Archive for the ‘hope’ Category

A Holiday Season for the Birds

“We missed you at the dinner,” my mother said.

“I missed being there,” I replied, sincerely.

We let the sadness sit in silence for a moment.

I’ve missed so many important occasions over the past decade.

Family reunions, weddings, birthdays, baby showers and this year, our Christmas gathering, have all happened without me.

Mother always tells me who showed up and gives me bits of updates on my loved ones.  Loved ones I’ve lost contact with, except through photos or indirect stories.

I’m trying not to let things get me down this holiday season, but so far, it is a huge challenge.

Not only am I in more pain from fibromyalgia and a few new ailments too, my son and I are not getting along.  It’s a double dose of holiday grief!

While talking with Mother about the Christmas gathering that I wasn’t able to attend, I immediately felt my heart-strings pull.  My efforts to be positive seemed to pay off because right away I decided to try and take joy in her account of the gathering.  I was surprised when soon I was smiling, as I imagined one of my great nieces bringing one of her cousins five wrapped presents.

“I don’t know if she got the other ones anything, but she sure had five,” Mother said, with that pure joy a Great-Grandmother has.  “She had every one of them wrapped too,” she added with a little laugh.

After a few minutes into the conversation, I walked to the window where I could see a flock of Robins in the yard. They love the grassy lawn where I live and they are spectacular to see!  They always seem to come when the light shows their silhouettes under the Sycamore tree.  Many of them move toward my door, and I get to see them up close and personal as they lean in towards the ground, turning their heads slightly, listening for earthworms.

Robin listening for worms

The Robin Listens

“Hey Mother!  The Robins are here!”

I’ve told her about the Robins before.

Amidst the flock were other birds about the same size as Robins, but with black with golden stripes.  One or two had iridescent blue heads, so perhaps they were young Common Grackles.

Sometimes, when I mention the birds in my yard over the phone to people, they’re silent for a moment afterward.  I always wonder if they think I’m making up these tales of many birds!

Mother was quiet for a moment, but then she remarked that I should, “send a photo to that wildlife magazine.”

I wish I could.  I wish I could, if for no other reason than to make her proud.  She would be happy to see one of my photos in a magazine.

I’m in pain and can’t sit long enough to complete even the most simplest of photo projects.

“Now,” I started telling my bird tales again, “there are Black-capped Chickadees, two or three bluejay, some Orioles, and the Hawk has landed on the ground!”

As if that wasn’t enough, a flock of Cardinals were perched on the bushes by the treeline!

“It’s a winged-oasis out there!” I told Mother.  “It’s so beautiful!”

I didn’t have the energy to go outside to take a photo.  At least, not yet.

I was happy to see the pretty winged visitors, as always, but when I’m feeling unusually blue, I am especially grateful because the beauty and life they bring lifts a part of my spirit every time.

I sensed my mother knew, or somehow, she could feel what I saw.

Mother and I have always had a connection on a level other than this physical one that we can see and understand.

Our talk ended when my son called.  “I hope he’ll stay and have the chocolate croissants with me,” I remarked to Mother.

He’s in the habit of taking food that I cooked to his apartment to eat.  He won’t visit me at home or talk to me much lately.

The hawk was still on the ground when my son arrived.  A neighbor walked by and we each watched the bird for a few minutes.

He was excited over the beautiful pastries and gave me a hug, thanking me for baking them, but he took his croissants and headed back home.  I was disappointed, but at least I knew he would enjoy them and that gave me comfort.

Practicing gratitude helps me get through hard times, even if the feeling only last for a little while.  I need to remember the better times and keep hope alive.

I’m glad for the ability to enjoy the natural world around me.  The wild ones keep coming back, so I have plenty of chances to take in nature’s beauty!

The hawk was still in the yard when my son left, but was perched on the electric wires.

I reached for my Canon!

The Red-shouldered hawk and that streak of beautiful Carolina sky!

