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Feb 28

I recently overheard a well-meaning woman offer her unsuspecting friend Amish Friendship Bread. I should’ve told her: “Friends Don’t Let Friends Make Amish Friendship Bread.” But alas, she said, “Yes,” too soon.

 

I wasn’t so enlightened when a friend offered me Amish Friendship Bread “starter.” 

 

“All you have to do is squeeze it and add a few things once in awhile,” my friend encouraged. “It makes really good bread.”

 

Actually, it wasn’t bread when she handed it to me. Rather, it was a fermenting, gooey starter that required daily maintenance to grow and then had to be divided and shared. 

 

I was already stressing about who in the world I would give the starters to, when my children, who happened to be within earshot of the conversation, began their persuasive whining. So — albeit hesitantly — I accepted the bag of sticky-gooey stuff.  

 

And so began a series of very unfortunate culinary events. When I got home, I plopped the bag on the counter and wondered if I would remember to squeeze it several times each day.

 

Turns out, remembering to squeeze was not the problem. With four kids in the house, that bag was squeezed more than udders in a dairy barn. It became an obsession. They could not pass through the kitchen without squeezing. When muddy handprints covered the bag, I drew the line: please wash your hands before squeezing!

 

One day someone squeezed a little too hard, and the Ziploc broke. I didn’t notice until a swarm of gnats had descended and the dog was licking the dripping goop off the cupboard.

 

Normally, I would have just thrown the mess out, but I couldn’t. After all, it was Friendship bread. Amish Friendship bread. And I’d been squeezing for several days. I had a commitment to this goop.

 

So I cleaned up the leak and resealed the bag. And kept a closer eye on the squeezers.  Like friendship, Amish Friendship Bread requires an investment of time: ten days for the starter to mature, or peak or, whatever it is doing as it sits on your counter. 

 

Whoever created this stuff is a marketing genius. Think about it: Who would bake Pyramid-Scheme-Bread? Or 10-Day Pudding Bread? Who would ever agree to give away Pain in the Butt Bread? But Amish Friendship Bread? There you have something that’s hard to turn down.

 

But make no mistake: Amish Friendship Bread is the culinary equivalent of a chain letter. Only I’m sure it multiplies faster, and it’s even harder to give away. 

 

Every day, I would make a mental note of how many more days the starter needed to cure before it could be baked. But as things go, on Culmination Day, I had a mile-long to-do list and it was 9 p.m. before I remembered, “Today is the day!” I wondered what would happen if I waited another day. But the directions said to make it on “Day 10,” and this was the day. 

 

I couldn’t blow it. My friend might find out.

 

I followed the directions carefully, putting the measured portions of starter into Ziplocs to give away, while adding the list of basic ingredients — sugar, flour and milk — to a bowl filled with a large portion of goo. I even added the optional nuts, raisins and apples and sprinkled a greased loaf pan with cinnamon sugar. My kitchen looked like a feature in Martha Stewart Livingpainted by Norman Rockwell. 

 

But as I finished cleaning up, the warm cinnamon smell turned smoky. I peaked in the oven and noticed batter dripping over the edges of the loaf pan. 

 

A quick recheck of the recipe confirmed the problem: the recipe makes two loaves, not one.  Great. Just great. Sweet sentiments quickly turned to seething frustration as the dripping batter erupted into small fires in my oven. 

 

An hour later, the overloaded pan was still spewing goo. As I checked — and re-checked — to see if there was any solid mass to rescue from the fiery furnace, I swore I would never do this again — to anyone.

 

When I finally took that mess out of my oven, it required amateur surgical skills to remove it from the pan. What was purported to be simple and delicious had turned out to be complicated and, well, very burnt.

 

The dear friend who gave me the starter later admitted that she, too, had flunked Amish Friendship Bread on her first go-around. But here is where I begin to wonder which one of us is sane. She asked for — and received — another bag of starter. Me? I quietly dropped the starters that were left in the kitchen garbage and never looked back. 

 

Please don’t tell my friend.

 



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.

 

More Hallie Bandy articles, click here.

© ShareWiK Media Group, LLC 2009  


Aug 15

This is a column I’ve wanted to write for some time to clear the air.

 

Recently I wrote about my friends Ron and Dianne moving away, about our friendship, about how they stood by my little family through good times and bad. I count them among a very special group of friends who rose up to support my first husband, Will during his dying days suffering from cancer and gave me the courage and emotional sustenance to raise our baby daughter alone, without him.

 

I can honestly say there is no way I can repay people like Ron, Dianne, Pam, Peter, Adele, Jim, Simon and Alicia and so many others, for their kindness, patience and generosity of their time and compassion. I know these are just names to you, but to me, they represent the ultimate conundrum: how can I adequately thank the people who raised me up in the worst of times? 

 

In the years since Will’s death, I have learned I can’t.  I can’t thank them enough, honor them sufficiently, and as a result, misunderstandings flared, friendships waned and in some cases, we—my friends and I—are left wondering whether even the strongest friendships can withstand the chaotic imbalance of giving versus getting when a family is in crisis.

 

The fact is, I received much more than I'll ever be able to give back.  And knowing this left me frustrated and feeling guilty, just as I think it left some of my friends feeling disappointed, hurt, our relationships strained.  

 

Seven years after Will’s death, I wonder, can this be fixed? 

 

During Will’s last days, he and I and our newborn daughter, Chloe moved in with my best friend from college and her husband.  They made sure we had food, managed all the communications with CNN and friends, and they made sure Will held a glass of wine to his lips and watched a beautiful sunset each night—even if they had to carry him to a spot to take in the view.  Others held his hand, rubbed his back, held nightly dinner parties and never, ever judged his changing appearance. 

 

If I’m honest with myself, I must admit that Will was the one who always made the friends. I was the one who made it home from the last breaking story I was covering to eat at the table he and our friends set.  And many of those friends are the friends I loved dearly, still have dreams about, and think about in church when I pray "forgive me for my trespasses.”  Because many of them are no longer part of my life.   

 

I blame myself.

 

Will remembered the birthdays, bought the gifts during the Holidays and kept up with everyone's news. After he died, I tried to pick up the mantle of friendship, but as I've said before Will was the Golden Retriever; I was the German shepherd.  I was the worker bee who found it much easier to run off and hide behind covering a war in Kosovo or the test firing of a nuclear missile in North Korea instead of sending a birthday card in a timely fashion.  After a while, it was just easier not to send the card instead of apologizing and then having to explain why their card was always arriving a few days late.   

 

I think the survivor, the bereaved has a particular burden and responsibility. First, there is the work of grieving and learning to live without the one you’ve lost.  But then comes some of the most emotionally challenging work of all: being someone worthy of helping and becoming someone wise enough to know how to help others in return.

 

Former CNN anchor, Carol Lin is the mother of one daughter and the co-founder of TulaHealth.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com contributor.  Visit her on the web at CarolLinReporting.com.

 

More Carol Lin articles, click here. 

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

 

 

I have participated in one intervention in my life. It was sad and uplifting, and I recall the simultaneous feelings of power and powerlessness. Happily, my very dear friend has defied the odds to date.  He has been ‘clean’ for quite some time now.  
 
But let me tell you, there were a lot of years in there that were touch and go, to say the least. It felt very much like I had lost my old friend. He was immersed in a world that had nothing good to offer him, and was daily robbing him of anything worth living for.
 
Addictions like that don’t happen in a vacuum.  For him, there were clear life circumstances that led to loneliness and depression, loss and disillusion.  From my perspective, he started to use drugs and sex to feel something – anything – that would replace an inner hopelessness.  It started as a misguided way of seeking stimulation and spiraled out of control.
 
When a small group of us recognized that our friend was in serious trouble, we joined forces to intervene—but in truth, we had no idea what we were doing.  We didn’t know that such a thing as an ‘addiction-ologist’ existed – we were grasping at straws. We met with him directly and reached out to his family. We thought there was a plan, but there were differing opinions about the level of support he really needed.   Let’s just say it wasn’t a quick fix. The crisis continued for another year or so.  He hadn’t hit rock-bottom, yet.
 
During my friend’s crisis I had ample opportunity to think about my responsibilities as his friend. Addiction doesn’t only happen to an individual, of course, and if you’re willing to step outside of the realm of judgment, then there is a lot to learn about human behavior and relationships.  I learned most about staying power and forgiveness.
 
Severe addiction causes a lot of pain and guilt – and not just for the person with addiction. As much as I wanted to see my friend reclaim his life, it grew difficult over time to stay engaged and committed to our friendship. I was always concerned, but I had to strike a balance between staying connected and keeping a safe distance.  He was clearly self-destructing.  I didn’t feel comfortable around him and couldn’t let my kids visit his home.  It’s sorta like trying to save a drowning person – if you really want to help, you can’t get too close or the drowning victim will drag you under the water with him.
 
