Monthly Archives: May 2015

Not quite ready for prime time

This web site isn’t quite ready for prime time. But…wait, wait, wait…

…if you’re here you must have seen my shirt in the Minneapolis Marathon (and, hopefully by now I’ve successfully finished my very first marathon).

I printed the shirt. The marathon came (5/31/2015). And I ran out of time to really spend the energy that I wanted to on this web site (e.g., cleaning up past articles, adding links & pics, new content). But hey, I’d rather have finished a marathon and only have a partial web site than the reverse! I do have some content…it will only get better (and more frequent)…so keep scrolling down and clicking around. Give me feedback too. Where should I take this? What would be helpful?

IMG_DCT_shirt_5824

(UPDATE: I did survive my first marathon and had a blast doing it.)

11391460_866892546710022_6998810774783450942_n

Please let me know that you were here…and please come back. Leave a comment below…or send me an email at dcthmpsnep@gmail.com

My goal is to run in the Boston Marathon next year (2016) to raise money for suicide awareness & prevention and to fight the incredible stigma that exists every single day around suicide and mental illness. I will need your support (happy thoughts, encouragement, money, etc).

We’re all in this together. Thank you for your support and happy thoughts. Enjoy today. Please come back to this web site and give me any feedback that you have – and I’d love to hear thoughts on what topics you’d like me to blog on related to suicide and mental illness. I am absolutely willing and ready to share all of my thoughts and perspective from the tragedy of losing my sister to suicide just three years ago (March 26, 2012). No topic or question is off limits – let’s hit this head on and kill the stigma.

Two Year Anniversary

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on IronMegan.com personal blog, March 27, 2014 (note: his sister, Katherine, died March 26, 2012)

It’s been two years since my sister, Katherine, died.

That first year was insane. It was a whirlwind of emotions. We were constantly watching out for ourselves and each other – or just trying to get through each day as we cycled through all stages of grief. It forced all of us to deal with emotions that most of us had never even considered. But we got through it, and we continue to heal and rebuild.

The second year has been more educational & reflective for me

I’ve started to think more and more about my purpose in life. I still think about Katherine every single day, and I never know when grief will hit. The biggest mental turning point for me has been my understanding that mental illness, depression, anxiety, etc are no different from any other disease. We can watch for signs, we can take steps to reduce our risks, but in the end they are diseases that can’t be controlled. This means that people with these diseases don’t have a choice in the act of suicide. They died by suicide. They died as a result of depression. Just like you died by heart attack as a result of heart disease. They didn’t commit suicide. They didn’t choose to die. They didn’t choose to leave us. Professor Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University has a great 24-lecture series on Stress and Your Body. He very clearly states that major depression is one of the worst illnesses out there. With other illnesses you get a wake-up call and find joy to keep on living but with depression, by definition, people have lost the ability to feel pleasure and find happiness. Anxiety may be even more prevalent than depression, and again, anxiety is also a real medical disorder.

I knew nothing about any of this two years ago

I had opinions that were wrong. I wanted to know why she chose to leave us. Why she didn’t ask us for help. Why she would want to leave so much behind. I used phrases that weren’t accurate and unknowingly perpetuated stereotypes. I come across the word “stigma” frequently and it always seems so blameful – such a negative word – I don’t like that one, which may be the point. Even in yesterday’s Facebook postings about Katherine it was very easy to find words that are wrong and mask the truth. And these are comments by loved ones who have been part of this experience. If it’s so easy for us to capture this inaccurately then of course it’s impossible for the general public to relate to and understand the complexities of mental illness and suicide. But we have to try.

Feel compassion for their death

Here’s a great short article (with audio if you prefer that) by Alan Lessik offering a great perspective from someone who lost a loved one to a fatal mental illness (and coincidentally has a connection to Pearson): Judge Not His Death

“I had to let go of my thought that if he somehow tried harder he would get better. He tried, we tried everything that medicine, psychiatry, therapy and alternatives could throw at him. Unfortunately no one can know that a mental illness is terminal until the person dies.”

We shouldn’t judge

And isn’t it amazing now how many times we see awful news about suicide. It’s all around us and can impact anyone in all walks of life. It’s still hard not to judge or make generalized assumptions when you see that it is related to a celebrity, CEO, etc. But we shouldn’t judge. It’s no different than what we’ve been through. I just read Highest Duty: My Search For What Really Matters, by Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. This is the pilot who landed a damaged US Airways flight onto the Hudson River in January 2009. It’s a good book and really shows how all of his life experiences and training put him in the perfect spot that day to save so many lives. One impact on his life was that his dad died of suicide at the age of 78 when Sully was 43 years old. He says,

“Naturally, I was distraught, angry, and upset with myself. I thought that I should have been paying closer attention to him. Intellectually, my mom, my sister, and I knew better. As with so many suicides, I don’t think any of us who loved him could have prevented him from doing what he did…After Flight 1549, people wrote to tell me that they could sense how much I valued life. Quite frankly, one of the reasons I think I’ve placed such a high value on life is that my father took his…his death did have an effect on how I’ve lived, and on how I view the world. It made me more committed to preserving life. I exercise more care in my professional responsibilities. I am willing to work very hard to protect people’s lives, to be a good Samaritan, and to not be a bystander, in part because I couldn’t save my father.”

It’s up to all of us to help raise awareness.

Take care of yourself first. But if you’re ok then keep reading. We should share our experiences. We should proactively ask others how they are doing, especially if they have given us any depression/anxiety/suicide comments or hints about themselves or others in their lives. And then listen to them and be there for them. We should be conscious about our choice of words. I meet with anyone that wants to talk to me about related topics…once I’m aware (and that is the hard part). I have met with co-workers and friends, people concerned about their kids, and people concerned about their parents. I have a Pinterest board. I have offered to help anyone at church who needs to talk on topics I can relate to. These are just some of the ways I try to spread positive values and help others. We’ve been through it, and we are better equipped to help others.

