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Princess Problems

Last night, we celebrated Christmas dinner at my step-mom’s house. It was a nice, intimate meal with just a few immediate family members.

One way I contribute to the meal each year is by making homemade gravy. My step-mom texted me to bring some flour over since she didn’t have any, yet somehow I missed the text. We agreed that a turkey with gravy was much better than a turkey without, but the chances of anything being open on Christmas day were slim to none.

I set out in the snow on my “flour adventure” hoping for the best.

I drove by three grocery stores and everything was closed. I tried calling some stores too. I had remembered a White Hen in the area, and went to find it, all to realize it had been torn down and replaced by new condos.

How did I miss that?!

Then I started texting people I knew who were cooking that day who might be able to assist with my flour needs. Nobody answered. They were busy enjoying appetizers and drinks with their loved ones rather than checking their phone.

This snow is getting heavy!

I remembered that my step-mom had suggested a quick mart close to her home, so I made my way there, and thankfully they were open. As I pulled up, the guy behind the counter was about to close the doors.

“It’s been so slow,” he said. “I want to get home to my family.”

I told him about my silly flour drama and we had a laugh. We chatted as I paid for my goods. I smiled as I thought of taking the turkey drippings and blending them into the flour, creating just the right texture for my gravy…

Mmmmm… gravy…

As I was getting ready to leave, I saw a very sad man walk into the quick mart. I watched as he went to the cooler — his face tired and lonely. As he went to pay for his drink, he grabbed a large bag of Dorito’s.

That was his dinner. Diet Pepsi and Dorito’s.

I’ve been alone on Christmas and I’ve been sad on Christmas. But even during those low moments, I’ve always been invited somewhere for a nice Christmas meal.

To think, I was worried about whether or not I would be able to make gravy to slather over our large turkey filled with stuffing while this man will be feasting on MSG and fizzy chemicals.

Your problems tonight are “Princess problems”, Jen.

I got into my car and wondered how many other people were having crappy Christmas dinners. Then I started to pray.

Please God, help that man feel the love of the Universe. Help all those people who are sad and hungry and malnourished on this blessed day. May they feel love and feel whole and feel full with your love. May they know they are loved by something bigger. Give them hope and help.

If you have air in your lungs, food on your table and love in your heart, you have all you need.

And if you’re blessed with more, pray for those with less.

Because that is the spirit of Christmas.

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Open, allow, receive

Last night I was putting away a necklace and I noticed everything in my jewelry box was tangled. The size of this metal ball of knots had been slowly growing over the years, so I decided to face it head-on. Not many tasks are more tedious than taking the knots out of small, delicate chains that could break with one wrong turn.

Just blow it off, Jen.

I looked at the pile and saw about 6 necklaces, two bracelets, and a couple of rings. The thought of “getting all the knots out” seemed symbolic to me for some reason. Not because I’m obsessive-compulsive, but because we all have things that we put off. This particular thing was not a priority. But if I took the time to deal with it, perhaps some other things in my life might straighten out too. This became an exercise in alignment.

I got a pair of tweezers and my reading glasses, and went to town.  After ten minutes, my first necklace was released.

Sweet!

It was a gold chain with a cameo pendant that I haven’t worn in a long time – mainly because it was trapped in my jewelry box for about three years. I put it on my dresser in a straight line, and went back to the pile.

The next item to be untangled was a heart-shaped pendant I got while traveling in New York City. I remember feeling super nausious as I chose it in a case of an antique store in Midtown. I found out when I got home the reason I almost tossed my cookies was because I was pregnant with my son and didn’t know it.

I always loved that heart…

15 minutes went by and I’d successfully placed all of the items on my dresser untangled. I was pretty proud of myself for doing this so quickly, but when I looked down, there was a small bump on one of the chains. At first I tried to smooth it out.

No knot can be that small…

But when I got out my magnifying glass, I realized it was indeed the last knot in the jewelry box.

Dammit!