In all honesty, it’s hard not to get disgusted with addiction.  When you don’t suffer from addiction, it’s easy to forget that addicts are not willfully making terrible choices – there is an underlying issue that is interfering with sage decision-making. Interfering in an epic way.
 
So, the challenge for me was to stay – to stay connected to my friend, to be a friend to him even when he was unable to be a friend to me, much less to himself. A life-long friendship is much like a marriage – that whole “better or worse” thing can be hard as hell.  But, usually, when a friend is in trouble and behaving badly, that is when they need you the most.
 
Staying engaged was an intense practice of Don Miguel Ruiz’s second agreement, “Don’t take things personally.” [Don Miguel Ruiz is a New Age spiritualist who has four agreements aimed at preserving one’s integrity, self-love and peace by absolving oneself from the responsibility and problems of others.]
 
In order to stay connected, I had to get to the point that I was ready to let him go if that was his choice—even if it meant that he would never talk to me again.  It wasn’t about me, or whether he was listening to my ‘advice.’  I had to figure out how to respect him as a person without judgment despite his incredible absence of good judgment.
 
That practice of staying was a huge life lesson for me. It was painful to love and support someone even when he was making really awful choices. It was hard to stay connected without being so close as to put myself at risk.
 
The other lesson for me, besides testing my staying power, was about forgiveness.  I had to learn not to indulge him, not to enable him, but to forgive him his humanness – to love who he was as a person, despite his behavior.
 
It’s hard to find forgiveness for someone whom you think should know better. It was hard not to see him as incredibly selfish, willfully hurtful, and just a lousy friend.  Forgiveness after his recovery was not the challenging part.  It was forgiveness while in the throes of addiction that was a true test of my integrity.
 
So, here’s what I know: having someone in your life with an addiction offers opportunities to learn to help without enabling, to support without saving, and to care for others without sacrificing yourself.  
 
It is not easy for anyone involved.  But two perspectives offer a lot of assistance:  focus on staying committed to the person without getting too close, and finding forgiveness for the person while holding his behaviors as intolerable.
 
My friend has rediscovered his sense of purpose and is living life again, fully. With pure joy I celebrate his successes as he continues to slowly climb out of that deep hole.  His happy ending was hard-earned, and he continues to work for it every day. For my part, at least I know I tried to help … by being a friend who challenged him, encouraged him, stayed with him (if not too close), and accepted his humanity.

 

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

 

Read more articles by Elaine Taylor-Klaus here.

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

 

 

 

Apr 10

I never knew what to say when a friend would tell me he was living with prostrate cancer.  Do I ask how he feels or how he will decide what treatment to choose?  Is it the same emotional turmoil as a when a woman learns she is living with breast cancer? 

I might hear that a friend had received the diagnosis, determined the treatment and now, after treatment, was back to the normal routine of life.  That changed when my friend Warren Jacobs told me he was living with terminal prostrate cancer.  And then he handed me a brochure entitled Prostrate Cancer The Musical.

“Are you joking?” I asked.  “How can you write musical lyrics about your condition?”

“Cancer has changed my life,” Jacobs answered,  “and has given me the opportunity to reach out to others to help them cope with the disease and to live in the present.”

Dr. Warren Jacobs, an Atlanta psychiatrist/psychotherapist, was diagnosed with prostrate cancer in 2005.  Jacobs was a storyteller who also composed music.  In a one-day workshop, Dr. Jacobs and workshop participants searched for a higher meaning in the struggle with the disease.

“When cancer enters our lives,” Jacobs explained in a marketing brochure, “we can become overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, sadness, hopefulness, despair – and these emotions come in waves and with varying degrees of intensity.  We search for answers in the confusing array of treatments, both conventional and nonconventional.  We feel lost and alone.”

“But cancer also enters our lives with an urgent message to address some imbalance in the physical, emotional or spiritual dimension of our being.  And this is a message that we cannot and should not ignore.  As many people have experienced, cancer can truly be a gift that allows us to explore the various aspects of our life – work, relationships, health, matters of spirit – so that we can make the necessary changes that will lead to healing…” 

 “…We learn how to listen to our hearts, follow our dreams and pay attention to signs, all elements that will allow us to live more fully in the present.”
 In the musical, Dr. Jacobs used his song lyrics to “transform my anxiety and depression into healing laughter.”  Songs include Glow, Prostrate Cancer and No More Mr. Nice Guy.

 Dr. Warren Jacobs died on March 17, 2010.  He inspired and motivated many people as he shared his life’s journey.  Now, when a friend tells me he is dealing with prostrate cancer, I introduce him to the story and wisdom of Dr. Warren Jacobs through his You Tube video. 
  
If you are a friend of mine and you are dealing with prostrate cancer, the best gift I can share with you is the gift of caring and friendship. 

Thank you, Warren (and Judie), for that gift to me.
 
Susanne Katz is the author of “A Woman’s Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce,” and an arts and living columnist for Atlanta Jewish News.com.  She is also a regular on ShareWIK.com.

 

More Susanne Katz here


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 22

My second child was almost four weeks old before he was able to leave the hospital.  The doctor wished me luck in keeping this very sick baby alive.  My instructions were to feed the baby first one ounce and then two ounces of milk every two hours around the clock.  The baby would only pull through, the doctor said, if we bonded quickly and if we had good luck.


For the next month I went from being scared to feeling anxious and then to being thoroughly exhausted.  It was a superhuman fete to give this child 12 feedings (that took an hour each) and then to take care of my 22-month-old son and my normal daily schedule.  I tried desperately to function although I was sleep deprived, exhausted, isolated and overwhelmed.

 

Even in the best of circumstances the stress of raising two young children can be an overwhelming task.  What I know now is that certain challenges are unpredictable; but others can and should be addressed to put a firm foundation in place before the second baby is born. 


There is a greater chance of experiencing postpartum depression if:



  • The baby is sick. Fear and devastation are unexpected emotions when coming at this time
  • You have a poor social support system. It is lonely when there is no one to turn to and talk to
  • There are other life stresses or lifestyle challenges present. Marital or financial pressures can add to a feeling of isolation and desperation
  • You are prone to depression. It is important to be aware of your ability to manage in crisis and to have a plan in place, just in case



I was isolated from family and most of my friends, living almost an hour away.  My parents were unable or unwilling to provide the support I needed and, in our financial situation, my children’s father prioritized his career over parenting.


Here is what I learned to do:


  • Ask for help from people in your close surroundings – a neighbor or a new friend
  • Get out and join up a mommy-and-me exercise group or a morning play group
  • Change your perspective. The goal here is to get through those first tough years



My saving grace was a new friend who lived nearby who knew just what to do and who was there when I needed her support and friendship.  I will never forget her wisdom and compassion. We still enjoy a life-long friendship today. 


What I learned was that I did not have to feel isolated and alone.  All new mothers need support and assurance.  The seemingly insurmountable problems became manageable when we handled them together.  We traded off taking care of the toddlers.  We came to each other’s rescue and answered each other’s SOS calls. 


My friend helped me change my perspective and together we helped each other get through those first three years together. Our four children grew up, married and are raising their own children. 


Between us now, we enjoy seven grandchildren. Her name is Mimi and I am Grandma Sus.


Susanne Katz is the author of “A Woman’s Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce,” and an arts and living columnist for Atlanta Jewish News.com.  She is also a regular on ShareWIK.com.

More Susanne Katz here

 ©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

            

Nov 19

It is hard to believe this is the third anniversary of the day the world began to turn with a little less love on its surface... a little less laughter, with the loss of the fiercely fun-loving and subtlety brilliant mother, wife and friend, my friend, Shann.  I remember the year that she died ... too damn soon, ridiculously early, how shocking that G-d had called her to Him when she was just spreading her wings here on earth. I wrote this then; I hold her in my heart today...

 

I just received a holiday card and I could barely tear my eyes away from the picture. It’s not that it is an exceptional photograph – just a happy candid, nothing professional. The two kids looked beautiful as always, gleeful and rosy-cheeked. Their twinkling-eyed father had his arms spread around them, and his smile was nearly as wide. But this photo was of a family of three … the mother, my friend, died this summer. And I could not imagine how difficult this task of sending out holiday cards must have been for her husband. In fact, I couldn’t believe he took the time to create and send one at all this year. The year that his wife, his love, died unexpectedly.


She had barely passed 40. Blonde, bright, freckled, filled with love and perky to the extreme, it seemed impossible that an exceptionally rare disease could take her life in the span of one season. But as her husband and best friend said, ‘I always thought she was one in million. I was wrong; I guess more like one in 10 million.”

