Sometimes it eats at me…the sickening anxiety producing guilt & dread that comes after a couple weeks of not seeing mom. I usually get there about once a week, but ocassionaly I let life get in the way.

I  know it’s been almost about 10 days, when I feel myself getting more distracted, tense, & sad. By day 14, I know it has been to long. So I go…mostly out of duty, or so it seems. But really, once I get there, I am so glad I went. It feels right & fulfilling, especially if I bring the kids. We always make her day…& week. No pressure in being someone’s everything, all the time. Ha ha.

It feels sort of like excersise. It is hard to get over all your silly self sabotaging  mind blocks to actually get your but to the gym, but once your done with the workout, you feel pretty good. Well, most times. Because Sometimes, it really sucks. You know, to exert all that time & energy, & then not have anything to show for it (externally or immediately,  anyway)
When you are a “sandwich” generation mom, like me (a term for those of us who are caring for young kids and ailing aging parents) you get used to dealing with various feelings of guilt & stress. It is difficult to maintain a balance of caring for ALL, not to mention, trying to successfully care for yourself.
After a couple of really great, productive fun weeks or week with my kids, I continue to carry around that nagging dark  little voice…ignoring it the best I can. “Mom is fading away…& you’re not there” “She is dying of disease &loneliness, where are you?” “What if she dies this week, & you didn’t even find the time to visit. Nice.”
The voices vary in degree of intensity, depending on my mood. I know part of it results from being an adult child of an alcoholic. As a ACOA you learn to master (so you think) the rough waters of blame & self loathing. You learn to ride through the dark waves with your protective armor of truths guiding you. The little self manta encouagments reasuring me, “You are doing what you can” You are a good mother…NO, you are a GREAT one” “You are giving your kids what she never could…the truth” and on & on & on & on & on…
I tend to stick with the eternal truths though…as they are more lasting & calming. Like, “Do not be afraid, I am with you”, “You can do all things through Him who gives you strength” & of course a time tested favorite,
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
And of course, being a Catholic, the Divine Mercy Chaplet & the Rosary are my saving graces (literally).
“For the sake of his most sorrowful passion, have mercy of us & on the whole world…”
Repeated over & over  again, 10 times in between saying,
“Eternal Father,
I offer you the Body and Blood,
Soul and Divinity,
of Your Dearly Beloved Son,
Our Lord, Jesus Christ,
in atonement for our sins
and those of the whole world.”
It is recited using Rosary beads.
Here is a link to how to pray the whole thing (takes about 10 min)
At times I go through my “whatever, it’s just to much work” stages with prayer, like I do with excersise, & pretty much most everything else in my life, that requires a ton of discipline & focus.
That is when I try to make it simple…like repeating, “Jesus, have mercy” or during really awesome times with my kids & husband I silently tell God, “Thank you, thank you, thank you. For this. Right now. Things tiny but huge gifts in my life.”
Or I will go & just sit in the chapel & be. No formal prayers…just me and Him & all that I give Him. And the peace I always get in return.
Hands down , every time, when I feel distant from God or others, it is because I haven’t prayed,  or have not searched out enough quiet time to meditate & reconnect.
WelL, I am off to do a little more procrastinating, avoiding “the home”, appease my guilt & buy a too expensive bouquet of vintage roses for mom (she LOVES flowers),  feed my kids (myself if I remember), workout (ha ha ha),
then visit mom!
Oh…& try to squeeze a bit of prayer time in there to 🙂
Have a blessed day



Your brilliant, colorful silks

and delicate luxuries

build up dust

and have greatly faded

in the relentless,

harsh sunlight.


To much of a good thing, I guess.


Part museum,

part mausoleum,

frozen in time.


The dates

on boxes and cans

are marked 2005:

when you were last here.


Just hiding out

in those beautiful

intricately detailed




Ironically, similar

to how you once lived.


By the World’s standards,

you once had 



Rooms galore,

intense, blinding beauty

all around…

“The Good Life” on 2 shores.