At first, I debated just throwing the necklace out. It was something I got when I was a teenager – a very thin chain I haven’t worn since I was 22. It didn’t have a pendant and I doubted I’d ever use it. But the thought of throwing it out felt like all the work I’d done on the previous chains would be for nothing. Either I get all the knots out or none of the knots. I decided that even if it took me hours, I would fix it.

The clock ticked as my neck and back felt the strain of being hunched over. I alternated between holding the chain and putting it on the vanity, tweezers in hand, picking and prodding. I tried several different angles, jaw clenching with each failure. I seemed to be making no progress at all, which made me try harder. The more frustrated I became the tighter I held the tweezers and the bigger the knot seemed to get.

And then it hit me.

Relax, Jen!

I had become a ball of tension curled up on my bathroom floor, and I was getting nowhere. I started to wonder what would happen if I completely gave up control of this situation and tried to shift my energy from one of pushing and forcing, to that of “opening, allowing, receiving…”

I loosened the grip in my hands and visualized light coming down into the room.

Open. Allow. Receive.

I looked at the clock and it was 11:11. I had been working on this one particular chain for 45 minutes.

Shit!

I took the tweezers and pictured them making progress in an instant, as if they were now a magic wand.

Just let it flow, Jen. Relax.

And then, the makings of a small circle started to form – a sign that the knot had actually come loose.

FINALLY!!

I extended the chain and checked it for damage, figuring the 45 minute struggle would have left a mark. To my surprise, it was perfectly fine. I looked at all the necklaces now lined up without any kinks or tangels, and felt a sense of accomplishment. I took the one in hand that caused me the most trouble, and smiled. It was the least attractive chain in the bunch, yet it now seemed to have the most significance. Rather than putting it back in my jewelry box, I put it on.

I just touched the necklace as I type this to remind me of this lesson.

Open, allow, receive.

Life comes with its fare share of knots. When we decide to “let go and let it flow,” we can get back to the smooth, untangled path we all deserve.

 

 

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You’ve gotta reach across the handlebars…

I just had my high school reunion. I’ve been to a couple of my reunions over the years and found each to have its own unique “take-away”- or conversation I didn’t expect to have that somehow changed my life. This year’s “most memorable moment” goes to a long ago crush I will call “Bobby”.

Bobby was tall and cute and outgoing. We met the summer before freshman year and formed a friendship that was unlike anything I’d known before. Our dynamic didn’t have the angst that came with a boyfriend or girlfriend. “Does he like me?” or “Will he call me tomorrow?” were sentences that never entered my mind. We were friends who talked about everything – for hours – and I didn’t want our conversations to end.

Another plus to this time in my life was that keg parties and sex weren’t on the radar. This made things much less complicated. Nobody had a driver’s license either, so if you wanted to get somewhere, you had to walk or ride your bike. And this was before cell phones, social media, email or even answering machines. If we wanted to reach somebody, you either found them at Clark Street beach or you called them on the telephone, (complete with a chord that barely stretched from the hallway to my room without snapping.)

During many of my phone chats with Bobby, he would often talk about his crush on one of the most popular girls in school. We’ll call her “Julie”— a gorgeous thing who hit puberty early and captured many boys’ hearts by rocking a purple bikini. (I was a late bloomer. At the age of 14, my “Flock of Seagulls” haircut and braces made it impossible to compete with someone like Julie.)

One day I was sitting on the beach putting my “Purple Rain” cassette tape into my boom box, when a friend said to me,

“Bobby told me, ‘If there was one person I could grow old with, holding hands and sitting in our rocking chairs talking until we’re 95, it would be Jenny Weigel.’”

Huh?!?

At first, this news confused me. I didn’t want to mess up a great friendship with romantic daydreams. But I too felt that if I could grow old with anyone, it would be with someone I could talk to about anything.

Someone like Bobby.

Does this mean we’re supposed to be more than friends?

