I was speaking with a fellow life coach a few days ago. He was giving me pointers on my LinkedIn profile. And he said something that struck me. Two years ago, when I decided to become a life coach, I struggled to tell people what a life coach is. I wrote the profile when I was first starting my practice. This new friend said the profile made me sound like a dad. which is funny because I remember as I wrote it, thinking a life coach is like a professional dad. I don’t think that’s a terrible comparison

 

Many of us don’t know what a life coach is. Why wouldn’t I hire a medical professional like a psychiatrist? Is a life coach a counselor? Are life coaches only for the wealthy or the elite? Are coaches for people with too much money and too much time on their hands? 

Analogies Help

Analogies are some of the best tools for learning. But, no analogy is perfect. When we can’t describe what something is, we relate it to something familiar. Thus, the cliche’ “Tastes like chicken”, because we all know what chicken tastes like. 

A Coach Compared to a Dad

So, let’s start with how a life coach is like a professional dad. Like a dad, a life coach should have a wealth of experience to draw on. Like a dad, a life coach should have your best interests at heart. Like a dad, a life coach should be able to help you navigate several life circumstances. The ideal dad can talk to you about finances, marriage, career choices, etc.

 

Of course, there are differences between a life coach and a dad. A life coach, while wishing the best for you, should maintain a professional distance. A life coach isn’t about trying to get you to do what they want you to do. A life coach will help you assess your alternatives, your motivations, your goals and allow you to choose the path that is best for you- not their favorite path. A life coach is trained and has experience, not from having a few children, but with dozens or hundreds of clients.

A Best Friend?

A life coach is like a best friend. A life coach will have your back. A life coach will be there to listen to you. A life coach should build your confidence as well as helping you to build your skills. They will point out where you need to improve and where you are already crushing it. I find one of the most important things I do for my clients is help them see how truly great they already are.

Unlike a best friend, you don’t have to listen to your life coach’s problems. A session with a life coach is all about you. You can feel free to share your pain and not be obligated to listen to their problems. You can be fully “self-indulgent” when in session with a coach. This is your time and your time only.

A Psychologist?

A life coach is like a psychologist in that it’s about your mental health. A life coach will allow you to speak, and reflect back to you what you are saying. This helps you gain a larger perspective. After seeing a life coach, you should feel better and come away with coping mechanisms and a plan.

Unlike a psychologist, a life coach will not dig deep into your past searching for a mental condition diagnosis. A life coach is forward-looking. A life coach will only look to the past to understand where you are today. A life coach’s goal is to help you figure out where you are, what’s blocking you from where you want to be, how to overcome those blocks, and to walk with you as you overcome them. A life coach will focus on specific goals. Relationships with life coaches are typically not long-term, although they can be. Frankly, if you’re not making progress with a life coach, a good life coach will bid you farewell as the relationship is not working for either of you. Seeing a life coach is about moving forward. A good life coach will refer you to professional mental help if and when you need it. Many of my clients are seeing mental health professionals as well as seeing me for what I provide that they cannot.

A Pastor

I’m going to go out on a limb and say a life coach is like a pastor or a priest, at least I am. In my practice, I’m there about the whole you, mind, body, and spirit. Until you truly understand who you are as a spiritual being having a human spirit, I believe that chasing all of the trappings of success, money, career, love interests, etc., will leave you unsatisfied. This not not a religious belief. I have come to this conclusion based on years of study of philosophy, science, religion and personal observation.

A life coach who sees the whole of you will help you see the total of you. A butterfly cannot see its own wings so it cannot behold how magnificent it is. I find this to be true for my clients. They do not recognize how powerful, how resilient, how wonderful they are. Part of my job is to hold a mirror up to them to see what they cannot see in themselves. 

A life coach is not about choosing your religion or spirituality for you though. A good life coach will not impose any beliefs on you that you don’t want.

Conclusion

As I look through the comparisons I made above this strikes me. I’ve been told by many people that I have a “ministerial” quality to me. My grandfather and both his parents were ministers. It’s not surprising some of that was passed down. I felt a calling to the ministry. But, I’m not a traditional Christian and could not pretend to be to make a living. When my girls were young, I felt I was finally complete, being a dad, at last. My most important role as a dad was to teach them and make them into strong, independent adults. I’ve always been fascinated by psychology and considered that as a career for a while. I subscribed to Psychology Today for years.

 

While some joke about life coaching thinking it’s frivolous, I can say after having answered the calling two years ago, I know that I provide a valuable service to my clients. I know because they tell me. It’s the most fulfilling work I have ever done.

 

If I hear Mika Brzezinski say “Knot Your Value” one more time, I’m gonna scream. But, Mika has a point. Most of us need to value ourselves more. The world spends years bringing us down exposing our weaknesses; even emphasizing them, as expressed in Pink Floyd’s album The Wall. I was inexplicably mesmerized by the album even before I realized it was the tale of a man’s life when I saw the film. This man was told he was less than by the world and only cherished by his mother, who smothered him. He built up a wall to keep himself safe from the world only to eventually realize the wall turned out to be a prison and he had to become his true self.

I’m always learning. I’ve always got my eye out for life’s next lesson. This week, I got a lesson about valuing myself.

We are often told the thing that comes easiest to us, the thing we are most passionate about, is of no value when it comes to “making a living”. So, we shut it down and we learn something “practical”. We try to find something the world will pay us to do. We suck it up. We are miserable and we soldier on because it’s just the way of the world

I’ve always known I am a teacher. It’s in my blood. My grandfather was a pastor. Both his parents were pastors. My uncles, my brother, many of my family feel called to write and to teach. But, being a doctor was more highly valued. And, that’s what my mother wanted me to be. My compromise was Chemical Engineer. It was almost as tough as being a doctor. And it stretched my intellectual abilities to their limits. I got my BS in Chemical Engineering in 1982. I haven’t worked a single day as a Chemical Engineer since. I tortured myself for four years taking the hardest courses I could imagine and I’ve never used that degree.

I found an opportunity in sales. I knew could make a lot of money in sales. So, I did. I immediately doubled my income from my previous engineering job. For over 20 years I was a professional salesperson making more money than I ever dreamed I’d make when I was an engineer. But, I knew that wasn’t right for me long term. I wanted to do my own thing.

After years, I transitioned out of that. I started my own company, as a side gig, in 2002. Shayna was just two years old. I grew it from a side gig into my full-time employment. For 19 years that company has provided the bulk of our income. But, it doesn’t bring me joy. It’s not my passion. Working for myself lights me up. But, schlepping hair care products, not so much. 

