Fly Away Little Birdies

I now live in a Senior Community and the positive side of that location in life is there is a growing number of single women and they tend to congregate and socialize. The down side of living in this type of community is that a growing number of people have to kiss their mates good-bye and then learn to deal with life after they have lost, in most cases, their lifetime partner.

granny-1280445_1920
A Lovely Senior Woman

For the sake of discussion in this blog, I’m going to separate our country-wide population into three basic generations: The Seniors, The Middles, The Younger Ones. Now I remember when I was one of The Younger Ones and was chasing an errant child around with a dirty diaper, trying to corral her so

gcdc_02 mother struggling with child in diapers blog 6 15 2018
The Child in the Diaper Change

that I could get her cleaned up. I was frustrated, irritated, and angry for I was doing something to make her life better. And I can remember thinking, when will this be over?? When will they act like rational human beings? (I’m not sure we have ever answered that question.)

While those thoughts were running through my head as I was chasing this imp, it never occurred to me to be thinking about the fact that someday this child was going

download A Visit to an older woman shut-in blog 4 27 2018
The Feelings of a Woman Without Her Partner

to be an adult and perhaps in charge of taking care of me? If I was a cruel parent, a thoughtless parent, or a parent that was too busy, I wasn’t creating meaningful relationships with this child. There is something to be said for the expression: “Be nice to your children; they pick your nursing home.” I watch women in my community that have no family near them or if they do, these offspring don’t choose to come and visit. Life goes on for these Younger Ones even though they have lost a parent, but the “life” of the existing parent, in many senses, has come to an end.

After we are the Younger Ones, we become The Middles and now our children are looking at schools beyond high school and we are making suggestions, sharing our opinions, and they are struggling with who they want to become and which schools will give

AdobeStock_10736611 Parent helping child chose a college Blog 6 15 2018
The Middles Help Their Children Pick Colleges

them those experiences and the education to take them to their chosen destination. What I don’t think any of us take into consideration is that if they choose a school in California, our grandchildren will be in California. Now, that may work for some of you who like to travel but for those of us who don’t, it means we lose the joy of ever having a grandchild bang on our front door and say, “Gramma, do you have time for a visit?” (I do have that luxury!)

Often, as The Middles, we are tired of the job of parenting and have some pleasure in the idea that we soon will be emptynesters and just what are we going to do with those extra bedrooms and our new found free time? (The free time never seems to happen.)

In my own situation my mother was not happy with the idea that she and my father had raised me and my siblings in a small mill town. In general, she didn’t feel that the rest of the population was intelligent enough to produce the kind of families she envisioned for each of us. So my mother made it very clear that she

Scan_0035 Harold C Sanderson Coppy Blog 6 15 2018.jpg
Harold Copland Sanderson my Younger Brother (Coppy) in my Book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir

wanted all of us to go off to college, grow up, and make a future for ourselves somewhere else from Shakerton, Massachusetts. We all did as she directed. I can remember a very poignant conversation with my mother a few days after my younger brother, Coppy, had graduated from college in Worcester, Massachusetts. “He was only home for the evening of his graduation and then he was packed and off to his new job in Schenectady New York. You would think he could have stayed a few days,” She said. (The seeds we unconsciously sow.)

Now we have arrived at The Seniors and we have all those questions:

  1. Do we move to where the most responsive child lives?
  2. Do we build our own lives and hope the money lasts?
  3. Do we stay where we are planted with all of our children located somewhere fairly close to where we live?
  4. Do we pray like crazy that we never have to go into a “facility”

The third scenario gives us more freedom while being pretty independent we are still being part of an extended family. I know sometimes the in-laws don’t turn out to be receptive to the closeness and the responsibilities but if we haven’t discussed and planned, shaped our lives in such a way, we can wind up existing in a nursing home, alone.

So, I guess my bottom line is we need to be aware and shape our lives in such a way that we end up close to where we want to be. (Yes, I know sometimes the money runs out and there are no choices. But if we have been thinking all along we are more likely to get what would make our last year’s enjoyable; or at least not too lonely.)

