Is this a test?

long shot

This past couple of weeks has been extremely difficult for a friend and mentor of mine. She has been quite ill. Another bird of a feather too has been having trouble sleeping due to his constant pain. There are many people I know who are having issues of physical pain and lack of sleep because of their discomfort. I am not sure what is going on  and I cannot help but wonder if this is in part due to global issues and the negative energy emanating from the strife overseas.

I know chronic pain well as I have Psoriatic Arthritis. It hit me very hard this weekend, rendering me unable to walk. When I went to bed, I was fine and I actually got up at one point in the night without difficulty. In the morning, I could not stand on my right ankle as the pain was excruciating. It was all swollen. I did nothing to cause this. I have never had a flare like this and in never in that ankle. I made my way through the day and hobbled like an old woman. Oh wait, I am an old woman. It kept me up most of the night, but this morning it is better, which is good because I have to work this Sunday.

Why does pain seem so prevalent now? The severity of the medical situations that I am aware of  seems to be pretty acute. One person I know has ovarian cancer and several of my coworkers are recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Another coworker just lost her 45 year old husband to cancer. Coworkers are falling and hurting themselves and several are just ill or suffering with chronic pain. It would be interesting to see if there was a way to measure the level of pain in the world right now to see if this is a global phenomenon. Is humanity feeling the discord and suffering caused by the monstrosities occurring in the Middle East?

One theory is that this is a test. As the possibility of global war looms in the future, and as the Quickening approaches, is this a test to see how strong we are? In my opinion, there is nothing more frightening than losing your health or battling with constant pain. If a force wanted to spread terror and weaken their enemy, making them suffer with illness would do it. And negative energy spreads like wildfire, much more easily than positive. We are mentally wired that way unfortunately.

But the strong will survive. I watch my friend with the ovarian cancer joke and laugh as if nothing is happening to her. This is her second round of chemo for it. She did not lose her hair this time. What strength and power she has and it humbles me. We need to focus on the survivors and absorb their power and strength. It gives me courage when I hear of the perseverance and moxie that people demonstrate in the line of fire of chronic and acute illnesses. We need to sing of these heroes. As a collective, we need to embrace and honor these warriors and change the fear to fortitude. We need to hold and comfort our wounded and infirmed and bolster their will power to continue to live without fear or shame. We need to create a shield to protect us from the epidemic of depression which I believe is a major contributor to illness. We need to rise against this onslaught and broadcast positive and healthy energy. Everyone can contribute to this cause.

To my friends and to the world, get better and well. We need you all.





In honor of John

don  1

Two years ago I walked in to a physical therapist’s office not knowing at all what I was facing. I think back to that time in my life and it is hard to remember the fear and pain I was in all the time. It was so pervasive that I was unable to even sense how deep it was. I just lived with it. I did not know what flight, fight or freeze was and how the limbic system worked. I did not understand much of anything that was going to be presented to me in the following years. I had expectations of walking into his office and he would look at me, give me ten exercises and tell me to be on my way. “See ya next week.” I was so wrong.

Every week I would show up and like a terrified animal, I would wrap myself up as tight as I could get and almost cringe as I walked into the office or into his treatment room. I hated that yellow room. It scared me. But the daemons were all of my own making. It took months before he could even touch me to help me. Looking back it is hard to remember what it felt to be that scared all the time. It is hard to remember how hypervigilant I was all the time. I was a terrified human being whose bruises were apparent to everyone. I felt disconnected to everyone and everything. No one knows how really bad it was except John, who stood at the edge of the rabbit hole and extended his hand. It was his pulling me up to the next level that allowed me to fight for myself and ask for more help. His investment in me gave me strength and hope, something no one else had ever done for me.

Something amazing happened. I began to trust him. It was his faith in me and the courage he gave me that allowed this healing to occur. I asked to heal and I made a commitment to work on healing. My wounds were very big, some so deep that I did not even know all the pieces. Together we would eradicate the fear as they surfaced and together we would face them. I spent hours writing and sending him my thoughts; pages and pages of it. He patiently would respond with encouragement and hope. It was his hope, his light that gave me the strength to continue.

And I did continue. I found other guides who joined my crusade to aide me. I would crash and burn continually. I literally fell on my face once, but I spent hours doing face plants in a metaphorical sense. I think back and I wonder why would anyone go through something like this? Well, like the chicken, I wanted to get to the other side. We even would fight as I thought I wanted something I felt he was not providing. He was wise and knew in time I would get what I needed. Like a young child, he nurtured me and showed me that my impatience was not a bad thing but I needed to learn to trust. I still struggle with this but I am so much better.

