Zig Ziglar Quote: “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.  The best is yet to come.” (21 wallpapers) - Quotefancy

So, it’s been a while.  A very long while.  My last post was on October 7th, 2019, the 31st Anniversary of my mother’s death and I still can’t believe I went through ALL of 2020 without writing down a single thought or experience.  But I am sure like many of you, the entire year was spent trying to come to terms with the overall experience.  I think I spent more time looking up silly Memes than I did reflecting on what I was going through…All of our journeys are different and as always, I will share mine. 

When I decided to start this blog, I did so with one goal.  To utilize this outlet to share my own experiences so that I might help others feel less alone.  For the last 15 months, as I have often said, I have simply been keeping my head above water.  It is amazing I made it through all of 2020 without posting on this site.  I am sure many of you have forgotten about “Finding Her Sparkle”.  I kind of did too.  I kind of spent some time forgetting about myself.  Forgetting about what fuels me, what helps me feel alive.  Forgetting about what a difference I truly can make in the life of those who need to hear what I have to say.  I think entering 2020, I started to become speechless…I lost my words for a while.  I was just getting by, doing the best I could.  I am sure you did too!  Some of you suffered losses unimaginable.  Some of you lost loved ones.  Some of you lost jobs and some of you simply felt paralyzed.  There were times over the past year, that I found myself just praying harder than I ever have.  While it is impossible to know what lies ahead, I found that I closed this past year feeling more grateful, more hopeful and more determined to truly make my moments count.  Even though my moments might seem very simple, I actually have found that I like simple.  A lot.   So here we are…2021!   

I’m starting this year off with one simple goal…to continue to feel enough.  Enough for me.  But I need to determine what that “enough” is. What is your definition of “enough”? I want to take the early part of this new year to share some thoughts and reflections from the last 15 months that I hope will help you if you need it.  As I have evolved over these past 15 months, I have come through the other side of one of the most challenging years of my life with a grateful heart, an empowered spirit and a goal to find a balance that is both flexible and purposeful.  I am approaching 48 years old.  My mother died when she was 49.  I know my sister understands this as do many of my Motherless Daughter friends.  I’m almost at a milestone that not many understand. 

To start off this first post of the New Year, I would like to keep it short…and I would like to commit that I will continue to write both professionally and personally.  As many of you know, I am a Career Counselor by trade.  My decision to pursue this career was fueled by my life experiences and quite often the personal blends into the professional.  More on that later…

But in the meantime, I wanted to end on a reflection of my very first post from back in March 2018 when I started this blog.  I wrote “About Me”.  I have decided to spend some time this month reflecting on each of my “abouts” and share where I am today “post 2020”.  Over the next few weeks, I would like to reflect on the following….

Being the Mom to an Only child amid a Social Distancing Pandemic

Being a Law Enforcement Wife in 2020

Being a Motherless Daughter and Parentless Parent throughout Covid19

Being an Adjunct Professor and Career Counselor in 2020

I think many of you can relate to at least one of these.  I am holding myself accountable to each of these reflections.  I am also bringing myself back to why I even started this Blog and named it “Finding her Sparkle”.  As many of you know, I started to lose mine.  Reflecting on the last few years, I have come to realize that much of this struggle is pretty normal.  For me that is.  As I approach 48 years old in April, I will continue to share this experience as I have learned over the last few years, this is a journey that needs to be shared.  As women approach their 40’s, there are changes that we go through that not too many care to discuss.  I will discuss it all!  Not as an expert or a clinician.  But I now know that I can really help some along this journey.  That might have to be a whole series!  Ha!  Stay tuned on that one…But in the meantime, I thought I would use todays post as a check in.  I keep rereading “Finding Her Sparkle”.  I have always had big goals with this, but this past year kind of kept me in a holding pattern.  I think I spent most of 2020 just trying to keep that sparkle alive.  You know what?  It’s still there…and so is yours….lets go reignite it!

Thanks for reading….xoxoxoxox

31 years…


Someone once told me to get over the fact that my mother died and stop living in the past….Anyone who has lost their mom can appreciate the absurdity of such a comment.  But when it was directed at me, I remember feeling little, ashamed and weak.  That was over 20 years ago…

Do we ever get over such a loss?  Last year marked 30 years since losing my mom.  I ran a half marathon in her honor.  This year, as I sit here today, I feel that I am in a very different place.  I have been really struggling as a mom this year.   Quite frankly, I have often felt like I just plain suck at it. 

My husband said to me today, “there are no perfect parents, but you are pretty good at it”.  That meant the world to me.  Because I have been really doubting myself lately.  I know we are all trying to figure this whole parenting thing out, but there are days like today, that I crave that unconditional love that quite often only a mother could give.  I sometimes find myself imagining what it would have been like to have had my mom in my life all these years, there to answer my questions, get to know my son, or just be there as a presence and influence in his life and mine.  But the reality is, I didn’t even have that.  I am mourning what I never had.  But when I have my struggles, I kind of want to put a post-it note on my forehead, so that everyone can understand… “I lost my mom when I was 15 and I’m kind of feeling lost”, imagining that it will all make sense…my insecurity…my feelings of being inadequate…my irrational fears…my overprotectiveness of my child…just everything. 

31 years ago, today, my mom died.  31 years…. I don’t know why I have been so fixated on that number this week.  It is not even a milestone.  But I think that might be one of the reasons I have been having such a hard time this year.  It’s not usually the big things that trip me up.  It is the little things that make up the grief that I often feel.  I don’t remember her voice.  I don’t remember having a conversation with her.  I don’t remember much of anything.  The only thing I do remember is how I felt losing her and as I look into my little boy’s eyes every day… my overcompensation, my over loving, my over mothering…whatever you want to call it… is simply my attempt to make sense out of a feeling of loss that I would wish on no one…

So, on this 31st anniversary…I have been trying to be kind to myself.  I have appreciated the beauty of this day, recognizing that anyone I may come in contact with certainly has their own struggles and traumas.  I found myself looking out at my classroom of college students today, remembering what I was going through in college, imagining there might be a student looking up at me that is simply trying to get through the day for a similar reason.  On this anniversary, I am trying to remind myself as I often have, that I am doing the best I can under the circumstances and everything truly does happen for a reason.  As hard as this journey can be at times, I know I am meant to take it.  But this week, I definitely found myself saying more than not, “this SUCKS!!!”  You know what, that’s ok.  It’s ok to say things suck sometimes.  Because they sometimes do, right? 

