The Saddest Farewell

No matter how many times I do this, it always feels like the worst day of my life. The only time I ever say, “I’ll never have another dog,” is the last day – The one when I grant them freedom from the frail body that no longer serves them. It’s so hard. When I look into those cloudy eyes, I see past the protruding hip bones and wobbling legs. I remember the exuberant puppy whose energy, at times, tried my patience. In the beginning, I rescued my dogs. But in the years that followed, they rescued me – From loneliness, from harsh self-judgement, from fear of things that go ‘bump’ in the night.

The first day I come home to find no joyfully wagging tail to greet me – That’s one of the worst moments. Their absence packs a surprising punch. This time, it’s my son who will feel that stab of harsh reality. Our 15 year old girl had been living with him since I sold the house, nine months ago.

Once you love a dog and then lose her, you learn. Eventually, the pain lessens and you get another. But, even from the very first days, you begin to mourn them. You know how fast their short lifetime goes by. You know how much it’s going to suck at the end. Yet, despite ourselves, we fall in love, all over again.

After a couple of years, you stop noticing how the commitment of having a dog changes your life. They become synchronized with your daily routines and rituals. When you say they are part of your family, people look at you funny (at least those who do not have a dog). Then, they get sick or hurt and you are forced to confront your fears. You think, “But I’m not ready.” Sleep and, sometimes, large amounts of money, are forfeited to avoid a premature end. Once they are brought back to good health, life goes on and we put it out of our minds. Until it happens again: Only this time, they are elderly and it’s not something that can be reversed.

It’s the right decision – the only one. We know, in our heart, it’s necessary. We pray that she’ll die peacefully, in her sleep. But it doesn’t usually happen that way, for me. She has given us so much in her short lifetime that we cannot allow her to suffer. It would be selfish to let her go on for our own benefit.

But it’s just so hard.

I have granted this final gift to so many dogs that I have been blessed to love through the years. It never gets easier. Today, I say “never again.” But I hope I’m wrong.

All you need is… Less!

I think I might finally be making some progress on the minimalist front. Baby steps, at least. After Thanksgiving, I took down the Autumn decorations and then put away some of my other things, too. My intention was to create space for Christmas. Despite my efforts to downsize my ridiculous collections of holiday ‘stuff’ prior to my move last year, the size of it is still impressive. Let’s just say I could easily decorate a Newport mansion.

Anyway, I unpacked a few of my favorite and most precious things and put them on display. Then a funny thing happened. Instead of longing for the rest of my sentimental things, I found a blissful peace among the simple. The soft lights from my basic winter village and my Nana’s antique ceramic tree provided all the spirit I needed. Suspicious that the feeling would wear off, I waited. A week went by and then two.

I mentioned the possibility that I was not getting a real tree to a couple of people close to me. They reacted with disbelief. Because it is our tradition, I visited two tree farms the day after Thanksgiving but found nothing that suited me. Looking back, I believe it was because I felt that I did not need a tree at all. I was contented with my modest and humble surroundings.

In the end, I caved and bought a full size, artificial tree. When it came time to decorate, I was glad. My ornaments are so meaningful to me and bring me more joy than any other material things. But I added little else. The desire to experience an uncomplicated Christmas carried over to other areas. I did much less shopping and very little baking. With careful consideration, I chose the traditions that felt most important to my family. The rest – I graciously let go.

The results were staggering. I approached the most chaotic and stressful days of the year completely relaxed and at peace. There was so much time for quiet contemplation and appreciation. Each moment was one to be savored. The time was spent with the small handful of people closest to me.

Even the aftermath was better: No letdown, little clean up. The peaceful feeling has carried me into the new year and, hopefully, beyond. Less really is more. I placed less demands on myself. Sure, there were less decorations, less gifts and (maybe) less food. The trade off was more time, more energy, more clarity. And, most importantly, more enjoyment.

That’s an exchange I’m willing to make – any time of year.

Christmas Eve

Tonight, the greatest gift is mine

Though it bears no wrapping or bow

You’ll not find it ‘neath my parlor pine

Nor buried in the snow

This blessed evening brings to me

The gift of a story that’s told

The package isn’t one you can see

And it’s more than two thousand years old

It started when a baby boy was born

Beneath a shimmering star

And a journey began the very next morn

By wise men, near and far

The gift is offered every year

To those whose hearts are ready

That baby returns and holds me near

His love is true and steady

How, you may ask, do I know for sure?

