Oh, Christmas Tree

People are beginning to read and respond to my first book A Bird and the Dragon: BirdAndDragon_FrontCover_33Their Love Story: A Memoir. The reviews on Amazon.com are very positive so my message is seeping into the public consciousness. And, you ask me, what message is that?  I have to answer; families and the preciousness of the family unit whether it is conventional or modern, conceived or constructed. A family needs to be a safe place where everyone has a chance to grow and mature to the best of their talents: a retreat of sorts from the world. And surprisingly there is buried in there the message of mortality. Mortality is not just a Christian value. In my upbringing I was taught that as long as someone loves you and remembers your life you are indeed immortal.Scan_0018

So how does the Christmas tree figure into this message? Over the eons the evergreen tree has been used to symbolize the concept of eternal life. These trees never totally drop their foliage. Now to this we add the archetype of the mother as the nurturing center of the family (an archetype is a concept that is central to all peoples) and we get this picture of the green tree with roots well anchored into the earth and the foliage reaching to the blessings of water and light from above, the job of the father. The Christmas tree then becomes a fitting symbol to represent our need to believe in ongoing life at the time of year when in the northern hemisphere we have the least amount of natural light and depression can come knocking. The Christmas tree becomes a promise that life continues even in the darkness. Today we add electric lights to our trees and in the past the light came from candle light—another symbol of vitality.Scan_0019

Instead of talking about our family’s Christmas trees over the years I wanted to show them to you in a series of pictures. My daughters learned early on that their mother wanted the most pregnant looking tree she could find and my husband Sy never complained at the waiting for the perfect pick or for the weight of carrying the tree out of the forest. Once he did say, “You are aware that this tree is going to fill the living room?” Good old engineering mind—he was right! But with giggles and laughter we squeezed in around the tree for our holiday.Scan_0020

100_0507.jpg
Before the Addition to the Hopi Street House

As the children have grown older the trees have grown smaller and are stored in the closet when out of season. Time in a family moves on and now it is the grandchildren who come to help Grandmother (Me?) decorate the the artificial table-top tree.  The excitement, the fingering of the old ornaments, and the hot chocolate are just as great as they were in 1977!

 

100_1249A Cara Markey Christmas tree.jpg
Markey Mark and Cara Cozy at Hopi Street House in Nerme, CT.

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Arms of a Quilt

Changing my clothes the other day, as I was getting ready for an evening out, I BirdAndDragon_FrontCover_33looked up at the quilt that hangs behind my bed. How beautiful it looks with all its tiny 2 x 2 squares of fabric. The colors are muted grays, browns, navy, with some red thrown in for good measure. Now parts of this quilt are well over a hundred years old. I know because my father had a hand in making it and he would be about one hundred and twenty years by now. Once again, you are asking how does that relate to anything in my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir? I start my book with telling you that my father was my first protector, and if you have already read my book you know that my second husband, Sy, took the job over from my father.

In 1900 my father, Frederick Sanderson, was about five years old and going to the

100_0685.JPG
The Elementary School in Shakerton, Massachusetts in 1900

local school in Shakerton, Massachusetts. He would have been a first grader and according to family stories he was not a very well-behaved little boy, at least not at school. My grandmother, Jessie, knew the cure for the problems taking place on the playground. I think as the youngest child in the Sanderson family my father might have felt the need to be a bit of a bully. Gramma Jessie packed his lunch one day along with a bundle of little cloth  2 x 2 squares, needle, thimble and thread. Freddie, (as my mother called him) was given instructions to go at lunch time around the corner to an aunt’s house to eat. When he was done he was to hand-stitch together a certain number of squares. I’m not sure how long it took him to get the message, but the finished piece I remember seeing as a little girl was about twelve by sixteen inches large.