Which generational questions are you grappling with and have you done some thinking and planning? I’d like to hear your stories. You can contact me at my website www.jessiemaykessler.com and click the CONTACT button.

Advertisements

Sibling Rivalry: Ongoing and Ever

Sibling rivalry can make we parents go gray before our time but for some reason it IMG_20180128_153915932seems to stick around through the generations. When you read my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir you will come to the place in the book where my husband Sy and I discover that our two sweet little nine year olds are at odds. It starts with his daughter Annie and my daughter Felicia being of the same age and we put them in the same large bedroom together while the other girls had their own bedrooms. Most houses don’t have seven bedrooms! But we very quickly divided the larger room into two smaller separate rooms. That was the tip of the iceberg.

When we look at the back story, Annie had always been short changed by her mother in terms of attention. By the time Annie was old enough to be aware, her mother was usually incapacitated with alcohol and Annie learned to go to the neighbors for what attention she did get. Because there was five years between Annie and her biological older sister, Cora, she didn’t get the companionship that happens when children are closer in age; plus Cora was called upon to do a good bit of supervision. That often can equate to bossy older sister.

Now, Sy and I meet and I’m open to raising girls so Annie starts to move right in on

scan0041
In this Picture You See that Felicia is to the Fat Left and Annie is Snuggled up in Front of Me

me, begging for attention, physically getting between Felicia and me, and a host of other things that kids do to each other. Because Felicia and Annie are the same age, Felicia is not at a stage where I can say, “Now Honey you need to move over a bit and let Annie have a little extra attention.” So the other choice was to push Annie away at times. And even at that Felicia would complain that Annie wanted to do everything she was doing. “Can’t she come up with an idea of her own?” was usually the complaint.

A funny aside: if you have looked closely at the cover of A Bird and the Dragon you will note there are colored hearts in place of leaves on the tree that represents a family. I may have told you before but when I first got all these little girls with their little underwear and sock there had to be a way of matching laundry to child. So when any new item came into the house it got marked with a loop of thread in the color that I assigned to each girl. The colors of the hearts on the tree are the colors that they were given in the beginning of our life together. (My girls already had their assigned colors.) Sometime after Felicia was married for the first time she announced that she hated Yellow, her assigned color, but because Annie was a new sister she didn’t complain when Annie was given Felicia’s favorite color, Purple. “So now that I am an adult,” Felicia said, “I will have everything purple!”

As I write this blog today I am babysitting, not grandchildren, but puppies. Annie is

IMG_20180608_182914607.jpg
The Two Pups are Contemplating who Gets the Toy

visiting me and also having to work today; so I have her puppy, Scarlet, here with me. My Blaze and her Scarlet are from the same litter of pups and have been romping about the house carrying toys from one room to another and then hiding them or racing to get their toy out of the reach of the other pup. Life never seems to change! No matter that these creatures have four legs instead of two. Blaze was so delighted to see his sister Scarlet last night when they arrived, but he has spent much of this morning rounding up his toys and giving her a “butt slap” if she tries to take one. (A butt slap is a most interesting maneuver. He lines himself up beside his sister, heads about even, and then he takes two steps with his fanny into her, almost knocking her off her feet.) (Hey it beats getting yelled at by Mom because he bit her!)

100_0324.jpg
By the Time Christmas was at Hopi Street,  Annie and Felicia Were Content with Their Relationship to Me

I guess if I was going to get very philosophical about this I’d say the issue is the same. Everyone wants Mom’s attention and then next best is “my stuff” for myself. The good news is the grown up sisters understand this now and Felicia, for all that she is very close to me emotionally, is perfectly happy to have Annie spending a lot of time with me as she has since her father died. Felicia understands that this is make-up time for what Annie lost when she was young.