My wheel has turned and I continue to grow. I have been blessed with a new teacher who I connected with a year ago. She has taken me places I never would have dreamed of before I walked into that small office two years ago. I write this in an effort to encourage others who are as afraid as I was to seek help and support. I am hoping someday I will pay back all that I have received by helping others find the strength to heal. I will never have the words to express the extent of my gratitude for all those who have helped me.

Tomorrow is my last scheduled visit with John. It is bittersweet because he has been such a huge part of my life. But because of his work with me, I know it is time to move on. I am hoping he will let me see him periodically.

Mr. Borden, know this: I will love you eternally. My gratitude will be demonstrated by continuing to work and grow and not falter on this quest. I know I was a challenging windmill, sir. Never doubt your power and magic as you do possess these things. My light burns bright because of your light. It will be with me always. Thank you.


Turing 60

river morning

This coming week, we are off to the River. It is the first trip this year. Usually, we go up just when the ice is flowing off and the trees are just starting to wake up. But we did not this year. I need the River so much right now. Next Sunday, I will turn 60 and I cannot think of a better place to be. I am struggling mightily with this. I have all sorts of phobias and fears associated with aging. The alternative is not very enticing either. I am grateful for being alive this long.

fledgling eagle

The last couple of years have been a review of my past. I have been looking at things with the guidance of some wonderful people who have helped me to see things for what they are. I feel I have grown wiser and more balanced. I would not trade the experience for anything and yet, I never want to go through it again either.

But now, here is this number staring at me. I cannot avoid it. My mother did not see 60. She died at 59 from an aggressive lung cancer. I was 23. I thought she was not really old. I remember her mother, my Gram, when she was 65 and she WAS old. She had kinky grey hair, and boney gnarled fingers. Her eyes were sunken with dark circles. She had a tough life until her daughter, my Aunt took her in. My Aunt and Uncle were millionaires and they took great care of her. Gram died in her sleep at 92. My Aunt died bitter at 89. Her life was her husband and my Uncle died suddenly six years before and nothing was the same for her. She too, went in her sleep while in hospice care. Although my Aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer at 21, she survived with no re-occurrence. She and my Uncle had a great life, especially in retirement. I never saw my Aunt as being old.

My Aunts Ashes and Flowers

MY Aunt B

My father lived to be 71. He went in pieces. He had several bypass surgeries and had his leg amputated when he was in his early 50’s. His side of the family has factor V Leiden which is a blood condition that causes clots. They did not know much about it back then. His mother, my Nana, had it too. He slowly built up plague on his tubing and that caused him to lose the leg and other plumbing issues. It is his illness that causes me great fear. I also have the condition. There is nothing to do about it accept take Coumadin. I was diagnosed with it in 2003 when they found five clots, one located almost in my heart. I was totally blessed and have written about the experience as they all miraculously disappeared. But every time I have cramping in my legs, which I have often, I think…crap…here it comes.

dancing geese

This past month I have been having some major health issues. I have been like the golden goose and passing kidney stones. This condition came about from being over medicated years ago. The drugs caused my right kidney to stop working. I got it functioning back to 41%. This past few months, I have been passing stones again after none for several years. This past week, Tuesday, I was pleased to give birth to triplets, one stone being almost an inch long. One of my dearest friends, who lacks sympathy, has decided I should polish the stones (I have over 30 ) and open up a jewelry shop and call it Pissery Barn. In reaction to having a slow moving collection of stones in my urinary plumbing, I ended up becoming toxic. My output slowed down and what was coming out was battery acid. Yes, I have an immensely high threshold for pain. This was coming on for a couple of weeks. I finally went to the doctor who immediately reacted with more drugs. These drugs, I think, have caused another reaction which is to thin my blood too much. Yesterday and the night before, I was in horrible pain with leg cramps. The solution was to simply stop the drugs and eat a salad.

End of day

End of day

But all this, after not having anything so critical was very scary and disheartening. And then…there is turning 60.

I know I have so much to live for. This is the best time of my life so far. I have something I never had before and that is feeling safe. I think the fear of being so ill suddenly shook my newly built foundation. I have so little faith in western medicine. It was just like I was just getting my head fixed and my spirit in line and then the body went out of alignment. I have heard though that this is not that unusual in the healing process. I am hopeful that this too shall pass. I will find solace in the beauty and peace of the River and I am sure it will help heal me.