When my mother married my father she inherited the patched-together start of a

Father's Farm Haskell Street House
Aunt’s House Around the Corner on Haskell Street, Shakerton

quilt with the understanding that she would finish it someday. As I remember, it was packed into her Hope Chest and never saw the light of day again until my siblings and I were moving my mother into the senior housing in Shaker Meadows, Shakerton, Massachusetts. At that point my mother took the pieces still wrapped in yellowing tissue paper and handed them to my older sister PollyAnne. “Here, you do something with this. I’ve had it all these years and have never gotten to finishing it into a full-sized quilt.” My sister, somewhat stunned, took the package without saying anything. The silence was because Polly was the cook in our family and I was the seamstress. But no matter, that was how my mother decided to solve her problem.

Now fast-forward to the week when Sy and I were celebrating our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. We had chosen to drive south and spend that week with my sister PollyAnne and her husband Bud. As we were sharing breakfast on February 25th, my sister brought out this large package and laid it on the chairs beside us. “Before I give this to you I need to tell you a story,” she said.

Ed and Duffy 8-9-03_0022.JPG
PollyAnne and her Husband Bud

I knew that PollyAnne and her husband did a monthly meditation group for people in their corner of Tennessee. Polly had talked before about some of the members. But this time she said, “One day in our discussions we got to talking about quilts and I brought out the pieces of Daddy’s old quilt. Janet, [I’ll call her that in this story.] put her hands on the quilted pieces of fabric and started to talk. ‘This was stitched together by your father when he was a little boy. There was something about a punishment. Oh, and he had an older sister Bertha whom he adored. So sad, she passed away in the flu epidemic of the First World War. But you know, underneath the misbehavior of your father, there was a very sweet little boy. Do let me take this home and finish it for you, as I am a master quilter.’”

Then my sister nodded for us to unwrap the package. “We want you to have this quilt to mark your twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.” In the wrappings was this lovely and lovingly finished quilt in many soft shades of gray, brown, and navy. Janet had added the reds here and there to give the necessary vibrancy to the quilt. My sister didn’t have to tell me that most of the muted colors were from fabrics taken from the dresses and shirts of members in my father’s family. All of the old quilts of that era were made to use up the last bits of clothing that could no longer be mended.

000_0459.jpg
This is My Quilt with Loving Arms

So as I fall asleep at night, especially on lonely nights, I think about all those people who contributed to the quilt and then I feel their arms reaching out and their loving energy encircling my bed. Would you believe that the section of the quilt just above my head with its not-so-straight seams is the part that my father stitched at five years of age? I thank my father, Janet, my sister and her husband, my ancestors, and Sy for still being my warm protectors; for creating a safe place for me to inhabit.

 

 

Thanksgiving Through the Years

scan0039
L to R: Daughters Annie, Elizabeth, Felicia, the back of my uncle Ralph Moody’s head, my back, and my mother, Jordan Elizabeth, partially covered by my head

I am in the midst of preparing a small feast for daughter Annie and her husband Steve. The other three girls that are close by are off to other homes. It is such a busy week there isn’t time to really write a blog but I wanted to share pictures of our family Thanksgivings over the years. This is a picture of my first Thanksgiving with Sy and his girls. We are at my mother’s home in Shakerton, Massachusetts.

 

 

The next picture is the other half of that Thanksgiving table and the only picture I

scan0038
My brother Coppy is at the head of the table with Aunt Agnes beside him

have of my father’s cousin, Aunt Agnes. She had no children and therefore was often the life of the party.  She brought Fannie Farmer mint candies for the children. To this day usually one of my daughters shows up for the feast with some mint candies. The original company went out of business years ago.

There are few pictures with Sy included, because he was usually behind the camera. The next Thanksgiving Dinner picture is taken at our first house The

scan0016
L to R: Daughters Elizabeth, Cora, and Annie, brother Coppy, my mother Jordan Elizabeth, Felicia, Sy’s father-in-law Grampa Joe, and myself JessieMay

Ugly Green house in the Green Trees section of Nerme, CT. We are around thatBirdAndDragon_FrontCover_33 famous family table which you will read about in A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir. Do read chapter twenty-one ‘Learning to Listen’ and you’ll understand my comment about the dinning room table.

