Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Even animals grieve?

Jake had made friends with the pit bull puppy next door, Rocko. They met through the fence, sniffing each other cautiously. Then they began to run back and forth and touch noses. This progressed to a real live play date. Which led to more. Soon Jake and Rocko were spending hours a day together. They wrestled and ran and played.
Jake ran to the fence first thing and would yip for Rocko to come over. Rocko got loose one time and ran over to us and I dragged him home.
It was blissful for both.
But yesterday, Rocko's family moved and took him away.
Jake is still checking the fence everytime he goes into the back yard. He stands there patiently wagging his tail, looking for his friend.
It breaks my heart. My little puppy has lost his first friend.

(YES I KNOW I AM PATHOLOGICAL! I know I sound like a crazy dog mama...)

But he is grieving his friend and missing him. Today Jake has had a rough day. He chewed up a pillow and 2 pairs of shoes. Something he has not done for a long time. If he were a human child, I would say he is exhibiting acting out behaviors due to deep emotions...
So maybe animals grieve too...

The Box

She loved the woods
and water
and the blue sky.
But when she died
I could not part with her ashes.
So I kept them in a box
painted with the things she loved:
woods, water and sky.

Someday when I am ready
I will let go
and take her remains
out into the world
scattering them to the winds.
And then I will put the box
into the fire
as the paint curls
and blisters
knowing that we both
are free…

Saturday, April 18, 2009


The hubster is out mowing the yard, I am getting ready to throw open windows... the lilac has bloomed. Its finally here. Spring!!! I just hope the weather lasts for more than 2 days.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


My vacation is on its last few hours. I will probably be writing more about it over the next few weeks as I look back and remember the fun and peace I experienced.

I needed a break. I needed a rest. I was very good about keeping my boundaries from work. No cell phones, no sneak peeks at emails, no checking in just to make sure they were getting by without me. The world can and does survive without me for a week.
And I can survive without the work day world it seems.

A valuable lesson to learn. And to remember!

The Farm

53 or so of us showed up on the farm last Saturday for a family reunion. 5 generations have lived on this land. 4 generations were present that day. Pretty amazing. The thing I love about this picture is that the newest member of the family, Kayla is gazing at my most beloved aunt Catherine with such an expression of wonder~ the future gazing at the past, learning from and leaning on a great foundation.

Sitting quietly on a porch
rocking and reading,
the storm is yet miles away
like the hustle and bustle
of work.

I have escaped.
My mind is easy,
my soul peaceful.

Time hangs suspended~
moments glitter
like dew caught
in a spider’s web.

The gray sky is soft,
while the pale light
wraps around me like a quilt,
soothing the hurts,
comforting my soul.

Cedar Hill Retreat Center

Carole King said it best:

Way over yonder is a place that I know
Where I can find shelter from hunger and cold
And the sweet tasting good life is easily found
Way over yonder - that's where I'm bound

I know when I get there, the first thing I'll see
Is the sun shining golden - shining right down on me
Then trouble's gonna lose me - worry leave me behind
And I'll stand up proudly in true peace of mind

Way over yonder is a place I have seen
In a garden of wisdom from some long ago dream

May be tomorrow I'll find my way
To the land where the honey runs in rivers each day
And the sweet tasting good life is so easily found
Way over yonder - that's where I'm bound
Way over yonder - that's where I'm bound

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Memories from school

I am still reflecting on my school reunion. Soon I will move on to the family reunion!

Laurie Mc was the undertaker's daughter... David was the teacher/preacher's son... Tim was the mailman's son...
It's funny but I grew up in a place and time where you were "So and so's daughter" or son or cousin... we were known by our kin.

As I grew up and began to write a lot of unpublished stories I began to assign titles, so thus Laurie was and is the Undertaker's daughter. Her family owned and operated (actually still do) the funeral home in Summer Shade. My family history is so intertwined with hers we were bound to be friends.

Her grandfather, Herman, helped bring me into the world. The family story goes like this. The day I was born it had snowed so deep it came up to my 5 year old brother's armpits when they set him out in the snow that morning. My mother went into labor. Daddy couldn't get his car out. The only person in the county who had chains on their car was Herman Mc. On the hearse. So Daddy called Mr. Mc who came and drove Mama and Daddy to the hospital 20 miles away in Glasgow. Luckily they got there in time and I was not born in a hearse. Since then the McMurtreys have been part and parcel of our lives. We bury our family after having funerals at the McMurtrey funeral home. Laurie's dad tells us all stories about our family. Funerals are partly about grieving, partly about remembering and celebrating thanks to the Mc family.

