intense, violent, alcoholic home. My father grew up in intensity and abuse. For a while, I was afraid I would somehow repeat the cycle with my own two children.

Some of us recreate what I call “toxic intensity” in an attempt to understand, correct, overcome, or be the opposite of it. For those of us with addictions or the combination of addictions and attention deficit disorder (ADD), creating intensity is a form of self-medication—a crisis that makes our bodies produce the adrenaline we “need” to focus and succeed at something, even if the newly “ginned-up” intensity just helps us get out of the trouble we’ve created.

We also create intensity to divert our attention from what really matters: the sometimes boring option of simply taking care of ourselves and our families. Many of us just go on automatic pilot, living our lives the way our parents did, not realizing that we do have choices. All that being said, please understand this right now: This is not a condemnation of my parents; today I love them deeply.

My father died of alcoholism and diabetes in 1981, at the age of 56. An abused child himself, I believe he passed along to others the pain he felt at the hand of his father. While I forgive him for acting out his rage and depression, I can’t help but wonder how different his life could have been had he been committed to a program of recovery, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and if he’d had access to modern-day antidepressants.

Today I know his behavior was not my fault. (Many children of alcoholics blame themselves for their parents’ behavior.) I believe that sharing what happened and refusing to pass his pain on to my children is my best way of honoring him.    


My mother was able to set Daddy’s temper flaring in a heartbeat. I know that she put an incredible amount of energy into trying to control his addictions, and in doing so almost destroyed herself. Though Mother’s staying in this violent, alcoholic marriage subjected my brother and me to danger and abuse, I understand how difficult it is to leave an abusive situation when, at times, the situation seems to be improving.

Today I am grateful that throughout those hard years, Mother kept taking us to church, although we sometimes resented it. While we would never dream of talking to anyone about our family secrets, I believe that my youth group involvement—the routine of going, the friendships, the messages that somebody loved me—probably saved me from wider-scale self-destruction.

I am also grateful that in the last few years, Mother and I have both learned that the best way to help an addict is to take great care of yourself, keep the focus on your own issues, and refuse to criticize and react to the addict’s behavior. If I start thinking resentful thoughts, I work hard to stay in the present, to look for my part of the problem, and to “let go and let God.”

As an adult, I take full responsibility for my actions. I know I must ask for help to face my fears; find healthy ways to deal with problems when I want to numb out with alcohol, food, or work; practice self-discipline and pray for focus and maturity so I can balance my checkbook, pay bills, and fold laundry instead of creating a crisis. (For many years, it was a lot more fun to solve a problem than prevent one.)

Like Pearls on a Treasured Necklace: Adding Sane Day After Sane Day

My hope is that by sharing my experiences, we’ll have this guide to turn to when we are challenged. We’ll have firsthand proof that life does get better. We’ll see together that we can be transformed.

We may give up excitement for a steady job, fancy clothes for markdowns at Old Navy or the resale shop, and sacrifice rushing to an important meeting or date in favor of being home for dinner at 6:00 p.m. every night. But when we ask for help from others, put structure in our lives, and face life on life’s terms, God really does “do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” He takes the routine of our days and strings those days together like pearls on a treasured necklace, helping us to turn, one day at a time, our once hopeless lives into cherished family heirlooms that make a difference, especially for our children. And if we’re extremely lucky, our parents are likely to be thrilled by our progress, and to learn from it as well.

When we practice turnarounds, our children grow up in sane environments. We forgive the past and heal generation upon generation of wounds. Parents and children alike grow up together without feeling the need to destroy ourselves and one another with alcohol, acting out in anger, drugs, or other high-risk behaviors. A legacy of sanity begins. 


Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Her book is available here.


 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Jun 04

It’s not something you receive, like a text message, or a certified letter, at, say 10:07 AM on a Tuesday.  It’s a creeping, incremental awareness, a ghostly, ghastly series of howls and whispers and missed opportunities; vicious mistakes this one and that one and you yourself made four months, six years, even 30 years ago; a pile of resentments and seriously psychotic errors committed by people that were thrown together by biology and fate and who now, sadly, tragically, dynamically, are at clinical war with each other.


Privacy issues will prevail here, obviously, but when a man is 57, albeit happy in his own personal life and career work, creative, and yet still finds that the primary source of any stress remains his birth family and its surviving members—that’s dysfunction, that’s old, and that’s tiring.  One of the overriding commonalities of this, as one sips red wine and commiserates at dinner parties with other aging baby boomers amid their own “sandwich generation” stories and grievances and umbrage (and the occasional tender narratives that make most of us envious), is how universal this is.  Everybody seems to have a sister or a brother they can barely even discuss, though they do with unbridled vehemence and hurt and dismay.  Sibling estrangement, and/or disenchantment with a parent are well-known to me, and so deeply set into my physiology that they are part of the chemistry of my spleen.  They are nonetheless better accepted than constantly rationalized; even the early Bible overflows with such accounts and, true to life, none are ever fully resolved.


