Tuesday, December 6, 2011

At last...

I haven't blogged for a long time. I was so overwhelmed I couldn't find words to express myself. The past 2 years have caught up with me and I grew weary of hearing my own story. When I look back at the blog, I see so much loss, so much grief...

But the tide is turning. I still mourn my lost loved ones but I have turned a corner. I passed my LCSW (licensed clinical social worker) exam. This has been a goal since I returned to grad school back in 2004. I knew then I wanted to be a therapist, and I wanted to earn my LCSW license by the time I turned 50.
Life took a couple of turns and I ended up earning it when I was 51, a year off, but goal achieved!

The hubster is doing really well. He ran a 1/2 marathon and is working part time at the YMCA. We have a 3rd dog, Taz, a blue heeler. He was my brother's dog and has come to stay with us while BB2 travels America in his RV.

We are moved but not totally unpacked, however we are settling in nicely. We have a cozy den lined with books. We have divided the house between cat land and dog world and everyone seems to be dealing well.

I am looking forward to 2012...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mr. Bones

This is a poem I wrote many years ago before so many deaths had occurred in my family. I found it today, its a little rough, a little irreverent, but kind of interesting...

He comes at night
a shadow to fear.
A light tap on the shoulder
and they disappear.

He strolls the garden
in earliest morn
his robe dew damped
bedraggled, worn.

He dances away
the minutes of day
Tick Tocking
Time to Decay.

Mr. Bones
comes a'tappin'
Took my love
whilst he was nappin'

Be gone, Fine Death
come no more
to take my love
my soul no more...


Today I walked among the dead,
resting quietly in their graves.
I wandered among them
speaking aloud
a name
a date
a sentiment,
carved in coldest stone.
Speaking them into being
for just a moment
just a breath of time.

It is peaceful
away from the living.
The quiet broken
only by birdsong,
breezes rustling
the leaves beneath my feet.

Sun warmed granite
rough to my touch.
cool even at midday
with the sun arching
over us all
warming the cold ground
beneath me
above them.

I embrace the solitude.
I revel in the peace that flows
across time and being.

I have no fear.
I have no quarrels with the dead.
It is the living that presume.

Beautiful Boys

I work with a lot of teenage boys. They are awesome in ways I never imagined. Bold. Strong. Fragile. Insightful. Forgetful.

They are dreamers, schemers and preeners.

I feel for these kids. They have had tough lives, spent years with people labeling them as stupid, dumb, just another redneck/gangbanger/poor white trash/poor black/stoner/trailer trash kid...

They are not those labels.

They are scared. They put up a tough front and that scares some people. But I choose not to be afraid of them. I talk, I listen, I praise them. They sometimes blush at the praise and grow silent. I don't think they know how to respond to kindness or positive words. They only know the negative. That they can respond to, they can get angry, they can hit, they can yell, they can lash out...

But kindness, that catches them unprepared. That throws them at times. But I don't stop. I keep telling them what they do right. I praise their efforts, I celebrate every success however small.

Today I met with two of my boys. Two boys the school staff told me were incorrigible. Two boys the staff had given up on. Two boys on probation in court. Two boys they warned me I should be afraid of because of their anger and violence.

One holds the door for me, answers "Yes M'aam", "No M'aam". The other who looms over me, waits til I am seated before he sits. In telling about a rough day, he cannot bring himself to curse in front of me, instead saying, "Ms. Martha then I said the "f" word."

Today I reviewed their grades. Both were passing all the classes for the term. Only one F for the nine weeks and that will be brought up when more homework is turned in. I praised them for their efforts. I told them I knew how hard they had worked. I said, "I am so proud of you!" and I meant it. Both blushed. One said he was proud of himself. I broke out in a big grin and laughed with happiness. This was a kid who had once said his purpose on Earth was to feel pain, and today he was beaming with joy.

I can't take the credit. They did the work. They made the effort. They were the ones who chose to change. All I did was listen and tell them the truth about themselves. They are winners, they are strong, they are all beautiful boys...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What love looks like.

I realized he was the age I am now when she entered his life. He had been lonely for a while, had been to dark places in his mind and felt his heart would never know love again.

On their first date he took her a red rose.

They shyly introduced each other as "my sweetheart".

Their children, all in their teens and twenties, began to accept each other as siblings. Then they began to have grandchildren. The two of them became "Pa" and "Mammy". They became ever more happy.

When they had time and the day began to cool, they would walk the boundary fences of the farm. Talking, laughing or maybe just being silent, holding hands as they walked beneath the glorious sunsets.

He built a porch on the side of their home. This is where they would sit in the mornings drinking coffee together peacefully, watching as does and fawns emerged from the woods to greet the light of morning.

