Sunday, July 31, 2011

Of Mothers and Sons

I heard it said once that the relationship between Mothers and Sons is a unique one.  I was watching Oprah  interviewing Danzel Washington as he spoke of the relationship between his wife and his son.  He talked about how close they were and he put it like this, he said "a boy's mother is his true first love and for a mother, her son is her last."  I always remembered that and when I had my son, I found truer words could not be spoken.  There is something amazingly special about the love of a son.  I am so fortunate to have experienced it.

My son was born weighing in at a whopping 9 pounds.  That was 12 yrs ago and I have all but forgotten most of that delivery.  I've watched him grow from that baby to a Kindergartner who's backpack was almost as big as he was.  I watched him walk down the halls of his elementary school on the last day of school before moving on to a new campus and fifth grade.  I've watched him fly through tennis shoes and as of yesterday, my baby boy is wearing a size 10.5 shoe.  I've watched him go from that little boy that I used to have to pick up to kiss to the little man that is pretty much looking me in the eye.  My son is growing.  His body endures the agony of growing pains while his mind is learning the world isn't always peaceful and fair.

My son is the designated grave digger of all pets and animals we find in need of a final resting place.  He does so with great care and compassion.  He loves science and art and is generally fascinated with this world of ours. He is caring and loving despite the fact that he must live in a house full of women.  I suppose that will only help him deal with women as he becomes an adult.  He's seen us at our best and at our worst.

Yesterday, my son and I went to the grocery store to do the weekly shopping.  I noticed how much he did for me, pushing the basket, reaching things off the upper shelves, going back to get things I had forgotten.  As we moved through the store, he saw a member of the national guard in uniform at the end of the aisle.

He said "mom, look there's a soldier".  I said yes and that he was most likely stationed at the base near our town.  We watched as the soldier moved out of sight down another aisle.

He looked at me and said, "I'll be right back mom."

With that I watched him head in the direction I had last seen the soldier.  He was gone only a minute or two then I saw him emerge from the other aisle.  When he was back with me I asked him what he had done.

He said " I went over and found that soldier.  I told him thank you for serving and shook  his hand".  I said "What did he say to you?" He said " He told me not a problem".

After that, my son asked me if that soldier would be fighting in other countries.  I told him I wasn't sure but there was a good chance, yes.  He then asked me if he could die.

I looked at him and said "That young man is serving his country because he has made the choice to do so.  He takes that responsibility knowing he may have to die for his country.  Yes, the chances are good he may die.  I would encourage you to pray for him each and every day."

I looked at the tears well up in my son's eyes.  Never have I been more proud of my son as I was on that day.  He was showing me and himself that he was becoming a man.  He allowed his compassion to take him up to a stranger and say something they might need to hear. 

I've always hated the idea that my baby would grow up.  I feared what the world would throw at his tender soul.  As he has grown, I've come to realize and remember that we were all some one's baby at one time.  We all endured heartaches and pain.  It is part of life.  My son will be no different and to spare him those experiences is to deny him the opportunity to learn and grow.

So, like yesterday in the store, I need to let go of the baby and now just marvel at the man and all he will do with his life. Its not easy because he is my last true love.

My Son

Back Seat Windows

If you live with children and you want to write, you know that in order to do so you must steal time.  This Sunday morning, I am stealing some time.  While everyone else is asleep, I'm here chiseling away on my keyboard fashioning a memory or two.

If you live with children you also know that on occasion, they will fight.  I wish I could say it was on occasion at my house but the children in my home are more than little opportunists.  As they  have grown, now ages 12 and 7, they have blessed us with so much.  We laugh at what they say,  how they say things, how they think and the things they do.  They are indeed the most interesting individuals.  And they fight.  They fight about anything and everything.  And I don't mean they fight now and then, oh no, that would be tolerable.  They fight constantly.  They fight in the morning, they fight when they see each other, they fight when one walks through an already occupied room.  Yet at the end of the day, they say good night to each other and the next day its on again.  It feels like I'm living in the Waltons From Hell show. 

With this in mind, when we decide to drive somewhere, we have to split up the children in the vehicle.  We have a small economy sized car and well, that puts the children just too close together especially for more than a 15 min drive. We have long lost our endurance and I resign myself to the back seat with the 7 yr old Kaylyn.

I usually hate cramming into the small back seat space that obviously was designed for someone much smaller than myself.  Yet, once back there, I really have the best time.  There is singing and laughing and talking in that back seat.  I hear the conversations within the car and every now and then, I see glimpses of the happy family we are.  Underneath all the fussing and fighting, posturing for attention and age dominance, we are a happy family and we truly love each other.

Its a different world in the back seat.  There are less distractions and you see the world from the side.  Normally when I'm upfront, I'm looking out the front window or talking to my daughter and driver Jamie. But from the back seat, you see the world as you pass it by.

Yesterday, between songs, I was looking out the side window at the clouds.  What was tropical storm Don had thrown some amazing clouds our way.  There were layers of different clouds, each adding a  richness to my view. They were beautiful. I watched them for a long time as we drove while I listened to the noises of the children and the music.

