Wednesday, May 13, 2015

On the Outside Looking In #SingleParenting


Single moms aren't the enemy--and, this may be a shocker, we're also not interested in stealing your overweight, balding, middle-aged slug you call your husband.

On Monday night, I sat with my son at an awards' banquet. He and I sat at the back table--I always like to be close to the exit--and his friend's family sat with us. Small talk commenced at the table, as usual, but other than that I kept to myself. As the ceremony started, a man tapped me on the shoulder and asked if he could sit at the empty chair next to mine. He'd come late and his family sat in front, but had neglected to save him a seat. I, of course, told him he could sit there. 

That's when the trouble began--oh, the glares--downright hateful in nature--came my way followed by whispers and people turning their heads to, you guessed it, glare in my direction. I chatted with the man next to me while we were served our three-course meal. Later in the bathroom, one of the women who had been glaring at me, confronted me saying, "I know his wife." Etc. I won't repeat her whole diatribe. I walked away. 

Seriously? I can't chat with a guy who I have known for 14 years without the gossips assuming I am flirting? His son and mine were best buddies throughout preschool and elementary school. They used to call themselves "brothers from another mother." Oh, but now that I'm making small talk at an awards' banquet I'm a whore? Why would this be? Oh, yeah, because I'm a single parent so MUST be out trolling at an awards' banquet.

C'mon, people, stop being assholes. 

For ten years, I've been the solo parent in the house--the only adult here to manage bills, household repairs, run the kids to their various sporting events, help them with their homework, read them to sleep, teach them about life's losses and joys, keep them clothed and fed, wiped their tears and celebrated their accomplishments, chopped down trees and figured out how to run a chainsaw, and dealt with snotty people who thought me saying, "I'm a widow" in response to being overwhelmed times (but still getting it all done) was some sort of "cop out". Guess what? Stating that I'm a single mom is NOT a cop out...it's a fact. Here I am keeping the lights on while stretching both the budget and the time--solo. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week--all me. And I have done it all while building not one, but two businesses. 

And you think you know me? You don't. 

You don't know how many nights I have cried myself to sleep from being overwhelmed and lonely. You don't know how the knowledge that I used to have all of you as friends but you vanished when my husband died has impacted my trust of others. Or maybe you vanished because I wasn't as "fun" as I used to be--who the hell knows? I don't. You don't know that I still love my husband even after all this time because I loved him the day he died and I see him in my kids' eyes. You don't know that I miss having girlfriends. You don't know that I don't date because every man (single, by the way) I attempted to know has called my kids "baggage"so I gave up because I choose being a mom over being a girlfriend. You don't know how I've crumbled to the floor in despair over not being able to pay all my bills and wondered how I'd survive. You don't know that I remember every broken promise you all ever made to me or my children. You don't know that, yes, I am angry at being abandoned, but not by my husband, by all of you who said you'd be there for me and weren't. You don't know how I look at my kids on awards' night and am amazed that we've not only "managed", we've excelled as a threesome. 

You don't know. 

So the next time you're judging a single mom for talking to a man and decide to whisper lies and assumptions--shut up. Perhaps go up to the woman--someone you used to call 'friend' before tragedy intervened--and say a simple "hello, how are you?" Because you don't really know, do you? 

Melissa Rivers recently did an interview saying how Joan had always been on the outside looking in, never invited to the parties (that were usually couples only), and carried the stain of her husband's suicide with her to the very end. Always excluded. Always lonely. Always judged despite being a smart businesswoman, funny lady, and charitable soul. 

So I know this isn't "just me." It happens to many of us--whether divorced or widowed, male or female--the single parenting road is hard and it isn't something we have chosen, but it's something we do. Yes, some do it better than others, but the driving force for all of us is love. 

Have I gone out whoring to find a man to take care of me? Obviously not. I've taken care of myself and my kids and am deserving of respect, not glares. So why the assumption that I'd be flirting with some married guy I've known for 14 years at an awards' banquet with my son sitting next to me and his wife two tables up? It's insulting! If anyone has a "morality problem" in this scenario, it sure as hell isn't me. 