She would jump into his truck in her jeans and flip flops,  not caring what she wore or that her hair would get messed up as they roared down country roads. She just wanted to be with him and he was glad.

They planted gardens, harvested the yield and cooked and canned it together in their kitchen, laughing and joking. They sneaked in  hugs and kisses between the beets boiling and the corn roasting on the grill.

She kept their home clean and orderly, not letting chaos into their lives, tossing out stuff with no meaning, letting in only that which was beautiful and precious.

Together they carved out happiness despite setbacks and worries. He preached in a church that needed them. He built onto it and she was happy to help in any way she could. She attended every Sunday she didn't work, singing and praising God as he stood behind the pulpit, telling of his love of Jesus, a humble man doing a mighty work.

Too soon though, a shadow crossed their path. It loomed larger and larger until finally it had a name. Cancer. Together they fought it. So many treatments. So many pills. So many tears.

But even through this dark time, she stayed. She walked with him when she could. She held his hand. Together they laughed and prayed and cried. She brought her radiant smile into his darkened room every day. She kept the children, grandchildren, siblings and church family strong and believing in a miracle by her example of faith and perseverance. She taught us to have faith despite all odds.

When the Cancer got worse, she did not stray from her faith or from him. Every moment she stayed by his side. Helping him to face the inevitable. Calming his fears, drying his tears, holding his hand. She called the family and let us into their intimate world, that thin place where Life and Death stood shoulder to shoulder, waging war over his body but not his soul because she reminded us again an again, his soul belonged to Jesus. And we knew his heart belonged to her.

On the day he died, she was there. Holding him, whispering prayers, loving him and finally telling him it was okay to go, she would go on even as her own heart was breaking, shattering into a million pieces with a pain sharp as glass, tears flowing down her face, bright trails of sorrow.

He left this world surrounded by love and prayers and went Home to his Maker. She went home to an empty house where their love had lived and grown into something bigger than all of us could fathom. She went back to work. She cleaned the cabinets, swept the floor. She kept chaos at bay. She goes on even now, showing us again what Grace and Mercy look like in action. She continues to be an example of Faith. She is bravely walking into the void, holding tight to memories, carving out a different life than she had planned, holding strong even as she cries.

She lives her life as a beacon of light to the rest of us. She is what Love looks like.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

This too shall pass.

It is a quiet Saturday morning. I have awakened from dreams that were like long pleasant movies filled with laughter and friends. In these dreams there is sunshine, beautiful forests, lakes that are blue and clear. I talk with friends and cannot tell if I am actually awake or dreaming. Lovely.

For the past two years I have had anxiety dreams, waking up in panic, drenched in sweat with my heart racing. I usually cry.

For two years my life has spun wildly out of control. Cancer, death, foreclosure, fear, anxiety have swirled through both my waking and sleeping life. I have hung on to the power of my faith with the love of family, the support from co workers and bosses, the aid of a good therapist and psychiatrist and sheer determination not to be beaten down.

Cancer has taken several loved ones in the past year, but the love we shared lives on. Their spirits are shining and strong, dancing in Heaven. The house is gone, handed over to a young man willing to take on the challenges of maintaining and improving upon a house with "good bones". We are settling into a smaller, more efficient home. Fear and anxiety are drifting away.

I feel with each loss there came a new beginning. A new birth into a different life. A friend sent me a quote that in essence stated that rock bottom is a good start for a firm foundation. I feel that my feet are back under me. I feel that I can sort out the debris of the 2 years of chaos without dissolving into a weeping mess. I believe that I can start over, keeping the precious while casting out the unnecessary.

For two years I have repeated over and over "This too shall pass." And it has.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Robert III

Today I am grateful for endings and beginnings.

We closed on the old house. A young man named Robert bought it as his first home. I had not met him but the hubster had. He was rooting for this person to buy our house. The husbster told me that Robert listened to as the husband told our story, walked through the house at a non-peak time and still saw something that spoke to him.

Young Robert worked hard to secure financing and finally today, closed on what is now his house.

As I handed him the keys, it occurred to me that it was right and fitting that he should take over the house. We bought the house from a man named Robert, the hubster was always called Robert (not Bob which he goes by usually) by the neighbors. And now a third Robert shall reside in the house.

I think our prayers were answered and once again, God showed his sense of humor by sending another "Bob" into our lives.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Goodbye 1038

Yesterday I sat in the old house and burst into tears. Today, I locked the door and walked away.

So much was going through my mind: loss, sorrow, shame, frustration, memories and more.