Her funeral was as she would have orchestrated it, although I don’t know that she would have imagined the church so overflowing with friends and family. Her children walked down the aisle with their dad. Well, one walked, the other was carried much like a quarterback protecting the prized ball, although a wriggling one at that. You could hear their father whispering softly, soothingly to them, and some of the rows spilled out small sad chuckles from those who could actually hear the conversation. One whispered question from her son pierced my heart immediately. Pointing to the altar where his mother lay in peace, he asked, “What’s in the big box, Daddy?” His father, a man never at a loss for words, could not reply.


My friend’s husband gave a eulogy that you would never want anyone to have to say, but that we were all so privileged to hear. From our seats in our pews, we wrapped our arms around him, held him, and listened. A man stricken deeply by the much-too-early death of his young wife, but who still felt her love and friendship so alive in his soul, he could smile as he spoke TO her … not about her.


He told us things that those who knew her well nodded along with. But for me, who knew her a long time but did not know much about this wonderful recent life she had created in Charleston, S.C., I learned things I never imagined. It was a glimpse into the happiness she had created for herself and those around her, and it was palpable. Her friends in the church literally credited her for the life they have been living, a life of “love, love, love” – my friend’s mantra.


Her husband spoke of his best friend … his wife … the mother of his children … with such raw emotions. Love, truth, authenticity, loss, passion – but blessedly, no regrets. They had built a life that worked for them in all respects, and they reveled in living it to its fullest. It seemed as if he leaned into his wife as the sun that sent warmth on a cold day … as the stars that lit the darkness … as the anchor to which their family held fast … as the beam that guided them. He laughed. He cried. He fell silent when emotions overtook his words. That spoke the loudest of all.


He spoke directly to their children with an urgent desperateness, trying to impart all that their mother would have wanted them to know about her, all that HE wanted them to know about her… about the way she loved them, about what they would be missing – as if they had to hear, learn, memorize and remember all of her right then, before they left the church. He told their daughter that she had so much of her mother inside of her, and as he took a breath to steady his voice before continuing, his son piped up in his high-octave voice, “What about me?” Breaking the tension and sadness with a question of pure love and innocence and maybe just a hint of precociousness – a knack that was so much his mother that she could have been speaking through him to render such a moment for all of us.

 

We left the church looking like we had just been converted: tears streaming down our stunned but grinning faces, simultaneously sobbing and smiling at the stories and sweet moments shared.

 

Later that afternoon, there was a moment of sheer joy as a southern, sultry-voiced angel sang by her graveside: one of their best friends crooned Amazing Grace with a strength of sorrow and love that somehow made his wheelchair disappear and made us believe he could soar with the seraphs.

 

And then, it was a party. Completely befitting both my friend and her husband and their family and friends. She would have been the first to kick off her shoes and go running down the dock to jump in the river in her Sunday best and pearls. And that’s exactly what people started to do. Had she whispered in the ears of her girlfriends? Had she nudged the ribs of their husbands? Had she cajoled the sun to bathe everyone in a warmth that demanded quenching? Had the stars begun to appear in a way that reminded everyone of the twinkle in her eyes?

 

The reason, the timing, the impetus is a mystery, but within minutes, dozens of grown adults completely dressed – some still in their shoes and hats – leaped from the dock and splashed into the water at the River House, with laughter and tears and shouts to heaven, calling upon their dear young friend to see them, touch them, join them in spirit.

 

I believe she already had.

 

Ginger is a 20-year veteran corporate writer in Atlanta, and most recently, the former national web editor at skirt!, www.skirt.com. She is a regular blogger for Huffington Post’s divorce vertical (www.huffingtonpost.com/divorce) and skirt.com, the mother of a 16-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has been featured in More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. She has appeared dozens of local and national TV and radio shows, including as host of Book Talk with Ginger in Atlanta, Georgia. 


For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

 

Nov 30

Dear Mom,


Now that I am out on my own and have to clean my own bathroom, do my own laundry, make my own meals, and be my own taskmaster/cheerleader, I have a new perspective of the love, care and hard work you put into raising me.


Thank you for standing your ground when I tried to guilt you or out-negotiate you into letting me have whatever I wanted. I remember you told me that stuff "can’t fill you up." I’m beginning to understand what you mean. Like you said when I was eight, "We may not be rich in money, but we’re rich in love."


Thank you for calling me on my selfish behavior when it happened – not every time, but enough so that I knew you weren’t putting up with it. Like the time I smarted-off about having to unload the eight cases of water you picked up at the grocery store especially for me. After I sulked away you quietly disconnected cable for the entire summer. Boy, was I pissed when I found out. But I had to respect you; after all, you didn’t watch TV all summer either.


Thank you for listening to me when I felt you acted wrong in some way, too, and for apologizing when you knew you should have done better. (Thanks for not accepting my word every time I thought you acted wrong – some of those times I was just embarrassed by you, or mad that I couldn’t get my way, or irritated at something else and taking it out on you.)


Thank you for constantly correcting my manners and for letting me know the boundary between being funny and being mean. I’m sorry you were so often the butt of my sarcasm; I know I picked on you a lot, criticizing everything from your inability to remember stuff to your lack of knowledge about pop culture. I don’t know why I was so tense. Thank you for often just blowing it off sometimes and thank you for telling me when you had had enough.


Thank you for showing me what it means to stand up for yourself when you felt you weren’t being treated right, or when you thought someone might be trying to take advantage of my inexperience or lack of knowledge. Although these were the most embarrassing times for me (why couldn’t you just let it go when salespeople were inept?) I thank you for demonstrating that a person can be firm and clear without actually being rude – although at the time, of course, I thought you were horrible. I now understand the difference between what I thought of then as "ripping someone a new one" or "acting like a bitch" and what you were really doing – speaking up for yourself.


Thank you for constantly nagging me to try harder in school; you believed I was smarter than my grades showed (and I knew you were right).


Thank you for telling me again and again that drinking and using drugs can harm my brain and my future, and that I needed to learn to enjoy life without these things. I hated it at the time, but thank you for grounding me for months the first time I really did something stupid.


Thank you for making me take out the trash, make my bed, clean out the dishwasher, fold my clothes, clean my bathroom, write thank you cards – and sometimes making me do it over again if I did a shitty job. It made me a better employee and helped me feel the pride of doing a job well.


And by the way, thank you for making me get a job ever since I was 11 years old and making me walk or ride my bike to work.


Thank you for making me do volunteer work ALL. THE. TIME. It made me more compassionate and showed me that I should always make room in my life to help others less fortunate than I.


Thank you for never shying away from a topic, no matter how personal or weird or scary, you were there to listen and sometimes give me your opinion, and sometimes leave the decisions up to me. Thank you for being realistic about what kids do, and still holding the line at your expectations for me, and reminding me that choices have their own consequences.


Thank you for the loving friendship you created with Dad. It is an amazing (and sometimes weird) to have divorced parents who are best friends; who love and support each other. I never felt in the middle; I never had to choose. And thank you for showing me the kind of love you and Sean have, too. I learned that just because one relationship doesn’t turn out the way you hoped, doesn’t mean you can’t create another committed, loving, respectful one.

Thank you for making me put family first; it made me realize what’s really important in life and how hugely I am blessed with people who love me.


But most of all … thank you for creating a space around me in which I knew I was always loved by you. I could glance at you anytime, anywhere, and see in your eyes, your face, your smile, that you loved me no matter what I did or said. It felt so safe and freeing to be loved like that, just for who I am. I know you didn’t always like how I was acting, but I knew you always loved me. You were real – forgiving me when necessary, asking for forgiveness yourself when necessary – and I knew I could fall or make mistakes within this safe, loving environment. Even when we fought, I knew that. You always had my back and my best interests at heart. You were – and are – my biggest fan.


I know I didn’t thank you for all of these things growing up, and I know you didn’t expect me to (although you probably wished I would from time to time). You have always told me that I made you the happiest person in the world when I was born; that you feel honored to be my mom and share this journey with me.


Well, I feel lucky that you are my mom – despite your joke about me growing up at a time when my teenage hormones battled for space with your menopausal ones. The simple truth is, I love you.

 

Ginger is a 20-year veteran corporate writer in Atlanta, and most recently, the former national web editor at skirt!, www.skirt.com. She is a regular blogger for Huffington Post’s divorce vertical (www.huffingtonpost.com/divorce) and skirt.com, the mother of a 16-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has been featured in More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. She has appeared dozens of local and national TV and radio shows, including as host of Book Talk with Ginger in Atlanta, Georgia. 


For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

 

Nov 30

Women need their girlfriends.  I am sure of that.  But what, I wondered, makes us attracted to the friends we make?  I put the question out for discussion by my book club girlfriends.  “Who would you choose from our contemporary culture to have as a girlfriend?” 


