Want A Great Free Read For Anyone With A Family?

Tales From The Family Crypt is FREE Thursday, May 28, 2015 and Friday May 29, 2015! I could wax poetic about the many reasons you should download the book and tell everyone you know to do the same but instead, I’ll just share excerpts of a few of my recent 5-star Amazon reviews. You can decide for yourself if this book calls you. (It will! And, it’s a quick read too! Perfect for summer reading, fast and entertaining and possibly helpful.) And, remember if you do read the book, reviewing it on Amazon and Goodreads is good Karma! Please share this post and pass along the heads up about my free giveaway. Thanks!

Click here to the link to download Tales From The Family Crypt.

THE REVIEWS ARE IN!
May 24, 2015

Unbelievable! Yes, I have a crazy sister! Thank you, Deborah, for telling the truth about dysfunctional families with grace and humor. What a great story, what a great story teller. I am recommending this book to everyone I know.
The author’s story resonated with me in a huge way. I’d give the book ten stars if I could.

Stranger Than Fiction April 26, 2015
Format:Paperback

I have always ascribed to a quirky theory that nuttiness skips a generation. By and large, both sets of my grandparents were pretty normal for the era in which they lived; whenever I tell stories about my parents, however, I always feel inclined to add, “Seriously, I am not making these people up.” Over the years, so many friends from elementary and high school have expressed envy about our picture-perfect existence and my supposedly idyllic life as the only child in a wealthy family. What no one ever saw, however, were the deep layers of emotional abuse that – if I had ever shared with a teacher or a counselor – would have been dismissed as the product of an overactive imagination.

I was, thus, able to relate on so many dimensions to Deborah Carroll’s nonfiction narrative memoir, “Tales From the Family Crypt,” in which she illustrates – often with bittersweet humor – how the interactions she and her husband had with their respective families shaped how they would eventually raise their own children. The opening chapters about family photographs are especially well drawn; when everyone is dressed up for photo ops and on their very best behavior, how are viewers ever expected to discern the pain that lays beneath? Sadly, we all want to love our families because we’re supposed to, that to not love them or to see what flawed and hateful individuals so many of them are will somehow label us as “bad” or ungrateful individuals. Yes, they put a roof over our heads and gave us daily sustenance but what about nurturing our souls?

Carroll could certainly have taken the easy route of turning this into a work of fiction with combative characters. The fact that all of it is real, however, delivers a much more potent message. Specifically, you can’t choose your relatives, nor can you rent any of them out for parts. You can either be crushed as a victim to their own insecurities or you can shrug and say, “Yes, well I’m my own person and I will always care what happens to you but I really can’t be around you when you’re being so annoyingly toxic.”

A highly recommended read and kudos to the author for the courage of sharing her own story in such a constructive – and entertaining – way.

A Great Read! March 19, 2015
By Judy
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Whether or not you have dysfunction in your family, Tales from the Family Crypt is a great read! The author shows her strong desire for a close, loving family, but how wanting it and working hard for it doesn’t necessarily make it happen. Her story is both poignant and hysterical. I laughed and cried and nodded my head a lot! As a slow reader with a short attention span, I have to say that I breezed through this book and had trouble putting it down!
Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think of the book and please feel free to share the download with everyone you’ve ever met in your life…. especially your family members.  – Debby. 🙂

Family Holiday Survival Tips You Need Now

Holidays can be hell when you’re a member of a dysfunctional family unit. I know this for a fact as holidays have been challenging for us for most of the last 20 years. But, I didn’t want to dread the holidays so I’ve developed some strategies for surviving the event where you may be surrounded by people you can just barely tolerate. Here are my half-dozen  survival tips for dealing with the holiday happenings.

1. Invite some people you love. Balance the scales in favor of more people you enjoy than people who drive you up a wall. For many years we’ve opened our family celebrations to our friends when they were available. That way you can, throughout the meal, turn to your friends, roll your eyes and silently thank whomever you believe in for sending some friends your way. This works for a while. In recent years some people politely said if my in-laws were going to attend my holiday dinner, they’d prefer not to. So, you have to rotate the friends you invite in order to have new people who are up for the challenge joy of being with your extended family.

