If Mamma Ain’t Happy…

If I remember correctly one of Dr. Phil’s famous lines is, “If Mamma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.” I believe a lot of American families do live by this principle. My daughter Annie posted another similar saying on Facebook a while ago.

                                                            Two Rules to a Happy Family:

                                        Rule number 1. Make the little wife happy.

        IMG_20180128_153915932 Rule number 2. If you forget, slap yourself upside

                             the head and go back to rule number 1.

This is all a bit tongue-in-cheek but I do think that many of the happy homes in America are run this way. My second husband, Sy, and the hero of my book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir lived his life in this manner and the result for me was the happiest thirty-five years of my entire life. This is all very sweet especially a few days after Valentine’s Day.

But while this is going on, the nation is erupting with women’s rage over the abuse and molestation that has gone on over hundreds, no thousands of years, by the males in society. As women gain more power in the workplace they are banding together to right a very old wrong: the use of power by size, by money, by influence to force someone else into a subservient role. It is time for this atrocity to end. But my concern right now is that women will succumb to the excitement of power and will use similar methods plus shaming to control men. I am hoping that wisdom, the gift that many women have, will not be traded in for the mental control usually used by men.

5568 leaders in the #MeToo movement for MLBB 2 16 2018.jpg
Women Leaders in the #MeToo Movement

I don’t believe that women have to trade in their skirts and put on suits to become a recognized force in our society. I am hoping that women are wise enough to understand that swinging the scales into a position of dominance over men simply starts society on another cycle; but brings nothing into balance. It is when the two sexes use their separate but unique qualities, each for its appropriate task, that equality will be reached. When there is mutual respect for those separate and unique gifts, appreciated by each side of the aisle, then our society, our planet even, has a hope of becoming a better living environment.

Yes, Dr. Phil is right that it is the woman in the household that usually sets the

right_image_1 Dr. Phil for Little Bird Blog 2 16 2018
Dr. Phil in a Relaxed Moment

emotional tone of the home. After all, most of us women have been trained to think with our hearts first and our heads second. Okay I’m getting some stereotyping in there, too, but I do think because we have not cultivated the feeling side of men it seems to rest on the women to radiate the warmth and compassion that makes a home happy. So if bending a bit to keep her happy makes her warm the hearth, so be it. But remember, men also need to be cheered on, praised, given gifts and cards, and sometimes a sudden and unexpected gesture of love. Let’s keep the thoughtfulness of Valentine’s Day going through each day whether it is the man or the woman who makes the effort.

If you have a comment about this blog please go to my website http://www.jessiemaykessler.com and click on the Contact button. I would like to talk to you.

Advertisements

Love At First Sight

valentine-photos-of-hearts-heart-hd-desktop-background-the-wondrous-pics-1024x640 Heart for My Little Bird Blog Love at First Sight 2 9 2018Next Wednesday is Valentine’s Day, which brings us to the topic of Love and Loving. I have to confess that I’m a creature that falls in love at first sight. Sometimes it takes me a few days or weeks to recognize that this is what has happened to me but it does seem to be spontaneous. And why?

IMG_20180128_153915932But, before I get into my thoughts on that subject, I’m doing a question and answer afternoon at one of our local bookstores, Bank Square Books, in Mystic, CT (Mystand in my book) on Sunday, February 11, at 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. And of course the subject to be discussed is my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir. The timing seems very appropriate with my book being about a vibrant and sustaining love with my second husband, Sy. Then we add to that the important issues that the five daughters in the blended family brought to our love.

Why do some of us fall in love almost as we meet while others of us warm slowly and cautiously? And then some of us play with the new partner—the relationship is working, no, it isn’t working! Yes, you are right that the approach may come from things that happened to us as children or even in our first romances. I want to throw in a curve and say that some of those spontaneous loves are because we have been with this soul energy in a past life and recognize this at some level. I wrote about Tino, my high school sweetheart, two or three weeks ago but what I didn’t tell you is that when I was in 7th grade I started drawing a face on my scrap paper. The face evolved into a young man with much curly dark hair, high cheekbones, dark brown eyes, a cleft chin, and a feeling of mystery to that face. I drew it over and over again from 7th grade until I was a sophomore in high school.