So, because that seemed like a vague and random question, I really did not have any expectations for any meaningful answer.  I was certainly not prepared for the answer that came back.


Out of eight women at the table, some sipping tea and others drinking coffee, came one answer.  Diane Keaton.  Yes, eight out of eight of my friends want to meet Diane Keaton.  


“Why?”  I asked. 


1-She seems so genuine.


2-She lives life on her terms.


3-She looks great and doesn’t have that too much plastic surgery look.


4-She has been a woman to admire in her movie roles.


5-She seems credible.


6-She is not dependent on a man to make her life whole.


7-She has her own style.


8-She projects a warmth that feels positive and friendly.


Feeling like I just had an “aha!” moment, I came home and went to Wikipedia, the online…and seemingly reliable…encyclopedia for just about anything.  


Here is what I learned about our Diane Keaton:


1-Yes, she does seem genuine.  

She described her acting ability as … only as good as the person you’re acting with… and says she always need the help of everyone.


2-She lives life on her own terms. 

In 1968, when in HAIR, she refused to disrobe at the end of Act I when the cast performs nude.


3-She looks great and is not into plastic surgery.

In 2004, she told “More" magazine that she needs to be authentic and wants her face to look the way she feels.  Since 2006, she has been the face of L’Oreal.


4-Keaton played Kay Adams-Corleone in The Godfather, Annie Hall in Annie Hall, Annie Paradis in The First Wives Club and Erica Barry in Something’s Gotta Give.

In 2006, Keaton in Annie Hall was ranked by “Premiere” magazine as 60th on the list of the “100 Greatest Performances of All Time.”


5-She is both credible and in-credible. 

She considers her adoption of a daughter and a son (at age 50!) and motherhood to be her most humbling of experience.


6-She had romances with Woody Allen, Warren Beatty and Al Pacino but did not marry.

Keaton publicly gave up pursuing romance and stated, in 2001, that she did not need to be married…and that the “old maid myth is garbage.”


7-Keaton’s signature style includes men’s clothing with a vintage look.

After the release of Annie Hall, the menswear look became popular for women.


8-Positive women in Keaton’s life were role models for her acting career.

She was inspired by her mother, who won the “Mrs. Los Angeles” pageant for homemakers, and by Katherine Hepburn, for planning strong and independent women.


In 1996, Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler, in “The First Wives Club”, played middle-aged women who were divorced from their husbands and replaced with younger wives.  It was comical then, but worth a second look for those women who are now in their Second Lives.  There is much to appreciate in the laughter and the tears.  And these were attractive and confident first wives, to say the least.


What impressed me was that my friends wanted to get to know a woman who seemed confident and balanced in her adult life.  


Coincidentally, Keaton’s book, Then Again Memoir, just came out.  I am going to suggest that my book club friends and I read this together.  Then, we all want to meet Diane Keaton, our girlfriend.  Maybe we expect that her self awareness will rub off on us.


Susanne Katz is a divorce coach with 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

 ©2011 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


When I was in my thirties, my best friend from early childhood died of breast cancer. At that point in her life, she was married with three wonderful children and living in Israel. Jill was home the summer before she died and I asked her if I would ever see her again. She smiled and nodded no.  She died a few months later.


The whole experience was surreal for me. I think and dream of her often.   She was beautiful inside and out.  In my early fifties, a friend I had known for about 20 years died of stomach cancer. Kenny had moved to California and luckily, I was able to spend some time with him a few months before he died. His death and the subsequent deaths of my friends are far from surreal and each has impacted me differently.


In “Death of a Friend in Childhood,” I wrote about how friends in childhood are often the forgotten mourners of the deceased. People rally around family members to offer support and condolences, but don’t recognize that the kid on the bus, the other soccer team players or the girlfriend are grieving too.


The grief when a friend dies can be disenfranchised for both children and adults.


The relationship of the friend to the deceased needs to be recognized.  As an adult, you may have friends from childhood, friends from college days or friends of your children’s friend’s parents. These relationships vary - from confidante to companion to caregiver and beyond.  

When that person dies, you grieve both the relationship and the role the friend played in your life.


When Kenny died, a piece of my wild and crazy side died.  When Judy died, my connection to the Alexander Technique died. And when Betty died, my heart broke as she was a soul connection.


Secondary losses can occur with the death of a friend. The deceased friend could have been the one that kept your group together. Maybe she was the one who organized book club or meals when someone was ill. When that friend dies, the circle can become fragmented or cease to exist, which becomes yet another loss. Sometimes the friend is the intermediary to others in your circle.  You would never know Sue if Jane hadn’t introduced you. When Jane dies, it may be difficult to be around Sue because of the sorrow involved or simply because Jane is what brought you two together.


What can we do?


Enfranchise the grief.  Grief is a normal and necessary reaction to a loss. Normalize and validate the grief of your friends and family members. Let them tell their stories. Encourage them to carry on the legacies of their friends.


My oldest sister has been friends with the same group of 12 women for more than 40 years. They have been there for each other’s college graduations, weddings, divorces, births, their children’s milestone events and their parent’s deaths. The strength of the friendship throughout the years is something to behold. One of the 12 died unexpectedly this past week. This column is in honor of their friendship and her legacy that will live on in their bond. 


Reference:  Cowan, D.S. (2010) Death of a Friend in Childhood. In: Corr & Balk (Ed.) Children’s Encounters with Death, Bereavement, and Coping. New York: Springer Publishing Company.

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                                                                                         
Feb 11

This is a story of broken hearts, Titanic alcohol damage, and second chances. It is a story I have been blessed to help unfold over the last six years; a story that joyfully, and brilliantly, is becoming very well known, despite its being started by epic unraveling thousands of miles away.


A little background: an eternal optimistic opportunist, I see 50 ways that something will work where most sane folks only see downside. Where others see a single thread, I see entire tapestries. It is a blessing and a curse.


I needed a thread or two back in 2006 when I was working on a fundraising race to raise awareness for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), an umbrella term

used to describe the range of effects that can occur to an individual whose mother consumed alcohol while pregnant. The most severe form of FASD is called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). FASD is not “a warm and fuzzy”; people do not get all whoopty-do about it. Most would rather NEVER hear about it, much less tell our sisters they can’t have a glass of wine for nine months. So when I heard about a particularly enthusiastic participant in the race, I was eager to meet her.


So I met Donnie Winokur, a wisp of a woman with intense brown eyes and wildcat mother energy; that “I-will-fight-to- the-death-for-my-children-and-kick-your-butt-from-the-grave” urgency that I, as a long-time single mom, had run on for years.


Donnie’s urgency was about learning as much as she could, and connecting with as many people as possible, to figure out what to do for a precious little boy who was in a world of hurt, hurt that was hurting everyone in his world.


The little boy was her son, a dream-come-true who’d been adopted, like his sister, from an orphanage in Russia, on what was a kind of second honeymoon for Donnie and her husband, Rabbi Harvey Winokur. “We didn’t try to get pregnant for long, opting instead, since we were older and this was the second marriage for both of us, to start the adoption process not long after we got married,” she said.


To cut to the chase here, Donnie and Harvey’s son and daughter, adopted in Russia and brought home to Roswell, GA in 1999, made them an instant family. The daughter developed beautifully, and today, at 13, is, physically and intellectually so much like her adoptive mother it is as though their souls were roommates in heaven for a million years before they were both made human.

The dream-come-true story with the little boy, however, started unraveling about the time he turned three, when epic meltdowns, mood swings, and rages grew with intensity as the little boy grew in size and strength.


After many consults with many doctors, the truth unraveled in the form of a broken umbilical cord. You see, the boy’s Russian birth mother might have been an alcoholic. Or not. Or she might not have known she was pregnant when she drank alcohol. Whatever the case, she’d had enough to drink at some point during her pregnancy with this precious child, that his brain had been hurt badly. Very badly. The very cord that gave him life also delivered deathly alcohol to his developing brain, affecting, in particular, the parts of his brain that regulate mood, emotions, memory, and the ability to communicate, discern, and deal with “no.”


I met a desperate Donnie Winokur a couple of years into her sometimes frantic search to learn about her son’s FAS, and to find anyone and everyone who might be able to help keep this family, knit together from oceans apart, from unraveling.


She was an enthusiastic volunteer. And opportunist that I was, I saw in her pain a face for this cause.  She became, once some trust was established, a willing accomplice. She, too, saw tapestries where others saw threads.


I asked for an interview. She let me write her story, using her talents as a journalist to help edit it, and her wildcat mom energy to be sure I told it tenderly.


I asked to feature her family in a video. She had words with the reluctant rabbi, who ultimately let us film in the synagogue.


I asked her to be on a fundraising committee. She did it.


