Blindsided

blindsided
My mom died a month ago, suddenly, in her sleep, just died. Did I mention it was a shock?

When something shocking happens, it sends us reeling in a way few other things can. In Baz Luhrmann’s famous graduation speech – Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen,) he says a line that has stuck with me and comes back to me at times like this:

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that
never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm
on some idle Tuesday.

I’ve been blindsided on a few idle Tuesday’s as I’m sure you have. It might be an unexpected death, losing your job, getting a bad diagnosis from the doctor, or being betrayed by a friend. It “knocks the wind out of you,” “pulls the rug out from under you” or otherwise “smacks you upside the head.” We spend a lot of time trying to find words to describe these experiences.

How do we handle it?

How can others help?

When Mom died, David and I spent the week following trying to find words for how we felt. I might say, “I feel like I’ve been beat with baseball bats,” or he’d say, “I’m totally fried.” Last week I had an experience that gave me the perfect metaphor for the shock I had experienced.

I was walking around a lake in Chicago, it was a beautiful day and I was noting how the forest around me had taken a beating during their rough winter. The ground was littered with broken branches. Ahead of me, the only other person in sight was a man on a backhoe removing some of the branches from a path. He was working away and since I was a lone woman in the middle of nowhere, I was doing a threat assessment. How fast could I run if he turned out to be a bad guy?

Suddenly, his backhoe hit something, there was a loud “bang” and as I looked up, a spray of some kind of liquid covered his entire torso, including a direct hit to his face. Then, it wasn’t about me anymore, it was about him. I ran up to see if he needed help. I thought maybe he’d just been scalded with boiling water from an overheated engine or something.

He was sputtering and wiping what turned out to be oil, from his face. He looked confused and was just trying to breathe and figure out if he was okay. My presence seemed to help comfort him and he found a hanky and wiped his eyes and face. We talked about what had happened, I described what I had seen and he was able to find a broken hose that had caused the trouble. I left him to it and later, on the way home from my walk, he was driving back in the opposite direction and waved.

It hit me then, that is exactly how I felt when mom died. I was working hard; David and I were loading the car for a trip to visit a student in Chico when I got the call. Suddenly I was stopped in my tracks by a blast of the unexpected. I was confused, sputtering, trying to breathe, and wondering if I would be okay. Many people rushed to us, offering Kleenex and casseroles. And life has forever moved in a different direction.

Yep, that’s how it felt for me; I’m wondering what words have been helpful in defining your grief?
And also, how did others help you?

A friend asked me today, “Where did you see God when all this was happening?” My answer was, through people. One friend came right over and sat with me while I filled out papers at the mortuary. Friends brought food, flowers and wine. One asked what we needed from the store. I said “Milk,” and she brought it right over. We were barraged by lovely cards, Facebook messages and offers of help. My kids were amazing, giving constant love and support. And for the memorial, I sent out an email to my friends asking them to bring food and never thought about it again. I never even went down into the church’s kitchen area until it was time to eat. Everything had been set up and the tables were laden with food. Yep, my friends were the hands and feet of God to us during our hardest time, and I feel rich indeed.

Now I feel better equipped to respond to others who get blindsided on an idle Tuesday. But everyone’s grief experience is different.

What have you found to be helpful?

In memory of my beautiful mama

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My beautiful mother died suddenly March 14th. This is the tribute I wrote for her memorial. At the end is a link to the video my son made of her life in pictures.