Those you can say that to with no judgement…they are your people…The people who come into our lives and stay for it all.  The ones who stay with you when things aren’t so great?  The ones who are there when you are not your best self?  I am so grateful for those who are guiding me through this journey.  Today, my sister and my friends have checked in with me.  I want them to know, that meant the world to me.    Today, I am thankful.  Thankful for the Suck!  Thankful that I can continue to say, you need the good to compare to the bad otherwise you wouldn’t know the difference.  As challenging as it can be, I am thankful that I can look at the big picture and understand that it’s the journey I am meant to take….Thinking of my mom today…Sandra Lee Conreur…To my Tribe…I love you guys…Thank you…


It has been a while since my last post.  Honestly, life has gotten busier and I’ve been working on simply keeping this ship afloat.  A feeling that I am certain each and every one of you understands.  Jersey 2018Today, I wanted to talk about Careers.  For those of you who don’t know, I started my own private career counseling practice a few years ago.  I’d like to be honest about something.  I don’t consider myself an entrepreneur.  I really don’t.  I never had this vision to start my own company and quite frankly I’m terrible at asking for money (hence the reason I left sales so many years ago).   A dear friend recently told me I should get edgier with my company.  I have been exploring areas that I am looking to grow and have been spending a lot of time researching various industry trends that apply to my background and area of expertise.  But before I move forward, I decided I wanted to share with my findinghersparkle blog.  I have always had the vision to help others and I walked away from a stable, enjoyable career many years ago for a simple reason.  I wanted to make a difference and help others figure out their path.  Why?  Because my own path has been filled with so many twists and turns.  Along that path, I have learned some valuable lessons that I am confident can help others.  I have decided to take a less conventional route to sharing some valuable lessons.  This is rather long, but I truly believe this will help some of you and if anything, provide insight into my own vision for helping many of you that might be struggling with your own career journey.

So, here is part of my story.  At the end of this entry, I would love to hear your thoughts.  Have any of you experienced similar situations?  Can some of you relate to these experiences?

My father was a French Immigrant who started his career in the mailroom of Smith Barney and worked his way up the corporate ladder doing things as he used to say “no one else wanted to do”.  He taught me the value of hard work and the importance of always continuing my education.  I looked up to my dad, and after losing my mom at 15 years old, he was my main career influence.  So regardless of my true passions at 18 years old, I went off to college, majored in Business and Finance and never looked back.

I am now 46 years old with 2 advanced degrees, certifications within my industry and many years of experience both in corporate and higher education.  I have had to make some tough choices along the way and I am confident that many you have struggled with some of these choices as well.

I understand the feeling of taking a risk to go into a new industry, only to realize it probably wasn’t the best decision.  I started my sales career at Automatic Data Processing selling Payroll to Small Businesses and after a little over one year, I took a big risk to enter the Financial Services Industry.  I sat for my Series 6 and 63 licenses, passed after a bit of a struggle and began selling Mutual Funds and Annuities.  I thought at the time I was going to follow in my Father’s footsteps and become a huge success!!  But guess what?  I hated it!  Every second of it.  I was not meant to manage other people’s money, I couldn’t even manage my own.  I lasted 9 months and finally resigned without another job.

I understand the feeling of being unable to pay my rent after taking such a risk.  I remember asking my father for money to cover my rent and he said no.  I remember feeling lost, embarrassed and disappointed in myself for letting my financial choices impact my life so much.  One year earlier, I had received a huge commission check and I went on a shopping spree.  Now here I was with nothing to show for it but a few Ann Taylor suits and a fancy comforter from Ralph Lauren.  My roommate lent me the money that month and I will never forget feeling so embarrassed and ashamed.  Never again.

I needed that reality check though.  I am thankful that my dad said no that many years ago.  Little did he realize how much he had helped me that year.  I learned to stand on my own two feet and how to be truly hungry.  For all of the parents out there, let your children fail.  Failure is critical to building character.  From that moment on, I never looked back and was determined to find my place.  At the time, being unemployed by choice, I went to a Recruiting Firm for assistance and much to my surprise, they actually recruited me for their company, Source Services, Inc.  That is where it all began, my passion for helping others find their own career paths.  I just didn’t know it at the time.

When I began my career at Source Services, I didn’t realize the foundation that was about to be built.  This was a time before the Internet, before Y2K, before cell phones being the norm.  The world was a very different place.  Very!  But as my career progressed, I also learned a lot along the way.  I learned about different industries, sizes of companies, how to survive a merger and acquisition, how to handle rejection and I learned how to be uncomfortable.  I took huge risks.  I stepped out of my comfort zone.  I made good choices and bad ones.  But all of these choices were part of my own career journey that has created a foundation of understanding so many facets of career growth.  Which truly guided me to the place I am today.

As I reflect on my own career journey, the biggest changes that I have made were never made because I was not satisfied, they were changes I made simply to balance my life.  I have no regrets.  I only have perspective now.  My career could have gone very differently, but at the foundation of my own passion, helping others, I’d like to say I’ve stayed true to myself.  This is my story, my truth, my journey.  Some of it has been a struggle and I know I don’t have to share any of this with you, but I have chosen to in hopes that it strikes a nerve for some and helps some of you step out of that comfort zone, take a risk or not take one.

