Laughter as Veiled Anger

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The Little Boy Before the Father’s Horrible Prank

Last week as I was roaming through my Facebook newsfeed I came upon a young man, a barber somewhere, and he had a little boy up in the barber’s booster chair. The barber had scissors in one hand and the other hand was cupped over the child’s left ear. Blood appeared to be oozing out from the barber’s fingers and running down the child’s cheek. The child was shrieking in fear and I suppose the father was somewhere behind the camera. The barber had apparently told the child that he had mistakenly cut off his ear. And something in the caption indicated that Dad was in on the joke. My first thought was how horrible!! And the next thought was this child will someday be sitting in my office! What a hideous joke to play on a little boy.

I am well aware that many men feel that their sons need to be toughened up a bit along the way to adulthood or they will get picked on during their school years. AtomicThe_Sad_Clown for Little Bird Blog 8 10 2018Nobody wants a Momma’s boy!! And I also know that laughter and making fun of one’s children is a common practice in many families. Fathers especially seem to play this role. But are these people who raise their children this way aware that practical jokes and ridicule are covers for the perpetrator’s anger on some issue? It is a bit like the clown that is always smiling, cavorting, making people laugh while crying behind his make-up.

This type of practical joke is really another side of bullying. And if the family is supposed to be the safe place for each individual as they grow to maturity, what is the message from this father to his son? Can the child trust his father even after he grows old enough to understand the joke? And think of the many times this joke will be told in the family and with family friends and the child will feel diminished inside every time it is told. Do children really need this type of toughening up?

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A Father Unhappy with His First Born

Having listened to the hurts and heartaches of other people for over thirty years I can just imagine that the father who was wielding the camera may have been unconsciously angry that his little son was the first born and made it necessary for the father to take a second job, or give up a sport that was loved, because there was no longer extra money. This father may have unconsciously been getting even with a father who did similar things to him, causing him to always feel a little anxious about life. There are many possible scenarios; these are just a few. (Do remember that the barber was the father’s friend and simply the instrument for the father’s joke.)

When you get to read my first book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir you will come to the part of the story where my second husband, Sy and I are courting. It is early in our relationship and we areIMG_20180128_153915932 seated in a restaurant hidden behind our menus and my not-yet-husband says, “Don’t you think maybe we should stop seeing so much of each other?” I am devastated and I’ll let you read to find out what I do. But I know now having lived 35 years with this man that when I met him he was hurting through every inch of his self-worth from a wife who ran around on him, so playing a joke on a new potential partner was just an extension of that first disastrous marriage. I did make it clear that I could not live with that kind of humor and again I say you will have to read to see the outcome.

My bottom line in this blog is: Please think before you belittle or make fun of your children. Is the laugh something that will help the child or does it release you from some repressed resentment?

If you have anything you’d like to discuss concerning families and raising children please feel free to contact me through my website www.jessiemaykessler.com. Once there, you can look around and then if you want to talk to me hit the CONTACT button and we’ll get together.

 

 

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What are Your Priorities?

This may be my last blog for the summer. In the last weeks, I have been writing about bits and pieces of my forthcoming book, Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long Term Illness. My summer plans were to work over the three versions of the book, written some time ago, and morph them into one cohesive story and then present it to a publisher. I’m not getting any younger so I feel some pressure to complete this mission.

IMG_20180128_153915932What is the expression? “Life happens when you are on your way to the grocery store.” Well, here we are! My oldest daughter, Cora, in my published book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, called two weeks ago and said, “Mom, I’m in a bit of a jam. Can I come home for a few days?” If you have read my published book, you know what I would say. “Sure, Honey, come on home. You’ve never done that since you were eighteen.” (All of my five daughters are

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Cora at 18 Years of Age

grown, married with children, or made the choice to be single.) Come to find out Cora is in a real mess—you don’t really need to know the details—but after a few days I began saying to myself why am I giving up my dreams of getting these last three books published to help out a well-grown woman. (She takes up a lot of emotional space.) And, again, if you’ve already read A Bird and the Dragon, you know that this daughter had a devoted father and a biological mother whose life was almost all about her. When this happens to a child, the relationship between mother and child may look loving and strong, but what actually happens is the child never has the opportunity to go through the normal stages of emotional development because the mother usurps the child’s emotional strength.

In reading that first book you also know that Cora bolted and ran from the household

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The House Cora Lived in from 14 to 18 Years of Age

her father, Sy and I, created for Cora and her sisters when she was eighteen years old. Life has been a struggle for her without any sort of a degree after high school or the finer things you learned from your parents in those exploratory years as a young adult.

So, I’ve recognized that my time right now is about being available and ready to listen as she struggles with finding her way through this life dilemma. I adored her father and although he’s been gone for over five years I feel that he needs me to be present to Cora and hold hands with her as she finds her way through this tunnel, hopefully to a better, more balanced, less naive life. It is amazing the things you do for love: love for a daughter, a stepdaughter, and love for a beloved deceased husband. See you over there someday, Sy, and we will still have plenty to hash over. Love you! Love your daughter! Love My Daughter!!