As I peered into the cloud depths and layers, I spotted a bird and watched as it soared up there so high above me.  What a view it must have, I thought.  What an amazing feeling of freedom that must be to be up in the clouds.  As I watched it, the bird caught a wind current as it went from slowly soaring to moving rapidly up in the clouds and across my view of the sky.  It was flying with no effort.  Just like the sea turtles riding the current in Finding Nemo.  It looked like such amazing fun.  I remember thinking how much I envied that bird for that moment of his life knowing full well that it was not an isolated moment for him.  He certainly had wings and more than enough opportunity to fly and soar among the clouds.  But from the back seat, it was spectacular and I thought about how he most likely took for granted his stunning view. For several minutes I imagined myself that bird and I just flew.

As I often do, I pull in what I see in life and usually I can see a lesson.  After the bird had disappeared I looked back at the children and my family.  That bird had reminded me that while life is full of work just to stay alive there are moments when its majestic.  And while being a parent is exhausting and there are days when we don't think we will survive it, there are many moments of pure magic.  Singing in the back seat with your grand daughter is one of them.  That's when I reached over, took Kaylyn's small hand and just held it awhile.  Lesson learned.

My grand daughter, Kaylyn

Friday, July 29, 2011

Setting The Table

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates, 460 B.C.

As many of you know, this summer was my jump start on that healthy lifestyle change.  I had so many reasons, another birthday, another school year coming, feeling older than I should feel and many many more.

With each passing year, if not guarded carefully, our health will suffer from the lifestyles we choose.  It is so easy to eat quick meals from the grocery store.  It is so easy to sit and watch TV all day.  It is so easy to not take vitamins and other supplements. Its so easy to give into that Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche ice cream. These choices require very little on our part.  We simply do whatever we want to do and eat whatever we please.  But those years and those choices will begin speaking for themselves.  Maybe its high blood pressure, maybe its diabetes or maybe its something much worse.

For me it was high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, weight gain and as of late, leg and hip pain.  Each of them began restricting me from being a participant in my life.  Whenever I was up moving around, my heart would pounding and I was exhausted.  Then there was the pain in my leg that never seemed to go away.  Everything was keeping me from living, I was merely existing.  It was most unpleasant.  And worst of all, I felt old.  I remember thinking if this was what I had to look forward to......

So, five weeks before my birthday, I made the choice to change. I began making lifestyle changes.  First my diet.  I began recording what I ate on the Sparks People site, using my stability ball and upping my vitamin intake. You won't find me endorsing many things on this blog, but the Sparks People free site is used daily by me and  people I love.  We have all been on diets where we could never lose weight.  Using the Sparks People site showed us why.  In order to stay within the healthy range of calories, carb, fats, cholesterol and a host of vitamins and nutrients,  you have to know what you are eating.

If you've never given it a look, I encourage you to do so.  They have a massive quantity of recipes and a user friendly site that will give you insight into the foods you eat.  We can't be healthy if we eat blindly.  Best of all, we are losing weight. One friend started the same day that I did and lost 18lbs in 17days (confirmed by a scheduled doctor visit).  He continues to use the site and manages his nutrition and weight loss with success.

It has now been seven weeks since I began this journey and I am feeling better and dare i say,  younger.  Weight has come off, my heart no longer pounds and for the past three days, no pain in my hip and leg.

I fully understand that in order to feel good, it will take work on my part.  Using my stability ball has helped my flexibility and I've recouped some of my strength.  Aside from the hard work, it will take diligence and stamina.  I feel I have both.

Meal portions are important no doubt, but I think educating yourself on what is in the food that's on your plate is even more important.  Should you want to learn about the quality of the food purchased at your grocery store, I recommend the following videos.  Each available online to view for free :  Food Matters, Food, Inc, King Corn and Simply Raw.  A little googling will get you to these videos and start your journey to profound knowledge about whats in your individual pantries and freezers.

I wanted to bring in the healthy eating topic to my blog for many reasons.  Granted I only have about 5 people that read my words and about half of them are already on the road to eating with nutrition in mind.  But there is a social responsibility I feel to put FOOD on the table.  My blog table.  So periodically, I will share what I learn, what I've tried and any results I encounter.  Today I will even throw in a recipe.

I make no claims to be a nutritionist or a magical healer.  I am a middle aged woman with alot of reasons to stay alive.  I have learned along the way  from people that have shared information and knowledge with me.  It would feel good to pay that one forward by sharing what I know with others. To make others just stop and think about what they choose to eat.  We all must continue to learn, its part of life and if any of us thinks that we know it all, we are only fooling ourselves and chances are our current health is living proof of that.

My goal is and continues to be to live a life of eating nutritious, living foods. To always be mindful of  whats in my food.  To pursue a life free of medications and minimal doctor office visits.  Most importantly, I want to serve as an example for the children in my life so that they may live their lives eating responsibly and with an understanding that what they choose to eat today can and will affect their health, either positively or negatively, at some point.

As promised, here is the recipe for you Starbucks lovers....

Modified Healthy Frappichino (originally found on the Sparks People site)

This is a two parter so this first part is done first.

The recipe calls for some soy milk which i didn't have but I had almonds and knew how to make almond milk .  As it turns out, it was very good with this substitute.  I'll make this recipe for two servings

Almond milk -

1/2 cup almonds (or slightly less, soaked in water til soft then drained.) This took about an hour.
While you are at it make one cup of coffee (decaf) and let cool to room temp (you need that later)

In blender put almonds with one cup of water, blend til almonds are as dissolved as possible. Takes some time but if the almonds were softer it might have been faster.

