Escape Puzzle Room

On Thursday this week my Toastmasters group had an outing to get to know each other better. Our organizer decided we should go to one of the Escape Room places. It is a place where you go into a room and have to solve puzzles in order to get out. You have 60 minutes to complete the puzzles.

Many of you know I am a puzzle fanatic. I had subscriptions to Games magazine for well over a decade when I was a kid and I’ve always loved puzzle games so I was more than excited. I read the website and even watched a couple youtube videos to try and figure out what I might be up against. Luckily there really isn’t any information so you go in knowing nothing about it.

When people think puzzles they often assume its going to be trivia questions or memory things which I am generally horrible at but I had hoped for something more like what it really was.

I don’t want to really do a walk through because I feel like not knowing what you are getting into is so much more fun but I will say there was trivia questions or horrible riddles that make you want to pull your hair out.

I feel bad now after the fact because I feel like I totally went in and ran over some of my friends. My focus was so hard on finding the answer that I wasn’t really paying attention often and I feel like I totally just plowed through.

All in all I thought it was a ton of fun and I would not hesitate doing it again. It did make me realize how long its been since I had to work as a team with other people on anything. Working from home has not enhanced these skills. LOL

A great man gone

David Gilland was my uncle. He was an amazingly strong and stubborn man so much like my grandfather. As a young kid I didn’t get to spend much time with him because he was in the military stationed overseas and to me as a young kid he was a man of the world. When I was 12 years old he and his family moved back to the US after it was discovered he had a tumor growing in his chest. They ran hundreds of tests on him and gave him only a few days to live. This was scary to me and I know it was scarier to the rest of my family. We would pray for him every day and even our church prayed for him every Sunday.

He went in for treatments and the tumor shrank. While he was going in for all of his treatments he had gotten a price on how much it would cost for someone to come and dig a hole for a pool in the backyard of his house and he was so outraged by the cost he picked up a shovel and a bucket and each day would go out and dig the hole. Eventually it was the size of a pool. Unfortunately the tumor had gotten so big it damaged his heart and lungs and caused him a great deal of pain.

He continued on through life and created a company to sell his crafts around the country at craft fairs and flea markets. He made handmade baskets and puppets. I remember going to their house and he helped me hand make a couple baskets to keep as my own.

He was alive to welcome all of his grandkids into the world and loved them all so dearly. He was a great father and even better grandfather and I got to know him better over the years. He was an amazing baker and even made my wedding cake for my first wedding. I remember coming home the night before the wedding and he was putting the final layer of icing on the cake and I sat and chatted with him and helped with some of the final touches before finally going to bed.

Last week we lost him. He was able to conquer the cancer and live another 27 years beyond. We are so glad we got the extra time but as is often said it was never enough.

Sending prayers and condolences to my family. Another great man has moved on to whatever is beyond this life.

The Phoenix is Rising from the Ashes

This week I feel like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. I am reading the Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown and it’s a truly powerful book.


Over the last 18 months my friends have been so amazingly supportive and my life has been a constant challenge.

Something none of you know is last November/December I hit a low unlike anything I have ever experienced. Just getting out of bed some days was a struggle and my therapist and I discussed all my possibilities and I did actually consider committing myself for constant help. I made the decision that day that something drastic had to change. I knew this all was stemming from the losses I suffered last year.

Losing my grandmother was one of the hardest hits I’ve taken and tossing losing my oldest brother on top of that and then hearing that someone I knew in HS and was a few years younger then me had suddenly and unexpectedly passed and my father’s battle with cancer and knowing there is nothing that is going to help him at this point was just was the last straw on that famous camels back. I just shut down.

On a general daily basis I struggle with serious hormone imbalances from my PCOS and that is something that is generally manageable but when tossed in with all the rest it just became debilitating.