I have no Thanksgiving pictures before I met Sy because when I left Harvard Lesser he kept all the family pictures. He has since given back a few but none of the Thanksgivings. Maybe I wasn’t so thankful back then.

100_0217A.jpgThe next pictures I do have are of Thanksgiving in the Annabelle house in Nerme. And by now that little girl called Felicia in the first pictures has become the extended family baker. There are several pictures of her legendary pies. She didn’t get that 100_0798.jpgfrom me.

I do hope your Thanksgiving holiday was filled with fun, family and a chance to catch up with your loved ones. Do any of your holiday dinners look like these? If you wish to hear more of these stories or know more about my books go to my website at http://www.jessiemaykessler.com.

 

 

 

When All Else Fails Cook and Clean

It has been a good journey
Markey Mark

As a semi-retired therapist and writer I don’t always have to get up at the crack of dawn. So on days like today when the rain is pouring down and my brain says I have more things to do than I can handle, I pull the covers back over my head and think ‘I hope the dog can wait a little longer to go out and then have her breakfast.’ Cara Cozy, bless her soul, did wait and my leg pain got to the point where I had to get up, so here I am. Part of the resistance to rising this morning is the fact that my mischief-maker dog, Markey Mark, died last year on the 19th of November

scan0063a-sy-alone-at-christa-wedding
Husband Sy Kessler

and my beloved husband, Sy died four years ago on November 20th.  In this year’s terms that is next Sunday and Monday, and all I could think about to write is the sadness revisited. None of you want to hear that again. So it was up and wandering aimlessly around until I settled at the kitchen table with my pendulum. I listed off the things that needed to be done and then asked which tasks for today. It said write your blog and it said go cook. What a combination!

I’m hosting a small Thanksgiving Feast this year since three of my girls have commitments in other homes and that is as it should be. But Annie and Steve will be with me for a late afternoon dinner. In this last year I’ve moved my diet from gluten-free to Paleo and that is going to mean some tweaking of the traditional foods. That was what my guides were talking about when they said, ‘Go practice some of those changes to see if they will pass muster with your daughter and her husband.’ So how does that fit with writing a blog about my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir?”

When I was a teenager and deep in the midst of boyfriends and all the emotional angst that goes along with that, one of them broke up with me. Can you believe that? I was heartbroken and my mother, Jordan Elizabeth in my book, saw me dragging around believing that my life had been destroyed and didn’t say much until I finally came to her with my pain. She listened to my woe and devastation. She told me she

Scan_0015 Jordan Elizabeth Sanderson 11 16 2017
My Mother Jordan Elizabeth Sanderson

was sorry that this had happened to me and then she said words that have held me together for all of these years of ups and downs. “You know we women are so lucky, for when the world falls apart, we can go clean house until we are exhausted and then we sleep. Or we can go to the kitchen and cook. Men don’t seem to have that option.” (Well, I know today they do, but this was in the mid-1950’s.) In later years just to reinforce her message, she had a sign on her kitchen counter that read, ‘When all else fails, eat!!’ That little sign is sitting on the decorative turntable on my kitchen island. (Yes, and these days weight wise I have to be careful not to take it literally.)

Not too many years ago my grandson Andrew came to me with a similar heartache and wanted direction and comfort. “You can do the same thing that my mother said to me. You can clean.”

“Well, how would I do that?” He asked.

“There is a Swifter in my cleaning closet and you can get it out and start picking up all of the Cara Cozy hair that is covering my floors.”

“Nah! I couldn’t do that and besides that’s girls’ work.” (See some of those stereotypes die hard.) I’m not sure if he has grown old enough to see the folly in his response. But if you are one of those types of men, there are still rocks to pound, sports to play, or doing something kind for someone else. The point is to feel those painful feelings while putting that energy to some use.