2. Learn to look the other way. When my in-laws would start fighting at the table, my strategy was to turn toward my kids, whom I adored and focus just on them. It’s like meditating where you control your mind but with the control being on your focus. Of course it helps if inside your head you keep repeating this mantra: At least I’m not as crazy as they are, at least I’m not as crazy as they are…

3. See recent movies. This is a good one. When the conversation takes a turn you know is going to go swiftly downhill and end up in  an unpleasant valley, you bring up a movie you’ve seen and be ready to launch into a five-minute distraction/dissertation about the plot, the characters, why you loved or hated it, whatever you can think of to completely derail their plan to foil your fun with misery.

4. Speak loudly. When the relatives are heading into tough territory if you can overspeak them in volume and take the talk somewhere better, to something less volatile than their personal grievances, like say politics or religion, you will be happy with the result.

5. Some holidays call for wine as part of the celebration. If yours doesn’t, you may want to consider adding that.

6. Know that the sun will set on this day and tomorrow your life will be much brighter for having done so well in coping with holiday “joy.”

glorious sunset

Could You Attend A Functional Family Convention? If you do these 10 things…

We become part of a family and although it’s a complex machine, we receive no instructions on how to make it work well. Much like becoming a parent, you do it and you fly from the seat of your pants. There’s no instruction manual, no how-to guide, no user guide, not even a quick-start info graphic. No wonder so many families go painfully awry!

So I thought I’d remedy that today. Here are 10 things people who appreciate family do.

1. Love unconditionally. This one seems obvious but you’d be surprised how many people don’t understand how important unconditional love is. Love doesn’t just happen, it takes work. Unconditional love means loving someone regardless of what they’re like or what they do for you. It’s loving for the sake of loving, no more, and no less. Unconditional love is a gift for the giver and the recipient. It starts with loving yourself unconditionally and grows from there.

2. Seek understanding. Notice that says, “Seek understanding” not “be understanding.” My point here is  it’s up to each person to reach out to family members to try to be understood by sharing what matters to them. Great family members want others to know them well.

3. Be understanding. Here’s the other side of the understanding coin. Understanding is definitely a two-way street. Family members who wish to be understood are often the ones who understand others well. The give and take of understanding is the foundation of any great relationship. It’s particularly acute in families where if you can’t understand each other, it’s harder to just walk away.

4. Stand and fight. Yes, sometimes conflict happens and it probably should. Chances are if you never disagree on anything in a family it’s because you’re not doing much together. Family members who interact a great deal are likely to disagree from time to time. It’s okay. Those who stand and fight can also resolve problems. Those resolutions lead to stronger bonds. So great family members don’t have to shy away from problems, they can fight and win stronger ties.

5. Forgive. Following the fighting with forgiveness is a hallmark of a healthy functioning family. Forgiveness isn’t magic. It doesn’t just happen. It’s a conscious letting-go of any resentment. A conscious letting-go. Family members who want to move on after a conflict make a choice to move forward to peace of mind. Those family members help to set others free from the pain of the conflict. This one is huge.

6. Give. People who understand the value of giving in a relationship don’t hesitate to do so. They may give time, they may give money, they may share possessions, they may give a sympathetic ear, they give what they can when they can. Giving is a way of exhibiting caring. It’s a manifestation of how a person feels.

7. Take. The other side of this coin. Giving is great but, surprisingly, taking reasonably is also terrific. (In other words, there’s a difference between taking and taking advantage which is not good.) Being able to accept, whether it’s time or help or money or advice is important. It may show vulnerability and that is a good thing of sorts. Being vulnerable means to be open to hurt. Why is that good? When people are vulnerable they are exposed because their defenses are down. In a family the walls that protect us should not have to exist.  Great family members should be comfortable with being somewhat vulnerable and open to emotion.