Laurie and I used to sit on a tractor at recess and talk. Or walk around the baseball field and talk. We talked a lot. I don't remember all we talked about, but it must have been very important because we did a lot of it. We also were aspiring writers/artists back then. I remember we worked on a book for our teacher Mr. Hunley entitled "Captured Time" or something equally dramatic, where we put together essays and artwork from our classmates. I wonder where that book is today? I would love to see it again.

Anyway, Laurie pulled together a reunion of our 8th grade class after 35 years after I mentioned I would be down to Summer Shade and would love to see whoever was around. She is still the red haired energetic gal I remember to have pulled that off! I did not get to spend enough time talking to her or any single person the night of the reunion but at least we have reconnected and its a new beginning. It was good to be home...

Successful Students Everyday

I grew up in a magical place, a magical time with a bunch of magical kids…
In a small town called Summer Shade there was a school where about 30 of us navigated the rough seas of adolescence and survived; mainly because we had a solid foundation of family, faith and friendship.

I was lucky enough to see most of these people again this past weekend at an 8th grade reunion. Most people attend high school reunions, and grade school reunions I have come to find out are rare. But we were not your average group of kids it turns out.

I don’t know exactly what set us apart and made us bond so closely that after 35 years we would all gather together after a long work week, some of us driving from Indiana, Tennessee, traveling hours and hours to get together for a potluck in the old school cafeteria, but we did. And it was one of the best nights of my life.

There was a lot of laughter and a lot of tears. Hugs abounded. Smiles. Seriously you could feel the love in the room. What wasn’t there was anyone being mean, trying to outdo, out boast, or one up each other. We all knew where we came from. We had all been in each other’s homes growing up & spent countless hours together. There was nothing to hide, because we knew each other from a time before we had formed masks or artifices or tried to hide from ourselves. We dropped all pretenses. There was no need to pretend with one another, we had grown up together and there was no need to judge each other. We were home again. We were a tribe.

Some of us had left long ago. Some had died. Those who could came back that night. Those who couldn’t were remembered. Mitchell and Darrell who had died were fondly recalled and lovingly talked about. Tema, Keeta, Don, Lela and others who couldn’t make it were missed and remembered. No one was left out. If they were not there physically they were there in our hearts.

We remembered our teachers, Mr. Hunley and Mr. Long; our principal Mr. Branstetter. Great men who inspired us, led us, believed in us, but maybe more importantly loved us.
Mr. Long had just died a few months ago, but his wife and son, David, who was in our class attended. It was healing for all of us to be able to say all the things we never got to say to Mr. Long personally. He was one of the most influential people in our lives. Had it not been for Mr. Long and Mr. Hunley I might never have attended college. They opened doors for me. Mr. Long was a goofball; a whacked out loon who loved teaching and made kids love to learn. His life touched so many of us and we carry him still in our hearts to this day. He taught us more than geography, social studies and history, he taught us how to be the best human beings we could be. He taught us that laughter is essential. He taught us that love is as necessary as air to living. He was a role model on what a decent loving citizen of the community should be. He was a great man. I have never forgotten him and neither has anyone who was in the class of 1974. He was as present in that room as if he were sitting in a chair at the table. Time and distance had not diminished his impact one iota.

Studies show that people who experience trauma form bonds, but I wonder about people who share joy? I moved after 8th grade and attended high school in a nearby town. I made new friends but none were ever as meaningful as these people. There is something about a shared experience, about growing up in a place where someone else’s parents can discipline you, where the community cares about you, where all of you know that you are safe and cared for that connects you for a lifetime. Because I think that is what we shared; JOY. I think we all basically had happy childhoods. We pretty much lived on a level playing field. There were no real divisions, no one was super rich, no one was homeless, we all had families, we all pretty much did the same things, ate the same things, shared a common life. It was a small town in the 1960’s and 1970’s and we remained untouched by a lot of the strife that was going on in the outside world. I don’t remember there being a lot of racial prejudice, or drugs, or antiwar demonstrations. I feel like I grew up sheltered from a lot of the harsh realities. There was life and death, illness and strife but it was a farming community so that was to be expected, it was part of the circle of life. But the bitterness, hatred, envy, all that came later. Lessons learned after 8th grade.

I remarked to someone I still occasionally have dreams about the school. Good dreams. I can close my eyes and see the playground, the old oak that grew beside the gym. I remember the taste of the lemon cookies and Charms suckers we would buy at Punch Mosby’s. I remember the pranks we played, the 4-H skits that won time after time. I remember all those beautiful bright kids. I remember a better time, a better place. No matter how far I traveled, how long I stayed gone, I never forgot. I took every single one of those kids with me. I am a better person because of all of them. I am now a social worker and I see kids who do not have what I had. It breaks my heart. I realize how blessed I was, how truly graced by God I was to have grown up in Summer Shade. I can close my eyes and I am back in an instant. Memory is an incredible thing, but it can’t replace the hugs, tears and laughter that I got to experience last Friday night. I thank everyone who showed up and I encourage everyone who didn’t, to make it to the next reunion. Only this time we will not wait 35 years. We need to do it more often. We all need to remember there was a time, a place, where we were safe and loved. A place that we called home. A place called Summer Shade.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Reunion reflection

Underneath the greying hair,
the wrinkles and lines of care,
I still see us.
As we were.

