Category: Positively Positive

Change Your Mind and Free Yourself

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What Would You Love to Create Space for This Summer?


Do you ever feel like you don’t have the time you need to do what you really want? Or get to the things that need attention and care?

How about feel guilty or like a slacker when you are doing something that isn’t “productive” or profitable?

Did you ever wonder why it’s so challenging to prioritize the things that feed you the most? And why there never seems to be enough ‘time’ to get to what really matters?

What if this summer, you made a shift to do things differently? What if you took a stand to create the space for what matters to you?

I have been sensing into how many of us are feeling as we head into the summer months. What I’ve noticed in the voices and faces of most of the women I work with is this:

We are tired. On many levels – mind, body, heart and spirit.

We need more than a vacation or a couple of weekends away.

We need space.

Space to recover, reset, replenish and renew our tired minds, bodies, hearts and spirit.

I use the word space very intentionally instead of the word time, because while we often say things like “I need to find more time to…” or “I need to make more time to…” or “When I have free time I am going to…” time is not going to get you what you need. In fact, focusing on time is part of what keeps us stuck in burnout, overwhelm and never having enough time to recover and replenish.

Consider this:

If you are waiting to find the time, you will never find the time. Time is finite. You can’t make time – there is no time kitchen. And you can’t find more time – time is not lost.

What we need is not more time.

What we need is the ‘space’ to take care of the demands of our current lives AND feed the desires still coming into form AND nourish our hearts and souls and bodies with things that may not be ‘productive’ or ‘profitable’ but that sustain us in profound ways. But what does that really mean and how do you make that practical?

In the decade of research I did for my book Overwhelmed and Over It, which illuminates the roots of the burnout, self-sacrifice and unhealthy ways we work and live, I found this:

So many people just don’t know what they need. They are so busy just living and working, trying to keep up, that they can’t articulate what they need.

And if you don’t know what you need, you cannot make choices that make it possible to receive it.

If you don’t claim and create the space you need, no one will give it to you. And you will likely keep giving away your time and space to everyone and everything else, in ways that don’t actually nourish, support and replenish you.

Now let’s make this practical. Here’s where our ‘super power’ to create space comes in.

This summer I invite you to name and claim the space you need for the different realms of your life. And then make choices and changes that create a reality in which you receive the space you need. Even if it stretches you out of your comfort zone or other people don’t like it.

What follows below are four inquiries to help you get clear about the space you desire this summer. Ask yourself these questions, journal them out – considering the time span of this summer:

  1. What do I desire more space for in my relationships?
  2. What do I desire more space for with my body?
  3. What do I desire more space for in my work?
  4. What do I desire more space for just for myself?

Then take what you learn about what you desire, and dare to make choices that create that reality. Dare to be an advocate for yourself.

For more support and inspiration, including a guided visualization through these four inquiries, tune into the Feminine Power Time Podcast episode #159: POWER PAUSE: 4 inquiries to Create Space for What Matters to You This Next Half of the Year.


Christine Arylo, MBA, is the author of Overwhelmed and Over It. As a transformational leadership advisor, three-time bestselling author, and host of the popular Feminine Power Time podcast, she is recognized worldwide for her work helping women to make shift happen — in the lives they lead, the work they do, and the world they wish to create. Arylo offers trainings, retreats and workshops globally. Visit her online at http://www.christinearylo.com or tune into her podcast www.FemininePowerTime.com. Connect more with Christine and her community at www.femininewisdomcafe.com.

Image courtesy of Monica Turlui.

I’m a Gen-Z Living with My Parents. I’m Not Ashamed Anymore.

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I Lost My First Dog 4 Months Ago, and I’m Still Not Okay


I chatted with a work friend the other day on our lunch break. After updating each other on our personal lives, I asked her how her senior dog was doing. Blue was 13 already, and he had been slowing down for the last few years.

My co-worker’s face softened at my question. “He’s good, but I can’t help wondering what is going to happen once he passes away. I mean, he is my entire world and I don’t think I’ll ever be the same without him. I’ve never bonded this closely with any animal I’ve had…” her voice trailed off. She knew that my dog Neville Longbottom had passed away a few months prior, and I could see that she was struggling with how to apologize for bringing up the loss of a pet.