Add one 1sp of vanilla and 1 tsp of honey (or stevia if you don't have honey)

Add one more cup of water, blend till you just cant stand it anymore.

Leave that in the blender.

When coffee is cooled, add to blender.

Add 2 tbs of cocoa powder or any chocolate you might have around, i know you have some.

Add 2 scoops of whey protein powder (optional)

Add 5 packs of stevia

Blend well.

Add 8-10 ice cubes and blend til ice is crushed.  Serve with a straw

This makes well over 16oz so you will have some left over.  Keep refrigerated and enjoy.

I continue to make this completely omitting the almond milk part and just use water and its fine.

The greatest incentive to good health is remembering  how bad poor health feels.

Bon Appetit!

By The Dawn's Early Light

This morning did not bring good news.  Every day this week, we watched anxiously as the tropical wave turned into the tropical depression which turned into the tropical storm.  The storm was named Don.  We kinda tilted our heads when we heard that name.  Don.  Don?  Don sounds rather weak.  Not like an Ivan.  The name Ivan conjures up pictures of burly Vikings or something.  Its a good strong name Ivan is.  Don?  Not so much.

We dressed up Don's name, calling him The Donald and waited his arrival.  I watched with great delight, the projected path which would ensure our most precious gift.  Rain.   Not just a few drops here and there that has been our case this long dry summer.  But real rain that falls hard and fast enough to make puddles indicating that for the moment, my part of the world had had enough.

Last night, when I went to bed, we were still getting the green light, The Donald was still coming close enough to give us rain.  Oh but by the dawn's early light, things have changed.  The Donald will make landfall further south and we will be left dry.  Hope must go sit back down on the bench and wait for another opportunity.  Hope is not happy and neither am I.

On a bright note, a hummingbird has found the feeder.  Now I don't understand the mindset of a hummingbird but after days and days of waiting, I listened to my six yr old grand daughter.  She said "Mimi, the hummingbirds can't see the feeder, you need to cut down all these trees so they can see it."  I dismissed this logic for several days.  Finally, I moved the feeder away from the trees.  I left it to sit on a wooden gate post and sure enough, within a few hours, we had a hummingbird.  I tried moving the feeder back over to a location near my chair so that I could sit and see the hummingbirds as they fed.  The hummingbirds did not follow it.  So back out on the post it goes.

I'm getting the picture now I think.  Sometimes its just easier to move your chair than it is to move the feeder.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Brotherhood

I  have always believed that we walk through the fires of life for several reasons.  The first to teach us things about ourselves and others.  The second, to be able to help others when they walk through the same fires.  We cannot fully appreciate the pain and suffering of another person unless we too have felt it's sting and levels of agony.  Whether it is healthy issues, financial difficulties or the loss of loved ones, we cannot empathize with someone else unless we have felt their despair.  Sympathy is pointless, mere words designed to comfort both the other party and ourselves.  Empathy, on the other hand, is knowledge beyond question.  Empathetic words have value and they come from a place littered with a debris called experience.  Trust me , the person suffering knows the difference.

A year and a few months ( I think that's right, I still dont have a firm grip on timelines) after Logan's suicide (as determined by law officials and medical examiners) I was functional again.  My life had direction, I was moving forward and had more focus.  I worked and cared for my family and personally, I think I did it well, all things considered.  I had endured the second set of holidays without Logan and while he remained the ghost in the room at family gatherings, we did alright.  The Christmas break from work was nice and much needed.  I tend to stay home during that time, emerging for trips to the grocery store. Home is theraputic for me.  It is my shelter from life's storms.

When I returned to work afterwards, I emailed a coworker, Michael,  that worked at another campus. Cheerfully, I inquired about the holidays and asked if Santa had been good to him.  His reply left me stunned.  Michael explained to me that his baby brother, a contract worker in Iraq,  had committed suicide during the holidays.  I felt my stomach sink and things got a bit blurry.

It reminded me of the time shortly after Logan's death, only a year earlier, that I was helping a student in the office.  She was visibly upset.  I was always one of the first adults to see a child at school. I could see if they were having a good day or not.  I could also see if there was a serious problem and when that happened, I would get them back to their counselor instead of letting them try to go to class with a burden they could not carry.  On this day, I asked her if she was ok.  She said "No, my best friend committed suicide last night".  I remember trying to fill out her pass to class.  But I couldn't see the words on the paper.  My coworker was standing next to me, I looked at her and said "can you finish this for me please?". I instructed the girl to wait for me inside the office, that I would be right back.   I got up, walked out of my office and into the back interior of the vault where I could be alone.  I couldn't breathe.  My mind was racing and I remember telling myself  this isnt happening to me.  This is not Logan.. This isnt me that had a friend commit suicide last night.  This isnt me, this is her, this is her, this is her.  For several minutes I stayed in there, in that vault and cried, mentally trying to seperate myself from this girl's situation.  I then composed myself and breathed deeply.  I wiped my tears, met the girl and took her back to her counselor.

When we are traumatized, we remain easily traumatized.  It takes very little to send us back to that dark place, that place of chaos and pain.  The good thing is that, with time,  we dont stay there for weeks and months.  The roller coaster still runs but we are out of the dips much faster and back on top where we can breathe.