I do feel like I am pressed against the glass, staring at a life I used to know while being excluded from all the festivities because I lack a certain "accessory", and wondering where is the compassion? Where is the benefit of the doubt, the kindness? Why must women be the first to tear down one of their own and choose to believe the worst rather than discover the truth?  

The truth is that I'm pretty damn spectacular and you've all missed out on this journey. Do you know where I traveled last month and the amazing people I met? Do you know where I'm going next week?  Do you know how kind and wonderful my children--now a young woman and young man--have become? No, you don't. That's too bad--for you. Maybe you could have learned something because, one day, you may be in my shoes on the outside looking in and wondering what the hell happened.  


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Love and Death and the Hardening of My Heart #grief #life

I'm tired of goodbyes.

My dog died this past Monday, May 4--he'd been with me for nearly 12 years. He'd been the object of more than one show-and-tell at the kids' elementary schools, had chased deer into the middle of a highway in a thunderstorm, acted as the practice goalie for my son in front of the soccer net in our yard, stood guard over me every night, traveled with us as we tacked on the mileage of my 13 year old SUV, herded the kids when I needed a helping hand getting them to bed, cuddled with me every time I've been sad. I called him my co-pilot because he was a truer friend to me than any human being I've ever known.

One more ending to sort out in my mind.

May is a hard month for me. On May 2, I remembered being at a play ten years ago where my first grader son dressed up like a bee. We were still a family of four then. Sean had looked so damn handsome in his blue button-down shirt, tan, and blond hair. He'd come home early to make sure he'd be ready for the play. People even stopped us to tell us what a good looking family we were--and that night I knew they meant it. No, not because I was vain, but because I felt it down deep.

But I was so blind--how could I have been so out of touch with someone I loved? What didn't I see behind his smile?

May 2nd--the same night of the play--was the date scrawled on top of the first note I found after his suicide that said over and over again--I am so sad, I am so sad, I am so sad. 

That is all he'd written. Those words and the date. The impact hit me like a hammer to the head.
My hands had shaken when I'd read those words while my mind raced about what I hadn't seen.
There I'd been smiling, holding his hand, beaming at my son the bumble bee while my daughter hung out on daddy's lap. Oblivious.

Now May 4th will be added to my list of dates to remember--Dusty dying in the wee hours of the morning after I had stroked his speckled fur and told him how sorry I was he had to get sick and how he was my best bud.

I'm tired of death. I understand that there are things in the Universe that are beyond my control, but I'm worn out from it all. I've had too much death in ten years--my husband, my good friend Lisa, my grandma, my grandpa, Taz, and now Dusty. So many goodbyes. Too many tears.

In a few weeks, we will cross the ten year anniversary of Sean's suicide. Yes, I've done very well and come so very far. My kids are amazing human beings who I'm proud to know.

But there have been so many goodbyes. My heart feels hollow.

Friends who I thought were true have disappeared when I expressed how I honestly felt over something or did something besides plaster on the smile. Poof! I once read a meme somewhere about true friends not caring if you're a bitch one day, if your house is a mess, if you lose all your money, if you're sick, if you gain weight...and it struck a chord. Authentic (human) friends are as rare as unicorns.

Family I thought would never betray me, have.

Pets who were part of my life with Sean as we started a family together--Taz the yellow lab was our first puppy who arrived here when our son was still in diapers and now Dusty who blessed our lives a few years later--they were links to that life, that American dream I had for awhile. Gone. I miss them the most--their unwavering loyalty, their snuggles, their humor, and their love.

I don't like May. Too many memories--all of them filled with questions.

Tonight I think of Dusty, my dog who died two days ago, and hope he knew how much I loved him. I reach my foot out for him beneath my desk and only find his empty dog bed. I double-check before I stand because I've been so used to tripping over him--he was constantly by my side. Did he know I loved him? Did he know how grateful I was for his constant companionship? 

