Thanks to those of you who tried to listen to me on the radio program I was on last week. I have the audio file now. So, if you’re interested, here it is:

The official race title is the Shamrock Shuffle. But, for my family, it’s the day we get together to memorialize Shayna.  For us, it’s Shayna’s Shining Stars Walk. During the gatherings at Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. we all think about Shayna. Some of us talk about her. Some of us avoid talking about her. This day is all about Shayna. Just as she would have it. Before Shayna passed we were somewhat associated with the Shamrock Shuffle, a 5K and 10K for charity. One year her Girl Scout troop did a project at the event and they asked me to be the photographer. But, since she has crossed over, we have used the event to raise money for her scholarship fund. Our neighbors, family, and friends contribute and over forty participate.

Tywana’s whole family, with the exception of her brother Eric, tries to make it into town for the race. Kayla comes down from Toledo for the weekend. From my side, only my brother Brent’s family comes- he, his wife and his four children. Last year, my cousin planned a party for our fathers the day of the race. This year, another cousin’s wedding was in Dallas on the same day. I’ve chosen to be here for Shayna’s Day instead of attending these events. This year, for the first time, Tywana’s sister and her family can’t make it. My brother has gone to Dallas for the wedding. Normally, we have a house full of people sleeping over on the eve of the race. This year it’s just Kayla and her boyfriend spending the night.

We have the traditional pasta party at our house the night before the race. Kayla is working late. So, she doesn’t get in until around 10 PM.

In spite of the no shows, we have 42 people on the team this year. Race day weather is iffy, as is the tradition. It’s Ohio, in March. At race time it’ about 35º without a hint of sunshine. There’s a light breeze. At least it’s not raining. Before the race we meet several members of the team at the clock tower for a photo. There aren’t enough at the house to get the traditional photo on the steps. Four of the Shayna Six, as a few of Shayna’s friends call themselves now, show up in their purple Smith t-shirts. Four years after her passing and a year after their graduation and they still show for her.

As the time for the race draws near, we line up for the start. I put in my earphones and get ready for the start. There are 2,300 people here. But, I walk alone. I don’t want to talk to anyone. When I do the race, I commune with Shayna. The runners sprint way out ahead of me. The people socializing during the race are behind me. I speed walk in the middle of the pack, thinking of my girl, grateful that forty friends, family, and neighbors spend their money and take their time to help us remember her even four years after her leaving her body.  I take each step bringing me one step closer to the finish line and think of it as one day closer in my journey back to Shayna. I wish she could be here. But, then it dawns on me if she were here, we wouldn’t be here. I’d still trade all of this to have her back though. She’d be a freshman at my alma mater, OSU.

After the race, we head home and have breakfast. I make waffles for the crew. Everyone leaves early leaving just Kayla, her boyfriend, Tywana and me.

We watch a movie and it’s time for bed. Kayla goes to let the dogs out the front door and comes back and asks “Do hummingbirds come out at night?” I tell her I don’t know since if they did we couldn’t see them. I’ve never seen one at night. She then says that she saw a hummingbird hovering on the front porch as she let the dogs out. This is early March in Ohio.  Hummingbirds are rare here, even in the spring and summer. They migrate South during the winter. There is no doubt it’s still winter. There should be no hummingbirds here. I haven’t seen a hummingbird since at least September. I’ve never seen one at night.

This morning, I take my seven-mile walk. I spot first a female cardinal, then a few minutes later a male cardinal. They both cross directly in front of my path. Several minutes later I look up and I see a heron high overhead. I see herons very rarely here. I think I’ve seen four in over twenty years, all within the last several months. Shayna sends birds to us as signs often. A hummingbird in March, two cardinals, a heron all in less than twenty-four hours. Thanks, Shayna! I hope you like what we did for your walk this time.

This is a heron.

Today I meet a friend for brunch. On this post-material (nod to Gary Schwartz) Shayna journey, Bill has been there every step. He led Shayna’s memorial service and he and I have taken long walks regularly where he’s helped me process this. I’ve said things to Bill I wouldn’t say to many other people. As a former pastor and current divorce counselor, he’s got the active listening skills and techniques to make me feel comfortable sharing with him.

As I’ve gone along the journey, he’s been looking for signs of progress. I can sense that, as a counselor, he wants to see me making progress. I don’t know about progress. In those first several days, weeks, and months progress seemed impossible. It wasn’t even something to be sought. All I wanted to do was to be with Shayna. I just wanted the pain to end. If someone mentioned a future beyond tomorrow, it was beyond my comprehension. I didn’t want to think about the immediate future- only the long term future when I would finally leave this realm.