And now to the Paleo part of the cooking lesson. There are many programs out there images Paleo Diet Book 11 16 2017 - Copyon the computer to teach you how to convert to a Paleo diet–basically meat, vegetables, fruit, with little sugar. There are many good recipe books to help you get started. The reason for the conversion is that a gluten-free diet usually substitutes rice flour or a combination of grain flours in recipes, which are highly hypoglycemic. In other words it damages your intestines, stimulates your desire for sweets, and puts weight onto the body. One of the programs that I am using is Paleo Hacks and some of their cookbooks.

So, now having walked you through my day and how I handle some of my grief, I’m off to make that Paleo pie crust which uses nut flours and coconut sugar instead of what you are used to using. Happy cooking and a very happy Thanksgiving!!

The Body of an Abused Woman

BirdAndDragon_FrontCover_33Those of you who have been to one of my lectures or read my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir know that I leave my first husband, Rev. Harvard Lesser right at the start of the book. And I give little explanation. The reason for leaving was the physical and emotional abuse I suffered in that thirteen-year marriage.

Let’s move forward forty years to today. I told you last week that I was having physical therapy done to help with the pain of spinal stenosis and the gradual forward thrust of my shoulders. This morning my therapist, Stacy, stood me up back to her, as she usually does, and put her hands on my head. “Oh,” she said, “Your back is calling me to this mid-section of the spine,” and she touched my back. It hurt. “Get up on my table.”

Stacy put her hands in several places and asked questions mostly about my sense of

http_featherfiles_aviary_com_2014-10-19_f5da8ea5e_371c9c837331444883c7b276d2c6ff86_qa2oln similar physical therapy to Stacy
Physical Therapist working in Similar Fashion to Stac

personal security and the fact that it was shaken when I was five-years-old and was whisked off to a hospital for observation. At the time my mother didn’t explain anything about why I was going and then she had the nerve to leave me there alone. It has been a big issue for me over the years. But Stacy and I have worked a lot on this scenario.Suddenly she said to me, “And who is all this anger for? Is it for your mother?”

To my surprise I blurted out, “No, it belongs to Harvard.”

Stacy responded, “Okay, talk to me about that anger–no rage–that you have locked

scan0002
Left to Right Daughter, Elizabeth, Jessie, Daughter. May, Harvard, Daughter, Felicia

into your body.” Before I could really think I was telling Stacy about being on the highway with Harvard and our three girls. I was reading the road map and he was trying to follow his brother’s car on the New Jersey Turnpike. I was to look for the turn off where we would part company with his brother. So now I’m reading the road map, watching the car ahead, and looking at the road signs for the turn off. I missed the turn and said so. Harvard reached across the front seat with the back of his hand, now curled into a fist, and threw a punch into my solar plexus area. I could hardly catch my breath. Our oldest daughter, May, in the way-back of the station-wagon, yelled, “Don’t do that! You can’t do that to my Mommy!”

Needless to say, that has festered for many years because at the time there really was nothing I could do to address the insult to my body or to my sense of myself. By now you have likely recognized that I had become afraid of Harvard over the years.

Stacy immediately moved to the center of my body with her hands and said, “Just as I thought. You have developed what we call an energy cyst to protect that area and it is pulling on the spine and crowding organs around it. It is time to let go of this mass.”

Next she said, “How can you re-picture that event so that it is not so traumatic?”

I couldn’t think of a single re-picture that would be right and so I was silent. Stacy held her position with her hands for a bit and then moved to another place on my body. “You know, Jessie, at some point you need to let go of this. How can we help you let go of this event?”

The best answer I could give her was that I would have to work on it over time. And I

MV5BMTA5ODU3NzQ5NzdeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDU5NTk3OTEx._V1_ Wash that Man Right Out of my Hair 11 10 2017
“Gotta Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair” Song from Movie South Pacific

will. The use of my spinal column and legs is far more important than holding onto my martyr-complex.

