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2013 in Review: The Most Chaotic Year of My Life

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The year 2013 was--by far--the most chaotic and difficult year of my adult life. My father passed away very suddenly on February 11th, sending a shockwave through my life at a point when I was approaching a high point. What ensued after with dealing with his ice-cold wife was what made the ordeal nearly unbearable, as my brother and I watched helplessly as she erased his existence (without our consult) within a few months of his death. She sold, gave away, and and threw away almost all of his belongings without the involvement of my brother or me. She moved out of my dad's modest townhome into a lavish large house, a home far more extravagant than anything that would have interested my father despite his ability to afford it. She can now lead a lavish lifestyle thanks to my father leaving everything to her after my dad had disinherited my brother and I in his will. In the end, his wife had offered us a couple of things of my dad's that she had considered junk.

In the end, there was only one "thing" of his that I wanted, something that truly defined my father's soul--his guitar (see blog post "The Martin":
). His wife had given the guitar to her son (who had no relationship with my dad) within a few weeks of my dad's death. I had to practically beg to get it back. It took almost two months, but the guitar is now mine. It is truly a magnificent instrument and I am slowly learning to play. It is only over the past couple of months that I can open the guitar case without feeling pure bitterness. Instead, now I feel the only connection left to my father. Dealing with someone so icy and--well, horrible--has been the most traumatic experience of my life, after my older brother's death. Strumming the guitar is helping me heal, though.

My dad and my older brother, Brian.

The last picture taken of my dad and me, after I won my first jiu jitsu tournament in November, 2012.

While--obviously--my father's death proved a horrible and sad ordeal, 2013 was also a year of immense growth for me. I had many accomplishments that I never would have thought possible. A lot of this was thanks to my father's inspiration. He was a man who passionately pursues his passions regardless of the costs (which, unfortunately, often included putting his kids on the back burner--I have recognized this as a reason for my reluctance to become a parent). Losing my dad meant losing the one family member who truly believed in everything about me. He was proud of me not just for my accomplishments, but for my "failed" pursuits" as well. Now I need to be that voice for myself.

My dad was very pro-education and always supported my academic endeavors regardless of their "practicality." I did not get a chance to tell him that I was returning to school to complete a degree in massage (I was going to tell him the next time I saw him). I did go ahead and continue with my plan to return to school, as I saw the potential to grow as a person. I enjoyed my first semester and earned straight A's. I look forward to growing as a massage therapist and have plans to start an animal massage business in the Twin Cities, a unique niche that has yet to be filled. I have started making contacts with some of my former veterinary colleagues to develop business relationships and the results have been positive thus far.

I have also progressed in my goals on becoming a personal trainer. In October, I was hired as a trainer at a community center. I have been enjoying becoming acquainted with the gym environment and doing basic training sessions with members. I will be taking the trainer exam on January 10th and plan to grow as a trainer from there.

This was also a big year for me as a writer. I have not been blogging much, however, I have made moves towards becoming a professional writer. I took many writing classes at The Loft Literary Center (a notable writing center in Minneapolis), and I feel fortunate to have such a resource available. My first for-real (paid!) article was published last month (link is here, but would need to pay to read; please message me if you'd like me to send it to you:
). I was very excited as I have always wanted to have an article published. I also started a novel earlier this year, and over the past few weeks have (finally!) developed a coherent story line not just for that book, but for a three-part series. The ultimate reason for writing the novels is not publication, but because I feel I need to tell the story (a story that has been developing since I was a little kid, actually). However, I will be pursuing publication upon completion.

I cannot write this blog without mentioning jiu jitsu. Jiu Jitsu has been my rock this year. My former gym and teammates proved a bit toxic after my dad's death and I switched gyms in March. My new teacher, Marcelo, was very patient over my first months training with him when I was sad and--frankly--lazy with training. He was very good at meeting me at my energy level and not pushing me beyond my capabilities that were hindered by my emotional state. However, when he saw me "waking up" a few months ago, he did start to push me. He gently encouraged me to compete again. I started training harder; he told me he knew I would win my competition. I won a gold medal when I competed in November. I was surprised at my win, but Marcelo was not. His calm demeanor and quiet guidance have been my rock this year. Now he has asked me to compete in a world championship competition in California early next year; I am honored. The answer was a resounding yes.

Marcelo awarding me another stripe in October.

Me with Robert Drysdale, UFC fighter and our jiu jitsu school's founder, in October.

My amazing team after winning lots of medals at tournament in November. My teacher Marcelo is next to me in the back.

Marcelo after winning a professional fight.

I have basically maintained my weight this year. I consider this to be the biggest weight-related accomplishment of my life. After all the s**t I was dealing with between my dad's death, dealing with his horrid wife, starting school, financial difficulties, and feeling horribly lost, I could have easily buried myself in food and gained a great amount of weight. I have probably "lost" weight simply by not gaining it in the face of such major stressors. Screw the scale, it means less than ever. The fact that it stayed the same this year--despite all of the challenges--tells me exactly how much I have changed as a person.

I could have easily given up. But my father would not have wanted that, and I did not want that. I don't want to just live, but to thrive. It is not money or any crap that material things can bring that helped me to thrive, but my amazing group of friends, writing, and jiu jitsu that got me through. I have realized that all else is meaningless.

It is thanks to the changes that I have made through SparkPeople over the past three years that I have hope. Not just hope, but deep down KNOWING that the future will be better. Believe it or not, I consider myself to be a happy person, perhaps the happiest I have ever been. I have learned that happiness has nothing to do with what I have, or money or status. Happiness is pursuing a life that revolves around passions that define our very beings--and this is the year I have started carving the way. I am starting to get to know the REAL real me--and she is tough as nails and will stop at nothing.

So there it is, 2013 in review. Not the most eloquent blog post, but it is the truth. It is proof in front of my eyes that I survived. It is an affirmation that the next year will be better, because of the person I have been, the person I am, and the person I will become. We may not have control over what happens to us, but we have some control over our reactions. I truly believe that doing our best is the best we can do, even if it appears to be far from our vision. Some days I feel complete hope and confidence for the future, and some days I fall apart over nothing...but I am always doing my best. In the worst of times, we go into the dark shadows and face our true selves. It is during those times that we can collapse upon ourselves and give up...or see the tiny spark of hope, nurture it the best we can, and emerge from the flames anew.

