How to Face Challenges without Losing Your Sanity

REALIZATION: As I’ve grown older, the percentage of my days that have been filled with unforeseen challenges has increased in direct proportion to my ability to tackle them as they barrel into my world like a bull in a china shop. I have become quite the matador. Not that I wanted the job, mind you, but I’ve realized that it’s much easier to face and fight than to flee in fright.

Let me tell you, that was NOT always the case. In my mid 20’s and early 30’s, I had absolutely NO idea of how to handle challenges and problems…so I didn’t. I tried to run away from them, shield my eyes from them in hopes that they’d go away if I ignored them, and I even numbed my brain up with drugs and alcohol in an attempt to forget about them. Newsflash… it didn’t work. I failed…miserably. The great saying “live and learn” really has applied well in my life. After all, I’m an anal retentive perfectionist who HATES to make the same mistake twice.

I’ve got great news, dear reader! I’m about to share the secret to my success with you. It really IS possible to face challenges without losing your sanity, and I’m walking talking proof of that fact.


In the past 2 weeks, I’ve simultaneously faced the following challenges:

  • Financial woes forced me to find creative ways to buy a week’s worth of groceries for a family of 2, with less than $15. (TIP – Buy a lot of beans and rice!)
  • Juggled my schedule effectively enough to work 3 part-time jobs, take 5 college classes, write two blogs, exercise, made time for God, and necessary time to socialize and sleep.
  • A diagnosis from my doctor that was less than stellar. Basically, there’s no cure for what ails me. My time on this earth is very limited. Newsflash… EVERYONE’S is. I’ll keep on living a day at a time.
  • The death of my beloved mom. After a 5 year battle with Parkinson’s disease, she put on her angel wings and flew home to be reunited with my dad on August 28th.
  • Mom’s memorial service 4 days later. As if the reality of her death wasn’t enough, I had to deal with family controversy and personality clashes as we said goodbye to the world’s greatest woman.
  • A sewer backup in the apartment next to mine, which decided to come pay us a visit, too. Joy…. Pure joy.

So how did I make it through to the other side? How is it possible that I wasn’t carted off to the funny farm?

ANSWER – My call to action

  1. Believe in yourself. Believe in your ability to overcome adversity. Never underestimate your power to gain superhero strength when you need it the most. Oh, and eat bacon. Or chocolate. Maybe both simultaneously! They are fuel for the gods and goddesses of the world…
  2. Ask for help. Don’t rely on your heart and mind to carry you through life’s storms. We were not meant to face challenges alone. If you’re a person of faith, use it. Lean on the God of your understanding. Don’t forget that where two or more are gathered in His name, there is strength. If you don’t have family to lean on, ask your friends for help. Cry, scream, have a hissy fit. You may get a few odd stares, but I guarantee that SOMEONE will listen and be a shoulder for you to cry on. If nobody in your circle of friends will help you, email or call me. I’ll do my best to help you. I don’t care if we’ve ever met or not. You are important enough for me to care about helping you.
  3. Wear your rain gear. Life isn’t about waiting for the storms to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Photo credit: Simply Me


Independence Lost and Found

July 1, 2011. During the years of my early childhood, I ADORED the month of July. What young kid doesn’t love thirty-one days of pure, unadulterated FUN?! No school, no homework, very few chores, and as much play time in the fresh Wisconsin air that my adorable self could take in. Back in the stone ages those days, parents rarely had to worry about their children being abducted by strangers. In fact, I would venture to guess that my mom, busy raising 6 children, may have secretly wished once or twice that a few of her beautiful offspring would be abducted… temporarily, of course…just long enough for her to have an uninterrupted “Calgon take me away” moment.

My favorite day in July was the 4th. The celebration was non-stop fun. The day always started with my dad helping my brother and I to decorate our bikes for the city parade. I would adorn my bicycle with crepe paper streamers, red and white striped plastic straws on the wheel spokes, and I’d fill the basket on the front with wild flowers that I had stolen from found in my neighbor’s back yard. Riding with pride of patriotism, I’d pedal my way down Main Street with my brother Ted and the other kids in town. My mom would stand on the sidewalk, smiling and waving proudly as we pedaled past her.

After the parade, I’d go home and find my daddy starting off his favorite holiday with one of his favorite past times…being the master of his outdoor domain…the grill. I’m pretty sure it’s a cave man instinct that causes grown men to want to cook meat over hot coals, and let me tell you, Ed Heflin took that job seriously! He would stand over the Weber, a basting brush in one hand, a dry martini in the other. He’d bath pieces of chicken in barbeque sauce and let them grill until the sugar in the sauce caramelized to a blackened char. Then we’d invite the neighbors over to picnic with our family. My dad would spend hours delighting our guests with his exuberant hospitality. Incidentally, how is it possible that a burned piece of chicken is a perfectly acceptable and edible menu item to serve to guests, but a burned piece of toast isn’t? If you have thoughts, ideas, or answers to this (or any of life’s other burning questions), please share them with me!

When our stomachs had been filled with delicious food and the neighbors had gone home, our family would pile into our aquamarine Vista Cruiser and head over to the other side of town to watch the fireworks display. If there was ever a time when I felt that our family was a solid, functional, all-American unit, the 4th of July was it.  No fighting, no shouting… just smiles and fun.

Independence Day celebrations went along smoothly at our house until I reached my early teen years. Then, after the fireworks display on July 4th, 1979, my world was flipped upside down. I was awakened at 3:20am on July 5th and given the news that my beloved daddy had suffered a fatal heart attack. How was this possible?!  He was only 48 years old! I felt as though my insides had been ripped out.

I was born on my father’s birthday, and he was taken from me on our favorite holiday. Let me tell you, nothing hurts quite as much as losing your hero when you’re 15 years old.

This 4th of July will mark 32 years since my dad’s untimely death, and although I always celebrate the holiday, I’ve never quite been able to fully enjoy the 4th of July celebrations as much as I did in my youth. Independence Days as I knew them were lost forever… and yet, I was gaining independence as well. By being forced to grow up quickly, I was given the gift of an expedited jump into adulthood.

I still miss him deeply…

In memory of Daddy, we’ll be firing up the grill this weekend. I’m willing to wager that you already know what the main course will be… J

Photo from


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