Yet, all that outward glamour

and perfection

couldn’t save you

from what was

eating you inside…


Your painful fears,

dark doubts,

and dangerous pride…

I watch this video, with its upbeat tempo and the good music, and think “facade”.  Amy is singing about her failed attempts at getting sober, clean, and healthy. But, you would hardly know that by watching the dancing crowd and band players. All I see though, as I have lived a long life as a daughter of an alcoholic, is despair and pain. Money, power, fame, even talent, can become facades to hide behind…if we are not careful and discerning. There is a reason why “The Serenity Prayer” is the main prayer read at AA and Al-Anon meetings! We can not do it without our God!

Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.


The locked down psych ward in the hospital is not a fun place to visit. There are many locked doors in between you and where you need to go. The nurses usually take all of your possessions away from you, or lock them up in your room, except for the clothes that you are wearing. When you walk into the main visitors room, you see many lonely, desperate, angry, or confused looking people hanging around.

Sometimes the people don’t really understand why they are there. The multiple times that my mom went into the psych ward, she did not fully understand why she was there. She was usually very angry, anxious, confused, and sad. She has never really believed that her memory or addiction problems were severe enough to put her in danger.

She still tells me on a regular basis that “She is no more forgetful than any other 65 year old!” Which is sort of funny, because she is actually 69, and she repeats that same statement often, 5 minutes after she last stated it. I usually respond with an “Ok, mom…Ok.” And when she says things like, “Man, I would give anything to have a beer right now”, I usually say, “I bet you do mom, I bet you do…..”

I recall a time where I took mom to a routine Psychiatric visit and she ended up being hauled up to the psych ward with no warning. It was a very helpless feeling watching the big burly guards grab her thin, frail arms and lead her away from me, all the while she is pleading for me to do something. The doctor didn’t feel she was safe any more, and put a 72 hour hold on her, which is routine when patients are unstable and at risk for potential self abusive behavior. On that visit though, I never saw it coming. One minute we were talking about her meds, behaviors, and recent problems, and the next the doc is telling us she needs to be admitted.

There is nothing quite so frightening as getting a late night call from your mom in the psych ward, who is crying and pleading for you to get her out of there. In those moments I would plead for God to help me detach from the chaotic drama and misery that mom was trying to pull me into. Sometimes I was OK at it. Other times, I felt like I was sinking in a sea of helplessness, as I had no way of ever giving her what she wanted. All I could do was listen, and give her more tough love, by saying things like “mom, you need to stay there until you feel better and it’s safe for you to go home.” Sometimes it seemed to calm her. Other times nothing I ever said was good enough.

I know now that I tried my very best to help her, and that it is all I was ever expected to do. Sometimes you can give someone every chance to heal and recover, and they will never choose it. It doesn’t mean that you are unworthy, it just means they don’t think that they are worthy enough for you. It helps me immensely to know and truly believe that I will ALWAYS be worthy enough to God, whose opinion I am most concerned about.

I remember

to well

all those

locked doors

keeping us apart.


The psych wards,

the memory floors,

the locks on your heart

and mind

shut tight

keeping me

on the outside.


That day:

A routine visit

to the psych

and without warning

they snatched you away.


I stood alone

helpless and afraid

not knowing

what to do

while you yelled out

“Mary, don’t let them take me away!”


The security guards

on either side

keeping you close

as I trail behind

confused and afraid

another 72 hour hold

to keep you safe….


And all you

want to do

is run away free

and escape….


I faithfully wait

leave on a light

as you fretfully sit

and put up a good fight.


And as I always do,

I  fervently pray

that our merciful Lord

will help you


find your way….

Big Heart of Art - 1000 Visual Mashups


How Much is To Much?

Harrods department store, Brompton Road, Knigh...

Harrods department store, Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last summer, while I was in London, I visited Harrods’s Department Store. Harrods is one of the largest and most luxurious department stores in the world. It’s a place you really need to “see to believe”. The opulence and extravagance are unlike anything I have ever seen. The ceilings are decked out with intricate colorful hand paintings, gilded sculptures, and brilliant fixtures.

The opulent clothing department at Harrods, London

Harrods only sells the very top designer brands or “couture” brands, like Yves Saint Laurent, Burberry, and Marc Jacobs. They have an amazing shellfish bar, and they sell any kind of food in the world that you could possibly dream of.