Perhaps even better than ever.

Candid shot my best friend took on Thanksgiving.

"May we do what we can each day, as impeccably as possible and then be at peace, for the results are out of our hands."
-Thich Nhat Hanh

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    WOW! Awesome blog....I pray all your dreams are coming true! emoticon

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BECKYSRN 6/13/2014 11:32AM

    emoticon emoticon

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    Your courage amazes me.

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    You have had a really difficult year but also an amazing year too. You are definitely your father's daughter. He lives on in you.

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CANNIE50 1/4/2014 1:37PM

    I am very proud of you, Erin. I am impressed by how you have dealt with the blow of your father's death and the pain of being disinherited. You have not allowed bitterness to blind you or incapacitate you. Talk about rising above! You are flying above! Congratulations on all your brave achievements.

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HIPPICHICK1 1/4/2014 10:48AM

    I still get sad for you hearing about your father and his gold digger wife. I'm so glad you rescued his guitar from the clutches of her son and happy to hear you are playing it.
You sure have had a full year and you have accomplished so much!

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SUSIEMT 12/30/2013 1:24PM

    I should say you have grown as a person! Wonderful! Isn't it nice to be able to say you maintained your weight for a year! Keep up the great job! I like your attitude! I missed seeing your blogs but am so glad you are plowing through and are working towards those goals. Woo Hoo YOU!

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KRISKECK 12/30/2013 12:47PM

    Wow, what a lot you have been through. And what a lot you have to be proud of! You have what so many are lacking: great determination and self-confidence! Really awesome! Keep up the good work and never stop believing!

Here's to a great and prosperous New Year!


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DDOORN 12/29/2013 6:48PM

    Love the quote also...! I need to be more familiar with him than I am...!

I couldn't think of a better way to connect with your father and am sure he continues to take great delight in your playing...

Kudos to the writing and Ju Jitsu successes as well!

You've done your best, as Thich Nhat Hanh says...and I'm sure that you will reap wonderful rewards in 2014 and beyond!


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THOMS1 12/29/2013 3:53PM

    It was good to read one of your blogs again and it sounds like you are doing much better. emoticon emoticon

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CHAOSTHEORY635 12/29/2013 2:42PM

    good to hear from you again, and i'm glad you're moving forward after life's setbacks :)

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VALERIEMAHA 12/29/2013 2:16PM

    You look clear and beautiful in that last "mug shot," Erin. And, baby, you've come a LOOOOOONG ways (and I'm not talking about time, but consciousness)!!!

Kudos on getting going on your writing passion. I'm taking a creative writing class for pure enjoyment next semester (now that I've finished the BA in Sapnish). And I love that quote by Thay. We have only to do our best...the results are always out of our hands.

May some of your wildest dreams be realized in 2014!

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Quick Update (with pics)

Monday, November 18, 2013

I haven't blogged in quite a while! Part of the reason for this is that I have started focusing my efforts on paid writing gigs and developing a freelance writing business. I will be writing primarily for health and wellness and also for veterinary medicine. I finished my first article for publication (and for pay!) for a strength training journal and it will be published in January (details to follow).

I am also working on a book (or possible series of books) on creative life change. Actually, a lot of the material comes from previous blogs. I will keep you updated! In the meantime, I have almost finished a blog entry on bullying (which is also chapter work for the book); it just needs some editing and my goal is to post it tomorrow.

I got hired as a personal trainer at a local community center; I start tomorrow. It's hard for me to believe that after dreaming of being a trainer for so many years that this vision is coming to fruition. I was hired based on the fact that I have a Bachelor's in exercise science, as well as my athletic experience being a runner, triathlete, and martial artist. I will need to take a personal trainer certification exam, which I plan on doing in January.

Massage school keeps me pretty busy, of course, but is going well. I adore my massage teacher, and luckily his style is very compatible with mine. I am learning a ton and really enjoying the process.

I competed in late October and won first place. I was so nervous about competing, but my teacher Marcelo kept telling me that he had full confidence that I was going to win. I guess I need to listen to that guy. emoticon

Here are some recent pictures (from late October):

Beginning of one of my matches in October.

My shiny teammates after competition. I'm in the back row and my teacher Marcelo is next to me.

Marcelo awarding another stripe to me a few weeks ago. I will be testing for my blue belt (second "level" in Jiu Jitsu) in about a month.

Me and UFC fighter Robert Drysdale after he taught a seminar at my gym.

This year had started out so hopeful and positive, and then I (understandably) struggled after my dad died in February. I admittedly took advantage of the "who gives a sh!t" mentality after he died to make some drastic changes, but it seemed the only way to cope with the grief. The sadness and anger part of grieving sucks, but I was also willing to take leaps that I didn't think were possible. I am a smart, creative, and talented person and I am finally working towards a life that fosters all of these things.

Okay, gotta go get ready for Jiu Jitsu class. Hope all is well in your world! Please tell me how you're doing!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

HIPPICHICK1 11/22/2013 12:11PM

    Fabulous!! I can't wait to here more.
emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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JITZUROE 11/21/2013 12:38PM

Most people are talk talk talk about their dreams. Dang it, you went out and are grabbing that dream!
Of course, you're also then giving it some wily Jiu Jitsu moves, but ya know....


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SHERYLP461 11/21/2013 8:27AM

    Wow, great accomplishments! WooHoo

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DOODIE59 11/20/2013 11:16PM

    Way to go, Erin; it is always good to hear how you're doing:) Keep on stretching.

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DDOORN 11/19/2013 12:20PM

    Things look to be Sparkin' mighty fine in your neck of the woods! Love the sound of your writing gigs...fill us in more when you can! :-)


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CANNIE50 11/18/2013 10:36PM

    I could not possibly be happier or more excited for you, Erin. Truly. Could not happen to a more deserving woman. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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MORTICIAADDAMS 11/18/2013 1:56PM

    You look really great now. Very muscular and fit. It sounds like you are doing a lot of exciting things in your life. I'm glad you are keeping up with the martial arts. Things are definitely looking up for you after the devastating loss of your dad. You took it so hard I was really worried if you would be able to come to terms with things. Your dad would certainly be proud of you.

