Category Archives: Grief

My wife passed away on April 23, 2015, we were gifted with 20 years and 4 months to the day of marriage.

Defending Coffee Bars, Trend Setting Sermon Series, and Couches

A recent widow writes in response to contemporary church culture with respect to coffee bars, sermon series, and couches. “When church leaders sit around and discuss how they can reach people, I don’t think they have the widow in mind. I don’t think they have the cancer patient in mind. I don’t think they have the children who are growing up without a parent in mind. I am not paying attention to the church décor when I walk through the doors. I don’t want to smell fresh brewed coffee in the lobby. I don’t want to see a trendy pastor on the platform. I don’t care about the graphics or the props on the platform. I am hurting in a way that is almost indescribable.”

And I get that, totally massively get that…

The thing is, dealing with such grief is far outside the domain of the church. I mean I totally get the expectation of such that maybe the church should be there, after all it does funerals, and pastors can and do provide wise council in times of grief. In addition, when one consider Galatians 6:2 in isolation… bear one another burdens seems an entirely reasonable expectation for the church with respect to grief matters, that is until said verse is read in context.

Bottom line, grief ministry is beyond the scope of practice for most churches. Sure, they will have a trained pastor with a few units of clinical pastoral education. Maybe a few might have a Stephen ministry… but the average person in the pew is not equipped for such, and this is where one often runs into a jam really fast.

Consider that there are hundreds of things believers can say to a grieving person, and nearly every one of them, short of a few, is ill advised, Such includes badly chosen prayer verbiage… more than a few times, I thought, are you really going there??? Its really easy to get frustrated by such when it happens over and over and over… and yes, knowing that said folks have the best of intent helps mitigate some of the harm, it is still is a very sucky place to be in when you sort of wish you could rain down fire instead.

Personally, I leaned on friends of all faiths, and found lone rangering in the church environment to be the most helpful. I worshiped corporately, but outside of coming in late and leaving early, I kept my distance. I’ve heard similar stories from other widowers. Jesus is the answer… but his followers, not so much.
That being said, grieving is an individual thing… for some, they really need the close and upfront support of a community of faith… but then they will have to figure out other ways to deal with the counterproductive approaches of church folks. I don’t know how one would go about this. The other side of the coin, is that maybe the church needs to do a better job of equipping its members to approach widows and widowers, but it seems the only way to truly learn it is trial by fire, and that’s not so great either.
And while the coffee bar, dimmed lights, sermon series,  or even a trendy couch on a stage likely won’t bring folks to Jesus, the probability of them going counterproductive is exceedingly low. I wish I had a better answer.

Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows

I’ve been plowing through some of my old bass stuff, and came across Rose Colored Stain Glass Windows from back in the 80’s. It was especially cool back then, as a bunch of us were within inches of opening for Petra… but alas it was not to be. That being said, the music stayed with me over the years, this tune especially.

Its written from the standpoint of an church / belief system, where in they are so apart from the world with their white knuckle sin avoidance thing or related polity, that their light from within is so dimmed, that it doesn’t reach very far, if it does at all.

Looking through rose colored stained glass windows
Never allowing the world to come in
Seeing no evil and feeling no pain
Making the light as it come from within, so dim, so dim

On a church level, yep it can absolutely resonate if one is not careful.

Going a bit further, it easily reaches down to the individual level too. In the days immediately after my wife’s passing, lots of folks said, hey, come over and we can talk… ok cool, and it ends up I end up wearing the listeners hat, as there are a ton of hurting people out there. Under normal circumstances, this would be fine… but I had a ton of stuff to process myself. More than a few times it was like, egads, my grief is tough enough in and of itself, and now I’ve got a ton of others folks issues and concerns to deal with too.

Granted, I did hose myself in this boundary wise, as grief tends to seriously impair judgment and boundaries on all sides… so traditional coping mechanisms I’d used to deal with other folks pain didn’t work worth a hoot as my boundaries were shot to bits. Fortunately an amazing friend did lend an ear and walked with me as I processed the grief of my wife’s passing. On the one hand, its pretty freaky how quickly the clouds of grief left as concerned my late wife, on the other, the rose colored stained glass windows as concerns others shot up to the moon the first week couple weeks…

Obviously they can’t remain there for too long..