For a few months over the summer I just pushed through life and thoroughly fulfilled the denial phase of grief. I went on my merry way like nothing had happened. Come September and the light starts to fade from the sky and I am so busy in my denial state that I don’t remember to start supplementing light and Vitamin D and suddenly my whole mental and emotional system just slowed almost to a stop. As life throws you things and sometimes you don’t even see them go by I spent September in a constant state of “I’m just tired” or “maybe it’s the weather change”. Until I spent a week where I didn’t leave the house and didn’t want to and didn’t want to see anyone and didn’t want to talk to anyone. This is when Bill finally after asking for a few weeks “Honey are you okay? Are you REALLY okay?” That I realized something was very much not okay.

I went to my doctor and made appointments to see my therapist and started a very long journey to figure out what I could do to work with this. I started taking St Johns Wort and working towards something that was better then where I was. When the holiday season came around I was just shut down. The holidays for more the 25 years of my life were spent in St Pete, FL at my grandmother’s house. It was all I knew for most of my life and even though I hadn’t spent the holidays there in years that time of year is all about my grandmother even now. So I had constant reminders that she was gone and I would never again have the option to go home for the holidays. This broke me deeply and I didn’t know how to handle it so I didn’t.

I believe not working out of the house was detrimental to my process although I do wonder if I did have a job out of the house at the time if I just would have ended up taking leave or something so I’m not convinced working outside the house would have been much different. But I do think it slowed my progress. There were entire days I didn’t get out of bed until it was time for Bill to come home. I didn’t want him to know how bad I was because he already worries too much about me and I knew my depression was hurting him. He was so supportive of me and even offered to cancel Christmas and spend the day with me so I could just grieve but that didn’t happen.

By January things got better because the holidays were gone and I tried to put my best foot forward and force myself back into life. I gained a lot of weight when I wasn’t eating which sounds totally counter intuitive but that is what my body does. Any food I put in was immediately reserved as fat because I would go all day not eating and then have dinner with Bill and my body assumed I was starving so it packed on the reserves. This didn’t help with my PCOS issues and as I gained weight my hormones continued to spiral out of control even as my emotions and grief started to subside.

Also in January I had a number of people I thought were friends decide I didn’t care about them and decided to block me from their lives, which tossed me into another bout of inner turmoil. It wasn’t that I didn’t care. It was that I couldn’t. I couldn’t even care about myself at that point how could I care for anyone else? My therapist and I went over this and she said it is a very common occurrence when someone that is generally a Joy becomes a Sadness many people that receive their joy by being around me couldn’t support me in my sadness. This ripped my heart in two because I truly loved and cared about these people and suddenly they were just gone from my life which was like suffering a death again.

I spent January through May doing everything I could to maintain regular activity and act like life was normal even though inside I still felt like I was rotting. I went through the motions and tried to act normal but anyone that really knows me could easily see through the BS. I started reading books and I started picking up books on happiness and other self-help books. I came across Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and the book was thought provoking. It made me mad, it made me sad, it made me happy, it made me mad again. It took me months to finish but I did finish it. The book is about shame resilience. Well I felt so much shame about losing my friends I blamed myself. I felt shame about wallowing in my depression, I felt shame about not getting up and doing more, I felt shame about not fixing myself better, I felt shame about everything. So when it made me mad I wouldn’t listen to more but I kept thinking.

Once I was about half done with the book I realized that as I had been traveling and working from home I had lost some of my natural ability to communicate with people. One of my life goals has always been to join a Toastmasters group and to really face and conquer my fear of public speaking. So I decided to dare greatly and I put myself out there. If you know me very well or even a little you will know I don’t do things half way. If I am going to pay someone to help me I’m going to squeeze every penny of worth out of it. So I dove head first into Toastmasters and I started forcing myself to visit different networking groups to help grow my business. My therapist was very happy to see me getting out of the house so this was completely supported.

When I joined Toastmasters(TM) I went headlong into it. I signed up for every role available to me. The first 3 months culminating with me being the Toastmaster for the first time this week. I’ve already done two speeches and plan to do one a month to finish my Competent Communicator book in a year. I am also going full force on my Competent Leadership book as well to help me learn to be a good leader. This has helped me open the door to my communication skills that had truly started slacking.