So what can we do?

Professor Robert Sapolsky (who I mentioned above) acknowledges that he has 22 lectures of bad news before he gets to some positive messages in his last two lectures in that series. His focus is on stress and how bad that is for us. But my particular interest was the connection to depression and anxiety. Here’s what we can all do:

  • Take care of ourselves. Do the obvious things like eat well and don’t smoke. Duh – you’ve heard it before.
  • And you need to exercise. You’ve heard this how many times before? Yes, exercise. 30+ minutes every day. It needs to be something that you enjoy doing. Make the time for this. I have made this change in my life and can stick to it most weeks. But I have to be intentional about it because it is important to me. I don’t know if depression sneaks up on you or if wham! one day I get hit by it, but if finding 30 minutes a day will help me (and provides so many other benefits) then sign me up.
  • He also recommends transcendental meditation and having a strong support network. I’ve been very blessed to have a small group of people who watch out for me and that I feel comfortable talking to. I don’t shy away from any conversations about what I’m thinking about and how I’m feeling. It’s good for me and good for others too. Hearing about vulnerability in others makes it ok for more people to share.
  • He also mentions having a religious belief but it is harder to show correlation since people with these beliefs are typically doing other things right and their church provides them a support network that is crucial.
  • The last thing he mentions is essentially your coping strategy. Knowing what you can change or control and what you can’t – when to accept and when to move on. Knowing when to change your strategy. Keeping the right things in perspective. I have learned how to be open and share what is on my mind. I absolutely try to continually educate myself so I am best equipped to make the right decisions. Sharing this information with each other is essential to this and part of my process.

“Mitigate the alonenesss”

Here’s a short related excerpt from an interview with Andrew Solomon who has suffered from depression and his advice on how best to support others:

“I often say to people who describe having a friend who’s depressed “You need to make sure that the person is never alone.” Sometimes that means talking to them, and sometimes when they are too miserable to talk, it means sitting quietly by their bed. And sometimes when even having another human being in the room feels overwhelming to them, it involves sitting right outside the bedroom door. It never involves going away and it never involves taking seriously their claims that they want to be alone. Depression is a disease of loneliness and the best way to address it is to mitigate that aloneness.”

My purpose in life

I was in a discussion recently with someone in a book study at work about our purpose in life. I don’t know how I would have answered that two years ago. I don’t think you can just pick your purpose and expect to get it right and for it to be meaningful. Sometimes it finds you, like it or not. I’m not sure that we can help or save everyone. But what we can do is live for being happy today, be there for those around us, chase your dreams, and live life with no regrets. A huge focus in my life now is thinking about how I can make a positive difference in the lives of others. Concepts from The Dream Manager have absolutely changed what I focus on in my life in the past several years. I talk about these principles at work and with friends. I am working on doing the same at church this year. I am looking at more local groups on depression/grieving/suicide to see where I may fit in to help. I’m trying to build a larger presence on Pinterest. If you’re interested in talking more about any of the things I mentioned and seeing how we can make an ever bigger impact please let me know.

I want feedback for future articles

I also am thinking about changing some of my writing style to be more focused on an audience that doesn’t know me and my story. Largely when I write it is very beneficial for me – but I get great comments from some of you throughout the year too. But could I write on topics that I know about and help others on their journey? Other than these being way too long (I know, I know) I’d love feedback. Respond in comments or send me a separate email. What do you like about how I write? Where can I improve? What topics should I cover? What questions do you have? Misconceptions? Uncertainties? Things you’ve learned that I could elaborate on and share? How about this – would you like to hear more on happiness and pursuing dreams?

Take care of yourself

Dream big. Be there and even just listen to those in need. Educate others. Think about your purpose in life and what more you can do.

Only 10 people on average will cry at your funeral

One last comment. Jeff Olson in The Slight Edge referenced an article saying that only 10 people on average will cry at your funeral and that

“the number one factor that would determine how many people would go on from the funeral to attend the actual burial would be…the weather.” “If it happened to be raining, said the article’s author, 50 percent of the people who attended my funeral would decide maybe they wouldn’t go on to attend my burial after all, and just head home.”

Katherine touched lives

Just think of how many people cried at Katherine’s funeral. Think of how many lives she touched. Think of how long that line was. And think of how many people did go on to the actual burial and stood in the rain on a cold New England day for Katherine. She was a special person and is still loved and missed so much.

When…

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on IronMegan.com personal blog, March 26, 2014 (note: his sister, Katherine, died March 26, 2012)

In the beginning
all the time
when I woke up
when I went to bed
any time in between
when I walked into work
when I walked out of work
but I kept it out of work
had to then
when my phone rang at work
you are never prepared for that phone call

when I drive up the street to my parent’s house
when I drive down the street away from my parent’s house
when I think about that first moment at their house
and we all stand in the kitchen and catch up on things
and get to see and hug each other for the first time of that visit
and joke and laugh with each other
and get some cookies from the cookie jar
that’s always a special moment
it’s still special
but is missing something now

when I think about my parents
and all the things they did right
and all the love we showed each other
and all the happiness waiting for all of us
together in the future

when I think about future family reunions

when I look at our last family pictures
and thought we were doing it for another reason
it wasn’t Katherine that we were worried about then
you never know the reason
take the picture

when I think about my brother
and his family
and my parents
and Katherine’s family
her husband
and girls
those smiling, happy girls
we worry about them remembering too much
yet not remembering enough
those precious, special girls
and extended family
and her best friend
all of her friends
and her co-workers
and anyone fortunate enough to see her beautiful spirit shine
you never know the reason for making all those connections
make the connections

when I think about New Hampshire
Boston
Maine
New England
a trip to Disney
a trip to Grand Marais
she said a summer trip is “good for us!” 2 weeks before she died
the struggle to live
and to die
at the same time

