Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hold on

Hold on to what is good,
Even if it's a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe,
Even if it's a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do,
Even if it's a long way from here.
Hold on to your life,
Even if it's easier to let go.
Hold on to my hand,
Even if someday I'll be gone away from you.

A Pueblo Indian Prayer 


I have been thinking a lot about holding on and letting go lately.
I have a friend who is ill, in critical condition, lost somewhere in a coma due to cancer. It has been over a week. The doctors have vacillated between hopeful and hopeless and left us all worrying and praying. I don't want my friend to die. He is young, only 44. Even though he is miles away, I feel him. His presence. His friendship. His goodness. I rant about the unfairness of his situation. He is a good person. He saves lives. He inspires others. Why him? Why now?
I spent the summer holding on tightly to my hubster who was also battling cancer. As well as my brother, cousin and aunt.  I can unequivocally state that I HATE cancer. My husband survived. My aunt died. My friend, cousin and brother fight on...
The past two years have been the roughest ones I have lived through in a long, long time. The year I lost my daddy was hard, but I was 15 and resilient. The year my mama died was terrible, I was newly married, living in NYC, but I had the love of the hubster and ambition to carry me. Now I am older and it gets harder to let go.
In 2011 we have to let go of this house where we lived for 15 years. The bank has called our note. We, like many others, are victims of the recession. No, not victims, but something else. For I will not give up... but I will move on. I will survive this and start over.
But yes, we do have to let go of this house. Our first house we owned. A place where many have come and stayed. My friend in the coma lived here briefly after his divorce and then moved down the street and came often to hang out and do laundry.
This house has been filled with laughter and tears. I had dreams here. I had to let them go. I have stuff here that won't make it to the other place. I must let it go.
I must let go of so much: illusions, dreams, imaginings, things not yet born. I must let go and  move on.
I am scared of the loss I will feel. I know that new experiences await me. But they are unfamiliar, unknown. I do not know what to do with the "stuff" we have collected. Bits and pieces of lives from other times and places. Do I keep my childhood toys? Do I keep the chair my 22 year old cat used to sleep in although he's been gone for over a year? Do I hold on to the "skinny clothes" or the "fat clothes"? What do I do with all these books? All these fears?
The hubster said he can't quite see us living in another space. He can't wrap his mind around what it will be like.
I can't either. Not yet. But I have begun to dream of a space that is peaceful and uncluttered. Orderly. Neat and cozy. Filled only with what we need and use. Not with years of baggage, emotional or physical.
Back to my friend. His life hangs in the balance right now. I pray constantly. Sometimes its just his name over and over. Sometimes I can feel his presence. Sometimes he seems more real to me in memories than the present moment does. So this is what I ponder. Do we ever really let go? Even if the physical state changes, even if loss occurs, do we still hold one another in some way, in some time, in some place that only our hearts and mind can see?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Decisions...

We have started the house hunting. It is not easy...

I went alone without the hubster but with BB2 and Sister and her hubster. We looked at several houses but there was one little funky one, that I for some reason loved. It needed some work, not a lot but probably more than I could see through my smitten eyes. The colors were neutral, a lovely pale yellow, the kitchen large enough to eat in with RED counterops (which I love), old style cabinets, hard wood floors, a bath and 1/2 and an odd but large covered patio. There was a brick path laid the entire length of the yard and the carport had gothic niches w/ Saint Francis  and another Saint standing guard. It was quirky and full of possibility. That is what I saw the possibility and what could be...

Today the fam and I took the husband by and... he hated it. He saw all the flaws none of the fantasy. It was a bit humbling and disappointing. Usually I pride myself on being practical, where will the litter box go? How can we make the rooms work? Will this be affordable? But I missed that the rooms were small, the yard was grassless and would take some work... Quirky became "too much fixing up".

We had looked at a house earlier that had be specifically tailored to the family living there. They obviously watch HGTV because it was lovely and decorated in a woodsy borders with bears, pine green and earth colors. But I saw no counter space, guests walking through the kitchen and dining area to reach the den which was long and narrow and very rectangular. The yard had a huge privacy fence enclosing an above ground pool. I hated it. And you guessed it, the hubster loved it. I couldn't get past the flow pattern and dark colors. And the pool. With the huge fence.

We did see a third house that had a front porch, with a swing and benches. It had a cage w/ 2 chickens and a rooster in the back yard. And a friendly cat locked in the laundry room. It had possibilities. A huge office off the laundry room and extra bath that could become "the master suite". It had cabinet space, It had a full bath down the hall, office space and dedicated space for a real live nothing but a guest room... Maggie the insane could be housed in a room of her own. The other cats and Jake could run the house. Jake had ample yard. Its  really close to my job. Its a maybe. But of course there were some flaws. The heating system was old... and I hate furnace problems having been plagued with them the past two winters... other things needed updating, windows etc. The price was higher than I wanted...

I hope the family is patient and the hubster and I can agree... So we wait, we ponder, we pray.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Firsts

Tonight I watched Glee, my newest vice. Its about a bunch of high school kids in a glee club who sing and dance and basically are outcasts.
I watch it because its entertaining but also at times heartwrenching.

Is there ever a more difficult time in our lives than high school?

Those years shape us more than we would care to admit. It is the time we pass from childhood into the vast realm of adulthood. The first steps into our lives in the "real world".  It is an emotional roller coaster.
It is the best of times and the worst of times. It is scary, exciting, fun and horrendous. Sometimes all in one day. It is where sometimes life long friendships begin and often first loves end.

It is a time of firsts. First kiss, first date, first car, first job, first time one starts to realize how really complex life can be...

There is a bittersweetness to all those firsts.

For some the firsts hurt and humilate. For others they become cherished memories. And others, regrets.

I remember feeling so deeply and intensely during my teen years. It seemed at times my skin could not hold all the wonder, awe and passion I felt for life. I felt on the cusp of something huge about to happen. I felt as if I would explode if I couldn't get words out. I wrote loads of very bad poetry. I dreamed, I listened to music. I discovered things, I learned about people. I was insatiably curious. I wanted to experience life.

I remember crushes on boys who are now grandfathers. I remember how sweet that first kiss was. How it was innocent and breathtaking and so very real. I remember the first time someone told me that he loved me. How thrilled and frightened I was. How I burst into tears and later how my mother held me and let me cry. I remember when he left. I wonder to this day where he is and how his life turned out.

I remember my first car, that first trip after I got my license, solo, with no adult in the car. I remember feeling free and immortal. I was flying out of the nest and I soared.

The firsts didn't end with high school, but they became fewer and far between as I grew up and older. At 50 its hard to be surprised. Its hard to find the joy of discovery when one has seen so much. The world is not as innocent as it once was. Kids now experience their first kiss way earlier than I did.


There are still firsts but they don't always come with joy. The first classmate to die. The first time you realize you can't go home again because the house you grew up in, is no more. Just a memory.
The first time you realize that you are the age your parents were when you were in high school.
The first time a classmate's child enters college...

I miss the teenage me. The girl who had wonder in her soul and longed for life to begin. Who had so many years and so many firsts stretching before her. I wish I could go back and tell her she was OK. That life would be OK even when it was hard and her dreams were dashed. I wish I could tell her that her heart would be broken, not once, but many times but she would survive. I wish I could tell her that love is not what she thought it would be. But love is something more than she could imagine.

I watch the shows about teenagers and I find myself longing just a bit to experience life again as an innocent. To go back and do over my mistakes. To undo the hurts, to ask for forgiveness, to say I love you before people faded from my life.

I can't say that I have no regrets. I do. But for the most part, I don't regret the firsts. I remember them all, some good, some bad. I remember the firsts because I grew from them and learned. And I mourn them because I will never, ever get to experience them again. Life takes a little of the magic with it as it rolls out. It can turn us bitter if we let it. Or it can leave us with lovely memories.

I think that for me, I shall strive to find some "firsts" that I may have missed. I think I shall try to recall that girl with the dreams and hopes in my heart and maybe fan her passion back to life.

I think I am ready for a new beginning. Somewhere, somehow. I am starting a new chapter. Perhaps the first of many...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Legacy and Love

This past week, my Aunt Catherine died. The Hubster has already written a beautiful post about my family. I don't know if I can express it any better than he already has.

However, it meant a trip to the farm. As I have grown older I have come to love that land more dearly than ever. KY is a beautiful state. There are lots of lovely woods, creeks, farms and fields. But something about the family farm is magic. It just feels different. When I turn off the highway onto the little road, images began rushing through my mind like an episodic movie.