What amuses me is that the age of 61 does not bother me a bit. Maybe I will just skip 60.

all photos @jdemeis 2014

The art of letting go

John Gull

In a healing path, there is no direct line to healing. There is no miracle cure that someone can give you and things will all be fine. It is a constant effort to find the place of continual acceptance which brings joy. Some equate the journey like an onion with multiple layers which we peel off one by one to expose the next layer. I rather think of the journey as a connected spiral that rotates upward. Each circle has items and many experiences we need to examine and decide whether we keep them or cast them off. On each spiral there are teachers, lovers and friends and those too we decide to keep or move on without. It is all natural and normal. If you do not cast off the things you no longer need the circle because heavy and will spin downward. The concept of casting things out of your current circle is known as letting go. It is the only process that allows healing from past hurts and disappointments that may clutter the path upward. It is necessary to move forward. But I want to include something that is crucial about letting go, because letting go is an art.
When people say “let it go” they mean well, but they are not the judge you need to listen to. Often someone may tell you to let go of something because you make them uncomfortable when you talk about it. Only you are the one that matters in the decision of letting things go. I caution anyone who has had a traumatic experience and works with someone who says simply “to let it go” and then expects that it will be accomplished so easily. The work is only started when you decide to let something go. The choice to let go is inconsequential as to the outcome of what you retain. See, every experience we have has a meaning, whether you choose to embrace that fact or not. To totally toss out some experience because it may have been a painful one is actually not going to ever happen. You cannot wipe out your life without consequences. You did live through the experience, it is your history. What needs to change is the reaction in the present moment. You cannot change what happened then; you can only change how you feel about the experience now. And feeling bad, angry, trapped, hurt, disappointed and so on to something that is over is wasted energy and will only slow the path to healing down. That is the work that takes time and effort and if you as lucky as I am, great support to help you.
There are things that have happened in my past that I have had to examine closely. They are not all nice and they are not all bad. The ones that had me in their clutches and were holding me back were the hardest ones to redefine. I cast off their hold, but not the lesson. I feel very strongly that what I have experienced is something set in front of me to learn about and then teach others. It has taken me over two years to grapple with their hold on me. And every day, something comes up new to work on. I accept that we are never truly done being human, which is what this is all about, until we are dead. But I have also learned new tools to deal with things that make the new challenges less traumatic. And that is because I do not bring everything from my past into my present. That is what letting go means. But I also do not tolerate or walk into the same situations. That is wisdom, and that too comes from letting go.

Letting go 2014

falls TSP

Yesterday was a beautiful day in upstate New York. I put all the laundry and shopping off my to-do list and my husband and I took a ride in the Finger Lakes. The trees on the outset were not showing any promise but by the end of the day, they had sprouted and lawns were greening up. We headed to an Amish store where I buy my oatmeal. We then proceeded to a state park I had not visited since 1986. I did not tell my husband about the memory attached to the park because I wanted to see what would come up for me there.
Back in 1986, I was married to someone else. And that someone else betrayed me by having an affair. I found out in the worse way and it destroyed me. I knew he was unfaithful, but I never had to really face it. There was no escaping it as he had to tell me he had the possibility of passing a STD on to me. The humiliation of it all was so great. At that particular time, I wanted to save the marriage and so we headed off to a park to walk and talk. This place has a falls that is magnificent. The idea of being in a neutral ground was mine. What happened out of this was to be with me forever.
We got to a place where there was an overlook. In those days, they did not protect everything from the stupidity of humans. You could walk to the very edge of the rim and look down. It was very high and dangerous. I am not one for heights. I walked to the very edge where a tree was growing and wrapped my arms around the tree. I lost all awareness of him or anything else except this one thought: If I let go and fall, all the pain will be gone forever. I was so hurt I seriously contemplated letting go. I have never shared that.
I did not let go, not of the tree and not of the pain. We walked the hiking trail (those were the days when I could hike for miles) and he continued to share his tale of lies. I asked too many questions and he fed me crap for answers. He continued to lie about the situation by declaring it was a one shot deal and it was over. I of course found out it was nine months in the making and he never ended it. In a last ditch effort to hurt me during our divorce, he sent me something in an envelope with her return address on it.
I worked very hard on saving the marriage. We remained married for another 16 years. They were not good years and he continued to lie. He became violent and very angry. He pinned all his errors on me saying I caused him to be that way. I should have sought help sooner, but I was too afraid and ashamed. It is this knowledge of helplessness and shame that I want to help others learn to survive by offering counseling. One day he pushed too far and I realized I was at the lowest point possible. He requested to bring his girlfriends into the home for overnights. I had moved out of our big bedroom into the guest room at that point. He left for a hunting trip and I went to a lawyer. He was served at work in front of all his asshole buddies who were also doing similar feats of crap to their wives. It was the beginning of learning to be a warrior for me.
But yesterday, with my gentle and kind husband, I could no longer walk to that spot as it was fenced. There was also no hiking to be done. I was just grateful we could walk even a very short trek to the current viewing area. The falls were there and not much else had changed except me. I was so glad I did not let go back then.
As we continued on with our day, we went to several other falls so I could take pictures. As we were driving I realized that I had let go. I let go of the pain and I let go of the shame. Being honest, I have not completely let go of the anger but it is truly a tiny part of me. I think it remains so I will continue in the fight to help others. My ex and I parted legally in 2002 and that was the last I ever saw or heard from him. We had spent almost thirty years together. It took over twenty-eight years for me to realize I had finally let go of that tree. But I did not fall, I learned to fly.