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Sy’s Rainbow You Can Read About it in A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir

 

Wrath of the Siblings

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Proposed Cover of the new book Sissy’s Story

Last week in this blog I told you that I, Sissy, (the name I call myself in this new book, Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long Term Illness) had just gotten home from a diagnosis and treatment plan from the city heart specialist. It consisted of going to bed immediately and not getting out for anything for a long, long time. I am five years old at the time. The five-year-old Sissy is now taking over the storytelling:

Mother set the tray on the floor and sat down on the toy box. “We need to talk for a few minutes before I get you ready for bed.” My mother said, planting her elbows on the side of my bed, and leaning toward my face until she was almost nose-to-nose with me. “Do you really understand what the doctor said to you today?

“Yeah!  He said I was sick with something that made my heart tired. I have to stay in bed and rest. That way when I get grown up I’ll be able to have babies of my own.”

“Yes, Sissy, those were the words he used, but do you understand what it really means? It means you aren’t to get out of bed to do anything, not anything! You can’t get a toy that’s fallen off the bed. You can’t grab for the cat when she jumps off. You can’t even get up to brush your teeth or go to the bathroom yourself. Do you understand? It may be this way for a long time.”

 I nodded. What the problem was I couldn’t take in except that my mother’s voice was telling me that this somehow was a big deal.

*                                            *                                                 *

Next morning started out bright and cold with the sun shining through the window beside my bed. I could hear the rest of the family downstairs having breakfast and rushing around getting off to school. My sister and brother, nine and ten years older, would be heading out to high school. Suddenly, I felt very lonely. I wanted to be downstairs with the rest of them. I called as loudly as I could from my room. “Can I come down and have my breakfast?”

“No, Sissy. We talked about that last night. I’ll be up as soon as PollyAnne and Owen are off to school.” Mother had left the kitchen and come to the bottom of the stairs so I could hear her answer better.

This part wasn’t fun. I lay in bed looking at the ceiling. Mother seemed to like the others better. She was getting their breakfast first! I pouted.

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This is the Mother, slightly older, that Took Such Good Care of Sissy (Me)

Finally, Mother stood beside the bed. “Would you like some cereal with milk on it and a bit of    brown sugar?”

“No,” I said. “I want bacon and eggs, and orange juice, and toa

“My goodness,” my mother said. “Will you eat all that? You didn’t eat well last night.”

“That’s what I want!”

“Okay,” my mother responded.

These attitudes displayed here between myself and my mother set me up for some unexpected backlash from my two older siblings long after these days had passed. My sister PollyAnne had been married for many years and lived on a farm with her husband and four children. I was married with three children and beginning to think about a divorce. We had gone to visit my sister during the summer as I played with could I handle my children alone.

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This is PollyAnne and my Mother a Few Years Older than inThis Story

PollyAnne came out of the house with a wet dishrag and asked my middle daughter, Elizabeth, to wipe off the outside picnic table in preparation for a picnic. Elizabeth was about seven at the time and did her best to wipe off a table that had seen much use and abuse over the years. A little time later PollyAnne came out to inspect. (I have to interject that Polly was a very calm, laid back sister and I can’t ever remember her being mad when I was a child.) She let loose with a whole barrage of insults as to how well Elizabeth had cleaned the table. (I can’t repeat here the words she used.) Elizabeth was crushed because she thought she had done a good job. I was stunned. I simply stood there shocked by what had just happened.

Wisely, I didn’t address the incident at the time. It was several months later when my sister and I were talking that I said, “I have to talk to you about a situation between us.” I reported what I had seen and heard. I told her that I didn’t think it was an appropriate response on her part and then I asked the magic question: “Do you suppose you were yelling at the little sick sister who never could do anything wrong?”

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PollyAnne a Few Years After This Conversation

PollyAnne was silent for a moment and then she said, “Oh, I am so sorry! You’re right. All I could see was that little girl whom Mother always protected and so kept my sister away from us. I couldn’t ever yell at her. She always had Mother’s attention and got her own way every time.”

Several years later I had a similar happening with my adult brother, Owen. Sickness, especially long term illness, affects everyone in the family to a very deep level. When my cousin did the first edit on this book, he wrote back and said, “You must get this book out. When my sister had tuberculosis I thought I’d lost my family! Now I understand.”

Remember I always enjoy feedback and you can reach me by going to my website, hitting the CONTACT button and finding my email address. Please put Little Bird in the heading so that I know you met me on this blog. Thanks. Your comments will help make a better book.

 

Finding the Gift

Before I get into my subject for this week, I want to thank all of you who took the time to write me comments about the two questions I asked you last week: book title and book approach. Some of your suggestions I will be able to use. Thanks!