Armed with my new information, I decided that I would ride my 10-speed bike over to his house later that night. I wasn’t sure what I would do once I got there, but I was hoping the trip would give me some clarity. The fifteen-minute ride felt like an eternity as different scenarios swirled in my head. If I told him how I felt and he didn’t choose me over Julie, I would be sad. But if I didn’t tell him about my growing feelings, I worried I might have regrets.

I knocked on his door, and within moments, he was outside standing next to my bike. He leaned onto my handlebars with comfort and ease as he chatted about the day’s events.  For him, this was just like any other day, but for me  – I was thinking of changing the game. I watched his lips move as he talked, but the noise of my pounding heart was so loud I could hardly hear a word he was saying. And then, when he paused to take a breath, I decided to seize the moment. I quickly leaned over my handlebars and went in for a kiss.

Oh my GOD!

Our lips were together for several seconds and I felt a tingle that went from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. I’ve had some memorable kisses in my day, but this one ranked in the top five — (which is pretty good considering I had a mouth full of metal.) As I pulled away, Bobby looked shocked. I couldn’t tell if it was a good shock, or a bad shock, but there was definitely a “did that just happen?” expression on his face.

When I rode my bike home, I was grinning from ear to ear. I had no idea where that kiss would take me, but I knew that what I had done was sincere. I had no regrets because I was being authentic to my feelings. That was all that mattered.

The “handlebar smooch” didn’t change my fate — Bobby still went with the girl in the purple bikini. My friendship with him fizzled when she declared that he didn’t need female friends. He went on to date different girls, I discovered upper-classmen and we never really talked after graduation.

So fast forwarding to present day – when I saw Bobby across a crowded room for the first time in 25 years, I felt a conversation was in order.

“Being friends with you during that summer was one of the happiest times of my life,” I told him. “And I don’t know if you remember the time I came over to your house and…”

“When you reached across the handlebars and kissed me?” he interrupted.

He remembered?

This now happily married Bobby told me that each relationship he’s had since college began with the endorphin rush, followed by an attempt to build a friendship for sustainability. What he and I discovered at the tender age of 14 was the key to relationship success – a strong foundation of friendship before kissing made things complicated.

“I’ve never forgotten that kiss,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many times I thought to myself later in my life, ‘If this person would just reach across the handlebars like Jenny Weigel, maybe we could get somewhere?!’”

What seemed to me like a risky move that didn’t produce the desired results was now a former crush’s action phrase.

If this person would just reach across the handlebars like Jenny Weigel…

“Men are always expected to make the first move, and sometimes we need to know where the woman stands,” he continued. “After that kiss, I knew you had feelings for me.”

“But you still went with Julie and the purple bikini!” I laughed.

Or did you forget that part?!

“Yeah,” he said, shaking his head. “What can I say? I was running on hormones. But I regretted that. You and I had a foundation. And it’s something that I’ve been struggling to re-create ever since.”

“I was just being myself around you,” I said.

“I was too,” he said.

As Bobby shared more about his dating woes before he got married, I too realized that every romantic relationship I’ve had in my adult life was missing the “friends first” theme. Very rarely are we able to be care-free and authentic as adults. We are so busy projecting an image and masking our feelings that we neglect to reach across the handlebars. If you don’t reach for it, you can’t be rejected, and the act of not doing prevents you from hurting.

Or does it make you hurt more?

**

It’s been a week since the Bobby reunion conversation, and it has continued to re-play in my head like a Lifetime movie script. At first, the encounter had me longing for a simpler time, when “mortgages” and “divorce” weren’t a part of my vocabulary.  Then, I felt grateful to be reminded of the person I was before life got difficult.

I was just being myself.

She’s still a part of me. She just needed permission to take center stage.

So every once in a while, do yourself a favor and reach across the handlebars. No matter what the outcome – you’ll see that being true to your own heart is one of life’s greatest miracles.

 

 

 

 

 

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Find the joy, Jen

Last week, I did a talk at the Arlington Heights Library. It was a reasonably full room, yet I could not tell how I was received. (This was a group of readers who speak in whispers, so there wasn’t a lot of laughter.)