cu falls

Thanking Raphael


I was newly divorce living on my own for the first time in my life, ever. I had noticed that my middle finger on my left hand would get very cold and numb. I smoked. I figured it was Raynaud’s or poor circulation. Sometimes it was fine. I also drank a lot and I mean a lot. One night during a pretty heavy binge, I fell on the stairs. I remember thinking I had not spilled my drink that I was carrying and was actually proud of it. The next morning, I had a very funny feeling. I was off to pick up some kitties to come live with me. I got to the destination, and felt completely awful. I was dizzy, sweating and I could not feel much. There was a loud buzzing and when I walked, I walked with a lean to the left like I was walking in a circle. Someone took my pulse and said they could not find it. I feigned I was fine and actually drove home. I remember literally crawling up the stairs and passing out in bed. I woke sometime much later and my side of my face was numb and buzzy. I tried to eat, was not too successful and went back to bed. The next day, I was better but I was scared. I called my doctor and she said go to the hospital immediately. I have never shared this with anyone except the doctor.

My friend drove me. I told her there was something wrong with my finger. The put oximeter on my finger and I remember they said they thought the meter was broken. They put it on another finger, and it was a strong reading. Back on the bad finger, and it was ridiculously low. They told my friend to go home and pack me a bag. Little did I know it was going to be 11 days later before I just left.

They put me in an observation room and I was left there over night. I do not remember anyone coming in to check on me. I thought one thought; I was as alone as anyone could possibly be. I was not scared, I was alone. I remember thinking in the dark, as the room had no light, which on reflection was very strange, that I could just let go. No one would care and so I did. The next day is a blur, but I ended up having my left arm sliced open and they pulled an inch long clot out of my left wrist. Somewhere in the next day, they scoped me and found five more clots. One was in the subclavian artery close to the heart and was the size of a jelly bean.

This is not about the surgery. This is about what happened the night before the surgery. The doctor had told me to get “my affairs in order.” My dear friend came and signed the health proxy and all the other crap that makes the doctor feel better if he messes up. The prognosis was grim, but they were going to perform open heart surgery and hoped they would not move the clot the wrong way or any other ones.

That night, I had the room to myself. The patient who was in there with me had crossed over. Not a good sign. But I was totally numb to the whole thing. I was not panicking which would be my normal reaction. Around midnight, a thunder storm blew in. There was a huge window and it faced Lake Ontario which was off in the distance. I had a beautiful view. I heard someone approach and sit next to me on the arm of the huge chair I was in. Now I think of it, he perched as there really was no place for him to sit. He was a young male nurse. I was instantly struck by his presence and we did not say much. He just asked if he could sit with me. As I am writing this, eleven years almost to the day, he said hardly anything. But he stayed with me. I was in awe of the lightening which was fierce and fabulous. We did not talk about the surgery or anything. But I felt comforted and calm with him there. I can barely describe him visually: young, male, dark short hair and a square but very pleasant face. He wore blue scrubs. But I can remember distinctly the calm and assurance he provided me. I think I asked him if he had other patients to see and he said he was assigned to me or something similar. I was fine with that. He stayed the whole storm. When he went to leave, he leaned over and kissed me on the forehead. I thought absolutely nothing about it until years later. Nurses do not kiss people.

I just spent the past weekend in a spiritual retreat to continue my lessons on Spiritual Healing Touch. I never got the whole angel thing and struggled mightily with the concept of spirit guides and guardian angels. I had connected with one guide this past year and I have learned to rely on her subtle messages when I quiet my mind. The past month, I have also felt the presence of others who I joking refer to as my posse. They are still nebulous but I am often aware of the sense of support of others coming from behind me. Believe what you will, as I had a lot of doubts about this myself. This weekend, a couple of the techniques required calling on angels to support the healing. At one point, before we started a treatment, you call a specific angel to help. I called on Raphael, who is an Archangel of Healing. (I did not know that when I called him. That was just the name I used. I just google it) I felt someone behind me and then become part of me. It was so overwhelmed I was crying during the whole treatment. My partner thought there was something wrong but they were tears of joy. I actually felt the same thing a couple of more times last weekend. It was amazing, but I would not have believed it two years ago or even six months ago.