At one point, we were browsing in the “discount” room looking at woman’s clothes, where the least expensive clothing item I found was a DKNY sequenced shirt going for 50 pounds ($80 or so). Just down the rack from that shirt there was a intricately embroidered suede leather jacket “on sale” for $3500, reduced from the price of $15,000. I joke you not. The first thought I had was “Um, shouldn’t they have this locked up or something?” And then I thought, “How much do they actually mark this stuff up, if they decreased the price by that much?” It probably cost a couple hundred to make it. It was total madness to me.

There were people from all over the world shopping. I noticed a lot of Middle 

Eastern women with beautiful brightly colored luxurious silk scarves wrapped

around  them, which probably cost more than my Grand Caravan minivan. Many

had their “maids” trailing behind them carrying their plethora of stuffed, heavy

packages. The women’s husbands or boyfriends wore expensive looking Italian

 leather shoes, silk shoes, and linen slacks. I got to thinking about what these

these people do for a living that they can come here for a shopping spree. Are

they wives of dignitaries or diplomats or important oil sheiks from

Due Bai or Empire Eu?


I thought, “Do these people wake up in the morning and think, “You know, I

need to go pick up that Burberry scarf (regular price 550 pounds) to go with

my $15,ooo jacket. I really haven’t spent enough of my millions lately….”

No, I am guessing that prices do not even enter their brains. Perhaps money to

them, is plentiful and endless, so it is of no concern.


We ate lunch there, which was fun, as it is such a ridiculously “surreal” place. I

had an $8  latte and a $20 sandwich, which was the best sandwich I have ever

tasted. For me, it was a fun place to visit for a couple hours. I loved the food

departments. I could’ve stayed all day dreaming up exotic food recipes.

We didn’t even make it upstairs to the furniture and housewares department,

but I hear they have pieces worth millions of dollars. All around there were big

burly security guards carfully watching the large crowd for potential

“problems”. It was a little unnerving.


After walking around all of the exorbitantly priced blouses and dresses, I

began to feel claustrophobic an annoyed. It reminded me of those days when

my mom would come home from trips wearing her St. John Knit dresses, which is  a brand that Harrods carry. I always had mixed feelings of awe and confusion.

Like, “Wow, mom looks amazingly fantastic in that St. John Knit dress, and then

“Why does she spend that much money on one dress?” “Does it really make her

feel that much better about herself wearing a $5,ooo dress, verses a $50

dress?” I think it did make her feel better about herself for a while anyway.

But was it worth it?


I am most certainly not immune to the sinful forces of greed, just like everyone 

else. I love to shop for beautiful things, and I have been known to get “sucked

in” all of that tempting materialism, which can leave you feeling like “you just

have to have it”, in order to be a happier, more fulfilled person.But, luckily for

my husband, the frugal teacher in me still loves to mostly bargain shop. I

rarely,if ever, pay full price for anything.


Over time, I have come to realize that those fulfilled feelings fade. Money can

make you more comfortable and make your life run more efficiently. But alone,

it can never buy lasting happiness. And the thing about my mom was that she

could have had almost any material thing that her heart could’ve dreamed of,

but the illusion of happiness that it brought her would have never been enough.

And that is because she could never truly find that happiness within her.


What my mom’s illness has taught me is that all of this “stuff” that we sometimes put to

much value and importance in will all very much pass away, and should not in any way

define our true selves. I think of my mom’s St. John Knit dresses collecting dust in her

closet now, and it makes me sad. All the glitz and glam can become methods and means

for appearing worthy or special. Sometimes material wealth can cause people to hide

behind their clothes and expensive shoes…..getting farther and farther from the truth of

who they are on the inside.


So, I guess my Harrods experience left my asking the questions,

“What really matters in life?” “How can I live a more authentic life, focusing more

on giving, than on getting?” “How can I best balance my time and money?”

“How much is TO much?”