This morning I was thinking about that talk, and all of the talks I have done since my first book, Stay Tuned, was released in 2007.

Am I just talking for the sake of talking or is something I’m saying resonating somewhere, somehow??

And then, this morning I received an email from one of the women in attendance in Arlington Heights.

Before my retirement I began to collect joy; in retirement I began to study joy.  Since the study began I’ve been led to incredible books and talks and Thursday night you did not disappoint.  “when there is genuine joy inside you”  Those were your exact words when commenting on someone doing what they are meant to do.  It reminded me of my favorite quote: “…the place God chose for you is the intersection where your greatest joy and the world’s greatest need meet.”  (from God Never Blinks by Regina Brett) 

I brought your two books home from my library and knew after reading page one that I’d read them before; but they are an easy read so I spent this weekend rereading them.  I love your style; you are open and honest and humorous.  The first time I read them I was so absorbed in the details of your spiritual journey I missed your comments on joy.  I especially like the way you gave thanks in advance for a job that would bring you joy.  I think you’ve found the “intersection.”  You help aspiring journalists like the young lady in the audience Thursday night, and you give others like me something to think about.  When you spoke at the library several years ago, you mentioned attending a support group where people with after life experiences meet.  A man, who was on a Special Forces team, spoke of the horrible pain he felt in the afterlife because of the pain he inflicted in this life.  He said he hugs people as often as he can now because that’s what he wants to feel next time around.  I repeat this story as often as I can.  Even if the people I am talking with don’t believe in life/death/life, they like the part about hugging.  

Thank you for a very enjoyable and informative evening at the Arlington Heights Library.  I wish you continued success.  The world has need of you and your talents.  For encouragement, here’s my most recent joy study note: “Keep your eye on the joy…” (from I’m Spiritual Dammit by Jenniffer Weigel)

I’ve never had someone quote me before in an email. I don’t even remember writing “Keep your eye on the joy…” I think I need to re-read some of my own shit. Maybe it will stick.

The man she referred to who hugs everyone now because of what he experienced in the afterlife is Dannion Brinkley. I often tell the story how he was in the military and killed people, and felt the pain he inflicted on others when he had his near-death experience. Now, he hugs strangers so when he goes back to the afterlife, he can feel joy instead of pain.

When you are doing what brings you joy, it comes out in all you do. I love telling stories, so whether that’s in a column, a book or a library crowd, I will keep at it for the joy of doing what I love.

My third book is coming out digitally this week. ‘This Isn’t the Life I Ordered” will be available on Amazon later this week. When I have the link, I will share.

So today, find joy where you can and remember that what you do matters, even if you don’t know it. Every choice creates a ripple in the pond. Choose wisely.

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A firm grip can cause you to slip

I woke today to the feeling of complete frustration. Something I’ve been working on just isn’t working.

I know this particular thing would be good for me. My logical mind has a laundry list of reasons why it should all come together. Yet, despite my best efforts, something isn’t in alignment.  Rather than results, I’m getting resistance.

Why is this happening?

Once again, I’m reminded that I’m not in charge. I might think I have the road map to this trip but apparently, I’m using the outdated version. If my directions were correct, I would have been spiking the football by now - not wondering and waiting and wishing.

As I was sipping my morning coffee, I decided to call a friend for support. She’d just returned from a weekend yoga retreat and had that sense of “woo-woo knowingness” that only comes from sweating under a tent for several hours with complete strangers.

“You’re grasping too hard on this,” she said. “You have to release your grip.”

Knowing she was right, I hung up the phone and put in one of my yoga DVD’s. It had been a while since I twisted my body like a pretzel, and I started to think that maybe it would give me some clarity.

I’ll have what she’s having!

As I let my back rest on the floor, arms stretched to my sides, I settled into a deep breathing pattern that almost put me to sleep. And then, I let my mind wander as I saw myself sitting on the rocks by Lake Geneva – a favorite spot where I do most of my thinking. I was holding a rock in my hand. It was sparkling and sharp – presenting beauty and danger at the same time. I took that rock and threw it into the lake.