So back to the night of April of 2003. I now know this nurse was not a nurse. He never came back. No one had a clue who he was at the hospital. I just let it go and did not think about it much until the other night during a guided meditation. I am not going to go into that. What I will share is what happened the next morning after his visit. I was prepped for surgery, and there is a funny story about the walk to the OR, but I wrote about it once before. The short end of the story is I woke up in the ICU. I patted my chest and realized they did not cut me open at all. They had knocked me very deeply out and re-scoped me. They found nothing. There was not a clot to be found. I stayed in ICU until I was thrown out for being such a wise ass with my friends. I stayed in the hospital for nine more days because they were sure I was going to pop a clot somewhere. I made friends everywhere and I actually was allowed to walk around the hospital as there was nothing wrong with me. I never found that nurse from that night  and I was on the same floor.

I had no one to take care of me and my dogs and if I had had the surgery, the chances were not good that I would have been ok afterwards. They diagnosed is a hereditary disease called Factor 5 Leiden. Since then, I have been able to help my family become aware as my brother has it and one nephew. My father died from it and his mother had it.

To my midnight visitor: I just want you to know how grateful I am for your love for me and your miracle healing. I never said thank you. I was blessed as anyone could be. Thank you.

(I went looking for an image to use for this blog and found the one I posted…. It took my breath away when I found it in a Google search for Raphael which I did after I wrote this blog….wow)

Learning to reprogram

fledgling eagle

This is in sympathy for all who travel a bumpy and difficult road. I am in a place where I am hoping to discover and create a much less pothole-filled journey for myself.  I spent a quiet weekend with time for reflection and thinking about all that is going on in my life. I am totally aware that the only direction I can take to become healthy and whole is to reprogram the negative thoughts that permeate my life. So I am really focusing on trying to bring in experiences that would start to reprogram my reactions and build a new storage for a more positive attitude. Who would think that this would be so difficult, but it really is.

Let me just explain again that this is not thinking positive. That does not work and will not work for me. What I am talking about is a total immersion into an experience that creates and imprints a somatic sensation that can be put into storage to use in the same manner that I use negative sensations. I need to teach the body to react to triggers with calm and create a positive response instead of tumbling down into an abyss of upset and anger.  I am not making an excuse, but I have a very deep well of the type of reactions that cause me to be fearful and pull me down. Over fifty years in the making I might add. And these reactions are killing me with their toxic chemicals and destruction of my organs and the hippocampus. The hippocampus will atrophy with continual flooding from cortisol. From the website of the National Library of Medicine :

Non-psychiatric patients with asthma and rheumatic disease who received chronic corticosteroid treatment had a smaller hippocampus and more severe symptoms of depression than patients with the same medical conditions who had not received steroid therapy (Brown et al 2004).

There is evidence that humans having experienced severe, long-lasting traumatic stress show atrophy of the hippocampus more than of other parts of the brain.[72] These effects show up in post-traumatic stress disorder,[73] and they may contribute to the hippocampal atrophy reported in schizophrenia[74] and severe depression.[75] A recent study has also revealed atrophy as a result of depression, but this can be stopped with anti-depressants even if they are not effective in relieving other symptom.   

So as the above explanation says that yes, you can mask the symptoms by taking antidepressants. This is not an avenue I will do. I believe strongly that there is a way to correct all of this and I am invested in staying the course.  I have to laugh a bit at my frustration of not finding an easy fix and simply turning a switch and “be all better.”

So some of the things I did this weekend were to cook and bake. I have a new stove and oven and my kitchen is now a joy to work in. My husband and I created an Italian feast on Saturday to devour on Sunday. I also experimented with a brownie recipe. We decided at the last minute on Sunday to head out to the Lake so I could take pictures. I needed a River fix, but this was as close as I could get. It did help just to go someplace else but the bleakness of this winter is cast on the water. See my blog from yesterday. I spent the rest of the evening engrossed in an on-line class. Learning is always a positive enforcer for me.

This morning, I spent extra time on meditation because I could feel the anxiety building already before I had finished my coffee. I enjoyed the new shower immensely and was grateful that we had gone through all the struggles to get it put in. As I was driving to work, I realized mid-sentence that I was enmeshed in a singular conversation with my thoughts that were all negative. The sun was out and the snow was sparkling in the crispness of the one degree air. I was almost to work before I stopped and started to pay attention to the beauty that was surrounding this morning trek. As I walked into work, I noticed that a little sparrow had taken up residence in a light overhead and was busy constructing a nursery of sorts for the arrival of spring. Her little song is still playing in my head. I have to consciously stop and allow the experience to totally cover me and become absorbed.

It worries me that I will not have enough time on this plane of existence to correct the damage I have done to my body.  It is so much easier to turn towards the negative and dwell in the dark reassesses of my life. I admit it. It is hard work to find the bright spot when you have blinders on. It is also difficult to move out when you are mired down in situations that are toxic and frustrating. The many tests on my fortitude and resilience have a tendency to wear me down easily.  But there is something inside that says that the darkness is not who I am. It is what has propelled my so far on this journey and although it has dimmed and also burned brighter, it has not left me.