Now here was Michael. His brother was gone.  His devastation evident.  His world had come crashing down, it was imploding and chaos had taken over.  For several months we talked.  I shared with him my loss and he told me that no one understood how he felt like I did.  Sadly we both shared the same kind of  horrible loss.  We talked about how we had lost people before to illness and accident and how bad that was to endure.  We also talked about being a suicide survivor and how much longer it took to find our way out of that darkness.

I did what I could to help Michael.  But just like me, one traumatic experience was followed by another and instead of finding his way through it, he crumbled. He had to leave his job and for the most part disappeared.I would contact him and have brief conversations but he had retreated to a safe place to heal.

Today, Michael was on my mind.  So I sent him a message to see how things were going.  We began talking via phone messages and finally I got him to send me an email.  I hope that he will let me do what I can to help him as we share the most horrendous of brotherhoods.  We belong to the same awful club of suicide survivors.  That elite group of people who never wanted to be there, never wanted to know the criteria for entering and never ever wanted a lifetime membership.  But if we are to be good stewards of our fellow man, then we have to help each other out. We have to offer comfort when we can and a hand up to those that have stumbled.

I hope Michael will be receptive to my suggestions to put the focus on himself now.  To eat foods that make him strong instead of weak.  To take walks to exercise both his body and his mental demons.  To make plans for his future and leave what was, in the past.  His "what was" wont go anywhere, it just wont be able to trip him up quite so easily.   I know I can only do so much but I certainly want to give  him what I needed when I needed it most.  Hes been on an island far too long.  I'd like to try to be the ship he sees on the horizon. Even if he waives me to pass, I will have known that I tried.  Thats all any of us can do.


Timing Is Everything

Its almost 3am.  Ive been up for over an hour answering emails and thinking about this post.  Normally I am sleeping but I decided to play automatic sprinkler system.

It has been so hot and so dry here in Central Texas that the word desperate has creeped into our daily vocabulary.  We are desperate for the heat to break and desperate for rain.  I am beginning to wonder what comes after the word desperate.

The forecast called this week for temperatures well over 100 degrees each day.  And no rain. Just a repeat of all the days and weeks before it.  We have grown accustom to the idea that rain will not fall today or tomorrow.  We try to not think about how many days it has been this summer without rain.  I remember not long ago being hopeful that somehow, someway this long hot streak would break.  I don't feel that hope much anymore.

So last night, I was thinking about watering this morning.  We are now on restriction and can only water on Wednesdays and Saturdays, we water all day long and it seems to change little.  Everything is dry and in various stages of dying.  I was thinking about how many days I have hand watered or moved a sprinkler over the past month and a half.  I thought about those around me that had the ease of automatic sprinkler systems and how nice and green their lawns looked while mine struggled.  Mine was desperate.  Yesterday, I mowed what little grass we have watered. It was like mowing dirt.  Dust went everywhere.  Its a very sad thing to experience.

That's when I decided to play automatic sprinkler system.  I set my alarm for 12:30am (well into Wednesday morning in case the law did a drive by) and then went outside to start the sprinkler.  I know there are those lawn enthusiasts that would say you should never water at night.  It is probably bad for the grass.  They may be right but I know watering during the day, when the temperature is close to that of the surface of the sun, is also bad for the grass.  So we will try something different.  Seriously, when you are desperate for water, what can it hurt?

The sprinkler has been going now for two hours and having just checked it, I can see no standing water on the ground.  How dry my piece of this Earth has become.

I will move the sprinkler to another location in an hour and delight yet another piece of my Earth.  When the light of day arrives, I'll hand water the tomato plants, sunflowers and peppers.  That's all that remains of my garden.  I pulled the corn plants and half of the tomato plants to focus on the new starts that will struggle through the rest of July and August in hopes of a yield after the heat of this summer releases us from its grip.

It wasn't a bad idea to get up in the middle of the night to play with the sprinkler.  The world is quiet and the air cooler.  The perfect time to be outside.  I think both the grass and I will get something out of this bright idea of mine.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Feeder

Yesterday, I did something I've never done before.  I prepared food and filled a hummingbird feeder.  Big deal you might say.  Well, actually it is a big deal.  

Over the weekend, I traveled with my brother to my sister's home several hours away.  We awoke Saturday morning and went to sit out on her porch.  My chair was positioned nearest the edge by the railing.  We talked and yawned and did all those comfortable things families do when they find themselves waking together after long periods of time apart.

Mornings like that are like slipping on an old comfortable sweater.  It just feels good and it feels right.  Its like waking up in mom's home after you've grown up.  You might be an adult but waking up to the sounds of mom in the kitchen will also awaken the child you used to be.  I can remember doing that, waking up at mom's house, hearing those familiar sounds and how I laid in bed a little longer just listening.  Sounds and voices I have heard since I entered this world.  I would lay there until the child faded into the adult.  

When mom and dad are gone, being with your siblings in situations like that can do the same thing.  This was the first time in nearly 40 yrs we had just had some time to ourselves.  No children, no grandchildren, just us.Special doesn't even begin to describe it.  There is just something about being with people that share your blood.  Knowing that those people have something linked to you that is shared by no one else in the world is what makes us family.  The love we have for each other holds us together like tightly clasped hands.