If it is meant to work out, that rock will make its way to you and this will all fall into place. Perhaps the sharp corners will be smoothed out by the waves. Let it go, and if it’s for your highest good, it will come back.

Sometimes the only thing we can control is the way we react to what we can’t control…

Thank you, Universe, for showing me the next steps for my highest good and the highest good of all involved. No matter how it shows up – help me trust it and listen…

Dammit! 

 

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Alone for the holidays

Just got an email from a reader-

Happy Holidays Jennifer:

I am a regular reader of your “Love Notes” column and have seen you on WGN TV midday news. It’s always an inspiration when you read about those lasting relationships and how they came together.

I’m facing another Blue Christmas without a significant other after a long marriage that ended six years ago. I’ve done everything I could to reclaim my life and set a new course for the future. But frankly, it’s hard starting over. It’s even harder to find a companion as I’m way beyond the bar scene. I guess I’m wondering if maybe you could offer some advice in your column for those of us facing the dating minefield.

My curse is being a hopeless Romantic and searching for that magic feeling again. Unfortunately, I think many women have been so damaged by failed relationships and lack of trust that they are reluctant to venture forth. I pride myself on being a good father and devout Christian. I would appreciate any recommendations on how and where to meet mature women (over 40).

Thank you, and please continue to give all of us that hope for a better future.

Bernie

Dear Bernie-

While I’m no expert, my latest theory is that we can’t think we “need” another person to make our lives complete, such as your comment that you are having a “Blue Christmas” without a significant other. I think the moment you feel filled up with yourself, your friends, family and life, is the moment you will find someone- (if that is meant to be the case.) I personally have found that many men think they have to be in a “couple” to be complete and that, in and of itself, is a turn off to mature women nowadays.

So the most important relationship we can have is with ourselves. And that needs to be nurtured before we can give to another person. The “romantic” in you wants a happy ending like in the movies- but we crave that because it’s a high, which is really no different than getting high from drugs or booze or a food addiction. The real “high” is from your own love within yourself.

So be good to yourself and stop seeking a romance to make you whole.

Then whatever comes might be a surprise…but you won’t be looking for it.

Have a wonderful holiday-

Jen

 

 

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The end of the world….as we know it.

I know a lot of folks are getting their undies in a bunch about this Mayan calendar thing on 12/21/12. What spiritual teachers have been saying for months now, is this isn’t the end of the world. It’s the end of the world as we know it. It means we can’t go on as we’ve been going on. Something has to change…the tragedies in the last week alone are proof of this.

So how is this big shift affecting you? Just about everyone I know has had slight inconveniences. One friend got in two car accidents in one week. Another has appliances breaking in her house left and right. I broke my thumb slamming it in the car door. Then I got my car towed, bumped into a sparkling wine display at Walgreens crashing a bottle to the floor, and realized my wallet was in the car. Thankfully, these are what I call “princess problems” compared to the big picture and those tragedies in Connecticut. But there’s something in the air and that’s for sure. It’s a shift. And it’s a big one.

Tom Kenyon who is a psychotherapist, sound healer and author, said:

As we view it, this cosmic alignment does not sound the end of your world, but it does herald a new beginning. How each of you deals with these catalytic evolutionary energies is a personal choice.

Indeed many individuals might experience these intense energies as an irritant. If you are not prepared mentally, emotionally and energetically to jump to higher levels within yourself, these energies can make you feel like you’re losing your mind. If, however, you are aligned with the movement upward you will be carried by these energies. They can open extraordinary vistas for you if you are open to them.

So center yourself and remember to trust that you are part of something bigger than you can imagine. Put up the boundaries so the toxic people in your life don’t drag you into their chaos. And remember that this too shall pass- and a whole new world of possibility awaits.

 

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Trust your gut

I’m sorry to drop off the planet. Parenting, work and life got in the way. But today I’m back with a tale about following your intuition. I believe our intuition is our best defense… that is when we actually listen to it. It’s the first sensor to go off, yet our mind often shuts it down because logic tells us otherwise.