Winter dreams

My insomnia has switched off for now and my sleep does what it is prone to do at this point. I start to have vivid dreams and I wake up not refreshed and often disturbed by the last dream of the night. So it has been for two such recent instances. You would think the dark and long nights would be conducive to wonderful slumber, but this is a period of time since I was a child that has produced sleep deprivation and tormenting dreams. I wonder if I am so in tuned with nature that this is my cycle of casting off and purging much like the trees do with their leaves before they have a peaceful slumber. I wonder if they sense the freeze that stops the movement of sap as some death within, some anguish of loss of the processes of osmosis and a fear that they will not see the next spring. Do they know death and fear it, if only for a brief moment until they truly sleep for the winter? This is what I sense.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, I indulged in taking a nap. This is a reward I give myself for the hard work I put forth all week and even more for the housekeeping I must do on the weekend. When I lay down, I quite often will listen to music with headphones which produces some wonderful relaxation, discharging the tension out of my body. This particular time I did not have headsets on as I was incredibly exhausted and really wanted to sleep. I conked. After almost two hours, I had a dream that I still remember. I can feel it, but I cannot remember all the parts of it. Basically I was in a room and I was comfortable in the room as it was my house and specifically my room. As a little girl and teen, this theme was a reoccurring dream with different visualization but the sensations were always the same. FEAR. This recent dream was not apocalyptic, which was a common theme in my older years. I have dreamt in depth the end of the world and have seen my own death three times. All are very real dreams which have never left me. One dream was only two years ago.
(Sorry for the Squirrel writing but that is what my blog is for.) So in this afternoon nap dream, there was something in my room. It appeared in a cloud like form, totally dark, ominous and not definable. It was under the bed which is another childhood fear. When I was in my teens, I took my mattress and box spring off the frame and put it directly on the floor. Ended that fear for me. But when I was very young, I was told there were monsters (evil) under my bed that would grab my legs and pull me under if I tried to get out of bed at night. I was put to bed in a very large bedroom and then left to fend for myself as my sister was eight years older and did not retire until much later. It was a rotten device to keep me put. Even as a young child, my imagination was very active and to this day, I can still see this huge room and sense the fear I had being in there in the early night as the light dwindled and the monsters waited. I never defined what the monsters were, just like this recent dream. I just knew they were there. Part of my childhood also included the fact that I wet the bed for a longtime and had to sleep on these awful thick rubber mats. Boy, this writing is conjuring up some wonderful memories don’t you think? In this recent dream, the fear started small and grew and eventually I sensed that the cloud was not waiting for me to move, but was coming for me. I woke up from the level of sleep I was in but the strong fear remained for a bit. It permeated my body and it took a while to shake it off.I still can see the dark cloud which has appeared at other points of my life including in my first attempts of meditation. And although not as strong, I still can sense the apprehension I felt.
Last night’s dream was most bizarre. Again, it contained a common thread of fear but included escape. But this escape was fraught with impediments. But the last part of the dream is still with me. In the beginning of the dream I was with someone and we were in some sort of race. I sense a form of competition and yet, not a formal one. My vehicles were bizarre and faulty and keep breaking down. All of us were on devices of mobility that are not common. There were scooters and broken down cars taped together with duct tape and wobbly bicycles but also appliances and furniture with wheels. But they were getting away. At some point, I had veered off the race pathway and was up on some hill on private property. Someone was coming after me and I was stuck. My vehicle was not defined other than it was not working. I was trying to escape pending doom which included the fear of bodily harm and death. At one point, the dream switched to me trying to locate a bathroom, and unable to find one clean enough for me to use. This is also is a reoccurring theme most of my adult life either awake or asleep. The dream switches back to the fight for flight and I am fending off this person who is beginning to attack me. It was a male with red hair. This person is pursuing me with vengeance and had some form of implement that he was using as a weapon. My vehicle is no longer operational and I am in a panic. There was a lot of scurry and seeking for another form of transportation and I stumble on a cart of sorts. This was a yellow-gold metal two shelved cart much like my brother had back in the 60’s. It morphed into a scooter like thing and I hopped on and started to escape. I am closely being followed by this red headed demon which has a weapon. I grabbed a huge corkscrew drill from somewhere and threatened the demon with it. Again, this was a tool from my father’s collection of tools and as a child was in awe of the size of it. At one point in the struggle, I became victorious and sped away as much as anyone can speed away on an old cart like vehicle. The last scene in the dream is a huge table on an enclosed front porch with all kinds of people sitting around and enjoying some form of celebration. I am walking around the table and people are lovingly poking fun at me as it seems I somehow won the competition. I stand behind someone and slip my arms around them to the delight and jeers of the partakers. It is the red head man who was my enemy.
I love doing dream analysis and can figure parts of this out fairly easily. I had red hair as a younger person and as a friend and guide told me, we dream about ourselves as all the players. The person I fight with is myself and the war I am in dealing with the issues I am having and the race represents the anger and frustration I am struggling with trying to resolve my place. I am not sure about the other person who was with me in the beginning of the race as they disappeared unless they were represented my old self. The bathroom sequence is so common in my dreams. I know it represents the frustration and impediments I have to face going through my journey. I am seeking a place to eliminate the garbage I have carried for years and it is thwarted and frustrating in real life and in my dreams. The corkscrew drill is fascinating.It represents the fear I had of my father as a child and yet, I use that tool of his to protect myself. I really was scared of that thing as a kid. It hung in the garage on the tool board and I can still remember the head of it being shiny brown and glistening almost like a flattened out big marble. I have no idea what it was used for as it was at least two feet long and the head was the size of a flatten softball.The last part of the dream is telling me I made peace with myself. At the end of the dream, there is a sense of belonging and acceptance and a bit of sensuality and bonding which are all things I struggle with but desire in the real world.
The next few days will be difficult for sleep for me as it is a cycle that I have participated in for years. The solstice is coming. I am not going to write about the significance of this solstice right now other than it is huge for me. And there will be peace soon.