We sat on that porch and slowly they came.  Hummingbirds and lots of them.  I'm not sure they hum as much as they buzz.  I watched them getting food and behaving most territorially.  It seemed they used up as much energy as they took in chasing other hummingbirds away from the feeder.  If they had shared and taken turns, they would have all been filled and happy.  But no, these delicate little creatures must see the value in that food of theirs and especially in this year of no rain, the importance of every single drop of energy they can find.  

Seated where I was, I had an amazing close up view of them. The feeder was only a couple of feet away. They are indeed magical to watch.  And I did, I watched them and tried to soak in their images.  

It sounds simple, I know.  So what, you saw hummingbirds, you might say.  

The way I see it, in this life of ours, we have opportunities to observe many things.  We can see things that make us so angry we think we will explode or things that are so sad, we think we might die.  We see things that confuse us and things that bring clarity.  We are also blessed to see beauty, acts of kindness and tokens of love.  Its much like a bag of marbles (or a box of chocolates, if you are Gumpish).  You stick your hand in there numerous times each day and you can pull out a dark marble or a clear marble that catches the suns light. You just never know what the day will bring.  But stick your hand in the bag you must.  To deny yourself the game might spare you pain but it will also deny you immense joy and beauty.  Our hearts must be touched. It is spiritual food and just one clear marble can change everything. 

Watching those hummingbirds that morning touched all my senses at once.  And it was a good touch.  Every morning should have them and thus, the hummingbird feeder is now hanging near my chair on my back porch and I'm just waiting for the good touch to find me.  I'm waiting for my clear marble.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Four AM and the Four of Four

It was 4am but I didn't know it at the time. My bedroom dark and I was sleeping soundly. My perfect rest was disturbed by a tiny sound, a tiny meow. As I tried to stay in that perfect sleeping place, that place where I am not me and not in this body of mine, where my spirit gets to roam where ever it wants, that tiny meow continued. Meow, meow, meow.

Now, I have several cats and not unlike my children, I know the sound, the feel and even the purr of each. I can pet one in the dark and know which is which. Sasha, my little bed buddy is soft, like 1600 thread count sheets soft. She is usually on my bed and she sleeps for 23 out of 24 hours each day. She is a big tall cat and she knows it. Sasha has never taken a good picture and could care less. No one speaks kindly of Sasha but I love her for her bad attitude and consistency.  I will see if I can find a flattering picture of Sash, but I doubt one exists.

Baby Kahn, my Bengal, is my old man. Smaller and thinner than the mighty Sasha, he is my billy badass. You have to be careful when playing with him as his claws are more like a wild animal than a cat. He is also very loving but thinks he is in charge of his world. BK is the welcome wagon to anyone that enters the house be it human or animal and has a wonderful disposition. Baby Kahn and Sasha are best friends. They are the original two and serve as the monarchy of the herd.

Baby Kahn

Derby is simple. Derby lays on your shoes and loves to have his stomach scratched. Derby found his way to us from an animal shelter. His mousy face complete with pointy nose heads a body that is small and compact. He is my do no evil cat. His love is simple and pure, just like him.


Pepper came to us on his way to the shelter. A neighbor and fellow cat person had agreed to take him so he would not end up homeless and without a family waiting for death in a shelter. He was with us until the neighbor got home from work. Pepper never made it to the neighbor and quickly became part of my herd. A soft black coat with a little bit of white on his face and paws, Pepper was declawed when he came to us. I'd never seen a declawed cat before until Pepper came along. Its obvious that its not a simple procedure and people should remember that it is an amputation. Pepper has no defense and as a result, when involved in a dispute with a cat family member, he is one loud and noisy cat. What he lacks in slash, he makes up for with volume. He has become good friends with Derby but being younger than the Derbimeister, he is full of play and spends most of his time ambushing Derby from one place or another.


Within my home there is a balance as far as the cats go and an order to things. Sasha stays in my room 99% of the time and only leaves to terrorize Pepper. She is only awake an hour a day but really tries to make it a full hour. Baby Kahn goes anywhere he pleases but doesn't really like to spend time near Pepper. Pepper has the kitchen and hallway patrol. Derby has another room but can freely enter my room if he can get past Pepper's ninja style attacks. There is order and it works and slowly Pepper, the new kid on the block without the cool song to make him popular, is being tolerated if not accepted.

Then there is little Liz. Liz has a long story with us but for the sake of time and relevance, lets just say that she was once a stray that became our outside cat. When the weather is too cold or too hot, she comes in the house, into my room and sleeps in the very chair in which I am currently seated. She is a good little cat that prefers the life of freedom to the many feline faces in my home. I'm respectful of that.

Miss Liz

The tiny meow I heard, the little call that jostled me from my slumber, was Liz. Meow, Meow, Meow. So tiny and sweet. I knew it was her before I ever turned on a light. My brain was struggling to validate what I knew to be a truth. Liz is never in at night unless its too cold. In the heat and drought of this year there was no chance it was cold. So what was she doing in the house? What time was it? Whats going on?

I got out of bed and from the soft light in the hallway I could see Lizzie actively moving in front of me. Still groggy from my spirit travels while sleeping, I said "come on Liz" and proceeded to the back door. How in the world did she get in? As I turned to see the back door, my fear was realized. There sat the back door, open. Unlocked.