Getting closer to the red-shouldered hawk

“How close are you going to get?”

Red-shouldered hawk perched on wire in backyard

“That’s Close Enough.”

Thank you for visiting my blog, dogkisses.

Peace and Happy Holidays!

Your blogger, Michelle.

Home ~ An Elusive Sense

An elusive sense that something was different caused me to take notice. 

In fact, it was just after the James Taylor bridge where we had turned toward the city, that a distant place inside me seemed to wake up.  My mind whispered long forgotten memories of a place I had once called home.  

sunlight, sky, branches, clouds

“You’ll have problems no matter where you go,” my former landlord remarked, after I told him I was moving. 

We were standing by the entrance to my front deck, beside the septic tank, where sewage was overflowing on the ground.  I held my tongue.  That particular problem wouldn’t be moving with me, I thought to myself.

We don’t have septic tanks in my new place. 

We do however have a history of flooding, so in a way, I guess the landlord was right.

Still, you gotta choose your battles in life, and I guess, the problems you’re willing to endure.

The street lights wake me up at strange hours of the morning.  I’ve been too busy to stop, unpack or put curtains on my windows. 

Pieces of me are in boxes, bills and various important documents spread across my floor.

I’ve yearned for the dark nights and shadows of trees.  They were my trees.  I especially miss the birds that lived among them. 

I felt I abandoned the birds, and in a way I did.   To tell why would take a lot of writing and it might be as hard to write, as it was to live.

There’s a big, puffed up and confident Mockingbird living in my new yard.  This bird rules the bird station.

mockingbird beautiful

The eager territorial bird has communicated its high status to all the feathered ones (except for the hawk).  They believe this Mockingbird too.  Even the large loud Bluejay gives the pretty white and grey bird the space it demands. 

I wonder what this means.  I wonder if the Mockingbird has something to say to me and if so, then what could it be?

One day, I’ll look back, I hope, and recall the beauty bestowed so freely in those woods where I lived.  I know I’ll remember the trees and beautiful moss that bloomed in springtime.  I’ll especially recall that the land and the wild ones that lived there was the place where Mother Nature penetrated my spirit.  

I’ll recall too the nights when after a day of chasing butterflies, and later watching birds,  the color of nature flooded my mind.

I have a new friend.  He’s an elder with great tales of sailing across the waters of Maine.  He reads me poetry and knows all the great literature!  We sit in his kitchen drinking instant, but good coffee.  On occasion, he calls to recite Shakespeare. 

Below, is the first poem he shared during our first visit together.

“Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops at all.

And sweetest in the gale is heard;

And sore must be the storm

That could abash the little bird

That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land

And on the strangest sea,

Yet never, in extremity,

It asked a crumb of me.”

Emily Dickinson


Ruthie Mae likes our new home.   She has a furry neighbor friend named Happy.

Amazingly, there are as many birds here as in my wooded yard.  

I haven’t seen the beloved Mourning Dove, but we have a pond that’s home to a Great Blue Heron.  I dreamed of this bird two nights before I moved here.  I had seen it swoop down close to me, then powerfully and gracefully, back up again it flew. 

Upon waking, I heard the spirit of the bird say it would carry me to my new home.

Astonishingly, I worked without pain during the rest of my move, even while sleeping on a hard bamboo floor.

A Red-shouldered hawk lives here too.  Every tenant I’ve met mentions the hawk.  It perches not too far from my door on low branches of trees by the creek.

hawk is our neighborhood friend

Keeping an eye on things

I live by water, with birds.  I like that.  The mail carrier wears a postal suit (including the hat), like olden times.  I like that too.

The locals hold the vibe of this city’s heart.  That’s what felt different after we crossed the bridge on moving day.  I remembered the heartbeat of the people here, and I felt it run through me. 

I am glad to be home, again.

Thanks for visiting my blog, dogkisses, and please feel free to leave me your comments.