It’s interesting checking in with Bill. It’s typically once or twice a month that we’ll get together. During this entire time, the business has been a struggle. As my financial planner, Bill has intimate knowledge of my finances. He always asks about the business as well as about my mental and emotional state and as someone who cannot tolerate people who do nothing but complain, I get tired of hearing myself report the same thing week after week, into months, and years. I tell him I’m working on patience. But, I have to report the truth. If you don’t want to hear it, don’t ask. But, Bill has been patient listening to me say that not much has changed.

Today, at brunch, Bill asks the same questions. There have been some changes recently. Expenses are way down as I’ve stopped pouring money into things that weren’t working. Advertising is working since trying a new scheme with Google ads. The part-time job with Thomas helps. Tywana has a full-time job. The distribution deal is back in the realm of possibility. And, there’s more. Bill is excited for me saying this is the most positive he has heard me. I guess that’s true. But, I’m just reporting the facts.

Then, he says something to me he has said before. I can’t recall his exact phrasing. But, it’s part of his Divorce and Beyond ministry lexicon. The goal is to move people past the point where the divorce is no longer “life-defining”. He’s been counseling me using his divorce counseling skills. As he’s phrasing what he wants to say very carefully, I’m thinking about how I’m going to respond. I greatly appreciate all that he’s done and is doing for me. But, I’ve got to correct him on this point. Shayna’s passing is life-defining for me. It always will be. It can be no other way, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. He clarifies. “What I mean is no longer defining your life as before Shayna passed and after Shayna passed.” I take this to mean like a B.C. / A.D. thing. Man, I want to agree with you Bill. But, no.

Yes, my life is split into two halves (well not halves exactly). I label my blog posts with the number of days it’s been since Shayna’s passing. I’m counting up the days until we are reunited. He asks me if I reflect on how things have changed on milestone dates since Shayna’s passing, her birthday, her angel date, etc. When you’re divorced, I guess you do that, for a while. At this point, with my divorce over three decades in the rearview mirror, I struggle to remember our anniversary date. I don’t recall Mary’s birthday. I think of her and it a couple of times a year, only when something triggers it. I tell Bill I think of Shayna every single day. My day starts and ends with her on my mind, and she’s on my mind all during the day. Shayna motivates most of what I do now. It’s Sunday morning, and I’m sitting here making an entry into the blog named after her. After this, I’ll work on the life-coaching class I’m taking that I would not be taking had I not been placed on this path by her passing. I think I can safely say there will never be an event in my life that is more life-defining than Shayna’s passing. There certainly has not been.

Then, Bill says that what he means is he sees me moving on. The phrase moving on is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Technically, I don’t know that there is any difference between the two, but for me when I picture moving on, I see leaving Shayna in the past. To move on means to leave behind. I will never move on. I’ve moved on from my divorce. It’s in my past. I’ve taken lessons from it. I rarely think about it. And I certainly don’t want to reflect on it daily. I explain to Bill what he sees is me moving forward. Moving forward is very different from moving on. I carry Shayna with me as I move forward. While I’ve always looked forward to my reunion with Shayna, I am seeing that some good can happen between now and then as she is still with me, inspiring me, pushing me. She connects with me through signs, synchronicities, drop-ins with mediums, and in dreams. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together, and I see so many ways the Universe is conspiring to make that happen.

I think the change Bill sees in me is immediately after Shayna passed all I could think about was the past. All of my happiness was in the past. I wanted to go back to the past. I either wanted to clock to fast forward to the end or turn back to before she left. Anything to be out of the present. What I’ve come to is a place where I feel Shayna still with me and where I am focused on where we are going.

With Shining Lights Parents, language can be a trigger that can send us spiraling. Language matters. “Committed suicide” is a phrase that has connotations of suicide being a crime. We commit murder, we commit a bank robbery. We search for new language that is more sensitive and honors the person who has passed and the family. Completed suicide is a phrase that has less judgemental implications.

hayna’s passing will always be a life-defining event for me, as we planned it. It’s supposed to be. I want it to be. If a day goes by and I don’t think of Shayna, something has gone very wrong. It means dementia has set in. I will never move on. I will move forward, together with Shayna. I will continue moving toward Shayna and the completion of my journey. And with that, Day 1340 is underway. It’s time for me to study my life coaching course.

I have a tendency to minimize the good things and emphasize the bad. Losses I remember. Victories, I take in stride. I am turning that around. It’s mid-February, we are already a month and a half in. I am acknowledging several beginnings this year. Tywana’s got a new job. Kayla will be graduating in a few weeks. My car loan is paid off in June. I am educating myself in preparation for some new business ventures.