How many times have you gotten a “feeling” about something, and then your mind gets in the way and says “But that’s nuts. Everything’s fine with that baby sitter.” Then when you get home you find them plowing through your liquor cabinet or something?

So the other day I was going to get a new pair of running shoes. I would usually go to a place like Target or Famous Footwear so I don’t have to pay $100 bucks, but I somehow found myself wandering into an independent shoe store in a mall. I’ve always loved helping the underdog- I learned that from my Dad. He would literally try to keep a restaurant in business by bringing everyone he knew to the place on weekends. Didn’t matter if the food was any good, mind you, he just wanted to help people keep a business alive.

As I walked into this shoe store, I got a feeling in my stomach that something wasn’t right. My “gut check” was in full swing. But I decided to ignore it to see what kind of shoes they had to offer.

Right away I’m drawn to a pair of Nike’s. I’m not a fan of all these neon colored shoes but managed to find a pair that wasn’t too offensive.

“Can I help you?” Someone said before I had to time to look for assistance. A man missing most of his teeth was standing right next to me.

“How much are these?” I asked, noticing there was no price tag on the shoes.

He grabbed the shoe, looked it over and said.

“I’ll work something out with you. What’s your size?”

Work something out with me? I don’t even know if I want the damn shoe!!

I told him my size and he disappeared into the back. I tried to find a place to sit down and managed to lean on a clothing rack. Everything in this store looked dirty. The whole place had a sort of film over it. I wanted to leave, but waited for the salesman to return with the shoes regardless.

“These should work,” he said.

I put them on, and they fit fine.

“How much?” I asked.

“$150” he said.

That might be a normal price for shoes these days but my gut was saying “GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!”

Yet, I stood there.

“This is the first pair I’ve tried, so I think I’m going to keep looking,” I said.

Immediately, my toothless friend tried to keep the negotiations going.

“OK, you know what, I’ll give them to you for $125,” he said, as if that would make me feel better.

“I don’t know,” I groaned, my radar still screaming for me to evacuate.

“How about $115?” He begged.

If he can go from $150 to $115 so easily, how much are these things really worth?

I sat there looking at him.

He must really need this sale. I better do my part…

“Well, I guess that’s better than $150,” I said, caving in.

As I paid the man for his shoes, I left feeling like I needed a shower. Not just from the dingy store residue all over my body, but from the smarmy business deal.

I pulled out the shoes when I got to my car, and noticed the size said 5 and a half. I wear a size 7 and a half, yet these shoes fit me.

He gave me a child’s shoe!

I looked across the parking lot and saw a Famous Footwear. I decided to go inside and see what they had to offer.

If they have shoes under 100 bucks, I’m going to be so pissed!

Sure enough- some really great Nike’s were there for 80 bucks. (Grown up sized too.)

Shit!

My gut was right. I should have left the other store when my internal alarm started to sound, but NOOOOOOOOOOO… I had to save the world.

So do yourself a favor. Listen to your “gut-check” when it goes off the first time. You might save yourself $35 bucks, dammit!

 

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Be yourself, dammit!

I meet a lot of people when I do talks who tell me they are frustrated that their kids aren’t “behaving” or “going with the plan” that they have in mind for their future.

“It’s for their own good!” They will insist. “They just don’t listen.”

Often times, I think these parents are trying to force their kids into activities that they don’t enjoy because a part of them wishes they could be doing it themselves. Whether it’s through sports or God forbid one of those child pageants, it’s usually not the kids idea. It’s mom or dad living out some life-long dream by making their kids get up at 7am to go to hockey practice.

I came across a story about a man named Shaun Sperling who is now a litigation attorney in Chicago. When he was 13 back in 1992, he was obsessed with Madonna, so he asked his mom if he could have a Madonna themed bar mitzvah.  She agreed and they had Madonna busts all over the reception, posters, t-shirts, you name it.  He learned the entire “Vogue” routine and performed it in a video that was posted in August and has now gone viral. He practiced everyday for his sister and his dance moves are very fun to watch.