Open for Grace

Ruthie Mae inspired what turned into a beautiful walk and an emotionally moving time for me.  We ventured out just before dusk, which is often the time of day I’m drawn to go outside, particularly when I’m in a melancholic mood.  I can’t think of anything that could have helped me more than our time together did.  It was perfect!

Ruthie saw a daring squirrel perched on a big tree.  She looked surprised when it didn’t immediately flee upon her arrival.  First, she appeared perplexed.  After a short moment, she had a hunter’s gaze that is so much a part of who she is, and which I do love.

There were several interesting sculptures in the park where we walked.  My favorite one is of three metal figures in the shape of women, holding their arms toward the sky.  They remind me of my two sisters, so I call them, The Three Sisters, but I don’t know the true title.

We came upon a bench formed into the shape of open hands.  I was especially inspired by the quote. 

park bench of open hands

The message touched my low spirit, lifting me from melancholia, to an inner place of hope.

“And Never Cease to Keep Your Wait

for Grace Lamp Ready.”

Hands Open.  Lighting Brown.

 

Thanks for visiting my blog, dogkisses, and I hope you have a blessed new year!

Responding to Stress

red flowers on stems

While the tears poured,  I thought how I surely didn’t look like a green healing girl, nor did I feel like one.

Shingles had hit me fast and hard.  In the past, I’ve been able to recognize the virus before an outbreak.  Not this time.

I had been sickly for several weeks losing a precious nine pounds.  I even went to the doctor fearing I had a tick-borne disease, but my doctor said he didn’t think I have one and instead, blamed my symptoms on stress.

I get tired of my health problems always being blamed on stress, but I realize it’s a serious problem, particularly when it’s ongoing.

My mom and I were talking on the phone when I saw the outbreak.  I was relieved because I’d rather have shingles than a tick infection.

My son was a resident at a small farm, where I thought he might live for three months.  I had gone to visit him two days before getting sick and thought he was going to stay. 

He had said he was homesick and sometimes felt pretty down, but after spending more time with him, he said that most of the time he felt good being there.  Most of the time is a lot to me, so I encouraged him to stay.

He wasn’t sleeping well at the farm and as a result, was often so tired that he was a little late for the chores and classes.  He was trying really hard and the farm’s director informed me that he was improving.

I left the farm after that visit feeling more hopeful than I have in a decade.  For the first time since my son was diagnosed with a mental illness, he was at a place where people treated him like a full human being.  He wasn’t a ‘case’ to be managed.  He was treated the same as the other residents, which meant he was expected to arrive on time for classes.

During the few weeks he was away, even though I had to drive a lot, which was difficult, I had enough time to see what it was like being me.

I was not a full-time caregiver.  I was Michelle.  I was a single woman.  I saw parts of my personality that I hadn’t seen in a long time, such as my sense of humor.  I’d forgotten that I have a pretty good one.  I had fun.

It’s not my son that I need a break from, but instead is the caregiver role that I don’t have help with.

Two days after our weekend visit together, my son was an hour late for one of the farm’s classes.  He said he was so tired that he lied down for what he intended to be five minutes, but then fell asleep.

The man leading that particular class, which was a prayer time, asked him to do a writing assignment.  It was a long and arduous assignment.  He refused and as a result, had to leave the program.

I am not proud of myself for the way I responded to the situation.  I was angry and didn’t handle my emotions well.  I needed someone to talk with about the situation.  Someone with experience, empathy and a positive attitude.  I didn’t have anyone who could offer that.

I told the manager when I arrived that I was sick.  I also confided in him that I wasn’t sure how long I could keep going the way I have been.  He said they would pray for me and we parted ways.

The six months before my son went to the farm had become more and more difficult for us.  I didn’t get a break.  I deeply desired and needed help. 

My son needs peers and friends, something to do with his time and more activity than I alone can offer. 