Without skipping a beat, I stepped in. “Please don’t say sorry for bringing that up. Any reminder of Neville is a reason for me to smile. He was the best thing to happen to me.”

“Wow,” she replied. “Thank you. Can I ask you something?” she hesitated before continuing.

“You seem like you’re in a great place. How long did it take you to get there?”

I laughed a little. I had gotten pretty good at pretending like I was fine. But I was a mess that day, and I’m still a mess now. Losing my dog is a wound so deep, so unlike anything I’ve ever felt. I look forward to the day where I can say that I’m “better”, but today is not that day.

Carefully, I responded. “I’m not really in a good place at all. Not even a little. I had a ‘cry like a baby’ sob session in my shower this morning when I remembered how he used to wait for me on the bathmat while I showered. I’ll probably have another cry fest tomorrow. And I’m okay admitting to you I’m not okay. I feel more human this way.”

We talked about other things, but our conversation came back to me that night as I cried myself to sleep thinking about Neville.

Grief is a confusing process. Neville is the first pet I’ve ever lost, so I’m undertaking this horrible stage of my life as a first-timer.

It’s been four months already, and I’m at a strange place in my grieving process. I still think about him every single day multiple times a day. When it happens, I get a sharp, stabbing pain in my chest. My eyes water and my stomach hurts. But I brush off my tears and get back to work.

Truthfully, if I sat down and sobbed every time I felt like sobbing, I’d get nothing done. I’d probably lose my job and get kicked out of my apartment.

Because I’d like my life to continue as normal as possible, I don’t sabotage everything I’ve worked so hard to accomplish every time I feel depressed. But no, I am not okay.

I miss him. I wish he was here because nothing feels normal since he left. My home is too quiet and I miss the messiness of a furry friend following me around everywhere. I miss the beautiful simplicity of calling his name.

No one tells you after losing your dog that you’ll ache to talk about him to anyone who will listen because you don’t get to call his name anymore.

After 4 months of mourning, am I ready for a new dog?

I’m not sure. Sometimes I feel absolutely ready to welcome a new dog into my life. I imagine myself choosing an older dog who is having a hard time getting adopted, and I know giving a home to a dog like that would fill my heart with joy. But I’m not sure I want to go through this grieving process in a few years again with a new dog.

I’m confused because I’ve reached this really stressful step where I feel like I’m ready and as soon as I click to submit an intake form to a new shelter, my mind just runs wild with these crazy scenarios:

  • What if this new dog doesn’t love me the way Neville loved me?
  • What if our relationship isn’t as close? (Of course, Neville and I weren’t best friends right away, and our love took 7 years to grow into what it was.)
  • What if I’m not ready at all, and I mistakenly get a new dog while I’m still mourning my best friend? That could be really damaging to my new dog’s adjustment.

I realize I am over-worrying; that is just the person I am. I just hope that it’s clear that I take the role of being a rescue dog-mom very seriously. It’s all of this silly overthinking that has stopped me from setting up an appointment with a shelter for a meet and greet.

If you’ve recently lost your pet

If you’ve recently lost your furry best friend, my heart hurts for you. I know the pain you are feeling and there is an entire community of beautifully broken animal lovers who know that pain too.

Grief is a complicated, tumultuous journey. There is no one-size-fits-all way of coping with losing someone special. And truthfully, the advice I leave here for my readers may not comfort every animal lover. Because we love differently, you and I.

Some people move on quicker than others, but it does not mean that they did not love them enough. Because we love differently, we cope differently. Some of us need a new companion sooner than others. And again, that’s okay. It’s okay to feel ready for a new dog almost immediately.

Similar to how we cannot judge widowed people for moving on and marrying again, we cannot tell anyone that they are a bad person for getting a new pet so quickly after losing one.

No one but us knows how to move on and mend our heart.

It’s okay to be a mess months later, even years later. It’s okay to mourn the person/animal who left such an imprint on your heart for the rest of your life. It’s okay to cry over how much you miss them. There is nothing wrong with missing them, even though you have new pets or a new person in your life. Grief is confusing, and feeling lost is perfectly normal. Find a group of people who have been lost before and keep them around. A healthy support system is a key to moving on and finding happiness again.