As a sophomore, on a day in early May, I walked into my English class with my armload of books and my pocketbook slung over my shoulder. I sat down, put the books on the desk, swung around to hang the pocketbook on the back of the chair, and as I turned to face the front of the classroom my drawn face was walking toward me up the aisle. No, it

Scan_0027 Tino Percellie 1 26 2018B
See this face as an Outline – This is what I drew

was not a floating head—but the head of sturdy American Italian male with a dark complexion. Our eyes met and the shivers–I can still feel them–that ran up and down my spine were a very new experience. I can’t tell you more of the story now or it will blow my third book, Hunt the Beloved: To Find a Heart but when it came time for the first dance, he folded me into his arms and I felt like I was home. These experiences have to come from some other time. They are far too stirring and weighty to belong to a chance meeting.

If you have read my book A Bird and the Dragon or are about to go buy it and read it you will soon learn that one afternoon Sy and I were at a pond sitting on a beach talking while supervising daughters swimming. Half way through the afternoon Sy leaned toward me and said, “You, know, it feels like I’ve known you forever.” I had to agree with him for we had already gotten to the place where we were finishing each other’s sentences. That was the first date!

IMG_20180203_132908030 Blaze Be-loved Sleeping with Siblings 2 9 2018.jpg
Blaze Be-loved Sleeping with Siblings

I have grown old enough that when this sort of thing happens to me now I’m inclined to stop and think about the possibilities of a relationship before I make a move. But even with the hesitation I believe the inner compass knows what we really need. This is the situation with the puppy that I talked about last week. I talked myself in and out of a relationship with one of these dogs and then I stepped back to watch the doggie cams the owner has posted on Facebook to see which of the pups would best fit with my older dog, Cara Cozy, and with my present day lifestyle. I believe Blaze Be-loved fits that spot well. Now we wait until he is old enough to come and join our household and pray that the inner compass was right all along.

How do or did you meet your loves and how did you know they were right for you? I’d like to hear from you. You can go to my web page www.jessiemaykessler and click on the Contact button.

Once Again: Synchronicity

Scan_0028 Sanderson's Walnut Shade Farmhouse 2 2 2018.jpg
Walnut Shade Farm my Father’s Family Homestead

In 1910, the year my mother was born, my father turned 14. He lived in Lancaster, on a dairy farm just over the town line from Shakerton, Massachusetts, the town where I grew up. At that age and time he was expected to walk the five miles each way to catch the train out of the Shakerton Boston and Maine Railroad Station so that he could then walk the rest of the way to his high school in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. And our children moan about rainy snowy days!!

Collie dogs were used on the farm to herd the cows to and from milking. My dad had his very own dog, named Gypsy, who walked the five miles with him in the morning, Scan_0029 Gypsy my Father's Dog 2 2 2018.jpgand then came back in the afternoon, on her own, to meet the train and walk the five miles back to the farm. Gypsy was his beloved dog especially for a boy who was shy and not let off the farm except to go hunting or go to school. One afternoon in the late spring Gypsy was not at the station as the train pulled in. My dad waited for a time on the platform thinking maybe she’d gotten a late start. When some time had passed he started the walk back to the farm, alone. About halfway home he saw a heap of fur from some sort of animal on the side of the road and went over to take a look. It was his beloved Gypsy. Someone had thrown out poisoned meat. And because dogs often can’t tell the difference she ate it. You can imagine his devastation! He never told us children about this event but my mother told us more than once. When you read the blog on the dogs in my life you

Hidden Sorrow Jordan Coppy Sissy Dog
Patches in the Middle

may remember that the day I first found my dog, Patches, Mother warned me that Dad would not likely let me keep her because of that early loss.