She told him she’d rather fix her makeup
Than try to fix what’s going on
But the problem keeps on calling
Even with the cellphone gone
She told him that she believes in living
Bigger than she’s living now
But her world keeps spinning backwards
And upsidedown
Don’t say so long, and throw yourself wrong
Don’t spend today away
Cuz today will soon be Gone, like yesterday is gone,
Like history is
Gone, just trying to prove me wrong
And pretend like you’re immortal She said he said live like no tomorrow
Every day we borrow
Brings us one step closer to the edge (infinity)
Where’s your treasure, where’s your hope
If you get the world and lose your soul
She pretends like she pretends like she’s immortal
Don’t say so long
You’re not that far gone
This could be your big chance to makeup
Today will soon beGone, like yeterday is gone,
Like history is gone,
The world keeps spinning on,
Your going going gone,
Like summer break is gone,
Like saturday is gone
Just try to prove me wrong
You pretend like your immortal your immortal

We are not infinite
We are not permanent
Nothing is immediate
We’re so confident
In our accomplishments
Look at our decadence

Gone, like Frank Sinatra
Like Elvis and his mom
Like AL Pacino’s cash nothing lasts in this life
My highschool dreams are gone
My childhood sweets are gone
Life is a day that doesn’t last for long

Life is more than money
Time was never money
Time was never cash,
Life is still more than girls
Life is more than hundred dollar bills
And roto-tom fills
Life’s more than fame and rock and roll and thrills
All the riches of the kings
End up in wills we got information in the information age
But do we know what life is
Outside of our convenient Lexus cages

She said he said live like no tomorrow
Every moment that we borrow
Brings us closer to the God who’s not short of cash
Hey Bono i’m glad you asked
Life is still worth living, life is still worth living


How cleaver is my pride, how it deceives my mind

To think I am in control when I have really lost it all
How brilliant is my greed for what it says I need
And then I’ve come to find I’m empty on the inside

Real, my heart is aching to be real
So I am coming to You

All my broken motives, all my selfish dreams
All of my foolishness now I understand where it leads
I wanna be in Your love, I wanna be so much more
I know You’re reaching out so what am I fighting You for
So what am I fighting You for

How quick is my doubt to leave my heart without
The presence of Your peace so that I scarce believe
How pardoned is my guilt to crush the life You built
And to keep me far away from any kind of shame

Real, my heart is aching to be real
So I am coming to You
All my broken motives, all my selfish dreams
All of my foolishness now I understand where it leads
I wanna be in Your love, I wanna be so much more
I know You’re reaching out so what am I fighting You for

‘Cause only You can save me
And only You can change me
And only You can love me
Here I come, here I come
So I come to You

All my broken motives, all my selfish dreams
All of my foolishness ’cause I understand where it leads
I wanna be in Your love, I wanna be so much more
I know You’re reaching out so what am I fighting You

All my broken motives, all my selfish dreams
All of my foolishness now I understand where it leads
I wanna be in Your love, I wanna be so much more
I know You’re reaching out I don’t wanna fight anymore

I don’t wanna fight anymore
I don’t wanna fight anymore
I don’t wanna fight anymore
I don’t wanna fight

Somebody’s Baby

I wait for weeks,


to fill out your annual guardianship renewal forms.

Almost to the point

where I’m forced back to court

for you.

Avoiding the hurt and the official proof

of just where

all of your dark desires

have brought us to.


I don’t give you a copy.

Maybe I should, but I don’t.

Because I know you won’t understand.


Somedays I feel stuck in this mud

of thick, dark

suffocating despair.

Wondering where we would be

if you had just held on

to the hands

reaching out to help.


But then I crawl up

and remember all that I have gained

despite all of the darkness.


I cling to His promises of





All of which can never be taken from me…….for they are eternal……

“Do not abandon yourself to despair.

 We are an Easter people,

and Hallelujah is our song!”

~Blessed John Paul II



Surrendering My Shame

You know the saying, “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me?” Well, in a family where there is an addiction problem, the family members, along with the addict herself, often live a life filled with crippling shame. The addict lives a roller coaster life of secrecy and regret, often viewing the world through a lingering haze of darkened, heavy shame. The other family members become enmeshed in a world of second guessing, desperate hoping, and pleading. This can lead to an almost unbearable shame, as their loved one never seems to “get better” from any of their concentrated efforts.

