Spiritual Practice: Faithing Over the Lifespan (Stages One and Two)

In Greek, faith is a verb. Faith is an action, not a thing. Faith moves and breathes and grows with us in predictable stages. In the same way that Erick Erickson described predictable stages of emotional growth and development, others have described noticeable stages of spiritual development. These stages have been identified across religions and outside of religions as our spiritual development is a part of all human development. Over the next four blogs, I hope to describe an overview of these stages, but there are excellent books about these for those interested, which I will link here.

Stage One: Ages one to two years. Although the stages do not always follow chronological ages, stage one is an early part of development as it is mostly preverbal spiritual development. It has to do more with the way we are parented than it does with us.

Spiritual development begins from the moment we are born, or some would say that we begin to develop as spiritual beings even before we are born. Scientists say that new parents, with dilated eyes from the intensity of the childbirth experience, “gleam” into their baby’s faces, connecting brain to brain and stimulating brain development.

Celtic theologian John Phillip Newell tells of talking to OBGYNs about the first moments of a newborn’s life and hearing the consensus that looking into a newborn’s face was akin to looking directly at the Divine.

So, what is stage one of our spiritual development? It’s building trust. If a parent is consistent with us at the early ages of one and two, if our home is predictable and our needs are met, we learn to trust. Trust provides safety for a child to trust God as well.

If we are raised in a neglectful or abusive environment, this lack of trust is hard to overcome. Similarly, if we are raised with the idea of a scary and vengeful God, it will be hard to move past the guilt and fear which comes with that.

We know from studying children with attachment disorder that neglected children have a hard time developing any connected relationship. Interrupted stage one faithing can lead to difficulty trusting that God is good, safe, and available. It can also harm our relationships with others.

Stage Two: Generally, this stage is from ages 3 to 8 years, but we can get stuck in our spiritual development at any stage and have trouble moving forward, as we have seen in stage one.

Stage two is about black and white thinking. It is a necessary time to understand good and evil, heroes, and villains. This is why, in the Christian tradition, we tell children about all the wonderful Bible Stories like David and Goliath, Moses parting the Red Sea, or Noah and the Ark. Children need those heroes and this kind of concrete understanding that God as good, loving and will protect us from evil.

But you can see what happens when religion gets stuck at stage two thinking. It leads to legalistic fundamentalism in which there is only black and white with no room for gray.

You may have seen a bumper sticker that says, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” This is a classic example of Stage Two thinking. There is no room for discussion, no room for gray.

For our next blog, we will look at Stage Three, a very happy spiritual development stage full of belonging and spiritual growth. But it can have its drawbacks too, if we get stuck there.

So, why is learning about faithing over the lifespan a spiritual practice?

First, it gives us words for our experience. I LOVE to have words for my experience.

Second, it helps to understand when you meet folks in a different stage than yours. Since we all share similar paths of spiritual develpment, we can appreciate that one stage is not better than another. They are all essential building blocks to grow on. We don’t forget what we learned in a previous stage; we incorporate it and build on it as we move to the next stage. Also, we cannot force a person from one stage to another. God is in charge of helping us grow.

Third, we might realize where we got stuck along the way and be able to untangle and move forward in our development.

And fourth, when we get to stage four, which is a time of spiritual disorientation, we are going to need all the help we can get to understand what is happening to us! Hang in there, folks. Help is coming.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on your faithing journey. Can you see your own stage one or stage two history? Does any of it make sense?

A Tribute To My daughters On International Daughters Day

IMG_20190926_165943_1 (1)

I have five daughters. I gave birth to one, and the other four came along later and claimed my heart.

Sarah, my firstborn, is my lioness. She is strong and a fierce protector of her tribe of children, pets, friends, family, and those on the margins. People look to her to lead.

Natalie is my koala bear. She longs to create a warm and loving home, full of light, beauty, laughter, and creativity.