when I think of a cold and dreary New England day
or see a timeless New England cemetery
when I hear bagpipes
wow were they sad that day
and yet beautiful in a way I’d never heard before
and don’t want to hear again

at any holiday
when I have a birthday and turn a year older
New Years
Christmas
Thanksgiving with family
it’s so odd that my happiness related to aging and family holidays
triggers sadness
the happier I see us all
the sadder I want to feel sometimes

when I think about my childhood

when I see anyone take their family for granted

when I hear anyone say the word “sister”
or “brother”
especially if they are complaining about their siblings
hey grown-ups
please don’t complain about your siblings
I know kids will fight with each other
that’s normal, and part of every childhood
watching my children do that stirs up many emotions in me
frustration, sadness, hurt, mad, plus others I guess
I have to leave the room and not deal with it
guess it makes me miss Katherine even more
and wants me to have them appreciate each other all the time
I know it’s not realistic
but wow does it overwhelm me

when I see other families fight
over the silliest things
and just not get how precious life is
especially when these families know my story
but they forget
please appreciate what you have
or if you don’t appreciate it
please don’t do that in front of me
especially during holidays which are already tough on me
help me every day continue to live my life positively
and inspire others
and not judge
and have patience
and respect all those around me
and help me “be kind” as the quote says
because everyone you meet is fighting a great battle

when I worry about telling my kids
when I worry about not telling my kids

every time one of my children says they hate me
yes, it happens to all of us
hopefully not often
but all kids say it
it digs deep
in ways it wouldn’t have two years ago
or when they cry over friends
or not fitting in
how can you not worry?
do you overreact?
underreact?
love them
listen to them
be there
don’t judge
create that loving environment.

when I think about how Grandma T would always pause when we’d go
through old photos
when she got to Grandpa T’s sister Margareet who died when
she was in her early twenties of cancer
something about the way she said it or paused I think
showed a profound impact on Grandpa T for the rest of his life
it would be interesting to hear if he ever talked about her
or how that impacted him
and how his life changed
does anyone know?

when I look at draft emails still addressed to Katherine
or the messages from her still saved in my phone
or read her comments in my blog
so glad I created that blog
it is the 1st item I ever pursued after reading The Dream Manager
Katherine always talked about creating her own blog
she really wanted to do it
but it never happened
so glad she read my blog
so glad she wrote comments
you never know why you do some things
and the benefits they will produce
chase your dreams
write your blog (or whatever is on your dream list)
who cares what others think
take small steps at first
but just do it
support other people’s dreams
write those comments
they mean so much

when I have great memories of her
it’s so true that we remember and miss the small things
the imperfections, crazy moments, and unique traits
those random, funny email that I still have saved
jigsaw puzzles of course
that wonderful laugh/snort/chortle/burst with that smile
the awesome gifts she bought me
will I ever throw some of those away now?
how long will a G. H. Bass jacket last and still be so stylish?
don’t answer that
I say I need to get better at buying gifts like she did
talk is cheap, huh?
when I hear “wicked awesome”
ok, I never hear that
when I drive past where she got pulled over by the police
for speeding in Minnesota
while in her pajamas
with no I.D.
with her best friend
and not really knowing where they were
must have made that cop’s day

when I watch my children grow older
when I see my daughter dancing
and growing older
and making lifelong friends
when I fold her flannel pajamas
when she wears new dance costumes and make-up
I can picture Katherine at that age doing these same things

when I still think about calling Katherine out of the blue
it just doesn’t seem real some days
this really happened to our family?

when I connect with a song
For a Dancer by Jackson Browne
“And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive
But you’ll never know”
find songs or poems or stories that have meaning to you

When I see my grey hairs
when I don’t sleep well at night
because my mind is up
I sleep better now
but those grey hairs don’t turn back to brown
thanks Katherine

when I hear people say
“suicide”
“I’d kill for that”
“he’s dead to me”
“slit my wrists”
“hang myself”
they are just words we all use
but I pause on them now
and try to be intentional
and thoughtful
in my words and actions

when I try to think about what she must have been thinking
and going through
so much that I don’t understand
and can’t relate to
but I’m learning a lot and continue to learn
and not judge
anxiety
depression
Crohn’s
OCD
are scraping sounds of teeth against a metal fork or spoon
a warning sign or just a way to annoy your sister?
who knows.
when I tap my fingernails on the wall
as I walk down a hallway
or stairwell
but I can stop tapping my nails
I control it
but others can’t
so hard to understand

when I lay my shoes side by side for the next day
the right shoe goes on the right
the left shoe goes on the left
now that can’t be changed
don’t mess with my shoes
right?
what makes it anxiety and OCD?
versus just being silly?

when I jog past a certain area in this loop that I do
I talk to her there
we all need to handle this in our own way
find that special spot
talk to yourself
talk to her
pray
don’t bottle it up

when I pause and hug my kids real tight

when I see a beautiful sunrise

when I have a bad day

when I get in a slump for a day or two

when I let small things frustrate me

when I think about others going through struggles
and I still don’t ask them about it enough when they say they are “ok”
it’s awkward
or we forget weeks later
and I can’t assume just because someone is having a bad day
that it will end up in suicide
but you never know
so live a good life
and always be there for others
listen and watch for signs

when I see awful stories in the news
when I hear others make judgments about suicide
and state why people did it
and how could they leave so much behind
or be so selfish
we have so much to learn

it’s a disease
just like a heart attack
you can’t control it
and shouldn’t be judged

when I hear a judgment come out of my mouth
I hope this doesn’t happen often
we all do it
often without realizing it
you never know the other person’s story
or what they’ve been through
or what they are going through
nice words and thoughts go a long way

when I try to think about what day to honor her each year
but really it’s every day
every day is a great day to remember her
and live a life that she would be proud of
but it’s not enough to say every day
I really want an intentional day to celebrate her life
or do focused good in the world in her name
I’m open to ideas

every time I tell someone new who I am
I may not tell them about this right away
but I’m thinking about it
it’s a huge part of me
it has shaped me
and focused me
and helping me define a purpose
and to live intentionally
without judgment
not take any day or moment for granted
and be there for others all of the time
but I’d trade it all back in a heartbeat

when I think about what I want to focus my life on
when I think about what truly matters
when I think about what I would change in this world if I could
when I help others understand why it’s important to have dreams
and pursue them
and live for today
and be happy now
because that’s the only guarantee that we have
and I’m inspired by the people
who have already used this as a wake up call
and are pursuing their dreams now

when I think about dream lists
Katherine had 19 dreams in her list
I think she accomplished one of those
do the rest of us live the remaining dreams for her?
do I just need to post something to Etsy?
or does someone have to actually buy it?
heh heh
is it ok to share most of her dreams?