Two years ago, four years after Shayna’s passing, I decided to become a life coach. “Life coach? What is that?” I had thought for years. When my friend Kat suggested I take a life coaching course, I was puzzled. Then,  I realized I was already doing the job, only for free. I made it official. I got my certification, wrote my book, and hung up my shingle. 

But, would people actually pay just to talk to me? How was I to determine the value for that work? How much do I charge? I’m not a licensed therapist after all. I’m just a guy who has lived almost 60 years of life, gone through a divorce, been married 30 years, taught premarital courses, survived multiple career changes, run a successful internet business for two decades, raised two daughters, had a daughter transition, escaped toxic religion, developed a spiritual path over the course of a few decades, and become an expert in the afterlife. Would people find value in talking to me?

Due to my lack of confidence, I set my rate low, ridiculously low. I set it at less than half the price that others in the field were charging. My intent was to raise my rate after I felt more confident and I got some testimonials to convince others I was worth it. Once I got some validation, I’d raise my rate.

Two years went by in the blink of an eye. Two years, and I had not raised my rate. Two years, and I still wasn’t valuing myself. I’m still running the internet company I started in 2002. I hire myself out as a part-time business consultant. I switch between jobs two or three times a day. I write an email for Treasured Locks, pack some orders. I make sales calls for the software company that’s hired me part-time. And, when I can, I squeeze in time for my passion, my coaching/teaching business. It’s my side gig.

Even with that, I don’t value my skills. I’m doing a complex project for a client now, a project her regular consultant told her could not be done. It’s taken a lot of working around several obstacles but we’re making it happen. Not many people could do this. But, I always think my skills are something anybody can do. Anything I can do can’t be worth that much.

Last weekend, I decided to invest in myself. I took a class on being a “lightworker”. Finally, I gave myself permission to consider raising my rates. I looked at the industry average for what I do and was shocked. I was barely above a quarter of what the industry average is. I went into this as a part-time thing. But, I want it to be full time and for that to happen, I have to charge full-time rates. The introductory rate period lasted two years, probably a year and a half too long.

There is a fine line when it comes to pricing your goods and services. Price them too low and people will think they’re getting what they pay for, garbage. If you set your prices higher than some people can afford, you can afford to discount for those people and to give back in other ways.

After taking the class, I still felt leery about raising my rates. What if I drove off the clients I’ve worked so hard to get? I sought the advice of some fellow coaches. I was charging less than half what any of them were charging. They all encouraged me to at least double my rates. These are people I met that first year, in a master heart group, they encouraged me then about my unique skill set. They are the ones who gave me the confidence to launch this at all.  And they encouraged me again.

I gritted my teeth and I did it. I pulled the trigger. I raised my rates. I emailed all of my clients, individually, to let them know. I grandfathered them in under the old rates, for a period of time. I am offering them a discounted rate through the end of the year to make the increase not as sudden and severe.

Then, I sat and I waited for the backlash. But, I told them in the email if I tell them to value themselves, I need to value myself as well. I don’t know if I will lose any clients over the increase. I have only heard from three clients. All three, I heard back from both congratulated me. In fact, one said:

Dear Brian

I am so relieved to hear that you’re raising your rates! I’ve been anticipating this and it’s no problem for us. Congratulations!

I’ve purchased 3 sessions so, after those, we will go to your full rate.

Know that we’re very supportive.

She wants to pay the full rate even though I’m offering a discount to existing clients for the next nine months.

Then, just to validate my decision, even more, yesterday I was interviewing a fellow life coach. She told me that when she started, she charged only $100 per session. That’s $40 more than I was charging two days ago. Now, she is charging $800 and working 2-3 days per week. $800 is fifteen times what I was charging. She might be better than I am. But, she ain’t fifteen times better.

I’m still a bargain, even at my new rate! And, with this new rate, I am one step closer to making this my full-time gig and dropping the side hustles.

Image by Lukas Bieri from Pixabay

The saying goes, “ The only thing constant in life is change.”

Here we go again. Four days ago my wife took a full-time job. This is the first time she’s worked full-time out of the house since Kyle was born over twenty-four years ago. I think of the days when the house was full. I loved those times. Kayla, Shayna Zoe (our dog), Stevie (our other dog) Tywwana all here together,  all day long, every day. Those were are fun times. I loved spending time with the girls. Even though I would mostly be in my office, we would stop and have lunch together. And we would check in with each other during the day.

Then Kayla graduated from high school and went off to college. Just a year later, Shayna passed away. We were suddenly, unexpectedly, and against our will, empty nesters. That was an adjustment. The house seemed so quiet. It seemed so empty.

In August last year, we had to say goodbye to Zoe. Stevie is still adjusting to not having her playmate here. I miss Zoe still.

5 1/2 years later, I had pretty much adjusted to this new lifestyle Tywana has worked part-time jobs during that time. But, mostly, she has worked Treasured Locks full time. Her office was in the basement. My office is on the first floor. But, things change. Health insurance costs continue to rise. Treasured Locks is not doing as well as it once did. Manufacturers whose products we use to move a lot of have gone direct with their own websites or to retail locations. So we’ve had to adjust to the new levels of income from Treasure locks. Our health insurance is now about one and a half times what our mortgage is. At almost $20,000 a year, we have to sell a lot of shampoo just to pay for healthcare. A couple of years ago, Tywana took a job.  It was full time, but she was working from the house. It was nice because we could still be together, and she could still work on Treasured locks. And our health insurance was down to just half of what our mortgage is. Covid-19 put an end to that job.  For the last several months, we’ve had to pay our own healthcare insurance again until she could find something else.

About a month, ago she found something else. She got a job with GE Credit Union that she started this past Monday.  As I sit here on Thursday, she’s been in training for the last several days. I’m here adjusting to the New Normal. It’s just Stevie and me now. Neither of us us likes it. Stevie’s adjusted a little bit. She comes into my office and whines. She whines when I’m packing orders. She wants me to play with her. Stevie does not get the concept of work. Finally, she will give up and lay down and let me get to work.

While Tywana’s working the full-time job,  I’m juggling my consulting business, my coaching business, and managing what remains of Treasured Locks. I pack orders in the morning.  I ship the orders. I make products. I do marketing. Then I work on my podcast, my courses, my coaching, my presentations, my writing, and my social media. I’ve also taken on a part-time sales job with a new software-as-a-service company that’s starting today. It’s fifteen hours a week right now, with the opportunity for more if things work out.

So, there are lots of irons in the fire. No, wait. There are lots of new seedlings planted. We’ll see what takes root.  If they all grow, I’ll have to cut something out. For now, it’s the let them all grow up together approach.

What I have to do is to be patient, to not get ahead of myself. I can easily get overwhelmed with so much going on and so much to do. Since I don’t know where things are going, I have to trust for now.