This tremendous amount of shame is a major difference between the disease of addiction and other types of diseases, like cancer. When a loved one is inflicted with other types of diseases, people are not often embarrassed to ask how he or she is doing. Concerned family and friends  don’t hesitate to offer support and encouragement in various ways.

Yet, when a loved one is away getting treatment for a chemical dependency problem (at least a 28 day stay), often times few people acknowledge it to the family that is left behind. The shame and embarrassment of talking of it, combined with the extreme awkwardness of people not knowing what to say or do, often wins out over the potential compassionate moments of reaching out.

The multiple times my mother went into chemical dependency treatment, our family did not get a whole lot of support, except from a few close family members. At least, I don’t recall much of it. Maybe my dad was to proud or embarrassed to receive any outside help. And maybe I don’t remember because I was so wrapped up in my own confusion and sadness . I believe that our family and friends were deeply concerned, but I think that the “don’t talk” policy was still very prominent in our family.

The “don’t talk, don’t tell, don’t feel” rule is a very common phenomenon in alcoholic homes. Especially in homes that are more affluent, as they struggle with trying to appear happy and well-adjusted to the outside world. Self Pride and denial also play big roles within this disease, as everyone is consumed with secretly trying to control the addict’s environment in trying to lead their loved one away from what is destroying them.

I was told early on not to betray any of our family “secrets” regarding my mom’s drinking problem. I was told not to tell ANYONE about what was happening, because it was not anyone’s business. I lived in a constant state of heavy sorrow and shame, as I did need to confide in someone. I confided all of my deep and dark family secrets to my  best friend on a daily basis. I do not blame my parents now for expecting that of me. It is the unfortunate  nature of  the damaging effects that result from this devastating disease.

In the book, “Adult Children of Alcoholics”, it talks about the difference  between healthy shame and toxic shame. Toxic shame is unhealthy shame, which originates from past verbal or physical abuse.

      “Others have been shamed by perfectionist goals that we could never reach. We were judged as failures for not being perfect or for not trying hard enough. Unhealthy shame is near the core of the adult child wound. We feel deeply flawed as a person due to this type of shame. Dealing with toxic shame takes courage, patience, and a Higher Power (God).”

      “Healthy shame exists when we recognize a wrong we have done, and we want to make it right with ourselves and with the person we have harmed. For example, when we gossip, we should feel shame because we know what it was like as children and teens to be gossiped about. We know how painful it is to be labeled or to be called names.”

Healthy shame allows you to honestly examine your life, choices, and your conscience, in order to seek reconciliation with God and those you have hurt. By seeking out forgivness in this way, you can begin to much more easily heal your toxic shame. Good counsel (pastoral, psychologist, support groups) can help you to recognize your different types of shame that hold you back from living a full life. This helps people to be open to receiving the healing and awareness that God wants all of us to have.

I recall a very painful situation of ridicule and shame that happened 3 years ago, when my mom first went into the hospital. When mom went into the ER, she was extremely inebriated and belligerent. She actually fell  down in the ER and broke her hip, which required her to get emergency surgery.

 One of the nurses that she had taking care of her was so completely and outwardly condescending and rude to her, that it was very insulting and painful to endure. Mom was very out of it and confused. She did not even understand where she was. Her dementia was worsened by the trauma of the surgery, and she was very demanding and anxious due to the effects of extreme chemical withdrawal.

It is difficult to describe  how hurtful it was to try to defend the dignity of this frail, sick, confused, difficult woman, who happened to be my mother and friend. I know that the nurse understood why she ended up in the hospital. He was visibly disgusted by her condition. Perhaps, he himself, had a parent who had sometimes also been a  belligerent alcoholic. Perhaps he did not have much compassion for those who ended up on that path in life. What I didn’t understand though, was his lack of compassion for me and my sister. By disrespecting my vulnerable mother, he was also disrespecting us. We complained about his lack of compassion, and we then got a different nurse to care for her. I prayed that he would not treat other families in the same way.