I understand what it feels like to walk away from your dream job after learning that your Father has cancer.  As I often say, sometimes life happens in such a way that you make a life decision, not a career decision.  Making this decision guided me down a road that I am so thankful to have taken as I truly would not be where I am today if I hadn’t walked away that many years ago.

I understand what it feels like to turn down a huge opportunity to travel to Europe, earn a huge consulting fee and continue my career as a Corporate Training Consultant simply because I had just gotten married and didn’t want to be away from my husband.  That decision, however, started my next chapter to earn my Master’s Degree in Counseling to start my next journey within the field of Higher Education.

I understand the feeling of walking away from a Career that I LOVED after losing my father to cancer, and it became my responsibility to move my 94-year-old grandmother across state lines.  It was during that time that I had to make very tough decisions, but understandably my grandmother needed an advocate and my role as the Assistant Director of Career Development didn’t offer the flexibility I needed to serve in that role.  That decision sucked.  I loved my role there, the students, the staff.  But as I have said before, sometimes our journey dictates the direction we go and life happening will often lead the way.

Making that decision ended up being very serendipitous on so many levels.   I stepped out of my career for a time and took a role in Cancer Advocacy as a Campaign Coordinator, a role I was clearly overqualified for.  But I was working with dear friends, serving a cause I was passionate about and on the career end, I was learning an entirely different industry and could add non-profits to my repertoire of knowledge from a staffing and career counseling perspective.

But in 2009, when my son was born, something shifted. I never had a plan to stay home with him and I didn’t quite know what a stay at home mom was supposed to do.  I had every intention to stay out through my maternity leave, go back to work at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and eventually find my way back into Higher Education as planned.  But the day my son was born, I remember looking across the hospital room at my husband on a work call.  At the time, he was a newly promoted Detective in the Major Crimes Squad of the Connecticut State Police.  I watched him standing in the corner, looking out the window on the phone and it was as though we were frozen in time.  I remember watching him hang up the phone, and I knew in my heart that I would not be returning to work.  I knew that with the dynamics of our family, and having lost both of my parents so young, having one parent home during the early years was the right decision for our family.  I don’t know how I knew it, but I just did.  That was the day I became a stay at home mom.   Fast forward a few years, as I am now entering my 8th Academic year as an Adjunct Professor, I reflect on all of these experiences and I am so thankful for the successes, failures, risks and “play it safes”.  What has it given me?  Perspective.

Why did I share all of this?  Honestly?  I have spent the last few years watching all of these profiles pop up on LinkedIn with these Career coaches, Influencers, Life Coaches and Career Counselors that tout their incredible experience that will give you everything you need to succeed.  Some of these Coaches are 2 years out of college and have incredible websites with elaborate Career coaching packages.  I am sure they have plenty to offer, but if you ever need one, be mindful of what you are looking for and what you need.  I will not claim to transform your life, but I will help you talk through your journey.  I will help you see perspectives that maybe you hadn’t thought about.  I will offer you insight into industries that maybe you never considered.  I will listen.  I will not judge.

I have had to make very hard decisions in my life and I know that many of you might be faced with the same.  I am parentless, the mother of an only child and a law enforcement wife. If you need to work through some career struggles, take a step back and hear a different perspective or just need to have someone with life experience there to listen, I am here.  Feel free to visit my website, ~ I will be making some updates soon


The Struggle….

My entire house has been sick.  My son got sick with a bad cough, then I got it, then my husband and now my son has it all over again.  I’m exhausted.  But this is a normal scenario for any family with children.  So why do I struggle so much?  Every now and then, I google, “why do I struggle when my son gets sick”.  I think I’m searching for someone to tell me, “it’s ok, you’re normal, we have all been there”.  The more I attempt to find that reassurance, the more I realize, I just need to write about it, in hopes that maybe this feeling will help someone else feel less alone.  Because when my son gets sick, I simply shut down.  I get anxious, overwhelmed, isolate myself and feel like I simply suck as a mom.

Some might wonder, why?  Why am I so incredibly hard on myself?  An answer that I already know, but have to continually remind myself; there are lifelong effects of losing a parent at a young age as well as growing up in a family plagued by addiction.  Effects that I am still learning to cope with.  Some months, I balance my own history of trauma so well, that anyone on the outside looking in would think wow, she’s got her shit together.  But the reality is, I don’t have it together.  I fight for it EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Not to mention, I am on the doorstep of early menopause (that will be an entirely separate post), so every month comes with its own new adventure!

When you lose your mom at a young age, you lose much more than the presence of your mother.  You lose your guide, your rock, your unconditional support that is supposed to be there no matter what.  Right?  But what if you never really had that in the first place?  Losing my mom at 15 was simply devastating, but as I’ve written before, I honestly lost her when I was much younger.  I really don’t remember her a presence in my life other than holidays, which were some of my fondest memories.  But when I was sick, when I was scared, I have no recollection of my mother comforting me or being there for me.  Part of my childhood, she worked full time, and the other part, she was far too sick to care for anyone.  At 15 years old, continuing on without her with a father that pretty much worked his way through his grief, left me lacking that feeling of security that a parent often provides.  My dad did the best he could, but he was just keeping his head above water, raising two teenagers.

The consistent presence of a loving, caring parent disappears not only upon the death of a parent, but given my mother was an alcoholic most of my childhood, I had to grow up pretty quick.  Instead of having a caregiver, I was often left figuring things out on my own while trying to stay under the radar so I was not a burden.  Sad that I remember feeling this way.  In doing my own research, I understand that one of my biggest triggers as a mom is when my son is sick.  When he gets sick, I shut down.  I get anxious, fearful and often tell myself, “I’m clueless, what if I don’t know what to do?”  It is a vicious cycle, one that I am working on, but when I am in the thick of it, I simply lose any confidence as a mom.  Sadly, 30 years after my mother’s death, I am still feeling the effects of it.  But when my son gets sick, I really struggle.  I struggle between being afraid of not knowing what to do and being there for him in a way that I never felt.  Being there for him with whatever he needs as I have absolutely no memory of my mother being there for me when I was sick, or scared or upset.  I struggle to ask for help from my friends because when you are the Child of an Alcoholic, you never ask for help.  You simply do everything you can to make everyone else happy.  Plus, sometimes, I actually don’t even know what kind of help to ask for.  Sometimes, I just want someone to come in and unconditionally take care of me like a mom would.  I think I’m just craving something that I honestly never had.