I love what I’m doing with Grief 2 Growth. It’s my passion. It’s what I feel I’m here to do. But, there are bills to be paid, and most of what I do- like the podcast, doesn’t pay. Ahh.. the life of a “lightworker.” 

Things have always worked on in the past. So, there’s no reason to believe that they won’t continue to work out in the future. And, as I approached 60 in just a few weeks, the planning horizon is not that long anymore. We have savings, and our expenses are decreasing as Kayla graduates college in the spring, the home remodeling is over, the furniture is bought, etc.

As I look back over the years, I’m grateful for what Treasured Locks has been able to provide for us.  We started the business in 2002, intending just to make a little bit of extra cash.  For fifteen of the nineteen years we’ve been running Treasured Locks, it’s been our primary income. It’s put Kayla through college. It’s paid the mortgage. As Treasured Locks possibly winds down, I have to keep in mind every good thing comes to an end. Everything in this life is temporary. One of the traits of wisdom is knowing when to let go of things. Another is to let go of things with gratitude rather than with regret; to smile because it happened rather than cry because it’s over.

It’s not all bad. Tywana is working just about six miles away, and we see each other every morning and every evening. But, it is an adjustment not to be together in the house everyday all day the way that we have been for the last 24 years. It’s an adjustment to be alone all day long, with the exception of the dog who would rather I play “bone” with her than work.

This new new normal too shall pass. I will be eligible for Medicare in 5 years, drastically reducing our health insurance costs.  Hopefully, Grief 2 Growth will continue to grow.  The job opportunity with a software company may turn into something full-time.  At some point, I’d like to retire,  as would Tywana. For today, I’m grateful for what I’ve got. I’m thankful for all the opportunities before me, even though they have not yet come into full bloom. I’m grateful for what I’ve had in the past. And, I trust that whatever comes will be for the best 

Natalie Sudman, the author of Application of Impossible Things, and my guest on Episode 12, asked me to write an article for her Facebook page. Following is what I wrote:

The last few weeks have been interesting times. There’s a saying, “May you live in interesting times.” It was initially a curse. However, it can be a blessing to live in interesting times. We are still going through the coronavirus pandemic. We have been confused and thrown off-kilter by that. Many of us spiritual people are asking, “Why are we going through this? What’s the lesson in it? Some people are asking, “Why am I here during this time?” Many said there was a great awakening coming. We were waiting to see what that might be. Could this be it?

Two weeks ago, we witnessed police officers slowly kill George Floyd in front of a crowd of witnesses and on video. It shocked the nation. It shocked the world.

As a spiritual person, I ask all the time, “What’s the lesson in this?” As a black man, I experience things differently than other people do. But, aren’t we all the same underneath? We’re all spiritual beings. In our true form, we have no color or gender. So, why should color and gender make any difference while we are here? Shouldn’t we be able to ignore these trivial differences, and say “All lives matter”?

Read more

Each day is a unique creation. It begins when you open your eyes in the morning and it ends when you close your eyes at night. Today might feel a lot like yesterday and you might think tomorrow will be more of the same. But, it’s not as it seems.

Everything is changing all the time. Look at your body. It’s not the same as it was yesterday. It won’t be the same tomorrow. We can see those changes when we look at big periods of time. But, they literally happen every day, every minute, every second.

Your house might look the same as it did yesterday. But, every day there are subtle changes. Things wear out. Things break. Your clothes wear out. The grass grows. Nothing stays the same.

Today, is Tuesday, June 2. It’s another Tuesday. We have a Tuesday every seven days. It’s another June. We have one of those every twelve months. It’s the second of the month. But, Today is Tuesday, June 2, 2020. There will never be another Tuesday, June 2, 2020. The opportunities placed before you today are not the same as yesterday and they will not be the same tomorrow.

As you wake up every morning, greet the new day as you do an infant born into the world- full of promise, hope, and life. As you go about your day, seize the opportunities it presents. Use every unique moment to increase Love. As the day dies when you close your eyes at night, say goodbye to that day with gratitude for its life. Cherish its memories. And, look forward to welcoming the birthing of another Day tomorrow.

 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

 

You may be thinking; I’m not grieving. I haven’t lost anyone. We tend to associate grief with the loss of a person but the loss of life. But grief can come about with any significant loss in our life, whether it’s a loss of income, loss of a job, loss of freedom, loss of a lifestyle, or loss of relationships.

The coronavirus has put almost everyone in the world in the same boat, at least for a while. As of this moment, we have all experienced some sort of loss, a lot of us are locked down. As I was creating this, we got the order from the Governor of Ohio. At midnight tomorrow, we are in lockdown. Only essential services and trips are allowed. We have a loss of freedom. Some of us literally can’t leave our homes. We can’t go to the movies. We can’t go shopping and be out with groups of people. We can’t go out to eat. I live this lifestyle most days anyway. But, there was something about hearing that announcement, when I knew it was going to be imposed on me for the unknown future, which caused anxiety, fear, and even grief. I’ve never been incarcerated. But, I imagine it feels a little like this.

These things are losses. That feeling you’ve got right now is probably some level of grief.

In my book, Grief 2 Growth, I wrote:

Grief is deep, prolonged mental anguish, intense sorrow, emotional suffering, resulting from a loss, especially the death of a loved one.Grief manifests in many ways. It manifests in shock, disbelief, anger, rage, fear, sadness, uncontrollable crying, a feeling of emptiness, the belief that life will never be the same again, the belief that you will never be happy again, and a lack of concentration. Life feels like it’s falling apart. It may even feel like your life has come to a halt. You’ll say things like my world has ended.

You may not be feeling all those things exactly right now, and you may not feel all those things when you go through any type of grief. But I think we’re all feeling this kind of a shock. We find ourselves in a situation that we never thought we’d find ourselves living in America. We can have anger and sadness about it. Many of us have lost income. A lot of us have lost income. Some of us have lost jobs. Some people have been laid off even in this two week or so period. So we’re experiencing a sense of grief with all of these changes. Grief itself is not an emotion, but it’s a container. It’s something that triggers or carries all these other emotions with it.

Adjusting Expectations:

If you’re feeling this way, it’s OK. You’re normal. I think we’re all feeling it. But there are a couple of good things. First of all, humans are remarkably, remarkably adaptive beings. We adjust to situations very quickly. You may not believe this right now, but we adjust to our new normals- usually very quickly. We can do it very well as a collective and as individuals. I have spoken with a lot of people who have had children cross. As you know, my daughter Shana passed away. When it first happens, you swear you could never get used to this. It could never be your normal. But, you do adjust to the new normal. I’m not saying that we necessarily like it. We don’t. But, we learn to live with it.