The answer is simple, you see

I find his hand in all that endures

And in all that is precious to me

Amid the holiday tinsel and cheer

Many gifts you will receive

But none so dear as Jesus Christ

Like him, there is no other

Magical moments

 

I can’t wait until it’s over.” Most of us have, at one time or another, uttered these dreadful words in December.

 

It’s the busiest week of the year for many of us. No matter how hard we try, last minute demands require our attention. We put undue pressure on ourselves to have a perfect, Hallmark holiday.

 

For me, Christmas exists in smaller moments. Between work, decorating, shopping, cooking and wrapping, there are truly peaceful spaces of time carved out of my chaotic schedule. It’s easy to miss them, if you’re not paying attention and present in the moment. Or, sometimes, you have to create them. I did just that this morning.

 

After rushing around getting ready for the day, I realized that everything was ready: The Yankee Swap gift and food offering for the office party, the shopping list for the way home, my travel mug of coffee. The trash and recycle bin were at the curb. Glancing at the clock, I realized that I was going to be right on time – for the worst rush hour traffic of the day!

 

Instead, I asked my friend Alexa to play some traditional Christmas carols. There was a small pile of ornaments waiting to be added to my tree. This seemed a good time. For ten minutes, I hummed along with the music and finished trimming the tree. All of my ornaments are sentimental and hold special meaning for me: The hand tooled silver icicles from the blacksmith shop in Vermont, the little antique Santas that were my mother’s, crocheted snowflakes from my Nana, and the ones that my children made for me, decades ago.

 

It’s so much more than just a Christmas tree. It is a lifetime of warm memories. It sparkles with the love of generations of family and friends. In that short ten minutes this morning, I felt all of it – My mother’s hands, my children’s voices, my friends’ thoughtfulness.

 

This season brings many blessings. May your moments be filled with peaceful reflection, comforting traditions and the warmth of family and friends. Keep them in your heart all year long.

 

Merry Christmas!

 

Seashells

Strong and impenetrable outside
Empty within
But for some fine detail
If you care to look carefully

 

The most beautiful ones
Are broken – So fragile
They crumble when you touch them
Before returning them to the very waves
That destroyed them

 

Polished from decades of pummeling
Resting at the edge
Waiting to be discovered
Appreciated
And treasured

 

I am like a seashell
Battered by the tide
Hollowed of life
Shattered and scarred
Yet glistening brightly
Wherever I land

 

7ED69A71-B265-477F-ADCE-735769456007

The blessing of grief

Grief is a funny thing. Well, not funny like, ‘ha ha,’ but the fickle kind of funny. It’s unpredictable and often difficult to recognize. I don’t always see it for what it is. There have been many times during the past fifteen months or so when the adrenaline was so thick in my veins that my heart had to beat fast to circulate the blood thru it. There were times I sought stimulation when I should have sought peace. I did not wish to be alone with my fears. There were some questionable decisions that, luckily, turned out well. My angels were on roller skates, I’m sure, trying to keep up. But I survived.

As the dust settles around me in this renovated life, I find the blood no longer hurdles thru my veins like a rushing river. The voices in my head have quieted to a normal decibel level and, most of the time, they even make sense. Finally, I have been able to find comfort in the beauty of solitude.

I used to tease my mother about being in her pajamas so early in the evenings. If she’s with me still, she’s enjoying the last laugh because I’m sure I’ve got her beat some nights. I hardly recognize myself, truthfully, when I’m cozied up on the couch on a Saturday night – alone. It’s absolutely glorious.

Contentment oozes from my pores. It is a welcome relief. Most evenings, I don’t turn on the television or even the music. The ticking clock on the wall is all the accompaniment I need. Crickets outside my window provided the perfect background noise before it turned cold. I am done running away from my life and all it’s messiness. I have created a blissful existence and I revel in it.

Not to say that I don’t get lonely. There are nights when I sat outside on my little patio chairs and feel the day’s warmth dissipate as the sun sank low. I’d think how nice it would be to have someone with whom to share it. Fortunately, there have been one or two who accepted where I am on this journey. But, in the absence of such, I am capable of finding the joy all by myself. To be honest, I like having the option. I have learned to value my own company over the wrong company.