What my mother didn’t know was that my father and I were very much alike and he knew I would love Patches and not tire of her like most children do. He knew before he said yes, that Patches and I would spend many afternoons after school searching out new areas in the woods around my childhood home. She was probably my first soul mate next to my father.

Now, you are asking so where does this tie into anything. When I wrote my first book IMG_20180128_153915932.jpgA Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir it was because I was coming up on the first anniversary of my second husband Sy’s sudden death. I needed to find comfort somehow and writing seemed to be the outlet. So far in my life, and I’ve had a good bit of life by now, I find that there are times when I just need some emotional comfort. My dog Cara Cozy has performed this duty for me for 13 years but that is over the time limit for Cavalier King Charles dogs so I know I won’t have her forever. I’ve been manifesting for a new male partner to come and help me with all my projects but that doesn’t seem to be getting results.

Early in January a friend of my daughter Annie told her that they had been inspired by the calendars that Annie does for me with pictures of my Cavalier dogs. She and

27072770_2446234042069687_1924476396778128678_n Blaze Be-loved from Litter of Cavaliers in Newington 2 2 2018
My Choice is the Pup to Left Looking into the Camera

her husband were so charmed by these little dogs that they went and got a pair of Cavaliers for themselves. This pair of dogs gave birth to five pups in early January. The couple has been nice enough to set up a Facebook group where they show pictures of the pups each day as they grow. I’ve been fighting with myself that I’m too old to take on a new dog. (My other dog, Markey Mark passed away a year and a half ago.) Some of my daughters have been saying, “No Mom. You can’t take on a new dog, especially a puppy.” So I have been watching and dreaming and trying to keep myself in check.

Yesterday, for some reason I decided to look up Astrologyzone.com, the monthly astrology program I use to help steer me through each oncoming month. I’ve talked about Astrologyzone.com before in these blogs.

Anyway, I read the predictions at the beginning of the month and I wasn’t too

homepage-video-hero@2x Susan Miller and Astrologyzone.com 1 4 2018
Susan Miller Author of Astrologyzone.com

inspired by what I read for January so I didn’t finish the last two pages. Yesterday I opened up the site and turned to those last pages. Susan, the author, wrote, “Finally, this house also rules pets. You may be thinking of adding a furry little creature to your household. This would be a time when you make a decision about your choice of a small domestic pet, and one that will make you very happy.”  I couldn’t believe what I was reading! I know these reports are not the gospel on life events but they have been so accurate in the past that I emailed the people for an application and if they accept me I will have a male Ruby (Cinnamon colored) Cavalier puppy in the mid-spring. His name will be Blaze Be-loved. (All my Cavaliers have double names. My need to be impressive?)

Relationships: Ping-Pong Anyone?

I remember a conversation that I had with my mother back when I was in high school and was mourning the fact that all the other girls seemed to know what to do

Scan_0026 Jordan Elizabeth Sanderson 1 26 2018
My Mother Jordan Elizabeth Sanderson at Time of Conversation

to make friends. Worse yet, many of them had boyfriends—football players, no less. Mother said, “You know you really have grown up with a handicap because your father doesn’t carry on a conversation. He says what he wants you to know and that’s it.”  I wasn’t sure where she was going with this. I knew that my dad was quiet but I didn’t see how it affected me. Then she went on, “Having a conversation is like playing ping-pong. You throw out a thought and the person across from you makes a comment about your comment. When it gets back to you, you add something or ask a question and the other speaker responds. In this family one person speaks until they are done and then someone else talks about what they want to talk about. We don’t play ping-pong.” I can remember thinking, “She’s right!” But I didn’t know how to take it from there.

I still struggle with this handicap but with years of therapy training and living I know that talking and communicating is the start of relationship. Some people find it

2 Couple Talking for MLBB 1 26 2018
Couple Communicating

easy to talk while others are very guarded in their conversations. It is the person that can open up, share their thoughts, insights, and deepest feelings, that tend to wind up in the relationships that last. Somewhere recently I read that the way to a man’s heart was not through his stomach. What would draw a man close to a woman and hold him there was her ability to be vulnerable. It isn’t thoughts that tie us to one another it is emotions, the sharing of feelings and our deepest needs.