I see black and white photos, color pictures, memories of times and people long gone. All rushing through but each one tangible and indelible. Each so real I ache with love.

I see in my mind the photographs of my siblings and me when we were all much younger: BB2 clutching a bunch of kittens to his chest; the sister and I standing in a field of tobacco that is 2 feet taller than us; the old house that Daddy built with a lavender bedroom. There is no longer a house or tobacco on the farm. There are however kittens.

BB1 has kittens who live outside working for their supper but also sleeping in the porch swing, running helter skelter down the road, hunting the fields for mice or lazing in the sun.

I imagine they are the descendants of the long ago cats clutched tightly by a small freckled faced boy who now lives a thousand miles away...

I didn't get a chance to walk in the woods this time. It would have been a good time as there was a full moon and it lit up the night so I could see individual trees and a path clearly. But this time wasn't about me. It was about family. The ties that link us, one severed for now upon this earth. My aunt Catherine was the last real link between what I think of as the past and the present. The past was when I was little, and on Sundays all the cousins came to visit. We would play all afternoon and into the late evening: school, church and funeral were my favorite games. Sometimes we would dress the smallest male cousins up as girls and force them to play house and be the "babies". We would play hide and seek, tell ghost stories until we scared ourselves silly and ran to the safety of our parents arms.
We would settle in sometimes and listen to the grownups talk. I remember the rich cadence of voices and laughter rising and falling, the curls of cigarette and cigar smoke wafting away on  a breeze. The clink of ice cubes in glasses of tea so sweet your teeth ached. We would be given pieces of cornbread or cold biscuits to snack on. Later maybe some cold chicken or frozen mushmelons as makedo popsicles.

Some of this happened on another farm we lived on, some at THE farm: that's the one that calls to me, lures me back with the beauty of trees and fields. The farm that backs up to the cemetery where all my relatives sleep in quite peace. We could walk from my nephews house to the graveyard where we all gathered last weekend to pay our respects to aunt Catherine. You can see the treeline that marks the boundary from my parents grave.

At the cemetery we visit all the relatives, dusting off a headstone, straightening flowers, sticking wooden crosses back in the ground where the wind or maybe wild rabbits have knocked them over.
I pause at my parents' grave looking at the faded silk roses, knowing in my heart they were placed there on Memorial Day by Catherine's hands. She went out every year with armfuls of silk flowers, sticking single stems on the graves of her two babies that were born dead. She went from relative to relative, bending down at each grave, paying her respect, showing her love, caring for those gone ahead.

I wonder now, who of us will pick up this tradition? Who of us cousins, nephews, nieces, grandchildren or great grandchildren will be the bearers of the flowers? Who among us will go from grave to grave remembering the past?  Some of whom we never met but who lived on in stories handed down at weddings, funerals, family gatherings.
I wonder about all of us who were children together, now growing older, some of us grandparents already, some of us even gone early. I wonder if we can carry on the legacy of love that was handed down to us. Can we make new ties linking the youngsters of today that will reach from them to us to our elders.

I wonder if that love will survive and thrive.

Later in the day I play with my great niece, the 5th generation to live on this land. I wonder if someday it will call to her as it does to me. If she will find fossils in the red clay as I once did. I wonder if she will love to walk the woods, hear the sighing wind and feel her heart swell with a love long imbued in the hills and hollows where so many of us began and later returned. I wonder if she will love the legacy as much as I do...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Its been a long time

I have written in so long. I have had ideas simmering in my mind for months, but when it comes down to writing, I stall out...

Its been a rough summer. So much sorrow, worry and anxiety. Too many people in my life fighting for their lives.

But oh,  have I learned. I have changed without realizing I was transforming. I am no longer the same person I was in April. Then I was burned out, stressed, overwhelmed with myself. But then on the horizon appeared a great looming shadow: CANCER.

Cancer was diagnosed in my husband, brother, aunt, cousin and a dear, dear friend within the same month Various forms, all Stage IV. Meaning it had metastasized to other parts of their bodies. Suddenly, I wasn't as important in my own mind. I shifted my ego out of the way realizing how precious life is, again. There is nothing that makes one so mindful of  mortality as seeing a loved one facing Death. It becomes a daily presence always on the edge of one's vision, lurking in the room, waiting...

There were several times it came way too close. The hubster developed a pulmonary embolism, BB1 was rushed to the ER several times, my aunt lay in a nursing home with a broken arm, pneumonia...

I have seen Death before. I watched my father die in front of me.  I had lost my mother while I was miles away and couldn't be by her side.  I  have had countless animals die in my arms as a veterinary assistant. I have been the one to speed the process by pushing the needle into the vein and releasing the overdose of barbituates to ease the animals from suffering to peace.

Death is no stranger, but still not a welcome friend...

I have found a new depth to my spirituality. I have had to let go of so many things, so much of myself. I never realized how prideful I was. How desperate I was to be the one who fixes everything and not accept help. In essence, I was a control freak. I had to let go of that. I had to accept my flawed ability to not be able to do it all alone. I had to come to grips with my overwhelming fear of poverty. I had no choice, I had to let go and let God.

God was/is everywhere. People came out of the woodwork to assist us. People who loved us with a depth that broke my heart time and time again. Everywhere I turned, I saw the Christ in action. Friends gave money, time, talent. They sent cards and called. They came and sat with me in the hospital, in my living room, in the hubster's hospital room. They cried with me and let me be angry, sad, broken. They held my hand in silence and hugged me until I stopped shaking. The doctors kept pushing to save my hubster, not giving up until they had the answer to why he was vomiting/fainting/short of breath. Countless times I felt the presence of something so much bigger than myself. I saw something in the eyes of friends, strangers, felt in their touch, heard it in their voice: I am not alone.

I don't know what to do with all the gratitude I feel. It is awesome to be the beneficiary of such unconditional love and mercy. I am humbled by it all. I want to spread it so others can feel the same love and mercy I have been given. But how? How can I repay what I have been given?

How can I pay it forward, spread it, let people know how vast the power of love really, truly is and that it exists? How can I ever describe what is in my heart? How can I show the world that aches and bleeds and cries and mourns that there is more, something true? How can I as one person accomplish what I want to do?

I don't know the answers. Yet. But I will be living my life differently, daily.
Thank you all for the blessings you have so freely given that I have so gratefully and undeservedly received.
Thank you.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Good News Stays...

The results are in. The hubster has no visible tumors, the pulmonary embolism is almost gone and he is in remission for now.

This summer I worked hard on staying clinical, doing his feedings by tube, dosing out medications. Sitting patiently in waiting rooms, hospital rooms, emergency rooms. I tried not to cry in front of him. I only lost it a couple of times. But yesterday when we got the good news, the dam cracked. I made it to the waiting room before getting misty eyed. I grew mistier when we saw one of his fellow survivors who reported that they had also just received good news about their scan. By the time I hit the car, I was full out weeping. I leaned over hugged the hubster and just kept weeping... tears of joy. I didn't know how much I had been holding in over the summer. It was like a psychic wall coming down.

Today I am a little calmer but the hubster was still walking around in shock. I started on paperwork, emailed the Agency setting up to return to work on 9/27. Getting ready to start a life put on hold.
I started a list of what I needed to do, dug out my planner. Talked to a few friends and family.

It has been a weird summer. I have had several bad, sad, black summers, this was one of the worst in some ways. In some ways it was a time of great growth. I have learned to lean on God in whatever form He appears: seeing God everywhere in everyone. Learned to be humble. Learned to accept rather than give.  I have again learned that my family is so precious to me. I love them so fiercely and deeply.

I can accept I am strong, brave, and also that I still am a long way from being the kind of woman I want to be. I have issues I must and will deal with over the next few months. I have to accept that loss, anger, grief must be dealt with and vanquished.

I still have family members and friends fighting cancer. It hangs on the fringes of my daily existence. I have learned to hate it: its insidious, malicious, evil slithering into  the daily lives of those I love. I have learned to be grateful for small and big favors. I have learned to pray quickly, quietly, earnestly while running down a hallway or sitting by myself at a red light.

I have learned the world does not revolve around me. That my presence is not always needed. That I can take time away from work and the world goes on. In the next year I hope to honor that truth. I plan to take more vacation time and see family and friends. To find solitude and renewal for myself. I want to desperately free myself of everything not useful or beautiful in my home, my life, my heart.
I want to learn to forgive. I want to love again without fear of loss. I want to heal.

I have been tested and I think I passed.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Summer that Wasn't...

Its September 1st. How did THAT happen???