The feedback I have continued to get from caring friends who see this cycle continue like clockwork is generally, “you should have told me”, or “you have tons of friends that would help”.  I honestly don’t know why it is so hard for me to ask.  Probably because when I do, it comes with a mountain of guilt that I don’t deserve the help.  I don’t know why?  Maybe because my entire childhood was pretty much spent taking care of myself.  From a very young age, I learned how to stay under the radar.  I learned how to do my own laundry, make my own meals and pretty much do as much for myself so as not to be a burden on my family.  That is how you exist when you are the child of an Alcoholic.  Much of my childhood, I believed that the source of my mother’s drinking stemmed from my very existence.  I didn’t understand that her illness was something that had absolutely nothing to do with me.

Sometimes I feel like I’m just maneuvering my way through motherhood so as not to cause a wave in the lives of others…pretty much until I reach a breaking point that leaves me feeling completely overwhelmed and like the biggest failure of a mom.  Yes, I know dramatic, but this is what a wave of anxiety will do to you during what I call “my perfect storm”.  You know, it’s times like this that I am so thankful for those friends who refuse to take “I’m ok” as the answer.  Those friends who have no idea that the simple gesture of dropping off soup even though I said “I’m ok” can turn a day of sadness into an evening of joy and gratitude.  Because some of us say we are ok, but we really aren’t.  Some of us just feel undeserving.  Some of us never had a cheerleader or an advocate at a young age.  Some of us feel like a burden.  Some of us fear that if we are honest with how we are truly feeling, that those whom we care most deeply about will just go away.  Because sometimes the realities of having had so much loss can just be too much to bear.  Some of us so desperately want an unconditional love that only a parent can give and the reality is, we don’t have that option.  While I understand that even some who have both of their parents do not have this, just knowing it’s not an option is a feeling I would not wish on anyone.  I can’t tell you how many times this week I have prayed for someone to just give me a hug and say, “I’m so sorry that you are feeling so overwhelmed, go rest, I’ll take care of everything”.   Because when your entire house is sick, no one is an option.  Not even your spouse.

My therapist recently told me that I am way too hard on myself.  She reminded me that while everyone has their challenges, I have managed to build an incredible life for myself, have a thriving career, a beautiful family and always find a way to help others.  She encouraged me to remember all that I am accomplishing on my own without the support.  Upon listening to her encouragement, I burst into tears.  My rational brain knows all of this, but damn it’s nice to hear it out loud.  It really is.

The other day I was at the bus stop with my neighbor who also has become a dear friend.  As I spent a moment venting to her about how tired and overwhelmed I was (which was funny given she is a Nurse and works 12-hour shifts…talk about tired!!).  She got very quiet and tears began to well up in her eyes.  She went on to say that she usually sees her mom every day, and she knows how lucky she is to have that relationship with her.  Next without even realizing what an incredible gift she had just given me, she breathlessly said, “you don’t have that, and I’m so sorry”.  That small acknowledgment meant the world to me.  Her empathy.  Her true, genuine care and emotion that came through that morning carried me through the rest of the day.  This is one of the biggest reasons I always stress the need for empathy and the need for kindness in our society.  Sometimes, you never know how much the impact of one’s words might have on another person, positive or negative.  Choose your words wisely and with the best of intentions….what a difference it might make in someone else’s life…

As always, thanks for reading….


30 Years Ago…

30 years ago today, I went to bed not knowing that tomorrow my life would be changed forever.  I went to bed not knowing that tomorrow, I would hear my mothers voice for the last time.  I went to bed not knowing that I would one day look back 30 years later with a fire in my heart, a passion in my soul and a history that has strengthened my own motivation to live my life in such a way that I do not repeat the history that has plagued much of my own adult life.  When you are 15 years old, you aren’t thinking about tomorrow.  At least I don’t think I was….

30 years ago today, I went to bed not knowing that 30 years later, I would be preparing to run a ½ marathon in my mother’s honor for the second time…but this one is different.

Tomorrow will mark 30 years I have lived without my mother.  But realistically, she was gone long before that.    I know that my mom was an incredible woman; she was smart, funny, passionate and caring.  But I don’t remember any of that.  I have vague memories of her true self.  My mom seemed sad most of the time and she often seemed as though she wished she was somewhere else.  That is at least what I remember.  Until my mother passed away, I always felt as though I was a burden.  I never understood why my mom cried so much and I didn’t understand why she drank as much as she did.  Even once she was sick, she continued to drink.  No one ever said anything…until it was too late.  I didn’t know that it was too late until the day she died, but her illness was so far along by that point, there wasn’t anything anyone could have done.  My mom was a Nurse, she knew what was happening to her.  I’ve often wondered, was she crying because she knew that she was dying?  Was she crying simply because she was sad?  What made her sad?  Was it me?  These questions have weighed on me for a very long time.  I have had a lot of time to process everything and I have worked extremely hard to cope with the memories and traumas I hold within my heart.  I know I am ok.  I know I am healthy and strong and I know that the burdens that weighed on my mother are not the burdens that weigh on my own heart.

When you are motherless as long as I have been, there is a void that you spend your entire life trying to fill.  It took me a long time to learn that this is “normal” for someone who has experienced such a loss so young.  It also took a lot of work to understand the emotion behind the complexities of how she died.  Back then, no one talked about it, but through my own education and life experiences, it would be naïve to think that my mother didn’t struggle with depression.  It wasn’t something that people talked about back then.  Today, as uncomfortable as it is, I talk about it.  I learn about it.  Today’s society has unfortunately seen entirely too many suffer in silence and the reality is, life is hard.  We need to support each other, not pass judgement.  I am sure my mother felt judged back then.  She suffered in silence until it was too late.