The house is in pretty rough shape.  With the pictures off the wall, the furniture gone, the curtains hanging in the new house, every little flaw is obvious. Every room needs painting, the floors need refinishing and the whole house needs a lot of TLC.

I remembered when we first walked through the house, newly painted and fresh 15 years ago. I remember wandering room to room planning our future. We even brought a bucket of KFC and had a picnic on the empty living room floor. I remember the possibility of it all. We were in our mid thirties and had finally bought a house! We sat and laughed, dreamed and planned. Then Life happened.

Jobs were lost and income varied. We made what we thought were good decisions but turned out to be serious mistakes. Finally the recession caught us and then the husbster got cancer. Everything changed in 2008 and I gave up on the house. I did fight for it for a couple of years all the while ignoring the debris, the gloom and the deterioration of it. I fought with blinders on.

Today I sat surrounded by the reality of dreams that never came to be.  The walls never got painted in cheerful colors. The floors never got refinished and show 15 years of life with pets. The house echoes with my sobs. Outside, in symphony with my crying, it thunders and the rain begins, I remember so many times sitting and listening to the rain in this house. I loved that we could hear the train whistle and the rumble of the cars as it passed a few blocks away while the scent of lilacs drifted through the open window. I remember the relief of coming home after a long day at work to be greeted by my husbter and pets.

I miss all the pets that we had in that house, Higgy, Sniffypie, Mo, Buddy, Molly, Dennis the fish... I walked through each room remembering funny things they did. I find old cat toys and dog chewies in out of the way places. I see grooves where Buddy scratched the 2x4 studs in the basement, sharpening his claws for 14 years. I see the corners of walls  Higgy marked by rubbing his cheeks against them leaving a faint brown mark about 12 inches above the floor. I feel their ghosts around me, circling as memories that are both joyful and heart rending.

I cried for the 30 something couple starting out full of hope and promise and the 50ish couple we have become. We are older, wiser and closer having survived the hubster's cancer and we are starting on a new journey. But first we must dispose of the debris of the prior stopping place. There is so much stuff. So much that we have held on to, hoarded, ignored. Stuff we thought we would use someday and now have no space for. Things I found or bought planning to fix up and incorporate into our home. Projects that never got completed and now are destined for a garage sale or dumpster.

Finally we have everything out. The floors are swept clean. The blinds are lowered and lights are turned off. I don't walk through the rooms one last time. I need no more pain. I remember the frustrations, the fear, the anxiety of the past two years. Two years of fighting with the bank over refinancing,  scared to death we would be homeless. I recall the day the hubster walked up to me in the living room and said, "Hey, Em, can you look at this?" and saw the huge lump that would be diagnosed as Stage IV squamous cell carcinoma. I remember that this is the house where we got the phone calls that told us that my aunt, my brother, my cousin and my friend Alan also were diagnosed with Stage IV cancer the same month as the hubster. I remember that this is the house where we decided when it was time to let go of our suffering pets and returned later with a box of ashes.

Over the past few days I have become physically ill walking into the house. I thought it was the heat but now I wonder if it wasn't the last of my anger and bitterness working its way out.

The closing is in two days. But I have already signed off on this house.

I pray that the new owners who saw the potential as we did once, can actually make their dreams come true. I hope they can hear the echoes of laughter and love and not see the shadows and suffering we endured. I hope they will be happy and the house will bloom with their care.


Sunday, July 3, 2011


Apostle: "...followers of Jesus who carried the Christian message into the world".
Robert Douglas MacArthur Parks born January 4th ,1945, died June 27th, 2011 was one of God's most little known but most glorious Apostles.

My brother has finished his work on this earth. We laid him to rest underneath the same cedar tree that shades my daddy and mama's graves. He is buried on the right hand side of our father and I believe he sits with Jesus on the right hand side of the Father in Heaven.

Some may have considered my brother a simple man: fooled by his simple life. But his life was not simple nor easy. He suffered countless physical injuries, emotional pain and failures. He fell many times but he always got back up. He did not stay down. He kept striving and did not give up. He fought Death and the Devil many times and won.

He finally lost this life to cancer, but won eternal life in Heaven.

I marvel at his faith. I have never known anyone to live his faith more fully than he did. He was a preacher but not all his sermons happened in church. His entire life was a sermon. No one had to ask if he was a Christian, they just had to watch him live his life to know.

He was humble. He didn't expect a big turnout for his funeral. But the people kept coming. They came to the visitation starting a 1 and the last one left at 10 that night. On the day of his funeral, they overflowed the chapel, sat in the entry hall and the living room of the funeral director. He left behind a grieving but loving widow, five children, eight grandchildren, one brother, two sisters and too many friends and relatives to count. He has left a large hole in a small town.