8. Stay honest in the big moments. Honesty is fluid and that’s okay. If your sister gets an awful haircut a loving family member can choose to assure her it looks okay and that’s fine. But a loving family member doesn’t tell lies to manipulate others.

9. Eschew secrets. There’s a fine line between being trustworthy with private matters and keeping secrets that shouldn’t be kept. Loving family members don’t recruit others to keep secrets that might later come out and hurt people.

10. Be accountable, reliable, responsible and dependable. Loving family members mean what they say, do what they promised and show up.

So, how does your family stack up? If you have family members who do all of these things, consider sending this post with a thank you note to brighten their day. And if you think you could do a bit better, consider sharing this post with a note of promise to work harder so your family functions better than ever. Is there anything you’d add to this list?

syncswim

I Don’t Recognize My Sister, Nor Do I Think I Want To

My sister hasn’t spoken to me for about 25 years. As I described in detail in my book, I don’t really know why she’s so angry. She has never been willing to tell me beyond the time she and her husband (who, I believe is really the abusive control freak responsible for my sister cutting me and my entire family out of her life) took me to court over something completely nonsensical and lost. If I passed her on the street I’m not sure I’d know who she was and I doubt she’d recognize me. People tend to change a bit in that many years and besides that, I’m pretty sure she’d walk right past me if she did know it was me.

But yesterday I saw her online and I didn’t recognize her. It wasn’t her face, it was her words that were foreign to me. Once upon a time when we had a relationship. We had things in common, we liked shopping together, we we were of similar minds politically. Among other things we agreed on, we were pretty much both pacifists. Okay it was during the Vietnam War era and a lot of people were pacifists but we were and I thought it was for real in both of us.

So yesterday when I happened upon an Op-Ed piece she wrote in a newspaper I was shocked. My pacifist sister was not only no longer a pacifist, she was pretty much strongly advocating going into regions of the world and scorching and burning people, places, and things. Agree or disagreeing politically is one thing but this was a complete reversal of her belief system. She really had become a different person altogether than the one I grew up next to. I wondered, what if she hadn’t cut me out of her life? Would I even want to know this person? Yes, I know we all  have people in our families with whom we may not agree on every point. We hear myriad stories of family holiday celebrations rife with discord as the family members loudly and verociously argue their respective points of view. But the person who wrote this Op-Ed piece sounded nothing like my sister. (Yes, I know it was her; she has a very unique name.) I wasn’t at all sure I could like or embrace this person. I didn’t even know if I could have a meal with her, let alone embrace her!

So what happens if you have a family member with whom you really cannot have a relationship because you are diametrically opposed in belief systems? How do you handle such things? For me, it’s easy (I use the term loosely, nothing about losing my sister was easy) in that she won’t talk to me anyway, but in my musing, I wonder what I’d do if she  suddenly offered to come back into my life?

Running, Mediation and Writing

This morning I ran a few miles outside for the first time in many months. Running time has often been meditational for me and today was no different. While I try to quiet my mind what usually happens is thoughts that must push their way through the quiet do so and interrupt my meditation. When that happens, I’ve learned to go with it and investigate the thoughts in order to let go of them.

That’s when I had the epiphany. Writing is a meditational process and much the same way as in meditating, you may be writing or attempting to write one thing but other thoughts keep pushing through. There’s a reason they push through; they demand to be investigated.

Years ago I set out to write a piece about my dad who had just died. I meant to write a loving tribute to a wonderful man with a beautiful soul. But here I am, many years later and that same piece of writing morphed into a full memoir about family. I didn’t mean for it to do so, I just couldn’t keep those thoughts, the concept of a family’s big picture dysfunction, from creeping in. I had to investigate them. So I did and before I knew it, it was a book.

And now I can let it go. And pick up where I left off. Back to meditating and musing on love.

If you find yourself writing and thoughts keep crashing in, maybe you are writing about something which needs to be tabled so that you can focus on what keeps bubbling up to the top of your mind. Then, let it go.

Is Memoir An Indulgence?

