The biggest, scariest word: HELP!

In the past year or so I have needed a lot of help. I have been injured more often than not and have had to let go of my guilt in needing to lean on others even when they are frustrated at the situation and not quite at me.

I have also been someone known as strong. I’m kind of a running joke going through companies that just love a good personality assessment everyone always assumes I’m the chaos creating extrovert and then they seem my results the thinking, feeling, introvert you can see their heads almost do a weird exorcist 180. There worlds are shook.

I think many times as woman and men we feel strength = success and we get to scared to admit we are drowning when we need help the most. Always wondering if we are failing because we think we should be able to do it alone. When really it should never have been that way.

I remember crying in my office feeling the walls crumbling and dealing with financial, emotional and all kinds of stress-ers and felt totally lost. Which spiraled into me screaming at my significant other. Once I calmed down I looked at him and said why won’t you help me? And his response was pretty revealing. He said because you always seem to find a way. It doesn’t matter what comes up I don’t know how you do it but you just look at me say I’ll figure it out and then you do.

So here I was basically turning water into wine at the sake of my sanity and my relationship. When my partner was just so impressed with my skill sets and capabilities I thought this was thriving and not drowning. Kind of like when people find out most water drownings are silent not the flailing mess you expect.

Life is like that. When we are flailing and screaming we generally are still pretty OK. We are mad and fighting and struggling but still able to scream and flail. Its the after, the quiet we should worry about. The I’ll just grin and bear it until this screen, this quiet, this unnecessary secret slowly takes me down. But the moment I said enough. I am no longer able to do it alone things took a turn.

I found myself engulfed in a safe cocoon where I was able to actually truly step away and work towards finding strength that wasn’t just grinning and bearing it but actually true. I even wanted to end this post before the last two sentences of the last paragraph. Because even to this day admitting I need a safe place is really really hard. But once we say hey ya know what I need a minute here, a minute to breath, a minute to understand what I truly want, a minute to make sure I am bringing my best self to the table. The person a child version of me would be proud of. The one who fought for whats right and whats needed. The one who knew that grinning and bearing it would not be who I am or who I would be.

That moment the overly eager optimist remembers why she took that name in the first place. Think hard, think lightly. remember a moment when you truly jumped in with both feat and no fear. Live that, share that. I know I will.

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Lets talk about Death in an overly eager optimist kind of way

Death is one of those messy, hard things entrenched in stigma that many fear whispering its name in case for some reason it may bring it upon themselves. Now with religion aside because I am a strong believer in living in the moment, doing as much good as we can while we are here, because regardless of whats next, isn’t that just the point? But I digress.

I wanna talk about the time a high school classmate’s mom passed away and I brought ice cream. And the reason I bring mints to every funeral. And so many more.

My youth was entrenched with death. Not directly, no, but it surrounded us. My father a police officer, photographing homicides and more than a few times we thought he wasn’t coming home. A poignant memory was watching 4 men on a roof top covered in sheets after a helicopter went down. My dad was supposed to be in that helicopter. So elementary school me was staring at a sheet trying to figure out if it had the same shape as my dad. But I was lucky. My mom worked with the elderly and was always the go to when someone close to us had a family member in hospice. We understood what death meant and what it didn’t. We weren’t afraid to talk to the grieving or dying. No one wants to face their mortality, my mother always thought I would have made a lovely undertaker.

So now I want to share with you what I know about dealing with death.