Last year, I decided I was going to publish a book. I gathered up some materials that I had written for Treasured Locks and put them into a Kindle book. I researched how to create and publish on the Kindle platform and I put it out there. A couple of days ago, Amazon sent my 1099 for the royalties. It was $16.32.

I could look at this and say $16.32 won’t even buy me a meal out. When I think about the hours I put into putting the book together, making the cover, learning the Amazon platform, it comes out to pennies an hour. Or, I could look at this and say “I am a published author.” I have my first book out and I’ve gotten paid. This is a stepping stone to my next book and my next book. The fact that I made any royalties at all on a book I spent absolutely nothing to promote, swimming in the sea of what seems to be billions of books on Amazon, is pretty cool.

The goal for this year is to publish at least one more book. And, then another, and another.

This silver bird takes me ‘cross the sky
Just one more hour and I’ll be home and dry
‘Cross the ocean, way above the clouds I come stealing
Feeling tired, but I feel good
‘Cause I did everything I said I would
I think of you and I know how you’ll be feeling

I got to see you, I got to be with you
We’ll make it better now in every way
It’s got to be you, it’s got to be you
Yes, from now on I’ll tell you every day

Way up here, above this timeless sea
I realize just what it is you mean to me
You give me something when I thought that everything we had was dying
I needed reason just to make me carry on
Well, I know better now, I know where I belong
I can’t imagine how I ever let myself just give up trying

Gerry Rafferty- Home & Dry from the album City to City

What a day. It begins when I hear from a mother from HPH who messaged me repeatedly yesterday threatening suicide and telling me she had run away from home. I reached out to others to see if they could reach out to her. I tried calling. She refused to answer. I messaged her she was needed here and left it in God’s hands. It was all I could do. She stopped messaging me. This morning, she sheepishly tells me she is still here and apologizes for what she put me through. I shame her thoroughly. I take any talk of suicide very seriously. Was she just seeking attention? Possibly. It’s not for me to take that for granted though. I tell her that she is needed, that she has responsibilities here yet. She’s been through hell in her life. I know people who have endured things that most of us can’t even imagine. When I’ve marveled at her bravery, she has told me that she had to endure these things to develop the empathy she’s developed. I tell her again, we signed up for this. We must endure. I give her the key to my survival, one day at a time. I don’t have to make it years, or months, or weeks. When I’m feeling the way she was feeling, I set my site on hours. I just need to make it until tonight. If I can make it until tonight, I can fall into bed, fall asleep, and start over tomorrow. I can always make it until tonight.

Tywana’s mother is moving today. She’s spent five years in independent living in a retirement center around the corner from us. That’s probably five years longer than she should have been in independent living. But, the time of scraping by has come to an end and it’s time to move her downstairs where someone can keep a closer eye on her 24×7. She’s not happy about it and she lets us know. Tywana has to take off half a day of work to help her make the move. All in all, it’s over eight hours of helping her move, rearranging her room, going to Costco to buy a refrigerator for her, delivering the refrigerator to her, etc. She’s in rare form today, complaining about life, asking twenty times in twenty minutes why Tywana has decided to move her down here, asking which floor she is currently on, asking which floor she has just come from, and asking who I am. She’s on a loop. This is the first time she has not recognized me. It’s understandable. I rarely visit her here, only to come to deliver something or fix something. She comes to our house. I’m also wearing a hat and coat since it’s literally 0º out. So, unfamiliar surroundings coupled with me in “disguise”. I understand why she’s having trouble placing me.

In between all the questions is the complaint. “I don’t know why I am still here. I can’t wait until the Good Lord calls me.” And, there are words thrown in that I didn’t know she even knew. She is cussing like a sailor. This is not the mild-mannered, soft-spoken woman I’ve known for over three decades. Dementia and depression have turned her into someone she would be ashamed of. All she wants is to be Home. Everyone tries to convince her she’s living in a great place. And, she is. The food is good. There are all kinds of activities. She’s loved by the residents and the staff. But, she wants to be Home and Dry. Nothing else will do. I fell ya, Margaret. I do.

When we get home, Tywana heads upstairs for some alone time. I can’t blame her. It’s been a hard day. Her mother is miserable and she’s had to spend the day listening to her complain while Tywana is sacrificing money (from not working) and time to help her. Margaret is convinced she can go back to Springfield and live on her own. But, she doesn’t lift a finger to move into her own place. It can be frustrating if you forget this isn’t really the Margaret we know.