when I think about the good person I want to always be
and the shining example I want to set for others
and the best that I can be

when I think about if I can really ever save anyone
all we can do is try
be there for people
spread happiness
share some smiles
don’t judge
give people space
but not too much space
but how do you know where that line is
all we can do is try the best we can
and be good people

those of us that can control our lives
should control our lives
and help others
and learn
and do better
because we know better

when I think about keeping our entire family together
when I think about how fragile life is
when I think about living each day to its fullest
and treasuring the blessings we have before us each day
and being there for others
all the time
even when we don’t feel like it
yes, even then
all the time
and how far I’ve come in the past two years
I think the best thing I can do to honor her memory
is continue to improve and live the best life I can
smile
help others
listen
give back
just be there
focus on today
that’s all we can guarantee
life is precious
enjoy each day to it’s fullest
because you never know

Are there jigsaw puzzles in heaven?

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on IronMegan.com personal blog, November 25, 2012 (note: his sister, Katherine, died March 26, 2012)

So who the heck is watching over me?

Are there jigsaw puzzles in heaven? Too many distractions up there keeping my angels busy? I’m not sure how else to explain the complete lack of assistance I got controlling mother nature recently. Unless all of my angels are up there laughing at me – and I think that would be worse! I was less than 5 minutes away from having our 20’x10’ pool completely drained & towel dried, disassembled and ready to bring indoors for the season when the rain hit. This is the second time I’ve completely dried it this fall. I had Colleen and Christopher out helping me take the pool apart as fast as we could because I knew rain was forecast in a few hours. The sky wasn’t that cloudy, I had done my weather homework. You know how sometimes you feel a drop or two and then you get a gradual build up to a gentle rain? Or you know how sometimes the rain is warm and feels healing and soothing? Well…this was neither of those…it started as an instant burst of a cold downpour. At the point it dumped on us we had already taken out three of the four long support beams (Colleen & Christopher were holding each end up of the heavy last side) so there was no way I could set the pool back up to easily dry it again. I only needed 5 minutes to be all done. That’s all. This was the start of four straight days of rain…followed by cold Minnesota weather.

I should have at least three angels looking after me.

I can understand how God is too busy to focus on everyone and to worry about little problems but what else do Katherine and Grandma & Grandpa T have to do up there? Finishing puzzles, going on bike rides, playing cards, and making fiber flowers & casseroles ;) Help me out. Delay that rain just a few minutes. Create a dry pocket for me. Anything. A little help here. Are there rules for angel interventions? Do they only get a limited number? Do they have to learn how to use their powers? Do they save them for ‘signs’ versus actually helping us out? Can they team up and combine powers?

Or maybe I need to pay attention more.

Maybe they help all the time and I’m too busy to notice. Or I don’t give them credit. Or I take countless mini-interventions for granted. Maybe they’re busy all day long saving me from car crashes, house fires and other life changing disasters. Maybe they’re helping out with an extended green traffic light every so often, or moving my car keys where I can easily find them. Maybe they helped me get to see one of my Make-A-Wish children one last time before he died. Maybe it was my angels who helped us when Megan started choking recently while we were out to dinner (I think my heart has finally settled back into a normal rhythm a few weeks later). Life gets so busy it’s sadly way too easy to miss these every day blessings.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Or maybe they’re watching and deciding not to jump in so that maybe one day I’ll learn once and for all not to sweat the small stuff. They’re giving me ongoing reminders about what really matters and doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Who cares about my frustrations with this silly pool? It is a fun memory with the kids while the rain dumped on us and I made them continue to stand there holding the ends of the pool regardless of the futility of the situation. We were soaked in a matter of seconds and laughing while daddy was helpless against the rain.

Everyday miracles

Maybe they can’t change the course of things but instead can use their powers to send signs. And maybe I’m too busy to notice these too. Or I’m waiting for something so grand and life-changing that I’m missing minor miracles every day. Maybe someday this will all make sense to me. Or maybe not. Until then I’ll continue to wait for that special day when the orchid in my office blooms again and I find the last state quarter to fill my collector book.

“Help me today to enjoy every moment. No matter what I deal with today help me to walk with a smile and enjoy this moment. This time and this day. I will never see it again. I will be thankful!” -DL Watson

Quoted quote with a quote as I reflect on Katherine and this past year

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on IronMegan.com personal blog, March 26, 2013 (exactly one year after the death of his sister, Katherine)

Think positively

When I traveled to Spain with friends years ago we learned a valuable life lesson. It was a long trip (and an awesome, incredible, amazing trip with great friends) but we had a few stressful points so at one point I started saying “ sucks” (I’m sure one of them remembers specifically what sucky part brought this on – another detail I’ve forgotten over the years). We soon realized the more we said that the more it really did suck and the more things went wrong. So we stopped saying it. We started thinking positively. Things got better. The trip turned out awesome! This lesson applies to each of us every day. The books The Secret and The Power of Positive Thinking capitalize on this.