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THOMS1 11/18/2013 11:24AM

    Good for you Erin! emoticon

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VALERIEMAHA 11/18/2013 11:02AM

    OMG, Erin -- You.Look.FABULOUS!!! And I am 200% BLOWN AWAY by all the good things you've brought to fruition!!! Makes me think there's profound truth to the "No pain, no gain" mantra:

Focusing on developing a freelance writing business!
Finished my first article for publication!
Writing a book (or books) on creative life change!
Finishing a blog on bullying!
Hired as a personal trainer!
Taking personal trainer certification exam in January!
Attending Massage school!
Won first place in October competition!

With palms joined,

Comment edited on: 11/18/2013 11:15:12 AM

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Saying Good-bye to a Gentle Soul

Monday, July 29, 2013

1999 (or thereabouts)-2013

I made the difficult choice to euthanize my dog Dmitri today. He was about 14 years old and I adopted him from the Humane Society 12 years ago, in July of 2001. He was a total impulse buy. I was a die-hard cat person. I NEVER thought that I would have a dog. I went to the Humane Society that day to help a friend pick out a reptile. While she was looking, I went into the large dog kennels. At the end of one of the rows, I made eye contact with a young German Shepherd mix named "Toby". The dog had been picked up as a stray. He jumped up and down with excitement. He had a note on his kennel from a volunteer that said that although he seemed excited, he was a very sweet dog. Another volunteer came through and saw me looking at the dog. She tearfully told me that the dog had been there about six months and that volunteers had several times successfully begged for the dog's life, but that his time was coming to an end. I didn't even need to spend time with the dog; I knew he was meant to be with me.

My friend saw me filling out paperwork and asked what I was doing. I told her I was adopting a dog. Her eyes widened. "You. You...are getting...a dog?" Hell had frozen over. My friend stared at the dog's grinning face the entire way home. I called friends and family to tell them about my new addition; a few thought I was joking. But they met the dog, renamed "Dmitri" (no real reason for that name; I just liked it and it suited him), and could see why I couldn't resist adopting him.

I so fell in love with Dmitri that I decided to explore veterinary medicine. I was in a fairly aimless place in my life when I adopted Dmitri and struggled with depression. I couldn't make a concrete choice for a career and had little confidence that I would be successful at anything. I enrolled in school to become a veterinary technician in 2002 and embarked on a life-changing journey. I have saved thousands of animals over the past 10 years thanks to Dmitri's inspiration. Although I got burnt out in veterinary medicine, I still learned a lot and was able to make a very good living. I had many once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as being chased by a swan, releasing bats, drawing blood on a dolphin, getting spat at in the face by an unhappy camel, anesthetizing a tiger, delivering puppies, seeing interesting medical cases, and hearing countless crazy stories in poison control. I am not sure what I would have done with the past decade had I not become a veterinary technician. I thank him for that; being a veterinary technician has taught me how to be a good pet owner.

Dmitri was a blood donor at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center for several years. He saved countless dogs during that time. He was very cooperative during the donations and was content to give his blood since there seemed to be a lot of treats and hugs involved. Nothing made me more proud than when I was working with a dog in the hospital, watching them receiving Dmitri's blood, and see them get to walk out of the hospital with a wagging tail and an ecstatic owner on the other end of the leash. He was retired from being a blood donor when he became a senior.

Dmitri greatly changed the direction of my life and helped me become a better person. But the impact he had on my mother was perhaps even greater. She grew to love Dmitri a lot and would sometimes keep him for visits for a few days at a time. She took him one weekend, and well, that weekend turned into 6 years. When I saw how much Dmitri meant to her I didn't have the heart to take him back, so he has lived with my mother for the past 6 years. She adored Dmitri and they took care of each other. The loss for her is perhaps even greater than it is for me.

I was concerned that we would not see eye-to-eye when it came down to an end-of-life decision. Dmitri has been showing signs of increasing pain over the past year, suspected to be arthritis in the hips and back. It was only over the past week that he declined drastically, seemed very painful, and was reluctant to eat. An increase in his pain medications helped somewhat, but yesterday he became completely paralyzed in the hind end. He was distressed from being painful and confused as to why he could not move. I explained the prognosis of dogs in his condition (likely something in the spine such as a tumor) and that they were usually difficult to treat, if it was possible to do so, and recovery could be treacherous in such a geriatric dog. For once, she trusted my opinion and agreed that euthanasia was the best option for him.

His veterinarian was able to come early today to euthanize him. He agreed that Dmitri likely had a tumor somewhere along the spine (probably in the spot that my dog Dugan kept sniffing as he was saying good-bye to him yesterday). I was grateful to have had the time to say good-bye to him, and that I could hold him and tell him into his ear how much I loved him as he passed away. One's death is as major an event as their birth, and I was honored to be there with the dog who gave me so much. I think he was happy to have been surrounded by everyone he loved.

The quietest soul can touch so many other lives. Thank you, Dmitri, for saving and changing my life, and of so many others.

Not sure what this goofy face is about. emoticon

Dmitri loved his kitties.

In my mom's garden.

"Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, and filling an emptiness we donít even know we had."
-Thorn Jones

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

IFDEEVARUNS2 11/18/2013 1:27PM

    What a lovely tribute!
Where did you move on from being a vet tech? Or perhaps I read it wrong.
My daughter is a vet tech, but I think she's looking for more of a challenge.

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MEWHENRYSMAMA 9/10/2013 10:49PM

    Oh Erin!
This just made me cry...for so many touched my animal loving soul...I have had to euthanize pets and remember the event...I remember whispering in my sweet ferret, Rudy's ear how I loved him only to remember he was deaf...but no matter..I know he heard me! what a wonderful journey he lead you on in your life and then continued on it with your Mom! He waited six months for you to come to get him!!! AMAZING!
Love & Hugs,

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MINIMOE1 8/15/2013 12:03PM

    What a wonderful heartfelt tribute to a true friend. May your many happy memories be a comfort to you and your mom.