Because you will find happiness again.

Do not lose hope. While everything may feel dark, I promise, there are brighter days ahead. You will become another animal’s entire world one day, and you’ll look back at these low moments and feel grateful that you did not give up.

If you are a pet owner who’s never lost a pet

If you’ve never lost a pet before, then chances are you may have already clicked out of this article. I don’t blame you; I hated thinking about the inevitable until I had no choice but to face it. I hated thinking about what life would like without him. Until one day I looked around, and I was no longer a doggy-daycare mom. I was just someone who used to have a dog, once.

Neville made up my personality. Loving him was a big part of me, so it’s only normal that life feels eerily empty without the responsibilities that came with Neville’s companionship.

But if you are a pet owner and you are still reading, perhaps you will hold your furry friend just a little tighter tonight. Maybe you’ll spoil them with a new, colorful springtime collar and take 100 pictures of them in it. I hope you forgive them even quicker for accidentally making a mess on your favorite rug, and I hope you’ll let them sleep with you in your bed tonight even though you are trying to stop that habit. (It’s hard, I know.)

I’m scared I won’t ever know a love like the one Neville and I had. I’m terrified that the bond will not be the same, while cognizant of the fact that there will never be another Neville. I watch the hundreds of videos I have on my phone of him, and I’m reminded of how deep this wound is. I’m also overwhelmed at how emotional I become when I press play and I hear his little barks.

But again, I’m working hard to remind myself of better days.

Am I okay? No, I am not. But I’m not giving up because I know there is a dog out there in a shelter who is scared, lonely, and in desperate need of a human who is going to love them unconditionally. When I’m ready, I’m going to be that human for them, and all will be well again because Neville taught me how to love animals the way I do. And for him, I am eternally grateful.


Jessica Mendez is a full-time writer living in Las Vegas, NV. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from NAU and her master’s degree in family and human development from ASU. In 2018, she left her career in mental health to pursue a career in writing. She is currently working on her debut novel and a collection of bilingual poetry. Follow her on Twitter and Medium to read more of her work.

Image courtesy of Samson Katt.

To My Inner Child as I Put to Rest a Lifetime of Trauma


Once a week, I revisit some of the most traumatic moments of my life. I never imagined time travel would feel like this. I’ve stepped into the age of five, the age of fourteen. I have visited past selves that I keenly remember — and have spent an entire lifetime trying to forget.

This is the therapeutic process when it involves trauma work and EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. While this isn’t my first time in therapy in my life, it is the first time I’ve directly addressed early trauma and the impact its had on my life. It’s also the first time I’ve had any hope I can be free of the weight of it.

I didn’t even realize how much of the trauma I was still carrying around. I walked into my first therapy session knowing that I was recovering from a severe bout of depression. Between dealing with depression and a recent heartbreak, I was sure there would be plenty to unpack, but my therapist wanted to go deeper — back to the place where all the difficult feelings I was experiencing had originated.

I am a former therapist, but I was never trained in EMDR. I knew very little about it, and I had no idea how hard it would be — or how freeing. I’m not done yet. I have more work ahead of me, but it’s the first time in my life that I’ve realized that I can do something about the painful memories that never stopped causing me pain. Instead of being stuck at the emotional ages of those parts of my past, I’m healing and putting those ghosts to rest.

Having spent a lot of time with my inner, hurting child, I have a few things I need to say to her, things she probably needs (and needed) to hear:

I see your pain, but I also see your strength and resilience. For every moment of bottled rage, I see how you simultaneously crafted a colorful inner world. The world outside was ugly, and you felt you had no control. Your world inside was beautiful, and there, you reigned supreme.

Life hurt you, and you fought back, and you thought you were fine. I thought you were fine. But instead, you’d taken the pieces of pain and folded them up so tightly, tricking me into thinking they were healed when you turned them into pretty origami shapes to disguise a painful past. They weren’t healed, merely transformed. As you continued to transform yourself, trying on each new version to survive.