I asked her to give me input on a book I was writing about stopping the cycles of addiction and abuse, my way of using my pain to help myself and others.  We cried. We laughed. Our friendship deepened.


I asked if I could write a fundraising letter about her story. We made money on the letter and gathered new advocates for our cause.


She told me she wanted to get a dog to help her son, a dog that would be the first service dog ever to help a child with FAS by sensing an immanent outburst and using its love to help calm the child in ways no human can. I told her I thought it was a great idea. She told me her husband was dead-set against it. I told her, from experience, that mothers do rabies-crazy things because we are so in love with our children, and to listen to her gut.


She and her precious father and children brought home fur-covered love – a rescued golden retriever named “Chancer,” because hers was his second family; his second chance at love – that helped her son and became the rabbi’s best friend.


We did another video. The CDC did a video about her family and their experience with FASD in hopes of raising awareness of the fact there is no safe amount of alcohol, or safe time to drink if you are pregnant or could be pregnant.


We had awareness-building and fundraising schemes, dreams, and roadblocks that, as we climbed over them, made us stronger. And a little tired. After all, we’d hit our 50s together.

She was working on three books and we were both run ragged by children and traffic and board meetings and life and events and she decided to put her focus into the books. We stayed in touch, with emails and phone calls and rushed lunches or coffees and even a rare girls’ night out, just two moms and a hot dog.


And now, six years from our first meeting, her story has been told in an incredible award-winning book by her daughter. And in a second book that will win awards and is the story of, and “written by” the dog. And now in an epic feature spread in nothing less than the Sunday’s New York Times Magazine section, written by a best-selling author who has woven this story and all its intricacies and miracles so beautifully, that I firmly believe there is a thread-for-thread matching tapestry of it hanging in heaven.


Author Melissa Fay Greene tells this story – that MUST become a best selling book and a major motion picture – in a way that makes Donnie happy because Ms. Greene tells the truth, explains FASD and FAS with painful and empathy-evoking accuracy, and lets the reader know that there is a special hero in Karen Shirk, the brave woman who could have died alone and lonely. But instead, as an optimistic opportunist whose optimistic opportunist nurse knew that puppy breath is a wondrous healer, she founded 4 Paws For Ability, the organization that accepted and trained the dog who became Chancer, who has brought some peace and joy to this family that has been through so much, and has much to come.  


I invite you to get a second cup of coffee or tea and read this story (link below). Savor every word of it because you will want to read more. And more. And you will want, I believe, to see it told on a big screen. I know I do.  


And so I am throwing out a thread here to another optimistic opportunist – or opportunistic optimist – who perhaps knows Steven Spielberg, or someone who knows Steven Spielberg, and will help Donnie do what she is so very, very good at doing: making sense of her family’s pain by using her experience, strength, and unfailing optimism to help others. 

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/magazine/wonder-dog.html?pagewanted=all Wonder Dog - A golden retriever was the only thing that could reach a raging, disconnected boy. - by Melissa Fay Greene

  

http://www.thechancerchronicles.com/invisible.html - My Invisible World - life with a brother, his disability and a service dog by Morasha Winokur

 

http://www.thechancerchronicles.com/nuzzle.html -  Nuzzle – the love between a boy and his service dog by Chancer Winokur

 

http://www.thechancerchronicles.com/index.html - Website with links to other publications, information, and opportunities about Donnie Winokur, her family, and Chancer, the "wonder dog."

 


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 at Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/TurnAround-Mom-Addiction-Survivor-Family--/dp/0757305962/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1317756315&sr=8-1

 

Read more articles by Carey Sipp here..

  

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

Mar 03

The news of an impending divorce is often met with disbelief.  Friends and family declare their surprise, their outrage..."They were the last couple I thought would ever get divorced.  They seemed so happy."


There are many grounds for divorce that are based on "fault" or "no fault".  No wonder then, that a common question friends ask is "whose fault was it?". 


Both high- and low-conflict divorces involve disputes or disagreements that can be resolved in mediation, a less costly and less adversarial process than a courtroom trial.


Divorcing couples with children are often faced with preparing a parenting plan and child support worksheet.  Determining alimony and equitable division of marital assets may also be involved.  


The goal of mediation with a qualified neutral is to draft an agreement that is acceptable to all parties and, after attorney review, may be included in the court order.


Here are some suggestions for being there for a friend as they navigate the divorce maze:


Don't ask what happened.  Instead, ask how things are now.  This is a day-by-day process.  Expect that there will be good days and bad days.


Don't tell your friend to get on with her life.  Right now, this is your friend's life.  Remind her that a new life is ahead of her and you will be there with and for her.


Divorce involves legal, financial and emotional issues.  No matter what advice friends or family may offer, the best advice is given by a qualified professional. Call to give your friend support, but try not to give advice.


The truth may be different for each party.  Don't challenge your friend's viewpoint or undermine her ability to see reality.  Mediation involves reality checks. 

And that may influence the outcome.


Friends lose friends in divorces and afterwards as life situations change.  Be a supportive friend, but also realize and accept that things can change.


If you are going through a divorce, it us likely that many of your friends are or have tried to be there for you.  Excuse yourself for not always being at your best and not always being nice.  Whenever you can, say "thank you" and be quick to say "I'm sorry".  At the end of it all, let your friends know you are back in the friendship and grateful that they never left.


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


For more Susanne Katz, click here.

  

 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Mar 05

If going through a divorce is, for adults, like surviving a heart attack, I think for children it must be like surviving a heart attack every month for the next ten years or so, with intermittent pains – and the expectation of them – for the duration.

 

So my girlfriend-helping-a-girlfriend-going-through-divorce advice is this: take care of yourself, for sure. Surround yourself with sane, functional people who love you. But if you are a mom, your biggest job is guiding your children through this heartache so you do not add to THEIR pain. This means being an adult when you most want to act like a child and lash out, go back to sleep, forget about soccer practice, hit the drive through, hit the bottle.

 

As the mom, you are an adult with some understanding of what’s going on. The children involved, depending on their ages, just know that there is change, their parents are angry, and it seems as though things will never be as good as they used to be.  

 

And then there is this universal truth: No matter which parent the children are with, they’re always going to be missing the other parent.

 

So girlfriends, if you want to really be a help for the long-haul, help your girlfriend who is going through a divorce by helping with her children. That’s where there is a world of hurt that is sometimes overlooked, bought-off, or hushed up. Help your friend with her children, and you’ll actually help the whole world. For real. By reaching out to a child who is feeling lonely, scared, confused, and resentful, you may help him or her keep that pain from becoming acting out in class, or the start of using food or alcohol or sex to ease the pain, or the start of using the divorce as an excuse to fail.

 

Say your best friend has a five-year-old son. I’ve been told this the worst time for a little boy to experience divorce because it is when little boys want to see daddy go away so they can have mom for themselves. If this really does happen, that little boy is going to be extremely confused, and believe he has a whole lot more power than he really has. When he doesn’t have the power to make it all okay again, the anger will be pretty epic.

 

So to help your friend, offer to enroll her son – or daughter – in soccer or t-ball, or to sponsor him or her in scouts. Whatever the child's age, find out what other kids that age are doing that is healthy and enjoyable, and ask the child what sounds the best. Together you'll figure out some kind of age-appropriate, character-building distraction. The key is figuring it out, taking the action, and following through. Kids going through a divorce need follow-through, consistency, healthy attention.


This is your opportunity to be the ideal “aunt.” Your support in this way gives your friend some time to herself, and gives the child some time to be a child and relieve some stress and aggression.

 

If you’re married and have a family of your own, include your friend’s child – or children – in your family activities. When I went through my divorce 17 years ago, the parents of my children’s friends were such a great support group because they loved my children, and included them on family vacations and all manner of family activities that I just flat did not have the capacity to deliver.

 

You see, it does take a village to raise a child. Especially a child of divorce. And especially if this child of divorce has one parent who is far away, and a “custodial” parent juggling to provide, parent, heal from the divorce, and play good cop and bad cop all on his or her own.

 

When you step up for the mom by stepping up for her children, you help your friend have some space to be a disappointed, sad, angry, and frustrated little girl herself, and some time out to become more the adult and mom her children need. And that, girlfriend, is something any woman going through a divorce will appreciate. 


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.  


Read more articles by Carey Sipp here.


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Mar 11

While a divorce is one very final-sounding word, it is not just one moment in time. The decision to divorce often involves years of contemplation, counseling, trial separations, and sometimes abuse, adultery, abandonment and heartache. It all adds up to a divorce journey, one that has ups and downs that frequently take the form of trial separations and reunions.  While the path appears to end in a day in court, sometimes “divorce” and “post-divorce” lasts for years – particularly when children are involved.   