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Proposed Book Cover

Last week I gave you a brief outline of what my second book, Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long Term Illness was going to be about—a five-year-old, confined to her bed for six months to cure rheumatic fever, and what it did to her emotionally.

This week I’m going to give you a few of her words to set up my topic for this week’s blog. Sissy and her mother have just returned from the big city heart specialist who told Sissy that if she were to recover from the rheumatic fever, she would have to stay flat in bed for a long, long time. These are her words as she starts this journey:

 

Mother continued to stand beside my bed. She looked very sad and as if she wanted to do something more, but she just stood quiet, sort of watching me. I was beginning to feel funny. Suddenly, she turned her face from me to look out the window. When she looked back her face seemed brighter, “Well, if you’re fine, I’ll go start supper.”

Now, I was alone. It felt a little like when I was in the hospital only this time I could hear Mother moving about in the kitchen underneath my bedroom. In a little while, I heard

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The House in the Center of the Picture is Where this Story Plays Out

the muffled voice of my older sister, PollyAnne. She must have come in from her after-school job at Wambolt’s Hardware Store down in the town. I could picture them, Mom and Polly, moving about the kitchen, busy setting the table and stirring things on the stove. PollyAnne often cooked right along beside my mother, salting the food on the stove after Mom had already salted it. Yuck!! When the food was ready, Daddy, and my older brother, Owen, would join them at the table to eat the evening meal. 

Suddenly it hit me—they’d be down there eating, talking, and laughing together while I’d be up here all alone by myself. How was I going to get my supper? I lay in my bed looking up at the ceiling, trying not to think about them downstairs.

 

Sissy doesn’t talk about how lonely she already feels, but you can sense it in the words that she uses, and I know because I lived it, she became intensely lonely to the point of depression. As the story moves on, Sissy makes several references to the fact that although she could not interact very much with her family, she could hear them.

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Woman in Deep Thought

Over the years, I have thought about this period in my life and wondered why I had to suffer this way. It has taken me to a fascinating place. This time of listening to my world was the training to be an excellent therapist because I can hear what you are saying and what you are not saying. Sometimes the kernel of truth that we look for in therapy work is the part that is not being told by the client. Because I not only had to listen, I learned to picture my world, and this skill has helped me to interpret the dreams my clients bring to me so we can work the puzzle pieces of their lives presented to us by the unconscious mind.

In conclusion, I’m hoping this snippet will pique your interest in the new book. I hope that by reading this blog, it will prompt you to look at an event in your life that has caused you pain and find the gift in that occurrence. I talk to my clients about taking a horrible situation in life and turning it over so they can look at the underside. It is an eye-opening experience.

Again I would like to hear your comments about this bit from the new book. It will help steer me to build a better book. You can reach me by going to my webpage and clicking the CONTACT key. There you will find my email address. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

 

Which Path to Take

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A Path in the Woods

You may have noticed that I’ve been absent these last three weeks from the blog scene. I have come to a fork in the road, so to speak, and when that happens I withdraw and try to sort things out: which path to take? I’m not sick, in fact, I’ve been doing more socializing than I usually do and it has been fun. But what I’m running into is that if I do all the things I’m supposed to do, I never get to what I want to do and there is little money left to self-publish another book.

In a conversation recently with my older sister PollyAnne, she told me to get going on the second book. She seemed to feel the time now was very right for me to finish up my second book. She seemed to think that “if I write it, they will come.” I’ve told you before that my mother lost two babies between myself and my older two siblings. That caused my mother to ‘bring me up properly,” and I bought most of her rules to the place that now I can’t seem to let go of the “have to do’s” so I can get to the “want to do’s.”

I’ve pulled out the old manuscripts from years ago and find I have so many incarnationsIMG_20180128_153915932 that it is going to take me some time to sort and cull out the version that I think is best and I could use some help from you, my readers. Instead of doing the regular blogs that circle around my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir I’m going to feed you bits and pieces of the next book, and I’d like to hear your thoughts and suggestions, please.

A little background on what the book is about: This book covers the years in my life between five years of age and 14. During the early part of that time, I had rheumatic fever, and the cure in the 1940s was total bedrest and sulfur drugs. Later, they put me on penicillin because they had found that it worked so well with the soldiers returning from the Second World War. I have always suffered from the emotional feelings that I had during that illness and the constant cautions from my mother afterward “that I do not do too much” on the one hand and on the other, she wanted me to be a flaming success. Hard to do!!

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Proposed Cover for the Second Book Owen the Big Brother and Sissy

One of the things that I feel has held this book back is that it is written from the five-year-old’s perspective and vernacular. As a first book, publishers did not think that it would succeed. I believe that parents today need to see what happens internally to their sick child while they, the parents, are fighting for the child’s life. I think that parents today are doing a better job with their children in long-term illnesses, such as cancer, but they need to understand why the child gets hurt emotionally through the process.