Out on your doorstep lay the masses in decay
Ignore them long enough, maybe, they’ll go away
When you have so much you think, you have so much to lose
You think you have no lack when you’re really destitute

Thus, the challenge, those rose colored stained glass windows are super comfortable, and one could argue that they do assist greatly with self care… but there is a point when they need to be taken down. I’ve had some fascinating super deep convo’s on walls, windows, vulnerability and boundaries this week… I’m about 30% of the way academically, but the big challenge will be reconstructing the boundaries within the construct of a new normal, whatever it is to be. I was starting the process back in early June, but alas that form of normal was not to be, so a new season of construction is in order. The rose colored stain glass windows remain.

And the Rose Petals Went Flying

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday… the word for the day is wow.

One of the big things my old buddy emphasized in our hard core candor filled convo was “Let the Holy Spirit guide you”. A most appropriate set of words of wisdom for the 7th week of Easter just prior to Pentecost. Alas, like a lot of things, words said on one day don’t necessarily hit home until later, ie the last thing I was thinking of when we talked was the liturgical year… well, in going over the lectionary on Friday, things hit home and it was like, “isn’t this fascinating!” but that wasn’t the only bit.

When I started this blog back in 2007, my first post was “no longer walking away when God opens the door“, and it seemed a most appropriate overall theme, but I had no idea where it would lead. Such turned into yet another “fascinating” bit too.

So I’m searching for this impulse stimulus thing… how to clear my head, how to start on the path of a new normal. And like a lot of things, the answer was right in front of me… it had been pretty much programmed into my brain through hundreds of repetitions, but it didn’t hit home until yesterday afternoon. I kept pondering big huge things, but there was nothing seemingly big enough. Elijah ran into fires, earthquakes, and massive wind in 1 Kings 19. He was rocking and rolling those head on, but God was not in them. Rather it was the still small voice… of which the intense holiness brought him to not rock and roll it, but to cover his face, The thing is, I was involved in a musical focused on 1 Kings 19, even 28 years later, its emblazoned in my memory… but in my heart, not so much, at least not until yesterday. The answer is likely not going to be found in the big and huge, no matter how I try to force it to come about, but in the still small voice of God. Yet another extremely “fascinating” bit.

Church on Sunday was a tricky deal… I woke up 6 minutes before the service started, got ready, shot out of my driveway on my bike at full speed and was in my pew for the last stanza of the first him. When you are up until 6AM, forget to set your alarm, and then wake up with 6 minutes to spare before church starts, that’s not the sort of message from God you hit the snooze button on… so I rock and rolled that as quickly as possible.

The readings went in one ear and out the other… didn’t hear a thing, but being I always try to ponder the lectionary before church (sometimes a week, sometimes days, sometimes minutes LOL), thus not picking up on them directly in the service is not that big a deal… and then Pastors Sermon on the rose petals. I remember thinking, ok, where is she going with this… and then sort of phased out due to lack of sleep. When I got home, it was like I’m sure I heard what I needed to hear, but what does this mean?

…and the first thing I saw was the dozen roses I got for my wife some time before we did the ambulance run to the community ER, and then to Mayo’s ER, the ICU, the hospital, and her passing. They’ve long since taken a header, but I haven’t been able to put them aside… but there is great peace now. They will become compost such that the circle of life will continue as they fertilize the produce I’ll be cranking out for the food shelf this summer. A fascinating bit…

But this isn’t the whole story, as the day progressed, the sermon came together even more.

A little context is probably key in this… La pioggia di petali di rose is incredibly profound. In a nutshell, its a special mass held at the Pantheon where in rose petals fly from the oculus down to the ground, symbolizing the Holy Spirits action on Pentecost. Some believe it has ties all the way back to the early church, where as others lean towards 609AD due to the Pantheon being dedicated as a church at that time. Which ever date it started, its been going on for a very long time…

Check out this youtube video for an example

Note the barriers keeping most people from the center just before the 30 second mark… granted, they do make sure every person that attended gets to keep a rose petal, but still.

I get this… it makes logical sense to limit the number of people, it preserves good order, its a rule of man.

But with God, rules of men are often thrown to the wind..,

The rose petals don’t follow them, they ride on the currents of air, the wind of the Holy Spirit. Some even hit the camera far outside the barrier, some no doubt landed on the peripheral edge of the Pantheon as well. Most fascinating…

And the rose petals went flying

Waiting for my Batteries to Recharge

In my state of brain fade, I forgot to recharge my 18V batteries. As a result, no string trimming, no hedge trimming, and I only got a tiny bit of tilling done before the last remaining one took a dive… so its writing time.