This is the summer that wasn't... it wasn't about vacations, shorter workdays, longer evenings, plays at the Arboretum or any of what I usually do during summer.

It was about avoiding heat and the sun. Going from one hospital to another. Sleeping in the middle of the day so we could be awake when it was cooler and darker.

It was about praying alot. For the hubster, my brother, my aunt and my friend all who have/had cancer.

This summer is a blur. I cannot tell you one specific thing I did. But I achieved a lot it seems. Yet it was not very satisfying as a lot of it was putting out fires and shuffling papers.

I did get to eat corn and tomatoes, I did get to the farm 2 times. I have read a lot but retained very little. Time was way off for me. I lived some days on 4 hour increments waiting for the next time to feed or give medicine. There is so much I should have/could have/would have done, but I didn't...
I don't know why other than it was a strange summer when time either flew or drug out miserably...


I waited and prayed more than ever in my life. I decided that this was either Hell or Limbo and I am still out on which exactly it is.

But now that September is here, maybe it will change, maybe good news is around the corner, maybe the heat will dissipate and it will cool down. Maybe I can go back to work and the hubster will begin to eat food again.

Maybe the doldrums are ending...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Happiness in small doses..



Today I stopped by the farmers' market as it was closing and bought some tomatoes. They had been sitting in the sun and were warm and juicy. Getting back into my car, I polished one against the leg of my pants and ate it just the way it was. The skin was crisp and snapped wonderfully when I bit into it, the juices ran down my arm and I quickly licked it off. For a few minutes I was transported in time. I could have been the little girl in the garden, plucking off a tomato and standing in the dirt, barefoot, eating a tomato while the sun shone all around, smelling the pungent clean scent of tomato leaves, hearing the chickens churring and clucking as they chased bugs...

Later on I had black walnut ice cream on a gooey chewy brownie. The ice cream is intense on its on, but perfect paired with a brownie or pressed between two cookies. Black walnuts aren't for everyone. They are strong and intense, tasting of wildness and secrets. I love the scent of them when they fall to the ground in their hard green husks and then later as they are peeled by laying them in  the driveway and driving over them til the husks come off revealing the rough black shells. Because I have then so rarely they only contain good memories.

I am lying here listening to an approaching storm, thunder rumbling, the sky turning hues of gray, the wind picking up in the trees, the smell of ozone in the air.


Its funny how a tomato, ice cream and brownies and an approaching storm can lift my spirits. I am neither as complex or mysterious as I hoped to be as an adult. I think I am finally figuring out that life at its simplest is the best blessing of all.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Farm

I return to the land
where time and again
I find strength and solace.

I don't know if there is magic
in the earth beneath my feet
or in the wind soughing
through the trees
but I feel an energy
that connects with mine.

It may be the spirits
of long dead ancestors
or even animals I once loved
buried carefully along fence rows
so as to remember where they lay.

I hear it whispering to me
in the slow running creek
that I have drank from
for over fifty summers.

I see it in the waving grasses
tall to my knees
bending in silent
acknowledgment of my passing
through the fields.

The buzzing of bees,
jarflies droning and
locust song
weave an eternal symphony
heard now, then and in the future
by those who lives
intertwine upon these hills.

Seasons pass
as do people
but the magic
in this land
lingers.

Kindness

WEEP: to express grief, sorrow, or any overpowering emotion by shedding tears. 
CRY:  shed tears, with or without sound.



This summer has been unusual and intense. My husband, brother, aunt and a close friend all were diagnosed with cancer. I have seen cancer at its best and worst. If there is such a thing as "best" for cancer.

Oddly, my last practicum was with the American Cancer Society. I had to start my practicum at the beginning, with the patients having just received the diagnosis and starting their treatment planning. I progressed through all the stages next, treatment, recovery and palliative care. Then finally I ended with Hospice and death.

None of the phases was easy. I watched and tried to counsel families through their shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. I listened. Mainly that's all I could do, or pat a hand or dry a tear. Sometimes I cried along with them, crossing that clinical/professional boundary. I could not help it, as their pain was so fresh and raw.

Now I know what it is to walk in the shoes of those families. I have been angry, depressed. I have bargained with God. I have accepted the present as it is, as it has to be. I have denied my fears and feelings at times. At other times I have crossed that "clinical boundary"  because I cannot be clinical with my own family.

There is a part of me that can handle the gross anatomy of cancer. I can see the wounds without flinching, I can handle the vomit and cleanup. I can give injections to the hubster, feed him by a tube, watch as they pull all his teeth. I can hold his hand as he struggles with the physical pain. Tubes don't bother me, needles, syringes and changing bandages, just part of the daily battle. I can be clinical to a necessary point.

However, my undoing, several times, has been kindness. I have wept very little during this horrible, terrible, worst summer of my life. A few times I wept out of exhaustion and fear, but not often. The times I have cried though, that is different.
I have cried when kindness has struck me unaware. So many people have come to support us. So many prayers have been said. Gifts of food, money, but more importantly, gifts of an individual's presence have broken my heart with gratitude. Every hug, handpat or expression of love has brought me to tears. Just this morning the nurse was so kind, I started tearing up as she gently handled my husbster, trying not to hurt him anymore.

The doctors who kept pursuing his symptoms until they found the cause: a pulmonary embolism that left untreated would possibly have killed him, made my misty eyed each time they walked the long walk to his room just "to see if he needed anything".  My family calling, emailing, facebooking daily to make sure I was/am OK, brings tears to my eyes. My brother and brother in law building a handrail on the steps in 90 degree weather very nearly slayed me. My mother in law coming for weeks or months at a time to sweep and clean and help in any way she can. Friends from grade school and high school praying for me and my husband daily. Coworkers  checking in to let me know I am not forgotten and am missed. Neighbors mowing the yard and bringing tomatoes. I could go on for pages.

I could have wept with despair this summer. I could have been angry and railed at the unfairness of life. But instead, gratitude has broken my heart and let the tears flow. I have wept because I have seen the power of love.

Thank you everyone. I can never repay what you have given me. I am forever and always, grateful.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My Sweet Lady

When I was a teenager I think I was the original "Emo". I was very emotional, yearning for something more, it was indefinable but I remember a deep longing for whatever it was that I did not have...

I spent a lot of time lost in music. Listening to 45's and albums on my record player. Recording songs on my cassette tape recorder off the radio in wee hours of the morning. (All very hi tech at the time!)

I would dream about falling in love, meeting someone who made my heart stop then flutter giddily. I listened to love songs and my favorites were by John Denver. I also had a major crush on him and was sure I would meet someone just as talented and soulful as him at any moment. His songs were filled with beautiful lyrics, melodies that matched the passion and melancholy in my young impressionable heart.

There are certain songs that instantly transport me back through time, back to a feeling, a place. His songs were the songs of a lonely, dreaming 15 year old girl who never had her dreams fulfilled.

Until this week.

One night when my hubster was resting, he called me in and motioned me to lie beside him. He took one earbud of his iPod and placed in gently in my ear. John Denver was singing "My Sweet Lady": one of my favorites. It is from a movie, "Sunshine" about a beautiful tragic hippie heroine dying while her musician husband travels to make money. They have a child, Sam, but she dies a sappy, sorrowful movie death. Very 1970's, very appealing to a hopelessly romantic 15 year old.

I lay curled against my husband and the words rang painfully true. We stayed curled together listening to all of John Denver's songs. All of them taking on a new meaning, all of them drawing together the past, present and future. Some reminded me of family, some of friends and places now long gone from my life. Some reminded me of the 15 year old me, yearning to find someone to share her life with who would understand her.

35 years later that dream has come true. Nestled against the hubster's side, holding hands, sharing the headset, we listened and sang together, smiled, wept and whispered our love to one another.

The past and present joined and the broken heart of a 15 year old girl healed.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Boys from the country



This song reminds me of both my big brothers (BB1 and BB2). Both were brought up in the country, on the same farm where we all were conceived and born. BB1 still lives there, walking on the ground where father and grandfather walked and where his son and grandchildren walk. It is a beautiful farm, woods of hickory, oak, and cedar. Fence rows covered in blackberry vines, ponds filled with the most beautiful sounding frogs and peepers. Between his house and his son's lies the ground where my grandmother planted daffodils and butter cups, and where her garlic still comes up every year. The same creek runs cold but smaller than I remember. I love to visit him there. It feels like home in my heart.