Tomorrow’s Half Marathon is very significant to me.  The date, the location and the year!  While I have run many half marathons in the last 15 years, this one is different.  Tomorrow, I will run through a Vineyard, and at the end of this race, I will be presented a complimentary wine glass and if I choose, a glass of wine.  Many of my friends would consider this a very appropriate race for me…I enjoy my wine, and what better way to celebrate such an accomplishment right?  Well, anyone who knows me, also knows that while I enjoy a glass of wine, I always keep myself in check.  My friends and family know that I have a very complicated relationship with Alcohol.  Not because I am concerned that I am an Alcoholic, but because I have the potential to become one.  We all do.  I just have more risk factors given my family history.  Something that I am fully aware of.  I look at this race as a milestone and an opportunity to be able to show my own child that I am healthy, strong and have been in and will always be in control of my habits.  I will complete this race to show him that you can work hard for a goal, accomplish it and celebrate and not lose self-control while doing so.  My son will never see his mother the way I saw mine.  My son will see his mommy is strong and passionate and full of a joy that she fights for every day and while life can be hard, every challenge is worth embracing.

If you would have told me 30 years ago I would be sitting here getting ready to run 13.1 miles, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.  Anyone who knew me 30 years ago would probably agree….

So tomorrow, I will run for my Mother, Sandra Lee Conreur.  I will run for my son and my husband and I will run for my family and friends who have been supporting me along this journey.  I will run for the Motherless Daughters, especially my 5G sisters who continue to give me the strength near and far…and tomorrow, I will run for me.


When I look to the sky….

Jersey 2018

Thursday morning, as I ran along the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore looking out at the ocean, I found myself thinking of my mom.  I thought about where I was at that moment on August 16th 1988….30 years ago.  I thought about how soon my life was about to change back then as a 15-year-old girl.  As sick as my mother was at that point, nothing truly prepared me for what I was about to experience.  She had been bed ridden for quite some time, but I don’t remember ever really understanding what was wrong with her.  No one ever talked about it and I didn’t ask.  It was just who my mom was.  She lay in bed, watching the home shopping network, smoking her More Menthol Cigarettes and I would pop in to talk to her about my day.  She always looked as though she was in pain.  Looking back now I wonder how much of that was physical versus emotional or maybe a little of both.

I often imagine how my son will describe me one day.  I would like to think that he sees me as a strong, loving, silly and passionate Mom.  I work hard at that!  I also imagine I will be alive to see my own grandchildren one day, however, I know I have a long way to go given he is only 8 years old.

This October 7th will mark 30 years since my mother passed away.  On that day, I will be running a Half Marathon, in her honor and memory, through a Vineyard with a complimentary glass of wine and custom wine glass at the end.  Which is rather ironic given my mother died of Cirrhosis after her own battle with alcoholism.  When I learned of this race, I knew it was my race to be run.  I knew it would be sentimental and I knew I would have to write about it.  Why?  Because unlike my childhood, I have made the decision never to be silent about my struggles and more important, my successes.  Anyone who knows me, understands my own outlook on my own relationship with Alcohol.  It is one that I do not hesitate to talk about.  Why?  Because I have seen firsthand how addiction can tear a family apart.  Back when my mom was alive, no one talked about it and there were so few resources available for families and children struggling with addiction.  Sadly, today it seems there are more struggling with addiction, more resources and still so little conversation.  Part of my decision to even start this blog was with the goal of sharing my own experience with the hope that it helps even just one person feel understood, supported or even just feel not alone.  Because I felt alone for a very long time.

My mother’s death does not define me.  It drives me.  It drives me to be better, to be healthier and it motivates me to be more present in my life as a mom not only for my son, but for me.  I am no longer angry with her, but I find that as I approach the age she was when she passed, I am so far from who my mother was.  When I learned of this race and the day it fell, I knew it would be something that I needed to do.  Not only for me, and for my mom, but for my own son and husband.  While everyone has their own journey and outlook, this is simply mine.  So, why have a relationship with alcohol at all?  The same reason a 15-year-old girl who just lost her mother to alcohol would continue to make the decision to party her way through high school and college and her early twenties even after hating her own mother for making similar choices.  I do not know.  I simply do not know.   Maybe because aside from my own mother drinking herself to death, I watched my 99-year-old grandmother vow that it was a nice glass of wine every day and one cookie that was the secret to a long healthy life.  Two things I have come to very much appreciate in my mid-40’s.  But notice what I said, ONE glass and ONE cookie.  Well, maybe more.  Umm, definitely more than one cookie, who are we kidding?  I love cookies…But anyone who knows me intimately, understands how important the other part is to me.  They understand that I do not drink liquor and I rarely go over my own 1-2 glass maximum.  I understand the level of addiction in my family and I am not willing to test my own tolerance.  It is very important for me to teach my own child that his own mother can be responsible, drink a glass of wine as an adult of legal age and not destroy her family.  Given I lived this first hand, it is something that I am very passionate about.  It has been my ultimate goal to break the cycle of addiction in my family and this is a goal I know I will accomplish.

As I ran along the boardwalk the other day, I started to think about my own half marathon training.  This will be my 7th half marathon and I was imagining crossing that finish line in October.  I was thinking about how far I have come in my life and felt a sudden wave of sadness for my own mother at 45.  To imagine that only 4 years later she would take her last breath.  Suddenly, the song, “When I look to the Sky” came on by Train.  This hot and humid August morning at mile 4, I literally had the chills.  I used to train to this song years ago after my dad passed away.  It always made me feel that he was pushing me along the way and this morning was different.  I felt my mom.  I felt her smiling.  I’d like to think she’s proud of me.