Stephanie is my owl. She is wise, observant, quiet, pondering, and thoughtful. When she talks, we listen because her insights are compelling.

Camilla is my beaver. She is industrious, busy, smart, and competent. People rely on her to keep order in the chaos of life.

Susie is my fox. She is shy, with a quick mind that can solve intricate problems and a loyal heart. She has good boundaries as she makes a life with my son, and a playful side that delights her nieces.

This is the thing: All five of my daughters are brilliant, creative, kind, and beautiful. And, all of them have experienced trauma, disappointments, or devastating losses in their young lives. I wish this weren’t true. I wish we were handing them a world which is an easier, kinder, safer place, but we are not.

I know each of you is strong and resilient, but I wish you didn’t have to be. I don’t have much wisdom to offer you, but you know how I feel about trees, so I give you this one. Look at it; its beauty stopped me in my tracks and took my breath away. For me, the world is also like this tree, beautiful, strong, breathtaking, and wise. It will stop you in your tracks, take away your breath, and give you the strength you need to go on. So, here are some things I’ve learned, and I wish for you.

Rest, under the tree, like a lioness. You all constantly give to others, take time to rest, play, and create.


Cling, to the tree like a koala. Cling to your values, your loved ones, your faith in humanity, in God, in yourself. Being rooted in a community will carry you through every storm. Relationships are important.

photo of gray koala bear hugging tree

Sit in silence, like the owl. We live in a crazy busy world, and you all have over-full lives, but there is so much wisdom in silence. I hear you protesting, “When?” But, take five minutes to settle yourself, sift through your priorities, then make decisions about your day.

brown owl on tree branch

Hide behind the tree, like the fox. In a “just say yes” world, we need to learn to say, “no.” We need boundaries around our time, our energy, and our souls. It’s okay to say no, and don’t forget to play. Life can be serious. Find a way to belly laugh.

black and brown animal

Work with the tree, like the beaver. Find meaningful work that enlivens you instead of drains you. You all work hard. If you can work from that place of rest, silence, safety, and boundaries, your work won’t burn you out, and you might even find that elusive quality we are always looking for, that is, balance.

Beaver with stick

Know this, my daughters: Know that I think you’re amazing. I find you endlessly fascinating, and I enjoy spending time with each of you. Know that I am always on your side and that you always, always have a place in my home and my heart.




Pictures from WordPress Pixel except for beaver which has a link and the tree is mine.

Spiritual Practices: for the Classroom


I was asked to translate some spiritual practices into non-spiritual language for classroom settings for a seminar at the Nevada Reading Week Conference. Since our beautiful conference got snowed out, I thought it would be fun to share those here, for you or your teacher friends to try!

Mindfulness in the Classroom, by Jacci Turner

The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for intense physical activity and is often referred to as the “fight-or-flight” response. The parasympathetic nervous system has the opposite effect as it relaxes the body by inhibiting or slowing many high energy functions. Sometimes called the rest and digest system, the parasympathetic system conserves energy as it slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes sphincter muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. Techniques which stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system help us feel calmer.

1. Deep breathing: Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness.

Ask your students to sit with their feet on the floor and their hands on their desks or in their laps. Have them take several deep breaths, picturing the in-breath as moving all the way down to their toes, and the out-breath as moving all the way to the tops of their heads. This exercise balances and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system — which will calm your students. You can do this in two minutes!

Additional ideas: You can ask your students to give the in-breath a color, e.g. blue, and another color to the out-breath. This simple mindfulness technique helps us remain present with our bodies in an easy and relaxed way.

Or, you can have your students picture their negative emotions going out of their bodies with the exhale and the positive emotions coming in with the inhale, e.g. “As you breathe in, picture yourself breathing in strength and courage and as you exhale, picture yourself sending all of your insecurities out of your body.”

1. The Examine:  Have your students sit comfortably with their eyes closed. Have them think back through their day and search for a time when they felt they were their best selves: the truest and best part of who they are. Maybe they were kind to a friend or a pet or did something their parent asked without arguing. This might take a minute, like searching through a backpack for a pencil; you know it’s there, you just have to find it.