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HIPPICHICK1 8/14/2013 10:56PM

    A beautiful tribute to your beloved pet. The photos are lovely as well. My sincerest condolences to you and your mom.

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JILLYBEAN25 8/1/2013 11:46PM

    Beautiful sentiment for the beloved Dmitri. I'm sorry for the loss of this wonderful companion.

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    Sorry to hear about your doggie :( Inspiring story, though!

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DDOORN 8/1/2013 12:48PM

    So, so tough when we give our hearts to our pets and at some point have to bid them farewell...!

But what would life be like WITHOUT them? :-)


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CANNIE50 7/31/2013 5:09PM

    What a beautiful boy. How lovely that you two found one another, and enhanced each other's (and so many others') lives. Such a beautiful love story. emoticon

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DOODIE59 7/30/2013 10:16PM

    What a gorgeous dog:) They give so much ...
Thank you for sharing.
Hugs to you and your mother.

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THOMS1 7/30/2013 8:36PM

    So sorry about your dog. They really are a mans best friend. emoticon

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SPOONGIRLDEB 7/30/2013 1:11PM

    What a great story! Dmitri was obviously loved and while it is always sad that our pets live such shorter lives than we do, I don't think there is any greater gift than that of euthanasia. He was blessed to have you as an owner, who was there for him when it counted the most. Hopefully in time your pain will lessen, but I know you will always remember him.

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VALERIEMAHA 7/30/2013 12:25PM

    Bowing in gratitude for your full-of-love story of an amazing being. May I post it on my Facebook wall? I think a larger world needs to be inspired by you and Dmitri.

Om Shanthi,

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BAZOOKABOBCAT 7/30/2013 8:28AM

    Oh, my heart is broken for you. I have tears in my eyes. But what a beautiful and special life he lived! You made the right decision by him. He deserved to have peace and dignity after such a special life.

I am so sorry for your loss. But I am so happy for the love you two had while he lived.

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    He was a beautiful dog. I am so sorry for your and your mom's loss. emoticon emoticon

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PONYFARMER 7/30/2013 2:12AM

    I love the name Dmitri, he looks the part. I loved your tribute blog to your boy and I understand the loss all to dearly. I lost my precious JoyJoy, who did much the same for me as y our Dmitri did for you. They are uncanny at how they can love what ever ails you/me.

Thank you for sharing his story and yours with us. God bless you for getting him out of the shelter. I am terribly sorry for your loss.

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TAICHIDANCER 7/30/2013 12:19AM

    An amazing story about an amazing dog. Sounds like Dmitri spurred you on to grow and change in important ways, and isn't that what good friends are supposed to do? I'm very sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing this inspiring story with all of us.

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ADAGIO_CON_BRIO 7/29/2013 11:11PM

    Rest in Peace, Dmitri. I am very sorry for your loss. Your blog is such an eloquent tribute to a fine soul.

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Beast Mode...ENGAGE

Thursday, June 27, 2013

We have all been in low places. Hopefully most of us haven't truly reached rock bottom before, but many of us have been there, too. I am lucky; I did not reach rock bottom this time, but came dangerously close. Fortunately, I had developed coping mechanisms that were strong enough to get me through even the toughest moments, even when my forebrain was wondering how much more I could take. I have been Depressed as Hell Erin for the past few months. Perhaps I had a right to feel that way, but it was not an excuse to head down a path of destruction. I make no excuses. Yes, my dad died. Yes, his wife created a lot of drama for me and my brother. Yes, I had a job that almost drove me over the edge even before my dad died, and almost did me in after he died. All of these stressors were feeding into each other and my mind was stuck in disaster mode. But there is no truly valid excuse to go into self-destruct mode.

I had moments when I wondered when I could stand another moment, but that was mostly because of my stupid job. Well, that job is officially in the past. I have been working for a couple of years to set myself up to be able to leave my job in poison control and my career as a veterinary technician. After 12 years as a veterinary technician, there was nowhere to grow and my job of over 5 years was certainly not fostering any growth. Actually, my job kept getting worse and worse, and I believe I got out just in the nick of time. I am returning to school in the fall to complete my massage therapy and personal trainer training, and I was going to try to tolerate my job until I was done. The recent stress eating, drinking alcohol to get drunk (something I had previously done VERY rarely), and being too exhausted to do anything I loved made it clear that the job had fried me too much and that I would not be able to handle another year and a half. I needed out...NOW.

I had worked at a garden center in my early 20s and really liked it. I enjoyed being outside, having different duties, moving around, playing with plants, and helping people plan their gardens. I was in great shape from the walking around and lifting heavy things. Well, that garden center went out of business and for some reason I just never thought to try to find another job like that. Of course I still love to garden and have thought on and off about finding a job related to gardening again. Just by chance, I looked at the Facebook page of the garden center a few blocks from my house, where I have been shopping for the past 8 years and have thought about applying for part-time seasonal work, and they posted a full-time position. I called them and the owner was interested, so I went in and talked to them. I had that "feeling" you get when you know you've gotten a new job, but I tried not to get my hopes up. They called me a couple of days later and offered me the job. I start next week and am very excited to start this new chapter. They know I will be in school, and I think that doing massage and personal training will work well with this job. I was ecstatic to send my letter of resignation to my vet tech job; I had been dreaming of it since the company started to tank a couple of years ago. I have felt immensely better since quitting; that job was actually damaging my mental health.

My new cubicle. emoticon

And then there is Jiu Jitsu. Jiu Jitsu has been my life blood and my life has felt totally out of balance without having the passion for it. I can't express how badly I have been wanting to WANT to be really into Jiu Jitsu again, and not just show up sometimes and half-ass my workout. My Jiu Jitsu teacher Marcelo has the patience of a saint. He knows I can do better and has gently been coaxing the champion within. I think he knows that if he had pushed me too hard that I would not come to class at all. But I think he sees a change, too. He knows he can push me more and get me to compete again. He sees the gold medal winner returning.

It was not that long ago that I stood on a podium accepting a gold medal for winning a tournament. As long ago as November feels, it is not that far in the past.