So, establishing a new normal… how?

My buddies suggestion of some sort of impulse to clear my head logically makes sense. He said, get out of your element for a week, and then jump back into the fray… ok, but there are so many elements I’m into, been into, or entered and left, the easy possibilities are few and far between.

One thought I had was to do a boat trip.The last time I piloted a boat was 20 years ago out on Lake Michigan, so it would pass the out of element thing time wise… In addition, navigating in open water far from shore and dealing with crazy weather on one of the Great Lakes is most assuredly out of my element. The problem is, I don’t have a Coast Guard 6 pack, my experience is far from recent, and as such, there is an element of foolhardiness which could easily swing into darwin territory weather wise… Things can change in a heart beat in the open water on the great lakes, and you need to keep your wits about you.

A related thing would be to make a boat run up and down the Mississippi River. This would be relatively easy to do, albeit doing so solo adds a fair bit of complexity. Alas, there is the issue that my boat hasn’t been on the water for years… and who knows what sort of mechanical headaches I may run into as a result. Granted, years ago, this would be a non-issue, but today, I might well end up exchanging one set of headaches for another. A prime issue is that the transmission is old… its never given any problems, but years of non-use combined with being close to mtbf doesn’t make for a lot of confidence that such will remain that way.

Bottom line though, will either serve as an impulse to clear my head, or are they simply delays and/or time killers? I’ve got a roof to reshingle, a house to paint… does it really make sense to do any of the above without a good feel that progress will be made… probably not.

To some extent, I wonder if the impulse response thing is wishful thinking… certainly there is an element of change process that an impulse event can precipitate, but it makes me wonder if making a commitment and just pushing through it might be just as apt to clear my head as an impulse event would.

Making a commitment and pushing through is how I’m dealing with my flight instructor renewal course this time out… in the past, all one had to go was pass the chapter exams, so it was easy to just click through 70% near useless content (30% was pretty good), go right to the exam and easily pass things as the exams were so lame. So… rather than making the exams tougher, they now put timers in place, so you read something, wait, wait, and wait some more, and then click to the next page. The fetish for time on task no doubt makes some bureaudolt happy, but egads, talk about annoying and demotivating. I’m finding I just have to push through it… and play lots of Journey albums while waiting. Major pedagogy 101 fail.

Along that line of thinking, one of the fight instructor reg changes that hit home was new criteria on weight / neck size. Post snowmobile fire some years ago, I had to jump a boatload of hoops for my FAA medical and just recently have things finally cleared up. The last thing I need to do is add another series of hoop jumping on my aviation side due to weight, yep, I’ve gained a ton.

One of the issues with long term caregiving is the lack of sleep, so I ate in order to stay awake… a bunch of donuts at 3AM works wonders for being alert enough to take on medical procedures, but doesn’t do the wasteline any good at all. So… I’m now on the borderline for sleep apnea in the FAA’s eyes due to weight and neck size. The good part is in the last month I’ve knocked off 5lbs… but to make the FAA take a hands off approach, I need to drop 30lbs, and ideally would make it 75lbs so I could instruct in a 2 seater with a full load of fuel. (I’d rather have fuel in aircraft than fat in my gut LOL)

Alas, weight loss is not an impulse stimuli for change, nor is it a means of head clearing… but it is a commitment driven process. The whole calories in calories out deal. Bottom line I’d rather exercise 12 hours a day on 1800 calories than deal with FAA paperwork… but to lose 30lbs, or even 75lbs,  I fortunately don’t need to go to such an extreme.

Maybe commitment driven processes are part of the answer, rather than impulse stimuli. Michelle, an old friend, put the fire in my gut to get the bass back out, as I was vacillating back and forth… too much to do, too much grief, is getting the bass out going to really make a difference? or is it just a time sink / distraction. Well, it turns out its made a huge difference. 2 hours a day practice, and on some days quite a bit more works wonders for keeping my head clear. Its pretty obvious its not just a time sink… I’m even singing a bit LOL

Last winter, my wife said I should plan to rebuild the Saab this summer. Michelle told me to do so last night and I dismissed it as… its not really out of my element. Then again, she was right on the bass thing, perhaps she is right on the Saab thing too.