Just in the last ten days, I’ve made an adjustment to my expectations are the grocery store. The shelves aren’t full like they used to be. The first time that happened, it was kind of a shock to me. Now, it’s not as big of a deal, already. I went out to Trader Joe’s a week or so ago, and I was thrilled to find choices of bread. I thought I’d have just to take whatever they had. I was excited to see eggs, any eggs. Bonus, they were the ones I would have bought anyway. I felt gratitude for the opportunity to purchase what I usually take for granted. I had already adjusted that quickly to the fact that we don’t have all the choices at this particular moment, as we’ve had in the past. I think we’ll get those choices back relatively soon, as soon as panic buying stops. I intend to remain grateful. We’ll see if that happens.

So, be hopeful that as we go through this. I have to admit a little bit of a panic the other day when they said we might be locked down for weeks or maybe even months. An,d I live a very socially isolated life to begin with. It’s not a big deal for me not to leave the house for four or five days at a time, but the difference is the choice. Usually, I can still go out if I want to, I can still interact with people face to face. I can even get close to someone if I want to. When that choice is taken away it is a whole different thing that makes this feel more like confinement. If it’s triggering that reaction for me, I’m sure it’s much worse for those who are used to going out and interacting socially face-to-face every day.

What you can do:

Let me give you some tips for navigating through these uncharted waters. There are two keys- hope and purpose. Human beings need both. I always encourage my clients to maintain hope. We look for any reason to hang onto hope. If we have hope, that gives us the strength to get through the next moment. Purpose is also necessary. We need to feel we are serving a purpose. We need to feel like what we are enduring has a purpose. If we have a purpose, if we can find purpose in our struggle, we can literally survive anything.

Finding purpose:

I want to assure you there’s a reason for the things we’re going through. There is a reason for the social isolation. When you stay at home, you might feel like you’re doing nothing. You might feel frustrated. Look at it this way. When you take yourself out of that chain of transmission of this virus that travels from person to person to person, you have cut the infection off. If you’re not there at that gathering where there is a carrier, not only do you not become sick, you don’t carry it back to your family, your grandmother, your neighbors. You are doing your job in this global pandemic. You’re not transmitting the virus around. The thing about this virus is it’s not coming to get you. It doesn’t have arms; it doesn’t have legs. It will not be coming through your front door unless you or someone carries it in. It requires people to move from place to place. We can stop it. We will stop it.

The other thing I want to talk about to do while we’re in this isolation period is to try to get back to as normal as possible. Yes, you’re doing your duty to your community and the world by sitting on the couch and watching Netflix. But, let’s aim a little higher. You can’t leave your house right now. So what can you do?

If you have a job and you can still work from home, continue to work. That’s your job. You’re getting paid for that. Give your employer what they are paying for. I suspect at the end of this many more of us will be working from home as employers realize we don’t all need to be in the office. That, I think, is a good thing. Less traffic, less pollution. If you are not able to work from home and you have to stay at home, try to maintain a sense of some normalcy.

I can tell you as someone who’s worked from home for over 20 years now; these are things that I practice. I still get up early. I do not sleep in. You may not have to get up at 4:30 or 5:00, or whatever time you get up for a day or work. But, try to be up at a reasonable hour. Try to maintain going to bed at a reasonable time, knowing you want to get up at a reasonable time. Get dressed. You don’t have to put on a suit and tie. But, take a shower, put on some clothes, and get yourself dressed. I put on workout clothes and take a 7-mile hike before I shower and dress. But, after I shower, I put on real clothes, every day.

As I said, that in itself is a purpose if you’re on the couch watching Netflix, and you’re not out, then you’re doing something with a purpose. But, there are so many opportunities now. If you bought a guitar, like I did, and you haven’t picked it up in a couple of years, get on YouTube and take some guitar lessons. There’s a website called Udemy.com. Go there, find some courses, maybe even get a certification. There’s a site called learn.fiverr.com. Last week, I took a course in doing voiceover work. I’d already bought the course. But, I took the extra time I have to finishthe course. Do something productive in terms of improving your skill sets. Take a language, if that’s something that appeals to you. Read some of those books you’ve been meaning to read.

Continue to exercise if you do. If you’re a gym person, find something you can do at home. After you’ve worked out and accomplished your task for the day, reward yourself with some downtime. Most of us work way too hard. While this isn’t’ a staycation; take some time for yourself. Binge some Netflix.

This is also a perfect time to relax and reflect and to go within. Since we can’t go out; I mean literally, we can’t go out; this is time to go within. So I have doubled my meditation time. I’m sometimes doing two or three meditation sessions a day. I’m taking this as a little bit of a meditation retreat.

A lot of times when we’re on vacation; let’s face it, we drink alcohol all day long, because we’re on vacation. Alcohol is a depressant. If you are prone to depression and anxiety, beware that being shut in like this with no choice is very likely to trigger that anxiety and depression. Maintain your mental health. Limit your alcohol use. Alcohol also interferes with your sleep pattern. You want to keep your immune system strong. A vital part of that is getting proper sleep. Even though you might be tempted because you’ve got a lot of time on your hands, don’t drink alcohol all day long. Keep it reasonable. If you usually come home in the evening and you have a drink or two, OK. Have a drink or two in the evening. But let’s no take this time to start binge drinking. Binge drinking is also harmful to your immune system.

Be informed:

Also, limit your news. It’s essential to stay informed. Before this, I watched the news all day long. Well, not all day. But, I turned the news on a lot during the day. I watched it in the morning. I watched it when I took my lunch break, and I watched it after I had dinner. I’m limiting the amount of news I’m taking him right now because frankly, there’s so much bad news out there, that I don’t want to bring my energy level down with that. I know people who never watch the news. I’m not one of those people. I don’t intend to become one. But, with the24x7 news cycle, you see the same thing over and over again anyway.

So I’m staying informed. And I’m focusing on the good news. It’s essential to stay informed because there is so much misinformation as well as new information coming in. Do the things they’re telling you to do. Wash your hands thoroughly, practice social distancing. When you go out and come in, be cognizant of what you’re bringing back in. But know this. The virus is pretty weak. There are a lot of ways you cannot get it.

I read an article this morning about food safety because I was concerned about the restaurants delivering food to me. What if the workers are sick? Educate yourself on the facts here. I was wrong, and I learned. I’m not going to go into details here. I’m just going to say it’s safe to order food for takeout or delivery.

The other thing is the virus lives a very short time on most surfaces. From what I’ve been able to see about three days at longest on surfaces. Viruses die by half-life. It starts with a “load,” and the virus gets to the point where finally there is none left. That is the point that you hear when you hear about how long coronavirus can live on a surface. It’s the time when the last one is gone. We don’t know the viral load required to make you sick. So, better safe than sorry. But, after several hours, there is already less virus than there was to begin with. The same with the idea of the virus hanging in the air. Most droplets quickly fall to the ground. The numbers we hear are based on ideal conditions for the virus to survive. Be cautious. But don’t be paranoid.