But I have visited you again, and I feel the sharp ache of longing in your bones for love that feels like enough. I feel your secret fears that you are as unworthy as you’ve been made to feel. But you are loved enough, and you are worthy. You are worthy now. You were worthy then. You will always be worthy of love, of belonging, and of being seen and accepted for who you are.

You are not your pain. You are not your struggle. Your gift may have been sharpened against pain, but your gift was not born of it. It was born in YOU. You have always been stronger than the storm around you. You have always loved hard even when you didn’t have enough love to wrap around yourself at night.

You were not okay — but you will be okay. You survived it all. Now you get to thrive.

It seems like the past cannot be changed. It’s a fixed point in time. Yet, our perspective of it can change. Our viewpoint can shift from the hurting child to the strong and capable adult. Healing is possible — and not just the whitewashed coat of acceptance and forgiveness over a tarnished past but real, complete healing.

EMDR has been a life-changing process. I can feel the shifts in me, and it’s more than accepting the past as it was. It’s changing how I see the world — and perhaps even how the world sees me. For those who have experienced trauma, EMDR offers an opportunity to heal those moments that forever altered us. It offers an opportunity to reclaim our power and, in doing so, to reclaim our lives.

Every visit to the past leaves more of it behind me. Every return to my inner child highlights her strength over her suffering. The past is being rewritten, and this time I am the narrator.

I walk out of therapy with a tear-streaked face, but my head is held high. I know that time travel is possible, and healing is happening here. I visit my inner child, and I tell her what she needs to hear. With every whisper to my former self, I am changing. With every visit to my past, I am changing my future.


Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned author. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elephant Journal, Elite Daily, and The Good Men Project. She’s also the author of Left on Main, the first book in the Heart of Madison series. When she’s not writing for Medium and working on her next book, you can find Crystal traveling, paddle boarding, running, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, doing yoga, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with her two wild and wonderful children.

Image courtesy of Ryanniel Masucol.

The Problem with Self-Love


“Being the “best you can be” is really only possible when you are deeply connected to another. Splendid isolation is for planets, not people.” ― Sue Johnson

A quick search for self-love brings up all kinds of results. 50 ways to love yourself, what self-love means, how to practice it, and even self-love for beginners. I’m sure there’s a course out there somewhere if we were to look hard enough.

It seems we have become obsessed with trying to figure out how to love ourselves. But from what I see, we have become obsessed, instead, with just the self. Maybe that’s why you see the rise of so many other articles about narcissism on Medium and elsewhere too? That’s probably just the cynic in me.

I get it, though. It’s important that we take care of ourselves and to have self-compassion for our mistakes for our flaws. We should also focus on self-care when we need to. I’ve written about it all, and I’ve followed much of the advice.

But it appears self-love has become a pre-requisite to be in a romantic relationship.

One of the tenets being we should love ourselves before we love anyone else. Or we need to work on ourselves and be completely healthy when entering into a relationship. Unfortunately, all this does is stop us from ever pursuing a relationship because there is always “work to do.” The phrase, “If we don’t love ourselves, how can we love someone else?” is often cited also. Like it’s not even possible, and all we are doing is setting ourselves, and our partner, up for failure. I disagree.

There will always be work to do. We are imperfect. That is what makes us human, and I have never met one completely healthy person in my life. Everyone has baggage, most have just not opened up the suitcase to see what’s inside. Unless we are utter and complete messes and unable to function, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pursue relationships.

Esther Perel, a psychotherapist with over 20 years of clinical experience, and a well-known advisor on sex and relationships, says, “We don’t just learn to love ourselves by ourselves. It’s a classic chicken or the egg scenario: in order to love another, we must love ourselves. In order to love ourselves, we must allow ourselves to be loved by others.”

And, more importantly, “Self-love is less about the ability to withstand loneliness or establish independence and more about awareness and acceptance of our incompleteness. It’s about letting others love us even when we feel unlovable because their version of us is often kinder than our own.”

The idea we fail to see when we talk about needing to love ourselves first is that two people can help each other out while together. The other person can help you find that self-love, and vice-versa.