LaDonna Fae Terry was born August 29th 1935 in Wendell Idaho. Her parents, Jack and LeRue Smith had four daughters, of which mom was the youngest: Betty, LeRay, Beverly and LaDonna. Mom was the boy my grandpa always wanted and she loved her daddy. The locals often called her “Little Jack,” and her family called her “Donnie.” They lived on a farm in Wendell and Mom loved to play clarinet in the high school marching band.
Mom married Tom Terry in April of 1954. He had one son from a previous marriage, our beloved half-brother Jim Terry, and although we didn’t meet him until about 17 years ago, he has been a wonderful addition to our family.
Dad was a produce buyer and he and mom traveled to follow the crops. In 1956, they were in Oregon when Thomas Terry III was born, then in 1959 they were in Burley Idaho when I was born, and they were in Colorado when Skye was born in 1964.
The family finally settled in California when Dad began working for Safeway in their Produce Division. Upon Dad’s retirement they moved to Reno in 1984. Mom and dad briefly moved to Idaho where they were living when Dad passed away in 2003, and then mom moved back to Reno.
At that point Mom thought her life was over. But in 2006 she met Carl Sanford and she and Carl traveled the world together, visiting places like Greece, Spain, England, The Bahamas, Hawaii and Mexico.
I had lunch with Mom every week and she never failed to say, “How did I get so lucky to have two men who loved me so much. Carl is such a good man and I’m so happy.” Our family is very thankful for Carl, who made Mom’s last eight years such a joy and delight.
That’s the overview; mom died peacefully in her sleep Friday March 14 and it was a devastating shock to us all. To help you understand why we miss her so, I’ve chosen four words to describe my mom.
First: Mom had Style! You’ll see in the slideshow that Mom loved to dress up. In the 60′s she never left the house without matching hat, shoes, and purses. In the 70′s she was one mod mama! In the eighties and nineties, she found sequins and loved to sparkle. I always called her “my little magpie” because she loved shiny things. When she met Carl, her style relaxed but she still never went anywhere without a wrist full of colorful bracelets and her fingers covered in huge rings.
The second word is Fearlessness! While dad had his career, mom also worked. It was not normal for women in her day, but she worked as a telephone operator. Then with no schooling, she worked as a nurse and even got to help deliver twins. Again, with no formal education, she worked as a dental assistant in both Colorado and California. Then she went to beauty school and eventually owned shops in both California and Reno. Somewhere in there, she was a real-estate agent. She wasn’t afraid to try anything.
The third word I’ve chosen is Fun! Mom told countless stories of the various shenanigans they got into as kids, including how she and her sister Bev, scheduled several dates a half-hour apart and watched from across the street as one sad suitor after another drove away from their house rejected. And, she was always up for a spontaneous road trip to Idaho and loved to play with her children and grandchildren. Mom loved pranks and it was not unusual for her to turn around and be wearing something like this, or this or this (at this point I put on some or her more outrageous hats). I remember the last road trip we took in November. Every now and then she’d turn to me and be wearing these, or these, or these (Here I put on some of her hysterical sunglasses). She was full of whimsy.hats
The last word I’ve chosen, though I could go on for hours – and I’m hoping some of you will share your stories – is Energetic! Mom had more energy than any person I have ever met. When we were growing up, she played the Banjo and took us to pizza parlors and parades to watch her play. She never really stopped moving, even when she was sitting. As you can tell, she loved to paint. When she wasn’t painting, she was embroidering dish towels, or making colorful bracelets. I have hundreds of these, as do all of my siblings and her sister and her friends. I’ve brought a stack of bracelets and put them out for each of you to take some as a reminder to have style, fun, to be fearless and keep moving.
It was mom’s energy level that made her passing so strange to all of us. I had lunch with her Monday morning; Her friend Evelyn went out with her to the Gold and Silver restaurant on Tuesday and mom won $75! Skye was with her Wednesday, and we all saw her Thursday. Carl said that even Thursday night, they watched Pretty Women before bed. Her friend Pat said mom was a “Whirlwind of energy.” I guess that is why none of us thought she would hold still long enough to die, it just wasn’t like her.Mom’s video

Rampant Fear and Anxiety: Part Two, Solutions

downloadIn my last blog we looked at many possible reasons people live with anxiety and fear. No matter what the cause, we need to find some solutions to these issues. Here are some ideas that were shared with me as well as some of my own.

1. No one should have to live with debilitating fear and anxiety. If you are living like that, get help! My husband, the therapist, sees lots of people that come in with these symptoms. He teaches biofeedback and relaxation techniques that really help people learn to calm their own bodies.

2. Many times, fear and anxiety are linked to past trauma. These days there are wonderful healing therapies for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Look for specialists in EDMR or others who identify as a specialist in trauma or anxiety.

3. PTSD is triggered when a predictable set of occurrences happen at one time: A person, or situation that seemed safe, suddenly becomes unsafe. Something startles you, and at some point, you think you might die. This causes anxiety and fear to get “stuck” in the animal (fight or flight) part of your brain. The above mentioned therapies can help move the trauma to the logic part of your brain where it can be processed and healed.

4. I think meditative practices are a huge part of reducing anxiety and fear. One of my favorite Bible Verses says “Don’t be anxious about anything, but instead present your requests to God, with thanksgiving, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6)

When I was in my first job post college, I often felt anxious at night. A Muslim friend gave me a set of prayer beads. I don’t know how they are officially supposed to be used, but they had about five small beads, separated by a big bead, all the way around. So, I took the above verse literally and would pray out my concerns on the small beads and then thank God for something on the big beads. I often woke up with those beads wrapped around my ankle because I’d fallen asleep while praying. We worry with our hearts and our minds so I think that verse helps put those two places to rest.

