Sunday, October 28, 2012

Starting this week off differently - cha-ching!

Yep - I decided this week will be better than the last two weeks. First of all, my son has moved everything back home since he travels for work and is never home anyway, why pay rent on a house when he can pay us to store everything here. Cha-ching!

I updated my Avon blog and started to manage my Avon business more consistently and guess what?  I have grown my customer base.  It is amazing how actually putting time into selling will increase the sales.

By the way, in case you haven't checked out my site yet, we are starting to gear up for the holidays and have really great sales right now.  Check out my site!

I am also calmer again because one son seems to be on his way out of his latest funk and the other one is on his way to the next leg of his treatment journey. My middle son announced he was going to be the father of a little boy and the story I had published in the November/December issue of Victoria, based on a gift he gave me, was in my mailbox a couple of days ago.

I published another article on - click
here for a link to that - so life seems to be going back to the new normal. I have even started to earn a little extra money from that.  A LITTLE, but it still qualifies for a  CHA-CHING!

More importantly however, is that my writing is getting published, which will lead to more opportunities. But in the meantime, I haven't given up on my search for the perfect job with benefits and travel.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

New baby

Last night, after a long emotionally draining week, I learned that our new little grand baby is a boy. What joyful news.  It snapped me out of my funk immediately.  What is it about babies that makes people happy?  Is it because they represent innocence and hope?  Is it the knowledge that babies smell so good and love you and trust you as long as you feed them, hold them, and change their diapers? Or just that they are so cute and cuddly? I have so much love for my little granddaughter, my heart is swollen and is only going to get bigger.

My husband is happy because it means that another generation of Berndts from his family is guaranteed.  I am happy because as much as I love little girls, I think my son will be a good Daddy to a little boy too.  Actually, I am just praying that he is healthy and happy.

Avery called it a long time ago.  I don't remember what she said exactly, but the implication was that she expected a brother. I am not sure she really knows the difference between what a brother is as opposed to a sister, but she is pretty smart. When I asked Avery the other day if she wanted a brother, she said, "yes".  When I asked her if she wanted a boy she said "yes". Just to be funny, I asked her if she wanted a girl - a sister - she looked at me funny and said "yes".  So I think that means that Avery didn't really care what it was as long as she had a baby. We were changing her babies diaper at the time and talking about the correct position of the baby when we change diapers. She was more concerned with where the "yukkies" were in the "biper".

She will be a huge help to Gaga that is for sure.

I love the idea that if I never have any more grandchildren (lets hope not!) after this next little guy, I will have one of each. For some reason it seems more balanced that way.

I am still worried though, how I will share my time and attention between two.  My heart is certainly big enough but, how will I continue to dance while tossing footballs? Avery will figure it out.....she is a coordinator and leader. I can't wait to see how she figures this out.

I can't wait to meet him. And yes, I am going to buy a football and truck today. Boys can never have too many footballs or trucks.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday thoughts

This has been a difficult week.  For many reasons and I will not go into detail. I decided to take this morning to catch up on my recorded TV shows and relax before I clean my house.

I just watched the recording of "Katie" from yesterday. First, let me say, I have a new appreciation for Will.I.Am. He is so smart and his story is very inspirational, coming from the projects, riding a school bus for 90 minutes a day to a charter school, and being inspired to use his talents to work hard and become successful. It says a lot about the importance of having good teachers who believe in their students, and having a place that celebrates and values differences and unique personalities.

Second, I love Taylor Swift. She is funny and full of heart. I like most of her music even though they are geared more towards the teens who are just learning about love and heartbreak. But her song "Ronan" that I first heard on "Stand Up 2 Cancer" still makes me cry when I hear it.

I could tell she was truly moved while she was singing it and it prompted me to find out if this was perhaps about a little brother or someone from her family.  I am curious that way, so I "Googled" her story and learned about Ronan Thompson from Phoenix, a 4 year old who had died from cancer, and his remarkable Mom who writes about him on her blog, Rock Star Ronan. Taylor read about his story and wrote the song in his memory, using words she read on his Mom's blog. in addition, she has donated the proceeds to the Ronan Thompson Foundation to help raise money for childhood cancer.  This story has touched my heart, as it has many, many others.