So, on October 7th, 2018, I will run 13.1 miles in honor and memory of my mother, Sandra Stilwell Conreur.  I will cross that finish line and raise my glass to my mom.  I will show her that I can do this!  I can overcome an obstacle that I never really understood.  I will show her that I’m ok as she continues to smile down on us…I will show my son that his mommy is strong and healthy and while at times there is a sadness within me that he may never understand, he will never feel that he is the reason for it.  He will learn in his life that while life can be hard sometimes, through your own commitment and passion, you can overcome any obstacle with grace, humility and hard work.

“’Cause when I look to the sky something tells me you’re here with me
And you make everything alright
And when I feel like I’m lost something tells me you’re here with me
And I can always find my way when you are here”  Train



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It’s been a while since my last post.

Summer is sometimes tough for me.  I’m not really sure why…but I’m finding that for the last few years, I have always struggled with the transition from the school year into Summer.  My son is home with me and balancing working part time, keeping him active and making time for my writing sometimes proves a bit of a challenge within the dynamics of our family.  I have found every time I sit down to write, something pulls me away.

We have had a full and busy summer, making some wonderful memories but also experienced some sad ones.  Very dear childhood friends suffered unexpected losses this summer that really left quite an impact on me.  Many of us exist in our busy lives, just working and living and simply being “busy”.  Then suddenly something can happen that just stops you in your tracks, takes your breath away and reminds you to count your blessings and appreciate each day you are given.  I felt that all too familiar feeling of wanting to be home longer than possible.  I wanted to just stay and freeze time so that I could be there for my friends the way they were there for me 30 years ago when I lost my mother.  Life can sometimes get in the way of our best of intentions but to be so lucky to have connections within our own lives that leave a lasting impact even after being gone so long….

I know I have said this before, but it is worth saying it again.  I always assume everyone I come in contact with is dealing with a mountain on their shoulders.  I would never say to another person, “what do you have to be stressed about”.  But yet, time and time again, I hear those words come out of another’s mouth.  We don’t know what the person in line at the check out counter has just been through.  We don’t know why the person in front of us is driving slower than they should be.  As I experience my own life, and continue to be present in the lives of my loved ones, I try to be mindful of this.  It allows me to be present, compassionate and empathetic.  Something that I know for me, would carry me through the toughest of days.  I feel that we as a society lack empathy and compassion.  I also feel that as our youngest of generations get closer to adulthood, we have to work harder to find ways to help them cope with all of the stimulation that we never had to deal with.

But some of us just struggle more than others.  Some of us are more sensitive.  Why?  Because everyone is different and has their own history as well as their own deck of cards they have been dealt.  There are so many factors that impact each and every one of my days and as I get older I realize the critical necessity to surround myself with compassionate and caring friends.  Some don’t need that.  I do.  I’m lucky to have some of the most supportive people in every corner of my life who continue to remind me how important it is to advocate for myself and ask for help, something I still struggle with.  Some days, it’s harder to find my sparkle than others, but thankfully I work my ass off to find it and have some incredible people cheering me on along the way.  But I have also learned to be kind to myself.  That has been one of the biggest gifts to date…For those of you who need it, be kind to yourself today…it’s a SCORCHER out there!!!

🙂  Happy Summer!!!!

Being Mom…

There is a sadness that follows me throughout this time of year as Mother’s Day approaches.  As the greeting cards section showcases all of the special treats for mom and the commercials for special brunches air on television, I begin to feel my mood shift.  This day has always affected me to some degree.  Even once I became a mom, I still felt that same nagging feeling—that feeling that I’m not normal or that I’m not like everyone else.  Funny though, the more I age and the closer I get to the age my mom passed away, I am more and more aware of the reality of my feelings.  As I reflect on 30 motherless Mothers Day’s, I now understand that I am sad for missing what I never had, not what I actually did have.

My mom was an incredible woman.  Smart, strong, caring and passionate about life.  At least that is how I imagine her.  I never really got to see that, or at least I don’t remember it.  I don’t remember my mom.  The memories I have are ones that I have spent 30 years in therapy to make sense of and to continually remind myself that none of it was my fault.  She was an alcoholic and it has taken me over 30 years to finally forgive her.

I don’t miss my mom.  There, I said it.  I miss who I would have liked my mom to have been, and I guess as I am a mom now, I sometimes overtry to be the mom that I always wished I had.  If that means I hug my son too much, or protect him too much, or snuggle him too long at bedtime;  while I know it isn’t always the right thing to do for his own growth and development, I’m doing the best I can.

This past fall, I was fortunate enough to attend a 4-day retreat focused on early mother loss.  Every woman in the retreat lost their mom from 18 years old and younger.  It was incredible to be surrounded by so many women who went through the same type of loss and as we got to know one another, we found so many similarities in our experiences.  We worked on one activity that focused on the person we were before our mom passed away and the person we were after.  I struggled at first putting my thoughts together.  I really had a hard time with this activity.  Not because I didn’t know who I was, but because for the first time in my adult life, it finally hit me—I was happier after my mother passed away.  While I had a rough start, I was actually in a better place.  Coming to that realization caused me quite a bit of guilt.  For a while, I felt guilty that I didn’t miss her.  But the more I thought about my mother’s life, I found that it enabled me to find ways of becoming the best version of myself.

I know that I am a good mom and I know that generally, I have it all together.  But sometimes, those feelings of inadequacy creep up and try to knock me right back down to that 15-year-old girl that couldn’t understand what happened to her mom and if to some degree it was her fault.  Anyone who maneuvers through their life the child of an alcoholic can appreciate this. I have often modeled my life in such a way that I know that the things I am accomplishing now, my mother wouldn’t have been doing at my age.  I am proud of all that I have accomplished in my life and I hope that one day my son will look back at my life and the contributions I have made and be proud.  I don’t recall a time that she read a book to me or played a game or even encouraged me when I was discouraged.  I don’t remember her helping me brush my teeth or get ready for school or pack my lunch.  She just wasn’t present.  Raising our son, while I know some might think I do too much for him, I have realized that I’d rather do too much for him than nothing at all.  Yes, I understand I need to scale it back a bit, but for now, he’s 8 years old and as I approach the age in which my mom died, I’m just clinging to the very idea that my son will always know how much his parents love him, even on our toughest days.  When I have those tough days, and I find myself screaming out of frustration or just simply annoyed at everything, I will do my best to communicate with my son.  I will let him know when it is not his fault.  Oh, I will also let him know when it is!  Ha!