Although it’s not anyone’s job to do the other person’s work for them or to “fix” anyone, we can learn from each other while being in a relationship, and we can heal within it as well. A lot of it we can’t do on our own. We need relationships to get past some of those roadblocks, and a healthy (and even unhealthy) relationship helps us discover things about ourselves that we may not have learned on our own — how to be vulnerable; to accept the love we didn’t think we were worthy of; to give the love we didn’t think we have. Whether or not we realize it, we depend on others to help us grow.

“To be human is to need others, and this is no flaw or weakness.” ― Sue Johnson

In fact, Dr. Sue Johnson, a psychologist and author known for her work in attachment, bonding, and relationships agrees the notion you must love yourself first is not backed by her research.

From her book Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships, “Equally amazing is what the new research reveals about the impact of emotion in our closest relationships. The message touted by popular media and therapists has been that we’re supposed to be in total control of our emotions before we turn to others. Love yourself first, and then another will love you. Our new knowledge stands that message on its head.”

Also, “‘For humans,’ says psychologist Ed Tronick of the University of Massachusettes, ‘the maintenance of [emotional balance] is a dyadic collaborative process.’ In other words, we are designed to deal with emotion in concert with another person — not by ourselves.”

The problem with self-love is the message has become we have to choose between either learning how to love ourselves or be in a relationship. One or the other, but not both.

However, self-love can be found and cultivated while in a relationship. It’s not either/or. We don’t have to choose.

And we don’t need to love ourselves to love someone else.


Jeff Barton is a writer, ultra-runner, lover of books and zombies, a practitioner of positive thinking, and most importantly, a dad. Living and loving life one day at a time. You can find him at jeffthewriter.com and jefftherunner.com.

Image courtesy of Trung Nguyen.

Have a Little Faith-10 Prescriptions For Happiness


The Newsweek columnist Julia Baird writes about happiness:

“Is this endless pursuit of happiness just making us all miserable? We’ve said or affirmations, drunk coffee out of mugs with nonsensical quotes, and bought millions of tomes on getting rich quick while thinking positive thoughts.”

She claims that Americans outwardly say they are happy, even when they are not.

In fact, she writes; “The more overtly we have studied and pursued it, the less happy we have become and the more confusing it gets.” She quotes a study that states despite decades of economic growth in America, men and women are no happier than they had been.

Perhaps we need to examine what happiness is all about. We can’t control everything, however, what really matters will be under our control. Will we behave honorably, graciously, generously? Will we enhance other people’s lives?

For it is not what happens to us on which our happiness depends. It depends on how we respond to what happens to us.

A Rabbi’s top ten are:

  1. Give thanks
  2. Praise
  3. Spend time with your family
  4. Discover meaning
  5. Lift your values
  6. Forgive
  7. Keep growing
  8. Learn to listen
  9. Create moments of silence in the soul
  10. Transform suffering

It is not sugary promotions. It is not the power of positive thinking. It is not to be beautiful, wealthy and successful. It is to be involved in a life filled with values, meaning and significance. It is to recognize all the gifts that have come your way and appreciate those gifts and those around you. If you always want more, to be richer, more beautiful and more well known, you are missing the bigger picture. Be satisfied, be grateful for what you have, for the love you receive, and for what God has given to you. That is what happiness is all about.

The Talmud asks “Who is wealthy? The people who are satisfied with their lot.” May we be joyous and may we be satisfied and pleased with our lot. And may we make the most of our lives here on earth.


Rabbi Hirshel Jaffe, a cancer survivor, is a motivational/inspirational speaker on the theme NEVER GIVE UP! He authored “Why Me? Why Anyone?” which chronicles his rescue from leukemia and his spiritual triumph over despair. Known as “The Running Rabbi” for competing in the NY Marathon, he received the “Award of Courage” from President Ronald Reagan in a White House ceremony. Rabbi Jaffe was one of the clergy who visited the American hostages in Iran to offer them comfort and hope and was asked by the President to greet them at the White House upon their return. He received an honorary Doctorate from his seminary for “his work with the sick, and his noble influence upon all people. You can find more information on his website.

Image courtesy of Gabriela Chiloni.

The Real Reason We’re So Critical of Others

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The Original Rose Bak: What My Grandmother Taught Me about Life


Thirty-two years ago today the world lost the original Rose Bak — my grandma.