I still see our innocence
our youthful passion
Our belief that we could change the world

Underneath the years of toil
of sorrows borne and
dreams decayed

I still see our hope
our faith in good
our knowing right from wrong

Underneath the makeup and carefully selected clothes
I see the hearts of children
who played together
stayed together
and came out on the other side.

Better than most,
Bonded for life
in spite of miles
in spite of years
in spite of time

We shared a magic world
where love, loyalty and integrity
were not words
but a way of life

Where all lessons learned
were not just from books
but from people
who cared.

Underneath our grown up
we all bear the foundation
of a happy childhood
in a small town.
Such a gift
rare and exceedingly fine...

Reunion: More later... but it was heavenly

There are places I remember all my life,
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain.
All these places have their moments
Of lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I loved them all.

And with all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these mem'ries lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
And I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them.
In my life I loved you more.

And I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them.
In my life I loved you more
In my life I loved you more

Thursday, April 2, 2009


I am going on vacation starting tomorrow. This doesn't mean I won't be blogging. I will be and probably posting pics too!

First is a trip home. No matter where you take me, home is still the small farm town I grew up in, Summer Shade. Lovely name, lovely place, lovely memories...
Tomorrow night I have an 8th grade reunion. About 20 or 25 of us went all through grade school together but I moved right before high school and lost touch with a lot of them. So for the first time in 35 years I will see the group that grew up with me. I am very excited about this event.
The next day FAMILY REUNION!!!!
I am a rare bird in that I LOVE LOVE LOVE my family and never get to see them enough. So we are all gathering at the family farm to celebrate BB2 coming home from Colorado, the official adoption of my great #8 who will make the 5th generation of the family to live on this land, and just to get together for a happy time instead of a funeral. I cannot imagine a better way to kick off a vacation.

After hanging with the family I am heading to the mountain or more specifically Cedar Hill Retreat Center. I have been away far too long from this holy place. I used to go there nearly every weekend in grad school and it kept me centered and sane. I now need that centering and sanity restored. I love my work, but it requires so much of me. I have poured myself out and emptied my soul, it is time to fill it and re-create me.
I am ready to rest and relax...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Grief versus depression

I have struggled with depression off and on my whole life. I know the signs pretty well. But sometimes it slips up on me and takes over before I realize it. Its only when I am deep in the pit and become aware of how well I am not doing that I stop and figure out that "OH, its back and its bad"
Grief is different. It comes suddenly and in waves that knock me over and tumble me. Waves that bash me against sharp rocks of pain, battering my soul, bringing fresh tears and gut wrenching sobs.
When depression hits, I stop, I become numb, I cease to feel much of anything. Grief is one huge ache, I am a living, breathing wound.

There have been times of real grief in my life, all connected to losses of loved ones. Some were human, some were pets. When my father died, I remember the unrealness of it. He had been sick for awhile, but even knowing that did not prepare me for the reality of his death. I recall going outside the night he died and standing in the backyard staring at the night sky, wondering where in the vastness had he gone? Where was Heaven and would I ever see my father again? I was 15 and my life changed that night...
I was 29 when my mother died, a new wife, trying to start a marriage, and again, her death left me pondering the huge hole ripped into the fabric of my life. It seemed as if my identity was altered in an instant, I went from daughter to orphan, from me to wife and I lost myself somewhere on the way...
Then of course came the deaths of pets. For people who have never lived closely with an animal this may seem crazy. It is the pathology of the childless, the hubster says that we make the pets our children, our substitute family. Only unlike children, we can choose when to end their suffering. We can choose to take on the emotional pain to end their physical pain. Euthanasia is a hard decision. It costs a certain amount of one's soul.

Unfortunately this last time, depression and grief have overlapped. It is not a pretty place to be. Its rather dark and scary. I have cried more lately than I have cried in years. Losing 3 pets in rapid succession has triggered all the grief of losing everyone and everything I have ever lost. And there doesn't seem to be enough love or joy to fill that void. In spite of my family, friends and amazing husband, I still ache. I am counting my blessings, I am doing my job, I am looking for the silver lining. I am celebrating the lives of all my dearly departed loved ones. But damn it, I still miss them. I still long for one more day, one more hour, one more hug or touch. I am grieving and all I can do, I suppose, is just work my way through this until I come out on the other side.