The thing that makes us think we can’t make it is we think it will be like this “forever”. And, we know we cannot endure this pain forever. That causes us to seek an immediate end. I don’t blame my friend for wanting to kill herself. I don’t blame Margaret for wanting to go Home. Who the hell doesn’t want to go Home? I think of it every single day. I have suicidal thoughts. I also want an end. I tell this to my friend who’s been contemplating suicide. But, this is part of the plan. I’m on a mission. We’re all on a mission. We are walking each other back home, to mix metaphors with the Gerry Rafferty lyrics I opened with. I suppose he wrong this song while on the road thinking about having done his gigs and returning to his sweetie in the physical. But, when I listen to it 40 years after he performed it, I think about being on the return trip from my (completed) mission and seeing my sweetie.

To my fellow travelers who are just as weary as I am, hang in there. Nothing in this life lasts forever. Savor the good, because it’s fleeting. Endure the pain because it’s temporary. One day soon we’ll be Home and Dry.

p.s.- In my dreams after the stressful day, I’m playing golf again. I play golf often in my dreams. But, the physics are weird and we play on crazy courses. I’m with my friend Irene and we’re teeing off. Instead of the ball being on the ground, it sits on a tee that brings it up to almost chest high- like kids teeball. The driver is short but it’s still nearly impossible for me to play from this type of tee. Normally, I just try but today I say “Let’s look for a course where the tees are on the ground and we don’t have to tee off from indoors.”. While we’re looking around, I notice the pro shop. I want to buy some new clubs. But, I know I’m not spending money on frivolous stuff right now. Then, I realize that I’m on the “other side”. I know that if I think about this too much, I’ll wake up. But, I manage to stay in the dream a while longer. I can spend money here because here money is unlimited. I don’t have to be miserly. I’ll buy the clubs now and I’ll have them for the next time I’m back to play. I notice they are giving a lecture on the various brands that are available. I’m going to sit in. I look at some pretty amazing putters while I’m waiting. And, I look forward to coming back.

The mundane greeting “What’s happening?” is often met with a “Not much”. No one really wants to know everything that’s going on in your life. Sometimes, I want to tell them what is happening.

This morning, the guy I helped run a focus group for his upcoming book/course, emailed me and asked me for an update on what is going on with me. He gave me a little free coaching when we worked together. We haven’t talked since early December. For the first time, I wrote out what I’ve got going on and I realized why I’m feeling overwhelmed right now.

The last several years I’ve been frustrated looking for opportunities and wondering when doors would begin opening for me. In Phoenix in May of 2016 I heard a sermon “It’s Hell In The Hallway” that stuck with me. When one door closes behind you, you’re in a hallway looking at many doors wondering when and if any of them will open.

Late last year things started shifting. It seems all kinds of doors are opening up. As I sit here in January 2019, a dizzying array of possibilities swirls around in my head. Looking down that long hallway, doors are opening and cracks of light are shining through. I can’t go through all of the doors though. So, choices will have to be made.

1.) Helping Parents Heal has invited me to join the Board of Directors. So, that happened. I’m on the board of directors for HPH.

2.) HPH asked me to form a new group for parents and mediums to meet on Facebook. HPH is no longer affiliated with that group that I started. So, I’m running a new Facebook group in addition to being a moderator on Afterlife Topics (7,000 people or so) and running the HPH Online Group (4,000 people and counting).

3.) I’m working very part-time for Thomas John- The Seatbelt Psychic. I do his social media and customer service. That’s about eight hours a week.

4.) I’m working on a partnership in a new business venture. The idea is to have courses/materials around the afterlife and healing from grief. We hope to launch in the next couple of weeks. We have created a Facebook page and will eventually have a website.

5.) I’m taking a MasterHeart course with business consultant George Kao. It’s a year-long training/collaboration with 45 other entrepreneurs. The idea is to learn how to launch my own business outside of Treasured Locks. I will use ideas from this in whichever business ventures pan out.

6.) I’m a technical assistant for the San Francisco Theological Seminary- I’ll be working with them on five courses this year- at a minimum.

7.) I moved my blog to a new platform. I’m trying to get more traffic to it and use it as a platform to monetize some of the work I’m doing and my writing. I met a consultant I’m working with on this.

8.) Treasured Locks seems to be picking up a bit. I might have finally found an advertising scheme that works. I am working with my digital advertising agency to see if it makes sense to pump more money into that and get it to a steady revenue stream again.