Is there sibling rivalry in your family of origin or more importantly in the natal family, the one you are orchestrating right now? I’d enjoy hearing about some of those problems and if you are interested in more of these family issues go to my website http://www.jessiemaykessler.com and read my column, ‘Tidbits from the Couch.’  You can connect with me there by hitting the CONNECT button.

For a final picture of Sibling Rivalry click here.

 

“Oh! No!”

images picture of spirit guides for My Little Bird Blog Friday 6 1 2018
A Symbolic Image of Spirit Guides

Last week I told you that I often wait until my guides suggest a topic for the blog. Sometime after writing last week’s blog I was having a conversation with myself and I said in my head “You know, Guys, (Referring to my guides. They are of both sexes.) sometimes you are going to have to hit me over the head for me to get the message on what you want me to write about.” This week I think they almost took me literally.

Last night as I was prepping my queen sized bed for when I finally would crawl in, I picked up one of the four pillows that I keep on the bed. Sy, my deceased husband, has on his side two pretty flat pillows because he was a tummy sleeper. I took the top one and eyed the arm chair on the far side of the bed. Could I make it if I just heaved it? The second before I let the pillow fly I heard as clear as can be, “You’re going to hit the lamp!” And without skipping a beat I answered, “I’m a better shot than that.”

Guess what? I hit the lamp; and not just any lamp, but one of the last purchases that Sy and I made together before he died. On that shopping trip we were looking for a few things to put in our brand new senior dream house which we had just moved into a month before. Most of the decor was from our old treasured stock but we wanted a couple of new things to go with the new bed that we had ordered. There was no list; it was just a case of walking around in the store until something caught my or his attention. After many passes past a very traditional, round, mahogany night table Sy said, “Do you want that night table? It has a few scratches.”

“I don’t care if it has scratches. It is the right size and shape for my side of the bed.” He knew; and called the clerk over asking her if there was another in stock because

IMG_20180531_181915914.jpg
What is Left of the Bird Lamp Crack and all Plus Isabelle the Rabbit and JB the Bear Who Warm my Bed During the Day

of the scratches. She told him that was the last one they had but she could take a little off the price. (Always good news to the Jewish part of my husband) By now I was looking for the lamp to go with the table. I spotted the most pregnant shaped yellow/cream colored ceramic lamp with substantial vines and two bluish/green birds perched on the vines, decorating each side. I fell in love with the birds! And without my saying a word Sy said, “I thought you didn’t like things that reminded you of your childhood nick-name?” “I don’t, usually, but there is something about the shape of the lamp, the color and the birds that looks just right to me.” And that is the lamp that I broke; not just broke but shattered—no chance of gluing pieces together again.

IMG_20180128_153915932Now was it Sy’s voice that I heard? You can see from my story that the relationship was very close or if you’ve read my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir you know for sure that it was close. Or were the voices those of my spirit guides? Then again maybe Sy is a spirit guide for me now that he is on the other side. Whatever, it is a heartbreak that I have lost that lamp, but a treasure that I had and still have this kind of relationship with Sy.

And one last story before I close: It was in March of 2013, nine months before Sy died suddenly. We were again “shopping” in Kohls. I was looking at dresses and skirts and Sy had wandered over to the men’s section. He did love his clothes! Now, he never ever said, “I would like that.” So I was surprised to see him stroking the arm of a black velvet-like sports jacket, when I finally caught up

IMG_20180531_182352304_LL.jpg
Sy’s Black Jacket that Never Made it to the Wedding

with him. “Honey, would you like that?” I asked.

“Oh! No! I have no place to wear it and we don’t really have the money for a luxury.”

“Try it on,” I responded. It fit him perfectly. Often with jackets there was a bit of a pucker across the back shoulders because he stood so erect. Not with this jacket. “You know, Felicia’s wedding is coming up and you will need something for that,” I said.

He stood looking in the mirror. “Hum…this would be just right.”

“So, we’ll take it? I asked.

“Yes. We’ll take it.

scan0063a-sy-alone-at-christa-wedding
Now Picture this Man, Sy, in the Jacket Above.