The reason I point this out is that if you are a friend to someone going through considering divorce, you may be in a difficult situation. You are the shoulder your friend cries on month after month. You may offer her a room when she’s decided to separate. You may be the one to listen to all the horrible things her husband has done over the years. And you may be the one who hugs her time after time, when she decides to split (again), go back (again) or stay in the marriage (again).


So there you are – knowing that your dear friend has been lied to or cheated on or treated with disrespect for years, and you have to grin and bear it for your monthly Saturday night couples’ date. 


See where this is going?


In light of this path, my top suggestion for how to be a girlfriend to a friend going through a divorce is:

Say as little as possible.  And listen, listen, listen. 


No matter what she says about her (possibly) soon-to-be-ex, stay neutral. My only caveat to this, and it’s an important one, is if your friend or her children are in danger. If that’s the case, you must seek help for her and/or her family or even notify the authorities if you believe she is in physical danger. Your friend may get mad at you, but at least she’ll live, and you’ll be able to live with yourself. 


If your friend goes back and forth in the relationship with him, don't judge her. It is her choice, and you know what they say about walking a mile in someone else’s wedding band.  


You can hug. Nod. Mumble a non-committal agreement. I like the phrases, “Damn, damn, damn” and “That sucks.”


There will be times when you want to shout: YOU NEED TO LEAVE THE BASTARD. Or, I KNEW HE WAS AN ASSHOLE THE FIRST TIME I MET HIM. Or, I HATE THE WAY HE TALKS TO YOU.  Or, I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU SEE IN HIM. Do not say these things. Because as much as your girlfriend complains, resents, cries and yells, you can't leave her husband behind until she does. (Again, please see the caveat above.) I have heard many a story about when a friend goes back to her guy -- the guy that she has told you for months/years does nothing but belittle her, to lie disrespect her -- that the supportive girlfriend is often shunned and left wondering why.


Certainly embarrassment plays a part – your girlfriend might feel ashamed of her decision. She might think you judge her. (Please don’t). And she knows how you feel about her husband. (See “Asshole” above.) 


Even if you assure her that you are there to support her, that you understand the things she told you were in the heat of the moment, or that you respect her for trying – she still may feel some shame.


There’s nothing you can do about this, right now.  Just as her divorce journey didn’t happen in a day, neither will the fallout from the reconciliation.  


It’s sad to (temporarily) lose your girlfriend to this phantom sense of shame. Your relationship may indeed change, shift, cool off.  I’ve had it happen to me. But time has a way of helping us forget and forge new relationships. After 20 years of friendship with one of my favorite girlfriends – and about seven years of distance – we are just finding our way back. And I couldn’t be happier. 




The Post-Divorce Girlfriend Do's and Don’ts


Once your friend is actually in the midst of a divorce or just following the judgment day, try my suggestions:

Support her decision. Whether you personally would choose divorce or not, it is, after all, her life. Hopefully it is a healthy decision for her.

When the divorce is final, celebrate. Depending on the circumstances, go wild or plan something subdued. For one of my friends, we all got together at a restaurant and had a surprise cake at the end. We bought one of those snarky cake toppers and lit sparkler candles in a public place where all these other women came up to her all night long to say, “Oh, yeah, I use to be married to an asshole, too. You go, girl.”

Provide help where she needs it. If you know a great attorney, give her a name and number. If you know a great financial advisor, provide an email introduction and nag her to use him/her. 

Offer a place to sleep if she needs to get out of the house for a night or two. Stay up and talk late into the night, or give her some space. Let her take the lead.

If she needs to get a job and doesn’t know where to turn, help her find a great career and life coach. 

Tell her it will be okay. Tell her it will be okay. It WILL be okay.

When she starts dating, do not allow her to respond to booty calls in front of you. (Look up booty call if you are confused. Good for you.)

Buy her my book as a gift when she is ready to start dating. She’ll laugh, she’ll gasp, she’ll know how to dress for a first date. 

Take her to buy her first pair of great jeans.  Get her a personal shopper if you're not good at this. 

Do not ask her if she is dating, unless you have the perfect, available, stable, financially secure, straight man for her. 

Never ask her why she isn’t dating. If she’s free, say, “Great! Now I have someone to go see chick flicks with.”


The best girlfriend I had when I got divorced was my mother. She knew that my ex and I were determined to remain friends. She supported anything and everything I did to create a healthy ex-relationship, both for myself and my son. To this day my mother is sweet and supportive of my ex-husband (and not just because he still helps her with her computer problems). My mother aligned with me in this unusual friendship, and I swear I think she still considers him her son-in-law. By the way, she also treats my boyfriend of five years with love and support. 


That may make my mom a little kooky, but to me it makes her the best post-divorce girlfriend of all.


Ginger is a 20-year veteran corporate writer in Atlanta, and most recently, the former national web editor at skirt!, www.skirt.com. She is a regular blogger for Huffington Post’s "divorce vertical,"  the mother of a 16-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, "Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has been featured on More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. She has appeared dozens of local and national TV and radio shows, including as host of Book Talk with Ginger in Atlanta, Georgia. 


 For more Ginger Emas columns, click here. 


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC



The guys at a little car repair place in Ohio had it right.


We were living there when my wonderful 58-year-old dad died.  Metastatic melanoma took him in six months, punctuated by the last two horrible weeks my mom, brothers and I spent at the hospital watching our best friend suffer a miserable death.  But who he was deserves more space: a man who believed in fun.  Laughter.  Family.  Friends. Cleveland teams. He was one of the good guys.


When the funeral crowd left my parents’ house in the Cleveland suburbs, food arrived at my house, from neighbors, friends, coworkers. (If you are going to die, consider dying in Ohio.  Your family will be well-cared for. The lasagnas keep coming; chicken casseroles arrive at all hours. Unsolicited fudge brownies visit. And the breads are—sorry-- to die for.)


It was my four- and two- year- olds who got me out of bed every day. My husband had long hours and travel for work, and little kids need potty training, snacks and storytime.


Days after Dad’s funeral, I wanted the kids back in routines, so I drove my four-year-old to preschool, and stopped at an ATM. Except I was on autopilot, and I dropped my money card deep into the driver’s side window crack.


Life was lousy, at that moment. My dad was dead, and he shouldn’t be. (How was Osama Bin Laden alive but my dad wasn’t?) My dad would know what to do in car emergencies. I remembered him teaching me to parallel park. He bought me my first car in college and had the salesman laughing (probably at what a ripoff the car was). He was the one I called when that car broke down and the mechanic said he’d fix it if I would “give him something back.” (Um, no.) Dad was the one who paid my car insurance my first years after college when I was only making enough money to cover rent.


By the time I walked into a car place holding my toddler, I was sobbing from cascading car memories.  (They could’ve made a car commercial out of the montage in my head.)


The guys behind the counter were patient while I tried to choke out what was wrong.


“My debit card fell into that slot in the window and I’ll never get it out,” I cried.


They nodded.


“And, my dad just died,” I added, to explain the tears.


One guy immediately went to tackle the problem, and another asked if I needed water. He asked if I wanted a chair and a magazine.  So I sat with my head down, sipping from a Dixie cup, with People and my son.


It wasn’t long before one of the guys approached, armed with a tissue box. “I lost my dad, too. It sucks.”


He got it.


“Your car’s ready. Here’s your debit card.”


“Thank you,” I said. “How much do I owe you?”


“It’s free,” he said. “I know how crappy this is.”


I wanted to hug him.


 I went home and sifted through the sympathy cards. “REJOICE! HE is with the Lord!” one proclaimed.  It didn’t help. (Note to card-makers/buyers: “Rejoice” is not a term for comforting someone grappling with loss.)


After the cards, food, and flowers ceased, I thought of what comforted me: how people had brought food for my family. I thought of the friends who said they were sorry, those who liked hearing stories about him, those who shared their own memories, and the friend who  offered to babysit.  I also thought of the things NOT to say I had heard:  “I can’t make the funeral, I’m going to my kid’s game.” Or “I’m so grateful I still have MY dad.” Or, “At least you knew he was going to die.” My favorite: “Cheer up.”


I resolved to help others. When one of my husband’s coworkers lost a baby to SIDS, I knew two things: bring them a meal. Give sympathy. I could do this, I thought, and ran over with some food.


What I did not expect was the little girl to say, “Want to see a picture of my brother who died?” Then she showed me their beautiful boy.


My heart leapt for them, and soon I was crying and the mother was comforting me. This isn’t right, I said, and reiterated sympathy and left. Maybe “helping” in grief isn’t that easy.


Years later—when the pain melted into a quieter ache---I realized the auto shop guys had it right too. When someone tells you they lost someone, listen. Give water. Offer magazines. Bring tissues. Say how much it sucks. Do a task that feels insurmountable to them in their grief. And do it for free. 