Well, Gold Medal Erin woke up from her slumber. She was not happy. We had a little talk:

Gold Medal Erin: AHEM.

Depressed as Hell Erin, turning around looking surprised: Oh...hey! Uhh, I kinda thought you might not be coming back. Errr...wassup?

Gold Medal Erin: Wassup? WASSUP? I'll tell you wassup...what the hell did you do to me?

Depressed as Hell Erin: Well...I've kinda been eating some junk food.

Gold Medal Erin: *stares*

Depressed as Hell Erin: Okay, A LOT of junk.

Gold Medal Erin: *stares*

Depressed as Hell Erin: And...maybe drinking soda. And alcohol.

Gold Medal Erin: *stares harder, eyes widening*

Depressed as Hell Erin: A lot of alcohol.

Gold Medal Erin: *shakes head* Well, have you at least been doing a lot of Jiu Jitsu? And working out?

Depressed as Hell Erin, looking sheepishly at ground: Uh, well...I've been going maybe once every week...or two...but I guess I've been just, ya know (barely audible) sitting around.

Gold Medal Erin: Excuse me?

Depressed as Hell Erin: I said, I've just been sitting around.

Gold Medal Erin, throwing hands up: Well, just look at me! (Grabs flab and shakes it) What, did you put on like 10 pounds?

Depressed as Hell Erin: Like...about 15...or so.

Gold Medal Erin, slapping hand to forehead: Okay. This isn't the end of the world. (Puts arm around Depressed as Hell Erin's shoulder) It's fine.

Depressed as Hell Erin: Sorry, I didn't want to get so off track, I just got lost...

Gold Medal Erin: It's okay, you were doing your best. But we're getting back to work. Right now.

Depressed as Hell Erin: Good. I'm tired of not kicking ass!

I think back what it was like 6 months ago, when my life revolved around my Jiu Jitsu training. I was in sheer beast mode. Almost every decision, including my food, was based on whether it would help or hurt my training. I would not say I had a pathological obsession, but I was very focused on my training, while balancing it with the other priorities in my life such as friends, writing, and relaxing. I had reached an almost perfect balance and had a good rhythm in my life when everything came crashing down in February. I tried so hard to do my best. I'm not bashing myself, but my best sucked. I would sabotage myself the second I took a step forward. I was frustrated with that process, but I tried to engage in my saving graces of writing and Jiu Jitsu whenever possible. If nothing else, Marcelo is one of those people who just makes you feel better by being in their presence, so going to the gym was good even if I was barely trying at Jiu Jitsu. He has the kind of energy that inspires you to truly be your best, so I tried to go to Jiu Jitsu even when I desperately did not want to. I knew with his help and his perfect balance of challenging me without pushing too hard would get me back to beast mode. Sure enough, I am back to training regularly and am growing in my training again. And most importantly, I am having fun again.

This is not Marcelo. But who can argue with Picard?

This is Marcelo in beast mode himself (guy with his hand up), after winning his last fight.

My eating has been on and off (mostly "off") over the past few months. I just did not give a crap what I putting in my mouth. I wasn't tracking. I finally started forcing myself to track again, even if I was overeating, and that helped a lot to steer me towards better eating. It's funny how even when we're overeating, the conscientiousness that goes into tracking can squash a major binge in its tracks before it gets really out of control.

I am so happy to be back to eating more healthfully. No wonder I've felt like crap, I haven't been fueling myself properly at all. I feel lighter just from eating better again and healthy eating feels natural for the first time in many months. I remember now how truly beautiful healthy cooking can be. Here is a picture of my dinner tonight that I cooked for a friend (and she helped make):

Jasmine rice cakes with peas, lemon, mint, and basil; tofu stir-fry; and edible flowers from my garden.

The past 5 months have been nearly constant stress of one sort or another; I was just trying to get through every day and felt like I was salvaging my life. But because I was already a changed person, deep down I knew it would get better if I just kept picking away and did my best. Hope stirred in the depths of the darkness. Deep in my soul, Gold Medal Erin kept telling me to never ever ever give up. So beast mode got turned off for a few months. The beast is alive again and wants to come out and play. I am ready to be HERE. I am ready to LIVE my life again, and better than ever. A new chapter begins now.

Beast mode: ON.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SUSIEMT 7/2/2013 9:49AM

    Yea you!!!! I feel better already! I needed this blog! Thank you!

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JILLYBEAN25 7/1/2013 11:53PM

    Beautiful! I'm so glad to see you back at it, working toward a happier, healthier Erin. Leave that destructive Depressed as Hell Erin in the past and look forward!

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DDOORN 7/1/2013 9:49AM

    Pulling all the Erin's together and stepping FORWARD! All RIGHT! :-)

Work changes sound like they are fitting you and where you are at very nicely!


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    Great turnaround! Amazing!

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SMILINGTREE 6/28/2013 9:00PM

    Oh, hey, Gold Medal Erin. Good to see you again. Tell Depressed as hell Erin we love her too, but don't mind if she takes a long hiatus :)

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    I think you are making some wonderful changes and have reached a good stage in your healing process. The new job sounds great. I love the looks of the place.

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APED7969 6/28/2013 6:07AM

    I know all about how soul-sucking your job was. I'm so happy to hear you've found something better. Enjoy re-entering beast mode :-)

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    Sweet. Now if you can push me back into "beast-mode" I'd appreciate it :)

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CANNIE50 6/27/2013 11:21PM

    Oh, Erin, I am so glad to know you have liberated yourself from a soul-sucking job and found one where it seems you will be appreciated while working in a happy, healthy, beautiful environment. The customers/clients will be coming from an opposite place - positive and happy vs panicked and stressed. I am happy to hear you are taking care of yourself, after pulling out of the tailspin you were (understandably) in. Thank you for the sweet note and the goodie - so glad my words could help the tiniest bit.

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DOODIE59 6/27/2013 11:04PM

    Gold Medal Erin. emoticon emoticon emoticon

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THOMS1 6/27/2013 10:14PM

    Good blog and I wish you success. emoticon

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The Martin

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"My guitar is not a thing. It is an extension of myself. It is who I am."
-Joan Jett

Wow. I haven't posted a blog since mid-April. That's probably a good indication of how stuck I have been. But today I had a really big problem. I'll get to that in a second.