5. In my opinion, one of the most commons things that cause stress is having a calendar with no margin – that is, no room for contingencies. I learned the hard way that life is what happens in the margins, and if you have no margin in your schedule, then when life happens (the car breaks down, your mom needs your help, a child’s project is due…) there is no room and everything becomes stressful. I’d encourage a strong examination of your schedule with a trusted advisor to see how to create margin in your life.

5. In the book, Freefall to Fly, but Rebekah Lions, she discusses how anxiety is keeping women (and I’d suggest men) from realizing their potential. She shares how she overcame a debilitating anxiety disorder.

6. The best short term cure for anxiety is to get your mind off yourself. Anything you can do to think outside of yourself will help. Call a friend, take the dog for a walk, gaze on something beautiful, serve the homeless, or go to a funny movie. All of these things will help, at least temporarily. I wrote a blog on releasing endorphins that can give ideas.
Let me know what you have found helpful in getting rid of your fear and anxiety!

Rampant Anxiety and Fear Part One: The Problem

200447888-001Last week I had the privilege of being with a group of 10 twenty-somethings for a retreat. At the end of their time we were talking about what they had to go back to, and I was surprised to learn how many of them live with debilitating anxiety. One fellow said that sometimes at night, as he lies in bed, he has to remind himself to breathe. That hurt my heart.
This week I was in a similar group of thirty-somethings. At the end of the discussion, a question was asked about “What is holding you back in life.” Every single person in the room said, “fear,” except me. I said cynicism, but Boomer Cynicism is a different blog topic. Again, I was shocked to see how many beautiful, intelligent people live in fear.
These two experiences made me wonder about anxiety and fear. Is this epidemic cause by something in our culture? Is it something in this generation specifically, or is it a combination of factors? I started asking friends for their opinions as I in try to sort this out and I’d love to hear yours.
1. I went to a neuropsychology conference once on the explosion of childhood behavior disorders and it was postulated that children are now being incubated in an environment of low grade stress, which is compromising their immune systems and lowering their resistance to disorders like ADHD. Could this same logic could be applied to anxiety?
2. At a similar conference, these disorders were linked to environmental toxins, again causing a compromised immune system and the easier triggering of latent issues like anxiety disorders.
3. My husband’s theory was that we now have too many choices. Formerly, people grew up in well defined cultures with their own rules, norms, taboos and expectations. Nowadays, kids are members of national and international cultures defined by media and the internet. Choice is often equated with power, but perhaps too much choice can cause increased fear and anxiety.
4. My daughter’s theory is that because we are constantly bombarded with stimulation that is anxiety producing, like horror movies, violent video games, the nightly news, and even the Discovery Channel, we learn about all the things that can go wrong — which creates this stressful soup we live in.
5. One could make a similar argument about our inability to unplug. We are wired at the hip to our phones and electronic devices; we can stream movies, TV shows and music at any time from any device and we have forgotten how to be quiet. Ten years ago, after having left the college world to work as a therapist, I returned to the university. I noticed lots of fantastic changes about this student generation, but one thing mystified me. It was their inability to be alone. They told me they were afraid to be alone, and always texted or talked to friends if they were forced to be alone. What had caused that change in the last ten years? Could the neuropathways for peaceful existence that we’ve neglected by being constantly wired in have died off? Are they re-growable?
6. Could it be we are left shaking after the loss of the protective factors that used to be part of our culture? In the place of community structures like churches and guilds that gave us a sense of belonging, we now have broken families, latch key kids, rampant drug use, pornography, and child abuse. Has the world just become an unsafe place to live?
7. I lead a week long seminar over spring break with our students. On one day they are required to be silent for twelve hours. It is the day of the week they fear the most. At the end of the week, it is the one thing most highly talked about and valued. But being alone means facing yourself. Perhaps part of our anxiety comes from not being at peace with who we are.
In my next blog, I’ll talk about some things we can to overcome fear and anxiety. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your opinion about what is causing this epidemic.