Away in the Manger…

This time of year is beautiful in its traditions. For me, it is a time that I cherish the good memories of my childhood, which are few and far between. But there is one memory that is a skill given to me by my Mom. She was an artist and when she decorated the house she did a beautiful job. She did not work until her late fifties and had domestic help right up until I was about two, so she had time to devote to her home decorating. She passed the skill on to my brother whose homes have been in Better Homes and Gardens. My homes, not so much. They lean more to comfort than fashionably decorated, but have always had an abundance of plants and flowers inside as well as outside. I too decorate my house for the holidays as much as time will allow me to.
My mom liked to paint and draw. But her gift was to take natural things like flowers and greenery and make them into art. She loved gardening and that was also something she passed on to me and my sister. But her greatest gift was to bring nature into the house and use it for adornment. Christmas was an excuse to step things up a notch. She so loved the art of flower arrangement that she was a leader in awards in her Flower Club and became a district judge which was a coveted role. My sister and I both participated in Junior Garden Club. One year my sister did something with a fish bowl and goldfish as part of her entry in a competition. The fish died before the judging and my sister gave up. She was not very good anyways and I do not think she enjoyed it. I did. I won a couple of awards including the top Junior Achievement Award at a State competition. We moved out of the District and my Mom had to go to work and so the garden club circuit ended by the time I was 13.
The Christmas memory I treasure is putting up the Crèche or manger with all the little statues. I have the one that has been in the family my whole life. I am guessing that it has to be at least 75 years old. It has been through a lot. I have touched it up and I am very protective of it. I remember the years my Mom asked me and me alone to help her with putting it up. Each figurine is packed in a ton of tissue. There are the three wise men and a camel, a shepherd and sheep, various barn animals and of course the family including a not so baby Jesus who lies in a wooden feeding trough. But the figures I cherish the most are the angels. There were three. One is on one knee in pink, there is a blue standing one and then there was a young little one in blue.
The little angel was my favorite. Since I was taller than my Mom by the time I was ten, I got to put her in her special spot on the top of the wooden structure that represented the barn. She was my favorite and always the last to be put in the scene just before baby Jesus. But as I was typing this story, it hit me why also she was so special. My Mom said that this particular angel represented me. It was younger than the other figurines and she was not thin like the other angels who are very slender.  But she was the protector of the Crèche and the family. I never got it when she said it so many years ago. But it was the role I was in my family. I was the caregiver for both of my parents until they passed and my sister for years. I still am keeper of all the family heirlooms and photographs. I am the protector of all that was my family and sacred and special. Believe me, there is not much.
Every year, the mantle would be covered in greenery, lights, candles and beads. The design was never the same. I can remember one year she took dried materials and spray painted them gold to look like huge medallions that went on either side of the mantle up to the ceiling. They were spectacular. The whole display was a fire hazard as they were devoted fire watchers and had one going quite frequently. There were always poinsettia lights in the display. There were red lights with silk flowers on them that look liked poinsettias. This was back in the sixty’s and not a common thing. Fortunately, they are more common now as I have had to replace them a couple of times.
I do not sleep well this time of year. It has plagued me most of my life. I have horrible dreams and sleep in fits and for short duration. I can remember leaving my bed and coming down the stairs to sit by the dying embers of a fire in the fireplace and just looking at the mantle. As I was older, I would often pray for the peace the figurines would seem to have. Christmas has never been about the presents for me. It is about the beauty of the lights and decorating and the peace and serenity of a silent night.
I do not spend as much time as my Mom did doing my displays. But I enjoy doing it every year as I feel the rare connection I had with my mom. The first year I live alone after my divorce, I covered my new house with silk flowers and greenery and a small tree with pink lights. Matter of fact, the decorations were most pink, which is my favorite color. It was stunning and very Victorian in its theme. I hate to take everything down at the end of the season, which I stretch out as long as I can. The Manger is the first to go up and the first to come down as I do not want it to get dirty and dusty. I started a tradition of my own which is to write down my wishes for the New Year and put it in the bottom of the box. I give thanks and tuck it in with the tissue. Last year’s prayer was not answered at all as I wished for Bishop to remain healthy and for Joe to enjoy his work. Bishop passed a month ago and my husband was let go from his position. However, Bishop did not suffer and my husband likes substitute teacher better. I can look at it that there was some resolve.
As for the littlest angel, she was smashed one year when my cats decided to pull the velvet drape I had them arranged on off the table. I did not have a fireplace at the time and they did not understand sacred space. I was devastated and held on to the pieces of her for years. I could not fix her, which is also very telling. She remained in an empty film container tucked in the box. It was the year after my Mom died, also very telling. I remained the caregiver for about 13 more years for my father and sister. The broken angel is now somewhere in all the other Christmas stuff in the closet downstairs. I do not pull all the hundreds of ornaments out anymore to put up on the tree. It is too small. There is so much Christmas stuff now since I have my Mom’s, My Aunt’s and my own collections. I am hoping that my nephew will someday accept some of the older more special decorations and the coveted Crèche. I am hoping he will pass the tradition on to his children. But it will always be my Mom I will see and remember. His children never met their Great Gram.
The display is never the same. I have not finished decorating for this year, so here are some from last year.