    In varying degrees, no one is fully guilty and no one is sweetly innocent in these sad, sometimes biblical conflicts that are attendant to the DNA’s of assorted family groups.  Parenting skills are not necessarily parceled out to people just because they are parents; favoritism, vengefulness, and a litany of insecurities are transferred from one era to the next and a new generation of children suffer grievously as they become adults and parents having inherited the reassignment of a lot of anxieties and neuroses.  The early and sudden death of a parent, as was the case in my family, exacerbates the complexities and sharpens the edges; woe unto the countless families who really were not prepared or equipped to deal with such a calamity.


A real symptom of family dysfunction is the invariable declarations of “I won’t do such-and-such until so-and-so apologizes to me!”  Now, apology is an act of grace and dignity in human life that is often in order but is surely best received when self-initiated.  Legislated as a conditional statute among historically bickering family members already laboring under years of aberrational thinking, suspicions, and jealousies, it serves only to raise the temperature and deepen feelings of guilt and inadequacy. 


I hope I’m doing okay with my own children and stepchildren.  Safe to say that nobody is owing anybody an apology and we travel together well and we all enjoy talking, board games, the movies, a spontaneous meal out, keeping a bit of distance from one another’s business, and nobody can even recall the last time somebody was screaming or slamming doors from one generation to the next.  We're not perfect, but we're not percolating, either.


Ben Kamin is one of America's best known rabbis, a multicultural spiritualist, NYT Op-ed contributor and author of eight books, including his latest, "ROOM 306: The National Story of the Lorraine Motel."  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. To find out more about Ben, go towww.benkamin.com

For More Ben Kamin articles, click here


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

The American philosopher and poet George Santayana declared that “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  Nowhere is that more true than with children of alcoholics.  About a year and a half ago I wrote an article that talked about my experiences growing up with a mother who could at least be considered a heavy social drinker but was probably more like an alcoholic.  There were three of us children in the house and each of us remembers the experience through our own lens.

My lens chooses to recall the times when my mother was sober and how she could be loving and attentive to our needs.  Of course I remember the episodes when she over-consumed and was quite the beast to be around, but I don’t hold those times against her.  What I did take out of that situation was how I was going to break that pattern she had started and create a healthier environment in which my own children would be raised.  I certainly am not perfect, but I think I did a pretty good job creating a stable, safe home life upon which my children could depend.

However, not all of my siblings remember things the way I do.  One of my sisters has struggled with substance abuse throughout her adult life and unfortunately she has passed along those behaviors to her children.  I should make it clear that I do not understand the personality of an addict and how one can continue to choose to put themselves and those around them in physical and emotional danger.  I know that very tough decisions have to be made but that is part of my point here – you make your own decisions.

So, how does an adult decide to create an environment for her own children that so closely resembles the one in which she was raised and has complained about so bitterly?  

I have watched my sister with sadness and disappointment as she has repeated the behaviors that I saw in my own mother: the over-exuberance associated with the early stages of a heavy drinking episode when one feels they are the life of the party.  Perhaps you have seen those moments yourself when someone gets louder and louder thinking they are funnier and smarter, meanwhile you want to crawl under a table from embarrassment.  I remember the look my mother would get as she was making her point in a conversation; it is the same look I have seen in my sibling thirty years later.

Next comes the downhill slide of that manic rise when the alcohol begins its depressive track -- this is when she gets irritable, defensive, and irrational.  It is at this stage of the game where I look to make a quick exit.  There is nothing good that comes out of the moments to follow.

All of this is followed up the next day by the stale smell of alcohol emanating from every pore of the body and a general sense of dishevelment.  It is a day of remorse, denial, and perhaps forgiveness from those who were witness to the behavior from the day before.  Add all of these together and you create a roller coaster pattern of unstable events.  Now, combine that with young children in the home and you have planted the seeds for the next generation to be completely screwed up.

The fall-out from all of this looks like children and young adults with coping issues, anxiety problems, attachment disorders, a lack of motivation and in general a sense of things just not being right in their own world.

So this situation begs the question in my mind: did my siblings learn from the past or have they doomed themselves to repeat history therefore continuing the cycle of alcoholic dysfunction?  There is no question that alcoholism is a nasty disease that can have a stranglehold on a person and those around them.  But if you truly want to rewrite history for yourself and your children, you will need to make some tough choices and heed the lessons from your own past.

Margaret Anderson is the mother of three teenagers and a middle school teacher somewhere in the Midwest.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.


 For more Margaret Anderson articles, click here.

 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Sometimes death feels sudden. But when you stop and think about it, your loved one has been suffering from a chronic illness for several years.  In my work in the bereavement center with community clients and with hospice families alike, this is a common theme.


Consider this.  Your loved one had heart failure.  There were multiple times where he or she went into the hospital and then came home.  Relapse and remission became part of your vocabulary. One day, the doctor said something different.  He said that it’s time to go home with hospice or it’s time to admit your loved one into a nursing home. You were completely caught off guard. Perhaps you were able to make  arrangements or maybe your loved one died before even leaving the hospital. The death certainly feels sudden.


Perhaps your loved one had diabetes. Along the course of the illness, there were many hospitalizations. In addition, there may have been other losses – including the loss of eyesight or a limb or there were heart issues. The same thing happens. Instead of going home to recover, the doctor suggests hospice.