Of course I have been struggling a lot since my dad's death in February. Unfortunately, sadness turned to anger when I found out about my dad's will and that he had left absolutely nothing to my brother and I. My dad was wealthy and had more than enough money to share with his children. Instead, he left everything to his wife of five years. It was a total slap in the face and undid a lot of the forgiveness that I had worked so hard for so I could have a relationship with my dad as an adult. He had convinced my brother and I that he was a changed man. In the end, my brother and I felt bewildered and abandoned. It isn't even the fact that all of his assets had previously been left to only me and my brother before he met his wife; it is the fact that he chose not to leave anything to us. He even told my brother that he knew that would piss us off, but that's the way it was. I wish my brother had told me about that conversation (he only told me about it last week), because I would have said something to my dad.

I know that disinheriting us does not actually mean that my dad did not love my brother and me. But to see this woman, who he only met six years ago, becoming an instant millionaire has been unnerving. My brother and I always felt like we were second to the women my dad was dating when we were growing up. Moreover, his wife's behavior has been rather disturbing since he died. She is not acting like someone who has lost someone, she's behaving as though she won the lottery. She started selling my dad's stuff within a week of the funeral. She made my poor brother help with cleaning out some of his stuff, and I know it was way too fast for him and he was very upset. Not four months after his death, she has moved into a huge house overlooking a lake. Needless to say, she doesn't afford that on her pay from her part-time job at a church.

I wasn't overly upset with the whole situation until a couple of things happened. I finally accepted that my dad chose not to leave anything to my brother and I, although it is very difficult not to feel re-abandoned by him. A couple of months after my dad's death, I finally started to think of some of his personal items that I might want. His wife had only offered my brother and I what she considered to be junk, whatever she and her sons couldn't make use of. She gave my brother and I a few of the turtles from his turtle figurine collection, which granted, I did want some of those. My dad also collected magnets wherever he went, his collection increasingly crowding his refrigerator throughout my lifetime. She gave me all of those; she handed the large plastic bag filled with them, saying, "Ugh, it's heavy." In sorting through them, I found a lot that were from trips that he had taken with his wife. Some even had her name on them, but I guess they didn't mean anything to her. However, she never actually offered to my brother and I to go through his things to take what we would like of his personal items.

I realized it wasn't the money, there was only one thing that truly encompassed my father for me, and I wanted only one thing: his Martin guitar. F*ck the money, f*ck everything else, I wanted that guitar. My dad was a very talented guitarist. He had played most of his life. When we were little, he would play "You Are My Sunshine" to us a lot, his deep voice vibrating the words through the air. As he played various rock songs from the 50s and 60s, I would spin around in circles, my golden pigtails almost swinging behind me. My dad always had a hard time communicating with us when we were children, but he could speak loud and clear through his guitar playing.

When I was a teenager, he bought a high-end Martin acoustic guitar. I was with him when he picked it out. He looked like a giddy schoolboy looking at the wall of guitars, trying out different ones until he found the perfect Martin guitar. The Martin was stored in a hard plastic case, the locks clanking loudly against the side when he opened the case. He would not allow my brother and I to touch the guitar unless we performed a surgical scrub first, so our hands were always stripped clean with Dial soap when we picked it up. I didn't know how to play, but the sound that came from strumming the strings was exquisite. He rocked out acoustic versions of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin, and The Beatles. That guitar was the very soul of my father.

I sent his wife an e-mail asking if she still had the guitar. She wrote back that she had given it to her son, and did I think that she would have been silly enough to part with such a great guitar? She rambled on about how much her son enjoyed playing it and that she might play again some day, and by the way, was there a specific reason I was asking?

Oh hell no. No way.

That guitar was absolutely not going to stay with someone who didn't know or love my father. It was not going to stay with someone who saw my dad as a big dollar sign. I was enraged that the guitar had already been given away. Didn't I know that it was a GREAT guitar...I wanted to say, "Lady, I don't want it because it's a GREAT guitar, I want it because it is my FATHER'S guitar." Instead, I told her that it was of great sentimental value and that I would like to have it. She responded that, if it really meant that much to me, that I could have it.

She had absolutely no idea what that guitar meant. None. All she knew is that the guitar had been expensive and was a valuable item. This woman did not know my father as a lifetime; she knew him as a snippet. She knew him as security for her future. And if she did not know what the Martin guitar meant, then she did not know my father.

I would not despise this woman and her sons so much if they acted like family. But she looked around my father's belongings and saw dollar signs. Her sons, who both acted insanely bored at my dad's funeral and have made zero attempts to be there for me and my brother, will probably attend grad school on my dad's dime. In any case, it took about a month, but the guitar is back in my hands. I was on edge the whole time waiting to get it back; it was the only item that truly defined my father. If his wife were a real family member, I never would have been on edge and I never would have been worried about getting a hold of it again.

My brother and I went to my dad's house for the last time last week when we went to get the guitar. The house was empty because she was moving, but I had been there a few weeks before and there was already no trace of him there. She had refurnished the place. There was not even a single picture of him anywhere. My brother was visibly disturbed. He was not ready for our father to be erased, and neither was I. Even with the mistakes he may have made as a father, he was still my father and I love him. Even without being able to tell him, I need to forgive my dad.

I consider myself to be a kind and decent person, but I have my limits. And with this woman, my limit was having to beg for my dead father's guitar. I will never forgive this woman for making it difficult to get the guitar back, nor that she was thoughtless enough not to offer it to me or my brother. I will never forgive her for erasing my father's existence almost immediately after his death. But she is inconsequential; she was my dad's wife, but she was not my family. Now that she is out of my life, I am starting to feel like I can move on from this anger. I have no plans on following this woman around and kissing her ass in hopes that she will share some of my dad's money with me and my brother. My dad blatantly chose not to share any of it with us, and I have much better things to do than to keep such a toxic person in my life to get money. I am way better than that. But I have the Martin guitar now...and yes, I do plan on taking lessons, although I regret not sticking with the guitar so I could have played with my dad.