  1. You are still breathing. And you will keep breathing until you don’t anymore. That being said whether you are ready or not life keeps moving and you do what you need to to exist. Sorry that one is tough but true. Grieve, forgive those that say the wrong thing, think about your sadness. Sadness will end and lessen. Depression will not. Ask for help if the tunnel is too long or too dark.
  2. Support your friends in pieces. Grief is a long process that never truly ends. You feel better, you move forward but it lingers. Dealing with someone in the grips of loss will burn you out. Be there as much as you can but take breaks, circle back and let them know its OK a year down the line for them to lament about how Christmas still really pisses them off or about heartbroken they are there is no one to have dinner with. Gently letting them know hey look its been 6 months I know you are doing really well but I’m still here if you want talk about xyz person and its still OK to have good days and bad ones.
  3. Games are great! I know sounds crazy but especially with terminal illness I like to kidnap the grieving, take them out of their comfort zone and bring them somewhere really fun. (See #4 for transporting those in grief) Now that may seem really crazy but say you have a teenager that has been dealing with a parents final days of illness for months give them a break, always ask a simple hey want to get out of here usually works. Make it a judgement free zone and take charge of the decision making even flat out tell them listen you need some air, some space to breath you are off duty for the next two hours lets go. When they go back they are right there in the thick of it. I once did this with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s for everyone and a trip to the arcade. Kids generally have limited experience with death and are terrified to talk to their friends experiencing it. Help them reach out like this.
  4. Ahh yes notorious number 4, transporting the grieving. Pretend like nothing happened and give them space. If you can bring someone and put the grieving person in the back seat. This is specific to someone who got the news and now needs to travel to the location of the deceased. No one wants to be that hysterical mess in an airport so by pretending like everything is OK, giving that person as much privacy as possible you are simply trying to get them from point a. to point b. once you deliver them they will be embarrassed by family, friends everything will hit them all at once. Let the shock where off in that moment with a full support system in place. Not with them trapped in the front passenger seat trying to figure out what just happened, all their emotions etc.
  5. Bring mints, Altoids are my favorite. You will find them in every funeral home and little trade secret they don’t just freshen your breath…they hold off tears. Slipping a pack of Altoids quietly to a grieving widower and whispering in their ear during your hug eat a mint it will help with the lump in your throat can make a huge difference. Works great for those in a receiving line, giving a eulogy etc.
  6. Ask questions. Most people will be terrified to mention the person who is gone. Don’t bombard them right away but in the coming days and weeks ask about their favorite memory, the funniest thing they ever did. Let them know that its still OK to talk about them. You’d be amazed how many people won’t do this.  I asked this of my grandfather in law and I learned a story now one had ever heard before of his wife very poorly playing a ukulele and getting an entire bus full of hungover traveling companions singing and dancing and laughing like there was no tomorrow.
  7. Candy, favorite items, bring them. Especially if there are kids involved. If Grandpa always had a butterscotch in his pocket bring some and let your child put it in the pocket if its an open casket. Obviously you need to adhere to cultural and family beliefs but letting them know that their experience with Grandpa was valid is a good thing. I would recommend allowing children only brief attendance as this can be too much.

I know my advice may seem just down right crazy or even callus, but I can tell you every single time I have done this it has worked. I can’t tell you how many people have questioned me, even cursed me out, but when they saw me interacting with their loved one they very quickly changed their tune and would quietly ask me how I knew to do whatever it is I did.

The most important thing to remember is do not be afraid. Do not fear death, the grieving or the name of the dead. Be your best self and care a whole lot that’s the best you can do and always forgive the grieving they may be very very angry and can lash out at you understandably forgive them and support them.

Do you have any dealing with death hacks?

 

I want a sticker that says, “Talk to me about my headphone free commute!”

About a year ago I gave up my headphones. They only come out for special occasions like working out solo or when I really want to jam out at work.

And it all started because I was having the worst commute ever. Around the time of Boston’s winter apocalypse in 2015/2014 commuting into the city was awful if not darn near impossible. And despite all the pushing and shoving I saw a problem that I no longer wanted to be a part of, the lack of communication between T passengers. I mean it just makes no sense and here’s why.

  • Talking to strangers can be scary but also really really good! Like this!
    • Commenting on a girls cute top only to find out she is barely out of high school and kind of lost getting to her friends house via the T. She was too nervous to ask for help. (Obviously I helped)
    • Talking to strangers is shown to increase overall happiness.
    • It can help you be comfortable with casual conversation followed by silence. A skill I’ve heard Americans (or maybe just me) are really bad at.
    • A passenger can be pregnant, in pain and trying not to make a big deal but if you are paying attention and offer to help you get good karma points and you will probably make their day.
    • Just last week two passengers were staring at a bag on the floor it belonged to neither, I know because I asked and they removed their headphones and answered. I found the owners business info called her at work and returned it the next day. She said I restored her faith in good people.
    • Tourism! It brings in revenue to local governments and lowers your tax rate… and people don’t want to visit a city with thousands of people with headphones on. I give a lot of directions to a lot of foreigners all to make my city more friendly.
    • And the people! You never know who you are sitting next too. I’ve talked to someone on Amtrak who who I say two months later featured on the front page of the Boston Globe. I’ve met gentlemen testing remote meeting attendees robots. Everyone has a story all you have to do is ask.

As the saying goes the first step to solving a problem is realizing that you have one. I wanted less misunderstandings and to believe that people are good. I wanted a friendly city and commute. I won’t take your headphones away but I can take mine away. Feel free to give it a try you never know it may make your commute better than you thought.