Spread good vibes

I try to be positive. I’ve made great strides the last several years – and I try to share those good vibes. In the spirit of that, last February (2012) I wrote a blog post entitled “Good things happen to good people” – that whole post was about positive things. Oh, the irony. The whole post was about ‘how great Spain was’ – all good stuff. Amazing how that same world can be completely turned upside-down a month later. It makes me think of that great Woody Allen quote, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

Assume good things are always happening

Don’t read too much into any of that. God isn’t laughing at us, and I’m not cynical to positive thinking. But I doubt you’ll see another completely, totally, absolutely positive post from me about all the great things happening. Even if and when they are happening I’m not sharing so blatantly – you can just assume it’s always happening, ok?

Finally finding peace with my sister’s death

I read God Never Blinks this week – it’s a collection of short newspaper publications by the author, Regina Brett. She had a chapter titled “It’s okay to be angry with God. He can take it.” That made me laugh & relate to it. My range of emotions this year have been all over the place. It took me a long time to understand and accept that Katherine didn’t have a choice – she had an illness that took over and left her no other options. It took me a long, long time to let her know that I understand and hope that she’s in a better spot for her and at peace. And for me to tell her that. I don’t like it but I can’t change it. Of all places and people, it took a night in a bar, with the spouse of a friend directly in my face sharing a crazy-unreal, goose pimple-inducing story and then asking what felt like were awkward and personal questions to make it click with me and change my thoughts.

Here come the quotes…

I’m not sure that I’m ready for the messages in all of the quotes that follow, and I’m not always ready to focus on the future, but I will continue to ponder and learn from these quotes.

This same book goes on to say,

“You don’t need a cancer verdict to start living more fully. Every day, light a candle. What a great reminder that life is short, that the only time that matters is now. Walk out of boring movies. Close any book that doesn’t dazzle you. Greet every morning with open arms and say thanks every night with a full heart. Each day is a precious gift to be savored and used, not left unopened and hoarded for a future that may never come.”

I also read Beauty Beyond the Ashes: Choosing Hope After Crisis, by Cheryl McGuinness today. Her husband was the pilot of one of the planes that hit the towers on 911. She has a strong religious focus that I won’t go into but I did like these lessons from one of the chapters.

(1) Life goes on. As unfair, unreasonable, and impossible it seems, we still have work to do after a tragedy occurs. We still have roles to fill. We still have responsibility to family and others. The stuff of life may pause for a while, but it doesn’t stop. Fair or not, that’s reality. (2) Healing requires active participation. If we can summon the strength to take the first steps, the healing will come that much sooner. If we don’t take those first steps and participate with God in our healing process, we die while we are still alive. God tells us to trust him, get up, and take one more step of faith toward healing – in spite of our feelings. (3) Many details about the future remain unknown. Walking with Jesus involves walking by faith. Our attempts to control the future are fruitless. Those of us who have suffered loss understand only too well that we control very little in our lives. The promise of tomorrow is given to no one. We need to appreciate each day as a special Gift from God and focus our hearts on him, seeking to know and understand his will on a day-by-day basis. We need to take God’s Word to heart when he tells us in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” My prayer is that you will also come to know hope, not despair; courage, not fear; love, not hate.

Yes, I’ve been busy reading this week. Here’s a similar thought from Suicide and Its Aftermath, by editors: Edward J Dunne, John L. McIntosh, and Karen Dunne-Maxim.

“Moving on does not mean forgetting. It means gaining freedom through closure and giving up feeling victimized. It means going on with our lives, with each other, with our living sons and their families, with other relationships, and with life as it really is, not as we would like it to be. It means eventually being able to move beyond the event of suicide to remember and celebrating the life of our daughter. We are facing our future with a greater sense of who we are. Our awareness to increased divorce rates to parents of suicide recommits us to working through our thoughts, feelings, and differences, determined that our bonds of loving and struggling should not be broken. We now know that we cannot control what happens to us, but we can take charge of how we respond. We can no longer change the destiny of our beloved daughter, but we can be sure that our lives will be more meaningful, purposeful, compassionate, forgiving and loving. My life has changed and I will never again have the same innocence. But perhaps there is hope for others more newly bereaved in the fact that life has continued on with a new awareness of the fragility of life, with a deepened spirit and commitment to life and with the certainty that, although life is not perfect, it is good.”

Ok, one more…Suicide: Why? by Adina Wrobleski says something similar:

“While we cannot bring the person back, and while there are no second chances with the person who died, there are many second chances with the living. There is an opportunity to make up in the present what is desperately wished for in the past. The death of a loved one changes people; how they change is up to each individual.”

And just a few more quotes I’m still noodling over…not sure what I think of some of these…

I’ve come across this quote a crazy amount of times recently, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” -Philo of Alexandria or Plato or maybe somebody else. If only we knew about those battles.

“The mind is its own place, and in itself, Can make Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven” -John Milton

How about this one? “You got to go through hell before you get to heaven” – maybe this is taken out of context from what the Steve Miller Band meant, but after this hellacious year I’m taking this to mean that we’re all going to heaven.

We’ll get through this together

It’s been a tough day but cherish those memories and we’ll continue to get through this together. Love to you all. Rest in peace my beautiful sister.

I Remember

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on IronMegan.com personal blog, April 12, 2012 (note: his sister, Katherine, died March 26, 2012)

Katherine.

I remember your smile, your laughter, your love of life.

You seemed so content and happy and enjoying the life that you had made, and focused on the future.

Your family is so beautiful. You were doing such a great job with your family and career and navigating your way through life as we all do. It isn’t always easy but we all were making it.

Just a few weeks prior you told me that summer was getting closer and that we needed to plan our Grand Marais, MN trip – and we did. And we were just starting to talk about your plans for a Disney trip with all of our families in the summer of 2014. I was so excited to have a week of hanging out up in Grand Marais – talking and taking it easy – getting away from the rest of the world for a bit – especially given how serious last year was at times with dad’s health.

I look at the photos of us as children and wonder what I should have done differently as a big brother to protect you and help you. I wish you would have shared more and given so many of us a chance to help you.