Today, reflecting on his experience with Headline News, he writes,

Even today, as an attorney at a law firm in Chicago, I am still just me — flamboyant, outgoing, ridiculous me. I am thrilled that the video is all over the place making people smile and laugh. I hope that as people watch the video, they can see that being authentic and true to one’s self — no matter how outside the box — is the only real path to success and happiness. 

So if you are a parent- encourage your kids to be who they are- not who you want them to be. Even if it goes outside of your belief system. Change comes from inspiration, not imposition. The more you force your kid to be something they are not, the bigger the wedge you will create between you and your child.

Because whether they are dancing or running or singing or reading, they are incredible human beings. And every child deserves the right to be authentic in order to succeed.

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Why do bad things happen to good people?

I got a call from my old friend Rachel the other day. We were buddies in college and roommates in our 20′s. While arranging a time to grab lunch, she said,

“You heard about Marla, right?”

Marla was another friend of ours from college.

“No? What about her?”

There was this long pause and my heart just sank.

“She died,” she said. “She was hit by a truck after dropping her daughters off at school. She was killed instantly.”

OH MY GOD!

I stopped in my tracks and just stood on Wabash with my phone at my ear.

“What?! What?!”

I hadn’t talked to Marla in years. The last time I saw her I remember she and her husband came over for dinner, along with Rachel and her husband,  and we all cooked pesto pizza and watched “The Long Kiss Goodnight” with Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson.

“I can’t believe this happened,” I said to Rachel. “How could this happen?!”

Marla and her husband Dave lived in Valparaiso with their two daughters. Marla had just dropped off cupcakes to her daughters’ school before a truck ran a red light and killed her.

I write a lot about spirituality, and “you are where you’re supposed to be in every moment,” blah blah blah… but I just can’t imagine Marla was supposed to be killed by a truck. 

This is bullshit, God!

So why do bad things happen to good people? I posed this question recently to a woman who not only died in a kayaking accident and came back to life to talk about it, but she also had to bury her son when he was just 19. Dr. Mary Neal is an orthopedic surgeon who was dead for fourteen minutes and says she was literally “kicked out” of Heaven. Apparently God told her she had to come back and tell her story. She was in town for a talk at Evanston Hospital in April and I tried to pitch her for a column. There was no interest in print so I interviewed her for WGN radio instead.

Since then she’s been on The Today Show and Fox News talking about her brush with death and her book “To Heaven and Back”.

“I’m a pragmatist!” She told me. “I couldn’t make this stuff up if someone put a gun to my head.”

And then she said something I will never forget:

“I can’t tell you how many times over the last 13 years where something terrible has happened where someone says ‘Isn’t that terrible about that boating accident?’ and I think ‘No actually, it was a great gift.’”

“A tragedy is a great gift?” I asked.

 “If you think about ‘bad’ things- think about Jesus- he was betrayed, he was arrested, he was beaten, humiliated, and he was killed. That’s bad. By all accounts we should look at that and say ‘That’s the most horrible thing you can imagine.’ But look what came of it. For more than 2000 years people are remembering his story and using it to heal and love. So can you look at that and say it was horrible, but I look at the affect it had on the last 2000 years and it’s incredible. He brought a covenant of love. You can look at every bad thing that happened and almost always there are incredibly good things that come of it. You know change doesn’t happen when things are easy. Change happens when things aren’t easy and when you are pushed. So I would say there is no such thing as good and bad. It just is. And we may not understand it.”

I definitely don’t understand it. But I will hope that a gift can come out of this.. somehow. While reading this blog post written by Marla’s husband Dave, I was reminded of Marla’s big heart. Her talent. Her artwork. 

This is so unfair!

So tell those you love how much you love them while you still can. And try to find the blessings in the chaos, I guess. Even when it’s hard.

And today, it’s really fucking hard, dammit!