My TM group is wonderful. They are so welcoming and many of them have been through so much together through facing their fears together that they are an amazing group that all of them are there for the same reason.

About 3 weeks after I joined TM a friend invited me to go to a BNI (Business Network International) group for a visitors day. Bill had been considering joining a group and I was HIGHLY skeptical about it being something I wanted to do. I am shy. I know yuck it up. If you know me one on one you would laugh at me being shy but put me in a room full of strangers and I want to crawl under the table and stand up and talk in front of them and I guess that is my perfect nightmare but I know why I want to build my business and I know in order to do that I have to put myself out there so off I went. The visitors day had over 60 people and I had to stand up and give my 30 second commercial for my business which I had never done before but I had practiced Bill’s with him and so I had an idea of what I wanted to say. I was unlucky enough to be the 3rd guest to stand and I can honestly say I did a good job but what I said, I have no idea. It’s a blank. I had bright spots in front of my eyes and I thought for sure I was going to pass clean out. Adrenaline pumped in my ears and I shook for 20 minutes after. Thank God for TM or I wouldn’t have even done that well. Ha!

But during that meeting the regulars in the group made me laugh. They all knew each other’s tag lines and said them together. They laughed with each other and at each other and then there was Art. The Art of eBay does a special kind of commercial and while I cannot tell you which one of them he did that day it made me laugh and it lifted my spirits because I knew immediately he was a kindred spirit.

After the meeting I learned that part of what I said in my 30 seconds was “bear with me I’m terrified” or something to that effect. So once the meeting was over a dozen or more people walked up to me to tell me they also have/had a fear of speaking and that I did a great job. It was so heart warming and they were so sweet to me. Then one of the members, Krista, set up a one on one with me immediately to learn more about my business. I left thinking there was no way in hell I was joining because I could never stand up In front of all those people every week and talk. Well yeah we know how that turned out.

A couple weeks later I did my first speech at Toastmasters and I totally rocked it. I was terrified and my hands gripped the podium like it was the lifeline and I was sinking but I got through the speech without passing out or throwing up. Bill and I discussed the BNI and I realized that it was an amazing group and the comradeship of the group really was something special. I had been to a few other groups that didn’t have that feeling and then there was Art and he really made me want to see what funny thing he might do next time. So I decided to go back for my second visit.

I got there too early and was the second person in the room and so I found a seat and stood there like a rabbit waiting for the foxes to come eat me. I was terrified. I was going to have to talk to people and I was going to have to stand up and talk in front of people again! I cannot tell you what I do in 30 seconds. Well people started arriving and several people introduced themselves to me so I didn’t crawl under any tables but I was still anxious about talking in front of the group. Everyone went around to do their commercial and the same things happened. People laughed and people were smiling and so I started to relax. It really helped that visitors go last. My turn came and I fumbled something out and they applaud like we do for everyone and the meeting went on and I didn’t die and no one threw tomatoes. I really fell in love with the atmosphere. They truly are like a big family. They tease each other and they laugh and when Art stands up some of them actually groan. It’s amazing so I joined.

Yes this is all going somewhere so I guess I should get to the point.  The phoenix.

Through the process of Toastmasters and through my BNI I have begun to realize life does go on. My company is growing and my life is still there and while I still have some days I wake up sad and missing my grandmother and my dad is still fighting his losing battle with cancer the sun is out and for the first time in a long time Joy has returned. For those of you that have seen Inside Out (the movie) I feel like Joy got lost in my long term memory for the last 18 months but she has finally made it back to the switchboard. Sadness is necessary for us to feel joy but I am happy to report that Sadness and Anger and Fear are no longer the only ones at the switchboard. Joy has returned and I can’t tell you just how happy that makes me.

National Infertility Awareness Week

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week to help bring awareness to an astoundingly common situation. Women all over the country are fighting a diagnosis of infertility.

Many of you may not know but I am infertile. During my first marriage I got pregnant twice and lost both pregnancies. My doctor says I could spend thousands of dollars if I wanted to have a baby but I had friends that did that and that was not to be a part of my life. My children, had I not lost them, would be 12 and 14 years old and if they had become a part of my life, my life would be very different then it is today.