It got me thinking again however, about the millions of people who have diseases that are not visible to others, except through their behaviors, which are not always good.  If fact, most of the time the behaviors are bad.  I am talking about mental illness.  Not just the well known versions like schizophrenia either. Depression, from mild to clinical affects so many more people every day and carries other more visible by-products with it.  Like addiction. Addictions is so very complicated.

I have said so many times that I am leaving the mental health field because I am so burned out.  I am not sure if I have compassion fatigue or just plain tired of the same discussions and facing the same hurdles over and over and over. But then something happens that kicks my ass and says, "If YOU don't talk about this and advocate for those affected, who will?"

Well - many people are talking about it, but for some reason it is so much easier to fund something like cancer than mental illness. Yes, cancer is ugly and sucks.  My Dad is struggling with cancer now; I have had many friends and relatives die from this horrible disease.  But I know many more people struggle daily with mental illness and addiction; some of them ALSO have cancer.  While funding is increasing for cancer research (that is wonderful), funding for mental health and addiction is decreasing at alarming rates. Which is a crime.

The mental health "helping system" is broken and I believe that is one reason why funding is decreasing. Who wants to continue to pour money into a system that is not having the desired results? We shouldn't! But, what is it going to take to fix it? When will we figure out what really helps those with mind diseases, without causing worse side affects? We will never know until our budgets reflect the value of the health of the human mind. We will never figure out the right balance while the same people who control the money are in charge of where it goes.

We need more people like Taylor Swift for mental health advocacy. People who understand, but are not so tired from the daily challenges of living with people who have this disease. We need to fund more research of the brain and how it functions. We need more charter schools and teachers who embrace challenging students all through the educational process, and don't punish them for their differences, fostering self doubt in the minds of those already feeling like failures. We need a balance of unconditional love and logical consequences from the beginning. We need employers who will give people opportunities to work when they have served a sentence for drug related crimes - most of the time a manifestation of a mental illness. We need less prisons and more appropriate stress centers.

Families need a variety of support, not just more talking about the same stuff.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Three Sons

I know, if you are old enough to remember the show "My Three Sons" you probably have the theme song running through your head right now, perhaps with the image of Fred MacMurrey's foot tapping.  If you are not that old, like my sons, you really don't know what you missed.  They really do need to offer reruns of that show on TV land or somewhere.

My sons are grown men now.  They all have lives separate from each other, yet they are still connected by the love of family.  Each one is unique, with quirks of their own, but so similar in some respects that you know they are brothers cut from the same cloth, even if at times they don't like to acknowledge that.

I know I have mentioned addiction and mental illness in these posts before.  With dual conflicts wrecking havoc on someones health, life can take some pretty serious twists and turns. During the beautiful fall season, when the weather starts to get colder, the days shorter, and the supply of sunlight diminishing, life can be down right chaotic in my family.  My oldest son suffers from seasonal affective disorder, SAD, and if you have ever experienced it yourself, or know someone who does, you know that depression rears its ugly head more often during this time. SAD alone is bad enough but add to that alcohol or drugs, and you have the makings for quite a bumpy ride.

The past few days have been filled with rants, crying jags, lots of beer, no sleep, moving, and many, many phone calls, some in the middle of the night. Fall is here.

A mother never stops worrying about her children.  Never. I am no exception. It might get easier to accept the cards that have been dealt, but I still constantly worry about when the next shoe will drop. Each of my sons goes through their own kind of worry for the others. This "worry" has become part of the culture of my family. When Nik is feeling like this, I dread the phone ringing and the news that could come from the person on the other end. I can't concentrate as easily on work because I am worried that this will be the time he makes good on some of his threats, his feeling that he doesn't add value to any one's life - which he does - and we have told him that, and given examples of how, over and over. During the spring and summer, he believes us and feels better about his life.  He has more energy and lives life hard and fast. But come the end of September, the depression slowly slithers in and by November, it is here........most years until March.

I know there is medicine he can take, but Nik has never been what the mental health world terms "medicine compliant", meaning he doesn't take it consistently - if at all. He works outside as much as he can, to absorb all the sunlight possible, and that helps. But now and then, life just becomes too hard for him to manage on his own. So he has learned to reach out for help. After living with this disease for 30 years, that is a good thing.

When I worked in the mental health field, my job was to help other parents feel supported, letting them know about resources available to their family, helping them understand they were not alone.  It was my job to share my story with them so they knew I understood where they were coming from. That was easy to do most of the time, but usually by January or February, it became harder, because I was smack in the middle of my own pain as a Mom again by that time. There were times when I was a keynote or workshop speaker at conferences, and had to get up in front of several hundred people to talk, while my son had just been arrested, or overdosed the night before.