There are some relationships that seem to thrive on an almost unspoken level of communication and an understanding of what makes the partner happy. In my third

Scan_0027 Tino Percellie 1 26 2018B.jpg
High School Sweetheart Tino

book, Hunt the Beloved: to Find a Heart, if I ever get it finished, you will get to read about Tino, my high school sweetheart. Tino was a swarthy American Italian with gorgeous dark brown eyes hidden behind thick glasses. He came with a bad reputation and a bit of a swagger when it was beneficial. But under all that was a boy who could and did share intimate and painful feelings. And he knew what made me tick. One day in the spring he came to pick me up for a date. He is standing at the door to the back porch and he asks, “Are you ready to go?” I spot that he has something behind his back. “Tino, what are you holding back there?” I ask. He pulls out a sweet smelling, single, pink Peony and presents it to me. “Oh, it is so gorgeous, Tino!” I exclaim. “Where did you find it?” He ducked his head slightly and said, “I stole it from the neighbor’s garden. They had a lot of ‘um. They didn’t need this one.” In that moment there were levels and levels of communication.

In a later blog I will write about more of the qualities that are necessary to make a family run smoothly but the first is respect and then communication. When Tino handed me that flower he already knew that I would love it and he also already knew that I would frown on the fact that he stole it, yet he told me the truth just the same. That was the level of respect and communication we had established.

When you read my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, BirdAndDragon_FrontCover_33you will find that by the second date Sy, my second husband, shared a very personal fact about himself with me and I was taken aback but also flattered that he trusted me with such personal information so soon in the relationship. It is that level of respect and communication that is necessary to grow a marriage to its full potential. No games. No coy conversations. Just telling things like they are.

And thirty years later when Tino looked me up in the bookstore my husband and I owned, Merlin Books, to tell me that he had cancer of the throat and didn’t know if he would make it through the chemo, nothing in the level of communication or connection had changed. I was leaving the store at the time he arrived so I invited him to step outside with me. As we stood beside my car catching up he finally said, “Jess, please, I have to hold you one more time.” Tino gathered me into his arms and the thirty years dropped away.

As we drew apart I said, “Tino does your wife know you are here?”

images four hearts involved for MLBB 1 26 2018
Four Hearts Involved

“Yes,” he responded. “When I was eating breakfast this morning she looked up at me and said, ‘You are going to find her today?’ I told her yes, and then she said, ‘That’s good, but you are coming home to me tonight!!’”

Tino and I corresponded through his treatments and then I didn’t hear anymore. That was alright. The relationship had been there when he needed it. I learned that he had beaten the cancer and then three months before Sy passed away I learned at a class reunion from Tino’s sister that he had crossed over two years before Sy. His wife passed the following year.

It is not thoughts that hold us together. It is our feelings: emotional ping-pong anyone?

 

 

 

Knowing What You Don’t Know

I know I jump around a lot in the topics that I cover here in My Little Bird Blog but that is because I wait for inspiration or my guides to tell me what I’m supposed to write about for the week. This week’s blog is more about the inner life of the writer, at least this particular writer.

I need to start off with some background information for my stories to make sense. Some

chakra-1079746_960_720 chakra colors of the body for blog 1 19 2018
The Chakra System in the Body and its Colors

of you are familiar with the chakra system in the body but others of you are not. The chakras are circular areas of energy that reside over each cluster of organs in the body and have to do with the energy they receive or give off. The first chakra is between the legs at the base of the spine and the color associated with it is red. It is considered the foundation chakra. Chakra #2 is about two fingers below the belly button. It is the creative chakra and the color is orange. Chakra #3 is just below the point where the rib cage meets in the front of the body. It is known as the power chakra and its color is yellow. Chakra #4 is in the center of the breast bone in line with where the heart is located. The color belonging here is green but I also find pink in this chakra or slightly above it. This chakra deals with feelings, emotions, compassion. Chakra # 5 is at the base of the throat; its color is blue and is responsible for our communications both spoken and written. Chakra # 6 is above the eyebrows just above where they come together. Some people have a dimple or a raised area at that point. This chakra helps us to take in and process those intuitive messages that we receive and its color is a blue/green. Chakra #7 is above the crown of the head, its color is lavender, and it is associated with receiving messages from our spiritual guides, or for some, God.