Another goodbye. Another absence to accept.

I'm approaching a decade of being a widow. That seems like a long time to me and, believe me, I put a lot of pressure on myself to persevere. After all, I'm a solo parent--persevering is what we do best. But two weeks ago I sat in LAX during a layover between flights when a man set next to me--very well-dressed and handsome--and started talking. Out of the blue he announces that he is a widower, that he has been for seventeen years, and has only just now started dating again. We talked like old friends wrapped in the buzz of a busy airport about how being widowed is drastically different than being divorced. It seems that only those of us who have walked this particular path understand how deeply we've been wounded and it takes someone special to know how to walk with us.

I feel my heart hardening.

With all of my goodbyes, I always wonder one thing--did they know how much I loved them? Because I wouldn't be thinking of any of them now if I hadn't. Did Sean know how deeply I loved him and how proud I was to be his wife? Did Dusty know that he was much more than a dog to me?

Love is a complicated emotion--to give love we must open our hearts, but when we do, we become vulnerable to being hurt in the most soul-crushing ways.

So many goodbyes...

Perhaps I'm rambling in this post--I apologize. My mind is foggy with grief both present and past as I sort out what it means to love and to lose. I suppose the main question I need to answer is: do I regret any of the love I've given?

No.

I only regret that I didn't or couldn't love more.






Sunday, March 29, 2015

Piece by Piece the Past Falls Away #StartingOver #Life


One more piece of the my history is becoming...well, history. It's 2015, which means it's time to renew my driver's license. So what, right? It marks the passing of ten years and, more than that, sets off a countdown to an anniversary that I dread.

How did I get here? It's all a blur of kids growing up--swim meets, friends I no longer see, wine bottles consumed by the firelight, sobs in the dark, soccer games, lacrosse meets, horrible dates, fabulous vacations, graduations, and college dorms. Yet here I remain in a house where I brought babies home and where I witnessed my husband's last breath.

Why am I thinking about all of these things simply because it's time to renew a driver's license? Because I look at that picture and remember...

In my mind's eye, I see the day as if it were happening now. It was the day before my birthday--I push deadlines of all kinds to the very edge--and my husband was working up north. He'd been gone for a few days on the job site. On the way to get my license, he'd called me and we laughed over something mundane. He said he'd be back home in time for my birthday.

He never showed up. In fact, it was the first birthday of mine since we'd been together that he missed. He fell off the grid for three days, which was very unusual because we were the type of couple who called or texted multiple times a day just to stay in touch. His boss assured me that he was on the work site and I needn't worry...but I knew in my heart that something very serious had shifted.

I heard the drum of doom long before May 29, the day he committed suicide, but I had no idea what to do about it.

I look at this drivers' license picture and I see a woman who is oblivious to what her life is about to become. I see the innocence in my eyes and the confident smile. Despite the rocky relationship, I had hope that we'd get back on track because there is one thing that I never doubted--love. I believed at the time that love could conquer all and we had that without a doubt. We'd survived his alcoholism and moved on--I believed in us. 

Sean never showed up for the birthday dinner. The unraveling began then, but I couldn't put my finger on the cause no matter how hard I wracked my brain.

I accused him of drinking again, of falling off the wagon...he countered with me being paranoid and not letting go of the past.

"What do I need to do to prove myself to you?" he'd ask and I'd question my instinct.

Money started disappearing from the account--the kids and I spent the rest of April living on green beans and whatever else we found in the pantry because he kept taking cash out of the accounts and maxing out the credit cards.

"Why do you need all of this money? Where is it going? I don't understand," I'd say.

"I'm working away from home, it's my money, why don't you trust me?" he'd reply.

That was it, the unraveling of life as I knew it to be, but I didn't understand that day I was getting the drivers' license picture taken with my innocent eyes and confident smile. At that moment, I trusted that we'd grow old together.