Depression is hard on the family.  It wears you down. It is hard to watch your loved one go through this pain, feeling alone, unloved, and unappreciated. You try your hardest to help them feel loved and connected but they are the ones who need to feel it, words cannot impact their feelings when they are in this depressed state.  But you can't give up on them.

I write about this today because I know so many others are out there suffering silently, not knowing where to go.  Even though I don't work in the field any more, I still receive calls, some of the parents are referred to me by my sons who know I will give them the time to process their anger and hurt. With funding cuts to mental health and addiction services, options for help are getting farther away. It's important for the caregivers and loved ones to support each other because the few dollars that are available will need to go to the "one with the problem" - even though depression affects everyone in that persons life.

BUT - it is essential to find appropriate support.  I can't tell you how much "well meaning" advice I received over the years from people who really didn't understand my situation, or who were bitter and angry and just wanted to pull others into their world of anger and hurt. In a situation like that, go with your gut.  It's hard to find good support but it IS out there. Reach out. Find someone who is willing to listen and if necessary, offer different options for you to choose from.

Like me, you are not alone. While I know those words are of little comfort when you are in the thick of things, having that knowledge sometimes helps you feel less isolated and alone in your grief.

And know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wonderful Wednesday

Each day I stop for a few minutes and reflect about something good.  Sometimes it happens when I least expect to me grateful ~ like right after a negative experience that has me questioning the lesson I am supposed to learn. Or while I am appreciating someone special or thankful for a memory I have just had. Today I am thankful for my screened "porch".  It is WONDERFUL!

My husband asked me last weekend if it was time to take it down and store it for the winter.

WHAAAAAT??????  Take it DOWN?????

"I still sit out there every day!"  I told him, rather disgustedly.

It is still up, but I realize that my days in my backyard screened room "porch" are numbered. Northern Illinois gets awfully cold and snowy and I know I can't leave it up very much longer.  That makes me sad.

I sit out there and write. As a matter of fact, I am out there right now as I write this. Two squirrels are playfully chasing each other and another one is diligently working to find nuts and seeds and store them for winter. A few minutes ago "Chip and Dale" skittered by and of course I couldn't grab my camera fast enough. It's even raining but that's OK ~ I am protected.

Yes, I enjoy sitting in the fresh air, it helps me think clearly. It's peaceful and the thoughts flow easier as a result.

I am glad I purchased the screened "porch".  At some point I will put it away, but until that day comes, I will continue to enjoy the back yard "office" I have created.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Today is Avery's 3rd birthday. She is growing so fast, yet when I think of what I was doing 3 years ago, it seems like a lifetime ago.

The day she was born, I was at work taking care of last minute details for a Board Retreat we were having.  It was an expectation that all board members and the Executive Director (me) attend this retreat because we were discussing the goals and strategic plan for the new organizations future. 

When my son called to tell me that he was taking Jessie to the hospital, suddenly I went into "ALMOST Grandma" mode.  I paced, gave orders, paced, tried to do paperwork, paced, looked at my phone, paced, called other family members to see if perhaps I had just missed the call, paced, and finally decided to go wait at the hospital.  One of my Board members called me and said, "Don't even think about coming to the retreat, you are where you should be today".  

I was lucky to work for an all women run, non-profit, family organization that promoted family values, and led by example.  We walked the walk as well as talked the talk.

The hospital let the grandparents and aunts sit in a waiting room that was next to the nursery so that when they brought the babies in, you could see them right away.  

At that time, even though I was anxious to meet my new granddaughter, I was also trying to remain in contact with work. I was still Beth, the Executive Director, texting and checking email on my Blackberry.  And then, I saw her.........

She was the most beautiful little girl I had ever laid my eyes on.  I cannot describe the emotion I felt at that moment. And when I saw her middle finger sticking up - I knew immediately that she was a Berndt.  Suddenly, I didn't care about anything else, I was a Grandma.  I felt this overwhelming surge of intense joy - just by looking at her! I couldn't take my eyes off of her!

My son's first child, my other sons first niece, my parents first Great-Grandchild, and my Grandmothers first Great-Great- Grandchild.  She was a special little girl right from the start.