It would take a ton of effort to get it looking as good as this photo from wikipedia… I’d be happy if I can fix some rust, repaint it, and address some driveability issues. (Its not a car to take if one is in a hurry… stopping for gas takes at least 15 minutes due to bystanders wondering what it is, but it is a blast to drive).

Still waiting for my batteries, but I’m running out of sun time to get other things done… writing complete for now.

One Month has Passed

Yesterday was a freaky day, not one crash and burn thing. My guess this has a lot more to do with a cloud of witnesses praying for me, than it does any internal stuff getting fixed, but either way such is pretty cool. Its pretty freaky, in that my old tech group has really rallied to my aid. Its not that they did, as for the most part we’ve all been there for one another over the years… but the fact that God is using this bunch of guys to speak to me. Its a fascinating thing to interact in such a fashion as we’re normally chasing electrons and/or trying to solve the impossible tech issue… go figure, but then again where the Holy Spirit blows, things do happen.

Earlier this week I encountered the most unwelcoming church ever. I’m sure the members are very welcoming in and of themselves… but when the only unlocked entrance to the sanctuary requires you to  walk right in front of the pulpit to get to the pew…. its not exactly welcoming, especially if you arrive 60 seconds late. Alas, I was not up for that, so just hung in the hallway up through the homily and then left. This is a holdover recurrent theme for me… insiders know the doors to use, so far too many churches leave the main doors locked, its not a very welcoming practice when a visitor arrives and has to walk around the building to get in. And yes, I’m generally in people avoidance mode, at least for a bit longer I think.

I also intentionally skipped church last Sunday. The Gospel reading was from John 17:6-19… and it was one of the Gospel texts I considered for my wifes funeral. In fact it was the first text I dug through, albeit on my notebook, as had I used a paper based Bible it would have been soaked. I sort of get the feeling I’ll probably be skipping out on the 7th Sunday of Easter in year B for a while. Its just too close to home… and *&#(*!@ I blew my streak of not crashing and burning.

insert and delete major disjointed text here

This Sunday is Pentecost, and in year B, the Gospel reading is a pretty deep one. I find the John 15:8-11bit  to be on the mind blowing side.

When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin,because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

… so what gives with that? I’m not sure, but I think its cool…

Where the Holy Spirit blows, stuff happens.

A New Normal… but no idea

So, I had a long convo with an old business partner/friend. It was good to chat through things in a way where brutal honesty rules and no punches are pulled. That’s one of the cool bits about business… when decisions drive finance, you can’t beat around the bush or you will loose. Beyond that though, we’ve both been through the rough and tumble over the years, so despite hard core candor, there is never any question as to ones support for one another on either side.

So… the obvious, “yep, you gotta figure out a new normal, but what that is, I have no idea”, and of course, neither do I.

But one of the critical bits was… “our world is one of no excuses. Granted, this is an exceptional time, but sooner or later, the excuses have to end, when is that going to occur?” Nothing like not pulling punches LOL, but he is right on the money with this. It would be all too easy to dick around for a very long time and then extend it some more. Such would not be cool.

Obviously grief gurus tell you that timing is not predictable, and each person has to work through things on their own time. One challenge, especially for the businessman, is that the rest of the world doesn’t stop just because ones own personal world did. A second challenge is that jumping in too soon can put others finances, and in the case of engineering, potentially life at risk, so that’s not cool either… but it can also serve as a barrier from jumping back into the fray too. Such was ultimately what my buddy was getting at.

The other thing he brought up was my lack of confidence. Yep, there are times when grief stops me cold, or impairs decisions… but for much of the time, at least at this point 4 weeks in, its not happening multiple times a day anymore. Its now coming up on 10:30PM, and so far today, I may miss it entirely. Yes!!! but no doubt I’ll pay for it tomorrow. Alas, identifying the problem is often times a big step in solving it, so at least we have that.

Alas, neither of us are into random plodding along, a game plan, even if it might well fail is needed…

So… You need to go on vacation!
Um, I don’t do vacations
Well, I don’t either

So, that doesn’t work too well, but the concept of a massive stimulus out of my element to clear my head, followed by jumping back into a safer area is really the key… the stimulus bit is the challenge. If this were early May, I’d go spend a week or two doing Bible camp prep somewhere, its not so much out of my element as much as its massive isolation combined with massive workload for a week or two. Alas, being its coming up on memorial day weekend, the logistics sort of kill that idea. There’s also the issue of a boatload of aviation coursework I’ve got to get done before June 1… so that adds another layer of complexity too. Alas, one way or another, I will have a game plan before June 1… even if its crazy stupid and failure prone.