Then, when they have found that memory, have them savor that memory using all five senses: touch, taste, feel, sound, and smell. This will anchor the memory to their long-term memory. It takes about 30 seconds to anchor a memory.

Then repeat the exercise looking for a time during the day when they fell short of their best self. Maybe they were short with someone, or got angry unnecessarily. Let that memory land lightly on their hand, like a butterfly. Say to it, “you are a part of me, and next time, I’ll do better.” Then blow on the butterfly and let it fly away. This is not a time to beat ourselves up and we don’t want these memories to stick in our long-term memories — just acknowledge them and let them go.

2. Welcoming: Have your students sit comfortably and ask them to identify any difficult feelings they might be having, such as anger, sadness, fear, or anxiety. Allow them to let themselves welcome that feeling and really feel it. Where do they feel it in their body? Is it in their stomach? Their brain? Their back? Ask them to tell the feeling “I know you are a part of me and I welcome you.” Then let them just sit with the feeling for a few moments. Then, have them say to the feeling, “Right now, I need to get back to my day, so please take a back seat; you are allowed to be here, but not allowed to drive. It’s okay if you stay with me, but you cannot be in control because I am in control. If it’s important we can talk more later.” Then, take a deep breath and let that feeling go.


3. Walking and breathing: First, have the students practice breathing in slowly through their noses and out slowly through their mouths. Then challenge them to make their exhale one second longer than their inhale. Have them walk and count their steps as they inhale: one, two, three, four. Then have them try to exhale one more step: one, two, three, four, five. However, many inhale steps they can take, they are to try to add one more exhale step. They can do this around the classroom or on the playground, concentrating on their breath. Again, this balances the parasympathetic nervous system.

4. Body Listening: Have the students sit comfortably and close their eyes. Have them take an internal scan of their bodies. If there is a part of their body that draws their attention, have them focus on that part and try to see what is happening. Ask, “What is that part trying to tell you? It might be saying that you’re hungry, or tired, or you need to go to the bathroom or that you’ve injured yourself in some way. It could be saying something metaphysical. Tell your body you are listening and you will take care of its need ASAP.”

5. Breath Affirmation: Chose a name for yourself that is positive and that you would like to be called. Maybe it’s a name someone you love calls you like, “sweetheart” or “honey,” or a nickname you like. Then think of something you need when you are anxious. A word like “breathe,” or “calm,” or “relax.” Then, put the two together and think the first one on the inhale: “Sweetheart,” and the second one on the exhale: “Breathe” Use this reminder silently during stressful situations: “Sweetheart (inhale) Breathe (exhale) Sweetheart (inhale) Breathe (exhale)…”

6. Reading: Reading to a child is one of the simplest ways to calm them and help them stay present.


Jacci Turner is an Amazon bestselling author of Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction. Her MG book, Bending Willow represented Nevada at the National Book Festival in Washington D.C. That book is the first book in, The Finding Home Series, and Jacci recently released the fifth book in the series, Willow’s Roundup. The series will soon be coming out in hardback for Libraries and Schools. You can find it and all of Jacci’s books on Amazon and other online outlets. Jacci is on most social media outlets or you can find her on her website at Jacciturner.com and her blog on Spiritual Practices at https://jacciturner.wordpress.com. She enjoys speaking in schools. As a former school counselor, she loves children very much.

These photos link to some great websites for mindfulness in the classroom.

Small kids pic

Bigger kids pic

#Adayinthelife  #SelfieChallenge


photo of man and woman taking selfie
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

A friend of mine invited me to try the “Ten Day Selfie Challenge.” You post a different picture from a day in your life, each day, for 10 days. I decided to give it a try with ten of the different “hats” that I wear in my crazy life. It was really fun to do and here are the results:


Day One: My Nana Hat

This picture features me having a pajama dance party with one of my lovely grand-kids. The grandparent hat is one of my favorites. It is so much more fun than being a parent, which features much more stress and busyness. Now I can play, color and watch Disney movies all day!