I let Liz back outside and noticed Pepper sitting at the edge of the porch so I hustled him back inside. He growled at Liz and she hissed at him as they passed. Now I'm waking up fast. Priorities first, where are my cats. I saw Derby posted on a pair of shoes and I had just brought in the Pepster, two of four accounted for.

I came to my bedroom and turned on the light. Sasha and Baby Kahn were laying on my bed looking at me. Four of four safe and sound. Lizzie outside. I looked at the clock on the wall. Four o'clock in the morning, my Lord and I wanted to sleep in today after traveling yesterday.

Now I turned my attention to the door. How did this happen? How is it that in the middle of the night, my back door is open and how long had it been that way.

I checked the beds, everyone was asleep. I knew if the back door had been opened long, BK would have been outside. He has tried his whole life to escape and live the dream but I love him too much to make him that happy. So it hadn't been too long that the door was open. I checked the house to make sure I was the only human awake in it that actually belonged and then summoned up some courage and walked out the back door.

Normally there are the sounds of the night at 4 am. As I exited the back door, I was greeted with silence. There was a thickness to the night air. The silence was uncomfortable and I proceeded slowly and cautiously. I checked the screen door to the porch and it was locked. If anyone had entered, it would not be secured. I have learned to listen to my senses and that uncomfortable feeling so I headed back in the house and checked all cats and sleeping people again. Everything was fine.

It is almost 6am now and there is still that silence outside. I don't like it and I will be glad when the world wakes up just a little. It seems to be slumbering a bit too hard and a bit too deeply for some odd reason. Since I adhere to the rule that everything happens for a reason, I'm waiting to see why it was so important that I be awake at 4am.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What Has Truly Been Seen, Cannot Be Unseen

My brother Ray said those words to me today. I told him how brilliant it was and he modestly admitted that only the word "truly" was his contribution. Its origin neither here nor there, it was a profound statement in the context of our conversation.

We were talking today about our individual and personal "food revolutions". I had mentioned to him that having watched "FoodMatters" a second time had a different affect than the first. I told him that I thought it was because the information regarding our food supply and what the human body needs had come in fragmented pieces, much like a disassembled puzzle. This education had been delivered in segments but was retained cumulatively. When I saw the documentary again, all the pieces slipped into perfect position and with clarity I could see the big picture. It also reinforced that gut feeling I had that I was doing the right thing. That's when he said "what has truly been seen, cannot be unseen".

Tomorrow I will yet again celebrate another birthday. I don't know what is so special about that "starting place" for me, but each birthday is embraced as if it were New Years Day. Its my day to clean the slate and write anew. Another year to try to get things right. But this year is somewhat different in that the children are older and as they grow more independent, I find more time for myself. Who would have thought that would finally happen.

This summer, my diet in check and the addition of vitamins and supplements, I feel I'm walking into my starting place in a positive way. I am so blessed to have the company of children, the love of family and the gift of health. Never have I appreciated each of these more than I do at this very moment. If its possible to turn back the hands of time, just a bit, then I will work to do so. Why? Because my family will need my love and guidance for as much time as I can give them. I can't give them half when they need my all.

With summer coming to a close, work and school looming, I will set goals, meet those goals and dance in each victory. I will make time to relax, to meditate and to think. I will continue to seek foods that nourish my body and help it to heal. I will sleep and make that healing event a priority. I suppose I will be writing too and that makes my soul laugh with delight.

While none of us knows the number of our days or how many starting places and New Years Days we ultimately get, it only makes sense to not waste them. Not a single one . I have lost people that I love dearly and with all my heart but I'm still alive. I did not die. I have much to do.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fire and Flames

Before Logan's death, I had learned to be very conscious of what I ate and drank. During that time of my nutritional enlightenment, food went from being mindless eating to "eyes wide open" events.

I can remember growing up and trusting that the food we ate each day was healthy and a nourishment to our bodies. We ate vegetables from the garden and chickens from our own coop. It was the dawn of commercial foods and foods of convenience. Even then, we ate without fear. I can remember those TV dinners that were actually covered with foil and only heated in the oven. We had them on occasion (and they were 19 cents each) but most of our meals were prepared from scratch in our own kitchen.

I'm not even sure I can recall how or when I learned what today's "food" really was. How it was delicious but void of nutrients. How even though we were overweight as a people, we were starving to death. How added ingredients in almost all commercial foods did nothing but fatten us up and contributed to most common health problems and diseases. How eating right can help the body heal itself. I learned and then I forgot.

Logan's death left everything blurry. Nothing made sense and we stopped being who were were before he died. It was as if one moment we were standing on dry ground, the next moment we were suddenly tossed into an angry stormy sea, barely able to keep our heads above the constantly moving water, holding on to each others hands in an effort to survive. In those days and months, that was all we could do. We just kept surviving. No real passion existed. It is as if the mind and the heart become disconnected, unable to communicate. We became shells of who we were. We looked the same for the most part but our souls had become shallow. We became one dimensional, thin and fragile. That's what sudden loss and grief can do to you.