So then its like, so what are you going to do with all the medical stuff you picked up over the years… good question, as at my age, med school is not practical, being I wouldn’t start making decent money to pay off loans until I was retirement age. Sort of wish I’d pursued the DO thing way back when, but it is water over the dam. As such, this is a good question… but the opportunities are limited. I’m not sure the PA thing is a good route to follow with my science and independence focus, and nursing is out of my scope.

A good conversation, more questions than answers, but its all good.


Sharpening like my Grandpa

One of the guys in my CAD/CNC group said something profound today. “Its  like running your outboard at full throttle, and then loosing the prop… ” Yep, that pretty much describes it. Caregiving over the long haul pretty much demands full throttle all the time… and when your spouse passes away, not only do you have the inertia of the rotation assembly, but the grief part easily turns into a overspeed situation with a high probability for runaway… Big picture wise, I saw this with my neighbor after his wife passed some years back… it was only a few months before he joined her.

I’ve sensed overspeed once before after a car crash where my head got to do some banging around on the roof of the car as I went end over end a few times. The seat belt kept me in place, but its design criteria assumes A the roof won’t collapse very much, and B, the seat belt won’t break during the rotation period. Despite such, my only injury was a sliced up head… and for the next couple weeks, talk about major overspeed.  Being the blatant opportunist, my thinking was wow, how can I monetize this and ride it out for financial gain… but its very situational. I could fly through some projects, and others I’d just stare into space and/or get flustered. Overspeed is not all unicorns and daisies.

This time however… overspeed was there, but leveraging it for financial gain was the last thing on my mind, at least in the short term. My thinking was to ride it out… and as the initial grief waned, try to put it to some positive use. Alas, this didn’t work out too well, as overspeed + runaway started seriously messing with my physiology… I was almost thinking I may need to go see a doc, which got me thinking about my neighbor today. He just rode it out, and just like me, he viewed going to see the doc as anathema, but it didn’t end well for him. One big difference of course is age. He was quite a few years my senior, but the pieces make a whole lot more sense now.

Apparently all of the above was obvious to an old friend of mine… who got me to slam on the brakes in a huge, albeit unconventional way where in I morphed into grandpa mode last weekend. Amazingly, or perhaps more so, logically, the physiological stuff disappeared almost immediately. What truly was amazing though, is the productivity aspect… in part as the grief fog is starting to clear, but in part also as hair on fire mode is not always as productive as it appears.

I remember growing up, whenever we needed something sharpened, it would go to grandpa. He could make shears, saw blades, mowers, pretty much you name it as good as, or in most cases better than new. My dad called it magical. I’d always assumed it was the result of 50+ years of farming… but was curious, so I’d go hang out and watch grandpa sharpen stuff.

At 85, he was no speed demon, but you could drop off a bunch of things to be sharpened one day, and the next day, he’d have them all ready for you to pick up. Even more so, short of garden tools and drill bits, he rarely used a grinder.

1. Grandpa believed the factory guys knew what they were doing, so when he sharpened something, he made sure to keep the angles the same as the original factory edge. Such is easy to do by hand with a file or stone, its near impossible to do free hand with an electric grinder. Even if an edge has been massacred by a youngster with a grinder (me), there will always be bits and/or clues as to what the correct angle needs to be.

2. At 85, Grandpas energy was limited, so rather than trying to get everything done in an hour, if it took all day and he missed his tv show, nap, or worked into the evening, such was ok by him. In other words, he worked at a constant pace, and he was not going to let day to day things interrupt the stride he initially set… but he was more than willing to take time to explain to me what he was doing. Such also kept him from getting overly tired, or feeling the need to take a break due to a faster pace.

It turned out grandpa taught me well… when things would get slow at the airport, I’d go into sharpening mode. I remember my boss being really impressed after he brought in his home mower for me to sharpen one day… he was so impressed, it got to be that at a couple times of the year, all I’d do was sharpen customers blades rather than work on planes. He called it ensuring customer satisfaction in a humorous way… they could learn to fly, get flight checks, or just rent out planes, and as a novelty, we’d sharpen their mower blades for free.