Jessie's Mom looked at me and offered congratulations on my first grandchild. She had just experienced the same thing three weeks earlier, when Jessie's sister had her first child, also a girl.  Avery was going to have a cousin so close to her age that they would seem like twins.

When we got to Jessie's room, we found Mommy, Daddy, and baby Avery basking in the glory of birth. The new little family was tired but overwhelmed with joy.  Nate was on cloud 9.

So was I.

Suddenly the room was full of relatives and at that moment I realized just how blessed this little girl was going to be to have such a large community of family watching over her, guiding her, and loving her unconditionally.

Avery is such an inquisitive child.  Full of energy and life.  And caring. Who knew a child of three could understand and feel so kind towards others? She is always willing to share what she has with others.  Her Mommy and Daddy are doing a wonderful job raising her.

I spend at least once a week with Avery.  We are pals. I love and cherish my special time with my little princess, lover of dogs, kitties, cars, spiders, bugs, babies, flowers, stars, pumpkins, dancing and singing. We recently took a train ride together and I was able to capture her expression as she snuggled up next to me and just enjoyed the ride.

On Thursday, my husband and I went to dinner with Avery and her Daddy - her Mommy had to work - so we could celebrate her birthday with her.  Everyone wore princess crowns and she celebrated with a large hot fudge sundae, while the waitstaff sang Happy Birthday to her. She enjoyed and popped three balloons and opened her many gifts from "Gaga and Poppy".  It was a fun event.

She sang Happy Birthday and "Bear Down Chicago Bears" (Yeah I really did enjoy her singing that song even if we are Packer fans)

 Today she painted pumpkins. She loves to paint and be creative. 

 After Mommy and Daddy took her for her special Birthday dinner, she came home to cake!

As we enter another year, she will enjoy many new experiences, including the birth of a new brother or sister.  She is such a loving child, I can't wait to see how she helps me take care of the newest member of our family.  

People used to say that they loved being a parent, and loved their children, but once they became a grandparent, they experienced a deeper, different kind of love they were not expecting to feel. 

I thought it was just words.  But now..........

Or in my case......"Gaga"

Friday, October 12, 2012

Avon calling!!

So on Tuesday I mentioned that my unemployment checks had stopped, that I felt I had become complacent, and all that. I spent some serious time feeling sorry for myself on Tuesday. And maybe a little time on Wednesday too.

So, I looked at the opportunities in front of me, that I could expand on right away.  Today I am starting with Avon. I never thought of myself as a make-up sales person, and really only started selling Avon because I was familiar with the product, and could get really great prices as a representative.  Then I started getting regular clients and boom - business started to move in a good direction!

I had started a blog on my Avon website last winter. That was before I really new what a blog was or what to do with it.  So that was my first step. Update my Avon blog.

Next, I found my list of customers, old and new, and sent out literature to them with a flyer that if they found a new customer for me that purchased $20.00 or more, they would receive $10 in free products during Campaign 23 as an appreciation for the referral.  In addition to that, if the new customer continued to order for the next 3 campaigns, they would receive another $20.00 in free product to use before February 14.

I am also going to start promoting my Avon website regularly.  If people go to and register, they will have access to great deals and can order from me and have it shipped directly to their house, no matter where they live.  Not that I know people all over the world, but if I did, I could still sell Avon products to them and receive credit for their purchases. It is a greener way to conduct business too, since it cuts down on my gas to deliver everyone's Avon.

Today I am feeling much more hopeful. Life is good.  The sabbatical continues, but in the meantime, let's enjoy "Zack the Singing Beaver" as we get ready for the holidays!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wonderful Wednesday

In keeping with the theme of all things WONDERFUL today I bring you a story about a hero that I recently heard about while watching the "Marie" show.

Mackensie Bearup is a young woman with a big heart and desire to help others learn to escape a world of pain by reading.  Mackensie was diagnosed with Complex Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy at the age of 13. CRSD is a chronic neurological syndrome characterized by severe burning pain, pathological changes in bone and skin, excessive sweating, tissue swelling, and extreme sensitivity to touch. She read books to keep from dwelling on the pain she would feel whenever anyone or anything touched her leg. Hearing about a residential treatment center that was building a library, Mackensie decided to donate all of the books she had read.  Energized by the feeling she was helping, she didn't stop there and went around her town to collect other books that people were no longer reading.  This prompted an idea to start a non-profit called Sheltering Books, Inc. In the past few years, Mackensie has collected and donated more than 149,000 books.VERY COOL!