It has been 18 months since that horrible day in October of 2009. It took a full 7 months before I could begin to feel anything. But I still didn't know who I was, what I liked, what I wanted or what was important. Very slowly the fog of grief began to lift. Logan no longer occupied our every thought. His memory no longer invaded our sleep.

There was guilt in letting that pain go and maybe we didn't let it go as much as we tucked it away in a drawer like some valued possession we hid for safe keeping. If we did that did it mean that we were forgetting him? The simple act of remembering him was to put a fire to gasoline. The end result was unspeakable pain. I think we understood that if we were to survive, if we were to find a purpose in our lives again, we were to live a life that could include joy and beauty, we had to manage our source of pain. We had to wrestle grief into that tiny box, put it in the drawer and close it. It would always be there and when we felt the need to remember, we could take it out, turn it this way and that and recall every detail. This examination would happen at a time of our choosing when the tears were hidden from the world.

For me, at least, I try not to open that drawer. I know where it is, I know whats in it. For the sake of my sanity, I try to leave it be. As time goes on, I can write about whats in that box and why it changed my world and why it has changed me.

This summer I began to remember all I had learned. I remembered it with a clarity and understanding that I had not had before. For so long I had neglected my physical body while my mental body healed. I failed to see through the fog that they are both critical to my survival and my ultimate healing.

I have embraced that part of me that is healing from the inside out, starting with my food choices. It has been a month and as I nourish my body with healthy foods, vitamins and minerals, I feel renewed strength. It is part of my second life here on Earth, a life that unfolds before me, completely new and different. Yet there are pieces of the old me that are there lying around for collection and use. I must have forgotten where I put them as I seem to find them one at a time.

Learning about the new me, the post October 2009 me is an adventure. The journey, including the fog, has forged a stronger woman. I have walked through the fire and found that instead of completely consuming me as I thought it would, it simply left me with calloused feet. Feet that can withstand both fire and flames.

The experience will serve me well in the future as life often throws at us what we think we cannot survive. Yet we do. How we survive is up to us. We simply need the will and desire to do so. Life takes care of the rest.

God Is In The Rain

In the year of an exceptional drought, life is different. Sure we go through our days, meeting deadlines, taking care of responsibilities and preparing for the next but in a drought, life is different.

During my summer break from work, which happened to coincide with this exceptional drought, I have seen a different summer. Beyond the obvious dry grass and dying landscape that is Central Texas, there is a constant thirst. I have grown used to dirt that has become powder and mornings that consist of watering everything from gardens to trees. In a drought there is a preoccupation with water. And there is that constant thirst.

As temperatures rise to the century mark and above each day, the air becomes less comfortable to breathe. People and pets move a little slower if at all. Summer becomes the enemy and the night our savior.

I have driven past corn fields where the crops have baked in the summer sun. Corn plants that should be tall and lush and green have dried and died in the hot Texas soil. I have seen fields plowed under early as hope of a yield was abandoned. A drought touches everything and everyone. It is a game changer.

Every morning I fill the bird bath which has become like the watering hole in an African desert. I have seen every living creature in and near my yard come for a drink. Lizards, wasps, squirrels, cats, birds, opossums and raccoons. Every living thing, plant and animal alike has an exceptional thirst this year.

But every now and then, as it did yesterday, the rain will fall. Sometimes its only for a moment, sometimes just a little longer. In the year of an exceptional drought, seeing rain is magical. It is a "get out and let it hit you" moment. It is a "be a child again" moment. It is a "see it for the first time" moment. It is summed up in a single word, glorious.

Some years are just like that. Some years are just a drought. Some years everything is just more difficult and there is that thirst for what used to be. What we need to remember is that all droughts eventually end. When the rains return and that life giving moisture is absorbed, life will find it's normal rhythm again.

While droughts are remembered with disdain and a physical shudder, their mere existence makes the promise of rain, the smell of rain, the taste of rain all the more sweet.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wake up! Wake up!

I woke up very early this morning with a memory that had been long resting in some recess of my mind. I awoke thinking about the deputy sheriff sitting in his lawn chair on the railroad tracks. In my mind's eye I could see him. I could even see the color of the chair, one of those metal chairs with the woven patterned prints for the seat and back. I could see the railroad tracks, the white gravel laying beneath the rusty colored metal. I could see the trees in the background.

Why was he on my mind?

I never knew much about Deputy Sheriff, only that he was a decorated officer in the county where my nephew, Logan, lived and died. I learned that Deputy Sheriff was an avid hunter and often hunted the woods near those railroad tracks. Local papers described him an experienced outdoors man and the people that knew him could not understand how this could have happened. According to local publications, there was to be an investigation into the incident.

Sometime in the spring after Logan died, after we had survived our first holiday under duress, after my brother Ray had secured custody of his only surviving child Rissa, after the intense fog of grief had only slightly lightened, we had put hope for justice in Deputy Sheriff.

I had lost count of the number of emails we had sent to various agencies, news outlets, social groups and even government agencies in hopes that someone would find the abuse of a child a crime. It seemed that no one really cared. Oh sure there were consistent expressions of sorrow and sympathy, but no where did anyone say "Hey, this isn't right, this is a crime. Someone needs to go to jail". Those were words we longed for. We desperately needed to somehow right this wrong.