So I have the option of just telling the child’s story, or writing it so that Sissy, the five-year-old, tells her story and then at the end of each chapter I make comments coming from my training as a therapist; my adult observations, so to speak. And that brings me to my first and second question for you, my readers.

Question One: What should the title be?  Three options so far are:

  1. Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long-term Illness

2.  Hidden Sorrow: Healing the Pain of a Long-term Childhood Illness

     3.  Thorns in the Psyche: Healing from Childhood Trauma

Question Two:

  1. Which type of book would draw your interest—the one where the child, Sissy, simply tells her experiences being in a long-term illness?

 

2.  Sissy tells her story in each chapter, and then at the end of that chapter, I the author/therapist comment on what dynamics are going on in the story and the family.

You will probably find it easier to respond by going to my web page and click the CONTACT button. Then use my email address to write to me and feed me your thoughts and suggestions. Thank you in advance for doing this for me.

Perspective is a Game Changer

Several years ago I was counseling a young woman, and we were making progress with

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Rosemary and James

her issues, but she felt that I should meet her new husband. He agreed to come and on this particular evening, we got through the greetings quickly. My client, Rosemary, started to pick a fight and James did his best to explain himself. Now I’m not trained to do couples work, but here we were in the middle of things. They had come in with a mug of coffee and something to eat so I said to James, “Put your mug down on the floor between the two of you with the logo facing you.” They were seated somewhat opposite to one another, and he did as I asked. “Now, describe what you see in as much detail as you can.” He did describe the decal on the side of the mug. I turned to Rosemary and asked her to do the same. She giggled and then started into the same description, but stopped. “My side is exactly the same as his and I don’t think that is what you wanted me to see.” (Thank goodness she was as savvy as she was.) But she went on, “I get your point. We are usually looking at the same thing from two different perspectives. So we fight over what we think we see.” (I couldn’t have said it better myself.) We all three had a good laugh on me, but I think they got the point of the supposed demonstration because he began to talk in more detail and she did a better job of listening.

Scan Love Star 6 8 2017I went on to explain that we can only look at a situation from our viewpoint which comes with a whole lot of personal history wrapped around it. And the trick for a young married couple is to remember this and not try to correct their partner but to listen more carefully so that they can understand where the difference lies between them. When I do speaking promotionals for my book, “A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, I use a handout of my “love star” with the qualities marked on it that I believe married or about to marry people need to cultivate to make a successful marriage. At the bottom of that star is: Talk, Listen, and Time.

So often when we get into a disagreement or argument with our spouse or our intended, we begin to take what they are saying as a criticism of us or as a flaw in them. Usually, neither is the truth. But if we would Talk, Listen and give each other Time to think and process, we would be more successful in marriage.

When I was married to my first husband, Rev. Harvard Lesser, we got into a bad fight, and I began to yell at him. This fight happened during the summertime. He told me to quiet down, or he would have to go around and close all the windows in the parsonage so that the parishioners didn’t hear us fighting. I come from a family that didn’t want you to express too many feelings out loud; shut down and internalized all that anger. There was no guidance on how to express anger or have a fight.

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Cora Kessler

When I married the second time to Sy Kessler, I also gained two daughters. It was Cora, the older daughter who taught me that it was healthy to yell and get the feelings out. This is simply, another perspective coming from a different kind of history.

I think what I am trying to convey is that we need to slow down in our interpersonal relationships, especially those very close ones, and take a look at the perspective each has on whatever the topic is that is on the table for discussion. Our viewpoints are not right or wrong, they are simply what we have personally learned as points of view over the years. If we honor each other and accept each other, our marriages are going to run more smoothly.

If you want to comment on this blog either respond at the top of the blog or go to my website and click the CONTACT button. I’m always open to new ideas and topics.

 

 

The Garden: From Start to Finish

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Taken from my Grandmother’s Unpublished Book Mary Emma of the Square House

I have talked before about my garden but this blog is more about the Universal Garden. My roots go back to farms on both sides of my lineage. My father grew up on the “family” farm, a place and buildings built by my father’s ancestors, annotated in the notebook my father wrote for his children. My mother’s people came from the “family” farm, known as the farm with the square house, built in Maine and this farm plays a central role in my uncle Ralph Moody’s second or third best-selling book, The Fields of Home. I have a strong sense of family because I sat as a child on the floor and listened to both my father and my uncle spin their stories of life on these two farms, essentially gardens of earth and people.

Spring is here and for me, I hear the garden calling for the spring clean-up, while I watch for the first crocuses and then the tulips. It is as I stand to look out across my back garden I hear the voices of the little plants beginning to break ground for yet another season. I checked the crocuses in the front garden this noontime as I went to look for the incoming mail and found that my resident wild bunny had already taken off all the blooms, fighting to break open against the rains and wind of April. Alas, again this year I will miss my beloved crocuses but I know that my bunny made it through the winter!