So, this last weekend, being I had some mower blades to sharpen, I did it grandpas way. It turns out, that even when I run up on thicker grass, the mower no longer bogs down at all. Such never happened back in the day when I’d just touch up the edge with an angle grinder. In fact, I kept up a pretty constant pace from mid morning until into the night, pretty much just as grandpa used to do… and when all is said and done, the lawn hasn’t looked this good in years.


I think there is a lot of wisdom in Grandpa’s approach.

On Missing Her and being Outliers

One of the things that I really miss, but is also a bit on  the freaky side is the energy… and its crazy making stuff. There is this article that pops up periodically on my facebook feed and after googling around, I a bit I think I found it. It talks about a very long term research project, where they did physiological monitoring of couples and then rechecked things 6 years later.

The raw physiological data was fascinating, in that for some couples, their sympathetic nervous system cranked up to flight or fight mode when they were talking with each other, and these folks were classified as disasters.  Data 6 years later showed that couples in said disaster category, were either chronically unhappy, or had broken up. The other category known as masters swung very much the other way… ie, couples for whom flight or fight mode was absent, or minimal were very happy.

Well, in our case, we fit pretty much right into the disaster category physiologically. In many ways, we were like oil and water, ie, I married like 3 magnitudes out of my league and there were significant cultural issues that didn’t mesh all that well. Ie a beautiful NYC lawyer + midwest engineer/slob… my guess is that ewhatever would likely not pair us together, short of a software bug or two. Alas, being this was before the era of wide spread computer dating, what brought us together were fouled spark plugs, no software was needed. Bottom line, we fed off of each others energy, it was an amazing marriage, albeit admittedly there were some rocky bits in those early years.

As time went on, and sadly her health declined, my sense of vigilance / fight or flight mode cranked up even more. In the later years, my brain was probably flying 200 mph when it wasn’t dealing with pretty massive chronic sleep deprivation. Solo caregiving 24/7/365 for a decade plus tends to do that.

The thing is, her health situation ended up taking more and more of her energy. It really wasn’t obvious to me, up until earlier this week… when light bulbs came on. Things that seem so obvious now, were anything but 5 weeks ago, when an software bug fired up a recorder and granted me a cherished mp3 of one of our typical day to day conversations.

As the years passed, I’d learned to slow things down for her… it was no longer feeding off of each others fight/flight energy, as I was still go go go go, and accelerating mentally, but had learned to interact at levels that brought her a whole boatload of peace and calming. In plain and simple terms, I morphed more and more into the physiological disaster category, and she became not only a master, but a guru. A rather strange combination of energy transfer and shifts, and a boatload of kindness and patience on both sides but it resulted in what I’d call fantasy land relationship wise.

Granted, such was not perfect… one of the things I’d get annoyed about was she would often like to initiate deep conversations, either when I was just about ready to pass out from exhaustion, or right in the middle of some late night medical procedure which required intense concentration on my part… Its like why do we need to discuss this at 3AM right in the middle of this??? But the light bulb came on this week and I figured it out, such was when I wasn’t in go go go mode and having to intentionally slow things down… our deep conversations, when they did come to light were very much organic, and I think that’s why, unconsciously she’d initiate them, at from my pov, the most inopportune times.

I don’t really regret not catching this earlier, as our later years were so awesome… and its kind of funny in a way too. One of her fears was that she might become boring to me… which would be impossible, I was always running to catch up, but this explains what I believed at the time was just an idiosyncrasy of hers that I’d learned to live with.

So… according to Gottman etal physiological research data alone, we should not have made 21 years, or much less have been happy in doing so. Alas, relationships are much more than the sympathetic nervous system activation and physiological markers. Gottman talks about this in some detail with his bird bid thing.

Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife—a sign of interest or support—hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.

The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that.

People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t—those who turned away—would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper. Sometimes they would respond with overt hostility, saying something like, “Stop interrupting me, I’m reading.”

These bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being. Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow up had “turn-toward bids” 33 percent of the time. Only three in ten of their bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy. The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-toward bids” 87 percent of the time. Nine times out of ten, they were meeting their partner’s emotional needs.

We were huge on the turn toward thing which more than compensated for the fight/flight energy feed thing for us… Gottman further goes on to talk about kindness which also grew a ton over time. I believe this is a big part of how we got our 21 years. Outliers we are!