It’s great to keep your house clean, but you don’t have to be obsessive about it, especially if you’re isolating. If you leave the house, when you come back, wash your hands before you touch your face or anything else. I go straight into the bathroom and I wash my hands. Come back to the groceries that you picked up. Other people have touched them. Those surfaces of the outside may be contaminated. But again, the virus is going to live on those for a few days- maximum. So after three days, those packages are safe. You might want to wipe them down as you’re putting them away just to be safe in case you’re going to use them soon.

In my particular case, we haven’t had people in the house for a week other than my daughter Kayla. We had several people over last weekend. If they deposited viruses on anything, those viruses were gone in a few days. When you’re in your house, you can feel safe. After you’ve brought anything into the house, disinfect it, wash your hands and go about your day. I’m not a medical doctor. I’m not giving medical advice here. I just don’t want us all to go OCD over this virus and think it’s got super strength. This virus is actually pretty weak like most Coronaviruses are. It can’t stand a lot of sunlight. It can’t live outside of a human host very long. While we want to be very, very cautious about it, we also don’t want to think this thing is like around the corner, ready to jump on us.

There is a lesson:

I believe there is a lesson in this for us. I’ll save that for another time. But, as we navigate this, instead of asking “Why is this happening to me?”, try asking “What is this here to teach me?”

That’s it. I know you’re feeling grief right now, and that’s OK. Sit with it, observe it. Be aware all of those emotions you’re feeling are normal. Observe them and let them pass. I deal with grief on a daily basis with my clients and having gone through the passing of Shayna. So, I know a little bit about this and what what you guys are going through. You may find yourself surprised at some of the emotions you’re having. They’re perfectly natural. There are things that you can do to give yourself some control and a sense of purpose. There’s a lot of hope out there. So I encourage you to look for the hope and read the useful articles. I’ve seen some excellent pieces that give encouragement, which will give you the hope you need to get through this. I wrote an article recently about  Seven Good News Stories about the Coronavirus.

Covid-19 is probably going to be with us for a while. It’s going to be a bumpy road for the next few weeks or months. But we’ve had pandemics before. We’ve gotten a handle on them before. Life will return to normal at some point. Frankly, I hope we don’t go back to the way we were. I hope we learn some lessons from this. I think there are a lot of lessons for us to learn. I’ll go into those in another time.

Be well!

Image by Gary Ross from Pixabay

This is a guest post from my friend Kim LaCapria. Kim is a professional skeptic and debunker. I am proud to say I introduced Kim to Carolyn Clapper, mentioned in the article. Carolyn is the one who changed Kim’s mind about mediums.

In my first RedStringSociety .com post, I explained how I’d gone from materialist/atheist to “atheist who understands consciousness survives death.”

In that post, I also mentioned my career and work — ironically, as a professional skeptic, a fact-checker, and a “debunker.” From my late teens I’d been immersed in that culture, certain of self-evident truths like “there is no cabal” and, most primarily, that all mediums are brazenly fraudulent “grief vampires.” (I met my husband on the Snopes forums, and we shared those views.)

In holding that belief for more than half my life, I exercised discretion never to expose that belief to anyone grieving, who had taken comfort in the idea consciousness survived death. That would have been cruel and unnecessary, and nothing I’d say would make their lives better.

But when it came to entertainment, I had no qualms about rattling off the laundry list of ways we skeptics and debunkers were certain that mediums were knowingly faking it. (We’ll get to that in a minute.)

Part of this juxtaposition might be the fact that I have lived most of my life on Long Island (save for stints in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Ireland), and Long Island is awash in not only mediums, but well-known mediums. In addition to John Edward, Theresa Caputo and George Anderson are also locals.

Instead of growing up taking these demonstrations seriously, I marveled at Long Island’s attachment to superstition.

Let me tell you, it has been a short but bizarre path from “there is no afterlife” to “wow … John Edward is the real thing.”

The first time I reconsidered John Edward was during a regular phone call with the medium who changed my mind (Carolyn Clapper). We discussed the seemingly high concentration of mediums on Long Island, and she opined she believed Edward was legitimate.

It didn’t really make much of an impression on me, but months later I was researching ayahuasca and watching YouTube videos. One such video on the channel of the user “Shaman Oaks” autoplayed a second video next, titled “Proof Psychic John Edward Isn’t Cold Reading.

Shaman Oaks’ video appeared a few months before an earnest but inaccurate and far more widely viewed effort by comedian John Oliver. Oliver excerpted Edwards’ readings and implied they were fraudulent (something I too had always believed). But the earlier video, below, is definitely worth watching and does a good concise job of explaining a lot of what I’m going to say:

Often, when a skeptic is using video clips to “debunk” a medium, they’ve already said that mediums “use deceptive editing” to give the impression they score more “hits” than they actually do. That may be a clever bit of projection (perhaps unknowingly), because those same example clips are often stopped at a misleading point.

At this point I’ll add that judgment passed on whether any particular “hit” was accurate is purely subjective. No third-party watching who is unacquainted with the person being “read” is any more qualified to rate its accuracy than any other.

From here, I want to discuss the myths I previously believed, and you can watch hundreds of clips of mediums like John Edward on YouTube and make your own mind up about these things. My own statements are based on experiences I’ve had, which again the first time was as a practiced debunker well, well aware of how to unmask all the tricks and “flim-flammery” purportedly used by mediums. Again, I was wrong.

Myth #1: Mediums get their hooks in by saying the deceased has a “J name” or an “M name,” the two most common initials.

Go watch some mediums on YouTube, good ones, with high view counts.

It is definitely true mediums — like Edward — reference initials, sometimes common ones like “J” or “M.” But just as commonly, they ask about a complete first name — Rita, or Bob, or Bill, or Anthony. For years, my fellow skeptics had convinced me the clever use of initials was a key trick in the arsenals of mediums, but that isn’t what you’ll see on YouTube.

And it isn’t what happened to me. In my first reading as a firm skeptic, I was consistently given entire names, names you couldn’t find online — itself a part of the next myth.

Myth #2: Mediums employ hot reading, obtaining most otheir detailed information through Google searches

No one would expect you to take anyone’s firsthand word for it, but the information provided by mediums in private readings is not only in my experience not Googleable, it’s not anything you’d ever put on Facebook or anywhere else.