Dating My Mother

Online-datingMany of us in my generation are dealing with a lot of difficult issues concerning our aging parents. After my father’s death, my mom was desperately lonely. So when she came to live with us, I started dating her online. I found a free dating site, sat up a profile for her and monitored it so she could enjoy some male attention.
Here are some of the things I learned from dating my mother.
1. Make a day of the photo shoot. Mom and I had a great time picking lots of outfits for her to change into and taking shots all over the house in different poses. We even did some outside.
2. Monitor who’s trying to contact your mother. I deleted all the thirty year old prisoners who “really liked older women” before she ever saw them.
3. Set up safe coffee dates for your mom. This got mom out of the house and socializing – but safely.
4. If someone seems iffy, drop in on a date. Mom felt one guy might be after her money. So, we set up a lunch date and my husband and I went along. When the guy saw us, his face fell. He knew he was busted and didn’t even offer to pay for lunch.
5. Sneak the age category up when Mom’s not looking. My mom was beautiful and young at heart and at 73, she didn’t want to date anyone over 75. So after a series of losers (like the guy who said he had a cabin and boat at the lake, and only had a shack and rowboat) I sneaked the age limit up to 80. That’s when we met Carl. He’s a retired engineer with a kind heart and a good pension. Mom, who’d never left the USA, has now traveled the world and spent the last eight years with the greatest gift our family has ever received.
Recently, a young friend decided to try online dating. After one date here’s what she would like to say to the guys online:
1. Don’t exaggerate your height online.
2. Don’t spend 20 minutes ranting about your ex-girlfriend.
3. We’re in the 30ish age group; I’m not impressed that you breakdance.
4. Don’t try to impress me by paying for our $30 meal with a $100 bill and then stiffing the server by leaving a 10% tip. That is NOT impressive.
So, I’d love to hear your online dating stories. Good or bad. They are fascinating! Also, how have you helped your older or younger friends deal with loneliness?

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution? I didn’t.

new-years-resolutions
Do you write New Year’s Resolutions?
I don’t. But I do usually choose a word or phrase to press/pray into for the year. One year I chose “People are not an interruption.” I must have had small children because I had to choose it two years on a row! But, it helped me a lot, and now when my husband walks into the room I’m pretty good at closing my laptop and giving him my attention. People are more important than our technology. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that.
Last year I chose the phrase, “Mary chose the better way.” I chose it because someone told the Martha/Mary story and it hit me how “Martha” I’d become. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, there are two sisters. One, Martha is stressed about getting supper on and the other, Mary, is sitting and listening to Jesus who says, “Mary chose the better way.” Well, I tend to be quite Martha-like in my life, so this year I decided to be more Mary. My spiritual director suggested that I try sitting quietly for ten minutes a day with NO AGENDA. I think she thinks I’m agenda-driven or something!
This was actually a really helpful thing to try. I try to have some quiet time each day anyway but this was different; I had no agenda. And it was interesting – the things that would pop up! There were things I’d neglected to do, people that needed a kind word would come to mind and I’d jot them a “thinking of you” text. It was a great practice.
This year, I’m not sure about my word or phrase yet. We had a crazy Christmas then hit the road to visit family in Vegas, Santa Barbara, and then a work conference in St. Louis. I’m finally home and will have to spend some time on this one. I usually spend time reviewing the last year. Thinking through all that happened, the good and the bad, getting perspective. Things looks so much better in the rear view, don’t they? Then I think about the coming year, what do I need most?
I may choose Thankfulness or Gratitude. At least I was thinking about that today. I have so very much to be thankful for. Maybe choosing that word will keep me in an attitude of thanksgiving all year.
What about you? Do you choose a word or phrase to press into for the new year? Let me know so we can share the adventure!

Introducing Stretching Willow!

Stretching Willow (1) (1)

Hello Friends! My latest book, Stretching Willow is now live on all on-line outlets. It is the sequel to Bending Willow and appropriate for third grade and up. I’m also having a Christmas/post-Christmas sale on all of my books! So please consider these for teacher presents and help me pass the word. The eBook version of The Cage is free!
Thanks! JT

Print book of The Cage was: $8.99 now $8.05. eBook was $2.99 now FREE
Print book of The Bar was: $8.99 now $6.99. eBook was $2.99 now $1.99
Print book of The Lamb was $8.99 now $6.99. eBook was $2.99 now $1.99
Print book of Bending Willow $8.99 now $6.99. eBook was $2.99 now $1.99
All books on Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&fieldkeywords=jacci+turner&sprefix=jacci%2Caps&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Ajacci+turner

Sale on all books written by…me!

download (2)Jacci Turner Christmas Sale: On Amazon and Smashwords!
Print book of The Cage was: $8.99 now $8.05. eBook was $2.99 now FREE
Print book of The Bar was: $8.99 now $6.99. eBook was $2.99 now $1.99
Print book of The Lamb was $8.99 now $6.99. eBook was $2.99 now $1.99
Print book of Bending Willow $8.99 now $6.99. eBook was $2.99 now $1.99
Pre-Sale for Stretching Willow eBook $1.99 until book goes live Dec 10th, then $2.99
(Pre-Sale on Smashwords)
All other books on Amazon