Gardens are significant and have been so all down through human history, for when

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Scetch of the Dirt Farm Cottage that was the Home in Little Britches

there was an approaching war between peoples or nations it was usually those individuals and families that sought shelter in the highlands and the mountains, where they scratched out small gardens, who survived the onslaught of their leaders and kings. Gardens are sanctuaries, sacred places of peace and regeneration. In the not so distant past, we sent our sick family members to sanitariums; places that often had outdoor areas, places to swim, and gardens to enjoy. My Uncle Ralph even weaves his first book, Little Britches, around the fact that his whole childhood family moved to a small dirt farm in Colorado from New Hampshire so that his father could recover from tuberculosis. They felt the cool dry air would help to heal his lungs and it did, only to have him die suddenly of a case of springtime pneumonia.

My mother was essentially a city girl having grown up in Medford Massachusetts after her mother Mary Emma Gould Mood moved the family back from Colorado to where Mary’s siblings lived. My mother met my father when she was twelve years old and spent the following summer helping my fraternal grandmother care for my father as he recovered from a horrible case of sunstroke. (The two families were already connected

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 The Gardens Behind This House Were Where My Mother Work Out Much of Her Grief When my Father Died

because my mother’s oldest sister had married my father’s cousin.) So when my parents married and my father found that the family farm had become the property of the oldest son, Clarence, he turned to find a job at the School for Juvenile Delinquent boys, in Shakerton, Massachusetts. At that time, incarceration for young men sent them to farm communities in which they learned to farm the land or learn a trade. My father became the landscaping instructor. It was when my father died of a long journey with lymphatic cancer that my mother, exhausted from his care, and desolate at losing the only man she had loved since she was twelve years old, that she turned to the gardens and the woods behind the house. She spent much of that first year cutting back the underbrush, trimming up the peach trees, and planting new flowers in the small rocky flower garden—all jobs that my father had let go as he fought off cancer.

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This is a Rose from my Garden that is on my Counseling Business Card

My story has yet another chapter for the garden as such has been a powerful symbol over the eons. And it was not too long after my second husband, Sy Kessler, passed away that I made the acquaintance of two gentlemen—I had promised Sy I would keep my heart open to others. As I got to know one of the men, I found out that Jake had lost two dear members of his family not too long before I met him. Over the months he grew to know about my counseling work and the fact that I interpret dreams as part of that work. This particular evening he said to me, “Would you mind listening to this dream and telling me what it means. It scares me just a bit.” Always eager to be of help, I said, “Tell me the dream.”

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Jake’s Guardian Dog

Jake relayed the dream which wandered through several different scenes and then he got to the last. “I’m standing outside this garden and I see two beautiful pink flowering plants but they seem to be drooping. I make a move to step into the garden to see if I can help. A German shepherd dog appears out of nowhere and grabs my arm by the shirt sleeve. I go to pull away and he gets a better grip on my arm and starts to back away from the garden. He doesn’t bite through into the flesh but as I try once again to pull free he won’t let me and pulls me farther away from the garden. I wake up.”

I responded, “That last part of the dream is obvious. The two plants in the garden are the loved ones that you have lost. They are calling to you. But if you step over into the garden you will give up your life. The dog, who is a universal or archetypal figure as the guardian or guide to the underworld or afterlife, knows he must keep you on this side of the garden and so he grabs you and tries to pull you away. Were you aware that you were toying with giving up your life to join your loved ones?”

“Yes, I was,” Jake responded, “but I never told anyone.”

“You see God hears us even when we don’t know she/he is listening. And it is blatant from this dream that it is not time for you to go home to your garden.”  “I am so glad for that dog,” I said.

IMG_20180128_153915932P.S. You didn’t think you would get all the way through My Little Bird Blog and not see a pitch for my book? Please remember to purchase my book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, from Amazon.com, and then write a review for me on Amazon.com. Thank you in advance.

 

 

 

Friends: How to Know

The reason you didn’t hear from me last Friday was that I was spending my writing time with a lady friend. We had lunch and swapped stories about the children and grandchildren. Sounds sweet enough!! It was a wonderful day.

Thinking about the topic of friends brings me back several years ago to when my

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Andrew on the Night of Junior High Graduation

grandson Andrew was in Junior High School and struggling with how you make and hold friends. The added burden for him is that he is a high functioning Asperger and their “feedback loop” is usually very poor, caused by damage or underdevelopment to the prefrontal cortex of the brain. The frontal cortex is the part of the brain that registers if something feels good or not.  So if he should happen to notice a potential friend’s behavior he isn’t going to be able to remember whether that behavior was good for him or not. Believe it or not, it is our “feedback loop” that helps us sort who is a friend and who is a foe. I once watched Andrew in our backyard swimming pool with a supposed friend, James I’ll call him here. Andrew would jump into the pool and James would jump right after, landing almost on top of Andrew, and then when Andrew began to surface James would hold him down. (I remember when my brother pulled this stunt on me when I was about seven and I fought with all my strength to get free.) Andrew accepted this frightening behavior. Later, I asked him if he thought being held down in the water was what a friend would do. He said, “Yes,” and looked very confused by my question. (I know girl’s play and boy’s play can be very different.) But I was appalled at the lack of fight in Andrew and I expect that came about because he perceived this James as a friend.