It’s very private, very intimate information that you can barely even relay to your closest friends. It’s possible but difficult to give examples of how sensitive this information is, because of its nature. (As an aside, I suspect that television readings lack these details due to discretion on the part of parties involved — mediums don’t want to say “your wife said she’s wearing her red teddy” on the Today show.) Which leads into the next myth.

Myth #3: Mediums leverage people’s grief, providing only very vague details which could apply to almost anyone. Grief-addled victims are more than happy to make these vague claims “fit” their deceased loved one.

An interesting thing about the common accusations levied at mediums is how these claims often contradict one another — mediums are vague and say things that can apply to anyone supposedly, while also using Google to dredge up highly specific details. All at the same time, apparently.

Anyway, if we put aside the hot reading claim and look at the vague one, that’s not really something I feel is apparent in many videos of audience readings. In addition to names, family secrets, details about the insides of homes, tales of long-forgotten childhood memories, and myriad other things, a ton of highly specific things come out of mediums mouths.

Of note is that “who crashed a black car last month?” or “you found a ticket in your dad’s pocket the night of his funeral” are extremely confident and extremely specific things to “guess” — things that would presumably embarrass the medium if they were wrong. But very frequently, the person being read becomes visibly emotional and affirms the very specific “guess” was completely accurate.

Myth #4: Mediums carefully extract information from the people they’re reading, allowing those people to fill in answers and then repeating them back. The person being read (who often possesses a recording of the event) “forgets” having provided the information, and the medium dupes people into believing they discovered information which was actually provided by the person being read.

Again, this particular claim sort of beggars belief. We’re talking about mediums on live television, mediums who offer unedited recordings to clients, and mediums who are reading in front of a gallery or audience. Unless the entire room is invested in the one client’s reading, others would certainly think “the medium didn’t say that, the person said it.” But that doesn’t happen.

Conversely, if you watch videos of readings, you might notice that mediums constantly “SHH!” people they’re reading, insisting that they don’t want to become confused about the source of information. They repeatedly tell clients or those being read to be quiet, not say more, or sometimes, to “shut up.”

In my experience, this misconception is one on which poorly done debunkings often hinge — and it’s a complete lie. I myself have been shushed hundreds of times in just a handful of readings, prevented from speaking at all beyond “yes” or “no.”

Myth #5: If mediums were authentic, they wouldn’t play “charades.” They’d just say people’s names and details and not engage in this sort of guessing game.

Admittedly, I strongly believed this to be an iron-clad proof mediums were fake. Of course there was no afterlife, but if there was, ghosts or whatever would just come out and say stuff. They wouldn’t need to play “hot or cold.”

This is probably one of the slipperiest myths with which to dispense. The answer really boils down to what mediums are supposedly doing, and how they’re doing it.

Personally, I can’t access information the way they do, but I understand it’s not a phone call. But also from my own experience, I understand mediums are often seeing places, people, and events they’ve never seen. Ever try to describe details or conversations from a dream to someone?

Imagine if someone handed you a folder of photographs, names, pictures of houses and their rooms, and pets, and asked you to describe them to a person without showing them the folder’s contents. You don’t know how these things are connected to the person, but you have to get them to figure out what those things are.

In the folder is a backyard party in 1977, a living room from the 1990s, an office desk, a beach with very clear water, and just a photograph of a wall as if you’re staring at it. By your descriptions, the person is eventually able to identify their fifth birthday, the setting of their first child’s first steps, a work day that defined their life, a trip to a specific country, and what they did in the moments immediately after learning a parent had died.

Now try to imagine how mediums might get information from a discarnate person, assuming such a thing is possible. They often can’t hear speaking, and are only shown images like snapshots. These snapshots are of strangers and places they’ve never been, and they have to find a way to get the person they’re reading to recognize those things.

On top of that, the medium might look at the image and see “red overalls” or “chocolate cake,” details you don’t remember well. In contrast, you might remember the shoes you wore or the pizza that was served. But together, you have to figure out which impression is which.

Now think about all the memories you and your close friends or families have to remind one another of, and how often one party remembers something differently than the other.

Myth #6: Mediums skillfully turn anything into a hit, to create the illusion of accuracy when they’re not reeling the victim in hard enough.

This is just flat-out false. You’ll see this all the time, particularly with John Edward. I too experienced this.

I’ve spent 15-20 minutes with a medium telling me “no, not that … no, it’s not that. Keep thinking.” Mediums can take a “hit” in all these scenarios, but this is one of the most egregiously mischaracterized claims about mediumship. Mediums constantly reject hits, and tell the person being read that they’re not identifying the information correctly.

An example of this is in the video embedded above.

All of this is not to say anyone should change their mind about whether consciousness survives death, or whether John Edward is for real, or even whether Long Island mediums are grating (John Oliver made a huge point of mocking Theresa Caputo’s accent and hair). The point is about how critical thinking when it comes to mediums has, among self-styled skeptics, been incredibly lazy and faulty for quite some time.

Unfortunately, mediums are not incredibly well-regulated, and there are likely frauds. However, there are organizations like Helping Parents Heal or the Forever Family Foundation which recommend mediums based on real people’s experiences, so it’s not impossible to get a good start.

And skepticism is a great thing, always be skeptical. Never be easy to convince. Always listen to your instinct about being misled. But that goes both ways — listen for a ring of truth. If you feel like something is trustworthy, that’s also valid.

Debunkings of mediums are often poorly done — after my experience, I returned to the work of people in my field to reorient my perspective. None were convincing based on what I experienced, and a great many were misleading or inaccurate. Not one applied to what I had seen and heard, not one was ten percent as convincing as the evidence I witnessed.

Again, this is all a very personal matter. My overarching point is that even as a very skilled “debunker,” I remained wholly and entirely ignorant about mediums for 20 years. I stupidly relied on the word of my contemporaries as the final word on the subject. And having been proven wrong so resoundingly, I feel honor-bound to honestly describe these things to people who may be on the fence.

Although I was certain I was right about mediums being frauds, I now know I was very, very wrong. This being true alongside me knowing how to assess and debunk things means the average person might be even more confused. Much of the information to read about the topic hews firmly to materialist talking points, points which may be well-intended, but are misinformed.

author: Kim LaCapria

Who do I see about this? I want to add a new book to the Bible. It’s approaching 1,700 years since we closed the book on the Bible. Isn’t it about time we think about putting a new one in there? Did God stop talking when the last gospel writer sat down his pen? I think not.

I’ve got the perfect candidate for the book. It’s every bit as theologically and philosophically sound as Paul’s letters. It discusses the true nature of God and Jesus and their relationship to us. It’s Biblically sound in that it doesn’t contradict with what is already in the canon. It makes perfect sense of what can be a confusing issue; how God could be both infinitely merciful and infinitely just. It blasts that damnable doctrine of “penal substitutionary atonement” back to the pit it came from. It makes sense of why and how God could punish us and be merciful, at the same time. It gives us a picture of the true meaning of the word Justice, not the distorted and petty human justice that we’ve projected onto God- returning the favor of His creating us in His image by creating Him in ours. And, we can read it in its original language. No need for The Message type translations, or even literal translations. It’s right there in plain old English.