Because I never had any of this, I know it is much of the reason that I cling to my little boy, over mothering him, over loving him.  Not wanting to see him upset.  I’m constantly reminded this isn’t good for him.  I’m constantly told that he will have problems one day because of it.  Dear God I know this, but sometimes I worry that I will see in him a fear that I once had, and damn it I’m going to do anything in my power to take away the burdens that might weigh on his heart, as I never had anyone to do that for me.  I guess to some degree, I pray that showing him the love and affection that I never received will show him how incredible he is.  Maybe he won’t have to question his worth the way I have so often done in my life.

So, I will try again this Mother’s Day to find the joy.  I will cherish my new traditions with dear friends, appreciate my family near and far and find those moments that remind me that all of this journey is so incredibly important not only for me but for my son.  My experiences have shaped my compassion, my integrity and my relentless desire to provide him a safe and happy home that he always feels encouraged.  I will remember this Mother’s Day that I am not broken, I am strong and able and loved.  I will honor my mother knowing that the battles she had within her were hers and not mine and I will remember in my heart that as hard as her struggle was, deep down within her heart she loved her little girls as much as any one mother could possibly love.  As always, I think of those who are Motherless, especially those who have lost recently…know the road ahead while hard can help you find a strength within you that you might never have imagined you had….


I like to talk.  Anyone that knows me, understands that talking is something that not only provides me enjoyment, but over the course of my own life, has been extremely therapeutic enabling me to work through some of life’s most challenging issues.  Including the death of both my mother and my father, a full career change, the birth of my son and various life changing events that I will be sure to expand on as my writing continues.  My son often tells me I talk too much.  He’s probably right.  But I also like to listen and I’m not sure if I ever would have found myself with such a comfort level for both if not for my own life experience almost 30 years ago.  It was during that time that I discovered counseling and therapy.

Someone once cautioned me about my openness to sharing my history regarding therapy.  Which is somewhat conflicting given I have a Masters Degree in Counseling.  In the counseling world, there is a big emphasis on “self-care” and quite frequently, you will find someone who provides counseling, also seeks out counseling.  However, I am not a clinician and my history with counseling stems far beyond the years that I have been in practice as a Career Counselor.  I also understand there is often a hesitation to seek out counseling.  But for me, I have been going to therapy on and off for close to 30 years.  I guess one of the main points that I am looking to share today is, going to therapy is one of the many ways I have been able to cope in my life.  But not the only way…and I was not always as open minded regarding therapy.

When I was 15 years old, my mom died.  I was numb, scared, angry, confused and quite frankly I really didn’t care much about anything.  Once I returned to the 10th grade that October, I remember just going through the motions.  I remember skipping a few classes here and there with friends and I was failing Math.  I also remember feeling that my Math teacher at the time was being a real jerk and didn’t seem to care much that my mother had passed away.  As far as he was concerned, the time that I missed was my responsibility and I had to find a way to catch up.  That’s really all that I remember about that teacher.  It’s funny you can go through a time with little memory of particular moments, but one poignant moment will stand out and stay with you a lifetime; even if you can’t really remember exactly what happened.  That moment for me was when the Principal of my School called me out into the hallway.  As I walked into the hall, he looked at me and said something that honestly, I cannot remember.  I just remember he grabbed my elbow (I could be making this up), and physically walked me down to the Social Worker in our School.  Everything is truly a blur, but if I can take a moment to envision what may have happened as this was a moment that truly shifted the direction of my life, it is as follows:

Principal:  You’re going to counseling.

Me:  I don’t need counseling!

Principal:  This is not up for debate, you need to get your act together.

Me:  I don’t need to go to counseling.

Principal:  Your mother just died, you’re failing school, you need to get your act together.

Me:  Fine!

So, again, I know this isn’t exactly what happened, but as my memory fails me, my heart speaks my experience.  This man, the Principal of my High School, literally forced me to go to the School Social Worker and quite frankly my life was changed forever!  Not overnight, not by the end of the year.  But this started a journey for me that taught me how to cope with the peaks and the valleys of life.  Therapy has enabled me to maneuver through some of the most traumatic events that any one person could possibly endure and while difficult, I have always come through on the other side stronger, more determined and with even more empathy and compassion than I ever could have imagined.

Two years later, my Senior Year of High School was filled with plenty of success including being crowned Homecoming Queen, a strong extracurricular resume, solid grades and acceptance to one of my First Choice of Colleges.  I am not sure if I would have been where I was that year if not for the support of my High School Counselor, incredible friends and other staff at my school.  Going to counseling truly changed the path I was going down, and while I lost touch with her, I know that she will never forget how she helped me change my journey for the better.

Counseling isn’t for everyone.  However, I understand that it is critical for each of us to determine ways that enable us to cope with life.  I have found what works for me;  therapy, running and working out, writing and amazing friends that get it.  I’ve even begun exploring yoga and meditation, two things that I know will be amazing.  I just need to make the time, something that we as a society seem to be losing more of.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we cope as a Society.  I often hear that life today is definitely nothing like it used to be.  But how do we cope with that?  It’s something I am very passionate about.  Not only for myself, but for my family, my friends and even my students.  I have worked in and out of Higher Education for over 15 years and I have found that as a society, our ability to cope with certain issues has become even more challenging.  We are distracted.  We are rushed.  We are overwhelmed.  We are just keeping our heads above water.  I have found that what has worked for me among other things, is to take a step back and take an inventory of what is truly important.  It has helped me stay grounded; most of the time.  When I find myself falling back to my old habits of self-doubt and self judgement, I try to remind myself how I got here and all that I have come through.  I have also learned to acknowledge and ask for help when things get to be a bit too much.  It took me a long time to get there.