Years ago I took a workshop on the animals within the chakras. It sounded like an interesting topic. After some explanation we were taken into meditation and asked to meet and talk with the animal that we found in each chakra. Later we got to share some of the conversations that we had conducted with our animals. I’m always first the skeptic…well I should say at first I think, ‘Now that is a great idea,’ and then I think, ‘Yeah, prove it to me.’ Well, I got proof that weekend and on into the next years. Come to find out I have a white wolf, Shaboo, that inhabits my 6th chakra, the one that governs intuition. This experience was interesting, but what happened later–and even today as I think about it–is a bit mind blowing:

Years after that workshop, when my husband Sy and I were running Merlin Books and had been doing so for over five years, he began saying to me that we needed to put the store up for sale or close it down. We had headed into the recession of 1989, and because

3dae32f64aaa650578a78d0364ea149f
Shaboo When She is in Good Health

he handled the bookkeeping he knew what was in the check book for profits. I refused to hear him. Then one evening Whitley Dresser, our metaphysical teacher, took us into meditation and asked us to look at some problem we were having and to see if any of our animal friends would make a comment. (Whitley had heard about the animals in the chakra workshop.) It wasn’t long before I found myself sitting in the mouth of a cave high up looking over a valley filled with houses, the accouterments of a community, and a city off in the distance. I’m afraid of heights so I reached down to steady myself and touched this furry creature. I turned to look and it was Shaboo from years ago. This time as I touched her she was very thin, skin and bones, as if she hadn’t eaten in a long time. Her fur was stringy and she just lay there. I blurted out, “Oh, my God, what has happened to you?” She lifted her head a bit and said, “You haven’t been taking care of me and I’m sick and tired. I need help.” I’m not even sure if I spoke back to her but I snapped out of the meditation.

Not long after that, Sy, my second husband, and I went to see a therapist and she was able to help me hear Sy when he said it was time to close our chapter on the store Merlin Books. I think Shaboo was responsible for putting me in a place where I could finally hear the need not just the words.

More recently, the day I held the first copy of my book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love birdanddragon_frontcover_33Story: A Memoir, you can imagine my excitement. I was holding a lifetime dream in my hands. That afternoon I did my daily meditation and I asked if Shaboo was around. Quick as I thought it, I was back up on the cliff overlooking the valley and Shaboo was sitting beside me. This time when I reached down to touch her she was thick with fur, white and fluffy, with meat on her body. I was pleased. I asked, “Shaboo, what comes next?” She replied, “Well, that entire valley is yours if you want it.” I was so stunned that I didn’t say anything. I thought, ‘So how am I going to get down there?’ It wasn’t until a friend heard this story that I got fully in touch with the fact that I was so afraid of possibly being a successful writer that I buried this fear of claiming power over the valley, its people and what this could represent and instead focused on being unable to sit on the edge of the cliff and swing my legs. Shaboo said nothing else and I had to be content with what I got.

unspecified Roenock VA 1 19 2018That was a year and a half ago and Shaboo comes sometimes, especially if I ask her to come. One day she had started down toward the valley, but I guess she sensed that I was afraid, so she  sat down and said she’d wait until I was ready. Over the last few weeks she has come back up closer to the top. Today when I checked in with her she was sitting on a rock down about two feet from the top and would you believe she was polishing her nails? I don’t mean with the fingernail polish that humans use but with rubbing her foot across her chest hair and then blowing on the nails. Again, I didn’t ask but I can only imagine a coach waiting for a reluctant player to get up and get going. What do you suppose she was trying to tell me other than maybe that I need to lighten up a bit? She did look a little funny but I think she knew that. I think it is part of her plan. So what is her plan?