But I’m sharing all of this because I think we women do not realize how badly we are compromised when there is abuse to our bodies, be it physical, sexually or emotional. For women our bodies are really our temples to house the soul. You can see from this story that I’ve carried this wound around with me for years and now, as I age, it is catching up with me. Time to wash that man right out of my hair!! You too must find a way to put words or healthy actions to your bodily insults and wash them out of your life. As Stacy says, “Let it go!!!”

Finding the Hummocks in the Swamp

For real! You don’t know what a hummock is? Well for those of you city ratsBirdAndDragon_FrontCover_33 unlike we country mice; a hummock is a low hill, or actually a mound of earth and grass in the swamp, and there are many of them, so you can cross some swamps on the hummocks. This is the way wild deer cross the swamps. But none of that information is in A Bird and the Dragon. You have to wait for my future book Sissy’s Story.

When you get to read my second or third book you will hear about my father having the “Saturday Afternoon Duty” so that my mother could have a few minutes to herself. My Dad was an outdoorsman, a landscaper, and a hunter so my Saturday afternoons were spent out in the woods. When it was summer

images bluberry swamp 1 2 2017
Like Our Blueberry Swamp

and time to go pick the wild blueberries he’d take me out into the blueberry swamp and show me the hummocks. Then he’d say, “Now look for the hummocks and test them before you step on one. Some of them give way and will float off. If they are too far apart call to me and I’ll carry you to the next one.” You can imagine how safe I felt with this knowledge that even in a swamp there were safe places and my father would see that I found them.

I was talking to a friend this morning and referred to him as a hummock in my life’s swamp. He wasn’t sure if that was a compliment but indeed it was. It meant that he came into my life at a time when I needed the qualities that he carries in his personality. There have been so many times in my life when I felt I had no idea where I should look to find the next place that was safe to stand upon. And so many times it has been a person that I needed.

So how do these people get to you at the right time?  This happens by asking in

images crystal point pendulum with bale 11 2 2017
Crystal Pendulum with a Bale

prayer, making a manifestation request, and for me it is taking out my pendulum and going through a list of names, articles or places. Now you are scratching your head about a pendulum. I’ve talked about them before. The ones I like best are made from quartz crystal points. The best ones are bound with some metal and fashioned with a bale so that the crystal is not pierced in any way that might interfere with the energy flow of the crystal. Or the pendulums my sister PollyAnne makes for me are wrapped in copper wire, copper being one of the best

3nzma7-i
Crystal Pendulum with Wire Wrap

conductors of energy. These pendulums work well because quartz has a vibration that is compatible with the human vibration and therefore it receives and transmits a wave length that is easier for us to comprehend. We already have inside our heads all the information that we need. Or if we doubt this, we can open ourselves to the greater world and receive information into our brains from our spirit guides, a higher power or for some, from God. The crystal will pick up this information and relay it making our answer visible to us by how the pendulum swings when we ask our questions.

Many years ago I had been using a dog groomer and one time when I got my dog home there were wounds on her body. I didn’t want to confront the groomer but I certainly wasn’t taking my dog back, so I went to the telephone book with my pendulum at the ready and I went through the list of groomers until I found one that the pendulum motioned ‘yes’ to in such a vigorous way that I put the book up. Next day I tried the pendulum again. Once again it was very excited about this particular groomer. We took the long drive to the facility and have been there for over ten years.

I’ve also used the pendulum to find a doctor for my husband, Sy, when he was still with me. I’ve used my pendulum to choose between two situations that could have made me happy; which was the best for me. Once we were in Quechee, Vermont at the glass blower Simone Peirce’s store and I wanted a poncho. There were two different colors to choose from but which would be right for me? The pendulum made short work of that confusion and I was delighted with the choice.

If you are doing some sort of food plan you can use the pendulum to show which

154309354 choosing healthy food with pendulum 11 2 2017.jpg
Which Foods are Healthy for You?

foods are good for you, because what may be good for the instructor of the plan may not be good for your particular body chemistry.