9.) Ty took a full-time job working from home. The company is based in Tucson. She started Monday. She’s there this week for training. So, this week I’m packing orders, answering the phone, etc. doing all of the Treasured Locks stuff. We’ll have to see what happens with Treasured Locks and how we’ll have time for it.

10.) I started writing a course/book on grief. I’m not sure what form it will eventually take. I’m just putting thoughts on “paper” for now.

11.) I’m still volunteering for HPH, running the online group and the evening meetings several times a month. I play referee for 4,000 grieving parents on the group. I’m also a caring listener and take phone calls from parents.

12.) I’m on the SoulPhone board of directors- I’m the Secretary for the SoulPhone Foundation working with Dr. Gary Schwartz, Dr. Mark Pitstick and others on what could be the invention of the last several centuries.

So yeah. That’s what’s happening. This year will be about choices and time management.

January 13th, 2019- One thousand two hundred and ninety-nine days since Shayna’s “heavenly birthday.” Three weeks after Christmas, we finally had Tywana’s family in for the weekend to wrap up the Christmas celebration of 2018.

This winter has been wet, gray, and somewhat cold, but nothing like the bitter cold of January 2000, the year Shayna came into our lives. January 13th of that year was bitterly cold. I remember coming home from the hospital and putting out the stork sign in snow and ice and with a bitter wind blowing. As if on cue, yesterday, we got our first snow of the season. There are about six inches of snow on the ground. It’s a gray, snowy Sunday morning.

Tywana is starting her new job tomorrow. Today she is flying to Tuscon. As I type this, she sits in the airport in Covington, KY. Her sister, Shell. and her boys are in the car on the way back to West Virginia. Kayla and her boyfriend will be packing up soon and driving back to Toledo to begin her final semester in school there. I will be alone on Shayna’s birthday and for the week.

Yesterday, we had Costco pizza and chocolate cake. These were Shayna’s favorites. We did a Yankee gift swap with Tywana’s family. All of the nephews (there are only boys on Ty’s side of the family) are “men” now. Wesley, the youngest is 6’5″ and will be 21 this June. Tywana’s mother came over. She is so confused now that she asked several times whose house this is. She still recognizes all of her children, but she has trouble recognizing some of her grandchildren. As the time drew close to take her back to Cottingham, her retirement home, about five minutes away, she said she could get back herself. We asked her how she proposed to do this since she has no car, cannot walk without assistance, and can barely walk with assistance. She said she got herself here; she can get herself back. Curious, we asked how she thought she got here and where she thought she was. She thought she was at Cottingham. She prays daily to go “home” alternatively referring to Springfield, where she lived her entire life until the age of 77, and home to heaven where she can be free of pain, free of the confusion of dementia, and with her beloved husband, Felton. Who can blame her?

This morning, when I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was the time 07:07 on my clock. I immediately thought about Shayna’s birthday. As is my practice upon waking, I listed three things to be grateful for today. It’s getting easier to come up with the three. Today, one of the things that came to me was that Shayna’s exit was easy. Increasingly, I believe in soul planning and exit points. When we first discovered Shayna’s heart issue, it was after we had found out about her rheumatoid arthritis. Shayna’s blood RA factors were incredibly high when we discovered that she had RA. We had to take her to occupational therapy. They told us about various devices she could use to make things easier for her. They taught her different ways to tie her shoes and fit her with prosthetic devices for her shoes. I envisioned a life of Shayna having gnarled hands and living in pain. The doctor prescribed powerful medications; which kept her arthritis under control. We were blessed. She suffered no side effects from these drugs that compromised her immune system and came with lists of possible side effects that included cancer and death. But, I didn’t feel blessed. My health child was now on medication that she might have to be on for life. I fought every day to simply be grateful for that day and try not to think about the suffering she might endure if the drugs stopped working or if the side effects came. Every week when I had to give that injection, and every week when I had to count out those seven poisonous pills to take to her as she slept (she had to take them on an empty stomach several hours before eating), I couldn’t decide if I was helping her or poisoning her.

The heart condition Shayna had was supposed to be no more than a minor annoyance. Yet, she had two procedures, had to wear a monitor for a month, and eventually whatever was going in her heart took her life. She was seeing a cardiologist. Shayna tore her ACL and had to have surgery and recover from that. Her last few years were tough for a little girl. I wondered when she would get a break and life would return to “normal”.

So, where is the gratitude in this? Shayna didn’t have to deal with the possible ravages of arthritis had the drugs stopped working. She didn’t have to deal with the side effects of decades on drugs that were so hard on her immune system and liver. She was able to play basketball and volleyball, at a highly competitive level, right up until the day she slipped over to the Other Side. I am grateful for what Shayna, and I, didn’t have to go through. In those days I would wonder, if I left before Shayna (which was the plan), who would take care of her should things go badly with her health.