My other brother, BB2 traveled away. For a while he lived in cities, both large and small, but the country called him to come back. He lives in Colorado, no gentle rolling hills and creeks for him, but instead soaring mountains and rushing rivers. He embraces the wilderness, foraging for mushrooms and game in season. He flew me out once and it was the most glorious vacation the hubster and I ever went on, we still talk about it years later.

Both my brothers are attached to the land and I somehow think this keeps them real and authentic. They are two of the best men I have ever known. Strong yet gentle. They cry as easily as they laugh. They are jokesters and have filled my life with laughter, surprise and delight. They both have dried my tears and cried with me through out my life. I think I waited so long to marry because I could not find a man who had these qualities. My big brothers set the bar high. Luckily they did not shoot my husband upon meeting my Yankee fiance but instead over the years have embraced him as a brother.

Neither brother has had it easy. Both have had trials that would lay low any other person. They have not only survived them but have triumphed. They inspire me to be just as tough, just as stubborn and strong as they are.

They are boys from the country, they know Life at its best. They know the cycles of birth, death and rebirth. They live close to the land, walk among the trees and love with all their hearts.
They are my heroes.

Because he called the forest brother
Because he called the earth his mother
They drove him out into the rain
Some people even said the boy from the country was insane

Because he spoke with fish in the creek
He tried to tell us that the animals could speak
Who knows, perhaps they do
How do you know they dont
Just because theyve never spoken to you

Boy from the country, he left his home when he was young
Boy from the country, he loves the sun

He tried to tell us that we should love the land
We turned our heads and laughed
And we did not understand
Sometimes I think that the boy from the country
Is the only one who sees
Because the boy from the country
Doesnt want to see the forest for the trees

Boy from the country, he left his home when he was young
Boy from the country, he loves the sun.
(Michael Murphy, sung by John Denver)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Survivor

This has been an interesting summer.
Here are the facts:
I turned 50.
My 22 year old cat, Buddy Love died.
3 family members were diagnosed with cancer within the same month.
I am on leave from work to take care of one of those family members, my husband of soon to be 21 years...

I have had hard times before and survived them. I know in my heart I am a survivor.
I may fall down, get up, fall again, cry, curse, but then I will get up and pull myself together.

However. I cannot do it alone. I need my friends, my family, my coworkers and neighbors.
These are recent realizations: That I am strong and that at the same time I need people, that it is okay to ask for help AND receive help.

I have experienced go much generosity and love this summer that I have begun to believe that humans, at heart, are good. I forget that from time to time doing the work I do. I see suffering and pain. I cannot save the world. I cannot save an old frail cat or even my husband, brother or aunt. I am learning to let go of control and depend on God. Not easy for a control freak, fix it all, caregiver, peacemaker, social worker like me...

I have learned that love exists everywhere despite time, distance and space...
I have learned that the internet can be a conduit for that love too.

I have learned that I can state that I am a survivor, that I am strong, that I need help.

Not a bad beginning for a summer.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Cobbler time.

A quick and easy peach cobbler recipe; you can substitute any other fruit, like Blackberries!
Or strawberry & rhubarb! If using fresh fruit I cook w/ 1 c sugar and 1/4 c water for 5 minutes to let the juices flow! If you use rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
Cook Time: 45 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

Ingredients:

* 1 cup self rising flour
* 1 cup milk
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 stick of melted butter
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 large can of sliced peaches in syrup, undrained, about 28 to 32 ounces

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350°. Put melted butter in 13 x 9 pan. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, milk, vanilla extract; stir until blended. Pour batter into pan and top with the peaches. Bake at 350° for a total of 45 to 60 min.

I also like to switch it up sometimes and use almond extract or lemon or orange extract instead of vanilla in the batter.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Patty Griffin Making Pies



I don't make pies. I make cobblers. Exactly the way my mama taught me. Butter, flour, sugar, milk and fruit. Easy.
I have made cobblers for church socials, friends and neighbors. They are all eaten quickly. Something comforting about the crunchy crust and warm fruit with vanilla ice cream melting and puddling around it...

A friend from college sent me the link to Patty Griffin's song "Making Pies". The images and words pull me in, remembering strong women in my life. Time spent in the kitchen with my mother patiently teaching me to cook, and also learning by just watching her cook. Talking with friends over a piece of pie and coffee on a rainy day. The pies in Dottie's cafe in Horse Cave KY when I worked at the theater there, cobblers too.
Cakes have their place in the world: weddings, birthdays, celebrations of note. But pies, they are for everyday. For small moments and big memories. For intimacy and shared stories. For rainy days and small talk. For comfort, love and remembrance.
Thanks Dave.

Little Mo



So today Mo is at the vet's office. And I am playing the anxious mother. These past few years have been so difficult. At one point we had 2 dogs, a fish and 5 cats...
Our animal family has dwindled in the past two years. First was Molly the dog, a gift from God, no question. She graced our home during the last 5 years of her life. A funny, peaceful, easy to love Golden Retriever. Next we lost Sniffy Pie and Dennis the fish and more recently Buddy Love, a 22 year old Brooklyn St. cat who was Mo's constant companion since Mo came home as an 8 week old kitten.

Now Mo has begun to decline at age 15. My kitten. My little geriatric kitten.
In the midst of a summer where some of my most beloved human family members are struggling with cancer and fighting for their lives, my cat may be too.

I have sought solace in animals my whole life. Their unconditional love, their willingness to absorb tears, endure long hugs and their ability to calm me with their presence has saved me emotionally countless time.

Especially Little Mo. I carried him around in my pocket as a kitten at the vet clinic where I worked. He has slept beside my head for hundreds of nights, his purr lulling me to sleep. He is a lovebug, seeking out people, greeting them and welcoming them to our home.

And now I am waiting for the outcome of a test. I am at home while he is at the vet's. I have concerns. As with my human family, I know a little too much about the medical world and this leads me at time to anticipate the worst, to feel their pain, to ache with them, not for them, but with them and to be afraid because I have no answers.

I hate the unknown.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

In the Waiting Room

Some days the waiting is too hard.
Time either runs swiftly or barely moves at all.
It is disorienting
this time of daily, hourly, minute by minute change.
I feel as if the world is a transient space,
ebbing, flowing, lives intertwining
and then breaking apart never to touch again.

It is a world of strangers
who become friends briefly.
Common theme touching each one
lightly or darkly
weaving strands of lives together
to complete one row in the
tapestry.

These rows are the ones
deemed slight imperfections
to reflect the reality of the maker.
Slubs will occur to testify to
"a slight irregularity in yarn
produced either accidentally
or purposely
by knotting or twisting or
by including uneven lengths of fiber in spinning."

Which are we I wonder as I stare about
at faces transformed by scalpel, age, and pain.
Which are we? Accident or purpose?
All uneven fibers
twisting, twining, spinning...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An indeterminate time...

It is the first day since surgery two months ago that the hubster and I have been alone in our home together.
His mother came to stay before he was discharged from the hospital. My sister and I cleaned feverishly, to make room for a visit of indeterminate length.
He came home from the hospital with an eight inch incision, no jugular on his right side, no nerve to his right ear, 4 lymph nodes and tumor gone from the curve of his jaw...
He recovered from that invasion to his body, only to be told that he needed teeth extracted. Not some, but all. He has spent his life with words, living and breathing them, uttering them dramatically from a stage, whispering them tenderly in the night, drawing people in with humor and pathos, now he would lose them for an indeterminate time...
Once recovered from the extractions, he had a feeding tube placed. They pierced his side and now water flows into him, to be replaced by food, as needed, in an indeterminate time...
His mother has stayed with us, cooking, cleaning, helping organize so that we could find a new normal for us. Things have settled into a routine: up at 7, coffee for me, feed the pets, shower, open the Ensure, lay out a lot of pills for him. Flush the tube, change the bandage, leave the house by 8 to get to radiation treatment. Wait. Go home, feed him and myself. Nap through the heat of the day, do the crosswords with Mum, cook in the cool of the night, more pills, more bandage changes, more waiting...
Now Mum has gone home for an indeterminate time. Waiting for our call if we need her.
Today we went to church, he sang in the choir, his voice winding its way to my heart, me crying on the song where we sing "I'm lost without you", the words taking on a new meaning, a nuance in my soul where God and husband meet as the loves of my life...
Today he wrote, the house feeling strangely empty without Mum. I understand her going home, she is needed elsewhere for now. We are OK, we have the routine down. Still it was strange to be alone together. We were quiet, words on paper, nestling and curling around one another in a long nap. Gentle touches, a few tears, and his beautiful smile...
I know that this won't last, but today we were in a magic time. A healing time. A strong time. It was just us, alone together, and Cancer was not invited in...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Between sleep and waking

In fevered dreams
you talk of bumbershoots
and dinner parties.