Dementia.  People die from dementia. Caregivers are surprised at this. Their loved one may have dementia for five to 10 years and there are countless losses along the way.  One day, death happens. It seems out of the blue and feels like a sudden death. No one told me you could die from dementia.


What can we do?  Well, I won’t get on my soap box and talk about the need for physicians to be honest with patients, provide complete information about the trajectory of the illness and let families know what is on the horizon.

I will talk about grief – about what I know.


Whether the death is sudden, feels like it is sudden or has been anticipated for months, the pain of grief is not diminished. GRIEF HURTS. You need to be kind to yourself.  Allow yourself time to wrap your head around what has happened.  Don’t let others disenfranchise your grief with sayings like but she was sick for so long. Don’t disenfranchise your own grief.  Grief is hard work that takes a lot of energy. Suggestions come from many sources, but trust yourself to do what is right for you. Talk with others. Seek a professional counselor if that seems helpful. Please know that you do not have to grieve alone.


Please visit our on-line grief discussions groups at  http://www.hospicewr.org/discussions/grief/.


Diane Snyder Cowan is the mother of two grown daughters and a national leader in using music in grief therapy, as well as the director of Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Bereavement Center of Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio.   She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. To learn more about Diane, visit her blog.

Read other Diane Snyder Cowan columns here


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC



Aug 06

One of life’s greatest transitions is the journey from being single to being a couple.  Becoming a couple involves two people agreeing to a mutually exclusive relationship.  We call this monogamy.  Polygamy is not legal -- that usually refers to one man with multiple wives, but it can also refer to a woman with multiple husbands.

According to Wikipedia, polygyny refers to a man with more than one wife.  Polyandry refers to a woman with more than one husband.  When there are multiple partners of both sexes, that is known as a group marriage.  In countries where polygamy is illegal, the practice is called bigamy.  The question has been asked…should the government be able to regulate marriage?

A logical question, as well, is… how might the government regulate divorce amongst multiple partners?  Let’s suppose a man is married to three wives and chooses to divorce wife two.  How are the assets to be divided?  And how will child custody and support be determined?  

With three wives, does a husband give each wife a third of the assets if they divorce?  It would be a forensic accountant’s dream to be hired to determine what were premarital assets and which assets where co-mingled during the marriage…or marriages.

Phang and I have discussed this.  “Why,” he jokes, “would you want to have three wives, when you have enough problems with one wife?”  

“Would you be more willing to stay with three wives at one time,” I ask, “versus being married to and divorced from one wife at a time?”

TV programs "Big Wives" and "Sister Wives" explored the issues addressed by polygamous families in Utah.  I am wondering how these folks could afford all their homes and all their children.  In the post recession era, I wonder if economics, rather than morals or legislation, will determine how many partners and how many marriages a person is willing to have.

Susanne Katz is a GODR registered mediator and partner in Atlanta Elder Decisions, LLC.  She is co-author of the book A  Women's Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce and writes about divorce and care giving in her Second Life columns on ShareWIK.com.  She co-mediates elder issues with Atlanta Elder Decisions and divorce mediation with Mt. Vernon Counseling in Atlanta.  A former museum director and curator, Susanne's arts and living columns have appeared in many Atlanta publications.

 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Aug 20

I took it personally when Ben Bernanke asked if I was happy.  I was on the treadmill at the time, when four TV screens at the front of the gym were covering Bernanke’s question to the American public.  I came home and posed the question to Phang.

Happiness, we decided, is a mix of feelings of well-being and feelings of joy.  A basic level of happiness depended on having the basic needs of life…food, shelter, and clothing.  After that, said Phang, he wanted happiness for our kids and leisure time.  

Not enough to make me happy, I thought.  I’ve got to have a good workout each day, friends who put up with me and love me anyway, a body that never ages, and a book that becomes a best seller.  Not much to want, right?

I’m not needing to win the lottery, own a yacht or take a trip around the world.  But looking good and being loved and appreciated … that’s better than just happiness…that’s joy.

Phang says I have Susisms.  They are my favorite sayings and ways I look at life.  It’s my attempt at planning my own happiness. 

1-It’s not your age that counts…it’s your weight.  I don’t get up in the morning thinking about my next birthday, but I hit the scale daily to check my fluctuating weight.  It’s just a way of keeping score.

2-At this point in life, I want to look good and be fun to be with.  It is no longer my goal to hit the perfect backhand or sink my next hole-in-one.  I just want to be fun to include and look like I belong.

3-Money does not make you special.  Money gives you opportunities you would not otherwise have.

4-Grandchildren make any day happy.  Ask any grandparent.  This is genuine joy.

5-Peace is a gift I give myself.  No one else can help me find inner peace.  It is a quiet moment in the morning, between my dog and my mate.   It is when I say the world will have to wait until I am ready to re-enter.  It is when I express my gratitude for the happiness I feel every day.

So, Ben, I could always be happier.  I could always be wealthier.  If you are granting wishes, make us all healthy, give us all what we need for a good life, and make us all appreciate what we have that makes us happy.  

Help us to struggle less, face fewer challenges, and give us the energy and the ability to solve and resolve.  You could bring down the cost of gas.  And get rid of property taxes on our homes.  And make my next book a best seller.

Thank you.