Whats your ‘out there’ idea to change your commuting attitude??

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How to where high heels in the city

Being a tall girl (5′ 10″) and having an aunt teach me how to walk in stilettos from a young age I tower in high heels, they put me around 6′ 2″ tall. And of course I love commanding a room in towering heels.

Well fast forward many years and the days of people believing I only owned stilettos are long gone and several serious foot injuries (un-high heel) related have side lined from the shoe game indefinitely. I want to take a moment to share my secrets for how to walk in high heels.

  1. Buy small. You  want your shoes a half size too small for the purpose of long wearing high heels.
  2. Your shoes should fit in such a way you can walk on the balls of your feet without the heel of your shoe touching the ground and without the back of the shoe slipping off.
  3. Tissues. These work great for the tears caused by you aching feet (I kid, I kid), but they do work great for shoving into the toe of pointy toed shoes to stop them from curling or to create the tight fit needed.

Now the why to these. In the city you will encounter (well in Boston at least) grates, brick, cobblestones, etc. These will destroy your shoes and more embarrassingly or dangerously they will trip you. Everything from a broken ankle to completely stepping out of your shoe because your heel got hung on the bricks. The only work around for this is walking on the balls of your sheet. This method also works great for weddings that happen on grass.

Also remember many shoes will stretch so buying them small will benefit you in a few ways. And your foot sliding around in a stretched out shoe will make it hard to walk, balance and can cause rubbing (i.e. blisters).

As a disclaimer high heels generally aren’t great for your feet and many medical professionals will cringe and say OMG did she really tell people to buy too small shoes?! ARGHHHH!! But if you are city dwelling or working, broke and determined this will get the job done.

Other things that help are: High quality shoes and a strong fitness level 🙂

Happy Walking!

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Me and a pair of ill fitted red stilettos. 

 

Growing Things! Part 2

Summary from growing things part 1: I’m bad at growing things, had tomato success, Kale failure and was pretty darn proud of myself. In Part 2 we are looking at my attempt at trash can potatoes and how to grow through the winter blues.

So after my tomatoes seemed like that may have something going on I was hooked, what else can I do? So I started searching for other things that thrive in pots and was totally captured by trash can potatoes. In true lazy girl style I did not have a free trash can to drill holes in, but I did have a much bucket! So let the games begin.

Step 1. Beg my other half to drill holes in the muck bucket (because he happened to already be holding the drill).

Step 2. Buy potato starters. Now you can get these from your own potato stock pile, but I like to start with having the basics a sure things for my first adventures.

Step 3. Find dirt. Well in my case I very half-bummed a compost bin from an old bag style yard waste holder that came with my house. Dumped the bag out which had mostly yard waste found two years of throwing stuff in there provided some good soil at the bottom and used it to fill my bin.

Step 4. Lots of layers. Place your potato starters in (its very important to make sure they are protected from sunlight as this can ruin your potatoes) making sure they are fully covered in soil. Then once the green shoots appear you can add an additional layer of dirt and plant more potatoes and so on. Water as needed about weekly.

Step 5. Once your potatoes are ready to harvest you can literally just dump out the bucket and clean off your potatoes. If you planted early in the season you may even be able to get another harvest in. I generally mix the soil in to my existing compost pile.

Now if you potatoes are a fall crop this could be the end of growing things for you. Since I had such success with minimal effort this year and my tomatoes grew so well in the basement windows I wasn’t quite ready to give up. Lack of sun in winter be damned!

And then reality set and I realized I was going to need some lights. I needed a solution that was energy efficient, affordable and easy to use. So welcome the Click and Grow! You get three slots to grow in, it its self watering and has a height adjustable light.

The starter kits comes with three basil pods, if I had to do it all over again I’d order something else as well. I loved the basil but was desperate to see how some of their other pods would work, they have strawberries, cherry tomatoes, flowers, all kinds of herbs and more. Below is my click & grow on March 22nd, it was ordered around January 8th and set up a week later. I think the basil is doing quite well. *Pro-tip: Prune your plants to get them low and thick vs. tall and skinny it will let them thrive longer before you run out of height on the adjustable light.

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Growing things! Part 1

Is there anything more revitalizing that growing stuff? It’s that time of year where my seedlings are started and my flower beds (thanks to an unseasonably warm winter) are laid with new soil and ready for planting. Now am I some kind of green thumb? Nope. But I do love having things that are alive in and around my house, I love home-grown veggies and I do the best I can.