Your restless hands pluck the air
pulling wisps of memories
into place.

You call for "Mom"
and laugh at silent jokes
only you can hear.

You are in the thin place
between wake and sleep,
life and death,
real and imagined...

I hope you are closer to God
there and here in the dreams
I cannot enter,
the world I cannot see,
the place I cannot be.

There is a part of you
lost to me right now.
A part I cannot hold.

I can only wait.
Pray.
And Hope.
For your safe return.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pillow talk

Last night as the rain fell and the thunder rumbled
I lay close to you
hands clasped and feet touching.
We whispered our fears to one another,
Our hopes and dreams that might not be.
We wondered where this road was leading
as we saw the dark valley ahead
with no light yet.

The rain softened and the thunder faded
but on we talked
remembering moments of our lives before:
Before illness,
Before fear,
Before loss,
Before the unknown.

We laughed and we cried
but we held on.
And we will continue to hold on.
To each other,
to our friends
to our family,
to our vows.

For better or worse,
For richer or poorer,
In sickness and in health
Until death us do part.

But even Death will not part us.
We are one, in spirit, in soul, in our hearts.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Uneasy dreams and restless spirits...

Last night I kept having lucid dreams. Restless and surreal dreams...
Or as Wikipedia explains: A lucid dream is a dream in which the sleeper is aware that he or she is dreaming. When the dreamer is lucid, he or she can actively participate in and often manipulate the imaginary experiences in the dream environment. Lucid dreams can seem extremely real and vivid depending on a person's level of self-awareness during the lucid dream.[1]

The term was coined by the Dutch psychiatrist and writer Frederik van Eeden (1860–1932).[2]

In the dream(s) I kept waking up in different bedrooms from my life: the lavender room of my childhood in Summer Shade, the cold room in Astoria, Queens, the guest room at my mom's last home, various dorm rooms, apartments and hovels I have lived in over the years. Each time I "woke up" I would look around and say out loud, "No, I am not there yet." I would fall back into the dream within a dream only to "wake up" somewhere else...
Amidst all the dreams people from my past appeared, restless spirits beckoning and calling for me. Some still alive but changed in real life, some long dead and dearly missed.
I often felt like I was really visiting with these relatives, friends, pets and teachers from past times in my life. Sometimes the meetings were joyful reunions, such as when my mother covered me in the lavender bedroom, brushed back my bangs and kissed my forehead.
Others were troubling, involving me seeking lost pets, calling out, seeing them in the distance, just out of reach. Lost to me once again.
I often base my evaluation of my stress level on my dreams. I have no idea what my level is based on last night's dreams.
I am stressed, I am grieving, I am hopeful in the midst of despair. I am overwhelmed by life, by love, by small kindnesses and the generosity of spirit I encounter on my daily walk.
Life is changing quickly, disturbingly so at times.
My family is waging a battle. 3 members are actively fighting cancer: the hubster, Big Bro #1 and my favorite Aunt. I am looking for answers, asking questions and trying to understand all that is whirling around me.
Finally, I realized I have discovered not only my strengths but also my limits. I have asked for a month of personal leave from my job that I love. Giving up my clients even for a short time feels like a loss.
And I have grown weary of losses. Too many times in the past few years, my heart has cracked and broken. Too many times, Death has stolen a loved one.
This time, I hope to win. I hope we win. No more restless spirits tonight. I am hoping for peaceful sleep and quiet dreams.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Doctor day...

Tomorrow is doctor day. First Jake and MO go to the vet. Jake gets his first set of adult vaccinations and yearly adult physical. MO gets his geriatric workup. Now the elder of our little family since the death of Buddy at age 22, MO has been a little off. Nothing major. Just not a kitten anymore at age 15 going on 16. As hard as it is to believe the giant 70 something pound dog was just over a year ago my 10# puppy, its harder still for me to believe that MO is no longer a kitten that I carried in my pocket at the vet clinic. Life has become so swift of late. Again as many times before I want to slow the moment, linger in comparative contentment with no changes.

But life is not to be stopped.

Also the hubster goes back to the doc to find out treatment options for his cancer. Again, I want to stop time, even rewind, replay those moments when we were fairly carefree.

Is it really all an illusion? Does memory trick us into believing that there were times when all was right and we were content and secure? Or will I look back on this dark time and remember only pain and fear? I hope to remember instead the friends who came forth, who stood by us and let us lean on them. Will I remember the love, the blessings the abundance in what currently feels like a time of deprivation and loss?

The mere fact that I am realizing there is love, blessings and abundance is key. The fact that I recognize there is darkness means I have known the light and trust in its return.

Memory is what I make it. I am choosing to make it good.

Sturm und Drang

Sturm und Drang (German pronunciation: [ʃtʊʁm ʊnt dʁaŋ]) is the name of a movement in German literature and music taking place from the late 1760s through the early 1780s, in which individual subjectivity and, in particular, extremes of emotion were given free expression in reaction to the perceived constraints of rationalism imposed by the Enlightenment and associated aesthetic movements. The conventional translation of the term is Storm and Stress; a more literal translation of Drang might be "urge", "longing", or "impulse")


The rains finally stopped. I loved the booming of the thunder, the cool wind blowing, the sound of rain on our tin window awning, the diffused gray light slipping through the lace curtains.

I discovered in its aftermath, the storm flooded many areas of KY and TN. The pictures are wild. The force of nature unleashed, swirling waters rocking cars and trees past videographers, acres of land under water...

Sturm and drang. Its all a matter of perception.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"It ain't cancer research"... Well actually it is.

The past month has been a roller coaster ride of fear, peace, anxiety, laughter, tears and most of all Love.

It began when the hubster found a lump on his neck during his ritual spring shearing of the beard. It was rather hard and about the size of an egg. By the time we had it checked, CT scanned, PET scanned and tested it was closer to a grapefruit...
The doc whisked him to surgery, removing a tonsil, some muscle, a nerve, several lymph nodes and his right jugular. A 3 hour surgery became a 6 to 7 hour surgery and the dreaded word was spoken: CANCER. Squamous cell carcinoma. Now we know possibly why he was so tired, so down, so not the hubster for the past few months.

We don't know what is in the road ahead. The doc got all the visible tissue. But there is still radiation and possibly chemo to come.

On top of this we have conceded the battle for the house. The bank can have it. We are moving on. Clearing out. Leaving a lot of stuff behind as we take a new route.

I have alternated at times between fear and anxiety. A year ago I was a basket case. Now. Well now I am calmer. Oh, I still cry and have my moments of anger, but for the most part I have found a peace that passeth understanding. I have learned a lot during this time. What is important. Who is important. God, family, friends, the furfaces, the kids I work with. All else is just stuff. Memories are attached to some of it. But I can keep the memories and let go I hope of the stuff.

There is so much to say, to write but my mind is tired and swirling all at once.

However I gotta get on the road of life and start walking again... maybe into the arms of God to rest just for a little while.
THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD
THAT LEADS TO YOUR DOOR
WILL NEVER DISAPPEAR
I´VE SEEN THAT ROAD BEFORE
IT ALWAYS LEADS ME HERE
LEAD ME TO YOUR DOOR

THE WILD AND WINDY NIGHT
THAT THE RAIN WASHED AWAY
HAS LEFT A POOL OF TEARS
CRYING FOR THE DAY
WHY LEAVE ME STANDING HERE
LET ME KNOW THE WAY

MANY TIMES I´VE BEEN ALONE
AND MANY TIMES I´VE CRIED
ANYWAY YOU´LL NEVER KNOW
THE MANY WAYS I´VE TRIED

BUT STILL THEY LEAD ME BACK
TO THE LONG WINDING ROAD
YOU LEFT ME STANDING HERE
A LONG LONG TIME AGO
DON´T LEAVE ME WAITING HERE
LEAD ME TO YOUR DOOR

BUT STILL THEY LEAD ME BACK
TO THE LONG WINDING ROAD
YOU LEFT ME STANDING HERE
A LONG LONG TIME AGO
DON´T KEEP ME WAITING HERE
LEAD ME TO YOUR DOOR

Thank you God for my circle of support.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Thankfulness

Today I am thankful for:
my family and friends
Jake, Mo, Kizzie and Maggie the insane cat
my coworkers
that the sun is out and the air is cool
hyacinths
daffodils
and that for this moment
come what may,
all will be well...

I have faith.
And that is what sustains me.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stranded, hungry, will work for food....