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

 

For more Kristine Meldrum Denholm  columns, click here.


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

May 07

Robert Fulgum may have learned everything he needed to learn in kindergarten, but I learned the ways of the world my freshman year of college.


In the fall of 1976 I enrolled at Wheaton College (IL).  In the mid 70’s Wheaton was one of the more conservative Christian colleges in America.  Every student had to sign a statement of faith and a pledge of conduct.  No smoking, drinking, or dancing were just a few of the prohibitions. 


I’ve heard many say that if you can’t dance or drink you can’t have fun.  It didn’t cramp my style.  High school dances were not events I’ve ever wanted to revisit, and as alcohol is a depressant I didn’t see the need.  Besides- immaturity has its privileges; foremost among them, the lack of maturity.


Wheaton, in its wisdom, decided to build a dorm that could house the entire freshman class.  In Fischer Dorm, women lived on one side and men on the other.  The only upperclassmen in the dorm were the few R.A.’s and their roommates.


While all of us signed the "pledge," all of us were 18.  


The imagination revels when considering what happens when hundreds of 18-year-old men live in the same building. Stephen King has made millions when writing so inspired.


While many things transpired within those walls, the most memorable were the pranks.  Eighteen-year-old men don’t have idle minds and those minds know no curfew.


Pranks were a way of life, and in the world of pranks there were no conscientious objectors and no one could claim neutrality. Eighteen-year-old men authored the rules of war; there was no rest unless you gave worse than you got.


The worst my roommates and I received was the notorious ringing rotary wall phone trick.  It was about 3 o’clock one weekday morning and it was one of the few hours when the dorm was quiet.  We were in a deep sleep when the phone rang.  My roommate Norm answered the phone, and whoever called hung up.  Norm did as well.  Except the phone kept ringing, and nothing Norm could do would make it stop.  It seems that one of my classmates, who now works on top secret projects for the Defense Department, figured out that if you rewired the phone in a certain way there was no way to stop the phone from ringing as long as it had power.  Norm doesn't suffer phones gladly.  Norm shortly ripped the phone off the wall and we went back to sleep.


While Norm had no choice but to render the phone unusable, the bill we received for a replacement was considerable.  Having no desire to invite further financial hardship into our lives it was essential we retaliate effectively... meaning, in a manner after which no one else would dare mess with us.  


So after reconnaissance revealed the perpetrators, we put our plan into motion.  One morning at about 3 a.m. we quietly got a dorm vacuum cleaner.  We snuck into their suite, two rooms with a bathroom in between.  The room that we entered was filled with their desks; the other was where they slept.  We first put the unplugged vacuum cleaner into the room where they slept, turned the switch on (having previously disabled the ability to switch it off), and disconnected the dirt bag.  We then took the cord into the bathroom and closed the door to their room.


Next we tied a rope from the door handle to the shower handle and aimed the showerhead at the door. We then took the vacuum cord into the other room, closed the door and stuffed pennies into the crack of the door rendering it impossible to open from the bathroom.  Meanwhile our other roommate took the gigantic floor trashcan, emptied it, filled it with over 50 gallons of water and propped it up against the hall door of the bedroom of their suite.


The only thing remaining was the glorious moment when we plugged in the vacuum.  Everything transpired as planned.  Chaos erupted in the room.  The light went on.  They couldn’t turn off the vacuum as dirt filled the room.  They followed the cord into the bathroom and when the opened the door they were greeted with a high-speed stream of cold water from the now engaged shower.  When they couldn’t get into the other room to unplug the vacuum since the door was penny locked, they bolted for the hall door and when they opened it they were greeted with a rubber trashcan and a gigantic waterfall.


It took several days for their room to dry out. 


There was no way to directly implicate us, but enough indirect information to have the desired effect.


We slept well the rest of the year and didn’t have any unwanted phone bills.


I learned a lot of things in my politics classes, but Fischer Dorm taught me the fundamentals of International Relations Theory.  On this side of heaven, deterrence is the most effective defense.  



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.  


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

Some of the most important lessons one needs to learn in life never happen in the classroom.  In fact, even as a professional educator, I believe the most valuable lessons almost never occur in the confines of the traditional classroom.


I just returned from my eighth annual camping trip to South Dakota with my 8th graders.  There were 12 students and four of us chaperones on the trip this year as we made our way camping in the Badlands and Custer State Park.  


Every year this trip brings its own unique set of challenges.  Our overnight stay in the Badlands once again proved to be bad.  Gusting winds over 45 mph made setting up camp a struggle for the kids.  They worked together in teams to battle the blasts of air that meant to tear down their homes for the night.   With great effort they fished the flimsy fiberglass poles through the tent channels and pounded in the stakes to keep the tents from blowing all the way to Wyoming.  


They attempted to cook dinner as the winds threatened to constantly blow out the propane stove; you know, lukewarm brats and hotdogs aren’t really that awful tasting!  And they huddled close to one another as the nighttime critters scampered past their tents in the wee hours of the morning.  In short, they learned that no one can stand alone, that we are all in it together, and that they must depend upon both friends and foes.


Our time spent in Custer State Park was once more serene but colder.  Setting up tents was far simpler than in the Badlands but the frigid nights brought new challenges.  It was here that the kids really started to gel and the lines between girls and boys, friends and foes faded as they learned to communicate with someone new.  They shared the heat packets they brought so everyone could stay warm inside their own sleeping bags at night. And they explored the surrounding area as though they were the first people to ever set eyes on this new land.


But like any good thing, too much can be too much.  After being together for 96 straight hours, kids start getting on each other’s nerves.  Snide comments and short tempers fueled from lack of sleep started to grate on some of them. 

 

One young man, Tommy, came to sit near the adults while all of the other kids were playing Frisbee.  His head hung low as he sighed heavily, clearly a sign that he wanted our attention.  We asked what was wrong and he immediately fell into the victim role, which he is so quick to play in the classroom.  “Thomas is blaming me for Jon’s pillow missing.  I didn’t do it and he knows it.  I am so sick of him picking on me.” 


 We’ve been hearing this mantra for a long time and decided that now was the perfect opportunity to put this to rest.

Thomas was called over and we had the two boys speak directly to each other with their complaints and concerns.  Turns out, they actually have a lot in common that no one else in the class shares – an interest in cars and hunting weapons.  Both boys acknowledged to each other that they can take things too far and need reminders to rein their behaviors back in check.  In short, the atmosphere of the South Dakota trip worked its magic again as it afforded the boys an opportunity to get down to the nitty gritty of what it means to really have someone’s back and how to work through your differences rather than around them all of the time.


I love this camping trip for so many reasons.  It is an awesome time to really get to know my students outside of the classroom.  I love sleeping in a tent and listening to the night sounds as they lull me to sleep – coyote calls, owls hooting back and forth, and the gurgling of the brook that flows near the campsite.  


But what I especially love is how the kids learn to depend on themselves and each other as they go through the process of seeing one another at their best and worst.  And it is an intense course of human dynamics that one can never learn in a classroom.


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


Sep 17

My mom’s burial was last Sunday.  My sadness is laced with appreciation.  I had everything in place and so the process just carried me.  I had taken care of the details months ago while I still had a clear head.  And caring family and friends were next to me along with a handful of talented professionals.


The death of a parent is traumatic enough without adding the angst of important details that were not attended to and must now take center stage.  Here are some of the items that we all have to handle:


  1. Funeral arrangements

Months before my mom passed away, I handled the funeral arrangements.  That included choosing a casket, confirming where my mom was living and how the funeral home would care for her prior to her burial


2. Burial arrangements


Then I contacted the cemetery where my mother and father had bought burial plots.  The plots had already been paid for and I located the receipt.


3. Clergy

I wanted a rabbi to conduct the graveside service, so I sent my request to my synagogue in advance, not being sure of the date but knowing it was imminent.


4. Obituary

Writing the obituary in advance gave me time to review other obituaries and organize the information in a newspaper appropriate format.  All I needed to do at the last minute was fill in the burial details and submit the obituary for publication.


5. Eulogy

I was prepared to present the words that would introduce my mom to friends who had not met her or seen her recently.  I added some favorite memories that were endearing and joyful.


6. Personal belongings

I had inventoried my mom’s belongings when I moved her to the nursing home.  I had already designated what would be kept and what would be given away.  That way I could comply with the home’s request to clean out the room as soon as possible, when the time came.


When friends and family asked if they could come to visit and bring dinner, I could focus my thoughts on their caring gestures rather than being preoccupied with the dismal task of planning.  I felt at peace with the process and so appreciated those that helped me on my way.


It was Eddie Dressler and Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care in Atlanta that helped me to plan my work and to work my plan.  I am grateful for Eddie’s expert advice and wisdom.