I will miss sharing my stories with you. I was always so happy to get your blog responses – I will miss that and swapping stories as we raised our children. I am so glad I started my blog when I did and that I do have so many comments from you. I was always so proud to get your “approval” of all the happenings in my life and that we shared an appreciation of “simple” values and memories from our childhood. Maybe I never said it enough, but I was so thankful for all that you did to help out mom and dad last year. Your trips up to help dad (and mom) were so important – that’s what families are all about and now I’m especially glad you got to spend that time with them. I’m glad I made a special trip to New Hampshire last year – the intent was to see dad but if his health hadn’t been an issue then I likely wouldn’t have seen you either. You tried to get to MN every few years – I always so looked forward to seeing you and just getting to hang out and catch up on things and show off our kids to each other. It was always so great to see how excited you were to get out here and see and hold and play with and have fun with my kids – I loved that about you.

I often thought about how you, Dan, and I would grow closer and find time for trips way down the road – just like what mom and dad have done with their siblings. But first we had to get through diapers, grade school, dating, college, and moving our kids back out of our house – and then this would happen. It was going to be the three of us laughing and crying and sharing as we got older and bonding over memories of our parents and our childhood and our family history.

You had some great friends from childhood – you stuck together and shared so much over the years. Your friend Trish summed up some things about you that I absolutely agree with, “You were capable, reliable, efficient, independent, creative, determined, devoted, loyal, honest, loving, and kind. Your smile and laugh will remain with me forever. I can’t remember a time when you didn’t see the humor in life. Your friendship was a gift to me and to all who were blessed to have you in their lives.” And Stacie added this one too, “I will always remember her one of a kind smile and laughter with an occasional snort mixed in for the really funny moments that life brought.” This was you – we all saw it and felt it.

I have fun, silly memories of you. I won’t forget them.

I loved that you said “wicked”, and “awesome”, and “wicked awesome”. I’m sure I told you that every other phone call.

I remember at our place when we were having corn for dinner and you started singing “shuck a corn, shuck a corn”, just like Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan. I’ve said that with a smile ever since. I still will.

I remember you bought me a rabbit wine opener. You were so excited to show me what it was and how it worked. You opened the box fast, we got a bottle of wine, and you immediately started cranking on the lever to push the corkscrew down into the cork of a bottle of red wine I chose. In your hurried excitement you didn’t notice that there was a rubber stopper on the end of the corkscrew – so as you cranked down on the lever the rabbit ended up pushing the cork into the bottle…which proceeded to shoot a high pressure stream of red wine straight up at my ceiling. Hee hee. We laughed and laughed at that one. It made me think of the time mom and her sisters decided to open a bag of potato chips by having one of them hold the top and bottom of the bag while the other one slammed it with both hands coming together in the middle of the bag…not sure what they thought would happen but I remember chips flying in every direction. I laughed that you got some of their common sense genes :)

I remember watching “The Dream Team” (1986, Michael Keaton) and how you laughed and laughed at a scene with them singing in the back of the bus. Your love of life and laughter were contagious. It was always a goal to say something funny enough to get to see that sparkle in your eyes and hear your genuine laughter.

I remember when you came out to Minnesota and we went to the Children’s museum. There were a bunch of hand puppets…and you found the momma and baby possum puppets. But you hadn’t quite realized that they were puppets…so you were doing some sort of odd birthing show that traumatized all the kids around us. The look on your face (followed by that crazy laughter) that resulted from me explaining to you that they were puppets and not reproductive props was priceless. I’m still not sure if we ever decided if they are possums or opossums.

I remember on another trip to Minnesota that you and Heather got fake nose piercings at the Mall of America and tried to scare Beth and me into thinking they were real. And that you got pulled over in Beth’s car and you both were in pajamas and you didn’t have your driver’s license with you. Hee hee.

And the memories of you buying Christopher a whoopee cushion for the rehearsal dinner at your wedding. You wanted it done your way…you made sure they each had gifts waiting for them ahead of that long night…you wanted them to have fun…and boy did he have a blast with that. We all did. You loved watching him go to practically everybody that night and making them act the part and feign surprise. That’s the magic you brought to a room – you trusted your instinct and it always worked out and made us enjoy life even more.

You were the best present buyer for me ever. You knew exactly what I liked – and you put thought into your gifts. I knew anything you bought me for clothing would be perfect for me – you just knew. I remember when I was a consultant working in Pittsburgh that you sent me a shirt for my birthday and that I was so excited to get it from you that I wore it the next day to work. I remember one of the ladies asking me if the wrinkly look was the new style on the east coast – it didn’t seem that bad to me but I never gave it a second thought not to wear it (guess I could have given some thought to ironing it though).

I wear your “Katherine’s Movement” t-shirts all the time (mostly to the fire station on calls). Every time I have worn those over the years I always thought about you – every single time. I tried to put one on again last week – I couldn’t quite do it yet – but I will again in time. I always found it odd that I didn’t get more comments from my fellow fire fighters when I was wearing a bright orange Crohn’s shirt (from a Crohn’s walk I did out here), or the Katherine’s Movement shirt with the guy & girl restroom-ish sign on back. But I wore those proudly and welcomed any questions/comments.

It was fun to get you a little mad. When you made up your mind, you stuck by it. I didn’t always understand why you got so attached to some things or how you made your decisions (and you probably thought the same about things that I have done) – but I admired your dedication & ready defense. Your cars are a great example of something you made up your decision on and defended to no end – which made it all the more fun to pick on :) Buying a house that was built two centuries ago (not something I would ever, ever, ever have the stomach for). Anything racial was another taboo topic that made it all the more fun for me to get you going on, and your choice of some of your old neighborhoods was another easy button to push. But you stuck by these things, and held to your values, and stood by your decisions, and everything always seemed to work out for you.