So I’m here to tell you all about how a brown thumb (is that a thing?), lazy girl managed to grow stuff in three parts. Part 1 is what I did last year, which is growing stuff for small living, the heavily traveled or the plane lazy.

Now if you’ve followed along from the beginning you probably know beautiful raised vegetable beds are not in the cards for this girl. So these were my challenges:

  1. I needed the flexibility to take my plants with me.
  2. They needed to be elevated and protected (we have a very odd amount of wild rabbits).
  3. They needed to be easy to maintain.
  4. They needed to tolerate some creative watering gaps.
  5. And most importantly this venture needed to be budget friendly.

So this is what I came up with, I decided to grow a bunch of tomatoes and a bunch of Kale. Spoiler alert, tomatoes worked great, the Kale was a fail. I went to my local hardware store and took the easy way out, bought some seed starter kits and some organic seeds and read the instructions. Filled seed starts with water inserted seeds to pods placed lid on, hoped for the best. Well I can say they all sprouted as expected and grew quickly. Unfortunately my cat found theses starter kits to be a great launched pad and this was the beginning of the end for my poor kale. I also don’t think it transplanted particularly well and it did not have as much sun as my tomatoes did.

So once my tomatoes out grew their starter pods I did pretty much the opposite of what the internet said to do. I never separated my three plants per starter pod, (to be honest I was sure only one would even survive anyway), planted three of those little pods in a 10″ pot, added some fertilizer and hoped for the best. I placed them in my basement window, not ideal but they would get a few hours of sun a day. Well they flourished, to my surprise. So I moved them outside and instead of buying cages I tied them to my deck. I watered them whenever needed (in the summer heat at least once a day) and would leave them water free most weekends Friday to Sunday. Even though they would look a bit wilt-y as soon as I watered them they came right back.

I ended up with enough tomatoes to make sauce and soup from scratch, plus plenty for salads. When we took vacation in the summer I cut their strings loaded the 6 pots into the back of my mini countryman and drove them to our lake house. They continued to produce and probably could have gotten a second crop had I wanted to travel with them back south after our vacation.

Growing Things! Part 2 – Fall plant withdrawals and how to cope, bucket potatoes

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Communicating our failures is important

I had a friend whose marriage was failing and she and her husband went to marriage counseling. The marriage did not survive as not all marriages should, but she received a book that told a story of another couple. In that book was a simple story on communication a wife’s breast cancer came back, her husband found her alone upset she told him the news he walked upstairs to his office alone and their marriage slowly fell apart. What was she thinking, how could he leave me like this? What was he thinking, I need to compose myself and be strong for her. Such a valuable lesson in communication. No matter how long you have known someone you can’t read their mind, you just can’t.

Last night I had a terrible night, just feeling super lost and worrying about everything I had lost and what I might lose. I was venting to my partner in the car and just didn’t want to talk about possibilities I just wanted to wallow. So in an attempt to cheer me up he brought me to a local bar for a beer and some take out one of our favorite ways to shake off a bad day. And I sat there not hungry, not wanting a menu and trying not cry into my beer. Mad that he was trying and I went along to the bar because I knew that, mad that he couldn’t start a conversation with me if I wasn’t already talking, just mad. And as I wallowed and got madder and was holding back tears something happened.

The moment was this, my partner leaned over to me in the bar and whispered in my ear its not that I don’t want to talk to you its just I have no idea what I should be saying right now. And I said nothing being frustrated and realized I could be mad all night but I agreed to be here so I leaned back and said I know you are trying I’m sorry I don’t know what you should say right now either. Then we both started laughing and a tear rolled down my cheek and we ordered our dinner and finished our beer and went home to fight another day.

Because in the end I wasn’t really mad, I was frustrated, lost, scared all things he could help me with. But when you are looking around surrounded by loss it is so hard to focus on what you have. I don’t have a car anymore, but I didn’t die and he didn’t die in that car crash. I may have lost some great colleagues lately and in turn some opportunity, but I still have a lot of great colleagues and I will find other opportunities. We may be facing scary medical challenges and surgery, but we will come through it and the prognosis is far better than most. I may be still healing, recovering and shaken from everything, but I can do things and I am getting better. I will be ready to help care for the other person that will need it more.

But for this moment I wanted to share with all of you because it is so important to let those we love know when we just can’t, because we don’t know what to say or we aren’t strong enough to accept the next battle yet. Because if we don’t tell them we create space that is too big to over come.

Have you lived in these moments? How do you handle them?