It's odd how grief will throw you around like that suitcase in those old Samsonite commercials from back when I was a kid. I guess grief is the gorilla and the gorilla gets bored. There is just no proper way to describe how it makes you feel, how it leads you down one path, how it keeps you hungry for answers and thirsty for understanding. Grief is the intense August sun beating down on your soul. Before long you stagger through your days, drenched in your pain and loss.
Your only rest comes with sleep and that never goes on long enough.

I remember receiving the email from Ray about Deputy Sheriff. It was short and to the point. Ray said that he had heard from his attorney. Deputy Sheriff had been killed by a train while on a hunting trip with his father. Immediately we began searching the Internet for information regarding his death.

It was the big mystery in that small town where Deputy Sheriff had lived and died. Reports from the people driving the train indicated that Deputy Sheriff was seated in his lawn chair on the railroad tracks, he appeared to be sleeping. The man on the train blew the whistle several times but Deputy Sheriff never responded. The train ran over Deputy Sheriff killing him instantly along with Hope and Justice. We learned that Deputy Sheriff was only days away from presenting Logan's case to a Grand Jury.

We mourned for Deputy Sheriff and his family. What a horrible thing to happen to what appeared by all accounts to be a good, decent, honest man. I mourned for him, the family that loved him and for all those that would never know his dedication and service.

I mourned for Hope and Justice. I mourned for Logan. By now, my ability to mourn was just a numb mourning that felt like pain but did not hurt. Maybe after all we had been through, it did not hurt because it wasn't a surprise. Or maybe it didn't hurt because we still couldn't feel anything. I remember it being the exhale of resignation, too tired to plan, too damaged to fight, too wounded to beg one more person to do the right thing. We needed to heal. We needed to just heal.

Slowly and without saying a word, my family emotionally let go of Logan's hand and let him go.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Silouettes

My mom and dad, Liz and Ken, were decent people. Mom was born in Michigan during the year of the great Market crash of 1929. Dad was born on a rural farm in Kentucky three years earlier in 1926. Completely different people, somehow destine to live a life together. They raised three children and died 17 yrs apart. They lie side by side now in a small cemetery that has been engulfed by progress.

When we laid them to rest, the cemetery was small and quiet, located on a large parcel of land. It was surrounded by pastures and fields. Two lane roads running on either side would often find farmers hauling produce or animals to their next destination. Today, it seems like such a small place, crowded in the landscape like someone crammed in an overfilled elevator. But its their home now. Its also a place we seldom visit. I see their graves as a place where their unneeded bodies are housed. The essence of them, that which made them who they were left at the moment of their death. Where they went, I do not know. I just hope its beautiful, peaceful and that they are enjoying their second life.

My dad, Ken, was a farmer at heart. As far back as I can recall, he had a garden. Not just a place where he grew a few tomatoes and squash. His garden was a work of art, an edible masterpiece.
Never having much money for food, my dad provided a bounty for our table. Never once did we go hungry and they are the best meals I can remember. Ken was a simple man, honest, decent, hard working and a bit of a prankster. He was also very quiet.

Most of my memories of my dad are of him sitting silently outside. He had a studder which I'm sure inhibited his desire to talk. I guess he learned to listen more than talk because of it. But his silence was a wall for me as a child. I never really understood why he didn't say much and I think I always wondered if he really liked me or the rest of the family. Why else would he remain such an island apart from us?

Liz, my mom, was different. A very strong willed woman, the oldest of seven children, seasoned during the depression and second world war. She often told us about how at age 16, she had quit school to go to work to help provide for the family. She was working in that Dime Store when she heard on the radio that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. It was a "do you remember where you were when it happened" moment for her. We all have them.

Their relationship was complicated. There were many times when I was sure my dad was outside to be away from his wife. It wasn't until after both their deaths that I learned their "love story" and how I came to be. At some point I will dive into that tasty morsel but I will need my older sister's help. She was the witness to that period of time.

Not a single parent comes without a story or baggage from their journey through life. Its riddled with mistake and triumphs. It is human and expected. It is also the story of each old man and every old woman. Their wrinkled faces etched with the joys and sorrows of their past.

I loved my parents and all their faults. I loved them for never leaving me until their bodies failed. I love them for providing me with a home, food, security and support. They did their best and that's more than enough for me.

I am the middle child. I am the peacemaker. I am a little of my mother and a little of my father. I am the product of all they gave me. I am constantly learning how wise they were and how much I should have learned if only I had asked the right questions.

With them gone and the contribution of generations silenced, I am learning all those answers on my own.


And So It Begins

I've never seen much use in blogging, never known a reason for it. But as with most things in life, we often see more clearly with each passing day. I think it's time.

For several years, I've participated in Facebook, doing the sharing and caring thing.  But as of recent, I realized I was finding it lacking substance.  I always wanted to write more than was allowed etc.  So, when I was given the honor of reading a friend's blog, I was compelled to start writing. 

I know writing isn't for everyone, but everyone can do it.  I've seen some amazing blogs and in them I see something very important.  They are a record of our days, like a journal only with so many options for creating a memory of this or that.   But they, in the end, will be our thoughts, our words, our views of the day or topic.  I told my daughter that when I'm gone, she can print my blog and give it to the children.  I really think they can be a lasting gift, if done correctly and with that in mind.

This will  be a sharing of my world and my family (names changed to protect our privacy).

Thank you for reading.