Of course, I would prefer to have Shayna here with me. The celebrations without her are heartbreaking. Every Christmas, every birthday, every New Year’s sucks. I have shed many, many tears thinking about what we are missing without Shayna being here. Thanksgiving, Kayla’s birthday, Christmas, and Shayna’s birthday all come in less than a two-month span. But, the life of these celebrations with Shayna is a fantasy. Had Shayna not taken the exit point she took her health, like everyone else’s, was not guaranteed. I can say this out loud now. Our healthy baby girl was not healthy when she left, as much as I was in denial about it. I wanted to call her healthy and I did. Maybe she took that exit to spare all of us a life that would have been painful. God only knows what life lay ahead of us had she stayed.

I am beyond grateful for the 15 years I had with Shayna as my daughter here. What a blessing she was and continues to be. Shayna was a force of nature from the moment she was born (I’m sure before). That first night in the hospital, her cry was so strong, forceful, and seemingly purposeful, the nurses told us that we were going to have our hands full with this one. And we did. Shayna always knew what she wanted and went after it with dogged determination. When she was two or three, I said I hoped she would use her power for good, not for evil. And she did. Shayna lived her time here to the full. She inspired those around her. She lifted them. She led by example. Today, I see the ripples of her life continuing to spread. I feel her with me and am learning to feel that more and more. Last night, Tywana said to me that January is almost half over, remarking on how fast time goes. Yes. Time does go fast. And, I’m grateful for that. Every day that passes is one day less standing between my baby and me. Happy 19th Birthday, baby. Thanks for being mine.

Today is the last day of the year. In our culture, we make certain days more significant than others. We set expectations for these 24 hour periods like they are special. In reality, each of them is exactly like any other day of the year. Ironically, what they have in common is that they are each unique.  Yet, we place expectations on them depending on where they fall on the calendar. Yet, Christmas is supposed to be like this.  New Year’s is supposed to be like that.

I saw so many parents talking about how much they dreaded Christmas that it triggered me to look at Christmas differently this year. I had that same dread. I purposely lowered expectations, not allowing myself to be disappointed because this Christmas wouldn’t be like Christmases in the past. And, to my pleasant surprise, it worked. Christmas was not so bad. It was actually somewhat pleasant because I took it for what it was, a day to hang out with Kayla and Tywana and enjoy our time together. Four days later, I had the Christmas celebration with the parents. Again, I reset my expectations, and I got through it with minimal pain and discomfort.

For many of us parents, New Year’s Day is even worse than Christmas. New Years is a time of beginnings. Society tells us we are supposed to look forward to the upcoming year. If we are still connected to our child in the past, we will feel that we are putting another year of distance between them and us. Starting another year without our child is a milestone we don’t want to pass. We want to hold onto the past. It makes it impossible to look forward with any desire for the future. If our child stopped existing on the day their body died, it’s as if we left them there and we are continuing forward. Each year they get farther and farther behind, in our rearview mirror.  Living my life looking back has been hell. I’m choosing another way. 

Therefore, I’m going to choose to look at this end of the year differently. I’m celebrating the close of 2018. 2018 has been a rough year. But, I endured. It’s been three and a half years since Shayna passed. That’s a lot of distance. I woke up this morning and congratulated myself on my journey. My God, three and a half years ago I could not anticipate getting up the next day, let alone surviving for one thousand two hundred and eighty-six days. To have made it this far is an accomplishment. When I raise that glass of champagne at midnight, I will gladly leave 2018 in the past. Good riddance.

Shayna walks with me. I didn’t leave her in 2015. Every day I know this more and more because I actively work to reinforce this truth, via my meditations, my reading, my studying, on my walks. The world tells me that my child died. I know that she simply made the transition I will make sooner than I did. She sits right here beside me on the other side of a thin veil. I refuse to leave Shayna behind in June of 2015. As time passes rather than look backward and see her fading into my past, I carry her with me, and I chooses to look forward. I long for the day when we are reunited. I rehearse that day in my meditations, meeting with her and other passed loved ones in a place in my mind. And, every day that passes brings me one day closer to her.

Adios 2018. Bring on 2019. I ‘m going to do everything I can in the coming year to fulfill my mission and to make Shayna proud of me. 