Sheltering Books, Inc donates to hundreds of homeless shelters across the United States.  As an avid book reader myself, I am now going to donate future books to Sheltering Books myself.  For more information or to learn how you can donate your used books, go to the website by clicking on the following link at

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Back to basics

I am going to conduct an experiment over the next few weeks.  Out of necessity really.

I received my last unemployment check on Friday. That means there is no more money coming in.

I have been here before and looking back, it wasn't THAT bad.  OK maybe it was at times because I had three little boys.  But now, it is like a new beginning.  Not having unemployment is going to free up some time because:
  1. I no longer have to remember to certify every two weeks
  2. I will not have to monitor my checking account balance because - well - there will be no money coming in
  3. I don't have to track all the job applications I have sent out.
Now, I will live life even more simpler that I have.  I started this blog several months ago with the idea of chronicling my life as an unemployed grandma - on sabbatical.  Why is that so important?  Because it is difficult enough for young people to find good employment right now, but add to that the fact that I am within 10 years of retirement age, (even though there is no way I will retire that early), and I become one of those hard to find a good job older workers.

So while this part is not so glamorous, it is a reality that many others are facing too.

I am not ready to be the "Walmart Greeter." There is nothing wrong with that and it is a job, but I just got my degree 4 years ago.  I have college loans to pay off. That part is the scary part. I now have the degree and the knowledge to do more than say "Welcome to Walmart" or "Would you like fries with that?" I do not mean to sound condescending.  Not at all.  I guess I just believed while I was working so hard for that college degree, that I would be able to use it longer that 2.5 years.

God works in mysterious ways.  There is a reason for this experience and I have yet to understand what it is, but I am keeping my mind and my options open.  I will approach this with the same positive attitude I have had all along (even with a few bad days thrown in for excitement).

I will ask myself, how have others survived?  What can I cut out of our budget now?  What else can we live without? Where can more changes be made? What other burdens can I free myself of now that I have no consistent income? (I do have some, so maybe that is why I am taking this in stride)

Having thought about this a little more, maybe this means it is time to take more risks and move ahead with my plan to write. Knowing I had unemployment to help me through the rough part made me a little complacent I think.  I knew that at least I had that money.  NOW, I need to find more opportunities. So below is my new motto...........

Monday, October 8, 2012

I'm baaaaaack......

Yes, I have not blogged on here for several days.  I took some time to organize my craft supplies, finish a couple of projects and apply for a few jobs that I found interesting.  I spent the week cleaning and spent some time with my Mom and Dad and Avery.  Nothing too terribly exciting, but time consuming.

A few posts ago I told you I would be taking my resume off of the major job boards and "taking myself off the market" so to speak. I did that, created the marketing materials for my freelance writing business, and last week began sending them to people.  I asked several people to write recommendations for my work, and was thrilled to get a few. So I am on my way, but realistic that this will take time. Everything worthwhile takes time.

I found out that an old friend moved.  She didn't tell me she was moving, so that is bothering me.  When you leave a job you expect to lose touch with people, but there are a few I really hoped to remain connected to.  I have tried to stay in touch with most, but as time goes on, I hear from them less and less.  But I never expected to learn that someone had moved without even sharing they were planning to. That makes me a little sad.

My Dad went back to the doctor at Northwestern and they confirmed that the new treatment for his cancer is working in the area of the liver they are treating.  The good news is that his liver is still functioning ~ which is surprising given that statistically speaking, once you have been diagnosed with advanced stage liver cancer your liver usually stops functioning, especially as time goes by. The bad news is that in the untreated area of his liver, there were more tumors.  This means the cancer is spreading and they are not sure what is causing that.

My husband has been very ill.  He is not a happy patient, or one that can be considered very compliant. That is putting it mildly, and I think I will leave it at that.

Overall, it was a challenging week. I was even locked out of the apartment by Avery.  Not even three yet and she is letting me know she is in control when I take the dog outside to pee. Thank goodness her Daddy showed up right then so I was really only locked out for a minute.

I must admit, I am feeling a little blue these days. I think I need to get out with people again. I might go hang out at Starbucks (and other places) and hand out my business cards.

I will be writing regularly again.  I have a few ideas for new posts and hope to gain a few more readers as a result.