But then he never showed for my birthday and I knew...deep inside in the dark recesses of my heart where ancient knowledge whispers...I knew something horrible was creeping up on my little family.

One more piece of the past that I'm letting go. A simple driver's license. No big deal, right? Maybe not, but when I look at it now I can recall sitting in my front seat with my cell phone pressed to my ear and laughing at something my husband said and wondering if I should have picked up on a clue. I didn't. I continued on with my day in ignorant bliss. Things happened.

I'm no longer that woman in that picture. In fact, she looks like a stranger to me.

As I surrender this license for a new one, I can't help but wonder what the camera will see in my eyes this time...they definitely aren't innocent any longer, perhaps they are a darker blue, but I'm hoping they shine with the inner strength I've come to embrace.


Peace to you,
Amber
http://www.amberleaeaston.com 

Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of both fiction and nonfiction. Her memoir about surviving the suicide of her husband and raising two young children through the grief and trauma has been named "One of the Ten Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read." It has also graced both national and international best seller lists. She wrote it with the intention of spreading suicide awareness and nurturing a culture of compassion. 


Free Fall Blurb

"Understanding suffering always helps the energy of compassion to be born."
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

In an instant my husband stripped away my identity as wife, stay-at-home mom, and best friend. With his suicide, our world changed forever. He'd been the center of our universe, but then he was gone.

Grief is a dark journey, one often tainted with judgment and false perceptions. Add the word 'suicide' to the mix and more complications arise. This memoir, Free Fall, is intended for those who may be facing their own tragedy and feeling alone, hopeless, confused, scared, and misunderstood.

Free Fall is the journey of piecing our lives back together—overcoming children's anxiety as we traversed the brutal grief and trauma process, learning to say the words 'widow' and 'single mom' without cringing, surviving the fall out with friends and family who simply couldn't understand our healing process, triumphing over the stigma of 'suicide', forgiving my husband, and finding peace after chaos.

Free Fall is for widows, widowers, parents, survivors of suicide, family members or friends of one who mourns. This story is for anyone who needs encouragement that there is another side to grief. There is. We're there now. We're looking back and holding our hands out to you saying, "hang in there, you're not alone, and you'll get here, too."
Reviews (In case you'd like to add a few to the post):

5 stars via Author Susan Hawthorne:
Have you ever wondered what you should say... or not say... or were afraid to say anything at all, read this. The insights are deep and true.
I'd recommend this book to everyone. We all suffer loss at some point and this book lights the path. (see full review here: http://amzn.to/15PXtsu)

5 stars via ChristophFischerBooks:
I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. From the moment Easton finds her husband, to the humiliating and insensitive behaviour of the emergency and police services on the scene, to family and friends unable to provide appropriate help to dealing with the long term consequences of bereavement this book is an emotional tour de force that will stay with me for a long time.
A remarkable woman, an inspiring book, outstandingly told and indispensable on the self-help / inspirational publishing market. Tragic, raw, without make-up but with a message of hope and encouragement for others. (see full review here: http://amzn.to/15PXtsu)

5 stars via Pastor Jennifer Swier: Free Fall is a helpful and encouraging look into one family's journey with the pain and healing of losing someone deeply loved through suicide. Her sharing is warm, loving, encouraging, and thoughtful. I found I couldn't put it down once I began. Amber's writing is compelling and will connect with all who share the journey with a family member or friend who is healing following the tragic death of the person they love: that we may begin to imagine what they are going through only because we hear the story they share.  (see full review here: http://amzn.to/15PXtsu)

5 stars via linz:
This book has helped me with my own grief. I would recommend this book to anyone. But more to those who don't understand losing someone to suicide.
She is very honest in laying out her and her family's experience. It's refreshing to read true experience rather than text book advise. (see full review here: http://amzn.to/15PXtsu)



Saturday, January 31, 2015

Bending in the Storm of Life #Friendships #Relationships #kindness


The Dalai Lama said, "Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate kindness and compassion." 