bright mantlemantle 2012



Guilt and grief

In a pathetic way, I am struggling with feeling good about my new dogs. This is going to sound a bit strange but I feel guilty for not grieving. My big dog passed on October 27th. I have been anticipating this for a while as he was at least 14, but closer to 16. In big dog world, he was very old. But the Friday before he died, he was healthy and running as much as an old dog runs. Ok, it was a lope at best. But off he would go with all the enthusiasm of a pup.
This summer, when the two of us would sit out on the deck in the garden, I would think how much of a void there will be when he is gone. I would grieve and cry. He would look at me with this puzzled look like “what is wrong, I am still here.” I took him for a wellness check and the Vet who I have been seeing for over thirty years said he was in great shape. But there were so many moments this fall when I would look at him and feel him gone. I thought it was just me being worried. I felt in my gut that his passing would devastate me. And I would cry. I felt his loss, even with him right in front of me. I thought it was just me perseverating on a thought. It was actually preparation.
When he did pass, my heart broke into a thousand pieces. I felt him leave this plane and pass through me. You can believe that or not, it happened. I have taken many animals to the bridge, and his passing was no easier. But the heartbreak did not last as long as I thought it would. There is a hole, no doubt about it, which no animal will ever fill again. But there is a calm, a peaceful grace that I have never felt before with the passing of one of my babies. It was as it should be. He is still with me. This is what I sense.
The connection I had with Bishop is unlike anything in my life before. I doubt if I will ever be so blessed to have it again and truthfully I am not looking for it. My guilt is in the fact I knew within 24 hours that I would have to fill my house and heart with another dog. The first dog I saw when I was going through the thousands of dogs on the intranet and saved in my queue is actually who we have now. It was fortuitous as his mother was also up and they were a bonded pair. Just what I wanted. I felt a connection from looking into his soulful eyes. He is a baby, not even 2 yet. But in those eyes, now looking at me as I type, I see the love that was missing with Bishop’s passing. His mother is more attached to my husband and that is just fine.
To explain the guilt is difficult. It is the child in me who wants to know why beings have to die in the first place. My first experience with death was my mother who passed when I was 23. I know there is a time for everything. The fourteen years I had with Bishop went by very fast. But it is a time in my life now gone, that in truth, I would not want to go through again. Bishop was my rock as I transitioned from one very bad situation after another, to the present, which in measure is wonderful. He was there when I needed him. I hope I was the same for him.
We cannot stop the progression towards death. At this age, it is a reality that it is coming quicker than I want. So I am going to accept my guilt, but not let it stop me from accepting the joy I have with the new fur faces in my house. They are a blessing. Besides, how can you not love this face?
Little Bear 11-10-13