A few months ago, he was rejected from membership in a clubhouse for people diagnosed with a mental illness.  The reason was because he’s doing well and doesn’t have a case manager.  They aren’t used to that.  I’m not sure their response is altogether a bad thing. 

My son talks about recovery and has a reputation in that particular community of not taking medication.  Sometimes this causes ripples in the water.

I had begged God for somebody to help me.  The director of the farm called to say they would accept my son as a resident the same day that I had nearly screamed at the sky.  I thought my break came and it was one that I believed could change my son’s life. 

Things simply didn’t work out the way we had wanted.  I wish I could go back and respond to this fact differently than I did, but of course I can’t.  I can only try to do better in the future.

I feel better now.  I don’t know exactly what to do or where to turn in life, but I’ll keep on keeping on.  I’ll keep on trying and hoping and praying that there is a way to help my son, that we both can heal and recover, and that perhaps one day our lives will look much brighter.

I learned from the farm experience that I need to work on myself.  I need to take time for me.  I need personal time, as well as time for healing my own wounds.  I want to  heal.  I want to respond to life in a way that doesn’t cause me illness or worsen existing health conditions.  I certainly don’t like responding in ways that bring harm to others, hurt feelings or make the situation worse.  All easier said than done I suppose, but giving up is not a good option.

I’d like to say thanks to my blogging friends for the awesome support and encouragement you have given me.  I’ve said it before, but I’m proud to be a part of this community!  Thank you so much!

Even though my mother will likely never read this, I must say here that I am truly grateful for her love.  She sure stands by me when I’m sick and for that I sure am grateful. 

I am proud of my son for trying the program the farm offered.  He’s a strong young man with a kind and good spirit.

Thanks for visiting Dogkisses’s blog!

Red flowers in the garden, by Michelle and Son.

Hope Grows in the Garden

Horticultural healing

Horticultural Healing

Green Healing Days

I hope the little Squash grows well.  I believe it will.  With that said, I must tell you that I am so tired, I can’t write much of a post, but I simply had to share something about yet another, Green Healing Day!  I’m actually quite amazed at the opportunity I have in my volunteer work.  I had no idea that my time in the gardens, and with the people I’ve met, would offer me so many blessings, but it most certainly has! 

When I have more energy, I’ll tell you more about what makes this Squash special to me.  Perhaps by the time I can write another post, the Squash will have grown a lot more. 

Today, while I was taking a photo of it, the petals on the flower were a little wilted from just having been watered.  Just before I snapped this photo, the wind blew gently and the petal opened for me.  It was like that flower posed just for my camera.  I’m quite sure I’ve turned into one of those people who talk to plants. 

That’s all for today.  Thanks for visiting Dogkisses’s blog.  I hope that you too have some ‘Green Healing’ days!

Green Healing ~ Horticultural Notes

And the beat goes on…

life in the gardens

Quietly and Softly

soft and cheery, from Mother Nature.

Colorful Communications

We always begin Horticulture Therapy by gathering in a circle to share plant news.  This time together is good, interesting and takes us in many directions.  We often visit our past of garden or plant memories and look to the future with hopeful or creative garden dreams and ideas.

Last week I arrived just in time to hear another participant sharing his idea for a creative planting container.  The young man was more engaged than usual and when he smiled and became excited about what plants to choose and where he would put his new container, I felt like I saw the heart of horticulture therapy.

I like to call these times Healing Happenings, which are moments in time when hope or happiness fills my heart and mind.  I’m not talking about everything being right or all problems being fixed.  I’m talking about a little piece of time when worry and stress take a back seat and the beauty of life emerges.

healing horticulture

Sweet Peas make Smiles

Personally, ‘healing happenings’ include moments when I enjoy what I imagine most Mothers do, which is seeing our children, no matter what age they are, smile and be happy.  They’re also moments when I feel that my family will be okay.

a view of the big picture helps us stay hopeful

Therapeutic Gardening

“Drop by drop would make a lake.” (Azerbaijani proverb)

there is hope

The Intern in an early Garden

And then, there is faith.