This event led to a later discussion with Andrew in my effort to get him to understand more about friendships and how you recognize those people that are friends. His question to me was “Gramma, how do you know when someone wants to be a friend or is a friend?”

I launched into much too complicated an answer for him, about the fact that friends watch out for us and encourage us in what we are doing. Yes, there may be pushing and

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Again Graduation Night And The Variety of People in One’s Group

shoving with boys but the bottom line is they never push past what they can see is comfortable for us. He seemed to understand this. I went on; there are levels of relationship with other people. There are the true friends to whom you can say most anything and they don’t leave, and they don’t tell, and they don’t retaliate. There are the acquaintances that you say hi to in the hall but you seldom have conversations with them. There are the “other kids” at school or in the workplace that are part of your group but not friend material. And I ended my speech with, “Remember, Andrew, you only need one or two really good friends—I’d almost call them soul mates.”

Andrew was quiet for a moment and then he said back to me, “Well, I guess that means you don’t have any friends, Gramma!” Taken aback by Andrew’s words, I asked, “What do you mean?”

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This House is Where Andrew Expected to See My Friends

“Well, I never see anybody coming over here and just hanging out with you.” After I scraped my face off the floor I said, “Andrew, the reason you don’t see people coming over to visit with me is that most of my friends live way far away from here and those relationships go back many years, some as far back as college. And we both know that was a long time ago.”

He hesitantly accepted my explanation, but I felt that he didn’t fully get what I feel about friends. I didn’t mention the part about the friend that I was visiting at the beginning of this blog was a gal, Lee, that worked with us when we owned Merlin Books and attended our metaphysical classes among other things. She was the friend with Chronic Fatigue/Fibromyalgia which developed before my same diagnoses. We spent more than one conversation in the store where I would start the conversation, get halfway through a sentence and couldn’t finish it. She’d pick up the missing words and finish my statement for me. Five seconds later she’d be part way through her thought and would lose the track. I’d finish what she was saying for her. We don’t have to do that so much now but we still can and I haven’t seen her for over two years. With true deep friends, you can pick the sentence up almost where you left off yesterday, three weeks ago, a month ago or several years ago. These people come close to being soulmates for me.

The other interesting thing about these people is that they often weave in and out of our lives. Back in my first marriage to Rev. Harvard Lesser, he was the associate minister in

13166071_868774833244499_4775438722494439392_nGroton Congregational Church
The Church Where Sara and I Became Lifelong Friends

charge of the youth of the church and then there was the senior pastor. I became best friends with the pastor’s wife as we were both choir members. When the time came that Harvard was asked to leave the ministry, Sara and I looked at each other and said, “We are still friends and will continue to be so.” In time, they moved to New York State and I left Harvard to also relocate. Sara and I wrote back and forth and then life got hectic but we did mostly keep up the Christmas cards. One time when my second husband, Sy and I were down on the Cape (you will read about that adventure in my book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir) and we had gone out to eat, I kept watching a couple sitting in another booth IMG_20180128_153915932and felt like I knew them. I looked away and when I looked back Sara was kneeling beside me saying, “Jessie, do you remember me?” I drew a blank but as her husband stepped beside her I knew and was overjoyed. They had moved to a church on the Cape and I’d not seen that in the Christmas card. Needless to say, we rekindled that relationship and it is still going strong although her health is giving her trouble. But we take turns holding each other up.

Friends are the lifeblood for me, especially now that Sy is with the angels: his Dad, my Dad and oh, my mother who adored him, and his mother with whom he’s made peace.

Did I leave out any of the indicators of who is a friend? If I did please let me know by responding to this blog or going to my website and clicking on the CONTACT button.

 

We Meet the People We Need…

…right when we need them. When I was young and charming, I thought this was a nonsense quote. But then I began living my life. Let me start with a recent incident and go back from there.

Yesterday I had my annual check-up with my banker to see that I was happy with their

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Proposed Cover for Sissyy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long Term Illness  –Left: Brother Owen and Right: Sissy (JessieMay)

services and I had hit a wrong key on my computer and sent them an email asking for information. The woman that I spoke with, I’ll call her Mary for this story, had done some research and since I’m in a lot of places on the internet she found my webpage and could hardly wait to see if I’d published any of the books I’d supposedly written. I assured her that I had written and published one and was waiting for a financial way to get the next one published. She promised to get and read my first book,  A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir. Then she asked which one was next and I told her Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long Term Illness: A Memoir. She said, “That is amazing because I had a sister that was sick most of her life and I wound up taking care of her a lot.” Mary talked about the fact that it isn’t only the sick child that suffers but also most of the family and these issues follow them into adult life. As we talked she shared more. I saw some tears trickle softly down her cheeks and asked, “Has it been very hard on you?” She answered, “More than most people know.”