There were many tears and much laughter. And so much love. So much love. The room was filled with waves of love and caring for this man I called brother. I knew the depths of my own grief and saw it matched by the grief of our biological family, his church family, his community. I realized he had touched lives that most of us knew nothing about. Flowers came from people none of us knew with cards thanking God for Doug being there in their time of need. He went places none of us could have gone...

He raised two amazing children, his son a preacher and his daughter a teacher. Both of them touch lives daily, blessing all they come in contact with. He claimed his wife's children as his own. He never referred to them as "stepchildren"; they were the children of his heart. He loved them fiercely and proudly. He just loved people that way.

Many things happened this past week since he departed this earthly home. Things I will have to mull over before I can put words to paper. Things I need to hold close a little longer. Things that are still shrouded in mystery and tears: seeing old friends from childhood, listening to the stories of our family, realizing how blessed I am to have been born into the family I was born into. I noticed many details: the shape of someone's eyes, the color of hair, a laugh like my mother's, a great niece sobbing that sounded exactly like her mother at that age... intangible things that break my heart even as I rejoice in them. They are all in my heart and I am mulling them over, trying to find the words...

Some things became clear to me. Some were revelations that were comforting. I had felt guilty that I was not there when my brother passed. Until I realized that my sister who was there when he was born at home in a tiny house in the woods, one of the first to ever see him, was there when he left. It was only fitting and proper that she should witness his birth and death: for he loved his big sister and she loved him.

His children and wife were with him too. He was surrounded by love and prayers. What better way to leave this world?

On the morning of his death, unbeknownst to any but me and God, I prayed that my mama would be there to greet him when he crossed over. I felt a little foolish praying that. Until my sister told me that his last words before he died were "My Mama".  I knew that prayer had been answered.

God did not cure my brother of cancer, but I have no doubt whatsoever that he is healed. I know I will miss him as will all the family, but I would not want him to stay and suffer one moment longer.

My brother carried the word of God into a sometimes hostile, disbelieving world. He started churches and left them to others when it was time. He moved in a world of faith and prayer. He did not care what others thought, he only cared what God thought. He wanted to share the love of the Lord that he experienced with everyone he met. He wanted others to know the peace that passeth understanding. Peace in the midst of trouble and toil. Peace that overcame the pain of cancer. Peace that would not die when he did.

During the eulogy his son turned to us all and asked, "Can you feel the Peace?"

And yes, I could.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A thin place...

"What is a thin place?  To discern the difference between an ordinary place and a thin place, one must use a spiritual perspective.  In simple terms a ‘thin place’ is a place where the veil between this world and the Other world is thin, the Other world is more near.  This meaning assumes the perceiver senses the existence of a world beyond  what we know through our five senses.  Since the times of ancient civilization the fascination with the "Other world" has occupied human minds.  To some it is heaven, the kingdom, paradise.  To others it may be hell, an abyss, the unknown.  Whatever you perceive the Other world to be, a thin place is a place where connection to that world seems effortless, and ephemeral signs of its existence are almost palpable. 

Mahatma Ghandi in his Spiritual Message to the World in 1931, speaks of this.

“There is an indefinable, mysterious power that pervades everything.  I feel it, though I do not see it.  It is this unseen power that makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses.  It transcends the senses”

Truth abides in thin places; naked, raw, hard to face truth.  Yet the comfort, safety and strength to face that truth also abides there.  Thin places captivate our imagination, yet diminish our existence.  We become very small, yet we gain connection and become part of something larger than we can perceive.   The human spirit is awakened and will grow if the body and mind allow it.  Simply put, a thin place is a place where one feels that mysterious power Ghandi refers to.  Ghandi believed (and stated later in the same speech), that the mysterious power was God.

Thin places should not be confused with thin moments, those being times when that mysterious power is felt during a particular experience or synchronistic course of events such as the birth of a child, the return of a loved one, reconciliation with an enemy or spiritual awakening.  A thin place is simply that – a PLACE where the veil is thin.  The place itself calls you, draws you into itself, transports you into the presence of the world beyond this world.  The thinness of place moves you into the presence of the mysterious power.  There, all things you perceive through your senses are charged, electrified, illuminated with the presence of that power.

Describing the meaning of thin place is like describing love, fear, the feeling of holding your newborn child, the existence of God.  All attempts are feeble and all talk is cheap.  Understanding marries  experience and full understanding is almost never achieved.  