It has all been part of grieving, for me: Experiencing the loss of my marriage, my home and my retirement lifestyle. It was a lot and I allowed myself to feel each and every painful moment. The only way to get over something is to tuck your chin and go straight thru it. I have emerged on the other side – whole, vibrant, engaged and ready for what comes next.

I still have my moments, but nowadays, it’s easier. Grief surprises me sometimes with its sharp edges. But it’s fleeting and I soon return to this fabulous existence that I’ve been blessed to create. The wonderful things that have been added to my life make up for the things I’ve lost. And I have salvaged the things that really matter- my friends, my health, my music, my writing. My extended family is smaller now and that loss endures. I accept that there will always be things that are beyond my control. I have a warm, comfortable home and rewarding, purposeful career. Every day, I feel joy. I am able to love and know that I am loved.

Who could possibly ask for more?

Single Serving

I have two apple pies in my freezer. Small ones. You know the size – just perfect for two people. Except I’m only one person. “They’ll be just right for company,” I told myself when I bought them. I even picked up some vanilla ice cream to go with them when I did the grocery shopping later that week.

Problem is, I haven’t had any company for dinner. I’m enjoying a self-imposed dating hiatus. The one – or possibly two – guys that I’d gladly invite for dinner seem to be taking hiatuses of their own. From me.

Every time I open the freezer, the pies just sit there, mocking me. They are a daily reminder that I’m having a dry spell. Yesterday, I swore at them. Aloud. Then slammed the freezer door. Not one of my best moments.

If I had any self control at all, I’d bake one of those pies and enjoy it myself. Show them who’s boss around here. But it would quickly become a single serving. Single – like me. They taunt me still. They’d leave me full. Not only of pie but with self loathing and regret. Not unlike the dates they imply I should be having.

Finally, I moved the pies to the rear of the freezer. Behind the ice cube trays and frozen Weight Watcher entrees. Now I smile smugly when I open the freezer, knowing they can’t see me. But I know they’re in there, lurking. The snarky little darlings. They’re waiting for a weak moment, some sleepless, late night when my stomach is growling and I need comfort. I fantasize about shoving them down the garbage disposal. Is this what I’ve come to?

I think I’ll donate them to a shelter or soup kitchen. Tomorrow. Maybe….

Things that go bump in the night

As a child, I’d dream things that would become reality the next day. They weren’t earth shattering revelations, exactly. I dreamed my parents’ station wagon had a flat tire on the right rear tire. The next day, it did. I had a dream that one of our tropical fish jumped out of the aquarium and died – a little black shark with a red tail. The next day, I was watching television when I noticed that very fish lying on the floor beneath the fish tank. I also had a strong sense of deja vu, often knowing what someone was going to say next because I’d heard the conversation before.

When I was in college, our house director knew a psychic who had become famous for helping to solve the case of a kidnapped child. He agreed to give a demonstration to the residents of my dorm. He requested a small table with four chairs. There was a folding card table in our room, so I carried it down and set it up in the lounge. We placed four folding chairs around it. He invited me and two others to sit around the table with him. After some short instruction, including how to touch the table only on the top, using just the lightest touch of our fingertips, we levitated the table. With ease. All four legs were off the floor and we had to stand to keep our fingertips on the surface. After his performance, he told me that he had selected me to sit across the table because of my psychic ability, which he sensed immediately. I was flattered. And a little terrified. 

About ten years later, I signed up for a three-session seminar on developing your psychic ability. On the first evening, we paired up with a complete stranger and exchanged a personal item. I gave the woman opposite me a ring I’d been wearing. She handed me her pen. Closing my eyes, I opened my mind. I saw a school with tall windows. There was a front, corner office that contained a computer system and several desks. I described what I saw in my mind’s eye, as it appeared to me. The woman was incredulous. She was a middle school guidance counselor who had been moved out of her office earlier that day while computers were being installed. (This was in the early 1980s, before computers were a household thing).