The book I’d like to propose is simply titled “Justice”. It’s a sermon by the Scottish author, poet and minister George MacDonald. It’s in his book “Unspoken Sermons” available via the Internet and in hard copy. But, don’t worry, I’ve created a PDF file for you that you can download here.

“Why do we need this book in the Bible?”, you might ask. When the Bible was canonized, we didn’t need it. But, that was before Jonathan Edwards (the author of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”), John Calvin, Saint Anselm, and others gave us the image of a god who doesn’t know how to forgive without blood and who punishes simply to inflict suffering. That was before we were given the image of a god who would prefer to inflict suffering on One perfectly innocent than allow His honor to be besmirched. That was before we were told about a god who would create imperfect creatures bound to sin eventually, and then eternally torment them for being just as he made them. We didn’t need the book “Justice” in our Bibles 1,700 years ago. But, we need it today!

I reread Justice over the past couple of days. It’s probably the fourth time I’ve read it. Each time, I just try to soak in as much as possible and make it a part of me. I read it when I get weak and begin to think “Maybe God really is the monster I was told He is.” When I feel that way, I read George MacDonald and all is right with the world again.

I wanted to pull out some highlights from the sermon. But, if I begin, I’m afraid I’ll just end up writing the whole thing over again. So, I’ll just pull out one. Each time I read the sermon, something a little different really hits me. This time it was this passage. And, it actually actually made me feel ashamed. I had to pray for forgiveness after reading it. George pulls no punches, that’s what I love about his style. He writes…

Where there is no ground to believe that God does a thing except that men who would explain God have believed and taught it, he is not a true man who accepts men against his own conscience of God. I acknowledge no authority calling upon me to believe a thing of God, which I could not be a man and believe right in my fellow-men. I will accept no explanation of any way of God which explanation involves what I should scorn as false and unfair in a man.

Ouch! That one hurt. I had to reflect on how through so many years, I allowed people to tell me things about God that I just knew couldn’t be true. Things that made me wish God had never created me. What’s also weird (well this happens all of the time now, so it’s not really that weird), just a few days before I decided to read George MacDonald, the Quaker Pastor I met with said something similar. When I told him how I had uncritically accepted the atrocious things people had taught me about God, he said that when people told him things that he knew were not consistent with God’s character, he simply rejected them as not true. Oh, how I wish I could have done that!

Back to the point, I’ve uploaded the Justice file as a PDF for your easy reading. It’s pretty long and George was Scottish and lived a long time ago. So his English can be a little difficult to read. But, I think this (and all his other sermons) are well worth wading through.

Let me know what you think… Click here to download Justice. Until we can get it officially added, you can just print it out and stick it in your Bible

Recently, I’ve run into cynics who say that mediumship is impossible. They look for any alternative explanation of a claimed communication. If they can find one, they declare this must be how the medium got the information. Why? Because they start with the presupposition that mediumship is impossible.

That’s fine if that’s what you want to do. But, what gets me is these cynics think they are “scientific.” They have bought into a materialist paradigm, thinking it’s the only way to view the world.

I use the word “cynic” with a purpose. They would claim to be skeptics. I disagree. A skeptic is a person who is slow to persuasion. But, a skeptic is a person who examines the evidence and goes to where the evidence leads. A skeptic doesn’t declare something as untrue simply because it’s impossible from the perspective of his current paradigm. A cynic will look at something like a medium reading and declare that if there is any way possible the medium got the information through normal physical senses that must be what happened.

Imagine if I could transport myself back 200 years. I’m there speaking with scientists of the day, with my current knowledge of technology. It would be a fascinating conversation if I started talking about something that we take entirely for granted today- radio waves. If I told them that there is an invisible form of energy that is entirely undetectable by sight, sound, or feel they would think I had gone insane. This energy can and does permeate solid matter effortlessly, I add. They look at me incredulously.

Furthermore, this energy can be used to communicate around the world; instantaneously allowing me to send my voice to someone across the world. Now, these scientists are ready to lock me up.

If I tried to tell someone pre-Copernicus that the Earth revolved around the sun, I would be declared mad because clearly, the sun revolves around the Earth. We can all see it with our own eyes as it rises in the East and sets in the West every day.

Since we as a species discovered the scientific method, the hubris of thinking we know all there is to know has been calling us. In 1889, Charles Holland Duell, the commissioner of the Patent Office, declared that the patent office would soon shrink and eventually close because “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

We have come to believe that if we can’t prove it scientifically, it’s not possible. Recently, I heard someone correctly say that science can only tell us about repeatable things, and the vast majority of life is not reproducible. People who call themselves skeptics or scientists will often dismiss personal experience because it didn’t happen in a laboratory.

Interestingly enough, science is starting to reveal that the Universe is not as mechanistic as we once thought. Science’s own discovery are putting the scientific method into jeopardy. This made Einstein very uncomfortable as he fought quantum physics for most of his career. He didn’t like the idea of the Universe not being deterministic. As we learn more, we find the Universe is an even stranger place than Einstein found it to be. The Double Slit experiment and more recent thought experiments are flipping the ideas of cause and effect on their heads. Recently, I read an article about Quantum Gravity that posits that, given the right conditions, what we usually perceive as the cause can be the effect, and vice versa, as time gets flipped. From our ordinary experience, this seems impossible. Yet, it is.

My point? If you experience a phenomenon that you deem impossible, you are going to have to either declare it’s not genuinely happening or find a way to explain it. When it comes to mediumship, the cynics will say it must be a hot reading (the medium looking up information o the sitter), a cold reading (the medium using cues from the sitter to make educated guesses), or some combination of the two. Mediumship is impossible in their minds.

A scientist would test mediumship, controlling for these alternative explanations. Some scientists have. Dr. Julie Beischel is one. She is with the Windbridge Research Center. Her protocol is fairly complex. I can’t do it justice. But, the medium is given only the first name of the “target” (the spirit person. The medium gives a reading. The experiment that interfaces with the medium never interfaces with the sitter and does not know who the “target” or the sitter is. This eliminates all possibility of hot or cold readings. The medium is asked to describe the target- physical characteristics, personality, etc. The reading is given to the sitter along with a reading that is not for the sitter. This eliminates the possibility of sitter bias, giving the medium a higher score to please the medium or the experimenters. The sitter scores both readings and tells which reading she believes is for her target.