Strange Behaviors Become Gifts

I have shared stories before about the designer of the cover of my book A Bird and BirdAndDragon_FrontCover_33the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir. My granddaughter, Nicole, designed and executed that design when she was only 17 years old. But today having spent two days with Nicole before she goes back to college brought more stories bubbling into my mind. Nicole has an older brother Andrew and the two of them, when they were little, would spend time with my husband Sy and me when their mother, Felicia was working or when she and her then-husband needed some time alone. The particular evening I’m thinking about had Nicole at about 18 months and Andrew was almost 4. I had bathed the two of them and they were in their pajamas. Nicole had on a pink fleecy Onesie and was toddling about the bedroom. I had set up a warm steam vaporizer because they both had the sniffles. Now picture this; I’m talking to Andrew and suddenly I see Nicole, hand stretched out in front of her shuffling toward the vaporizer. I yelled but she kept moving toward the magical steam. I didn’t get to her in time and she blistered the center of her right hand. She screamed, I was beside myself, and we did all the things we knew to do to relieve her pain.  Believe me I had to do a lot of explaining to her mother the next day.

Because we had the children for part of every week, when it came holiday time-we

IMG_20180113_202040935 (1).jpg
Twenty years of washing and the art work has faded but Nicole’s other name is there with her age.

made Christmas gifts together for all the grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Nicole was only one and a half when I bought long sleeved jerseys and fabric crayons. I set her up on her knees on a chair at the kitchen table and let her go. She would balance the colors on one side of the jersey with the appropriate color on the other shoulder. I can remember being so amazed that I wrote her age on the bottom of the jersey before we wrapped them as gifts, and I still have mine.

Another thing I remember about Nicole is that she was always looking at herself in the mirror, examining her face and hair. Even today her sisters and her roommate complain that she is taking too much time in the bathroom because she’s looking at herself all the time. As a little girl, I was so afraid she was going to grow up to be a very vain young woman but that has not been the outcome.

Later, in Nicole’s growing up years we would get the order from her mother that it

Ed and Duffy 8-9-03_0028.JPG
This was the beginning of the cleaning up the bedroom stage for Ashleigh Nicole.

was time to pick up her bedroom. Because Mom worked full time and my working hours were flexible, it fell to me to supervise this job. I soon learned that you could not just send Nicole off to straighten her bookcase or desk. She would get diverted and nothing would get done. Punishment had no effect so I started sitting with her and teaching her to start at one corner of her room and work her way around the room using her bed as a landing pad for the things that needed organizing. It took days to accomplish this job! I wondered why it took so long, so I started really watching and discovered that Nicole had to touch, or smell, or stroke whatever she picked up before she could make any decision about where it should go. You can believe my frustration as a grandmother who believes you picked up an object and you put it in its home.

Today, as we were having lunch I watched Nicole run her fingers around the top of

IMG_20170320_152609305_BURST000_COVER_TOP.jpg
This is what those sensitive hands can now do after years of self-teaching.

her ice tea glass and then it all made sense. On Tuesday she goes back to her second semester of her second year at the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, Connecticut, where she is a sculpture major. Each behavior that seemed so strange at the time or just a quirk of nature was her efforts at self-teaching; texture, color, shadow and light, depth and height. During all of those years she was training those hands to caress clay until it grows into marvelous presentations.

I am so glad I did not express too much of my exasperation with her when she was a child although she does have an expression today, “My room is not Mother-clean it is Grandmother- clean!”

Do you have a young child that has strange behaviors? You might want to take a second look to see if perhaps these behaviors are really training exercise for a later time in their lives.