Day Two: The Writer Hat

I love being able to write anywhere, wearing anything… or nothing, if you prefer. I actually write in the library on Tuesdays. I do not generally wear my bathrobe there.

Day Three:  The Homeowner HatIMG_1765

The day I took this picture we had an early snow and it was very wet. The leaves were still on the trees, and after so many years of drought in Nevada, the branches started snapping off the trees all over town. We woke up to huge branches, which fell from our tree, just missing our neighbors’ cars. Some fell on our roof, and some in our driveway, barely missing our cars. And one whole tree toppled over into the street. I’m happy in my homeowner hat because I have an amazing husband who knows how to work a chainsaw!

Day Four:IMG_1767 The Dog Walker Hat 

Since it gets really, really cold in Northern Nevada (it was eleven degrees this morning) walking a dog can be a challenge. But Rocky tends to pout and make everyone miserable if he doesn’t get his walk, so we bundle and go.


Day Five: The Book Marketing Hat

I’m not smiling in this picture. I’m actually sitting at my library cubicle, where I write on Tuesdays, but I also do some of my marketing there. Don’t get me wrong, I love connecting with fans. I just get tired of the constant self-promotion.

Day Six: IMG_1768The Day Job Hat

Yep, I work a regular job. I’m the Director of Bereavement and Spiritual Care for a community hospice agency. Love it!

Day Seven: IMG_1854 The Retreat Leader Hat

My husband and I are both marriage and family therapists, and we are also both pastor types. 


Day Eight: IMG_1793The Crazy in Love Hat 

 December will be 32 years since I married my best friend. I’ve loved every minute of it! Here’s to 32 more!

Day NineIMG_1797: The Mom Hat

David and I gave birth to two wonderful children. Since then, we have added six more girls to our family. This picture features my only boy. A little guy at 6’5” but he will always be my baby boy.




Day Ten: The Activist Hat

I can’t help it; I was born with a bleeding heart. David and I run a gay/straight Christian alliance to help bring healing to those from the LGBTQ community who have been hurt by the church. I also attend PFLAG (parents and friends of lesbians and gays). The middle button says “I’ll go with you.” Much violence happens to transgendered people in bathrooms. This button let them know I’ll go in with them if they are afraid. And the last one says #blacklivesmatter because they do. I wrote “Cracker” to try to help turn the tide of racial injustice. It’s my small drop in the battle against injustice.

So this is my selfie challenge. I had a blast doing it. How about you? Post a picture telling something about yourself, or better yet, take the ten-day #selfiechallenge!

First Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

The art of parenting adult children


Once I thought of writing a book about parenting adult children. I decided it would have one page in it. That page would have two words in large, boldfaced font, “Let Go.”

Letting go is the hardest part of parenting adult children. Letting go of their decisions, their whereabouts, their lifestyle choices — so much to let go of!

The hardest part is that, unlike when they are young, their choices have such HUGE consequences. They might be on track for college and end up sidelined by pregnancy. They might choose to drink and drive and end up killing someone and spend the rest of their young adulthood in prison. They might try extreme sports and end up paralyzed from the neck down. I have friends that have faced all three of these scenarios with their kids. It’s heartbreaking, it’s tragic, and it’s life. And we parents want to spare our kids this kind of pain, but we can’t.

My own kids have made some decisions I wanted to protect them from Choices I was scared might ruin their lives. These were their choices, not mine. And you know what – they are both okay. They have both survived their choices, learned from them, grown and become rather impressive individuals, if I say so myself. Because navigating life is what we all have to do, it’s how we grow, learn, and develop.