In truth, however, once you’ve been in a thin place and allowed your spirit to absorb  that which transcends the senses, all need for definition ceases.  Our spirits learn differently than our minds.  All through our lives we walk through these places.  Some people notice the thinness.  Some do not.  Yet the idea of "thin places" is not new.  Memorials - made by humans  - have been marking thin places for thousands of years.  Ancient people, especially in Ireland and Britain were forever marking spaces as sacred and worth remembering, as if to say, "something special happened here." 
Mindie Burgoyne
Copyright, 2001, 2007 by Trinity Publications 

I think that my brother is in a thin place at this time. He is in the hospital, surrounded by family, love and prayers. He sleeps a lot, eats little. He still knows us, still spreads the message of a loving and good God, despite the cancer ravaging his body. He is more Spirit than flesh as the days go by. 

I was blessed to spend Father's day weekend with him. To see all the children and grandchildren come in, give him cards, hugs and kisses, laugh with him and cry with him. Love abounds. 

He is tired, my brother. He has worked hard all his life, suffered much, loved much and shown all of our family a fine example of what a good man is. I love him so much. He has long been one of my heroes; human, fallible, but always getting up more times than he has fallen down. He taught me to persevere when times are tough, to keep trying and believing. He showed me what faith looks like. He has shown me love and forgiveness. Now he is showing me how to die with dignity. 

I don't want him to go. I want him to live to be an old, old man. But that is not God's will. I don't understand and realize asking "why?" will never be answered. 

Wondering why he has had a hard life, why he must suffer now yields no answers, only more questions...

Why do people suffer? I had a thought that it was not for themselves, but for us, the ones around them so that we might learn compassion, empathy and realize how much we love, how much we can love, if we only allow ourselves. Suffering connects us in a way joy never could. We feel others pain but share their joy. Pain is more personal, more real, more tangible. When a loved one hurts, we hurt with them on a deep visceral level. 

Pain connects us to the Christ, who also suffered. We can relate to the agony, the brokenness, the humanity of a God who suffers more than we can relate to an innocent babe. Life is not easy. Life is messy, complicated, full of fear, pain, broken hearts and tears. But it is also full of love so deep that it transforms a sterile hospital room into a room of Heaven, where we all are more spirit than flesh, where we hold one another in our hearts, where we surround a dying man with so much love the room ceases to be a room and instead becomes a thin place, holy and sacred...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

It's just a rug

Not the actual rug... that one is gone...

In our attempts to pack and move I have been experiencing anxiety and depression...
There is so much stuff that I had deemed important and worth keeping. Now I look at it and realize, no it's not important and I must let it go.

Some things have been easy. One can only hoard so many empty butter tubs before it becomes ridiculous.

Some have been harder. Last night I carried an old, faded, falling apart rag rug to the garbage bin. It had been in my mother's home when I was a teenager. She had put it in my room and every morning my bare feet would hit the soft cotton and I would stand there a minute orienting myself to the day ahead. I left for college and the rug stayed waiting for my weekend visits and holidays home.

After I moved to NYC and got married my mother died. On that trip home I packed up the remainders of my childhood, including the rug and took it all back to what was now "home". The rug traveled through every apartment in NY that the hubster and I shared. It traveled back to KY when we returned. All our pets over the years have slept on it. It began to show its wear and tear after one too many trips through the washer and dryer. Still I kept it, clung to it. It became "shabby chic" then just shabby. It was past the point of repair.

Finally last night I held it up, the braids were frayed and unraveling, I contemplated trying to mend it. There was no way to undo what time, 7 cats, 3 dogs and 2 humans had done to the rug. It was time to let go.

I folded it over my arm, my fingers caressing the oh so soft faded cotton, I walked into the dark rainy night and placed it gently in the trash bin. I closed the lid on a rug, but held onto the love, the memories and the feel of soft cotton under my feet.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A tough day for my boys...

I love my job as I have stated before. But yesterday was the toughest day in a stretch of tough days...

All my clients are teenagers and over half are teen males. I adore them all. But the boys break my heart at times.

These past 2 weeks all my clients (4) at one particular school have been in ISS (in school suspension). Some have had the school file beyond control charges against them. When I meet with the staff, they are angry with these kids, very very angry. They tell me they have given up on them, in front of them. The staff tells me in private, the kids are pulling a fast one with me and are not telling me the truth in our sessions; that they are wasting my time; that there is no help or hope for these boys.

They are not in my sessions. They do not see when a "macho punk" breaks down and cries, asking me politely for tissues which I go get. They don't see the pain and despair in their eyes when they are talking about how they are afraid the judge is going to remove them from their homes and send them away. They don't know that underneath the bravado, there is a wounded child wanting some one to listen without judging.