We hope the garden grows and have faith in a plentiful harvest.

new lettuce and a few sprouted carrots

our garden grows

lettuce and carrots growing

One Beet a Day

A beet a day to keep the doctor away

PHOTO CREDIT:  MiriamWilcox via Flickr

A Taoist Alchemist has been working with my son and I for about four months.  He replied to an email I wrote while my son was in the hospital last year.  I wrote more than several emails during that time, but most of them carried the same message, which was that my family needed help.

I couldn’t believe it when he wrote me back.  He offered to help us and he has, in more ways than I could ever have imagined.  He quickly became crucial to the plan for recovery I was working on, which did get my son discharged.

The Alchemist is also a semi-retired Master Clinical Nurse.  He worked with the most severe cardiac patients in the hospital for about thirty years.  You’d never know by looking at him that he’s been around long enough for that history.  He has a youthful spirit and is in excellent health. 

He practices several modalities of holistic healthcare, including homeopathy, Chinese medicine and Oi-Gong.  The man has spent years studying these healing arts, along with nutrition and holistic healthcare.  Today he enjoys assisting people in prevention and recovery from just about any disease, including a stressful life.

The first time we met was to talk about my son.  Of course, this led to discussing my son’s childhood, background and me.  I was in his office for my own treatments shortly afterward. 

My toes had hurt for a while.  I kept waking up in the night feeling like somebody was pulling my toenails with pliers.  It was extremely painful! 

I briefly mentioned this pain, but I wasn’t there for the toe pain.  I was there to figure out how to help my son.  I was there because the energy I felt around this man evoked in me hope that my son could get better, possibly even well, which is not what psychiatry has told us for nearly a decade.

The Alchemist gave me a homeopathic remedy the first day I went for a treatment.  I told him that I hadn’t responded well to homeopathy in the past, but he said give it a try anyway.

The next day, the toe pain was gone.  It never returned like it was.  I’ve felt it on a much milder level, but only a couple of times.  They had been hurting nearly constantly and at one point, I recall being afraid of having to use a wheel chair if the pain continued.  The doctors said it was likely Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus.

I was surprised when the pain vanished after one treatment from the Alchemist.  I really didn’t know what to think.  Perhaps the homeopathic remedy worked.  Perhaps the energy the Alchemist carries is that of a true healer. 

I believe in healers.  I believe some people have access to energy that can heal sickness and disease.  Healing may not always look the same as the pain in my toes disappearing overnight.  Healing is a process and it takes time, along with a little determination, which brings me to the subject of BEETS!

“I want you to eat one beet a day,” the Alchemist said.  I cringed.  I’ve never eaten a whole beet in my life and that’s counting the obligatory servings I’ve had from the predictable holiday side dish.  I wasn’t sure I could do it.

“Can you make that face again?” the Alchemist asked me, laughing. 

“I don’t like the texture,” I told him.  “They are mushy,” and my face crinkled up again. 

“Oh, they’re not like that raw.”

“Raw?”

“Definitely,” he said.  “One raw beet a day for both of you.” 

“I want you to prepare this for your mother,” he then told my son.  “Do you think you can do that?” he asked him politely.

“Sure,” my son said enthusiastically.  He likes cooking.  He’s also pretty good at it.  Since he’s been living with me, we’ve split the chores.  His includes cooking and washing dishes.  (Yes!)

A beet a day goes a long way!We’ve had some great meals lately.  I have more energy.  I still have chronic fatigue and pain, but some days, I feel good.  Some days, I have energy.  I do believe a beet a day is a good thing!

My son is doing as well as I’ve seen him in ten years.  He still has challenges too, but we both have a little more energy and many more reasons for hope.

Thanks for visiting Dogkisses’s blog!  Feel free to leave a comment.

Resources: Taoist Healing and Chi Nei Tsang by Dennis Lewis