When I got home after getting the guitar, I opened the case, the familiar smell of the varnish wafting from the case. I gingerly picked it up and examined it. I picked at the strings, having no idea what I was playing. I grinned a little, realizing that I had not washed my hands before picking it up. I always was a rebel. I don't know how to play yet. I can't even remember how to play Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady," one of the few songs I learned well as a teenager. This guitar needs to be played by someone who knew my father. These six strings are what is left of my dad, and although it is unlikely that I will be as skilled as he was, I hope my love for him shines through the notes.

The anger I have been feeling--towards my dad, towards his wife, towards the unfairness of the whole situation--has been almost incapacitating. The anger and confusion has been so exhausting that it permeates my bone marrow. Unfortunately, I have directed a lot of this anger towards myself.

I have been eating whatever I want when I want. I feel puffy, bloated, and sluggish. I've been eating wheat and dairy. I haven't been tracking. I have been drinking alcohol, something which I normally rarely do. I have been drinking soda.

I don't even LIKE soda.

It's like I want to do anything to prove to myself that I have never changed. That my dad's death and being disinherited by him has undone me. But of course this is not the case. I am a grown woman, and I can handle this. Deep down I know this is true. That does not mean that there will not be struggles, but it is foolish to believe that these events have caused me to revert to my old habits permanently, and that I have become a person I deem unworthy of taking care of myself. It is not that I am not motivated...even the most motivated people can be seriously sidelined.

I have been bad about exercise. I feel like just about anything but a personal trainer in the making. It isn't that I don't WANT to work out hard again...I really want to want to...and I know I will feel like it again. I have not been practicing Jiu Jitsu as ardently as I would like. Even when I do show up, I just kind of lay there and let people kick my ass. My teacher Marcelo asked if I was planning on competing any time soon. I told him although I really wanted to, I just didn't have it in me right now.

He nodded. In his thick Brazilian Portuguese accent he asked, "Your fire has gone out?"

Fighting back tears, I nodded. "Yeah." He patted me on the shoulder and gave me his kind smile. It is hard to look at Marcelo's sweet eyes and deep dimples and not want to do better.

I got tired of laying there and doing nothing. I kept telling myself that at least I was showing up to class sometimes, so that's something.'s not enough. I needed to BE there. And I knew if I couldn't BE there for Jiu Jitsu, then I don't have anything else.

Last week I was rolling with one of my classmates and the image of a match came into my head. As the match struck, I noticed the very moment the match head made a spark, before the sound could even register--the tiniest of sparks that starts every fire. That first spark exploded into a flame that died down into a small steady fire. My partner was on top of me beating the crap out of me while I did almost nothing to fight back. But this time, my fire was lit. I wanted the fire to burn. I wanted to fight back. As she reached to put me in a tight hold, I grabbed her arm. Her eyes widened. I grinned as I threw her over and took her back (a dominant position). I did not submit her that time, but I stayed in a dominant position for the rest of the match. I did not give up and would not be beaten.

I finally felt like moving again. I felt like kicking ass again. But I still felt like I didn't know where to start. A habit can be so ingrained, but strong emotions can lead us in aimless directions, wandering through a wilderness in our mind trying to hack our way through the jungle. I WANTED to get back to the way I was a few months strong, so positive...but I felt like I had strayed so far. But my kick-ass self was peeking around the corner of my mind asking, "Can I come back out now?"

So, back to the problem I had today. I wanted to take the dog for a walk and realized I hadn't done laundry in a while and none of my exercise clothes were clean. I started digging through my closet and drawers to find a pair of pants. I tried on several pairs.

Not a single pair fit...not even close.

Some of the pants were so huge on me that they almost fell down. I pulled on one of the pairs of jeans and pulled on the waistline, like in those weight loss "before" and "after" pictures and looked at the huge amount of space between my waist and the pants. I used to fill that space. I didn't just have a different body, I had a different mind. I won't venture as far as to say that I was a different person--I have always been me. I have always just done my best...although my best over the past few months has been pretty lame. I can only build upon myself and strive to make myself better. My mind and body may change, but I am always me. Just like my old clothes, that other mind just doesn't fit anymore.

It is so easy when we are in "crisis mode" to convince ourselves that we are unworthy and that we have never made any positive changes. It is easy to only focus on our mistakes and to tell ourselves, "See, you haven't changed at all." I've been very stuck in this negative mindset. But if it were true, that I have never made any positive changes, that I just mess up everything I try to do, I would still be squeezing into those gigantic jeans.

I am near tears now, just writing these words. My fingertips are flying across the keyboard, finally wanting to reach out again. Finally feeling worthy of saying something. Finally being able to put those thoughts together in some coherent manner.

My fire may not be burning bright, but it has been lit again. It has been lit enough that I can see in the dark. I can't see perfectly, not yet, but the warm glow is spreading again. My way will be lit again. I can keep nurturing the fire now; soon, I know, it will burn again. In the meantime, I will pluck at the Martin, making nonsense noise until I can afford to take some lessons. Even through the nonsense, I know my dad is playing right alongside me.

And he always will.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    Erin, I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of your father. emoticon

I'm glad you fought for his guitar and that you are finding your spark again!

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JITZUROE 6/27/2013 3:36PM

    Such a beautiful blog. I was so upset for you when I read this. You are such a loving and protective person, and to see someone dishonor the memory of your dad like that is definitely not someone that you could call family by any means. She's been in his life for a brief fleeting moment. And now special one, it's the job of both you and your brother to keep your day's spirit alive.

Thank God you fought for that guitar. It is no a play thing for someone who would never appreciate the love and adoration like its previous owner.

This line really spoke to me: "A habit can be so ingrained, but strong emotions can lead us in aimless directions, wandering through a wilderness in our mind trying to hack our way through the jungle." So true! And so well written.

I'm glad you are fighting back those demons. They can't have you. We need you!

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MORTICIAADDAMS 6/19/2013 10:48PM

    my husband has a really nice Martin guitar too and I'm really glad you got you dad's guitar at least. It saddens me that you did not get more.