Also they never get to hear the funny, cute stories. They never get to witness when one of the boys realizes some truth for the first time and their eyes light up and they beam. The never get to see how they respond to positive reinforcement or praise for accepting responsibility for their actions.

I know at times they lie to me. Everyone lies. But I figure that it will take a while before they realize they can tell me the truth and know I will not yell at them; that I will accept it and help them to figure out what to do to rectify the situation.

The staff is not there when I go into the homes and see the barren shelves and no food in the house. Or when the parents sit there, struggling to provide for their kids when they have no money, no job, no way out of the poverty cycle; when the parents depend on the kids to help with the bills, help with the chores, help with survival.

I don't blame the staff. They are overwhelmed. They have so little time and so many kids. One staff member was in tears yesterday. I could see the fatigue and frustration in her eyes as she met me to take my client back to ISS. I feel for them too. I could not do their job any more than they would want to do mine. We all have our place in these boys' lives. I know they need discipline, I know they need to be accountable for their actions, I know they lie and deflect and at times hate therapy. But I also know I can't give up on them when everyone else has. Too many people never gave up on me and while I can never repay them, I can take their compassion and mercy forward and gift it to the boys as it was gifted to me.

They are not bad boys. They are hurting boys...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Forgiveness on my mind

"I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

I have mixed emotions about the news. I mourned on 9/11 as I had lived 11 years in NYC, but while I do not mourn his death, I do not celebrate it either...

On 9/11 I remember asking what would happen if we forgave instead of going to war? I got no answers then, and I still question what would happen if a love so big would forgive atrocities? Would it not only change us, but also the enemy, as they would feel mercy and forgiveness at a level never known except for the Christ?

And could I forgive so great a wound? Have I shown that level of mercy in the world? I know I have shown compassion. I have shown love. But have I had to forgive such a great fault?

As a person of faith, I realize I am the beneficiary of great mercy and forgiveness and I am humbled by salvation.

I may be unable to fulfill the act of forgiveness, but shouldn't I at least try?

I long for a world where we lose our egos, we care more for one another than ourselves and we strive to love unconditionally and forgive as we would like to be forgiven...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Doing the right thing.

I have rarely had to be the deciding factor in important matters. I have made a lot of decisions in my life, but they mostly affected me. Now, in my job, I make decisions that affect families. It is an overwhelming realization that I hold a family's life in my hands. I pray a lot. I consider the facts. I try to keep my heart out of it. That is the hard part. It is said our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness. I have come to realize that compassion is both my strength and weakness. I care. Sometimes I care at a personal cost to myself. I grieve a lot for other people. It does take a toll. But it is worth it, if I can help the world to be a little safer, kinder, calmer.

This week I did an assessment regarding whether 3 children should return to their father. There were so many issues. So many concerns. I interviewed all the children, their guardians, the father. I laid out the facts. I tried to see all the "what ifs", the possibilities and the unintended consequences. In the end I said "No, not yet." First X, Y and Z must occur to ensure everyone's needs are met and the reunification is safe and successful. I had my supervisors guiding me, supporting me, but still the signature at the bottom of the court documents is mine.

I was able to come up with some interventions that the Cabinet had not thought of and will most likely implement to ensure success in the future.

But for the here and now, no. They are unable to reunite as a family. I know it was the right thing to do. I know that I was working for the greater good. But I also know there will be tears and disappointment. With my name on it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Shadows and Shinies

This winter has been long, cold and dark. I have been fighting my depression and anxiety again.
They almost won.
I hate when I get into this state. I have no control, I am irrational and fearful of everything. I am overwhelmed.
I tried to wean off my meds. Big mistake. I became a blithering idiot. I couldn't stop crying. I was afraid of "EVERYTHING".
I would cry and apologize and repeat over and over, "I HATE THIS" to the hubster.
He understands.
He's seen the shadows too.
There have been too many shadows lately. Cancer casts a long, hateful darkness over my family and friends. The Bank looms over our house. The world has seemed pretty bleak.
But there are shinies awaiting. The Bradford pears are blooming. The Redbuds are out. The family next door to where we are moving have a Golden Retriever that looks as if it could be Jake's grandpa.
I am awaiting the coming of spring. And taking my meds again. I can wean off later...

Monday, March 14, 2011


A red leather recliner 
that became a dragon at night.
A clawfoot tub that wandered
and danced.
A white coffee cup
into which went 3 spoons of sugar,
swirled and swirled, 
the spoon clink, clink, clinking.

A door that closed on my past
but opened to my future.
A home in my dreams
that I revisit again and again.
Ordinary objects.
Glimpses of daily life
that haunt my sleep,
linger in my day,
making me long
for the life that was.