Susanne Katz is a registered mediator with HYPERLINK "http://www.mtvcounseling.com/"Mt Vernon Counseling, coauthor of A Woman's Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce, an arts and living columnist for Atlanta Jewish News.com.  She is also a regular on ShareWIK.com.

More Susanne Katz here.


 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Sep 08

Wanda had just returned from another funeral.  She was on the committee at her church that prepared meals for the families of those who passed.  She was a great cook who enjoyed giving back to her community.  She’ll never forget the compassion shown to her when her husband Charles passed several years ago.  

Today, she felt more tired than normal.  In fact, she was exhausted. Climbing the steps to her front door seemed like climbing Mount Everest. She felt almost out of breath by the third step.

She sat down once inside, still unable to catch her breath.  She decided to call 911 and her son Jerome. Both responded that they were minutes away.  Once she arrived at the local emergency room, Wanda was feeling a little better; maybe it was the oxygen the paramedics had placed on her face.  Dr. Rajiv Singh, the ER physician, took Wanda’s history and learned that she was on medication for diabetes and high blood pressure.  She had tried to lose some of the weight that contributed to her diabetes but was having difficulty sticking to the diet her doctor had recommended. Dr. Singh told Wanda that he would need to take some blood and perform a series of other tests on her heart.  

Once the blood work and test results came back, Dr. Singh told Wanda and Jerome, who by now was at the hospital, that she was having irregular heartbeats that would need to be treated with medication.  Dr. Singh went on to say that he was more concerned about her diabetes and had asked for a consult, which would take another hour to complete.  Jerome needed to check-in with his office and was gone for about a hour.  During that time, Dr. Singh returned and said he had good news and bad news.  The good news was she could go home.  The bad news was she would need to begin dialysis for her kidneys related to the increased complications from her diabetes.  He explained the situation but Wanda seemed confused and unable to process “dialysis.” 

The ER nurse brought in all of the discharge paperwork including all prescriptions and instructions for contacting the dialysis clinic in their community for the treatments.  The nurse asked Wanda if she understood and she hesitantly shook her head still in a ‘fog’ as Jerome returned.  The packet of papers was placed on Wanda’s lap as the transport technician arrived with the wheelchair.  Jerome returned and found out the good news that his mom was ready to go home.

He opened the thick packet when they arrived home and saw the prescriptions for the heart medications and called his wife to come by and take them to the local pharmacy to be filled.  The other papers in the packet seemed like general discharge information and Jerome was late getting back to work for an important afternoon meeting and rushed out when his wife arrived.

A nurse from the hospital called a few days later and asked Wanda how she was feeling and if she had gotten her prescriptions filled and her appointment made with dialysis.  She wasn’t sure who was calling and said she did get her medicine and she assumed her son had taken care of the other appointments.  The nurse said she was glad to hear that, wished her well and hung up the phone.  

Jerome noticed by the weekend that his mother wasn’t getting any better and took her back to the ER.  As luck would have it, Dr. Singh was back on duty covering the weekend schedule.  He was surprised to see Wanda and Jerome.  He asked Jerome about the dialysis and Jerome seemed surprised.  “What dialysis?” he said.  

The doctor discovered that Jerome was never told about the dialysis and Wanda assumed Jerome would take care of all the arrangements since she was feeling so poorly.  Dr. Singh ensured Wanda that he would not make the same assumptions about the discharge this time and started to go through the materials one sheet at a time, giving Wanda and Jerome ample time for questions while having them repeat important instructions.

Steve Powell is an experienced facilitator, practitioner, communicator and proven leader with over 25 years of experience in human factors education and teamwork training. For more information, click here.

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

“What’d you think of vacation, kids?“ I call from the front seat as we drive up I-95 after a week on a rainy beach.

“Sucky,” says the teen.

“Idiotic,” says the pre-teen.

“Stupid,” says the tween.

“Kids!” I launch into my best Mike Brady lecture. “A bad week at the beach is still a good week!”

They were right, of course, as it wasn’t the best vacation ever, due to the six-and-a-half days out of seven that it downpoured in South Carolina.

“You mean the torrential rains or the hotel room of cockroaches that we spent $1,200 for, and a maintenance man who shrugs and says ‘sometimes roaches come out at night?’” my husband remarks. “And don’t forget the water coming in our room ruining my luggage and clothes and a front desk that didn’t care.”

“We never got to play putt-putt, either,” my son adds.“Every time we went out it rained!”

“I miss the dog,” everyone says. The only goal left is to get home and put the vacation from hell into proper status updates.

More than the poorly run hotel, I was disappointed in our family’s lack of bonding. We had failed to relate to each other. After a summer of travel baseball and basketball for the kids and insane schedules, I had high hopes: this vacation would draw us together. Instead, my husband took the car and attempted golfing -- refusing to abandon pre-paid tee times and playing through the rain many times -- as I sat in the room watching the thunderstorms as the kids belted Nerf balls at each other.

And just then, on cue -- as if God said, ‘Yeah, well you should count your blessings because I can make it a lot worse’-- the 175,000-mile van sputters and lurches us. It attempts to die, in a random I95 stretch of North Carolina. The warm glow of the blinking “Check Engine” light bathes us.