Some people have such a strong sense of their intuition they don’t need a tool like a pendulum to tell them what is right for them, but I’m not one of those people, so it is like having my father there, my way of knowing what is safe or best for me as I struggle through the swamps of my life.

Have you discovered any hummocks in your life’s journey? It is a bit like finding the rocks in the river but finding the hummocks is more of a being stopped or overwhelmed and then you see the way to go. I’d love to hear your stories.

 

Touching

BirdAndDragon_FrontCover_33For the people who follow this blog or have read my book, they are aware that my husband, Sy Kessler, passes away in my first book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir. Needless to say his passing was very difficult for me.

This is almost four years later and I’m having some physical therapy done for the back pain that I’ve had off and on over the years. The doctors say it is spinal stenosis but I’m not into surgeons and knives and rearranging my back so I’m with a physical therapist that works with both the physical movement of the body and the emotional blocks that hold the body from releasing and taking a better shape.

Today as Stacy put her hands on a particular spot on my body she asked, “What is the first thing that comes when I say grief?”

My answer was quick, “Sy!”

sy-birthday-party-8-24-03_0061
Sy at His Seventieth Family Birthday Party

“What is it about Sy that you grieve the most?”

“The loss of his being here for me and being able to touch his physical body.”

“Is there anything else along with that?”

“Yes, his attention to detail. I have always needed a person who could keep track of the details. My mother was the first, then my college roommate, and then Sy.”

“Okay, so which is the greater loss?”

“The fact that I can no longer touch him.” ….and the conversation went on from there. Sy’s death was sudden. In one day I went from being in our new retirement home as we two empty nesters, to living alone with two dogs. If by chance, you have already read my book you know that most of my life before that was a moving circle of people in my domestic life. So the loss was very great.

Now I want to take you back from the present by a few weeks. Those of you that follow this blog know that I had a best-selling author for an uncle and I wrote about Ralph Moody in one of my first blogs. On this one particular morning recently, I open up my computer and found an email from a gentleman I will call Hank, for privacy reasons, and he started out by asking if I was possibly the niece of Ralph Moody. I confirmed that I was and then I wanted to know why he was interested.

Hank told me that when he was a boy his mother read many of Ralph’s books to him. And then when he had children of his own he shared with them his interest in Ralph’s books (which are still on Amazon.com) because of the strong family values they represented. You can imagine that my insides were warming at this point. He went on to tell me that his grown and almost-grown children were aware that he had tried to reach Ralph through his publisher but with no success. Hank at some point must have found the obituary of my uncle’s death because he knew that Ralph spent his last days with my mother Jordan Elizabeth Sanderson (her name as it appears in my books) on the east coast.

dcba87018e48bc2e7081a48116abe324--family-photos-adult-children-adult-family-pictures Stand in Image for Hanks Family 10 27 2017 - Copy
Stand-in Picture for Part of Hank’s Family

The story goes on. Apparently one of his daughters stumbled across my blog and read the one about Ralph Moody. She then started hunting on Facebook and found me and I guess found my website. She took all of this information back to her father which fueled his email to me. The upshot of all of this is that Hank set up a Skype session for me with himself and many of his children last Monday night. The Skyping was a bit messy but I did get to talk to at least six of his children and answer questions they had and of course questions from Hank.

I am so grateful that this stranger reached out to me because as you know things don’t happen in a vacuum and I had just begun to think that there was little reason in my continuing to struggle with writing this blog—that it seemed to me that almost no one saw it or cared. Hank and his children showed me that people who don’t have to, do care and cherish family and family values, too. His daughter must have known how much her father wanted to reach out and touch Ralph and what he stood for so she took the time to not only do the research but to then take more time out of a day to chat for a moment on the phone with me.

I am so happy that this family reached out to touch. It is ever so important. Thank you!!

Do any of you out there have stories similar to this one in which a stranger reaches through the media because you two have a common interest or a previously unknown connection?

The Weight of Family Messages

This particular blog is going to be more about the author, me, than about the characters in my first book, The Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir.