The service was warm, the weather was pleasant, and my sons, daughters-in-law and Phang were by my side.  Treasured friends took over the task of taking care of us and I am so grateful for each and every one of them.  


And on that day, I did just what my mom always told me to do…”Put your lipstick on.”




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.


For more Susanne Katz, click here


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


There is a part of me that is very practical.  Despite my high regard for the right brain, my attraction to musicians and artists, and my passionate belief in drawing outside the lines, I’m actually a “straight arrow” at heart. 

 

I believe in doing what is ‘right’ (though not necessarily what is expected). Like any self-respecting youngest child, I’m passionate about what is ‘fair.’

 

As a child, I absorbed a strong value from my family about health and safety. We wore seatbelts before they were mandatory, and were encouraged to call at any hour of the night to avoid getting in the car of an impaired driver. I can’t say this sensibility kept me from making stupid choices – I was a teen in the 70s after all – but I did have a “safety” threshold that I seemed to honor instinctively. 


At least once in high school, that “safety meter” made a difference in someone else’s life. It didn’t happen in a car or at a party. It was a lunchroom revelation.

 

Four of us ate lunch together every day at school.  There were salads without dressing, low-fat milk, contrasted with a representative sampling of the “mystery meat” offerings for the day, fried okra, dessert (of course).  It was a free cafeteria, so we could grab whatever we wanted to nibble– a teenage girl’s dream: taste it all with no obligation to eat.

 

After lunch, like clockwork, one of my friends would take her leave to go to the gym to call her boyfriend. We thought nothing of it. Until one day, when the rest of us were hanging around the cafeteria, marveling at all the food we had consumed – there was nothing left on the table!  


And then it clicked: there were no pay phones in the gym. (Cell phones were not an option in those days  -- you actually had to have a dime to place a telephone call.)  

 

We figured it out pretty quickly. Our (beautiful, skinny) friend was gorging at lunch, and then going to the gym to throw up.  Bulimia.  It had to be – did you see how much food she just ate!?

 

We discussed it with genuine concern.  What to do?  Tell the school? Confront her?  Choose a teacher we could trust?  What if we were wrong?  She would be SO pissed off. 

 

To take action would require breaking the cardinal rule of teenagers: we’d have to tell on a friend.  Even worse, for me -- she was in the grade above me!


Kids’ books and movies are replete with heroes taking matters into their own hands, putting themselves at risk of life and limb rather than calling upon a trusted adult. Harry Potter and Percy Jackson can’t help themselves. While it makes for some fabulous stories, the truth is that those plot lines sorta irk me. Isn’t there a point when we should be teaching kids (and adults) to recognize when to ask for help?  Now THAT’s a valuable life skill!


I tell my kids that they can trust me with any information, and that I will hold their confidence and that of their friends…unless it’s a matter of serious health or safety (yes, that’s a subjective call – good thing they’ve never pushed me on it). There’s a point that confidentiality goes out the window.


Fortunately, I was never as brave as Hermione Granger, and my safety meter had been installed early. In a fit of momentary brilliance, my friends and I recognized that our friend’s problem was outside of our realm. We had the (rare) good sense to know that she had crossed a line. She needed more help than we could offer. 

 

In the end, we decided to tell my mom, who was a friend of her mom. Mom took care of it, and we never talked about it with our friend (ok, I confess that this part of the story still bothers me!).

 

There are a few take home messages from this story:

 

1. Another’s life is important enough to risk his/her anger, or even friendship. 

2. If you recognize something that might be a health risk, don’t assume everyone else sees it, too.

3. When health and safety is concerned, other people’s business just might be yours.  Pay attention to your urges to get involved – trust that your heart will guide you well. It’s not irresponsible to help a friend. 

4. Ask for help when you really aren’t sure how best to handle an important situation – and then accept it!

5. Sometimes we have to break some rules in the interest of other, more important matters (we broke the unwritten code of teenage silence).

6.   Make sure the children in your life, whether or not they ‘belong’ to you, have a trusted adult that they can go to without fear of recrimination.  Let kids and teens you love know they can trust you. Teens who have adults they can trust make better choices than teens who don’t.

 

Many years after this story took place, my mother ran into my high school friend. She thanked my mom, and asked that she send a message to me. She thanked me for saving her life. Through our intervention, she had gotten the help she needed.  


Now, through Facebook, I know that my friend has a daughter of her own. I certainly hope her daughter has a good bunch of lunch buddies in high school. 


 

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.


 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


I have participated in one intervention in my life. It was sad and uplifting, and I recall the simultaneous feelings of power and powerlessness. Happily, my very dear friend has defied the odds to date.  He has been ‘clean’ for quite some time now.  
 
But let me tell you, there were a lot of years in there that were touch and go, to say the least. It felt very much like I had lost my old friend. He was immersed in a world that had nothing good to offer him, and was daily robbing him of anything worth living for.
 
Addictions like that don’t happen in a vacuum.  For him, there were clear life circumstances that led to loneliness and depression, loss and disillusion.  From my perspective, he started to use drugs and sex to feel something – anything – that would replace an inner hopelessness.  It started as a misguided way of seeking stimulation and spiraled out of control.
 
When a small group of us recognized that our friend was in serious trouble, we joined forces to intervene—but in truth, we had no idea what we were doing.  We didn’t know that such a thing as an ‘addiction-ologist’ existed – we were grasping at straws. We met with him directly and reached out to his family. We thought there was a plan, but there were differing opinions about the level of support he really needed.   Let’s just say it wasn’t a quick fix. The crisis continued for another year or so.  He hadn’t hit rock bottom, yet.
 
During my friend’s crisis I had ample opportunity to think about my responsibilities as his friend. Addiction doesn’t only happen to an individual, of course, and if you’re willing to step outside of the realm of judgment, then there is a lot to learn about human behavior and relationships.  I learned most about staying power and forgiveness.
 
Severe addiction causes a lot of pain and guilt – and not just for the person with addiction. As much as I wanted to see my friend reclaim his life, it grew difficult over time to stay engaged and committed to our friendship. I was always concerned, but I had to strike a balance between staying connected and keeping a safe distance.  He was clearly self-destructing.  I didn’t feel comfortable around him and couldn’t let my kids visit his home. It’s sorta like trying to save a drowning person – if you really want to help, you can’t get too close or the drowning victim will drag you under the water with him.
 
In all honesty, it’s hard not to get disgusted with addiction.  When you don’t suffer from addiction, it’s easy to forget that addicts are not willfully making terrible choices – there is an underlying issue that is interfering with sage decision-making. Interfering in an epic way.
 
So, the challenge for me was to stay – to stay connected to my friend, to be a friend to him even when he was unable to be a friend to me, much less to himself. A life-long friendship is much like a marriage – that whole “better or worse” thing can be hard as hell.  But, usually, when a friend is in trouble and behaving badly, that is when they need you the most.
 
Staying engaged was an intense practice of Don Miguel Ruiz’s second agreement, “Don’t take things personally.” [Don Miguel Ruiz is a New Age spiritualist who has four agreements aimed at preserving one’s integrity, self-love and peace by absolving oneself from the responsibility and problems of others.]
 
In order to stay connected, I had to get to the point that I was ready to let him go if that was his choice—even if it meant that he would never talk to me again.  It wasn’t about me, or whether he was listening to my ‘advice.’  I had to figure out how to respect him as a person without judgment despite his incredible absence of good judgment.
 
That practice of staying was a huge life lesson for me. It was painful to love and support someone even when he was making really awful choices. It was hard to stay connected without being so close as to put myself at risk.
 
The other lesson for me, besides testing my staying power, was about forgiveness.  I had to learn not to indulge him, not to enable him, but to forgive him his humanness – to love who he was as a person, despite his behavior.
 
It’s hard to find forgiveness for someone whom you think should know better. It was hard not to see him as incredibly selfish, willfully hurtful, and just a lousy friend.  Forgiveness after his recovery was not the challenging part.  It was forgiveness while in the throes of addiction that was a true test of my integrity.
 
So, here’s what I know: having someone in your life with an addiction offers opportunities to learn to help without enabling, to support without saving, and to care for others without sacrificing yourself.  
 
It is not easy for anyone involved.  But two perspectives offer a lot of assistance:  focus on staying committed to the person without getting too close, and finding forgiveness for the person while holding his behaviors as intolerable.
 
My friend has rediscovered his sense of purpose and is living life again, fully. With pure joy I celebrate his successes as he continues to slowly climb out of that deep hole.  His happy ending was hard-earned, and he continues to work for it every day. For my part, at least I know I tried to help … by being a friend who challenged him, encouraged him, stayed with him (if not too close), and accepted his humanity.

 

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

©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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