Fast forward ten months after the purchase of the jacket. Felicia and Joe are talking about the colors of the clothes they were going to wear for their wedding. And Joe said, “Yes, I thought it would be easiest if all the men wore black sports jackets and any kind of slacks that they want.” My heart skipped a beat because I knew that in my closet was the black velvet-like jacket Sy had picked out for this occasion ten months before, and now would never wear because he passed away the month before the wedding. (I still have the black jacket, although most of the rest of his clothes are gone.)

“Oh! No!” Now, how did he know that the color was going to be black? Precognition, spirit guides, or connections from some greater system that we haven’t yet discovered—something greater than ourselves? What would be your answer? Send me a comment at my website http://www.jessiemaykessler.com by hitting the CONNECT button.

 

 

 

He Loves Me;He Loves Me Not

Each week I think about and usually wait until my guides give me a topic. Well, I’m late this week because they have been busy elsewhere. This morning I woke from a dream in which I was helping one of my dear friends pick which lover would be best for her by looking at her and their astrology charts. –Now there is a topic!!

In reading my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir you IMG_20180128_153915932have come across Chapter 29, The Book Store. It was during the time my husband Sy and I owned and ran the book store, Merlin Books that I learned about astrology. I learned enough that I now use it in the second or third session with most of my therapy clients because the birth chart is one of the best road maps to see where people are using their talents and where they are stuck or have gone off track, maybe with hidden issues. And if they are hidden the client can’t talk about them because they don’t know they exist.

I also found that understanding the birth chart gave me a lot of insight into why my girls functioned the way that they did. But the other thing the charts are helpful with is seeing if this young man that a daughter has brought home is going to be a good long-term match. Those compatible or non-compatible energies are visible in the charts. Now, some people don’t always use all of the suggestions in their charts and occasionally you find someone who is almost against type but most of the time over the lifespan, a person uses most of the energies that are drawn into their birth charts.

sign-aquarius-drawing_csp5419754 Harvard's Sun sign 5 25 2018Generally, in marriages it does not work well if you and your chosen one have sun signs in the same month or in adjacent months. This was the case in my first marriage. Harvard’s birthday was February 9th and mine was February 20th. I was actually just on the edge of the next sign in the astrology chart but too close for comfort. download My Pisces 5 25 2018What happens is that you know how the other person works when you are too close and you get bored or one of you uses that knowledge to push the other person’s buttons repeatedly. Friends are usually in the same or opposite signs because you want the compatibility and comfort of having someone who “knows me.” Marriage partners need the mystery that is built into the relationship when there is more distance between you astrologically speaking.

The other interesting feature is the fact that by mid-life a person has begun to explore in themselves what we in psychology call the “shadow side” of the personality. Because of this, so often in second or third marriages, opposites function very well together. My second marriage to Sy was like that. We were almost exact opposites in every symbolic combination in the chart and yet were most compatable. Also by mid-life a person has often dropped the “all for me” attitude and is willing to look at a larger picture.

So back to my dream! When we are looking for compatibility between partners we look for where Venus appears in a man’s chart because that is the energy that he instinctively is drawn to when looking at a woman. He usually wants a woman who is pretty, has some artistic qualities, and will make a lovely hostess. (Those are only a few of the qualities of Venus.) He will also most likely be drawn to someone who has astrology signs similar to those of his mother. For instance in my daughter Felicia’s chart she has Libra as her rising sign. (The rising sign is the sign that was on the horizon when you were born and it is what other people first recognize in you.) Joe, Felicia’s husband, has a mother with Libra as her sun sign and so he is unconsciously drawn to that similar energy.

JessieMayIn a woman’s chart we look to see where her Mars is located because that is the energy she is looking for in a spouse. (I have circled it in my chart above) Again back to Sy and me; his rising sign was Taurus and my Mars is in Taurus so he was close to a perfect fit for me.