I wrote my reply to the commenter who said, “Memoir is a challenging genre.” I agreed wholeheartedly and added my thought that memoir is an indulgence. To indulge means to yield or to gratify a desire. Its connotation often indicates participating in an activity that isn’t necessarily good for you but is pleasurable. You indulge in eating chocolate or drinking wine or even in gossiping. You do it because you want to, not because it’s good for you.

I think memoir writers like me indulge in some way. Or, perhaps I should speak only for me. I indulged; I satisfied my urge to tell the story of my extended family as I experienced it. Perhaps telling the story wasn’t a good thing, it hurts some of the family members to have this truth out there in the world. But it felt good.

So, did I indulge? I think so. Do all memoirists do so? What do you think?

Are You Holding Back Your Stories?

This morning I was speaking with a friend about my book, Tales From the Family Crypt: When Aging Parents Die, Sibling Rivalry Lives. He had read the first few chapters and noted it was quite compelling. “You can really tell a good story,” he offered graciously. But, he said he thought I had left out an important point. My story is deeply personal about how our dysfunctional siblings disrupted our lives. It’s also about how our parents, my husband’s and mine, added to the dysfunction by being really poor communicators. While I’ve waited until all four parents died to put this story out there, the siblings are all still alive. So, the story is likely quite painful for them to have out there in the world. My friend thought it important for me to state emphatically why I “needed” to write this book while those siblings are still living.

He knew the answer but he thought readers should know too. So, he asked me “Why did you want to write this now?” I explained I had lived this heartache for 30 years and in all of that time, as a result of the way our parents dealt with conflict, I had been unable to speak my piece. My husband never wanted me to confront his parents or his siblings and I never wanted to upset my father about what my sister was doing. When they did despicable things to us, to my husband and my daughters, I held my tongue. I held back this story for half of my life. I think it’s a good story, one that may help others to deal with their difficult family situations. More than that, though, I think I was simply unable to hold back my story any longer.

It had to come out. Was it selfish of me? Yes, I have to admit it was because I am benefiting from the release in the relief I feel now. Letting this story see the light of day after years of being shrouded in the darkness was cathartic. I didn’t have much to lose, none of the siblings involved speak to us or to my kids. Was I worried about embarrassing them? No. I just told the truth about what happened. If they find it embarrassing, I can’t help that. Some of it is embarrassing to me too but overall, it just feels like a burden has been lifted.

So, writers, I ask you to consider — Are you holding in stories you need to let go of? What’s holding you back from being freed of the burden you carry?

In the End, Death Isn’t That Funny

My book is about death but it is also funny. However, before you read any further and think I am hard-hearted or unfeeling, let me state unequivocally, losing your parents hurts. This poem reflects on death and loss far better than I ever could. Why did I choose to write the book with humor? Because that is the only way to survive the otherwise very painful process of watching a parent die as you suffer through dealing with your dysfunctional siblings.

What We Talk About When
We Talk About Love
by John Jeffire (Goodreads Author)

So many ways of looking
At a blackbird tossed
In the autumn sky.
From the dry shadows
Of the bed from which
The sun cannot step,
Your whisper flits above:
I am free to leave.
First, a living will,
Power of attorney,
No machines or tubes,
We first discussed this
When our hearts beat quick
In the raven’s glimmer,
A clatter of wings burst
At red clay and live oak—
Free to go. But I have
No southern stomach.
I wipe feces from crevices
My tongue once explored,
I scrape uneaten meals
From cracked plates,
I dig arms under whatever
Is left to dig under—
So many ways of looking
At a blackbird thrown
In an autumn sky, life alit
In the few uncollapsed rivers
Of your hands, and I consider
The offer, freedom, mine from
You or yours from me not clear.
Stand with me, survey the distance:
Blanched earth, seedless,
Scab stubble frozen pools,
Creek frozen in its sheets,
The only proof of life its absence:
The bank gives way beneath our feet,
I grip the crest of your waist,
And one wing between us,
We take flight.