“What’s happening?” my boys yell.

“Mom, are we going to die?” my nine-year-old says.

“Nah, just the van is,” I say. This soothes no one.

So begins a 24-hour span that includes a rural town; a tow truck guy; a whiz kid mechanic who promises us he could fix it; a ride in the mechanic’s drag car to a nearby Hitchcock motel (with only a smidgeon of blood on the curtains and a billboard above advertising the nearby gun superstore), while we await a mysterious "coil," and words I never thought I’d utter: “Don’t worry about the motorcycle gang parked in front of our room kids, we didn’t need the spaces anyways.”

“It’s always important to be open to new adventures, kids,” I channel Carol Brady. They roll their eyes.

The next day, when the whiz kid turns out to not be a whiz kid because the coil didn’t work, we chug it to a Dodge dealer, who sits us in the showroom for four hours while we await our fate---only to be told “maybe” it needs a whole new computer system for at least $1,100 and it wouldn’t arrive for four days, we tell the dealer no, just get it back in working order. For the love of God. Make. It. Go.

He gets it back to its previous shaking and vibrating status. We attempt to make it to Virginia.

“I need to leave North Carolina now,” my husband announces as we labor along the highway. He is thinking. Perhaps about the $500 of mechanic’s “diagnostic assessments,” only to not have the car actually WORK. Perhaps he’s thinking if we just get to Richmond, AAA will tow us home. But instead, he says, “Kids, none of you are allowed to apply to Duke or UNC because I am never coming to this state again.” (NOTE: Carolinians, do not send me hate mail. We love your states. We are KIDDING. It's a HUMOR column.)

The kids ponder the ramifications of Dad’s decree. They begin to discuss college basketball.

It is quiet in our car, which shakes only uphill now. The hub utters: “And &^&%$# this %%^$& van. This is a &^&%$ van.”

“Shhh, the kids!”

“*&^% . &*&^% this van.”

“Well, at least I can get a column out of it,” I say. “But, I can’t figure out the moral to this vacation story.”

The kids overhear. “Mom, no. Don’t put us in a column.”

“I miss the dog,” my daughter says. We all groan, picturing her alone in the cold prison cell/kennel.

It begins raining again. The radio announces I-95 is now closed due to flooding. Of course! I remind everyone of hurricane season, and how it could be so much worse. Soon I’ve guilted everyone. They contemplate abandoning me on the road.

And somehow, by the grace of God, 36 hours after leaving the beach (a seven-hour trip), we arrive at home, on a wing and a prayer, and a promise to not attempt a selfish vacation again where mom plans for the family to “relate.”

Perhaps “togetherness” was too lofty of a goal. Maybe we just should’ve aimed for “home.”

Kristine Meldrum Denholm is an award-winning freelance writer published in books, magazines, newspapers and e-pubs.  Visit with her here, find her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter @writerandmom.


For more Kristine Meldrum Denholm  columns, click here 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


There’s a hilarious scene in the TV show “The Middle,” where the mom, played by Patricia Heaton, is calling her husband, who’s at the Parent Night at the beginning of the school year. She shouts into the phone something like: “You get to that sign up sheet early! And you look for that list that starts with BRING and not BAKE! Because then I can bring paper products! Of course, the room MOM and her friends will have already signed up, but you grab that sheet and LOOK!”

I guess I have been discovered.

Vindication! There are women just like me. Perhaps they are still in the closet, but apparently Patricia Heaton and I would like to urge them to come forward. It is safe here. You are with friends who don’t judge. We are the women who look for the paper products sign-ups. Yes, room mom, we will gladly bring bakery cookies to the school, team or band event! No, room mom, we can not spend 120 hours making a cake that doesn’t have milk, peanuts, flour or sugar and made only of carrots topped with candy corn people.

We are the domestically challenged. We are the imposter school moms.

We do not keep popscicle sticks all summer and by the afternoon turn them into a crystal lamp that can be auctioned for the school.

We cannot find a computer monitor and paint it and nail gun it into a black shirt, turning the creation into a brilliant iPhone costume which causes our kid to win a “Most Original” award.   

We are craft challenged. We are sewing challenged. We are recipe challenged.

In short, we are challenged by all things that Marthas can do.  We are the Un-Marthas.

I’ve brought entire bus stop conversations to a halt when I’ve admitted I didn’t know what “from scratch” actually meant.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve volunteered in all of my children’s classes when they were young. I’ve read to children and listened to them read. I’ve played math facts bingo and drilled kids with flash cards, I’ve sat on room mom committees (as head of the Paper Products Committee), helped with Field Day, and counted approximately 55,987,654,321,898,576 box tops. But I was sweating.  The entire time, I knew I was dangerously close to being discovered: any of the moms could whip my butt in a June Cleaver challenge. (C’mon, even Carol Brady had Alice.)

In the same way I subconsciously cover my mouth when I meet a dentist, I avoid all conversation with my child’s home ec teacher (or gourmet pastry chefs) for fear they may ask me to “just whip this light meringue up at home and fold it and drizzle it into the inside of this rolled-out flour mixture, it won’t take too long.”