Sy.jpg
The rising sign is in the 9:00 o’clock position on the charts

Sometimes we can stretch the equations to take in what is on the mid-heaven (top of the chart) or how the Moons appear in the two charts, since where the moon resides is something that you long for and need. But do take into consideration that “neediness” often is not a good connection because it assigns one person the role of giving and the other the role of taking. Resentment will blossom in that relationship.

Now having told you all of this I still don’t know which lover I picked for my friend. I’ll have to tune in tonight and see if there is more to the story.

Have a great holiday weekend and I’m here if you have questions or just want to share. The best way to contact me is through my website http://www.jessiemaykessler.com and hit the Contact button. I’d love to hear from you. I’m actually quite friendly in small groups or one to one, that is if I can get my computer to cooperate.

When the Wheels Fall Off the Wagon

IMG_20180128_153915932Many of you know because you have read my first book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir that I mention my mother Jordan Elizabeth Sanderson in a few places but spend most of my time on the relationship with my second husband, Sy, and with the antics of our combined family of five teenage daughters. Today I want to talk more about my mother, especially from the angle of Sy and I being part of the sandwich generation and having to make major decisions.

When my second book comes out Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long Term IllnessHidden Sorrow Sissy Owen Rabbit 3 (2) you will spend plenty of time with my mother because she is the secondary character in that story. Of course if I could find a sponsor or a couple of sponsors to help defray the costs of publishing, Sissy’s Story could be coming out this year. –But enough of that. (Part of the proposed cover for Sissy’s Story is the picture to the right.)

Back in the 80’s it was becoming clear that my mother could no longer handle the details for running her own senior community apartment in Shaker Meadows, Shakerton, Massachusetts. Her building consisted of four apartments with my mother having one at the back on the first floor. During one visit, as I stepped out into the hallway to round up the laundry she had started in the laundry closet, the women from the upstairs apartment came to the top of the stairs and yelled down, “I hope you’re gonna go through her refrigerator. She’s gonna kill herself one of these days with what’s living in there.” I thanked the woman knowing she was a friend looking out for my Mother’s safety.

Our next signal came in the winter when Mother talked about having to back her

download Shaker Meadows Mother's Apartment Building 5 18 2018
One of the Apartment Buildings in Shaker Meadows, Shakerton, Massachusetts

car in the snow so that the plows could plow out her spot. “I’m so scared that I’m going to run someone over because I can’t see out that rear window anymore and the mirrors are all fogged.” (If you watched closely you could see her hands shook as she spoke.) The next clue came when she admitted to me that she had gone to the closest city to do an errand and it took her three hours to make a thirty minute trip. She’d gotten lost! It was at that point that Sy and I conferred. He said, “I will ask her for her car keys and get the car ready to sell.” I talked to her about the snow and what would it be like if a child darted out from between two cars when she was driving. She looked very forlorn but admitted she wouldn’t be able to live with herself. Sy asked her for her keys and she handed them over with a thank you. This was the last straw of independence. Because of her pride and the layout of the town she would have to take the Senior Bus and we both knew that would never happen. Her final move would be into our home on Honey Lane, Nerme, Connecticut.

That happened in April of 1981 and she spent the next seven years in our home. I

000_0006
Mother in Those Early Years Around the Time of the Vegetables

told you last year about the vegetable incident when she offered to help in the kitchen and when I put out a set-up for peeling vegetables, she said she couldn’t and walked away. Mad!! Yes, I was mad. She had asked to help! But what I had to learn was that when working with a senior who is losing mental capacity it is like working with a three year old. You have to always be “ahead of the curve” and you have to stop a sudden reaction and think about the event from the three year old’s point of view. Getting outwardly mad and making a production out of the incident doesn’t help. Upon thinking, I realized she always stood to prepare vegetables and I was asking her to sit. She had always used a certain type of peeler; mine was different. With an essential tremor in her hands she was afraid she would cut herself. –She did get out of kitchen duty!!