The reason this encounter was important to me was that I have begun to think that it is all too-much-work-for-not-enough-pay to get the next book out. This woman’s response told me what I needed to see—that this book will feed souls suffering in our society!

The next time someone showed up in my life for a need of mine was when I met my first

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Rev. Harvard Lesser and JessieMay December 22, 1962

husband Rev. Harvard Lesser. I was a senior in college and back then girls went to college if they were lucky, and then got married. The college degree was their security if things didn’t work out. So I’m three months from graduation. One close friend was already married, another was engaged, and rumor had it that a third was to get engaged on graduation day. So I felt like I was in a canoe with no paddle. My hometown minister asked my mother if I would fill in as a dinner date for the guest minister who was coming to preach the Maundy Thursday service in my home church. I was signed up so I went. We were married nine months later. Looking back I understand it was not a good marriage but it was the foundation of my finding out who I am and what I wanted to do in life.

images Colchester Federated Church Blog 4 27 2018Another person that showed up when I needed them was an associate who was a bodywork therapist. You will read a bit about her in my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir. Our friendship grew out of the colleagues’ meetings we used to attend at the Center Town Federated Church in Center Town, Connecticut. Later, I went to her house and she did body work on me. At one session she was asking me questions which I was happily answering and she stopped right in mid-sentence and said, “Jessie, you know an awful lot about a lot of things but you never let on. When are you going to start sharing some of this knowledge? You need to let people know who you are.” It was the first time that I can remember anyone telling me that I could talk and should talk. –Yes, yes, now you are suffering from my coming out of my cage!!

Many other people have arrived just when I needed them but I’ll end with meeting SyIMG_20180128_153915932 Kessler, my second husband and the hero of my first book. After I divorced Harvard, I had been alone raising my three girls and had gone through the terror of the fact that there would never be anyone else for me now that I was thirty-seven and saddled with children. How I met Sy you will have to read about when you get the book mentioned here because I give the story to you in detail. The funny part is that about two months before I met Sy, a reporter from the New London Day, a Connecticut shoreline city newspaper, wanted to do an article on divorcing women and their issues. In my interview, when she came to the question of was there anyone special in my life, I replied, “No. I’ve gotten to the place where I am just fine with spending my time raising my three daughters.”

My mother used to say, “Go on with your life. It is going to come and find you when you least expect it.” I believe she is right. The right people show up in your life when you need them.

Now if you have read my book above would you go to my website and follow the directions for voting for my book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir as the best read in the Memoir Catagory? You see this way you will become a person that came into my life just when I needed them. Thank you for your help, JessieMay

Out of the Blue

Before I started to write this blog I went looking back through old blogs to find the one where I talked about this family before but I couldn’t find it so I will dive in.

Ralph Moody author of Little Britches
Ralph Moody Best Known for His First Book Little Britches

This morning dawned for me with a brilliant blue sky when I finally rolled out of bed. So my blog title, in reality, is correct but it is also correct figuratively. The telephone rang about an hour after my feet touched the floor and it was from a western state. I have had so many of those robocalls that I almost didn’t pick up. The voice on the other end gave me his name and asked if I remembered him. Yes, I remembered Robert. Some of you may have read the blog I wrote more than a year ago about a gentleman who had read all of my Uncle Ralph Moody’s bestselling books. Robert had grown up on them and had introduced his children to Ralph’s books. He had also traced down and took one of his daughters to visit many of the places in which Ralph’s stories took place, so he is a devoted fan.

Robert was so interested in the family stories and the character of the family that he contacted my mother after uncle Ralph died of lung cancer while living out his last days with my mother. I believe Robert wrote to my mother, having gotten her address off of the obituary, and asked if he could talk with her about the family. She, being the age that she was and just out of a span of some hard last days with my uncle, felt he was invading, (she said he had a strange last name) and just never answered this man’s letter.

Several years passed and I must confess that I forgot about the request and I went on with my life. I think it was last year or maybe two years ago, Robert’s daughter found myIMG_20180128_153915932 blog site, especially the blog where I outlined the writers in my background. In that blog, I talk about my uncle, what he meant to me and how much he influenced me to write and publish my first book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir. She brought this information to her father and he contacted me by email. We talked via computer and then by telephone. He even tried to set up a Skype session so that I could meet all of his grown children. It wound up being more of a conference call but even then I could hear the quality of his children just as he had found the quality of my aunts and uncles in my Uncle Ralph’s books. At that time he talked about coming east to visit but I didn’t expect it would take place.