Reliving moments,
Reliving time.
Reveling with ghosts
who live in my mind.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

An Expectation of Spring

Bands of light and shadow
play against the trees,
the sun setting behind fences
lining the lonesome road.
A hawk sits high on the wires
stretching from farm to farm
linking lives unknown.
Surveying the field
for a mouse, vole or shrew,
He waits in solitude
calm, deliberate, deadly.
The fields lie fallow
with an expectation of spring.
Snow clings desperately in the shadow
of hillock and furrows
refusing to yield to the sun's warmth.
Only an fleeting glimpse of green
promises that resurrection is near.
I watch the hawk,
sitting high above me
as I stand in the curve of road.
He turns his head and for a moment
we see one another,
eye to eye.
His amber glance seems a harbinger
of warmer days and lingering light,
before he breaks away and soars
lost against the glare
of the setting sun,
flying into the darkening night.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday ramblings

It's been a long strange week since we lost our little Mo.

Maggie the insane cat has been moved downstairs, equipped with a magical "Anti anxiety" pheromone collar that seems to actually be working. She is still a bit schizoid alternately loving and fearful but the fear is lessening.

Mo was her main adversary and they fought anytime they had contact. Kizzie just ignores her as she does the rest of the household until she is hungry. Jake finds her endlessly fascinating...

The Hubster and I have had glimpses of each other this week. Work has been the frantic end of the month scramble to see clients despite the snow, ice and school closings. The hubster has started rehearsing a play. His energy is still not up to long days so he rests when he can, works when he can, but all in all is making progress.

I have been sorting and letting go of things. Slowly. Transition is hard for me. But last Saturday I spent time at the other house with my sister, laughing, talking, peeling wall paper... just being with her helped ease the grief I was feeling.

My sister has been and still is my champion and my hero. Now that we are more peers than big sis and little sis, our relationship has only deepened. I cannot imagine my life without my siblings. My brothers are awesome men, each different but so admirable in their strengths.

I love my family. Last week I took part in a research project and at the end we had to fill out a survey about our family life... I have a great family. Looking back over my answers I saw a pattern: love and respect for each other. Not to say we didn't disagree or fight, but we forgave and loved each other no matter what. It was interesting to see in black and white what I have always known in my heart.

I am blessed to have never known a day without love in my life. Not everyone can say that. I realize how very rare it is. Even thought loss creates a deep pain, a rending of the heart, I know without doubt that the depth of my sorrow is so deep only because that was the depth of love that I knew...

Someone once asked me if it was worth it, loving so deeply and hurting so hard.
I answered without hesitation. Yes, it is. Love is always worth the pain. Always. Because eventually the pain dulls, but the Love never dims, never leaves. The Love always remains...

Monday, January 24, 2011


by Martha Parks Johnson

The first snow would fall
in the secret of night.
I’d wake to find
A wonderland of white ice.
My breath would lightly
frost  the window
and I would hug my quilt tight
as Daddy stirred the sleeping
embers of fire
into waking blaze.

Later bundled in his old Pea jacket
in boots a size too large
I would step the first step
into the hushed wilderness.
I would wander throughout
the field discovering tracks
of squirrel and fox,
pausing to see
the tiny chit chit scratching
of chickadee and wren.

In the orchard
trees were black against
the aching whiteness,
stark and gnarled like an
old man’s hand upon his cane.
The cedars feathery and green
defiant in their vividness
danced along fence rows
as I clapped with delight
startling the jays and grackles
into flight , dark specters
against the jewel blue of sky.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Another hard day...