So how do we parent adult children? A friend recently told me a wonderful story that mutual friend and author, Alice Fryling, shares. It’s about the story in the Bible where Jesus is off praying and sees his disciples out on a boat in a storm. He walks out to the boat and calms the sea. Alice was contemplating this story and her role as a parent of adult children. “What can I learn from this?” she asked. The first and most obvious answer is to pray for our kids. Nothing, and I mean nothing, has taken my prayer life to the next level like having kids. I don’t know how people that don’t pray survive the stress and worry of parenting. It is the one thing I can do when I can do nothing.

But Alice then realized there was something else she could do. She could sit in the boat. Just be there. Be available during the storm. She shared this insight with her adult daughter and her daughter replied, “Yes! I want you in the boat. Just don’t try to row.”

“Don’t try to row.” That is it in a nutshell, isn’t it? That is the art of parenting adults. Be in the boat and don’t pick up that oar. Don’t splash around where you’re not invited. Be present, be available. And, sometimes: They might. Even. Ask. For. Help. Or advice. Then you can give it, but only then.

That’s what I’m learning about parenting adults, how about you? Any tips from your experience as a parent of an adult? Any tips from an adult child on how to or not you’d like to be parented?

letting go


To let go does not mean to stop caring, it means I can’t do it for someone else.

To let go is not to cut myself off, it’s the realization I can’t control another.

To let go is not to enable, but allow learning from natural consequences.

To let go is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.

To let go is not to try to change or blame another, it’s to make the most of myself.

To let go is not to care for, but to care about.

To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.

To let go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.

To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to affect their destinies.

To let go is not to be protective, it’s to permit another to face reality.

To let go is not to deny, but to accept.

To let go is not to nag, scold or argue, but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.

To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day as it comes and cherish myself in it.

To let go is not to criticize or regulate anybody, but to try to become what I dream I can be.

To let go is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.

To let go is to fear less and love more.

Remember: The time to love is short.

(author unknown)

1.Photo Credit boat

2. Photo Credit Letting Go

Grieving As Transformation


Last week, to honor the one-year anniversary of my mother’s sudden death, and the six-month anniversary of my job loss, I attended a grief workshop.

About twenty of us sat in a circle around a beautiful, multi-tiered display of broken mugs. There were many kinds, colors, and shapes of mugs. Some were merely chipped, some were smashed, and some had no handle. The analogy centered on Psalm 3:12 which says, “I have become like a broken vessel.”

We were told to pick a mug that resembled how we felt, and then we had twenty minutes to spend thinking through some questions we were given about the mug and our grieving process.

The people in the group were all over the map in their grief work: one woman looked like she was still in shock, head bowed, eyes wide, unable to speak. Her husband had died six months ago and he was only in his forties.

One man had lost his wife two years ago, but described his heart as “shattered.” He looked like he was on the verge of a physical heart shattering with the level of pain he was still holding in.

Some had lost grown children, others lost parents who left them orphaned, as only children, with no children of their own for comfort. Each had their own process of grief.

Some were not grieving the death of a loved one, but a divorce or retirement from a beloved profession.

I chose a cup with no handle because losing my mother and my job felt like losing the things I held on to, the things that took a large chunk of my time and made up a large part of my identity.

But as I examined my cup I saw that it was still beautiful, useful and mostly intact. I saw that it could function very well without its handle…life was going on for me and for the most part, my life is very beautiful. I have a wonderful husband and fantastic children and grandchildren. I work, I write, I have a ministry. I am happy.

When we returned from our time of reflection, we talked about our cups. Everyone had found hope in this exercise in some small way. It gave us words for our experience of grief.

At lunch, we put our cups at the foot of the cross in the chapel. Later, when we returned, there was a new display at the center of the room: it contained beautiful, colorful, whole cups. We were each allowed to choose one and take it home. A cup of blessing.