So you can see my delight this morning when he called to tell me he and his wife were coming to my part of the world for a vacation and wanted to spend some time with me. I believe he wants a chance to read my Grandmother Moody’s book which was published privately as a family memoir and so is not for sale to the public. He will get to see a different side of my grandmother than what my uncle shows in his book Mary Emma and Company.

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Robert and Part of his Family Taken Years Ago

It will be such fun to see him in person and meet his lovely wife. I know she is lovely—he sent pictures with the first contact. So you see it was really “out of the blue.” Now, living alone with my two fuzzy companions it is great to look forward to a visit in which I will get to do a lot of walking down memory lane and also a chance to reinforce a new relationship with a family not unlike my own. The biggest difference is they live in the western part of this United States just as my uncle did, while my family of origin lived out their time here mostly around Boston, Massachusetts.

If there is a message in this blog it is that sometimes, while using some common sense, it is safe to reach out and meet someone that appears to have common interests and values even in this day and age of instant everything. Now, I am sorry that my mother missed this opportunity.

So do you have any stories in which people you never knew about showed up in your life to give something special to you? If you care to share I’d love to hear from you. Contact me here through this blog or by going to my website www.jessiemaykessler.com and hitting the CONTACT button.

To Purge is Painful

To purge in any way is painful, but not to purge usually leads to chaos. I haven’t posted IMG_20180128_153915932My Little Bird blog in the last two weeks because I have been in the process of purging. If I’m going to move into an apartment in a year or so it makes sense for me to start to downsize the contents of this dream house my second husband, Sy and I had built a little over five years ago. If you have purchased my first book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, read it, and written your review on Amazon.com, you already know that I move from one home to another almost every seven years. I know it probably seems foolish but somehow I feel I need a new environment in which to be productive. And in astrology, they have recognized that most couples and work environments renegotiate their relationships every seven years.

Because I have this quirk I tend not to accumulate so much that I have no place to put it

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Elizabeth  at Christmas Time

and that is where the chaos comes in for those people who never move and then after forty years in one home, must part with their beloved treasures. That is indeed painful! But when I was raising my daughters and was in the thick of it, I noticed that daughter Elizabeth could gather up many things in her bedroom and throw them away. Once I asked her, “How are you able to do that, just throw away your little girl things?” And she said, “Once they are out of my sight I forget that I ever had them and then I have room for new things.” Out of the mouths of small children and young teens!!

So without ever giving her the credit I began to follow her advice and discovered that most of the time once an object was thrown away or given away I seemed to forget I ever had it. Yes, there are some few things that still hurt but most of the parting was easy. We put such value on things!

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My Mother as she Became Less Able to Focus

One time when we were moving my mother– she had become old enough that she couldn’t actually do the physical work of sorting, packing, and throwing away–my sister, PollyAnne, and I were doing the bulk of the job. After my sister went back to her house, my task was to find new homes for these items or to physically throw them in the dumpster. At one point I said to my then-young adult daughters, “Here is a stack of Gramma’s dishes and I haven’t found anyone who wants them. Would you girls put them in the dumpster?” In a bit, I looked out the window to see three of my daughters in a competition to see who could stand farthest from the trash container and hurl the dish into the dumpster. I sucked in a deep breath and said to myself, “Mother will never know that’s what happened to her beloved dishes and the job is getting done so don’t interfere or scold. And besides, they are having such fun!!”

In these past two weeks, my youngest daughter Annie and I have managed to cut

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Center Bay of the Three Unit Dark Bookcase

the number of household books in half and me to part with at least half of my professional books. Then we moved the floor-to-ceiling, dark bookcases from the living room to the back end of my study that has a floor-to-ceiling curtain which now hides all of the books and reduces a lot of the clutter. The living room looks open and airy while the study feels snug and comforting—you can’t see the books but you can feel them.

Our work ended with taking the massive master bedroom bed apart. It was a large dark stained piece that Sy and I had bought when we moved into this our dream house. We wanted one new piece of furniture. My daughter Annie is Sy’s biological daughter and “his little girl.” She has wanted that bed ever since her father died and so it seemed only fair that it go to her house. A smaller bed will fit better for me in an apartment and she feels nightly hugged by her father. We did have to ask men from the church to help us get it to her house with their strong arms and trucks. And of all the purges that one hurts a bit, although I do feel that it is now where it should be.

Not doing this sorting every now and again creates a living environment that has so much energy in it that it saps the strength of the people living there and then they become overwhelmed. What were once treasures, gradually become a maze of stuff, setting the stage for a safety or fire hazard. So, remember Elizabeth’s words: “Once you’ve thrown it out you generally don’t remember that you ever owned it and besides it makes space for something new.”

Do you have any stories about setting your house in order? I’d like to hear them especially those that are meaningful or funny. Contact me through this blog site or go to my webpage www.jessiemaykessler.com and connect through the CONTACT button. Also when you are on my website, there are directions for voting for A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, which is in a contest for the best memoir. Thanks for reading and voting.