I can still vividly recall the pitiful glances of the nurses and doctors, as they watched me take my mom in for her second hip surgery. She fell out of her hospital bed a few nights after her first surgery, and tragically broke her other hip. The looks were mixed with pity, sorrow, and disgust. I have never felt so alone in my entire life, as my mom was grasping at me, begging for me to help her, as she was not even sure of what exactly had happened to her. I remember saying to her surgeon, while trying to choke down my tears, “It’s been a long 20 years”. He nodded his head in sympathy.

At certain points during her almost 3 week stay, it seemed that mom might not make it. After the 3 weeks, she moved into a physical rehabilitation center (on the locked down dementia floor)  for a month to help her recover. During that time, she was very sick. She was angry, combative, confused, and in tremendous pain. They needed to keep her in a bed that had a mesh tent attached to the top, so that she would not fall out or escape from her bed. She reminded me of a deranged caged animal. It was upsetting, to say the very least.

I have never clung so tightly to my faith, in the hope and love of Christ, as I did during that time period. I felt carried in a way that allowed me to calmly and gracefully put one foot in front of the other. And It was during that time that I began to get a glimpse of what true surrender looks like. “Letting Go and Letting God” became more than just a tired slogan for me. I started to commit myself to a deeper and more frequent prayer life. I prayed the rosary more often. I prayed with my family and church friends more regularly, and attended Reconciliation again, after not receiving it for a few years.

I asked God to please help me accept His will, what ever that may be…instead of focusing most of my prayers  on curing my mother. It was when I began to practice surrendering my will, for His will, that I began to experience moments of real peace and detachment. I started focusing on what I was grateful for, instead of mostly focusing on why this was happening to us.

You see, in many ways, I did not at all feel ready to be looking for a nursing home for my mom to move into when I was still in my mid thirties. This was not supposed to be in our plans. I was not supposed to become my mother’s legal guardian. And certainly not when I had young babies of my own, or just a few years after my mother and father separated.

But, slowly, God was beginning to show me that He was indeed, the One in control. And the more I surrendered all of my expectations and fears, the more I felt that He was guiding me. It was then that I began to see in a much more profound way,  that as long as I kept my focus on Him, on His Words and promises, and  nourished myself with his life-giving Body and Blood in the Eucharist, that everything would be just fine. That, actually, everything could be more than just “fine”.

Things could be GOOD, because I was starting to really KNOW, as I still know, that “I could do ALL things through Him, who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. And I began to truly feel the truth, as I still do, in  Jeremiah 29:11, ‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”


A Prayer

I wanted to share a powerful poem from a beautiful book called, “To Bless the Space Between Us” written by John O’Donohue. This is a poem that helps to give more clarity & understanding for what it may feel like to live a life of addiction. It is also, in a sense, a prayer. A prayer for truth, and freedom, and hope for addicts to one day be enlightened & saved from their prisons of self-destruction.

For An Addict

 On its way through the innocent night,

The moth is ambushed by the light,

Becomes glued to a window

Where a candle burns; its whole self,

Its dreams of flight and all desire

Trapped in one glazed gaze;

Now nothing else can satisfy

But the deadly beauty of flame.


When you lose the feel

For all other belonging

And what is truly near

Becomes distant and ghostly,

And you are visited

And claimed by a simplicity

Sinister in its singularity,


No longer yourself, your mind

And will owned and steered

From elsewhere now,

You would sacrifice anything

To dance once more to the haunted

Music with your fatal beloved

Who owns the eyes of your heart.


These words of blessing cannot

Reach, even as echoes,

To the shore of where you are,

Yet may they work without you

To soften some slight line through

To the white cave where

Your soul is captive


May some glimmer

Of outside light reach your eyes

To help you recognize how

You have fallen for a vampire.


May you crash hard and soon

Onto real ground again

Where this fundamentalist

Shell might start to crack

For you to hear

Again your own echo.


That your lost lonesome heart

Might learn to cry out

For the true intimacy

Of  love that waits

To take you home

To where you are known

And seen and where

Your life is treasured

Beyond every frontier

Of despair you have crossed.