I didn’t know when I was lucky
Discontented feeling bad
Filled with envy
For possessions other people had
I found my pride had always hurt me
Fought the world to gain control
Not realising
I was sitting on a beach of gold
Oh lord I’m a poor man
With all the riches I can hold
I’m a beggar
And I’m sitting on a beach of gold
The problems I encountered
Gave me strength helped me sustain
To know the pleasure
First I had to cure the pain
When I was searching for solutions
I found the answer lay in me
I’m a drifter
But I’m drifting on a silver sea
I didn’t have courage
My life was as dark as night
When alone in the darkness
I saw the brightest light
Let the light shine down
– Mike and the Mechanics- Beggar On A Beach of Gold
I haven’t written much lately. Today is the first day of December. Twenty days till the solstice. It’s been dark, gray, cold, rainy, snowy- you know, Ohio in the fall. I’ve been busier than a one-armed paper hanger. The part-time gig working for one of the mediums I know, preparing for the holidays at Treasured Locks, volunteering for the SoulPhone, Greater Reality Living and Helping Parents Heal, interviewing for another gig with the seminary, helping an author finish the draft of his manuscript by co-leading a focus group. It’s a lot. And this week I launched another business venture that I’ll be announcing soon.

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to a Hay House podcast by Joe Dispenza. He was talking about his book “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself”.  The talk resonated with me, and I was strongly considering buying the book and taking a genuine shot at completely changing my personality. That’s when my buddy Nico announced he was in town for a few days and invited me to lunch. I always enjoy my time with Nico. We met after Shayna’s passing when a friend introduced us because of Nico’s unique connection with Spirit. Nico went on a spiritual journey after the passing of his mother, leaving his corporate job and following his passion around the world for the last three plus years. We don’t talk sports or weather. It’s all soul talk. We think maybe we were monks together somewhere in a past life. Nico’s excited about a new program he’s about to launch to help people change their personalities (or as he might put it, ditch their personalities). He’s done it with a few people with great results. I mentioned to him that I was just about to buy Joe Dispenza’s book because it seems to line up precisely with what Nico is doing. I tell Nico how I’m suffering and I’m tired of it. He asks me if I’m ready to give it up. I am.  This conversation prompts me to go ahead and buy the book- I get it on Audible and start to listen.

I’ve been listening to the book for the last couple of weeks. I’m absorbing the principles and recognizing how I’ve been sabotaging my life, feeling unworthy and subconsciously limiting myself. I continue to try and try new things, but always with the backdrop of feeling they won’t take off. I’ll continually struggle in survival mode. The book puts a new spin on the law of attraction which I’ve always wrestled with because it makes no sense to me. But, so many people I know believe in it, I keep coming back to it, trying to understand how it works. And, more importantly, how do I make it work in my life. You see, if you get “bad” stuff from the universe, you come to expect “bad” stuff. So, what does the Universe do? Give you more bad stuff? How do I break the cycle? This is the first book I’ve heard of that teaches how.

Earlier this week, as I’m absorbing the principles of the book and into the last chapters, my new business partner approaches me with a proposal. I’ve had many business partners in the past. Other than Tywana, they’ve all let me down. One has taken me for thousands of dollars. All talk grandiose plans and lose interest. As I was in my account buying the domain name for this new business, I came across the domain name I purchased for the last venture I discussed with someone. We had big plans that went nowhere. My natural inclination, the habit of being me, says this venture will be more of the same. We’ll make big plans. And, nothing will happen. I see the past repeating itself. But, here’s what’s different. I caught it. I recognized this is the habit of being me. And, I decide to think differently. This time it will be different. This partner is one of the few people I know who has more energy and ideas than I do. I’m having trouble keeping up with her in just these few early days. She’s action-oriented. Things will happen. We will make them happen. This will be different. I will go forward believing this is the manifestation of the intention I’ve been putting out since that meeting with Nico and since starting the Habit of Being Me book.

Yesterday, I finished the last chapter of the book. As the book came to a close, I reminded myself that a “self-help” book is no good if you just read it. You have to put it into action. I take some time reinforcing the principles of the book in my head, in silence, as I walk. I envision the future I want to have. I want to be out of Ohio within two years- no more winters for me. I want to get Treasured Locks to the point where it’s more healthy. I want to earn enough money to pay off a car in two years. I want to put my skills to use helping other people- and get paid for it. I put all of this out to the Universe and, as Joe instructs, I don’t tell the Universe how to deliver. It’s up to the Universe to figure out how to deliver.