Being told by a doctor that you are likely never to have a baby brings up all sorts of feelings. It is very similar to a grief cycle. There is rebellion aka denial, “How dare you tell me I can’t do something. Just you watch!” There is anger, “Why not, damnit!” There is bargaining, “Well maybe if I just… maybe then it will work.” There is depression and a deep sense of failure, “Why am I broken? Why can I not do the one thing a woman is put on this earth to do?” Then there is acceptance, well I guess there is supposed to be acceptance but I don’t know many of us that got that far and most of us still have the anger or denial or many of us are just always bargaining.

I have lied to a great many number of people and just said, “Well I didn’t want a child anyway. They change everything.” But the sad reality is that is a lie that started out as a protective mechanism. It has in the end become more of a true statement but I can say with absolute honesty that I did want a child, actually I wanted at least two.

When I was a teenager a friend of the family lost her baby and I remember thinking that this had to be the most horribly painful thing that could happen to a person and in the end I was right.


When I was a teenager I was a nanny for a beautiful family. I gave those children my entire heart and they loved me back in a way I had never experienced before. I was laughed at for years because I would tell people that because of those two little girls I wanted 12 kids of my own. The love they give was just simply intoxicating. I realized, as I got older, that 12 might be a bit excessive so I settled on 2 or 3. I was one of 3, well 6 actually but 3 were grown and moved out before I came to be. I felt like 2 or 3 would be perfect. I wanted a boy first and then a girl because I wanted my little girl to have a protective and loving big brother just like I had but I would have been happy with any child if I had had the luxury to have one. Instead I have the vague memory of those few months I was given to hold my belly and dream of the life that would never come to be.

If you know someone with infertility be gentle and love them. And for God’s sake if you have family that have not had children STOP ASKING when they will have a baby because you may not know how much they very much want one and the private struggle they are going through.

My Grandmother



Hazel Mae Gilland was my grandmother. She was truly an amazing woman. In her younger years she knew how important education was and fought for the Head Start learning program in her area. She was a huge history buff and loved tracking down her ancestors long before the cool websites came out we spent many hours searching public records.  Most importantly, to me, though she was my grandmother.

This time of year was where she truly shined. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas was at her house and no matter where I lived I almost always made it home for the Holidays. My grandpa was an amazing man but we truly lived in a Matriarchal household. She would cook for days and always provided an excellent meal. She was a very traditional person and we always had the typical turkey and sides but we also always had some of the individuals’ favorites. She truly knew how to make people feel loved and special.

I was very lucky that from birth to 12 I lived within a short drive and was able to see her very regularly. The first 8 years I lived within walking distance and spent almost as much time in her home as I did in my own. She always had immaculate landscapes at all of her houses because she loved plants. She and my grandpa owned nurseries and tree farms their whole lives. From the Gardenia tree outside the front window that bloomed and brought the beautiful perfume into the house on a beautiful spring morning to the bleeding heart vines that lined the walk there were always beautiful flowers everywhere.

She had four children each as opposite from the other as you can get. She must have had many adventures on the farm with them growing up I know I have heard many of the stories but I also experienced so many of my own. My mother and her sister Kathy tended to battle. I remember one day at the nursery Kathy grabbed a hose to battle my mother and my mother grabbed it too. Right at that moment with the hose squirting into the air my poor grandmother stepped out to stop the bickering and got the full force of the hose up her nose.  I can only imagine how many sibling arguments she ended up on the wrong end of in her 89 years.

The amazing support she always showed for family really came to a head when her husband, my grandpa, became truly ill with his ALS and Alzheimer’s. She supported him every moment through the toughest times. He was a WWII veteran and I am sure they had many difficulties because of his PTSD from the war. She had been through so much towards the end of her years. She lost all of her friends and her husband, sister, and even a grandchild and daughter-in-law.

Through everything she was always a pillar of support and she made the best chicken and dumplings.