 I was about eight years old on the particular day I have in mind. It was a warm, bright, sunny day early in the summer with a sky of crystal clear blue. I told you

download yellow forsthia bush 10 20 2017
Similar to my Forsythia Bush

before that my father was the landscape instructor at the community where we lived and therefore the gardens around our house were lovely. There was a large forsythia and bridal wreath bush at the east side of our house with the garden proper fanning out from these two foundation plants. I was in my pajamas and had crawled in under the cascading yellow forsythia bush where I had nestled down in the violets that filled in the unused patches of Daddy’s garden. I could small the warmth of the earth mixed with the dew of the morning and there was no other place in the world that I wanted to be. I could dream about anything here. My mother’s voice pierced the reverence of the moment with, “Birdie, where are you? You haven’t washed or dressed for the day and your breakfast is still on the table. It is almost 9:00 am. It’s time for you to come in here and get ready for the day!”

I was silent, holding my breath. Would she go away?

“Did you hear me?”

Reluctantly I responded, “Yes, I’ll be there in a minute.” I can’t remember now whether I waited long enough that there was another call from my mother but what I do remember is how I hated to leave that relaxed place of freedom and beautiful place for dreaming.

In a past blog I have talked about my maternal grandmother and how she supported her six children by washing clothes for a living out of the basement of her home, in

Cz1DjSXXUAA60LX Chineese Laundry 1908 Like Mary Emma's Laundry 5 18 2017
The Basement Laundry Room

Medford Massachusetts. And I shared with you that in her own words she admitted that she was so exhausted by the end of her days, stirring clothes in soapy set tubs or bent over the ironing boards pressing fine ruffles, that she was unable to snuggle her little daughter. Their intimate times were as she crawled into bed at night and held her sleeping baby girl. So the message of hard work, done on a regular schedule, goes way back in my family. It was as if work was the passage to the wherever this life was taking all of us.

I was about ten years old when my sister, PollyAnne, cornered me and said, “Hey,

davis_house working at the apple Orchard 10 20 2017
The Davis Farmhouse which Stood South of the Apple Barn 

you know you are old enough you should think about getting a job. You can pick up apples at Davis’s apple orchard just like Owen and I did when we were small. If you want to go to college you’re going to have to earn some of the money, you know.” I knew what she was talking about because sometimes she and my big brother Owen did go and work in the apple orchards. It took me awhile but I finally cornered a girlfriend and we did go and pick up dropped apples after school and on the week-end. That first three dollar pay checked was such a prize.

Now I want to move much later into my life. My family of daughters was pretty well images PollyAnnes Hand knit mittens 10 20 2017 (2)out of the house by now and my sister PollyAnne and her husband Bud were driving up from Tennessee to spend a few days with my husband Sy and me. My brother-in-law drives a bit in overdrive (that is driving right over the tops of the other cars) and they made the trip in two days and an overnight. Polly hadn’t been in the house very long when she said, “Want to see the Christmas mittens I was working on during the trip up?”

My response was “Sure, but you were knitting in the car while it was moving?”

“Of, course! You remember Mother always said you shouldn’t have idle hands.”

“But in the car?!!”

“Of course, I always knit in the car.”

Now let’s move forward again to the point where my mother has come to live with

100_0058
Mother with my Dog Cara Cozy

Sy and me. We have moved from our retirement community home to the old mill house on Hopi Street. I have clients to attend to, my grandchildren and family are in the apartment above my head, I sing in the church choir, listen to a daughter in a frustrating marriage, write a column, and attend to the housework of our home as well as my mother’s care. One day Mother drew me aside and as if she were sharing a secret she said, “Sweetie, if you don’t slow down and take some time to rest I’m fearful you are going to get really sick.”

I wanted to scream back at her, “And who made me this way?!!” But I mumbled something about time to rest would come later.