Dr. Beischel’s studies eliminate every alternative explanation I’m aware of that any cynic has put out there. And, her results are significant. Interestingly enough, as the true skeptical scientist she is, she does not claim that her work proves that mediums communicate with the discarnate. There are other possibilities, such as the medium tapping into a field of knowledge that we’re not aware of. But, for most of these cynics, that would be replacing one impossible phenomenon with another. We have to rely on the mediums themselves to tell us what their experience is, that is that they are communicating with the “other side”. And, that is precisely what they tell us. What we do know is they can come up with information that is “impossible” to find by ordinary means. We can control for those means and eliminate them as possibilities.

For myself, I remain skeptical of mediums, as individuals. Some are no good. Some are downright frauds. I recommend that everyone be wary when seeking out a medium. But, my studies and my personal experience with mediums, both professional and amateur, have proven to me beyond any reasonable doubt that mediumship is far from impossible. Maybe one day, science will tell us how it’s done. However, keep in mind that things we now take as a given were once deemed impossible by science. The fact that science cannot tell us how something is done doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Our 14-year-old lab mix began slowing down a few months ago. I knew the day that we would have to say goodbye was coming soon. I could not bring myself to let her go. She was no longer able to go up and down the steps to the deck. Her legs would give out on her, and she would collapse to the floor.

On Tuesday, we took her to the vet to see if there was anything we could do to help her. What we were told is what we knew. She was a 60 pound (down to 53 pounds due to muscle loss), almost 15-year-old dog. Her body was preparing to go home. The gray hair, cataracts, the hearing loss all told the tale that I turned a blind eye to. The seizures were what finally woke me up to the reality that the day I had feared was approaching fast.

By Thursday Zoe was so bad I knew it was only a matter of a few days. I happened to have scheduled a reading with a medium in training. We planned it a few weeks ago. Thursday was an incredibly stressful day for me. Zoe spent the entire day in her room. She couldn’t get up to get out of it. Normally, she would spend the day in my office or Tywana’s office. I avoided walking by her door knowing she’d look up at me with eyes that seemed to say, “How much longer are we going to do this, Daddy?”

I had a test medium reading scheduled for Thursday afternoon. I thought about canceling because I wondered how my energy would be. I had arranged this meeting weeks ago when I had no idea Zoe would be this sick. The reading opened with Andy saying to me, “I saw you before we got on the Zoom. You were in a room, with falling red hearts. They are all shades of red.” She continued, “I see in your aura an almost heartache. This is a heartache that isn’t here yet. But, you know it’s coming. You are going to have a conversation about it.” I broke down in tears. She told me, “The spirit world is at the ready. This is the greatest gift you can give. I see fur hugs all around you. Fur hugs.”

Friday, I had to carry Zoe out of the house to do her bathroom stuff. She collapsed, trying to get back into the house. I heard a voice say to Tywana, “It’s time.” The voice was mine.

We made arrangements to take Zoe in the following morning. We had a full day of moving Kayla, my 22-year-old daughter, into her new house. Zoe took precedence though. We didn’t want her to suffer one day longer than necessary.

Zoe made a peaceful, quick transition. After we left the vet’s office, Kayla told us that she saw Shayna in the corner of the room, waiting to greet Zoe. I had told Shayna that morning that she better be there to greet Zoe. I was elated to hear this from Kayla.

I spent the rest of the day at Kayla’s house assembling her IKEA furniture. It had been an exhausting day, physically and emotionally. I nearly quit and opted to finish on Sunday. But, I wanted to get it done and finished up. When I got home, I saw a Facebook notice that Cyrus Kirkpatrick was hosting an event with Susanne Wilson on Sunday. Since I got the furniture done on Saturday, I penciled it in on my calendar. I’d attend if I were up to it. I had been trying to reach Susanne to tell her about my book because she had encouraged me to write it several times. Also, in my first real medium reading, three years ago, she told me I would be working with Victor Zammit. I was in the Friday Afterlife Report this very week. I wanted to give her the validation of her reading.

Sunday rolled around, and I connected to the Zoom. I quickly told Susanne about my book and the Afterlife Report. She and Cyrus did their interview, and it was time for questions and answers. Usually, I would hang back and let others ask questions. And, I already knew the answer to my question. I just had to hear her say it. I asked, “Susanne, I had to put my dog to sleep yesterday. I’ve heard that when people cross over their pets are there to greet them. Have you ever heard that when a pet crosses over, their human is there to greet them?” She assured me this happens. Then, she paused, and a quizzical look came over her face. She asked if I saw Zoe’s soul as it left her body because she was being told that I experienced her crossing. I had prayed for a shared crossing experience. I hoped to see Zoe and possibly Shayna taking her Home. I didn’t get it directly. But, at one point, I felt like Zoe’s soul passed through me. Susanne described it as a not going up but going through, a “whoosh.” A “whoosh” is precisely what I felt. I wish I could say I experienced it as joy as Zoe’s soul was released. I experienced it as pain, as I knew my baby was gone.

Susanne said she saw Shayna with braids rubbing her braids across Zoe as Zoe lay on her lap. Then, she said, “Shayna says she was in the corner of the room.” This stunned me. Shayna in the corner was exactly the way Kayla had described it.

The synchronicities were not quite over. On Monday, Tywana told me about a podcast interview with Gretchen Bickert. Gretchen was on Lisa Jones’ show “Exploring Death”. What Tywana didn’t know is that Gretchen was in a grief class I taught with Terri Daniel last year. Gretchen is a pet grief expert. So, Gretchen and I know each other. The podcast was released just a few weeks earlier, on Tywana’s birthday. Tywana and I listened to the podcast. I was amazed and comforted by Gretchen’s stories about her dog, Ernie. Lisa mentioned that Gretchen might be looking for stories about dogs’ crossings. I thought about emailing her. But my week got busy.

Then, I saw that Gretchen was going to be a guest on AREI’s Global Gathering on Sunday, eight days after we put Zoe to sleep. This meeting would be the time to share my story with her directly. I called into the meeting and was able to have a conversation with Gretchen.

It’s been nine days since Zoe crossed. The grief comes in waves, as grief does. The gratitude does as well. I am joyous when I think of Zoe’s loyalty and love. I give thanks for 14 years of excellent health. Even during all of the pain, I am glad that I am open to see how the universe continues to support me. I am conscious that as we walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, we should keep our eyes up so that we can see that we never walk alone. The timing of the reading with Andy was no coincidence. I easily could have canceled. The timing of the meeting with Susanne added to this. Gretchen’s appearance on Lisa Jones’ show and the AREI makes the magic undeniable. And the message of validation of Shayna being there in the room brings me great comfort by letting me know for sure my two girls are together!