So here I am 30 years later, and still going to Therapy.  Why?  Because it is one of the ways I have coped with some of the curveballs that life has thrown me.  My therapist of 15 years is in the process of retiring and I have been interviewing new therapists before our final session.  One therapist was actually surprised that I have been seeing the same person for as long as I have.  Which struck a nerve.  While I know that talking through issues is not for everyone, it works for me.  Some go for a particular issue, solve it and move on.  For me, I have found that keeping this foundation stable allows me to adjust to life as it changes.  The next therapist upon hearing my initial intake took one look at me and said “WOW!”.  As she took a moment to remind me of the challenges I have faced and seemed utterly speechless over the life experiences I had just rattled off, I realized I found my next therapist.  A warm, nurturing and caring person, who has just begun this next chapter with me and has already reminded me of something that I already knew, “I GOT THIS!”  I just might need a reminder or an extra push sometimes!!!  I hope you too can find your balance…

Thanks for coming along for the journey!!!!  Keep fighting for that sparkle!!!!😊

The Subway

If you’ve ever read the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, you are most likely familiar with the Subway Story.   This story provided me a foundation of understanding others at a young age and has enabled me to find compassion for others even on days I’m feeling like the whole world is falling down around me. In the story a father is riding the subway with his young children.  The children are being very disruptive and a fellow passenger finally loses his patience and proceeded to address him. The father quietly says, “I’m so sorry, they just lost their mom, and I’m not really sure how to get them under control”.

While this isn’t exactly the way the story is told, this is how I had remembered it, and how I have continued to tell it over the past 25 years. It is a story about compassion.  In the book, it talks about that moment serving as a Paradigm Shift—  One moment that can change your entire perspective of a situation or a person. This is something that happens to many of us throughout our life, including myself.  Every person I interact with, I try to imagine the struggles they may have going on in their own life.

For a long time, I couldn’t remember where I had heard of this story.  It wasn’t until I was teaching a course at my University to first year students entitled “Personal Effectiveness” and I realized this story was in Stephen Covey’s book.  I have carried this story around with me for over 25 years since reading it in my “Business Communications” class in college.  Since I can remember, I have always had this story in the back of my mind.

My Paradigm Shift was propelled by this story 25 years ago.  It struck me as I was a young college student, five hours from home in Maryland and missing my Dad who was back in my hometown of Seaford, New York.  I was also missing my Mom, who had passed away only a few years earlier after a long battle with alcoholism. Going away to college was the first time I existed somewhere that no one knew “my story”.  No one could have known the trauma that I had experienced only a few years prior to my first year of college.  I had spent much of my childhood feeling as though I didn’t fit in.  The struggles within my own family were rarely discussed.  I would often look at others as though they were normal and I wasn’t.  I would compare myself to my friends, wishing I had what they did yet not even having a clue as to what that was.  I never really gave much thought to what I actually did have; a father who loved his children and worked tirelessly to ensure we were taken care of.  When I read that story about the dad on the subway with his children, I saw myself there, on the subway.  I imagined what my dad might have said or done in that situation.  I felt that pain, I saw those children and I cried for them and for me.

The “Subway” story resonated and showed me that other people go through traumatic events that are life changing.  It kind of made me feel less alone.  I am sure that many of us can relate to this father.  Sometimes, life just gets to be so much, so hard, so overwhelming.  As I reflect back on the subway story, I felt the pain of that father—the same feeling of “where do I go now?  How will it all make sense?”  I can picture that father looking out the window, completely numb, unable to make sense of the deck of cards he had just been dealt.  Suddenly forced to be a single father to young children after losing his spouse.

It also made me think of my own father.  When my mom passed away, he was about to turn 50 I believe.  He was away on a business trip in Paris, France and his 15-year-old daughter (myself) was home with his mother in law, while his oldest daughter was away at college.  Over the years, I have often thought of my dad, imagining what it was like to receive that call that his wife had passed away, and he had to come home.  I don’t remember him speaking about my mom after she passed away.  I just remember we carried on.

I also think about all the years my dad battled stage 4 liver cancer. While our country was on high alert post 9/11, I was in my late 20’s, newly married starting my life with my husband.  I had made a big decision to go back to graduate school to earn my Master’s Degree in Counseling.  My husband and I were living just outside of New Haven, Connecticut and my father was undergoing chemotherapy treatments at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City.  So, when I was able, I would take the train into the city to be with him.  I would often find myself sitting on the train, heading into the city after receiving the news that my dad was being admitted once again with a fever.  I would often feel that numbness that was all too familiar. I even remember one day having a realization that when my father passed away, I would be left parentless.  I’m sure that if someone saw me sitting on a train that day, they would have no idea the burdens I had been carrying with me.

As you go about your day, you may never know what that person in line at the grocery store might have just gone through.  It is during these day to day interactions that I try to let my compassion follow me.  I often feel that this is what is often missing in our society, compassion for others.  It is very easy to get caught up in our day to day lives, struggles and challenges.  Everyone is so busy.  But if we take the time to just consider others and imagine they are going through a tough time, rather than thinking “what do they have to be stressed about”, we might find that kindness becomes contagious.  Sometimes, we might see someone that appears to have it all together; a great job, a beautiful family, an incredible community.   But the burdens that may weigh on their heart might be something we could not ever possibly understand or imagine.   A wise woman once said to me, “try not to compare your insides to others outsides”.  Meaning in this day and age, everything is out there on Social Media.  Generally, all the “good things”.  But our lives are filled with EVERYTHING!  The good, the bad and everything in between.  As hard as it might be, I try to be mindful of all of this.  So, the next time you are sitting on a train, look over at the person across from you and if given the opportunity, be kind.

Thanks for reading…