Oh sure, there have been other people named Rose Bak throughout the years, but my grandmother was truly an original. One of a kind.

Grandma was born in Chicago in 1914. She grew up in the Polish neighborhood of West Pullman with her six brothers and sisters, in a brick house on Normal Avenue. Her parents had immigrated from Poland at a young age, and my grandma was a first-generation American.

She was deeply impacted by the death of her brother Leo when he was only a teen and later named her son after him. When one of her sisters entered the convent at the age of 14, and Grandma bonded with her remaining siblings. They were a close-knit group, and they all raised their kids together in the same neighborhood.

Like all children of immigrants, Grandma learned to work hard and dream big. She was extremely close with her mother, who taught her cooking and sewing and how to be “a lady”.

Grandma was a good student and very social and extroverted. The picture below is from when Grandma was on what would be equivalent to a homecoming court — she’s the beauty on the right, sometime around 1931.

Author family photo

Grandma met my Grandpa when they were both singing in the choir at the Assumption Catholic Church. It was a popular activity for the young people in those days, and many matches were made through the choir connection.

Both of my grandparents had a huge sweet tooth. When they were dating during the Depression, they would pool their bus fare and use it to buy a pound of assorted candy from the Fannie May candy store. They would eat it together as they walked several miles to see a movie or do other activities.

Grandma married Grandpa in 1937 at the church where they had met. They had a huge reception at a country club in the suburbs, thanks to some connections Grandpa’s brother had at the time.

Their country club wedding was the talk of the neighborhood for years to come — it was unheard of in their working-class neighborhood to go to a country club where rich people hung out. At my grandparents’ 50th anniversary party, their friends and family were still marveling about their “fancy country club reception”.

My grandparents were married for 51 years before Grandma died at the age of 74, and they had three children together, including my father. Their children gave them eight grandchildren who brought them a lot of joy.

As the oldest grandchild, I was fortunate to spend the most time with Grandma and Grandpa.

I was named Rose-Ellen, after each of my two grandmothers, and my Grandma always insisted that I use my full name. Her full name was Rosalie, and it bothered her that it’d been shortened to Rose, so she was resistant to me shortening my own name. That’s one of the few things I ever defied her on, choosing to go by “Rose”.

When people ask me if I go by Rose-Ellen, I always say, “only to my grandparents and the nuns in school.”

When my grandparents still lived in Chicago, I would often spend the night with them. In those moments, I felt like the most special person in the world. They weren’t just grandparents; my Grandma and Grandpa were the parents I never had. With their love and encouragement, I was able to achieve far more than I ever would have without them. They were also the only people in my life who would make sure I had clothes that fit and shoes without holes and that I got a haircut now and then.

When I stayed with Grandma, she would take me on grand adventures. We would visit relatives or friends and she would show me off like I was a princess. She liked to take me to the Roseland neighborhood to go shopping and eat lunch at the lunch counter at the department store. Sometimes she took me to events at the Moose Lodge, where she was part of the women’s club and my grandpa was an officer.

Every Christmas she would take me downtown to see the windows on State Street and eat a holiday lunch at the Walnut Room. I haven’t gone to the Walnut Room since the last time we went when I was about ten years old. It just wouldn’t be the same without Grandma.

Grandma taught me two important rules of shopping: “If you buy something cheap you’ll spend more in the end when you have to replace it” and “Never pay full price, wait for the good stuff to be on sale.”

She also taught me that you should always know where the clean restrooms are, and you should always go to the bathroom before you leave home, “just in case”.

Grandma had a saying for everything and to this day I will use a little saying of hers and add, “as my Grandma used to say”. My favorite saying was: “Good, better, best, never let it rest, until your good is better and your better is best.”

She had a quirky speech mannerism that I’ve purposely adopted as I’ve gotten older: she liked to put “the” in front of stores. “I’m going to the Walgreens,” she would say. “And then I’m going to visit the sales at the Weiboldt’s.”

Grandma loved to joke around and she had a touch of whimsy. When my sister and I visited her for the last time in West Pullman before my grandparents retired to Florida she saw us looking at the mostly empty house sadly and cheered us up by teaching us to “skate” on the hardwood floors in our socks.