And I have some very random memories of you. That Alice in Wonderland Syndrome or bizarre case of some form of mononucleosis that you had. I was away from home at the time (college or working by then) but I remember mom and dad saying you were in some other world – for instance, sitting in the car sideways in a seat with your feet hanging out the door and telling them they could drive away. And that when you finally snapped out of it, it was something like 3:00 a.m. and you asked for eggs so they made you a big bowl of them. Not sure if any of that is true – but that’s what I remember :) And us dancing to a Monster Mash record (yes, record) on the hardwood floors in our NJ apartment. And you getting some sort of Indian name from one of our cousins (and hearing Erik’s self-proclaimed Indian name after that). And how Erik could make you laugh and laugh. And you loving River Phoenix as a kid. And sharing that back bedroom at Grandma and Grandpa T’s house and playing with the same toys there year after year (that week or two each summer seemed soooooo loooooong). And that you threw up in the same city in Indiana two or three years in a row less than an hour into our 16+ hour drive back home (mom said it was because you were so excited to see your friends – I could never figure out why they still gave you orange juice again before we got in the car that 2nd and 3rd year). Or that you went on some kind of crazy shopping spree with an old friend after their CDs and other things were stolen and you had the entire insurance check to spend.

And you had some obsessions. You were a jigsaw puzzle savant. A jigsaw puzzling fool. No puzzle was impossible with you around. I have to stare at the puzzle and the picture and the pieces…I don’t think you even liked to have the picture visible, and you could pretty much just walk past the scattered pieces on the table and almost instantly grab a piece and put it where it belonged in one try. And you loved books – not necessarily reading them, but possessing a hard-cover of your favorites sitting on a shelf seemed to make you happy. And you were a dancer – as a little girl and as you got older. I remember you laughing talking about getting to be in a recital while over 30. And the Nutcracker – don’t mess with the Nutcracker – that was your special ballet and time of the year. And it’s so easy to picture you sitting on the floor in flannel pajamas, with a jigsaw puzzle on the table, and kids crawling around. This was you – loving the simple things in life and loving your family.

I loved some of the silly things you and Erik did that brought out the fun in life. Things I probably never would have done, but that part of my envies. Owning chickens…having a boat and going lobster fishing…getting tattoos/piercings (I still stick with my story that I pierced one of your ears in our upstairs bathroom – wonder if anyone else knew about that??). Part of me wants some of these things and I loved hearing about your latest antics. I still laugh at the fact that you complained so much when I worked at the fish market (the smell when I got home, and you couldn’t stand to eat seafood – and I could bring it home every night to eat) – and then later in life you changed your mind/tastes and liked seafood – that was an ironic twist that made me laugh over the years.

I loved that you clung to an old-fashioned view of the world at times and aligned your values with that. You were the one to have Grandma and Grandpa T fill out memory books. You were the one who went to Indiana and sat for hours while Grandpa T went through all the slides from the trip to Alaska. You were the only one who got dubbed as anybody’s favorite cousin. Your pressure of hanging your memory box on your wall (albeit empty!) helped push me to get mine done. You had a professional photographer take so many pictures of your kids and family – she was such a good find on your part.

You never wanted a fancy life – but to be content with your family and friends. I always loved that about you. Family (and friends – new & old) is important and that’s how you lived your life. I always felt the love – through your visits, and cards, and responses on my blog post. You used to talk about wanting to be a mom when you grew up. And having kids. That’s what you wanted. That’s it. And you did it – and you were great at it. You were so caring and thoughtful and kind and giving. I’ll remember. And I’ll miss all these things about you.

You do something about it – you don’t just wait

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on work blog, October 31, 2014

My advice for anyone asking more about the concepts I follow related to actively pursuing and achieving dreams throughout the year is to first create a long list of dreams (aka Bucket List). 100 dreams is a nice round number to target. 100 forces you out of your comfort zone. 100 makes you put some effort into this. 100 makes you write down things that you think about but don’t want to write down (Too silly? Too far-fetched? Too personal? Too much effort? Too much money? Too much of facing the reality that you may not achieve all of your dreams?). 100 pushes you in many ways that I think are good for you. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. REALLY tried it.

Next, pick some top dreams and take steps toward achieving them. Yep, that’s it. Simple. Genius – I know. Don’t worry about all the steps after your first step. Don’t worry about creating a SMART goal or whatever other trendy acronym is out there. Just take that first step. Take it confidently. Enjoy that step. You can worry about the next step tomorrow (enjoy that step too, and the next one, and the next one). Step by step – every day – they add up and take you places you never ever dreamed possible. But you’ve got to take that first step. Don’t wait any longer to take it.

And then I have lots of advice on next steps and tools…dream storming sessions, accountability partners, making weekly progress, how to handle roadblocks, how to tackle dreams that aren’t clear or that aren’t measurable, and on and on. Don’t ever hesitate to reach out to me if you want to know more. I’ve been blessed (or cursed?) with over-thinking things, being detail-oriented, uncontrollably tracking data, and getting pleasure from digging into struggles we all face every day. I am always happy to apply what I’ve learned along the way to helping others.

Regardless of your approach the whole point is to find things you believe in and live life TODAY. Don’t wait. Don’t keep pushing things off. Don’t wander around too long in life without finding some sort of focus. Having a list of dreams that you are actively pursuing helps with all of those things.

A cool video surfaced in the last few weeks about a dream on my wife’s list. She is 2 1/2 years into a five year Ph. D program in genetics at the University of Minnesota. She only has a few items on her dream list but her dreams are big! This video is about her boss (Dr. Jakub Tolar, who does amazing things with pediatric blood and marrow transplants) being introduced by Eddie Vedder and getting to speak at a Pearl Jam concert on October 19th. I hope it inspires you to add a few items to your dream list TODAY.