I’ve always felt the presence of people unseen, which lent itself to an interest in ghosts. When I retired from my first career in 2012, I celebrated by going to Rose Island with a team of professional paranormal investigators. Most of the other attendees were in pairs or small groups of friends. There were two others who were by themselves, so we joined together to explore the reportedly haunted island. It was perfect night: Pitch dark and so foggy that the boat captain had trouble finding the dock. We toured the historic lighthouse before heading out to the old barracks that had housed sick and dying Rhode Islanders during a 19th century illness outbreak. There’s no electricity on the island, so we had only the flashlights we carried to find our way. One of my new friends had some ghost hunting toys and gadgets. We chose a barrack near the end of the large, concrete structure. We closed the door and went to work setting up an EMF meter and laser grid. We sat patiently, chatting quietly in between asking an occasional question of any spirits that might be present. Suddenly, there was distinct movement in the laser grid and the lights on the EMF started blinking like crazy. Simultaneously, I felt an electrical-like charge move thru my body. It’s difficult to explain, but it was like having the chills, but I wasn’t really cold. It lasted only a couple of seconds and I didn’t say anything about it. But each of my investigating partners started to describe the same, exact phenomenon. I was stunned. Nobody admitted to being uneasy, but we silently packed up the equipment and headed back toward the lighthouse, where the others were gathered. 

There’s much more – vivid dreams, uncanny coincidences, psychic readings and even a Ouija Board experience. I’ll save them for next time. Do I believe in ghosts? You bet. They don’t scare me, though. Real, living, breathing people are far more frightening, especially some days…. But that’s a blog for another day.

Happy Halloween!

New Directions

Change is good. Even when it’s difficult. That’s just one of the many life lessons we have shared here. No matter what, things do change. They don’t always turn out the way we planned. 

Without your support, comments and encouragement, it would never have come so far. Many of you stuck by me during the lean months, when there was little being published here and I thank you.

Going forward, my blog is taking a new direction. The one thing I have learned about this craft is that your best bet is to write what you know. Well, my adventures have been unforeseen and I feel compelled to use those experiences now. My writing has been a source of comfort to me. It has also been thought provoking and, when I needed it most, humorous. It has been a journey in self discovery. Happily, I have reached a point where I am ready to share more of that writing in the hope that others might find those things here, too.

It’s not for everyone. Some of you may no longer relate to my topics. There will be some gut wrenching sadness, some dark humor and some outrageous and brutal truths. It will be deeply personal. Most of all, my wish is that it will be courageous and hopeful. 

I am compelled to share because I believe that my work has literary value and is worth reading. I think that the need to overcome challenges and loss are such common experiences that others might benefit from any exchanges that result. I don’t have to look very far to find others whose stories are far more devastating than mine. We all suffer, to varying degrees. We can lessen the pain and discover hope by inspiring one another. Every individual journey is different. No one walks their path alone, although it often feels that way.

No harm done if it’s not your cup of tea. I welcome all of my readers and hope to attract some new followers. We all deal with change. It is my hope that you will find some common threads with which you identify. Please share the blog whenever you find something that might appeal to a friend or colleague.

Now, fasten your seatbelt. Welcome to my fabulous life…..

Autumn

October is my favorite month of the year. Mother Nature is chaotic, like I often feel. She undergoes dramatic change. She transforms. The first days of October cling to summer’s remnants. But Autumn soon has her way. The lush green turns to bold hues of red, orange and gold. Tropical storms blow the winds of change thru the air. There are warm, sunny days. Nights are cold and so clear that the stars dance above our widened eyes. It’s not unusual to see the season’s first snowflakes. Or to have a final beach day. It’s all so amazingly unpredictable.

By the middle of the month, if you live in New England, the colors are spectacular. If we’re lucky, we still scramble for the last tomatoes and corn of the year. We seek comfort in sweaters, scarves and boots. Night falls early and evenings are perfect for campfires. At the close of the month, we light our walkways with carved pumpkins – their orange-yellow glow often the only bright color that remains…. Their warm, soft candlelight a sign of things to come.

The irony is that all the beauty happens because things are dying. Or, preparing for a long, deep sleep, in many cases. Nature tests our faith. We bemoan the cold, bleak darkness. But we know Spring will come around, her warmth forcing buds on the barren trees, bulbs from the frozen ground. 

It can be unsettling, this metamorphosis. We reluctantly give up our control. Some days, we complain. Some days, we embrace it. Either way, it happens all around us. It’s unpredictably predictable…. And it’s always beautiful.