When they were young, I hated the Halloween parade at school with the beaming, exhausted mothers who had spent the past 48 hours in a marathon to create their kid's King Tut costume with decoupaged mask and draped gold fabric via flagrant glue gun abuse, while I notice the tag on my kid’s store-bought costume is still on.

Oh, I do enough so no one notices I’m an imposter mom. I can make an apple pie and a pumpkin pie, with a special thanks to the Libby people for putting the recipe on the can. I make great treat bags. Many a kid have come away from the house saying, “Hey cool! Mrs. Denholm’s giving out candy AND soda!”

No, you won’t see me signing up to bring all the hypoallergenic baked goods to the Fall Fest. Instead I’ll be reading Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin to the whole family, only no one will listen because they’re too old for the story. In which case I’ll produce the DVD. And I do have two arms that will go pick apples with my kids, take a hayride afterwards and hug them like there was no tomorrow.  

Just don’t ask me to carve a pumpkin into Dracula and use the scrapings for a pie. 

Kristine Meldrum Denholm is an award-winning freelance writer published in books, magazines, newspapers and e-pubs.  Visit with her here on Facebookor Twitter @writerandmom.


For more Kristine Meldrum Denholm  columns, click here.

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Oct 06

The past lives in me, and I need to make it homeless.

What scares me is that the past has twisted me to the point where I feel as though I can’t live without it.  


My past shapes my self-understanding by creating a personal narrative that seeks to define me.

In my case, my narrative is shame.  Overwhelming and self-defeating shame.  

I am not alone.

We victims of sexual abuse all struggle with shame guilt, and inadequacy.  Overwhelming shame.

But you don’t need to be a victim of abuse to have a personal narrative of shame.  It is impossible to take the journey of life and not be shamed by others or yourself.  

Each of us can instantly recall experiences in our past that have come to define us.  These are not the good experiences, but the painful ones.  

Guilt and shame seek to define us all.  

They neutralize and defuse the positive potential of the good parts of our past.  Guilt and shame relentlessly shout that these good things were accidents of the cosmos, We don’t deserve good because we are not worthy.

There are so many good things about each of us and much that is good in our past.

There is also much that is good in our present, but the past that defines us provides us with a narrative that seeks to rob us of enjoying the good of the present.

I am have been married to an incredible woman for 32 years.

We have three children whom I wouldn’t trade for anything.

I have a dog that wants nothing more than to be with me.  

It is criminal that I allow my shame to rob me of the gift of their love.

It is beyond sad that my shame has created such insecurity within me that I don’t believe I can love them well.  My shame tells me that I am a danger to them and so I repeatedly deny them the gift of me and my love.

My shame has created a life-long identity crisis and it leads me to deny to myself what I believe to be true for everyone else.

We are not our past.

What are not what people say about us.

We are children of God, loved by God.

That is who we are.  That is who I am.

It is what we always have been and always will be.

My shame is seeking to deny me the truth of who I am.

And I have submitted to the shame willingly.


The past can’t tell us who we are, but it is constantly speaking its lie into us.

It speaks hypnotically and seeks to take us into captivity.  

If we succumb, it becomes us.

I have become my past.

For decades I couldn’t see it.

But now I can.

Which is good news.

But only if I say no to the past.

And saying no is proving to be the hardest thing I have ever done.

I literally can’t let it go.  It has taken up residence in my heart.  I send it eviction notices but never follow through.

Despite all of its pain, I made friends with my past.  It has become me and I am desperately afraid to let it go.

I feel as though that without my past I am nothing.

I Iive the contradiction a wise man stated eloquently.

I don’t do the good I know to do, but rather the evil I don’t.

I want life, but I prefer death.

Who will save me from this body of shame?

How will I be saved from this body of shame?

My hope is in the future.

My only hope is divine deliverance.

God stands at the end of history singing us a love song

It is a song that speaks the truth about who I am.

It is a song that can free me from the prison of my shame

How can I do what I need to do allow this song to define me?

I can’t.

I’ve lately realized I don’t even have it within me to say “Yes” to God.

Instead I have to stop saying “No”.

The truth is that shame isn’t me.

The truth is that I am made for love.  To love and be loved.

I can’t save myself, but I can stop saying no.

Love rescue me.

Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking Relationship Beyond the Age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Dale serves the Evangelical Covenant Church of America as an ordained minister and is the Interim Pastor at Monadnock Covenant Church in Keene, NH. He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  

Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Oct 18

Most people don’t realize that there is a clear sequence of emotional stages for not only the loved one with the disease or condition, but also for the one caring for them. The interesting thing is that, until the last phase, these sequences are identical. 

The first is shock when the initial, unexpected event occurs and the caregiver gets the “surprise phone call.” Most caregivers, unfortunately, are caught completely unprepared. I have found, with most families, a general paralysis in being proactive around this issue sets in. 

Most families are reluctant to have these important discussions until the crisis occurs. A survey conducted by the Home Instead Senior Care Network states that 36 percent of all caregivers have no idea where their parents' financial information is. According to Jeff Huber, president of Home Instead, “the majority of caregivers have done no advance planning.” Mimi Mahon, an associate professor at George Mason University in Virginia, states that, “it’s vitally important to plan ahead and have these conversations with parents or families can act out of fear and make mistakes when emergencies arise.” 