Today I was getting ready for work and on an impulse I stopped at Aldi's to pick up some Starbursts for my girls group for a meditation on mindfulness. The plan is that we take a piece of candy, hold it, smell it and eat it slowly, observing all our senses and then describing what it was like to be present in the moment...

While there I also grabbed a bag of apples... well, just because.

I thought, I don't have any apples, I like apples so I will take them along to work and bring them home later.

On my drive in I was stopped at the world's longest red light. Alone. So I sit back and try to practice mindfulness. That was when I saw him. This man walked up the ramp, put down a ragged back pack, opened a cardboard sign that said "Stranded, hungry, will work for food". He looked dejected, tired and dirty. I leaned over and opened the bag of apples, I took out one and rolled the window down, wondering how he would react. Maybe he really just wanted money and was a scam artist, maybe he would curse me, maybe he would walk away in disgust at my small offering.

He approached as he noticed my window lowering, I held out the apple. We looked into each others eyes. "Here" I said, "this is all I have."

He reached for the apple, still looking in my eyes, and said "Thank you, I haven't eaten all day, thank you so much. God Bless you." and he took a bite and smiled. He thanked me and blessed me again as he wandered back to the safety of the edge of the road. The light turned green, apple green and I drove away as he stood munching his apple.

I know now that I have never enjoyed an apple so fully without taking a single bite.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Time tripping again.

Last Saturday I met with an old friend from NYC with whom I had worked in theater.
He was in town for the SETC (South Eastern Theater Conference). He has become a guru in the lighting world and asked me to hang out at his booth on the conference floor handing out lighting swag...

So I went and it was wonderful and weird all at once.

I still remembered lighting terms despite that being several careers and a couple of decades ago.

I remembered what I loved and hated about theater and know I don't want to go back to that career. ( A reminder is very helpful every now and then!)

HOWEVER one thing that came of this reunion were wonderful memories of Charleston SC where he and I had worked together for 4 summers. It reawakened my longing to live in Charleston again. I love that city. It is probably my favorite place in the world. If I could I would move there tomorrow. Preferably living on Folly Beach and hanging out with Pat Conroy (one of my favorite writers).

Also he helped me to remember why I do what I do now. He asked a lot of questions about why I am a therapist working with at risk youth. It took me a moment to formulate the answer. I am not sure if I can explain in words the reward I receive.
Working with these kids, helping them figure out that they do have worth, do deserve respect, can be successful and most importantly can heal, is a calling. I feel like it is my vocation.

Most of all I realize it is possible to heal. I had a loving family, supportive friends and I weathered the tempest ridden teens and came out OK. I want to give these kids that opportunity as well.

One of my favorite quotes:

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.
Helen Keller

That is why I do what I do....

Success happens...

I received a wonderful call the other day. One of my kiddos called to update me after being off my caseload for over a year.

I rarely get to hear the end of the story, we are sort of a "treat and release" kind of agency....

But this kiddo called and is thriving, in college, working, and generally doing great.
She has even started living her dream of working with animals and is on staff at a facility which I cannot name due to confidentiality but it was her dream to work there and she is!!!

Sometimes they succeed and we get to hear about it. Sometimes the kiddos heal and come out stronger than ever. Sometimes I am so grateful for my job and the people I get to meet. Their success is my success and I grow hopeful that maybe I played a small part.

I want to believe that I can make a positive difference in the world. But after hearing from her, I realized SHE mad a positive difference in MY world.

Life is good.

Just a number...

So this year I turned 50. And FREAKED out. I have never really had a problem with aging or getting older, but for some reason the number 50 has totally freaked me out. I figure I have exceeded the halfway point of my life. There is more lived than left to live.
I have been doing all the psychological mind games to divert my attention.
Such as: when my mother was 50 I was 12 years old. I had been a daughter in law for a year when my Mum in law turned 50. I was 18 years away from being born when my Dad was 50.

None of it really helped. I still resent the number...

A couple of funny things occurred in the week of my birth though.
I received an application for AARP AND free samples of *female hygiene* products for "young active women" HA!

Also my friend Alexine (Me) from the vet clinic sent me this conversation she had with my old friend Rossum...


Me: Every time I shave a cat's butt, I think of Martha!
Dr. Ross: Ha! Why?
Me: Cuz she's always shaving butts! And she taught me how! Oh, wow, you know what? Martha is turning FIFTY tomorrow!
Dr. Ross: She is NOT turning fifty!
Me: Uh, yeah she is. It's her birthday tomorrow.
Dr. Ross: *sighs like... I am a moron* That may be, but she is NOT FIFTY.
Me: So.... why would she say that is???? SHE TOLD ME SHE WAS TURNING FIFTY!
Dr. Ross: She told you that because she IS turning fifty! I am 44 and she is six years older than me. But that doesn't mean she is fifty, because she ISN'T!
Me: Um, ok.


That made my week. My age chronologically may be 50, but I am still younger than that mentally! So there!!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

In honor of the Olympic athletes... Thanks Bob Dylan

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

Bob Dylan

Saturday, February 27, 2010

For Coda (Title: Old Souls, Old Bones)

Winter settles in
sinking deep into their bones,
and they begin to seek
warmth

They curl beneath lamps,
crawl under covers,
lie in the middle of their packs
drawing warmth from others.

But the cold has crept
into the very marrow
of their ancient bones.

It calls out to them,
drawing them into
the frigid frozen world,
the stillness of newly fallen snow.

They are old and weary.
Too many winters have come and gone,
too many cold moonless nights
stretch before the heat of summer
yet to come.

Same calls to Same.

They hear the call
quietly at first,
them more urgently.
On world weary legs
they venture forth
one more time.

Into the forest where it is
dark
quiet
calm
and welcoming.

They yield to its embrace.

Now. They know it is time.

This is why their bodies have cooled.
So they can lie down amidst the dead leaves,
the slumbering, dormant trees,
and rest at last
letting their souls slip away
like a wisp of fog.

Released from a weary body
they join Orion
to hunt with all the spirit animals
gone before them;
To run free and fast
a shooting star on the darkest night.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Merry go round and round and round...

Lately I have been alternating between peace and pain.

Losing Buddy Love the cat was somehow both. I am grateful to have had a cat for over 21 years. He helped me through many a bad night, purring me to sleep. Anyone who has not had a beloved pet for so long may not understand the role he played in my life. He had become a touchstone; someone solid, dependable and always there. Unlike humans though, he was never judgmental, cruel or mean. I wish he could have held out longer but it somehow seems selfish to wish that. In human years he would have been about 154 years old...
Making the decision to let him go, to spare him suffering was both painful and yet peaceful.
There is something about death that does not frighten me. I have seen in so many times in so many variations that I don't fear it. It is only one breath away at any given moment. Death is peaceful, its life that is so hard. It is in life that we struggle and fight and grasp, death is just letting go, releasing and changing...

Age and loss are on my mind lately. I turn 50 next week. I am not where I expected to be at age 50. I do not feel like a person turning 50. I am definitely not 15 years from retirement!!!

I had many hopes and dreams for this milestone. One I will achieve. I will have my LCSW before the year is out. That has been a goal even before I entered grad school and started on my Masters.

But other things I imagined aren't there. It feels a bit like a loss, these dreams that didn't come true. As John Lennon said "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans." So I go on, entering a decade where I wonder what will happen.

For almost two years my life has been in flux. So much is out of my control. Control is an illusion it seems after all. There are days when I am peaceful, things are going well, and I realize in spite of everything, for this moment I am happy.
Then there are days that I realize that a broken heart can just keep on breaking into smaller and smaller pieces...

The worst thing about realizing, truly understanding that I am middle aged is seeing that my family is getting older. While Death doesn't frighten me, Loss does. I am so scared of losing the people and creatures I love. Having experienced the loss of loved ones, I know what it will be like, I know I will survive, I know I will go on. But I also know I will ache for them. I will miss them, cry many tears, experience pain. Yet it is worth it to have had these people, these animals in my life. I don't want to dwell on the loss but it keeps popping into my head. Mortality seems so fleeting. I know new people will come into my life even as others leave it. Life has a way of balancing, eventually. But its that interim where the scales swing wildly from peace to pain that I detest. I wish I knew how better to survive it.