Well, age-wise the time has come to slow down, but I have so much to do before they turn the lights out for me; and as my body begins to suggest that maybe it is time to slow down I can’t seem to shake those old weighty messages of no idle hands or hours for that matter. After this kind of a life and these family messages how do you learn to play?!!

I’m wondering: Do any of you reading this have the same problem with a weighty family message that holds you back from something that would be better for your health or wellbeing? Do you maybe have a vice induced from struggling with one of these subtle family messages? What is it?

BirdAndDragon_FrontCover_33
This is my Play?

Can You Picture It?

images couple fighting 10 6 2017The partners in this new couple-ship have been through some nasty times with their previous marriages. She was abused emotionally and once in awhile struck repeatedly for no good reason. He came home from his nine-to-five job to find his two children still in school clothes, or not at home yet, and nothing for the supper. His wife was out of it on the couch. So, let’s move forward in time.

We find this couple not yet a couple but in a groupimages divorce support group 10 6 2017 for divorcing or newly divorced couples. It was almost love at first sight. Within a short time they discovered that they were both the responsible ones from their previous living situations and had children to be raised. So was it love at first sight or need of support for one of the biggest jobs any human being is asked to accomplish; to raise five girls into relatively stable and productive women? I know because I lived it that it was first love, and then responsibility.

Scan0004 (2) Sy and Jessie early in thier relationship 10 6 2017.jpgThese two were so excited that they had found someone to love them, which they had never dared dream would happen, that they sometimes were not tuned into the rumblings that were going on around them as the girls began to find their places in the newly blending family. First the couple heard one set of children talk about what fun they had going to the animal farm; pop-corn, cotton candy, petting the animals and staying in a hotel at night. Then the comeback from the other group of girls was, “My Daddy has a boat and we go sailing every weekend!” The next round in this emerging war was about how smart each side of the family was and how stupid they thought their counterpoint sisters to be. By now the couple is realizing that this little cozy happy family wasn’t so happy. But what to do?!

The answer is simple: diversion. And we decided to set up diversion by building a new history. In A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, my first publishedBirdAndDragon_FrontCover_33 book, you will find that we started with a walk at the local arboretum. Next, my soon-to-be husband, Sy and his ex-in-laws, invited all of the children for a picnic and kite flying afternoon. At Halloween the children all went to stay for the weekend with Sy’s ex-in-laws while we had some moments for a trip to my sister’s in Vermont. Then at Christmas we forced all the girls to go on a hunt for the perfect Christmas tree and at home all the fun of digging out the old Christmas decorations and putting the chosen ones on the tree. Those decorations came from both sides of the family and gradually the children over the years chose which ones became part of the new family. In my book you will also read that on that first Christmas my children had been brought up with gifts in shoes like the Europeans, and his children knew about stockings stuffed by Santa Claus. The next Christmas it was all stuffed stockings hung up on the fireplace mantle in our mutual new home.

We took the girls to the Children’s Museum in Boston and later to the Museum of Fine images meuseum of Fine Arts in Boston MA 10 6 2017Arts in Boston, among other trips. That’s where all of the girls wanted to go look at the mummies while one only wanted to go to the gift shop. But what our girls didn’t realize was that we parents were helping them build a future together instead of leaving them to build a battlefield out of old memories. I think most couples don’t recognize or are too self-absorbed to realize that children don’t have the capacity to build a future together. And just because a couple has found solace and support in one another doesn’t mean that the children are gaining much of anything out of this new union until the parents begin to “parent them.” The old system of “I’ll raise my children and you raise your children” does not work, People!! “Wait until your father gets home,” really has never worked, either. Both parents have to parent as the need for this direction appears. Children need to see by example: respect between the couple, and then growing respect for the children, and finally, respect between the children. It takes fortitude and time—lots of time!!

Scan_0002 Cora 5 5 2017

The reward comes when Sy has passed on and—now picture it—the oldest daughter, my stepdaughter calls and says, “I’m just calling to see how you are doing. We haven’t talked in awhile. Call me when you can. Love you. Bye.”