Mother settled on doing the family laundry once I had sorted and pretreated the clothes. I limited her to doing one load a day and it was usually done in two days’ time. She also folded all the family laundry and she would have ironed things except I never showed her where I kept my ironing board. In my first marriage I came home from delivering my second child to find Mother was ironing my first husband’s boxer shorts. Second time around, I wasn’t going to give Sy that luxury, although he really would have deserved it.

When a parent lives with you it is important that they have duties to perform because they need something that can give them personal daily pride. All the

4247c89bac5f710957e65698412d8b47_f1226 Ayer Shirley Regional High School blog 5 18 2018
 The Ayer/Shirley (Shakerton) Massachusetts Regional High School Where in the Past my Mother was Secretary to the Schools’ Superintendent

accomplishments of their earlier life have become distant.  My mother in her prime was a 4-H leader, taught Sunday school for the church, and secured the building to provide hot lunches for my generation of children. In the next phase of her life she was the newspaper correspondent for my town and then became the “girl Friday” for that newspaper, writing a weekly column called “The Woman’s World,” working the front office, and anything else that needed doing. She covered big “doings” in my small town for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette and ended her working career as secretary to the superintendent of schools for the two towns that later became a school region.

The downhill mental and physical slide is hard to watch. It helps if both you and your parent can keep your sense of humor, hence the title “When the Wheels Come off the Wagon.” That was the expression I used with her one time when she opened her mouth to speak

100_0060A.jpg
Mother Towards the End Holding my Dog Cara Cozy

and all that came out was gibberish. She was frightened and the funny phrase helped her to calm. I’m glad I had these years because I discovered discrepancies in what she had told me and what I actually saw. For me she was bigger than life and pushed the need to get out there and meet people. What I saw was a facade for the fears of doing what she was telling me to do. It helped me to relax. It also made me angry that I had lived under this unnecessary pressure for all of those years. When my children clear my house they will find the letter written after my mother died telling her the things that had bugged me. They will find it–unless I burn it first.

 

It was indeed a time of watching the wheels fall off the wagon!

Good Cop: Bad Cop

In this week’s blog I’d like to pick up on last week’s topic and enlarge upon the subject of why we need to create blended families rather than just praying they will happen. And to clarify that even more, I want to address the fear of setting boundaries in any family; blended or otherwise. Wasn’t it Robert Frost who said that “good fences make good neighbors?”

IMG_20180128_153915932Fences are boundaries and those fences need to be maintained over the years, strengthened, repaired, and sometimes moved. The same is true in families. In my first book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir I talk about how my then-husband Sy and I would spend valuable time after dinner in the evening talking and setting up what limits or restrictions were needed to keep our blended family well-functioning.

We seemed to know from the get-go that “wait ‘till your father gets home” doesn’t work. Quickly we both accepted that whatever parent was standing there when the misdeed happened was the parent to address the matter. Sometimes there was a deferment set into what we said so that we each could check with the other on the feasibility of whatever the consequence was to the inappropriate behavior. And I have to say that Sy always backed me on something that had to be handled in that very moment. I returned the favor.

Now I have two marriages from which to compare results and in my first marriage my then-husband, Harvard, wanted nothing to do with limiting the children in any

scan0051.jpg
Harvard and JessieMay — First Marriage

way. I understood that he came from a background of wealth and so he was left to be raised by “the help” and at times beaten by his father because he had done something that was displeasing to that parent. (The other parent didn’t seem to play any part in his upbringing.) But I think he had no understanding of what was acceptable and what was not. Punishment was handed out with pain and banishment. That is so poisonous a combination to the developing child, because all they want is to be close to the parent and to be accepted. Harvard never played the “bad cop” so I was left to be the “good nurturing mother” and the “bad cop.” I have to admit that sometimes that was so overwhelming that I was a terrifying cop, using too much force and little or no logic.

With the second marriage to Sy, we quickly settled on the fact that he preferred to be the “good cop” and the children would often go to him when they thought I would say no. The difference in this situation was that we did set limits together and when the chips were really down the buck stopped with Sy; and the children all knew that. I think you will see that in the chapter “The Bottom Line” in my book A Bird and the Dragon.