Life isn't really a circle at all. Its more of a spiral where we cross the same event but at different times and with different people...
So while I will go a few more rounds on the merry go round of life, I realize I will pass pain eventually, that peace will come, that change is inevitable...
I just need to hold on and stay on the ride until it ends.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

( Redemption ~ Peter At Dawn)

I ,
as bad as they come,
came
to know Him.
He loved me.
Always.
Totally.
Without reserve.
I loved Him,
with reservation.
I denied Him
not once
but thrice
and yet,
He loved me still.
I watched
as He died
reeking of sweat and blood
and the sharp vinegar
offered to slake His thirst
Salt formed on His cheeks
from tears
shed for me.
For me?
He died for me...
In an instant
I came to know Him.
and I love him
and I deny him
no more.
Salvation,
Redemption
are mine.
Because I,
as bad as they come,
came to know Him.

Acrostic for God...

LIGHT:

Love
Inside/outside
God
Holiness
Trust

Amen,
Brother!
Can you see me?
Don’t let me fall!
Even if I pull away...
Father forgive me.
God have mercy.
Heaven help me.
Inside~outside
Juxtaposition of
Kindness and
Love:
Meaness,
Nasty comments.
Outside, looking in.
Peering in
Questioning my logic,
Resisting my
Soul.
Teach me O Lord.
Use me O Lord.
Vanity all is vanity
X-stacy ... I want
Your
Zeal.

Trust in Jesus.
Reach for a hand.
Use me O Lord.
Save me, my soul is
Thirsty for your light.

TRUST...

Glimpse

The earth shuddered
the skies swirled
in arcing
celestial patterns.

I fell to the ground
awe stricken
as the heavens danced
and Time ceased to be
Wisdom and knowledge
poured forth
and in an instant
I sought
and lost it all.

The universe was righted.
I stood
a mortal speck
in the vastness
of God.

Cage of bone

Here in this cage of bone,
the first sound may have been
laughter;
Booming around
rocking my world
a giddy roller coaster ride
in darkest warmth.
Or perhaps initially
it was the rhythm of a shared pulse
hers linked with mine.
We breathed and lived
as one - not quite two;
but soon.

I hope the first sound
wasn’t crying,
deep mournful breaths
fueling sobs and hiccups,
jarring me
agitating the sea
to tempest fury.

I cannot remember when
I first heard Life beckoning
Waking me
arousing my senses
Luring me to its siren song…

But it called,
Pushing through
the muffled layers
of flesh and bone and fluid
Parting my life
from hers.

Creating desire
within me
to follow the song
to not only see
but hear
and taste
and feel
the world
out on my own.

Perhaps
I did not hear with my ear.
Perhaps
I heard with my heart.

The first initial sound
must have been
the Breath of God
gently breathing
Life into my
Soul.

Act of the Apostle (Lenten Meditations)


jesu

In the darkness, sleeping in a temple of vines and leaves,
They lie, innocent, unaware of impending doom.
I feel it breathing down my neck.
it’s laughter low and insistent.
The fetid breath sour, hot, caressing my flesh...
I am not afraid.
My life was never my own.
My very breath & blood were for others.
Now my job is nearly done.
My fate sealed by the One.
I glance at them, sleeping, chests rising, falling, gently,
gently they lie.
In a foolish human moment, I wish to be one with them.
One with my own life, one with my own soul.
But no, that is not my destiny.
My fate was plotted long before my birth.
Before I was even formed in the womb.
Written from the beginning of time,
I cannot change the inevitable.
I cannot slow the deed.
I must embrace Death, so that all others may have Life.
I must answer to a will other than my own.

juda
Startled, I awaken.
What sound pulled me from slumber?
Cautiously I peer into the blackness.
Surely it is not yet time...
No. They are sleeping. All but Him.
He is quiet.
He prays on ...asking...
What?
Forgiveness? For a life conceived without sin?
Wisdom? He who embodies the mind of God?
Does he know, I wonder,
that I am the one?
The one they will call betrayer...
I am as powerless as he to change destiny.
I did not want this life, this duty.
I was called to give up my Self.
I too was cast and must play the act
until the bitter end.
For 30 pieces of silver I sold my soul.
For 30 pieces of silver I accepted finally,
fearfully,
regretfully
my Role.


jesu
It is morning.
The sun breaks the horizon line.
Hot and sultry
a gleaming disk
lighting the final act of the passion play.
I rise to face them.
They stand away.
Frightened. Unsure. Angry. Menacing. Mourning.
With a slight smile He steps forward.
The devils of a thousand lives gleam within his eyes.
The gentle clink of coins as he walks
plays a vengeful, grievous tune.
His hands grasp my shoulders as he pulls me to him.
Slowly his lips press mine.
His is the breath of hell, fetid ,hot.
The rank air of a dark sealed tomb.
I look at him eyes serpent cold and glittering.
“Peace my teacher” hisses from his lips...
Nausea, I am fighting fear, I am human,
I am afraid Father!
I am just a man. Please...
Please!
But no.
It is time.
Your will, not mine be done.
I must go on.
I must conclude.
I am MAN.
I am ready.
“Peace, my brother” I whisper
knowing it will never be his.
I turn and walk forward
from the arms of man.
Into the heart of God.

In the Desert (Lenten Meditations)

Luke 4: 1-13

Alone in the desert
a scorpion appeared at my feet
small but deadly
yet it sought refuge
in my shadow.
I sat watching
as it grew and took a new form;
shedding its carapace
to reveal a body
like my own,
skin the color of mine,
clothing of linen and flax,
finer than my tattered robe.
He stood before me
emerging from hunger,
from folly
or fantasy or fear.
He held bread for the taking
if only
I would forsake You.
I knew I lived not by bread alone.
I chose you.
He lead me to the lofty dome
where all the world to see
lay before us.
Again, mine for the taking
if only I would forsake you.
Castles, kingdoms, dominions,
but I chose you.
He said to me
“This one you choose
will he save you? Jump, if he is real
you will not fall!”
I left his side. I walked away.
He was no more than a insect,
a scorpion beneath my heel,
powerless,
because I chose you.
Eloi, I chose you.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Life goes on...

Today I finally ventured out after several days of hibernating and hiding from the snow.

I held my girls group, met a client at his psychiatric appointment and basically tried to get my life back in order after losing Buddy Love.

It seems strange not to hear his trill or meeps after over 21 years of living with him.
I keep looking for his black and white figure to stroll through the living room, heading to drink water out of his little blue glass we always kept on the edge of the tub just for him.

The other animals are mourning in their way. Kizzie has taken to sleeping beside Jake the insane clown puppy, obviously indicating she has lost her mind to grief!

Mo actually is handling it better than I thought. Buddy raised Mo from an 8 week old kitten for 15 years. They washed each others' faces and ears, slept side by side, ate side by side and were the most bonded of any of my cats. Mo has wandered around calling a few times, and today I found him sleeping in Buddy's fleece chair. I think Mo knew Buddy was dying. The last few weeks, he stayed by Buddy's side more, sat by him while Buddy ate and followed Bud to the litter boxes. I believe Mo was watching over Buddy and helping him ease out of this life...

The morning I took Buddy to the vet, I didn't know we would be euthanizing him. I think I was just in denial. But after talking with the vet, I knew in my heart what we had to do. Bob showed up while the doc was running a short kidney function test, thus sparing me making the decision alone. In spite to the pain I was feeling, I knew Buddy was ready to go. He was tired. He was struggling to stay alive, he had just stopped eating the day before.

I have an unspoken rule with my sick cats, the day they don't eat their sardines is the day I know its over...

Buddy came to me one Christmas in Brooklyn. He was just a year old and had been living on the streets. My friend Bernadette asked me if I wanted a cat, telling me there was a handsome one hanging out on her porch but he was skittish. If we could catch him she told me I could have him. We walked over together and there he was, sitting in a sunbeam.

"That's him" she said and at that moment he looked at me, trotted over and began twining around my ankles... this skittish cat picked me. I took him home after Bernadette shoved him in a box. He hid under the bed and I crawled under after him. He cuddled up next to me and began to purr; a purr that I fell asleep to almost every night for 21 years.

Buddy traveled to Charleston SC with me and the hubster when we worked the Spoleto festival. At first he liked living on the beach, until fleas took over the house, specifically the ugly shag carpeting. Then he and his first cat friend, Ms. Uh Huh started living on tops of the cabinets. It was several months before we could get Buddy to walk on carpeting again. He would walk the edges or leap from one piece of furniture to another. He learned that biting things lived in carpet and did not like it at all...

Buddy loved women with English accents. Our upstairs neighbor in Brooklyn was from England and he was totally smitten. Buddy Love would spend hours rubbing his cheek on her toes. If I couldn't find him, I would call Laurie and ask if she had Buddy. Inevitably he would be hanging out with her gazing adoringly at her feet.

