Follow the Bread Crumbs

My youngest daughter Annie, whom I hope you have already met in my first book, A birdanddragon_frontcover_33Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, comes about once a month to my home “to get me back on track” as she puts it; a job she has been doing since her father, Sy, died almost four years ago. I also hope you have read the chapter in A Bird and the Dragon entitled “The Shoe Box.” In brief that story is about Kermit, the frog, and how fond I was of him. On the particular visit that started this whole train of thought, Annie produced me with a framed picture of Kermit sitting on a stool in a thoughtful pose. The caption reads “Have you ever just sat and IMG_20170324_121833971thought…Damn, I’ve been through a lot of shit.” In truth I have been through a lot but I got to thinking, what pulls me out? Immediately the response came, “It’s the bread crumbs on the path.” The origin of the bread crumbs on the path comes from the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel. Hansel, in an effort to save him and his sister, drops bread crumbs along their path so that they can find their way back home from the great forest where their father has left them to die.

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Proposed Cover for Sissy’s Story

If I go way back in my life, I have to take you into what will be my second book, Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long Term Illness and the fight I had with Carol Simpson. If I hadn’t had that horrible fight on the school playground I never would have had the meltdown that showed my mother I was a very sick little girl struggling with the rigors of first grade. It turned out to be rheumatic fever and I’ll leave the rest for you to read, when the book is published. But that fight was really the bread crumbs for my first intersection in life.

 

Later on in time, I was in seventh grade and still somewhat of a gangly blond with a fear of most everything. We had a substitute teacher one particular day and my classmates virtually made mincemeat of the poor lady. That story will likely be in another book that I’m working on entitled Hunt the Beloved: To Find a Heart. The upshot of that event is that the boy who sat in front of me at the front of the classroom, Ray, was there because he was one of the troublemakers in the class and I was not. In the melee of the substitute teacher’s classroom, Ray asked me to go out with him. My mother actually let me go with him on a double date. It was my first date and my introduction to boy/girl affairs. None of the other girls in the class were dating and it made me feel more grown up and special. More bread crumbs—something that changed my life forever.

In high school I was at a town dance and sitting, as I always sat, with the girls that weren’t dancing. I prayed fiercely that someone would come and ask me to dance. One boy finally did. And then a second boy came, but this boy had a message from someone else (a boy named Tino, also an important person in the manuscript Hunt the Beloved) who wanted to dance with me. I told the second boy to go back to his friend with the instruction that he had to ask me himself. Tino did come and ask me to dance and my life took another right angle turn. When I stepped into Tino’s arms it was as if I were home again. More bread crumbs.

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My Marriage to Rev. Harvard Lesser

Later, I’m out of college and I’m invited to fill in with a friend of my hometown minister for a dinner date and a Church Maundy Thursday service. The friend was Rev. Harvard Lesser, whom you’ve heard about in A Bird and the Dragon. This time the birds came and ate up most of my bread crumbs; and when my insides were saying something is off, I said, “Oh, No, it’s not,” and married the minister.

The next event was when Rev. Lesser and I were trying to have children. After

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Elizabeth and Felicia in an Early Christmas Picture

surgery and taking on a foster child, I was able to conceive and hold on to the baby. She arrived and I was consumed by a fear that I would lose her and so asked Harvard for another baby. The second baby came fifteen months later and is my faithful Felicia. (I now know from doing past life work that the fear of losing the first baby, Elizabeth, was based on a past life experience and so the second daughter was very much needed.) These strange urges and these unexplainable knowings are part of the bread crumbs of my life.

It has taken a long time for me to recognize that when I’m at a junction in my life I pray for my God, to show me the bread crumbs on the path. Sometimes they are pretty hidden in the grass, sometimes the birds get a few of them, but sometimes they are so clear I don’t have to fear where I’m going.

With age I am quicker to see where the path is leading and sometimes that it looks like a long journey to I don’t know where, but I do know that I always have those breadcrumbs to show me my way home, if I will just ask for them.

How about you? Have you had bread crumb events in your life at junctions when you didn’t know what to do or when your life took an unexpected one hundred and eighty degree turn?

Mixing it Up

For those of you who have already read my first book A Bird and the Dragon: Their birdanddragon_frontcover_33Love Story: A Memoir, you may have come away with the impression that we ran a fairly well-oiled machine of a family, with only a few glitches. Well, to give a little balance to that scenario–mixing it up–I’ve got more stories on the girls. I told you in one of my recent blogs that I had planned over two years ago to leave my beautiful senior community home and find a less expensive living situation. To that end I packed up most of my books, picture albums, and excess kitchen stuff and was storing these boxes in the garage. I don’t know what happened but about two months ago I got the message loud and clear, from wherever those messages come from, to take the house off the market and start unpacking my treasures. I’ve been doing that and have found all the old family albums. And the pictures trigger memories, so you are in for more stories.

The chapter in A Bird and the Dragon about May paints her as if there were never Scan_0008 May and the pool with garage roof 7 6 2017any good times or fun/frustrating times in our mutual lives. One of the pictures that I came across recently shows a group of our girls lined up on the side of the swimming pool that we added to the back corner of the Ugly Green House. May has her hand above two of the girl’s head in the V, the bunny ears sign, while the garage roof looms behind them. It wasn’t until all the girls were adults and it was either Annie or Felicia who saw the picture again and said, “Yeah, whoever took the picture didn’t know that May had climbed up onto the roof of the garage and dove into the pool.” New news to me!! My mother must have been babysitting at the time so that we could have a long weekend away. I chose at the time of the confession not to ask if any of the other girls had gone off the roof. There were no broken necks so I’m assuming the others stayed on the firm deck.

During much of that summer the girls and their friends were in the pool. I could look out over the scene from my open kitchen window as I washed dishes. The girls used to play Marco Polo at the top of their lungs. I can remember one day saying to myself, “If they scream Marco Polo one more time I’m going to go out there and murder every one of them.” It didn’t happen—they screamed but I didn’t murder. But to counterbalance this story my mother was visiting, and with the setup of where the pool was in relationship to the inside of the house, the girls had to march through my kitchen to get to the downstairs bathroom. (At least they used the bathroom!) My mother was drying dishes as I washed and was watching the parade of children marching by from time to time. Finally she pointed to one child and said, “Do you know who that one is?”

“No,” I answered.  “I don’t think I’ve ever seen them before, but at least my girls and the neighborhood kids are in my backyard under my watchful eye. That’s what really counts.”

She nodded and didn’t say another word about the sloppy wet kitchen floor or the noise from the back yard.

And now I’m going to finish with another May story. May had finally moved in with us after her year of living with her father and had taken possession of the bedroom

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May’s Bedroom was Beside the Pink Bush

we had built for her in the basement. She was fourteen by now and was smoking cigarettes. I grew up with a mother who smoked and stopped at age forty. So I had no use for cigarettes and for an underage daughter thumbing her nose at me with her smoking. This particular day I caught the smell of cigarettes coming from her room and marched down to catch her in the act. When I got there the cigarettes seemed to have vanished but the smell told me that it had happened very quickly. I confronted her and demanded she hand over the cigarettes. She told me she didn’t have any and by now she was sitting on the bed watching me to see what I might do next. Of course I didn’t believe her so I started looking by picking things up and opening draws. I pulled stuff out from under the bed. (There is always stuff under the bed with a teenager.) I made her turn out the pockets on her shorts and continued to demand she hand over whatever she had left. By now I was beginning to feel slightly silly and so I told her that we weren’t done yet with this topic and I marched back upstairs.

Come Monday morning, Maria, my cleaning lady, arrived to clean the house. She often started in the lower basement room and so I went down and poured out my frustration to her. She smiled at me, walked to the center of the room, reached up with one hand to lift the ceiling tiles, and pulled out the pack of cigarettes. She turned, handed them to me, and said, “Be patient with her. I was a May once and it took me a long time to get beyond it.” Surprising how wise counsel comes from some of the most unexpected places.

Happy Times

birdanddragon_frontcover_33The reason that I’m writing this Little Bird Blog is to share stories that are not in my book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir; and if not stories then thoughts and ideas I have during the week that relate back to the people in the book. As I was thinking about the fact that this is the Fourth of July weekend coming up I remembered the fireworks and then the light parade. Okay, now I have to explain.

I wondered to myself why we have fireworks for the fourth of July. And then it hit me that they simulate the noise and thunder of cannon being fired and the smoke that the soldiers experience in war. The fourth of July is our memorial celebration of this Nation’s intention to become independent, allowing us to be free thinkers. We fought hard for that right. So now what about the actual celebrations?

When I was a little girl, four maybe five years old, my mother, Jordan Elizabeth stock-photo-new-year-celebration-fireworks-223255012 6 30 2017would see to it that we all went to the town display of fireworks. I was so frightened and my mother loved them so much that I had to sit between her knees and suffer through it. She would take her blanket and put it over my head and tell me to cover my ears that it soon would be over. But she loved them so much I could hear the “Ahs!” and “Ohs!” as fireworks thundered on in spectacular display. Of course I had to peek. And later as I got older I didn’t need the blanket.

Now, we fast forward to my children and grandchildren. The early years with my first family are such a blur you’d have to ask the children how we celebrated. But much later when they were grown up and gone Sy and I would step outside our door

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Our House on Honey Lane

on Honey Lane, in the senior community in Nerme, Connecticut where the elevation was high enough that we could see the fireworks being set off on the beach a mile away from the street in front of our house. Since we were the first to move into that community it took our neighbors time before they figured out why we were standing in the middle of the street. Soon we all brought out lawn chairs to watch. That way we didn’t have to fight the traffic down by the shore. The best of all worlds; except we missed the ground displays.

As you will read in A Bird and the Dragon we moved from Honey Lane to an old duplex in the center of Nerme when we invited my daughter, Felicia and her husband, Chris, to come with their children to live with us. Annabelle, this snuggly old house was a block back from Main Street and two blocks from the beach. We could gather up our blankets and flashlights, lawn chairs and nibbles, and sneak through the back fence onto Main Street. It was a short walk from there to the open

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The Episcopal Church in Nerme, CT

field to the left of the beach and just behind the Episcopal Church. Everyone spread out their blankets and pillows. The snacks were plentiful and the kids could yell and scream as much as the neighbors would tolerate. From here we could see the ground displays as well as the heaven sent fireworks. And the best part was we could walk home while the cars struggled. Some of the smaller children in the neighborhood group were tired by now and wanted to be carried. Poor Markey Mark, one of my Cavalier King Charles dogs had to wear his Thunder Shirt even though he was two blocks away safe at home. Cara Cozy the other dog was her composed self through it all.

But the fun times weren’t just in the summer. Nerme has a tradition of what they call the Light Parade that is celebrated early in December. All the merchants from the town and neighboring towns round up whatever floats they can find and then

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One of the Light Parade Floats in Nerme, CT

decorate them with marvelous themes. These are advertisements for the businesses or representations of Christmas stories done with lots of colored and blinking lights. The school marching bands play as the riders on the floats throw candy to the children. Because our home was only a block back from the street, Felicia would make up a giant thermos of hot chocolate, pack a can of Reddi Whip or Marshmallow with a spoon and sometimes we’d bring cookies as well. Once we got there we’d set up our lawn chairs in the driveway of the bank, wrap ourselves in blankets and wait for the parade to start. The first year we did this Nicole, my upstairs granddaughter, was only two. And for some reason she decided that she did not want to wear mittens nor gloves or anything on her little hands. Felicia tried to get Nicole to pull her arms back into her jacket sleeves to protect those hands but Nicole was not buying it. She’d protest and fling the mittens off. –Now, those hands shape beautiful sculptures. Who would have guessed?!!

Isn’t it interesting that we as a people choose lights and loud noise to help us celebrate the longest days of the year and then again the shortest days of our year. Both activities create a feeling of excitement and magic. Although with the blanket over my head at four I didn’t feel the magic—except maybe radiating from my mother’s joy.

What are your traditional Fourth of July family celebrations?

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Lobster and corn on the cob

 

 

 

or potato salad and hot dogs? It is indeed fun to reminisce.

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Discovering Your Family Lineage

birdanddragon_frontcover_33When you read my first book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir you will discover that Sy, my then husband and I took our daughters to many different places in an effort to help our two families blend into one family by building new common history. So when it came time to babysit the grandchildren the pattern was already established and we took Andrew and his sister Nicole to many different places. Andrew had a love of history and Nicole a love of art so we tried to alternate our adventures so that each child would have a chance to experience the things that stirred each of their hearts.

About a year before Sy passed away we decided to go to Concord Massachusetts, a

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Headstone for Ralph Waldo Emerson

town not too distant from the town in which I grew up, and investigate to see what we could learn. This of course was a trip for Andrew. We wound up investigating the family burial plot of Ralph Waldo Emerson. The children wandered around looking at the various family headstones and Nicole suddenly called out, “Gramma, wasn’t your grandmother named Mary Moody?”

I responded, “Yes, she was but why are you asking?”

“Because there is a Mary Moody buried here in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s graveyard.”

I said, “You’re kidding!”

“No, I’m not. She’s right here. Come see.”

I did go and look and there was the name but it couldn’t be my grandmother because the dates were off. Some other person investigating the gravesite overheard us and said, “Maybe you should go to the Emerson House and take the tour. They could probably explain if there is a connection.”

Now the children were ready for a treasure hunt. We went to the Emerson Memorial emerson_house0673-400 6 23 2017House and took the tour. There was an historical guide explaining and pointing out important features of the house. At one point Andrew got close to the docent and said, “I think we may be related to Mr. Emerson.” The docent replied that he couldn’t help us with that but there was a family tree in the gift shop that we could buy and the person there might be able to help us with our investigation.

Scan_0007 Ralph Waldo Emerson Tree.jpgWe bought the family tree and still were having trouble when the shopkeeper came and asked if she could help. We told her that we had found a Mary Moody in the family burial plot but the dates were wrong. She said, “Well Mary Moody, the aunt of Ralph Waldo, had a great uncle Joseph Moody, a minister and he was known as Handkerchief Moody.” I nearly gasped, because I had been brought up hearing all about Handkerchief Moody, and that we were directly related to him.

Andrew didn’t miss my intake of air. “What is it Gramma?” he asked.

images Ralph Waldo Emerson 6 23 2017 “Well, Honey, what the lady just said means that you and your sister Nicole are related to Ralph Waldo Emerson.”

“Are you sure?” Andrew asked.

“Yes, I’m sure. My grandmother, Mary Emma Moody used to tell me all about her people that came over from England and how they settled in New England, and among them was a minister who accidentally shot a man, and as his penitence he wore a handkerchief over his face because he felt he was not fit to be seen by God with an uncovered face.”

“Wow!! We’re related to Ralph Waldo Emerson. The man in the house said he was a big writer!”

“Indeed he was a great writer, a great thinker, a social engineer, and a supporter of

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Grandson Andrew

the people of his time.”

“And he lived in this house?!”

“Yes, he did.”

“Boy is my teacher going to be surprised when I take that family tree and show her that I’m related to Ralph Waldo Emerson. I have to have the family tree because otherwise she’ll think I’m just making it up.”

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Granddaughter Nicole

“No, you’re not making it up, Honey, and you have to remember that your sister Nicole is also related.”

“Yeah, I know!”

When we walked back to the car that afternoon I swear that both children had a bit of a swagger. It is very important to know that you have important people who have broken the path before you and that you too have the genes and potential to be an important contributing member of our society.

Have you ever had something similar to this happen to you?

 

Past Life Informs Present Relationships

As a therapist who writes about psychological issues I have to make the decision: do birdanddragon_frontcover_33I use client material or talk about my family members to illustrate issues. Since most clients come because they have been badly hurt one way or another in their families of origin I would be violating and re-wounding them to use their experiences. So…my grown children graciously have allowed me to use some of their material to illustrate concepts from time to time. You may or may not know that the girls’ names have been changed in my book The Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir. This gives each daughter a little privacy.

In years past I trained with Roger Woolger, a certified Jungian analyst, to do past life therapy. He has become an authority in this form of past life regression work. I did not finish the training because he believed that the way to free a person from the strangulation of past life energy was to have the client relive the trauma and release that captured energy by fighting, screaming, cursing, beating something—whatever

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Felicia, Cora, Elizabeth, JessieMay and Annie

it took to release the charge. I have a hard time forcing someone to re-experience that kind of pain and so I backed away, but during the training I was required to do a lot of regressions with my fellow students. The upshot is I have experienced lives with all of my children including the adopted daughter and my step-children. Most amazing and informative! Let me share at least one of these stories. These stories have helped me better understand why my children respond to me in the ways that they do. Remember, I said at the start of this blog that past life informs present relationships.

The past life story scene opens with me as a very young wife standing at the door of a hallway and I am about to hand a bowl of hot soup to Whitley Dresser, the man images woman handing man a bowl of soup 6 16 2017who was our psychic reader in the book store, Merlin Books, that we owned in this present lifetime. In the story he was old and cranky and miserable to live with. He took the bowl of soup, and as it was too hot for him, he threw it in my face. I was hurt and outraged. When I could get away, I went to see my father who had arranged this marriage to this much older man. I told him how cruel my husband was and that I wanted to leave and come home. Life was terrible. He soothed me as best he could but told me to stay, that the old man would not live too much longer and then I would be financially well off. I grudgingly did what my father insisted I do.

Sure enough, death came after not too long a time and I was free and well to do. There was a young lawyer whom I had seen driving a single horse drawn cabriolet coach_15_sm Lawyers Paris Carriage in Past Life Regression 6 16 2017down our street in Paris, France and I loved the way he handled his horse and the gleam of his shiny black carriage. Soon we happened to meet and eventually married. The lawyer was Sy Kessler in this life. It was a rewarding life and we had a daughter and a son. Our time together was peaceful. As the children grew older I had less responsibility and so I began to write. I was rather good at writing and began to have my material published in the manner of the day, under a pseudonym name. I joined other writers and became enthralled with the accolades and the attention. Something made me think that I would have more exposure in England and so I left Sy and my home in France and went to England to pursue my career. My daughter (Elizabeth in this life) denounced me for leaving her father and I never saw her again after I left France. The son (Felicia in this life) was a bit more forgiving and would come once and again to see me in England. I actually did not fare well in England and died alone in a garret room of tuberculosis. I never saw Sy or Elizabeth again in that life.

Now the connections: When Whitely Dresser came to ask me for a job at Merlin Books I rejected him almost immediately. It was only after I could not get the man out of my head, something about him was familiar, that I asked him back to do a psychic reading for me. And as I say in the book, A Bird and the Dragon, he became the backbone of our store. Positive payback?!!

Next, Sy always told me that if he had not become an engineer because he was told that it was lucrative, he had wanted to be a lawyer. And even took some courses for a while after we were married to become a paralegal but found what he would be doing to be too boring.

In this life, when I asked Elizabeth’s father, the Rev. Harvard Lesser, for a divorce she simply turned away from me. As a child she was very close and in the book I refer to her as my apron strings child. This was crushing for me and doing this regression helped me better understand. She also in this life grew to be close to Sy and when he died she was tied up at work, did come to the memorial service, but skipped the casting of his ashes because she wanted to remember him as he was.

Felicia was a boy in the regression story but she was the son that stood by me in that story and she is the daughter in the present time story that stands beside me. She has even offered to be my caregiver when that time comes—similar to the regression story.

All of this past life work makes me believe there is much more to our existences here on earth than we see on a day to day basis. There are many other dimensions to us and to our world if we would but dare to explore.

Passion in Marriage

birdanddragon_frontcover_33Part of the job of a writer, especially of a self-published book, is to get the word out to the public. That involves passive advertising like my writing a blog each week about people or events that relate back to my first book, The Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir. The other effort needed is to do public speaking. I’m doing an Author Talk Monday evening, June 12, 2017, 6:30 p.m., at the Waterford Public Library, on Rt.156, 49 Rope Ferry Road, in Waterford, CT. Those of you living in the eastern half of Connecticut know where I will be and hopefully my other readers will get the gist of that talk with the story in this blog.

The title of my talk is “Sweethearts Forever.” Now, forever is a long time and those of you who are married are saying good luck with that topic! But what I want to bring to your attention is that there is passion in a first or second meeting. And when you are in your teens and early twenties, that passion is about sex and physical connection. As we age we begin to recognize that there is an emotional passion, and for some a spiritual passion. Believe me, emotional and spiritual passion lasts the longest—maybe forever.  When you are young and first in love you can hardly keep your hands off of each other. As we mellow we begin to recognize the comfort and lasting connection in a knowing glance given by a loving partner from across the room.

For my talk I had overlarge bookmarks made to help me get my point across to my audiences. It consists of a star of sorts and words. I showed it to Annie, our youngest daughter when she was here to get her opinion. She approved and we went on to other things. I wanted to show her one of the uses for the card and then I couldn’t find it. She asked, “What are you looking for, The Love Star?” I hadn’t given the bookmark a name but she was exactly right. It is a Love Star. This is what I’m calling emotional passion. There are certain traits that involved individuals need to have for sexual passion to move to emotional passion. That is what I plan to talk about on Monday evening. Oh, and by the way, any and all of you are invited to come.

Rather than blowing my whole talk here, instead of using the relationship between

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Mary Emma Gould Moody

my husband Sy and me, I’m going to talk here about the relationship between my grandparents. I’ve talked about my grandmother, Mary Emma so this is a peek into her more private life. I’ve had my house up for sale for two years now and with it not selling I began to realize for some reason my God wants me here, so I’ve been unpacking the books I’d cleared out of the living room in an effort to make the room less “dark and cluttered.” As I put books back on the bookshelves I found my grandmother’s book, Mary Emma of the Square House. I think I’ve mentioned before in my blog

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Charles Owen Moody

 

that my grandmother wrote a book about her life and when she sent it off to a publisher he sent it back saying the language was too old fashioned for him to risk publishing the book. She put it away and it saw no light until my cousin and his wife came across the manuscript. My grandmother’s middle son then stepped forward and encouraged the couple to edit the manuscript and he would help them financially to have it published. That was done and now each of her descendants has the story of Mary Emma’s life to hold in their hands and hearts.

My grandmother writes of her first meeting with Charles, my grandfather:

“While I was there, I joined an elocution class to which his children were going, {not children of Charles} and it was at a recital given by the teacher that I first met Charles.

“It was not a case of love at first sight. I knew nothing of the fine old family behind him, and saw only an unusually tall, blond and somewhat self-conscious youth. I think he was attracted by my ability to read and recite, rather than by myself.  He paid me some slight attention and I was unimpressed.”

Farther on my grandmother states, “I am sure I was not in love in a romantic sense. I simply liked him. I think he felt much the same toward me. We preferred each other’s company….One day he asked me to marry him; it was the thought of a home that won. I told him I would marry him if the time ever came that he could provide a home. …that night, I took the little gold pen that had been his last Christmas gift and wrote, “Mary Gould Moody.” I did not like the addition to my name, and I comforted myself before I slept with the thought that he never would be able to provide a home. ….I was wrong.”

Charles Moody passed away when my grandmother was about thirty-eight, the mother of five small children with a sixth on the way. She writes:

“The next night I sent again for the doctor… “He {meaning Charles} had been anxious about himself all this afternoon,” I said. “Of course he had not reason to be.”

“Oh, yes, he has. I don’t think he will live through the night,” {the doctor said.}

“I dropped where I stood. ‘I’m sorry,’ said the doctor, ‘but there is nothing I can do…’”.

“Toward morning the temperature began to go down and he was sleeping….

“That night the good Danish neighbor stayed with the nurse and they sent me upstairs to bed for the first time in ten days….

“Toward morning they waked me to ask for the fever tablets….

“Later he sent the nurse for me. Pulling me close to him he said, ‘May, something must be done!’”

“I cannot go over that dreadful day of March 17, 1910. He fought with everything he had but my Charlie went to his rest before it closed. The heart had failed to take the strain.”   

I hope that you can hear through Mary Emma’s words how their relationship moved over the years from the passion of youth, or apparent lack thereof, to the emotional passion of mid-life. I grew up knowing my grandfather Charlie, because my grandmother’s love for him extended past the fact that my mother never laid eyes on her father, with his passing before she was born.

And so I come back to my Love Star. The two most important things in that star are the Respect at the top of the star and Time at the bottom of the star. My grandparents had great respect for each other and I hope you can hear it through her limited words, here. Time can be seen in many ways. I am meaning in my talk, the time to devote to each other. This couple devoted time to each other around caring for and raising their children. Their life was really hard which you would learn if you had access to the book but they never blamed one another or belittle one another. They were honest and kind to one another. Those are the next two qualities on the Love Star that are essential to a lasting emotionally passionate relationship.

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The Waterford Public Library, Waterford CT., 49 Rope Ferry Road or Rt 156

See you at my Author Talk in Waterford on Monday, 6:30 p.m., June 12th and learn what are the last qualities needed to build a passionate marital relationship.

 

 

 

 

Love is Not Enough!

If you have been through a divorce or, worse, have lost a beloved spouse to death, birdanddragon_frontcover_33you feel emotionally very shaky about your worth and your ability to move forward in the world. Then, miracle of miracles, you meet someone special and the two of you hit it off very well. You seem to have a lot in common; you value many of the same things and as the relationship develops you find you can learn to like the things that are different about the two of you. He likes baseball: you’d rather stay home and read a book but the two of you find a way to compromise on these issues. This person seems like a perfect mate to help you raise your children. Your mother always told you to pick someone with common interests!!

Next, we bring the children together and they are tense at first but then they seem to find common ground and you think, ‘the expression that love is enough, seems to be true.’ That is until the wedding bells have rung and we all now live in the same house. So often a couple is so smitten with each other that they turn a blind eye to the tensions growing between the children. He says, “Give them time. They’ll figure it out.” So you look away and the troubles in the house grow larger.

No! They won’t figure it out because the children have never been in this situation where they now have to share their parent with someone else as well as share them with other children. (There could have been a second parent in the previous household but if it is a divorce these parents were not on equal ground and the children know this. With a death it is a bit different.) And you thought sibling rivalry was bad in your own first little family!! Children have to see the parents setting the path of communication, acceptance (and that is acceptance of the other person’s children), patience, and basically what you do in these relational situations. And then we come to that ugly word: structure. Yes, children need structure; sometimes only so that they have something to rail against, but it truly does make them feel safer. It is hard on you to hold the line but you must do that if you want well-functioning adults to come out of this combined household. The greater world doesn’t give in to temper tantrums.

And one other very important factor is that you need to set up activities that the whole combined family does together. Nothing glues a family together as well as

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Day Pond in Connecticut from the Parking Lot

building a common history. My husband Sy and I did many activities with our children to help start this process of common history. One event that didn’t make it into my first book, A Bird and the Dragon, Their Love Story: A Memoir is ‘bacon in the back seat.’ I believe it was the Memorial Day weekend and Sy and I had decided we would take the girls on a picnic. We had found a state park with a pond, picnic area, and space to play games if they so desired. With girls of their ages they wanted to lie in the sun and stock the boys—from the safety of their beach blankets.

images scallops wrapped in bacon 6 1 2017I got it into my head that one of the items on the picnic list was scallops wrapped in bacon. The girls had loved them when I had done them once at home so I started out to make these delicacies while Sy got stuck rounding up much of the rest of the picnic and the paraphernalia. And of course the bacon didn’t want to stay wrapped on the scallops and the scallops all wanted to cook at different speeds and it was becoming long and not so successful.  We finally got everything loaded into the red Chevrolet cargo van along with all the girls in bathing suits, with towels and extra clothes. As we drove toward the park the sky was getting darker and darker. I’m beating myself up

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Red Van Similar to the One We had for Our Picnic

inside because my need for perfection had set us behind by a good bit. Just as we pulled into the parking lot the sky opened up and it poured rain. You could hear the outraged disappointment from the back of the van. “We’re going to have to turn around and go home!” one girl said. Then I heard, “We drove all this way to go swimming and now we can’t! Some picnic!!”  Someone else said my exact thoughts, “What was all the bother for? The picnic is ruined.” And then my Beloved said, “What do you mean the picnic is spoiled? I’m not turning around and driving home!” I looked at him in surprise because he often wanted things to go “right.” And he said back to my glance, “We’re going to spread out the blanket in the back of the van, open the back doors so you can hang your feet out into the rain, and lay out our picnic there on the blanket.”

I think it was one of the best picnics we ever had. The girls got to giggling as they got

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Good Clean Fun

their bare feet wet and when they tired of that they curled up on the seats and told ghost stories, and gossiped and I was amazed. They needed structure: the picnic. Then they needed to see that a picnic could be done in a different way. And lastly they needed to see that the parents didn’t blame each other but came up with an alternative plan. There was no “drama!” Just good clean fun!! Yes structure, acceptance, and flexibility–you can survive a blended family.

Have you with blended families found these to be some of the problems in getting the family to run as a unit? I’d like to hear your stories.

 

Grief: However it Comes

birdanddragon_frontcover_33The title of my book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir almost tells you that there is going to be an ending in the story. And what I tried to focus on as I wrote was the little things that happened between my husband Sy and me as well as events around us that created our Love Story. Some of it has to do with the character of the people involved but much of it is just the nitty-gritty of two people living with five daughters all champing at the bit to be grown up and doing life their way.

Then we come to the end of the story and yet the story goes on in a different time and space. I don’t have to tell you that a sudden unexpected death was like some great force had taken my beautiful rug, called home, and torn it out from under me. An incident that you will read about in Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long Term Illness tells of me at the age of six having to go to the big city every three months to be checked over and to have blood drawn to ensure the doctors that I was indeed recovering from the Rheumatic Fever. This particular time the doctor was to

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A Doctor with a Syringe 

draw the blood and when he inserted the needle he caught the vein in my arm crosswise and the pain was excruciating and yet I didn’t cry. He pulled the needle back, apologized profusely, and tried again. By this time my arm was burning and aching. But I didn’t cry. Afterwards everyone told me how brave I was and I think that imprinted me with the message that I shouldn’t cry no matter how bad the pain. As a therapist I know otherwise but sometimes those old childhood lessons are stronger. So I didn’t cry much when Sy died. I anguished inside and then set to work trying to put my world back into some order. The fact that I wasn’t able to cry and flush my emotional system has driven a lot of that heart pain into my body, so that I’m in pain most days.

For about four months after he died I didn’t feel him anywhere around me. It was just a void; but then gradually I started to talk to his picture on the night stand beside where I sleep. I’d cry some but then move on to an accounting of the day’s events just as we used to talk at coffee time. One night when Annie, our youngest daughter was staying over with me to get me back “in order” and sleeping in the guest room, she called to me. “Are you talking to Dad?”

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The Picture of Sy that I Talk to at Night

“Yes,” I answered a bit sheepishly.

And she responded, “I thought so because he hasn’t blinked my light, tonight.” (I knew she was referring to the fact that both my mother and Sy, who have passed over, will blink a light in my house whenever they want us to know that they have come for a visit. And they don’t use the same lights! I believe I’ve talked about this phenomenon in an earlier blog.)

Each day was filled with the have-to-does, groceries, meals, laundry, letters, and you name it. The pain in my mid-section didn’t go away and I questioned most everything I was doing or was going to have to do: Thanksgiving, first Christmas in a new home, dessert hour for my new neighbors, my daughter’s second wedding, the sources of money, the getting his will probated and the list goes on. By the time I’d gotten almost to that first year anniversary of his death I think the numbness was wearing off and the depression was coming. That’s why I started to write the book, to give me company in the old memories and to give Robbie, the youngest grandson, a grandfather he could hold onto as an adult. Actually it has given all of my children and grandchildren back their father and grandfather. Felicia, next to the youngest daughter, said to me yesterday, “Yeah, I’ve been reading the book, a little at a time, and it is so good to have Sy back even if it is only for a moment.”

But with all of these efforts and the struggles to get the book published and out to the public the pain had moved to the heart and was a low muddy river riding along at the bottom of my heart. I’ve thought about, I’ve even written about, what would happen to that heart if someone else should step into my life and I knew that the river would continue to flow, maybe a brook, but still there. I’m not one to take medication unless it is absolutely necessary and so I assumed that this would be the condition for the rest of my life.

Because I am associated with Hay House Publishers I get in my email most every promotion of an author or a person doing a workshop, or a health care product and some I look into and others I pass over. About three months ago, now, I got

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Bill Harris Founder of Centerpointe and the Holosync Solution

promotional material from a Bill Harris, founder of Centerpointe, in Oregon, offering me a chance to listen to his musical CD’s that were programmed to create new pathways in the brain and gradually help me to change my behaviors that were not really working well. In a sense his CD’s help the right and left hemisphere of the brain to begin talking back and forth. He promised all sorts of changes and like always I said “Yeah, Right!!”  But I signed up for his first set of CD’s and started listening. About three weeks into doing this daily routine I was putzing around the house doing my chores and I thought, “The pain in my heart; where is it? The pain has gone!!” And then I did another “Yeah! Right! Let’s wait until tomorrow.” And I checked in the next day and it was gone. Small wonder! Then I had the fear that I was going to forget Sy but that has not proven to be the case. Apparently my brain has recognized that grieving endlessly even if I’m doing it silently isn’t helping me. And I’m the one that is still alive and here on earth wrestling with the everyday. So I might as well begin to have fun with my situation.

I’m sharing this with you because you have to know that all of us grieve differently. There is sometimes a song, or a picture or a place or one of my children saying to me “Wear it well,” when I have bought a new piece of clothing, and I hear Sy’s voice and have to fight back the tears—just for a moment. Some people cry and moan, some get sick, some get angry at everyone most especially themselves; and those of you that are surrounding this person or are there yourself need to remember we all grieve differently and in our own time. I shared my experience with a girlfriend last week who lost her husband a few years before me and she looked at me and said. “Well, it’s been almost four years for you, and the pain should be easing up.” I didn’t know there was a timeline and I really feel that the Holosync CD’s have played a large part in the change. Bless the creator of this material.

If you wish, you can share your own grief story with me. Please do. I know the drill!!

Prebirth Imprints Set Core Beliefs

birdanddragon_frontcover_33If you have read my first book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir you have stumbled across the fact that I was afraid of a lot of things through the story. First I was afraid that Sy, my second husband might be as difficult as my first husband, Harvard Lesser. Then I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to raise these five girls that were to become our blended family. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be accepted for my first counseling job at the counseling center in Medfield, CT., and so it goes.

I took a little quiz that came across my computer a few days ago and at the end I was told that I had been “imprinted with fear” when I was a child, and if I took this woman’s workshop I would be able to rid myself of that imprint. Unfortunately her workshop runs at the same time I have to be writing this blog to get it to you on time this week. So instead of being upset that I couldn’t attend I began to think about where could this fear imprint have come from? I am also a therapist, as is the teacher of the workshop, so I started rummaging around in my bag of goodies. Out popped my grandmother, Mary Emma Moody. Okay, so how is

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Mary Emma Two Years Before Jordan Elizabeth was Born  1908

she involved in this imprinting? Back when Grandmother was carrying my mother Jordan Elizabeth Moody she was living on a dirt farm in Colorado with a husband that was just recovering from tuberculosis. They had five children and Mary Emma was pregnant with the sixth child, Jordan. My grandfather Charles Moody died of pneumonia five months before my mother was born, leaving Mary Emma to raise five children and a new baby on a scratch-dirt farm, alone. Can you imagine the grief and then the fear this woman must have suffered as she carried my mother: how to feed six children on a dirt-farm, how to survive without a husband, where would any money for food and seed come from, who would provide the labor for the farm? The list is endless. And I know from my counseling training that whatever the mother is feeling and thinking most of the time as she carries a child is absorbed by the fetus.

If you have read my uncle Ralph Moody’s books, Little Britches, Man of the Family, Fields of Home, and Mary Emma and Company you know that Mary Emma gathered

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A Laundry Room Similar to the One in My Grandmother’s Basement

up her children after a year or so and brought them East where she could live with a brother until she could find housing. My grandmother took in laundry for a living and set up a laundry in the basement of the home she rented. This woman had to have been exhausted most of the time when my mother was growing up. So if my mother had any fears she wasn’t free to share them because her mother was too tired to be a support. My mother has told me that my grandmother held all the children very close to her because of fears that the boys would stray in a city environment and get into trouble. So now you are seeing a history of hard work and fear.

Now, my own birth came about after my mother had birthed two children and then lost two children. So when I arrived, with my mother fearing she might lose another

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JessieMay Sanderson Kessler Age Ten

child, she coddled and spoiled me a bit. Then to make matters worse at five-years-old I contracted Rheumatic Fever, which killed children back in those days, and so my mother had another whole level of fear to deal with and transfer to me.

As things evolved I turned out okay but with my own issues to conquer. You can see clearly that there is indeed an imprint of fear in my life. So my job moving forward is finding ways to understand this imprint and to challenge myself to move beyond those fears. I can tell you about one activity to take me out of my comfort zone and that is the public speaking I must do to promote my book. So if you want to help me with this ‘fear imprint’ please find organizations who would like to hear me speak on some of the things I know about relationships, loving, accepting other people’s children, and building a blended family. Maybe together, we’ll help me get rid of this imprint!

P.S. My grandfather Charlie Moody called my grandmother May instead of the Mary so this is where I got half of my name. If you look at the picture of my grandmother and then of me you can see I was meant to carry her name.

 

When the Wheels Come Off the Wagon

Those who have read my book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir birdanddragon_frontcover_33have already met and seen pictures of my mother Jordan Elizabeth Sanderson. But in this blog I’d like to take you from the woman pictured in the book to the woman who passed away at ninety-eight years old. Some of this may sound sacrilegious and I hope I can present this without that happening. Many of you may have taken care of an aging parent or spouse and perhaps my stories will help you. My mother spent her last seven years in our home with my husband, Sy and me, along with our grandchildren, in the apartment above us or at our dinner table. Looking back, I have to admire her fortitude to move from the town she had known since she was a new bride at eighteen to our town where she was not free to explore because she had already given up her car.

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Jordan Elizabeth Moody at age eighteen just before she married Frederick Copland Sanderson

Once she had moved in with us, one of my first vivid memories is of her standing beside me in my kitchen saying, “What can I do to help?” The question was simple but not so the answer. My mother had essential tremor in her later years and it was worse when she was stressed. (Yes, living in my house with me could create a bit of stress.) Mother was also a little stooped in posture at this point. Not thinking, I responded, “Well, Mom, you could help me by peeling and cutting up these vegetables for supper.” I set about putting a cutting board at the table, my style of peeler, which she had never used before, along with my best paring knife, a dish for the vegetables, and I pulled up a chair. She stood looking at the set-up and then she said, “I can’t do that,” and she walked away. I was livid. She asked to help. She knew how to fix vegetables. She’d done it all of my life. What was her problem?!! She went back to her room and I did the vegetables and fumed. I never asked her to cut vegetables again.

By the next day I had figured out that she was used to standing to work but because 000_0006.JPGshe was stooped I assumed it would be easier for her to sit. She’d never done it that way and didn’t have the language any longer to tell me that. She was also afraid that she would cut herself when she was not in her accustomed position for doing the task. But again, either she hadn’t figured out why she couldn’t cut vegetables and then told me, or she couldn’t find the words. Both things happen to a person as they age. And on my side I assumed rather than asking, because I remembered a vital woman who cooked every day!

This event took place much later in her time with us. Mother was resting in the

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My Mother in her Room with her Buddy my Dog Cara

afternoon on her bed and my sister had been at the house helping me go through my mother’s clothes and weeding many of them out to be given to family members and Good Will. I knew this was painful for my mother to watch since she loved her clothes—one of her few indulgences. The next day I was doing the job alone. My mother was again resting on her bed and I took an armful of clothes out to the other room. As I hung them up I heard this horrible thud and rushed back to the bedroom. My mother was on the floor beside her bed. I asked if she was alright and she said that she thought she was fine. I asked if she could get back up onto the bed. She could and as she sat there I checked her for any bruising. I didn’t ask what happened because it was late in the afternoon and I knew she would not be as cognizant then as she would be next morning.

So, next morning when she had had her breakfast, was washed-up, dressed and had made her bed, I went into her room and knelt down in front of where she was sitting. “Mom, what happened yesterday when you fell off the bed?” She looked at me for half a minute trying to recall and then she said, “Well, I was out riding on this horse and I don’t know what happened but something must have spooked him. He rose up on his hind legs and threw me right off. I landed with a horrible thud but nothing seemed to be broken. So there you have it. That’s what happened!” It was all I could do not to giggle. I started to correct her and then I realized that maybe she had been dreaming when she fell and that’s where the story came from, or maybe she just made it up on the spot. It didn’t matter. It was her story!! And I expect it diverted her from the pain of seeing her beloved clothes leaving her closet.

The next incident happened much closer to the end of her stay with us. Mother had been with us for about five years and I don’t remember her ever mentioning my Mother Spring 2002father during that time. Everyone in their community called him Fred but she called him Freddie; the name she knew when she was a girl of twelve visiting on his parent’s farm. In my house with Sy, her bedroom was right off the living room. Mother was sitting on the couch in the living room and it was beginning to get late. I said, “Mom, it’s time for you to be getting ready for bed.”

“Oh, it is? Can you point me to my room?”

I was taken aback since she’d been going from where she sat to her bedroom for years. “Your bedroom is right here, Mom.” I pointed her in the right direction.

She turned back to me and said, “Does Freddie know I’m staying here tonight?”

My wheels spun and I said, “Yes, he does. He knows you are here.” (He’d been dead for some twenty-five years.)

“And how does he know that?” she asked.

“I was just talking to him on the phone, Mom, a few days ago.”

“Okay. All right. I can go to bed now.” And off she trotted like a good child.

I think the thing we caretakers have to remember is that whatever story they are telling us or where they are in their memories it is their story and we need to follow along with them. Trying to explain reality becomes confusing for them and they are already confused.

The last incident was close to the end. We were having a conversation about something—I don’t remember now—and suddenly what came out of my mother’s mouth was all gobbledygook. She looked at me a bit bewildered and tried to say her thought again. This time it still came out so garbled there were no words. She looked frightened. “Mom, look at me. The wheels are coming off the wagon!”

For a moment her face was blank and then she broke into peals of laughter. “You’re right,” she said. “The wheels are coming off my wagon!”

May you also have sweet, if somewhat bizarre, memories of your aging loved ones; otherwise all the care we give to them is just drudgery.