I realized that I have come far in my grieving process. I am letting go. I’m sure there will be times when I continue to be blindsided by grief, but I have come a long way in healing. And the point of this exercise drove home for me that grief can lead us to transformation, to new places of depth, compassion, and growth. (Tweet This)

In one handout adapted from Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy by J. William Worden, Ph.D., it listed four stages of grief which I will briefly sketch here:

    1. To accept the reality of the loss: When someone dies, even if death is expected, there is always a sense that it hasn’t happened. The first task of grieving is to come full face with the reality that the person is dead.
    2. To experience the pain of grief: Many people (and society) try to avoid painful feelings. You must allow yourself to experience and express your feelings, difficult though they may be.
    3. To adjust to an environment in which the deceased is missing: There may be many practical daily affairs you need help and advice with, but there will be a great sense of pride in being able to master these challenges.
    4. To withdraw emotional energy and reinvest it in another relationship: The final task is to effect an emotional withdrawal so that this emotional energy can be used in continuing a productive life.

I learned that each person’s grief is completely unique. It doesn’t really help to compare our grief or expect another to grieve like we do. But, it does help to share the human experience of grief with others who are going through it.

Where are you at in your grief experience? What kind of cracked cup are you and what does God say about it? I’d love to hear about your grief experience so we can hold our cups up together and toast a life of transformation.



Blindsided! Surviving Grief, Loss, and Disappointment


A year later: I’m still in awe of the support and encouragement of our friends during our Blindside!

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 blindsides 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 beaten 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?


Second photo from Rembrandt’s Prodigal

Driving Miss Donnie: How to survive a road trip with someone with dementia

I wrote this blog when my mom and I did something we’d done our whole lives: We took a road trip to Idaho. I had no idea when we did it, that it would be our last. I’m so grateful for these memories. 


I’m just back from a four-day road trip with my slightly demented and partially deaf mother. Think Thelma and Louise with a Perry Como soundtrack. It was a wonderful/memorable/trying trip and here are the things I learned from it.

  1. Plan ahead. This was a trip for her to see her remaining friends and family for possibly the last time. I called ahead and made sure everyone was in town and we were able to see them all, plus visit the old towns, houses, and farms of her childhood.
  2. Ask for support. I asked my Facebook friends to pray for safety and patience. This really helped because the conversation went something like this for 900 miles: Mom: “Would you like a root beer candy?” Me: “No Thank you.” Mom: “Huh?” Me: “NO THANK YOU.” Ten minutes later: Mom, “Would you like a root beer candy?” Me: “No thank you.” Mom: “Huh?” Me: “NO THANK YOU”…
  3. Take this opportunity to find out all the wonderful family stories and juicy bits of dirt. When talking about the past my mom is very lucid. I kept her talking most of the way there, to avoid the root beer candy question. I learned lots of lots of great family history now have it memorized after hearing each story at least ten times.
  4. Be sure to plan a part of the trip that is fun for you too! I planned an overnight with an old friend and I also set aside an hour for book research. It really helped to break up all the visiting.
  5. Be prepared to think of this trip as a labor of love. When I kept my mind in this frame of reference, I did well. When I let down my guard and say, wanted to check my email at night and got interrupted every two minutes, Oscar the Grouch came out. Oops, the expression “labor-of-love” is just that: hard work.