Little Blessings

I must confess I like to run to the computer on the first day of the month to see what homepage-video-hero@2x Susan Miller and Astrologyzone.com 1 4 2018.jpgSusan Miller, the astrologer behind Astrologyzone.com, has to say about the events for my life in the oncoming month. I’m looking for a romantic interest, some relief for money issues, and success for my writing. For instance I see that she states Wednesday the 13th is going to bring a break from the stress of money. Now a $10,000.00 sponsorship would allow me to get the next book into the publisher’s hands next month. I heave a sigh of relief and wait. Wednesday comes and goes. I think ‘Well it is only astrology. What can you expect?’ Then on Thursday a client calls and says she is stopping by to drop off the check she forgot to give me last week. That is very nice. Later in the afternoon, my daughter Annie drops by with the money for her portion of the Christmas gift for her nephew, my grandson Robbie, which we purchased on my credit card. That was $10.00. So now I’ve gained $40.00 in one day. But my first thought is ‘That’s it? That’s all I’m getting? Where are my big bucks that Susan promised?’ I go back to read her report and realize she didn’t say anything about a ‘large amount of money’ she only said there was financial relief coming.

I’m not sure if it is me or an American way of thinking that everything should be large. Gifts coming in should be substantial. I don’t think I think that way but here it images Big Money Coming In 1 4 2018is on paper—I expected a lot of money! Over the years, since my husband Sy died, I’ve had to wrestle with money as never before and I am solely responsible for success or failure. It has taken me time to come to grips with the fact that it isn’t about the big amount coming into my coffers; it is about being appreciative of what does come to me. Perhaps it is God’s test that if I can be content with the small things, time will bring me larger ones. Or perhaps this is just a lesson in accepting and being appreciative of whatever comes to me.

BirdAndDragon_FrontCover_33I’ve worked hard over these last three years to write a decent book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir; really a love story for adults. It is about my 35 year marriage to my second husband, Sy, and all our adventures with building a blended family of five teenage girls. (That’s what the hearts stand for on the family tree.) I was even able to get this book published. Now I’m learning the ins and outs of getting that book into the book stores and into the libraries. There is much more to the process than most people understand, including me. When Sy and I owned and ran Merlin Books the process of procuring books was very different then, and of course so many self-published books are flooding the market today. The powers that be have made it more difficult to get that book into the reader’s hands. But I’m learning. The biggest thing that I’m learning is that the gratitude for what I have accomplished and the gratitude for what I have gained is the important part of my life. So I’m suggesting that I need to be grateful for the little blessings and perhaps you are enough like me that you also need to stop and look at the small blessings in your life. It is a bit like all those tiny pieces of colored stone that are fitted together to make some of the of the most beautiful mosaic pictures, which have endured through the ages.

They say that if you show gratitude like this every day the good things start to come to you faster and on a regular basis. Want to build a lovely picture of your life with me? If you’d like more suggestions for a better life I recommend that you check out my website http://www.jessiemaykessler.com and find near the bottom of the first page my column excerpts from ‘Tidbits from the Couch.’

The Manger Story

As I look at my published book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir I birdanddragon_frontcover_33realize that my first book, and all of my planned books, will be about relationships and the family. The family unit, its strength and weaknesses, hopefully its protection for all, and how it functions is so important to the mental and spiritual health of our peoples and our nation. This is my platform. I also in checking through my early blogs, find that I have used this story in a slightly different manner as one of my first blogs. It is engaging enough to use again at this season. I hope you agree.

Now let’s back up a bit. I was 22 and had married a minister, Rev. Harvard Lesser, whom you have met briefly in A Bird and the Dragon. I became steeped in the life and traditions of the church. That was fine with me. Previously I had been active in the church life of Shakerton, Massachusetts where I grew up. So I knew the stories and the customs of the church. One evening as a new bride I was washing dishes

Scan_0021 Sink in Franklin CT Parsonage 12 20 2017
Sink Where I Learned the True Story of the Manger

in the parsonage kitchen sink while the Deacons of the church were in the adjoining  living room/dining room discussing the plans for the upcoming Christmas events. I heard one of the older Deacons say, “Well, if you’ve ever done any digging into the history behind the Christmas story you know it was made up by some of the early fathers of the church in order to keep the people enchanted and the masses under their control.” I was devastated. I stood there tears dripping into the soapy dishpan water. I never shared this with Harvard because I didn’t want to appear stupid, but I had just had the most beautiful part of my happiest season destroyed. It took me many years to come to something that could replace that information.