Here’s a link to the video and also the comments he makes in the video:

VIDEO 1: Cause The Wave: EB Research Pearl Jam Xcel St Paul MN 10/19/14

“You have no idea how the 30,000 of you boil down to a single kid that Ed had in his hands in my hospital yesterday. He’s the real thing. When you listen to his music, his lyrics, you know that it goes to your brain, your heart, to your marrow. I am a bone marrow transplant physician and what I do for a living has lots to do with what he does for a living. What we both do is give people hope. And that is why almost immediately we understood each other because he’s the real stuff…When you go back home to your loved ones remember that this is a man who understands that the essential is invisible – it’s down, down here (heart & inside you) and he gets what we all need to know which is if you want to fight a disease like EB, you go to www.debra.org and you do something about it. You don’t just wait. Thank you!” -Dr. Jakub Tolar, Pearl Jam concert, Oct 19, 2014

Here’s another video on this topic. As Dr. Tolar says…do something about it…don’t just wait.

VIDEO 2: Cause The Wave: Eddie Vedder and the EB Research Partnership

Believe in your dreams – live life with passion and focus every day – make your dreams happen!

Dream YOUR Dreams

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on work blog, September 19, 2013

My roommate freshman through junior years in college knows how to dream big and chase down crazy adventures. In college he was the one who ended up in Alaska during the summers removing barnacles from boats. Last year his holiday email started with “I thought I’d share a bit about this year’s adventure, a backpacking trip. I had always wanted to visit China. I also dreamed of hiking the Himalayas. With scores of frequent flyer miles, and ample downtime, the timing seemed perfect.” That was the start of a 2-month solo trip through many countries. Once he got back to the states he started his own consulting company (“I don’t have much more than a nifty logo and generic web content at the moment. I’m hopeful, nonetheless.”). Soon after that he got the urge to help a friend raise some money which started an 8-week, 4000 mile solo bike ride across the country from San Diego to Virginia Beach. Similar to Forrest Gump, once he reached Virginia Beach he said “I’ve always wanted to see Maine…”, so he biked up the coast…and then decided since he’d made it that far he might as well bike back home to Indiana. Finally, this week ended his 4 1/2 months, 7,000+ miles of biking solo around the U.S.

When I hear about people and dreams like this I tend to have a moment of self-doubt that my dreams are way too boring and safe by comparison. Are his dreams better? Do great dreams require adventure and risk and spontaneity and pushing you way beyond your comfort zone? Nope, and sometimes. His dreams are great – for him. My dreams are great – for me. All of our dreams and goals should be about pursuing happiness and living life with no regrets. Even Bil acknowledges his freedom comes with “serious trade-offs, both personally and professionally”. That’s why it is so important to write down and pursue dreams that are meaningful to YOU and incorporate all aspects of your life.

Here are things we can all apply from Bil’s latest adventure to some of our dreams:

  • dreams require a lot of hard work and preparation;
  • he shared his dream publicly and had a support network throughout the journey – people who were constantly rooting for him and checking in on him;
  • there were many opportunities for spontaneity but he had clear objectives and goals;
  • it connected to a higher level purposegiving back to a cause that he believed in;
  • having a positive attitude is very important to get you through all sorts of unexpected obstacles;
  • and, the journey was clearly as much a part of this as the destination.

Dream YOUR dreams!!!

Who’s Your Monkey?

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on work blog, May 17, 2013

I saw Dr. Henry Cloud present last week at the Chic-fil-A leadercast conference. He was a great speaker and told of an experiment where monkeys were placed in cages and subject (without harming them) to intense scare tactics including flashing lights, loud noises, shaking the cages, etc. The monkey’s brain activity was monitored and their stress levels spiked (wouldn’t yours?!?!?).

Next the researches added another monkey to the cage that was a companion to the first monkey. They put the monkeys through the same intensity yet this time the stress levels didn’t rise even half as much. Having a companion with you keeps you calm, comforted, focused, and increases the positive energy.

Dr. Henry Cloud challenged us to “find our monkey”.

Who brings you comfort, security, and support? Who do you want in the cage with you as you navigate life’s challenges and adventures? He said our brains are wired for achieving happiness and emphasized the importance of creating structures that build and support relationships and connections. I think having a dream list and chasing down your goals in life is perfect for bringing monkeys together! Share those dreams. Find an accountability monkey (uh…partner). Share the journey.

(connecting with others reduces impacts of depression….I should do more research here…)

Homework assignment: Ask at least one person, “Will you be my monkey?” in the next week!

Path to Awesome

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on work blog, February 24, 2013

Make-A-Wish originally sent me a link to the video “A Pep Talk from Kid President to You” but since then it has popped up all over the place. I’ve watched it many times now, and I still love it each time. Short and sweet, and straight to the point…he’s talking my language. Check it out, learn something, laugh, get moving, make a difference, enjoy it. Here are some nuggets from Kid President:

  • It’s time to do something.” (yep, agreed, go look at your dream list or add something to it, and then pick a few…go do it…it’s your time!)
  • But what if there really were two paths…I want to be on the one that leads to awesome.” (Me too! This is why I suggest creating a hopefully long list of dreams and goals – because until you REALLY think about your future/dreams, and write them down, you can’t even make the decision about what path you’re on. You’ve got to start somewhere…make that listyour list…choose YOUR path…what have you been putting off for way too long?…take those first steps…it could make all the difference)
  • Don’t stop believing… unless your dream is stupid…then you should get a better dream.” (Ha! Your accountability partner won’t judge you…your dream list won’t be offended…switch dreams as much as you need to…the point is to start moving and then stay moving – your dream list and focus will take care of itself). Believe in your dreams. Be sure to include dreams that help others and make connections with those around you. We’re all in this crazy life together, and we only become more fulfilled by genuinely believing in others and sharing all aspects (ups and downs) of our own journeys.
  • What will be your Space Jam? What will you create to make the world awesome? Nothin’ if you keep sittin’ there…you were made to be awesome.” (How can you resist this kid? You’ve been pep talked!!). You can do anything that you dream of…don’t worry about having a detailed plan to get there – believe in yourself and take that first step…the rest will come.