Subsequently, there is a sense of being overwhelmed as well as fear as both parties begin to lose their independence. No parent is ever ready to let go of their independence. Each move from that point forward is a further progression of letting go of control of their lives and the critical decisions that determine their future. It is tricky and hard to talk about. Allowing anyone, even your own children, to be in charge of the quality of your own life can be a terrifying step.

The next step is confusion, which accompanies the loss of familiarity as the parent leaves his or her home and the caregiver’s home environment takes on a new dynamic with the additional family member now living there. 

Once it becomes necessary to move the parent into an assisted living facility, there is depression for both parent and caregiver as they experience a loss of family. Having been reunited for the first time since childhood, it becomes terribly difficult to separate once again. The caregiver, although making a necessary decision, usually feels an enormous amount of guilt. They may feel as if they are letting their parent down or abandoning them when they are at their most vulnerable.

When I moved my father into assisted living, I felt like I was sending him to the gas chamber. I grieved more at that time than when he actually died. However, the choice was the right one. He flourished. The social interaction kept him alert and engaged as well as safer during those middle of the night wanderings.

Upon moving to a nursing home, anger tends to emerge as both caregiver and parent realize a loss of dreams. As the parent stares toward the end of his or her life, he or she begins to realize the things that will never happen again. The caregiver, on the other hand, may have spent the lat 10 years caring for mom or dad and now has lost timely opportunities they can never get back.

It is at the hospice stage that the emotions between the parent and the caregiver begin to separate. The caregiver begins to surrender to an unconditional love and the parent, as they start the process of letting go, gains acceptance. 

Upon death, there is of course the transcendence of the parent. For the caregiver, this is when the opportunity for a transformative experience is the strongest. The caregiver is in a raw and vulnerable state. This is the time that they make a critical choice. It is a life-changing period following the death of a parent after years of caregiving. A caregiver can utilize this time to transform their life using their pain as fuel. Or…….. they can self destruct.

“…….The pilgrim resolves that the one who returns will not be the same person as the one who set out.”

 -- Andrew Schelling, Meeting the Buddha

Author Lee Lambert, CEO of Lee Lambert Cares, empowers family caregivers to know what to do and when to do it, so that they can experience the simple joy of living life normally while caring for a loved one.   Visit her at www.leelambertcares.com

Read more columns by Lee Lambert here

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

I have a black dog named Kat. She is one of the sweetest animals I’ve ever known. Her formal name (every dog should have a formal name) is Meer-Kat-Rina -- because she looks like a meerkat and was rescued from Hurricane Katrina. She answers to the names of Kat, Kit-Kat, and sometimes Kitty Kat, and leaps at the sound of a leash, tennis shoes or the opening of the refrigerator.

When I met Kat at a few weeks old, I didn’t really want her. Following the deaths of our two 12-year-old beloved canines, I wasn’t keen on getting a puppy. I had three kids – wasn’t that enough? But they sneaked her into my heart before I had a chance to be reasonable, and she’s turned out to be one of the finest pets I’ve ever loved.

Maybe it’s because she’s full of gratitude. As a rescue, she’s just happy to be loved and cared for… and we’re happy to be appreciated (the disinterest of a cat has never been my cup of tea). It’s a love fest around here.

Maybe she’s so amazing because she’s just idiosyncratic enough to fit in perfectly in our wild and crazy house. She shies at loud noises and is not a big fan of water (a hurricane survivor – go figure!).  One New Year’s Eve, she completely disappeared for six hours in response to a neighbor’s local fireworks. (THAT was a long night, sitting vigil, trying not to panic, waiting for her to feel safe enough to re-surface. I still wish she could tell me where she went that night!)

Maybe she’s so amazing because she became my walking partner at the same time that I was getting my post-baby, middle-aged body back into shape. When my youngest child turned six, I decided to get healthy. Kat kept pace with me every step of the way, for several years. She’d come to me in the mornings, ask me what I was going to wear, and almost will me with those big brown eyes and tilted head to put on sweat-pants and walking shoes. 

In those years, she was more my dog than others in the household. I was the one who took her out, so I was her s/hero. Over time, as my pace has picked up, and her little legs have slowed down, we don’t walk together much anymore – it’s too much like taking her out for a drag. Meantime, now that my husband works out of the house with me, she’s become his office dog. She’s a faithful companion to each of my kids, and is a full-fledged member of the family.

True confession: sometimes I get jealous of Kat. My husband gets on the floor and plays with her daily. My kids talk to her and feed her. She gets the attention from those I love that I wish I got more often (okay, so my husband does feed me!). And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

There is something pure and healing about the energy a well-loved animal brings into a home. A pet offers an opportunity for kids (and sometimes grown-ups) to learn to care for another being who is completely dependent. It’s an awesome obligation, if you think about it, like a tail-wagging, panting, magical training ground for learning to take on significant responsibility.

Arguably more important, pets offer us the opportunity to take some time each day to just relax and play. They offer friendship, companionship. They ask very little in return, except for us to make the space to be with them, to be kind and loving, and to pay attention to their basic needs.