I didn’t see Grandma too often after their move to Florida when I was seven, but we wrote letters and talked on the phone frequently.

As soon as I started making my own money at age 16 I would save up and take the bus to see my grandparents on school breaks.

Grandma taught me how to cook and how to clean and how to hand sew, but sadly she could never get me interested in crafts. She loved crafts and would spend hours with her two daughters, my aunts, making the coolest gifts and decorations. She could do everything: sew, macrame, crochet, and craft.

Grandma gave her sister, “the nun” as all the siblings called her, a doorstopper when she and I were visiting. Grandma had made the door stopper which was a wine bottle full of sand that was covered with a dress and a doll’s head and bonnet, so it looked like a woman with a “Little House on the Prairie” dress. She lifted the dress to show her sister the wine bottle label, “Look, Blue Nun, just like you.”

Grandma also had a unique way of dealing with kids. When my sister refused to eat something because she said she didn’t like it, my Grandma would say, “You don’t like Chicago vegetables, these are Florida vegetables, they’re much better,” or “You don’t like them the way other people cook them, but you’ll like the special way I make them.” That worked like a charm.

That same sister went through a phase where she’d follow Grandma around saying “Gwamma, Gwamma, what are you doing Gwamma?” and asking incessant questions. When my Grandma got tired of it she would turn the tables and follow my sister around saying, “Mary Elizabeth, Mary Elizabeth, what are you doing Mary Elizabeth?” When my sister got irritated Grandma said, “You see how annoying that is?”

Grandma was very religious. She went to church every week, and each night, even when she was older, she would kneel by her bed and say her prayers. She rarely swore and even when someone irritated her while driving she would say, “God bless you my child”, telling me that they needed god’s help with their driving more than they needed a curse.

My grandparents’ relationship was full of love and laughter despite all the ups and downs of their long life together. She loved to tease my Grandpa and would sometimes interrupt his stories with a joking retort like, “How come you remember every detail of what happened in 1940 and you can’t remember to take out the garbage?”

One of my favorite memories of Grandma is from Disney World.

In the early 1980s my aunt and uncle (who were also my godparents) brought me down to Florida with them and their daughter, and we met our other aunt and her family there.

The whole group of us went to Disney World and Epcot: the six adults and five kids. We’d had a great day and were all watching the nighttime parade and fireworks. Music was playing and my grandma got up and started dancing and twirling around. In that moment I saw the happy little girl she once was.

Grandma struggled with heart issues for many years. After the birth of her first child, she spent most of a year in bed, weakened and having heart issues that were never really diagnosed.

“My heart was acting weird, going really fast,” she told me about that time, “I don’t know why but it was exhausting”. She was very pragmatic about it.

I was a junior in college when my father called to tell me that my Grandma was in the hospital after a heart attack.

A couple of days later my godmother called me to break the news that Grandma was gone.

“I talked to her in the hospital,” my godmother said, “She asked me to take care of you if anything happened.”

We had Grandma’s funeral back in Chicago and we estimated the funeral procession was close to a mile long. So many friends and relatives came to celebrate her life, I have never seen anything like it in my life.

After the funeral, my aunts helped my Grandpa go through Grandma’s things. They had to carefully check every shoe and pocket of her clothing because as a child of the Depression, my grandma believed in saving for a rainy day. She saved $20 here, $100 there, all hidden in her clothing.

I had never thought my Grandma to be particularly sentimental, but my aunts also found a stack of letters and cards from me that Grandma had saved, tied up in a ribbon, and a box of broken crayons with a note that it was my first box of crayons.

It’s been over 30 years since she left us, but I still think of my Grandma almost every day. She was an original.


Rose Bak is a freelance writer, author and yoga teacher who lives in Portland, Oregon with her family and special needs dogs. As a dedicated multipotentialite, she writes on a variety of topics including self-care, aging, inspiration, business, and pop culture. She is also a published author of romantic fiction. In addition to writing, she teaches accessible yoga and sings. Sadly, she has absolutely no musical talent so she’s forced to mostly sing in the shower. For more of Rose’s work, visit her website at rosebakenterprises.com or follow her on social media @AuthorRoseBak.

Image courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio.

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