I arrived early one morning at the vet clinic where I used to work to find a box of kittens in front of the door. I carried them in, mewing and purring. The first one out of the box was a little bit of nothing black and white fluff. He looked me in the eye as if to say "Well, Here I am! Are you going to feed us or what?"
Little cat with a big attitude. Inside the box were 4 others, all flame point siamese. Someone's show girl kitty must have gotten loose one night and had a party.
Of course the little odd one came home with me. He was MO, for "one mo' cat or no mo' cats" but of course that didn't happen either. But he was always the alpha cat in the house. He was the first one out to greet people, popping up into their laps to say Welcome. He was the eternal kitten~ given to wild running jags through the house, leaping into the air from chair to chair...
He loved to play with toys, chasing things for hours. He graciously accepted others into the house but always let them know he was the boss.
He and Buddy Love were the bonded pair. Always snuggled together, sharing a basket, a sunbeam, a bed. For years the two of them slept with me and the hubster, curled between us, purring us to sleep.
As the years went by, both Buddy and Mo began to age. To slow down a bit. But still strong personalities making known that they were the top cats.
Buddy finally succumbed to renal failure last year at age 22. Mo seemed a bit lost without his life long Buddy. Suddenly it seemed to us, Mo turned into a little old man cat. He slept more, played less. Didn't harass the other animals as much, even stopped hissing at Jake.
Then he became ill, a serious round of pancreatitis that nearly did him in. He lost a lot of weight. He was never over 8 pounds but was now down to 5 pounds. He spent lots of time purring my husbter through cancer treatments. He spent hours in Mum's lap as she stayed with us, knitting or crocheting away the long hours as the hubster fought his battle and won.
Just a few weeks ago I started fluid therapy with Mo. I started enticing him with anything he would eat, boiling chicken gizzards, livers, whatever he could eat and keep down. He seemed to enjoy the special food, the extra attention, but not the pills, not the fluids.
Finally this week he began to tell us it was time. He would walk up to us, and stare at us and silently meow. Asking for something that we couldn't or didn't want to discern...
The past few nights, I knew. I knew the time for release was coming.
I didn't want to let go. We have lost so very much in the past 2 years. Family, friends, pets, our home, and came close to losing others...
Death has been once again too close a presence in my life.
And now, I had to turn over my kitten to that presence.
Last night the hubster brought Mo into the bed for a last cuddle. He slept curled against me, a very faint purr lulling me to sleep. This afternoon I sat and held him, soaking him with my tears, petting him, loving him, telling him how I would never forget him, how I loved him, how much my heart was hurting. He lay quietly, occasionally reaching with his paw to touch me.
We drove the snowy roads to the clinic. The hubster being so brave for us. We entered the room where we have been before awaiting the same outcome...
The doc who has taken care of our babies since Molly Dawg, came in the room. He knew by my face all was not well. We talked about symptoms, the decline in the past week. He gently examined Mo, noted the weight loss, the fluid buildup and confirmed what I knew in my heart. My Little Mo was dying. All the time, the Doc kept petting him, gently and softly. He explained the ritual again, knowing that we knew, but somehow easing the pain by telling the details once again. He expressed his sorrow, shared a few stories and then left us for some time together after giving Mo an injection to make him sleepy.
The Doc came back, this time with "the pink shot". He gently took Mo's leg, injected the pink stuff and stood quietly with us petting him as his life slipped away. Again I cried, my heart breaking. The Doc allowed the hubster and me some time alone with our little Mo. I left so the hubster could say goodbye. The staff stood by, eyes glistening sharing our pain.
It was over.
Home to an ever more empty house. It has been a long time since we have had so few animals in our life. Now just 2 cats and an insane Golden Retriever. Both the girls, Kizzie and Maggie are getting older too.
I know the cycle of life continues, Death does not conquer Love. But somehow this one day was the hardest of all. It felt like something ended when Mo slipped away...
I don't know what ended today. I do know we couldn't let him linger or suffer. That would have been unfair to him. He gave us too much happiness and joy to let him suffer one more moment of pain. With breaking hearts we said goodbye, hoping that there is a place in heaven for little cats with a big attitude...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Goodbye 2010...

So it is over. The year that was possibly the worst of my life is over.
It ended on a sad note with the news that my dear friend Alan died at around 5 pm on New Year's Eve. Our mutual friend called in tears and said simply, "He's gone."
Death is simple, its the living on after the loss that is complicated and hard. I remember once as Alan and I were euthanizing someone's beloved pet, the owner looked at me, tears glittering and said "It's one breath. I never realized how close life and death are... only a breath apart."
That has stayed with me.
Living is messy, hard, painful and it hurts. Death is simple, one last breath and all that is over, we are free.
I have seen too much of death not to know its signs. At times I hate that, seeing someone who is ill and knowing that the outcome may not be good.
The veil is thin at times between the two. At times it could go either way. I do believe in miracles. I do believe in an after life. But now, in the moment, it hurts so damn much.
I wonder how many more tears are left in me? Will the well ever run dry?
What will I do when I face my own death?
I want to spend 2011 living. I want to focus on life and its possibilities. I want to see friends more, connect more. I want to stop losing people, places and things.
I talked to my therapist about how much is going to change in the next year: our home, my job, my life, my marriage. I am moving into a new direction  and while exciting it scares me. I want to stop time, sit in the now a little longer, breath a little easier, just for a while.
But it looks as though 2011 will not let me do that. Change is coming, things fall apart, the center cannot hold...
It is time to follow new paths, to say good bye, as much as it hurts. It is time to start over, start anew.
To embrace what comes, not forgetting the past or those who have gone before me, but to honor them by living the best I can, being the best I can and loving them until I see them again.