As I’m affirming all of this, the thought comes that 2019 is going to be my year. I’m looking forward to many positive changes in the new year. I think 2019, that will be Shayna’s 19th birthday. Since I still have some time before my walk is over, I decide to listen to Steely Dan’s Hey Nineteen. As I pull it up on my iPhone, I notice it was released in 1980, the year I was 19. Interesting coincidence. Hey Nineteen came out when I was 19. Shayna’s 19th birthday is 2019. And, I’m declaring 2019 as my year.

I get home and I’m working on my side gig, putting together some memes for my client. I Google images for John Lennon and come across this one.

I have no idea where this exists, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen it before. Last night Tywana and I are watching “God Friended Me” which is a television program all about this atheist getting prompts from a social media account called “God” and then finding these amazing synchronicities. The characters talk about Strawberry Fields in Central Park which is where this memorial exists. And, the camera pans down and there it is, the same image I saw earlier in the day. These are two small synchronicities in the day. But, they are big enough for me to take notice. I call these Easter eggs or God winks. Programmers hide Easter eggs in video games as little winks to the players. I believe the more we notice and acknowledge these, the more we get.

This morning in my meditation, I work on continuing to break the habit of being me. I start my meditation with one of my favorite Mike and the Mechanics songs, Beggar On A Beach Of Gold and I resolve to stop living in the shallows and get up on that beach of gold. Joe Dispenza says when you get up from meditation, you should be different from the person who sat down.  And, I am.
Are you out there now on empty
Feel you’ve nothing left to give
Sick of trying
Have you lost the will to live?
Don’t be drowning in the shallows
With the beach so near at hand
Hear the voice say
Stand up get up
And join me on the gilded sand
Come and join me on the beach
With all the riches I can hold
I’ve all the riches I can hold

Victor Zammit’s analogy about the afterlife hit home for me this weekend when Kayla came home to visit. We don’t talk as much as we used to. But, we look forward to those times when we do. We have a tradition of Brian/Kayla weekends dating back to when Tywana and Shayna would leave us for Shayna’s sports. While the four of us got along great, we have different relationships one-on-one. Choosing a movie with the four of us was virtually impossible. While Kayla and I would watch just about anything, Tywana would veto about 40% of the movies and Shayna another 40%. Tywana didn’t want anything too scary or with too much action. Shayna didn’t want anything remotely connected to any romance or anything shot before 2000. Kayla and I would breathe deep sighs while these two tried to find something we could all agree on. OTOH, when Kayla and I are together, I’ll say “How about this?” And, she says “That sounds good.” Kayla can appreciate a classic movie, a scary movie, a philosophical movie. We like movies that make us think and prompt discussion. So, I’ll keep a queue of movies just for those times when we are alone. This weekend we watched the classics Fatal Attraction and The Machinist, discussing the mental illness of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction and what caused Michael Douglas to risk his nearly perfect marriage for a weekend fling. Then, we talked about the acting chops of Christian Bale who went from 173 pounds to 110 to play Trevor Reznik in The Machinist and the torture of mental illness brought on by extreme guilt.

Brian/Kayla weekends aren’t only about classic movies. We stay up late and discuss philosophy, child-rearing (she’s a nanny), politics, religion, the afterlife, and relationships among other topics. We both prefer to have a nice meal at home to going out. So, I make special dishes for her. We decided on scallops for Saturday. Instead, we had Korean BBQ for the first time for both of us on Saturday since Costco didn’t have scallops this weekend. She appreciates nicely spiced food. I froze some of the chili I made for the chili cookoff a couple of weeks ago, because I knew she’d appreciate the hot chorizo and chipotles that give it a little kick. Ty and my neighbors said it was so spicy. Ty could only eat a couple of spoonfuls. So, I kept the rest for when Kayla was coming home. Kayla and I had it along with cheddar & jalapeno cornbread. Afterward, I asked her to rate it on a spiciness scale. She said she’d give it a 4 or 5- not super spicy. That’s my girl. It reminded me of the time she was about two years old and my mischievous neighbor gave her some spicy potato chips. He expected her to spit them out. Instead, she asked for more. After the chili, we watched The Machinist and baked some chocolate chip cookies

I love Kayla’s sensitivity. She worries about me being alone. So, when she heard that Ty was leaving for a girls’ trip, she planned time to come spend the weekend, just the two of us. Ty thought she was joking about coming because Thanksgiving is in less than two weeks. Plus, she likes being with her old man, which makes me very happy. Ty and I always were parents first, but we also wanted to be friends with our girls. I’m so grateful for the bond between us.

Brian/Kayla weekend is over. She’s in the car on the way back to Toledo. This old man is happy. And, I get to see her again in just 10 days for Thanksgiving break. Yippee!