Buddy had a quietness and steadiness that hid his daring appetite. Buddy once stole a Tandoori chicken leg from my plate when I went to get a refill of my drink. My BB2 fed him pepper cheese and Buddy loved it. Buddy also ate pinto beans once, that was the night we deemed him King of the purr and poot. He loved shrimp, sardines, tuna; but most of all, Buddy loved milk. He would meep for yogurt, ice cream, half and half. Anything we ate with milk in it would find Buddy sitting at our elbow nudging us gently to remind us to leave a bit for him.

Buddy was the most accepting of any animal I brought home. He was the best greeter we ever had. He would just look at me as if to say, "OK, it can stay, just remember who was here first!"

There are many more memories of Buddy that I will share at some point. But for now, these are enough.

All one needs to know is that we were blessed for over 20 years by unconditional love. Buddy was a rare creature; nonjudgmental, loving, peaceful, kind and calm. I would be quite a person if I were half as noble as Buddy Love...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sad news

Dear all,
It is with a heavy heart that I tell you the news. Today we had to euthanize Buddy Love, age 22, our oldest, sweetest cat. We got Buddy as many of you know our first year of marriage when we lived in Brooklyn.

Buddy got to travel a lot more than most cats. He lived a summer in Charleston on Folly Beach, stopped briefly in Durham NC, traveled to KY and Pennsylvania. He spent time at Cedar Hill retreat and loved it.
Buddy had a great life and a peaceful death. We weren't expecting it to be this soon or sudden.
His kidneys started failing and we began fluid treatments. They made him more comfortable at the end of his life.

Last night he began a rapid decline. In my heart I knew what it meant. This morning, Bob and I took our little Buddy Love on his last road trip. He went peacefully surrounded by love and prayers.

He is going to be cremated with his beloved scarf. He took his scarf with him everywhere and it seems only right that it should go with him now. My Mum in law made the scarf for me, but Buddy claimed it and loved it fiercely.

If you ever met Buddy then you have seen unconditional love in action. I ask that you all remember his life with joy and love. He was a blessing to us for almost 22 years and I am ever grateful for the lessons he taught me.

Love and peace to all.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

In remembrance of Molly

It has been over a year since Molly left us. Jake has grown from an irritating 10 pound puppy to an irritating but lovable 75 pound puppy who has some of Molly's sweetness. I would like to think she passed a bit of her wisdom on to him.

A few nights ago I dreamed of her. Molly came up beside me as I lay sleeping and began to lick my hand. In the dream I looked at her and exclaimed, "Molly are you okay?"
She said (in her Molly voice), "Mama I am fine, I don't hurt and I can run again!"
I awoke with tears on my face.

It was one of those dreams that did not seem like a dream but like a visit. I want to believe she is okay, that her spirit lives on elsewhere and that I will see her again and we will run together.

Then today I found this poem. I had forgotten I had written it. I love her still and miss her even now...

Molly

The sun is setting
lavender,
rose and
cobalt ribbons
a golden ball
in a dying sky.

She lies panting
her russet sides
heaving
her eyes closed,
her paws move in
dreamlike chase
of rabbits
squirrels
or deer…

She is dying,
my dog.
Her days shortening
like the summer
that is ending
outside my window.

The leaves are changing
to match her coat
rust, brown,
golden red,
soon I could lose her
in the woods
were she to lie down
amidst the piles
of oak and maple
leaves.

She has been by my side
in summer heat,
winter cold.
She has listened
to my human tales of woe
and leaned so fiercely into me
that I could not fall
though my world was crumbling.

She has walked with me
her life entwined with mine,
a companion, a pet,
a friend, a healer of my heart.
I watched as she has grown older
her instincts dimming,
her hearing gone,
her steps slowed by pain,
no longer the pup running
to greet the rain
digging up the flowerbeds
or chasing her beautiful
full tail
she is dying now,
my dog.

She deserves mercy.
she deserves peace.
She deserves all the love
I can give her.
I hope I can be brave;
I hope I can be strong;
I hope when it is time
I can let her go.

Temptation

Alone in the desert
a scorpion appeared at my feet
small but deadly
yet it sought refuge
in my shadow.
I sat watching
as it grew and took a new form
shedding its carapace
to reveal a body
like my own
skin the color of mine
clothing of linen and flax
finer than my tattered robe.
He stood before me
emerging from hunger
from folly
or fantasy or fear,
he held bread for the taking
if only
I would forsake You.
I knew I lived not by bread alone.
I chose you.
He lead me to the lofty dome
where all the world to see
lay before us
mine for the taking
if only I would forsake you.
Castles, kingdoms, dominions,
but I chose you.
He said to me
“This one you choose
will he save you?
Jump, if he is real
you will not fall!”
I left his side. I walked away.
He was no more than a insect,
a scorpion beneath my heel,
powerless,
because I chose you.
Eloi, I chose you.

~ Martha Parks Johnson

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Realize: to make real; give reality to (a hope, fear, plan, etc.)...

re⋅al⋅ize
  /ˈriəˌlaɪz/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [ree-uh-lahyz] Show IPA verb, -ized, -iz⋅ing.

–verb (used with object)
1. to grasp or understand clearly.
2. to make real; give reality to (a hope, fear, plan, etc.).
3. to bring vividly to the mind.
4. to convert into cash or money: to realize securities.
5. to obtain as a profit or income for oneself by trade, labor, or investment.
6. to bring as proceeds, as from a sale: The goods realized $1000.
7. Music. to sight-read on a keyboard instrument or write out in notation the full harmony and ornamentation indicated by (a figured bass).
8. Linguistics. to serve as an instance, representation, or embodiment of (an abstract linguistic element or category): In “Jack tripped,” the subject is realized by “Jack,” the predicate by “tripped,” and the past tense by “-ed.”
–verb (used without object)
9. to convert property or goods into cash or money.

To make real...

This year has held a lot of reality for me. But I have not always "realized" the benefits or grace that has occurred for me.

As with many people, 2009 was a very difficult year. The hubster didn't work much, a by product of the economy and recession. We lost Molly Dawg on the eve of 2009 and our beloved Sniffy Pie in February. Dennis the fish also left the realm.

I went through a pretty serious depression complete with anxiety attacks. I watched as other family members struggled with similar and dissimilar things...

HOWEVER I am slowing realizing (making real in my mind and heart) that good things have come from 2009.

I have had to learn to let go of "stuff", material goods that are not the people who bestowed them upon me, things that are just things...

I have had to accept help from others. I couldn't do it by myself anymore. This has been the hardest lesson to realize of all.
I want to be able to take care of myself and everyone and everything around me and never ever ask for help or anything else. I am that stubborn. Its a family thing...

But I couldn't do it anymore this past year. I ran out of resources, hope and energy.
I felt weak, helpless and ashamed.
It is only now that I realized I was human, hurting and loved.

My family more than once stepped forward and helped me. My mum in law came down two times and stayed as long as I needed, doing laundry, drying tears, cooking, coping w/ me and holding me up.

My brothers and sister and spouses have dried tears, prayed, dug me out of several holes and always, ALWAYS were there without hesitation and unconditional love.

New Years Eve I sat crying, talking to my sister & brother in law when it hit me how much they loved me.

Therein lay the problem I realized. I felt undeserving of such love. I realized too if my family loved me this much then God loved me just as much if not more.

How does one accept that? How does one start to believe they are deserving of such love? How does one ever repay that kind of love?

I have no answers yet. I don't know how I will repay the family and friends who love me that much. I still am having difficulty wrapping my mind around deserving love as broken and wounded and human as I am.

Because no one, NO ONE has asked me to be different, to change, to even repay them.

I don't feel worthy, because I know my faults, my frailty, my weaknesses and my dark side. I sometimes feel if everyone knew how weak I was, they wouldn't love me. Yet, incredibly they do.

I am finally, maybe, realizing (giving reality to a hope, a fear, a plan...) that I am too worthy of receiving love, not just giving it.

Thank you Mum, Bob J. Bob M., Bobbie, Paul, Debbie, Bobbie Jo, Doug, Mark, Melissa, Leslie, Debbie, Diane, Donna E, Tim, Bonnie, Sandy, Members of St. Martha's, St. Michaels, Advent, co workers and friends too numerous to name.
Thank you all for sticking with me through the worst year of my life and making sure I got to 2010.

I could have done it alone and thanks to all of you, I didn't have to. And I won't have to make it alone in 2010.

I love you all more than I can ever say or do.

May you realize how grateful I am and ever shall be.

Mary Martha