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DDOORN 6/17/2013 10:08AM

    "It is so easy when we are in "crisis mode" to convince ourselves that we are unworthy and that we have never made any positive changes.", SO true!

You have had your fire throughout this oh-so-agonizing process, it's just been roiling about inside and now that you're tapping into it I just KNOW you're gonna be a-blaze shortly!

Very cool undertaking, mastering your father's Martin! I know he's just beaming over this! I love my old Yamaha classical and still dust 'er off now & then...not as often as I'd like, but still have most of my chops! :-)


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CANNIE50 6/14/2013 4:03PM

    Oh, Erin, speaking of fire and flames, I am burning up a bit on your behalf. WHY oh why do people do something so mean and spiteful and so guaranteed to cause anguish, as to leave valuable assets to a new spouse and their children, and leave their own children in the lurch? I understand if the children have been selfish, grasping ogres and the "new" family has been nothing but warm and supportive, but that is certainly not the case here. And, why oh why, when confronted with such a situation, does the surviving spouse not do things to make it more equitable? Seriously, this kind of thing is just maddening. I couldn't help but think of the term "ill gotten gains" when I read about the situation, though, obviously your father put the whole thing in motion. I am so glad you have the precious guitar. I am SO very glad you are tapping into your fiery spirit again. I have spent most of the last week in a morass of gluttony and sloth, to put it bluntly. I was just physically and emotionally burnt out. I am so happy it has passed. Your blog, as always, is beautifully written and was so descriptive I felt like I was experiencing it with you, in a small way. Take wonderful care of yourself, Miss Erin, you SO deserve all the best.

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HIPPICHICK1 6/13/2013 8:41AM

    emoticon for this blog. I am a step-mom to the 23 year old daughter of my partner. We made wills a few years ago when she was 18 and he left me everything. In the event that we both die at the same time (as in a car crash) then his daughter will get everything.

I do not intend on erasing JF from my life if he should pass away before I do, nor do I intend on keeping his "fortune" for myself which is basically just this house we live in on the lake. It will always be Valerie's, but to have left it to her would have guaranteed that I would be homeless (because we are living common-law and in this province common law partners have no rights to their spouses' property after their spouses' death), and that my business and gallery that is attached to our house would have to close down.

Val is a girl without means, without a job, always struggling and her father still pays her rent and gives her money every month so she can buy food. We bring her home-cooked food weekly and take her out often to events and dinners that hopefully contribute to the richness of her life.

Your blog taught me something though and that is that in the event that he passes before I do, I will give her whatever she wants that was once her father's. I will give her and the entire family a chance to come in and collect whatever mementos they hold dear of our beloved JF.

Whether it's an old sweater, a photo or JF's Taylor 12 string guitar that Val grew up hearing every night while she drifted off to sleep...before she left this house at 14 years old to live with her mom on a permanent basis (because it really is a commuter's nightmare driving in from the country to work/school everyday and getting home so late that you don't have time to do homework).

I'm really sorry to hear that your father chose to leave everything to his wife of 5 years and her sons. It's tragic and saddening. It's injustice at its highest peak, but it happened and there is no undoing it unless you want a costly court battle.
Through the past year or so I have been studying Buddhism and this I know for sure:
Thinking about my past and the injustices that were perpetrated on me makes me re-live the emotions I felt then and keeps me stuck in the past in my anger and resentment. Living in the future (like planning too far in advance or thinking of all the things I *have* to do in the short term) makes me anxious. Living in the moment or in the now is the best place for me to be because I can actually savor things like the person I'm with or the music to which I am listening or my surroundings. Staying in the present is best. The rest just seems like a mind F%$K and it is.

It's all in your mind, you know.
~ George Harrison

Don't believe everything your brain tells you.
~ Dr. Lisa Mask (a friend of mine who is a Dr. of psychology)

emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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THOMS1 6/12/2013 10:27PM

    I am glad you were able to ask for and receive your fathers guitar. Enjoy playing it. emoticon

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DOODIE59 6/12/2013 8:56AM

    There is no pep talk/words of encouragement I could have said that would have brought you to the insights you have already worked out for yourself. You are your own best friend and support. Your sharp intelligence and clarity of process are great gifts.

I am so sorry your father laid things out the way he did, but that's about him, and not you. Your choice was as to how you would respond. You've got your brother. You chose to ask for the one gift that means something positive to you ... You are going to be fine. Doesn't mean you won't have to struggle first ... but you are forging your own life. It is going to be the life you want for yourself. And it doesn't get any better than that.

Big hugs,

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SPOONGIRLDEB 6/12/2013 8:40AM

    Wonderful blog...and so good to have you back. Sounds like you've been dealing with a lot, but are in the right mindset now! Looking forward to more jiu hirsute success stories!!!

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VALERIEMAHA 6/12/2013 8:18AM

    Wherever you are is the entry point.
-- Kabir

Astounding revelations, Erin. Praise be, my dear friend. You bless the world with your presence, doing the work, feeling and moving through, rather than denying, the pain, again and again and again....

This is a track from Bobby McFerrin's latest album, spirityouall. My own inner Spark is who I look to to *fix me* -- which could be otherwise known as my *inner Jesus* lol (like the Spark that you were finally able to reignite).

I am a big fan of Bobby McFerrin and just bought this CD. I love his original take on the traditional pieces, and there are lots of strings on this cut too!

The oppressed peoples knew all about suffering and grief way down deep, and to me it's amazing that they could say/sing, "glory glory! I feel like shoutin' since I laid my burden down!" (Crummy camerawork, eh.)

I hope you get the *spirit* in which I share the music and reflections, oh you of great wisdom...."Where words fail music speaks."

Comment edited on: 6/12/2013 4:59:43 PM

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JSALERNO 6/12/2013 7:01AM


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SLEEPERELLA 6/12/2013 6:08AM

    Sorry about all of the things you have been going through. Glad your found your fire again!

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APED7969 6/12/2013 5:17AM

    No wonder you've lost your fire for awhile, you've been dealing with a lot. I can't even imagine how angry I'd be at my dad or his wife. I am glad to hear you're letting go and feeling better. I look forward to reading your blogs and hearing about you kicking some ass!

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