And then at 3:45PM on April 23, 2015, it stopped, and it sucks


Its been 3 weeks

Today, its been 3 weeks since my wife passed away. I’ve started to blog, and then shut things down so many times… A large part of it is due to how scrambled my thinking is. Ie, its near impossible to write something that doesn’t ramble on or venture into multiple non-related subject areas.

Otoh, if blogging is to be a healing thing, rather than a communication method, adhering to the protocols and such ends up being more counterproductive than helpful… add in that I don’t have a huge following, chucking the rules aside, and writing for the sake of writing is the path I think I’ll take… but for how long remains a pig in a poke.

I’m also going to bring up some of the unfinished, or unthought through posts from the last 3 weeks. In googling around, it seems there is very little for folks dealing with the initial stages of loosing ones spouse… likely as its just freak out time. Well, it is… but maybe some of this might help someone, maybe making it public might help me somehow, or maybe its just cluttering up the blogosphere…

Grief sucks

St Joseph the Workman Cathedral and God Winks

I think daily mass is way cool… before my wife got too sick to get out much, even on her ambulance stretcher, we used to go to the adoration chapel in the middle of the night, and then would catch morning mass before heading back home. There is something incredible cool about daily mass… and even though I couldn’t receive the elements, not being a Catholic, just being in the presence of others doing so was pretty powerful  Alas, we hadn’t been to daily mass for many years, it was difficult enough to make a trip to church once in a while, and in the last year, even Christmas and Easter proved difficult.

As such, when I was out chasing down some specialized tooling, I thought hey, I should check out daily mass once again. Not just because its cool either… initial adrenaline has worn off and grief stuff is a ton suckier this week, so I’m poking here and there to deal with it.

A bit of googling, and I got a church and time so I was good to go. I’d never been to this particular church before, which was cool in a couple ways. First, visiting churches is always a blast, you never know what you will run into. Secondly, I’m very much in the grief arena where solitude is much preferable to being out in groups… and church visits often times means one can go in, worship, leave, and no one will even notice. It looked to be a win win all around!

and my mind was blown…

The sound, oh wow, the sound, the organ, the natural reverb, it brought back memories from one of my profs talking about Revelation 4 as a zone like experience. I mean we read the text and it very easily comes across as boredom city in isolation… but within the context of uber awesomeness, such is not the case, it becomes a zone like thing. He used the example of being at a Vikings game and totally enthralled with the experience… not being into football, well that analogy didn’t work for me, but I did get the point he was making. The zone was there at St Joseph the Workman… wowzers^5

The sound, the scripture texts, the experience was awesome!

and then came the homily…

Ok, this is not a homily compatible with sola scriptura, or pretty much any lutheran type beliefs. Apparently this is an old school type of parish, with a major focus on Mary, tradition, the saints, Holy Days etc… a huge contrast with my wifes parish, which while very much Catholic in liturgical practice, the homilies often times could just as easily be said at an evangelical mega church, short of a a few bits here or there.

And while a homily on Our Lady of Fatima etc was not my cup a tea, where the priest ran with it proved fascinating, but first a bit of background.

The days leading up to my wife’s passing, and the weeks since have been filled with what appears a string of near impossible coincidences… enough to make me really take notice and wonder what on earth is going on.

See, I’m a bit skeptic and somewhat cynical on a lot of things… not quite to the point of being an open theist, but leaning that direction a bit. Said beliefs as to Gods direct intervention in the here and now, used to cause my wife and her friends a certain amount of frustration with me as I didn’t really get with the program so to speak. Ie, I’m not a believer in free will when it comes to the big deal stuff as the scriptural support as well as tradition / early church writings, and of course Luthers bondage of the will are pretty rock solid… but for the smaller stuff, I was thinking the free will / open theist folks might not be all wrong. The last few weeks have caused me to do some major rethinking on this. I’ve even gone so far as to order via inter-library loan, a book on God winks / coincidences that a friend recommended.

Getting back to the priest’s homily and Our Lady of Fatima… he talked about the crazy coincidences involved and how God shows us things through the seemingly bizarre. It turns out Fatima was named for the daughter of Mohamed… and then for Mary to appear in that city, wowzers, what a ton of messaging to ponder.

Obviously this is all prompting a bit of a theological rip up and redo… while man’s will or lack there of is not a major theological game changer, the profound aspect of God stepping right in the midst of our lives in a huge and visible way is a pretty big ball game.

God winks all around