  1. Be amazed at the stories people tell. As we visited the relatives and friends, much reminiscing about “the good old days” happened. I felt like I had a front row seat in history. The hard part was that for some, the past was about all they had left to enjoy. Let me tell you, leaving each person we visited was painful. The hard truth that we probably won’t see most of them again.
  2. Pay attention to who fares better. My mom’s family is made up of two kinds of people: Mormons and Jack Mormons. Jacks are people who don’t want to be Mormon’s, mostly because they like to raise hell and drink a lot; at least it seemed to work out that way in our family. I’m not a Mormon but I can attest to the fact that on this visit, the Mormon’s were physically and mentally stronger. Something to be said for clean living!
  3. The “second childhood” thing can be rather enduring. My mom enjoyed finding pictures in the clouds and surprising me by putting on funny sunglasses when I wasn’t looking. A  magic moment occurred during the overnight at my friend’s when the lights went out in her room and the ceiling glowed with stars. She was thrilled.
  4. Bring some old music to make the trip shorter – and a great book. On the way home, mom started cleaning out her glove box. There she found two treasures: her car manual, which provided hours of good reading because when she got to the end, she’d forgotten the beginning and started over, saying “I didn’t know I had a rear defroster!” Second, she realized she had a built-in CD player loaded with music! We were serenaded by Perry Como, Elvis and The Sons of the Pioneers all the way home, which was a nice break from talking.
  5. Cherish the memory you made. I learned more from this trip than I ever thought possible. We pulled some long days and my mom never complained once. At every home we visited she was warm, affirming and loving. This is the Mommy I’ve forgotten, the one I missed during the busy years, and the one I rarely see at our weekly lunches because it’s a predictable environment. But four days trapped in a car with someone shows you who they really are, and I loved getting re-acquainted with this Mama. What a wonderful gift. Tomorrow I present her with a photo book full of the pictures we took along the way. I can’t wait.

On-line Dating for Seniors or Dating My Mother!


Many 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.

Mom and Carl                                                           And the Winner is…Carl!
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.

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?

Ode to Depression


The last in the series from two years ago about the time when Micah was missing. There was a lot to learn there and I love sharing it even after two years, especially since it’s been a rough year and again I’m dealing with depression. I do think I’m getting better at it, continuing to eat well, sleep well and exercise. This time negotiating this without so much chocolate!

When I was a School Counselor at a middle school, kids came to me all the time, saying they were depressed. I’d say, “Congratulations, you’re doing your job!” After all, in the words of Bart Simpson, “Depressing a teenager is like shooting fish in a barrel.” Then I’d help them decide if their depression was teenage angst or something more. Either way I’d give my, “how to release endorphins” talk.
Endorphins are those brain chemicals our body releases to soothe and comfort us. There are some ways we can release them if we’re depressed. For instance, exercise: every minute past fifteen minutes of aerobic exercise releases endorphins! Simple eh? Here are other ways: Laughing, eating chocolate, sex (don’t worry, I didn’t mention this one to the middle school kids), petting a dog or cat, holding a baby and looking at something beautiful (which is why Brad Pitt will always sell tickets. I mean they tried to make him less attractive in Fury, but did it really work)?
If having friends over to eat chocolate and watch a comedy (hopefully starring Brad Pitt) doesn’t work, this may be a more serious depression. Of the two more serious kinds of depression, both are physiological but one is caused by circumstances and one is a chemical imbalance in the body. I’ve had circumstantial depression twice. The first time there were a lot of losses in my life over one summer: Four sets of close friends moved up north, we left our job and our church all at the same time. Of course, being a therapist, it took me waaayyyy too long to figure out I was depressed. Physician, heal thyself!

Help needed. Drowning man's hand in sea or ocean.
Help Needed

The second time my depression was triggered by the month of stress related to my son’s disappearance. A month after reconnecting with him, even though I knew he was safe, my body went into depression. The body can crash after a month of being amped up on adrenaline. Both times I became aware of my depression by noticing the symptoms: Loss of interest in things that normally interest me, increased (or loss of, though I’ve never experienced it) appetite, increase (or loss of) sleep, malaise and a withdrawing from social relationships.
“I think I’m depressed,” I said to myself with great insight as I lay in a fetal position on my bed, crying into my chocolate bar. So, I decided to be proactive and I gave myself this prescription: sleep more, expect less, cry often, bake, eat, and stay home. Then, if you don’t feel better after Christmas, go get some meds.
Thankfully, this worked for me and three weeks on this stringent program has allowed me to heal and want to leave my house once more. It’s a good thing because there is work to be done. I’m grateful for the downtime and feel that I’m healing and ready to get back to work. I only wish my pants weren’t so tight.