Now, I know there are some adults who just can’t imagine having a pet – and that’s fine. It’s not for everyone. Like children, pets make messes, and noise, and need occasional emergency trips to the doctor (okay, I’m not so sure that turtles have ER visits, but I know that geckos do!).  Caring for another being is not to be taken lightly, and I have immense respect for people who choose not to have a pet rather than manage the responsibility less than honorably.

But I will say that, if there is a part of you that is so inclined, or wonders if it’s right for you, there is something magical about an authentic relationship with another being who cannot speak to you. It forces you to learn to communicate on another plane. It’s one of those little gifts of life that is difficult to express, and can’t be over-estimated in the peace and joy it can bring.  

For me, as a child, there were Jon-Jon and Abie, the smartest poodle to ever live, and a hunting dog who was gun-shy (that was entertaining!). In my single days, there was Max Cane--Private Eye--a blue-heeler who lived with me in a high rise in New York City before he died doing what he loved, herding cattle on a ranch in Utah. Before we had kids – and well into their young lives -- there were Hobbson and Sasha. I’d charge them to “hold down the fort” when I went out, and anticipate their warm welcome when I returned home.

And now, there’s a black dog named Kat. She has allergies (no joke!) and is not terribly photogenic (though we try – heaven knows we try). She teaches us to:

  • Slow down
  • Pay attention to the fundamentals
  • be kind, and
  • enjoy life

I ask you, is there any more important teacher than that?

Elaine Taylor-Klaus coaches parents from around the country, on the telephone, to confidently help their families thrive. She is the co-founder of ImpactADHD.com, a free resource for parents, and works together with her husband, David Taylor-Klaus, in their company, Touchstone Coaching. Elaine is a regular columnist on ShareWIK.com and ImpactADHD.com, and writes for “Living Without” and "Womenetics.com" magazines. Follow her on Twitter@TouchstoneCoach and @ImpactADHD.

Read more columns by Elaine Taylor-Klaus here

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

I recently took a class about blogging and it said I should strive to give readers the most value. So, I thought, how can I do a valuable humor column? Isn’t my dry humor enough value? But perhaps I should be more helpful.  Perhaps you want to keep my column by your phone or something.  Alas, let me give you some valuable tips about this fall, to save you time and energy.

1.       No matter who your candidate is, Nov. 7 will be the most wonderful time of the year. It is safe to plug in your TV and phone again! No candidates will be robo-calling you, and attack ads will be banished until the next election season. Which leads me to my next discovery:

 2.       Attack ads are truly hilarious, so enjoy them. Pop some popcorn. "HE WILL COME IN YOUR HOUSE AND TAKE THE BIRTH CONTROL OFF YOUR SHELVES!” Envision him storming your house and looking for birth control and taking it out in a gas mask! “HE WILL SELL US TO CHINA!” Envision him making a deal with the Chinese leaders that you are worth $5.37 and not a penny more! (The fear-mongering is at record levels, people.  One woman recently said one candidate might take away women’s RIGHT TO VOTE.  Let’s be level-headed and reasonable.  Hysteria hurts, not helps.)

3.       If you are in a battleground state, like me, you may run into a presidential candidate at the grocery store, neighborhood diner or when you open your door. (True story: my friend in Ohio was stunned when she opened the door and a presidential candidate’s cousin said hello.) Suggestion: while they’re at your door, ask them to help you with your to-do list. Do they have some time to rake? Vacuum? Dust? Have them truly earn your vote.

4.       Never buy Halloween candy two weeks prior to Oct. 31, when it’s on sale.  Not only will there be nothing left for the trick-or-treaters, but scarfing down Reese’s and Hershey’s every day will hurt you more than the two dollars you saved.

5.       When your football team is 1-5, and has NEVER EVER EVEN ONCE GONE TO THE SUPER BOWL, realize this may be a permanent condition.  Find another hobby for Sunday afternoons.  Just think of the time you’ll save!

6.       If you spend the day raking all the leaves to the curb, wind will come.

7.       Do not be sucked into political debates on Facebook. Talk about a waste of time and good intelligent energy. Did anyone’s mind ever get changed? Perhaps take your love for your candidate and volunteer for a campaign.

8.       The hayrides? Fun! But…  um, don’t forget, it’s HAY that’s been in a wet outdoors. (Translated: there must be a reason why they call it HAY FEVER; take Benadryl beforehand.)

9.      If you find yourselves without power for, oh, say 4 days, please do not worry about the disruption, because your electric bill will still be steady and arrive exactly on time!

10.   Never attempt driving the Pennsylvania Turnpike with the rest of America on the day before Thanksgiving, because it will turn a six-hour trip into a 12-hour one.   For that matter, do not go anywhere at all. Keep the airports, train and bus stations clear. Send your relatives a pumpkin pie instead with a nice follow-up phone call or Skype session!  Because nothing says “I am thankful ” quite like clear airports and highways. It smacks of grateful consideration to your fellow man!

Kristine Meldrum Denholm is an award-winning freelance writer published in books, magazines, newspapers and e-pubs.  Visit with her here, on Facebook, or on Twitter @writerandmom.

Read more columns by Kristine Meldrum Denholm here.

@2012 ShareWIK Media Group LLC


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved. ShareWIK does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information, please read our Additional Information, Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

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