In the process of maturing, I have to take you back to the start; my first real encounter with the manger. This is an excerpt taken from my next book Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long Term Illness. This book is about when I was five years old and I was suffering with the cure at that time for rheumatic fever: six months of complete bed rest.

                       “Want to come down and watch us get the tree ready for Christmas?  Daddy was standing in the doorway of my bedroom. I couldn’t believe he had to ask!

                        “Yeah, sure, I want to come down!”

                        “He gathered me up, blanket and all, and we made the now familiar trip down  the stairs. This time at the bottom, turning to the right and walking across the entrance hall, Daddy stepped into the living room…..My eyes caught sight of the undressed, green Christmas tree stuck in the old, wooden, cross-shaped tree stand. It smelled so good! They’d moved the blue couch to the long outside wall across from the silent fireplace. The tree sat proudly in the back window, filling the room with its Christmas scent.

                        Daddy plumped the couch pillow. “There, you can coach all the decorating from here.”   .      .    .

                       Owen (my fourteen year old brother) opened the box containing the tiny nativity figures. “Sissy, where should we put the creche this year?”          

                        “I don’t know!” I said, surprised that he’d asked me. Owen usually made his own decisions. But I watched as he pulled Joseph and Mary out of the yellowing tissue paper. It was nice to have been asked.

                        “Here you hold Mary while I get the Kings out.” He handed me the tiny figure of a kneeling woman. She was painted in a soft blue, while her under-robe was a creamy white. I wondered, what’s it like to be Mother Mary—the mother of such a special person. It must be scary to be that important. I drew my fingers across the smooth plaster-of-Paris statue and my thoughts wandered on. What will it be like for me to be a mother someday? I’d like to be a mother.

                        “Here, I need that now. All the other figures are up.” Owen was reaching for the statue. I wanted to keep holding Mary, as if she were my promise of a future. I handed the statue to my brother, not quite releasing the figure into his hand. As we both held Mary, he looked at me for a split-second with a strange look. Then taking Mary, he set her into the scene he’d made under Mother’s sewing cabinet.

Scan_0024 Manger Scene in Shakerton Massachusetts 12 20 2017
This is the Manger Scene I Grew up With and the Mary that I Held for Owen

I have to tell you that when I was growing up my mother was very cautious about who and when we children got to touch this manger scene. I vowed that when I had a home of my own my children would be allowed to touch, handle, wander off with, and enjoy the manger in our home. When the time came to buy a set I chose a somewhat modern set made all of wood—strong, rugged, and enduring. A puppy of ours got to one of the shepherds and there was a whole year when we couldn’t find where baby Jesus was living. But somehow he did reappear for the next season.

100_0801
This is My Children’s Manger Scene You Can See the Shepherd and Kitten Chewed by the Dog

Now I bring you full circle, to where the manger scene came to life for me and gained new meaning. My oldest daughter Cora had just had her second child and we were all in the hospital to visit the new baby, Robbie. Cora’s daughter Candy, and Felicia’s daughter Nicole and son Andrew, were standing by the hospital bassinet inspecting the new baby as someone snapped a picture. There is the story in living color: the new baby, with all the promise of a new life–the wise men and the kings–or the aunts, uncles, and cousins in adoration of a new soul. This is the true meaning of the Manger Story for me.

100_1507
L to R : Candy, Nicole, Andrew and Baby Robbie in Bassinet

Wishing you all a happy holiday season and moments of real revelation!!

 

 

 

Oh, Christmas Tree

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

The Arms of a Quilt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

000_0459.jpg
This is My Quilt with Loving Arms

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