This is a simple concept, yet rare to find on an every day basis. I hear too many stories lately of insensitivity in our day-to-day lives. I am not sure what is causing this lack of compassion. Perhaps it is the stress of a struggling economy or the dehumanization in our technological world. Or maybe we have become a society of "I" instead of "we".  

I have experienced great loss in my life, as have many people. During this time of grieving, I have learned that the concepts of kindness and compassion need some tweaking.  

For example, my son was only 7 when my husband committed suicide, yet was told soon after that his daddy had gone to live in hell. I, who had found my husband hanging in a closet with kids screaming "daddy, daddy" over my shoulder, was told to "wake up one morning and say today is the day I am over this." One of my closest friends told me only months after the suicide that she simply didn't have the "energy to deal with it all" and completely stepped out of my life. My daughter suffered severe anxiety attacks after witnessing this tragedy, yet people to this day fail to see her dad's suicide as the trigger for her ongoing insecurity and nervous habits. You may be shocked to read these examples, but they are true and all said by someone who called us a friend. We wounded souls needed compassion, but instead received judgment.

My experiences have caused me to change my view of the world and to redefine my definition of friend. To me, a friend is someone who gives the benefit of the doubt at all times until proven differently. A friend is someone who encourages and inspires rather than doubts and mocks. A friend is someone who loves unconditionally rather than bails at the first hint of trouble. A friend does say "I'm sorry" when necessary. A friend has boundless energy when needed to help another in crisis. A friend sees the best in me and loves me even at my worst. A friend accepts rather than rejects. 

Kindness and compassion are habits we cannot afford to lose in today's busy and tech savvy world. Today I ask you to not only show these traits to others, but to feel them down deep in your heart. When you see a stranger, smile rather than avoid eye contact. See what happens! I bet you'll get a smile in return--or I hope you do. When you feel irritation churn in your gut, replace it with compassion and look at the situation from someone else's point of view. You may be surprised at what you see. And if there is someone you know who is struggling, have the energy to express kindness rather than judgment.  

As the saying goes, everyone we meet is fighting some kind of battle...the man who cuts you off in traffic...the cashier at the supermarket who mutters beneath her breath...the teller at the bank who won't make eye contact...the neighbor who never waves back.  Looking through eyes filled with kindness changes our perception of the entire world.  


What can you do today to show kindness and compassion while expecting nothing in return?  Trust me...when you expect nothing, you receive more than you ever imagined in the long run.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Get Your Thrills This Weekend #Thriller #TheHealer

Who doesn't like a good thriller that keeps you squirming in your seat and unable to stop reading until the last page? I know that's my favorite kind of book! Today I'm happy to host a new release by an amazing author, Christoph Fischer. Here's a glimpse. 

When advertising executive Erica Whittaker is diagnosed with terminal cancer, western medicine fails her. The only hope left for her to survive is controversial healer Arpan. She locates the man whose touch could heal her but finds he has retired from the limelight and refuses to treat her.  Erica, consumed by stage four pancreatic cancer, is desperate and desperate people are no longer logical nor are they willing to take no for an answer. Arpan has retired for good reasons, casting more than the shadow of a doubt over his abilities. So begins a journey that will challenge them both as the past threatens to catch up with him as much as with her.  Can he really heal her? Can she trust him with her life? And will they both achieve what they set out to do before running out of time?



About the author...
Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years he moved on to the UK where he now lives in a small hamlet, not far from Bath.  He and his partner have three Labradoodles to complete their family. 
Christoph worked for the British Film Institute, in Libraries, Museums and for an airline. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ was published in November 2012; 'Sebastian' in May 2013 and The Black Eagle Inn in October 2013. "Time To Let Go" , his first contemporary work was published in May 2014, and “Conditions” in October 2014. His medical thriller "The Healer" was released in January 2015. 
He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalization.