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.

 

 

Mountain Top or Balance

In my counseling office, I talk to clients a lot about finding the balance between masculine and feminine energy. In actuality, the psychological definition of masculine and feminine follows our physical bodies. Masculine energy is out in front, pushing forward, often controlling, many times doing things by force. Feminine energy is more held in, following, waiting for the moment, softer, and perhaps more patient. We, as human beings, carry both types of energy inside us, and in my counseling room, it is a matter of learning when to use which strengths in whatever situation you find before you.

IMG_20180128_153915932My second book, Sissy’s Story: Healing the Emotional Pain of Long Term Childhood Illness, deals with a five-year-old girl being shut away and sick for a long time. This isolation sets up emotional pain and withdrawal in the child. At this developmental stage, children are learning both masculine and feminine energies through regular socialization. This second book is quite different from the first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir. In this book, Sissy tells her experience of everyday events, while there is a commentary at the end of each chapter: observations about the family dynamics written by the adult Sissy, psychotherapist and author, JessieMay Kessler.

Now, what does this have to do with my title? I’m looking forward from this present-day pandemic and the confinement that it has brought to all of us and wonder about our future. This morning as I’m washing my face, I asked the question, “Will the United States change?” And I got back: “Of course it will change. You are learning through this pandemic that your country is large enough that no one person can know what is best for all parts of your country. As you come out of this shut-down, your governors will begin to push for regionalization because not every part of your country will be ready for “normalcy” at the same time. You will become The Federation of United States.” And of course, when “they,” whoever “they” are,  talk to me, I ask more questions. “So will we still have a president?” “Yes, but his powers will be very different, and he will be used when it is necessary to deal with other countries by presenting a united front such as going to war, signing commercial agreements, and peace treaties.”

You can bet I was surprised by this internal conversation because I was thinking about will “normalcy” take us back to “mountain climbing.” By mountain climbing, I’m talking about that good old American masculine value of fighting and struggling until we reach the top of the mountain with the corner office, title of president, the money that goes with that, and of course, the big shiny car. I think I may have done a blog on this before, but in this rendition, I ask a friend to shut her eyes and pretend she is climbing a mountain. (This was an uptight and stressed out girlfriend that had just lost the promotion that would take her closer to that corner office.)

I ask her to shut her eyes and start climbing up a mountain. “What do you see at your first rest stop?” I ask.

“Lush trees and bushes. Some flowers and a small brook.”

“Sounds lovely,” I say. “Now, climb higher and tell me what you see.”

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Part of what my friend saw on her way up the mountain

“I’m in a high meadow, and there are some animals grazing. Peaceful.”

“That’s fine, now climb even higher.”

“The trees are smaller and beginning to thin out. There is more rock,” she reports.

“Okay,” I say. “Can you make it to the top from there?”

“Yes, but it’s going to take a few minutes.”

“That’s fine,” I respond. “I’ll wait.”

Finally, she says, “I’m at the top. Now what?”

“Look all around and tell me what you see.”

“There’s not much up here,” she reports.

“Are there any people?”

“No, I left them behind, way behind down in the valley?”

“So tell me, my friend, why do you want to be at the top of the mountain? All of your loved ones are down below.”

My friend’s eyes pop open, and she says, “That never occurred to me.”

Now, I’m not sharing this story because I want us all to stop being industrious, but I think we may need to rethink the struggle to gain more than we need for ourselves. Could this pandemic teach us new ways of thinking and being in this world?

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A More Balanced Federation of United States

We have lived under male dominance for at least the last 2,000 years. If we look, we can see that the pendulum has started to swing; women are gaining more power, while men are doing more observing. Will we women be foolish enough to try to be the dominant sex? When we are mature enough as a people that we recognize dominance from either sex takes us nowhere. When we understand that each sex has talents to give society, gifts within the home, and the world of business, there will be a balance and hopefully success as a people and a planet. So here’s to a thoughtful Federation of United States!!

“Mommy Says”

IMG_20180128_153915932Just in case you may have forgotten me, I have my first published book of three, on Amazon.com, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir. If you have had a chance to read it and found the adventures of a second marriage/blended family charming, funny, and informative could you please write a review on Amazon? Thank you in advance for taking the time to comment about A Bird and the Dragon. My readers are my best advertisement. This tells the next viewer that this read will not be a waste of time. An aside: This book was written from memory and not from a diary or notes.

Have you ever been in a situation where you could hear two kids, two little boys, on your front porch, and Andy says, “Want a cookie?” Robbie, his buddy responds, “No, my mother says they are too sweet.” “But they are so good!” “No, Mommy says they have too much sugar. They hurt my body inside.”  Even if you can’t see these two, you can almost feel the hurt for Andy and the longing in Robbie’s mouth. But Robbie believes what his mother has told him so he complies.

Our minds and bodies respond in a very similar manner. If we believe it in our minds it generally will appear in our bodies. It seems to be almost like magic that if I believe something strongly enough my mind manages to arrange the circumstances to pull off whatever causes me fear or very strong emotions. My greatest fear in life was to lose my second husband, Sy, early in life. Sure enough, that is exactly what happened. So many times I would think about it, push it away, say to myself how could I live without him, and then somehow it happened.

In this time of social distancing and isolation because of the coronavirus, have you

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Social Distancing

checked into what you are telling yourself day in and day out? Some people are so afraid they will catch the coronavirus that they are sanitizing their house to death while others are begrudging the restrictions, throwing out all sorts of negative energy to those around them and to themselves. How about having some courage and responding from that perspective?

I get myself ready for the day and then I turn to read the messages and articles on my cell phone. About three days ago I stumbled upon this video by Allison Davies and she was singing a song. I will give you the connection here because I think this little childhood song is so important during this pandemic. You can access it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IE6jnezy1MU&t=2s. This should open a video of Allison talking about and singing ‘Every Little Cell in my Body.’ This ditty not only is simple and catchy, but it also is functioning like a mantra and is so easy to learn that once you master the sequence you’ll find yourself humming it during the day. Then the other thing you need to know is that our bodies respond to different frequencies of energy and this little song modulates through several frequencies. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that when you have sung it successfully several times you feel happier and therefore are in better health. So: child’s silly song or not start singing! I wash my face morning and night to this ditty.

Yes, wear a face mask if you have one, wash your hands, wear gloves if you can find them, stay six feet from anyone else, and don’t congregate. But most importantly keep singing your song! You’ll be sending out your mantra which may help to save yourself and others. If “Mommy says;” maybe it works.

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JessieMay Kessler communicating with my youngest daughter, Annie’s bird. I communicate with all sorts of creatures including families.

Now, to bring you up to date and explain my absence from blogging: I became sick with an infection from a bruise on my ankle that was over an old poison ivy scratch. I forgot that I hold the poison of poison ivy in my system, so I scratched it and caused an infection. A short stint in the hospital in January, a specialist’s misdiagnosis in February, and intuition that said, “Enough already!” sent me to a nurse practitioner who has my ankle looking and feeling like pre-December. So I am back, maybe a bit sporadically, but I’m back. I’m still getting my house ready to sell and preparing to move into a tiny apartment. With this pandemic raging I’m doing this work alone and like everyone else don’t have any real sense of timing. Talk about a challenge!

Here’s to an Earth Mother

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Proposed Cover for Sissy’s Story

I haven’t been posting my blog much this summer and fall because I’ve been working on four other fronts: 1. An adult, returning, bipolar daughter struggling with medication changes, 2. Trying to get my second book Sissy’s Story: Healing the Pain of Long Term Childhood Illness ready for its first three readers, 3. Fighting a stress-related autoimmune skin condition labeled eczema, and 4. Beginning the long job of planning a move from a stand-alone dream house to a one-room apartment which means selling off furniture, packing the boxes, and tweaking this beloved house for sale.

But what does all of this have to do with my blog title this week? As if things weren’t in enough turmoil, my only, and older sister by ten years, passed away on IMG_20180128_153915932November 1, 2019. You have met her before, here in my blogs and in my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir as PollyAnne. She came to my wedding with Sy and you will see much more of her in this second book about our growing-up years. Now that she has passed away I can reveal that she was born as Pauline Moody Sanderson, and she lived her most recent days Tennessee. So that I don’t confuse you anymore than I have, I will continue to call her PollyAnne.

For me, the best part of any good funeral service is the stories that the attendees tell about the deceased. In a sense this blog is a funeral service for my sister, so here come the stories.

You will read in my new book Sissy’s Story about how my mother tried to keep my two older siblings away from me during the time I was fighting rheumatic fever and during the long months of recovery. She was concerned that I was not overly stimulated or frustrated, which might damage a healing heart condition, so most of my stories start after the age of six. PollyAnne had decided that Dad seemed to be too busy this year to go and get the usual pussy willow bouquet for my mother so it was now our job. It was mid-

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PollyAnne’s High School Picture

March and cold, but we were bundled up and started out walking down the road beside our house to the area where they would later be building the new East/West Route 2. After some walking, we came to a dip in the road where a brook ran underneath the road. PollyAnne pointed off to our right, “There, see? There are pussy willows ready, we just have to climb through the brush to get to them,” she said. So we climbed over the guardrail fence, down an incline, and close to the brook. I was too small to cut the branches so she cut and handed the bounty to me. When she was finished cutting, she turned to me and said, “Now be careful: we have to turn around and fight our way out of here. I don’t want you falling in the brook. Mom will kill us.” She started out. I turned where I was standing; stepped back one step and landed flat on my back in the brook, winter clothes and all. You have never seen a puppy in its first bath be more indignant or protest more than I did. And to add to my misery PollyAnne stood there and just laughed at me. It was really only a moment before she reached out a hand to pull me out, but it felt like an eternity. My heavy clothes soaked with water made it hard for me to right myself and her laughter only enraged me more. I can tell you that the walk home was one miserable wet journey. Of course, Mom didn’t kill us; she just got me into dry clothes fast. I don’t even think she scolded PollyAnne. I’m not sure now, but I hope I managed to hold onto the pussy willows.

This next story is a family story and takes place before I entered the family. PollyAnne and our brother Owen were only about three and four years old. PollyAnne

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If my Siblings Got this Far in their Sales Journey They were Passing my Parents First House in Shakerton. It is Much Updated in this Picture

had apparently heard my mother complaining about the lack of money in the household so Polly got their equivalent to the little red wagon out, filled it with onions and potatoes, and holding her brother by the hand they started walking towards the village trying to sell the onions and potatoes to raise money for my mother. PollyAnne’s sales pitch ran something like this: “Would you like to buy some onions? We are gathering money so that we can buy Mother some panties because God knows she needs them.” Fortunately, a neighbor came upon the children before they had gotten to the main part of town and he convinced them that they could ride back to their house with him. His comment to my mother when he returned my sister and brother was: “Do you know these children? I picked them up on the road while they were trying to sell onions to raise money for your new underwear.” I can only imagine the look on my mother’s face as she received my siblings and their wares!

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This is a Stand-in Picture for What I Saw

When I was about fourteen PollyAnne and her husband, Bud, were living on a farm as the hired help. PollyAnne had experience as a cook, so she had gotten a job at a near-by restaurant cooking three meals a day for the establishment. Since her first daughter was only six months old, she needed someone to come live-in and run her household and cook for her husband. And it was here that I learned how to cook, and clean, and change a baby. I slept upstairs in a tiny room that contained the baby’s crib and one rocking chair. My sister nursed her children. One night I was sound asleep when I heard a stirring in the room and then silence. I opened one eye to see the full moon shining its light in through the window. It fell upon my sister sitting naked in the rocking chair; diaper tucked over one shoulder, suckling her baby daughter. The way the moonlight fell upon them was like a spotlight; the light you see in Christmas cards falling on the Madonna, and it is one of the most beautiful pictures I carry with me for all of my lifetime.

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Lewis Hall at the University Of Massachusetts, Amherst My Home Away from Home for Four Years

My last story takes place when I was going to the University of Massachusetts. By this time PollyAnne and Bud had gathered enough money to buy a small farm and it was not too distant from the college. She would call me when she could and say, “Would you like to come to spend the weekend with us?” Those of you who have spent weekends on college campuses know that it can be a very lonely place if you are not in a relationship or a part of a sorority or club. I was an Independent so I had none of these perks. “Yes, please come and get me,” was my reply.

She would bundle up three little girls and drive all the way to get me. Feed me supper, show me where my room would be, and I think she didn’t wake me until I stumbled out for breakfast on Sunday morning. This gave us a small time to talk, her to pack me supper, and then drive me with the girls, back to college. She never complained about my laziness, or thoughtlessness that I didn’t spend my time giving her a break from three little girls. And she only asked me once if I had gotten my homework done. This is why I call her an Earth Mother. These are the women who give their lives in touch with nature, growing healthy children, and nurturing the needs of the rest of us. PollyAnne leaves behind her husband Bud and her four adult children with all of their families.

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Here’s to one of the finest Earth Mothers I have ever known.

 

 

Memorial to Cara Cozy

IMG_20180128_153915932I have not been writing my blog this summer because with the eldest daughter, Cora, in my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, needing to return home for emergency housing, I seem to have no spare time. What little writing time I can find, I have spent trying to get book two, Sissy’s Story: Healing the Pain of  Long Term Childhood Illness: An Early Memoir, ready to offer to a publisher. But the loss of my faithful dog of fifteen years prompted the suggestion by my webmaster to share this loss for me, and her life, with you who are my individual supporters.

Cara Cozy, my loving and faithful Cavalier King Charles Blenheim dog (copper-colored

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First Day in Our House

and white) entered our lives in February 2005 and crossed the rainbow bridge on August 27, 2019, as I held her in arms. She was born in Ireland on November 26, 2004. I had been doing research on the computer as to what kind of a dog I would like and found that the Cavalier fit my wishes.  And then I found there was a breeder two towns away from where I grew up. I took it to be a sign. I was having a little trouble getting Sy, my husband, on board with a new puppy, but we were headed out for a mini-vacation, and he said we could stop and look.

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Breeder and Carol

From the pictures on the website, I had already decided which puppy I wanted and told the breeder. When we arrived, she greeted us and showed us into her kitchen. She let out the pup I had my heart set on, along with two other puppies. The dog I was interested in came to me, but then she clamped onto the button of my sweater and would not let go. That kind of tenacity turned me off. It would be hard to train a dog like that. So the breeder opened the gate and let all the puppies from that litter into the room. Carol, as she was called then, made a beeline for me where I was kneeling on the floor. As she was coming towards me, the breeder said, “You must know these are called kissing dogs because they like to get up to your face and kiss you, but Carol doesn’t kiss people.” At that very point in the conversation, Carol got to me, put her little front paws up on my chest, and gave me a big smooch on the cheek. There was no question! She was my dog, born and bred for me.

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The Day We Brought Cara Home

We had to leave Carol since we were going off on vacation, but the breeder was pleased because she wanted to make sure the puppy was ready to leave her mother and that she had all the necessary shots. Sy and I left and went to lunch.  We stopped at a lovely little restaurant in the countryside. As we sat eating, I said to Sy, “I really don’t want to call my new dog, Carol, because my childhood nemesis was called Carol. She would beat me up every chance she got.” And in his typical engineer style, he said, “So call her any name you want.” It took to the end of the lunch before the name popped into my head. I will call her Cara. (The Cozy came after we got her home and found she was always right there on the couch beside you, snuggled in as close to your body as she could get.)

Two weeks later, we were home from vacation and rushed to pick up Cara. The breeder greeted us with, “So, are you going to keep her name or change it?” I explained my dilemma and said, “We plan to call her Cara.” The breeder responded, “Oh, that is perfect! In my country’s dialect, Cara means my little Friend!” –And so she has been for almost fifteen years.

The next challenge was housebreaking her. I had read that pee pads were the way to go.

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Cara Knew What Chairs Were For

We were also babysitting grandchildren at the time, and this created a need for a potty chair in that room. Cara had been trying the shower routine for several weeks now, and I put her in the bathroom at the correct time, shut the door, and went off to do some other chore. When I came back and opened the door, I found my beautiful pup all curled up, sleeping on the potty chair. She knew what chairs were for!! Along about this time, I decided to put her outside, and from there on, we had no problems. Forget the pee pads!

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A Spirit That Only Wished to Serve

 

My mother was living with us by the time we purchased Cara, and when we brought her home, my mother remarked that she would probably fit in a teacup. Well, not entirely, but she was small. It didn’t take long to find that Cara would spend a lot of time with my mother, especially as my mother aged. And this gave us the clues that Cara would be a good candidate for becoming a therapy dog. We did go to extensive training classes, and she was a natural. It took a while before we went to the local nursing home, but when I did, Cara would get out of the car and run toward the door. Cara knew she was needed and was ready to go to work. There was one woman whose bed was very close to the door, and she was always lying down when we came by. I asked the woman if she liked dogs. The woman nodded and seemed to fill up with tears. I didn’t ask why because you are not supposed to pry, but Cara would stand on the floor beside the bed and let the woman stroke her silky fur. It was several visits later. We had started down the corridor toward this woman’s room. Cara began to pull me as if she were in a hurry. When we got to the door, Cara walked in, jumped up onto the bed and lay down, stretching out, besides the woman. We stayed for several minutes before Cara got down. In a very soft voice, the woman thanked us. The next time we visited, we made sure to go to that part of the facility, but this time Cara didn’t pull me. When we got to the door, the woman’s name had been taken off the nameplate. It is incredible what dogs know, especially my Cara Cozy.

Cara lived through my getting a second Cavalier named Markey Mark. She mostly

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Markey Mark and Cara Cozy Working in the Office, The Favorite Green Toy, is Beside Cara Cozy

tolerated him, but she outlived him, and towards the end, she was much more attentive to him. Then a year and a half later, I took on another Cavalier puppy, Blaze Be-Loved. When he arrived, her facial expression was, “Mother, really! Do we have to do this again!!” And she gave him a lot of space for a while, but as she began to age, I noticed that he would “watch out for her” and not be as rough with her as he was with his litter-mate sister, Scarlet. The first day or so after Cara passed away, Blaze was very much “king of the roost,” but then he began to act depressed, and he would go dig out one of her favorite toys to chew on.

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Blaze Be-Loved and Cara Cozy Last Christmas

I have talked in one of my Little Bird Blogs about the fact that I feel that Cara is my first dog, Patches, returned to me. Cara was such a patient, gentle spirit in the same way as my first dog. She always deferred to you, letting you walk through the door first as you both approached. She was content with whatever you gave her, and she stayed close by as if you were her charge. I’m so glad I had a chance to be taken care of by both of these beautiful spirits. Whoever said that dogs don’t have souls, never loved a dog!!

Patches on the left after a hunting trip, and Cara Cozy in front of my fireplace last winter. Both spirits who lived to only serve the ones they loved!!

 

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.