Jessie and Sy Kessler early in their Marriage
Jessie and Sy Kessler early in their Marriage

As households go, I think the one that Sy and I established was far more peaceful, which allowed the children to relax emotionally. They knew what would happen if they did X, Y, or Z. And they also had the experience of a father that usually listened and actually displayed some interest in them and what they were doing; characteristics usually found in the nurturing mother. They knew he would be fair and stand behind them when it was needed. He was softer than I and they were aware of his gentleness. Children need both the limitations and the softness in their parents. It really doesn’t matter a great deal as to who plays which role, or if they alternate as needed.

My bottom line in all of this is that I have a fairly close relationship with each of my five daughters—a closeness that has built-in spaces so that they don’t feel they have

000_0225
L to R Back Row:  Bert, Steven, Annie, Grandson Andrew, Felicia, JessieMay Second Row: Cora, Elizabeth, Third Row Granddaughter Candy, Grandson Robbie, Granddaughter Nicole

to please me all the time, take care of my emotions or be anxious lest I not love them. Often, the person who plays “bad cop” in the family, fears that the children will not love them; will abandon them. And believe me there are times when they don’t love you, but in the long run they come to respect you because they know where you stand on most issues. This is the place from which you as a parent can build friendships with your children. I’m saying don’t hesitate to put up walls to the emotional house that your young children will inhabit as they grow up in your household and then maintain those walls—they will thank you later in life.

Do you hesitate to set limits on your children or do you crumble under their pressure? I would like to hear some of your stories. You can reach me here or on my website www.jessiemaykessler.com and click on the CONNECT button. While you are there check out the “Tidbits from the Couch excerpt” and click on the whimsy tag.

Blending the Families: Why Bother

IMG_20180128_153915932A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, my first book is about the love and romance my second husband Sy and I shared. But beyond that story is the subplot, if you will, about all the problems and disruptions that a family of teenage girls can generate. When combining two dysfunctional families, and most families going through divorce are by definition dysfunctional, one asks why bother to try to blend the two families? Who really cares?

The answer to these two questions is a resounding: The children care, that’s why!! I’ve counseled grown-up children from blended families images Banishing Stepfather from David Copperfield blog 5 4-2018and they quietly grieve for not having one cohesive family that they could/can lean back upon. When a couple heading into a second or third marriage have small children, the blending comes more easily because younger children are not so likely to have the bad stepmother concept in mind or the banishing stepfather as a thought. They are at an age in which there are many changes for them, new to school, new homes, and new siblings, which they seem to take in stride. Some of these younger children are actually looking for friends. It is the preteen, teenage, and adult children who are the most worrisome.

Human beings seem to be wired with the belief that there should be a mother and father in the home. And more than just having these two people in the home they actually want to interact with these people. A child needs to know they are accepted by these two individuals, and many times they were not accepted by the original parent so this parenting becomes even more important.

So, if you happen to be heading towards a second marriage, with children, the two

images Couple having coffee and in Discusion blog 5 4 2018
Couple Talking Over Their Family Options

of you need to sit and talk about what you want for this new family. Those families in which the children are left to build these bonds on their own wind up in a lot of chaos because no one is demonstrating the taming of the ego and the concern for the other person’s well-being whoever that person is, spouse or sibling. Children take their ques from us. They watch us like hawks, all the while pretending not to want a whole family. Don’t be fooled; these children actually sometimes plot to keep the parents separate or at least at war all the while still wishing to have a “normal” family. In my book you will find that my daughter May was definitely one of these children, not to mention she had a mental disorder that we knew nothing about at the time.

I can remember once lying in bed at night and having Sy reach across, take my hand in the dark, and say, “Now remember, we stand back to back, holding hands

shutterstock-567624058 Child questioning parents blog 5 4 2018
Child Trying to Understand What Parent Really Wants

as our children in their wagons circle us looking for a weak spot.” And indeed we did stand back to back and sometimes face to face arguing about what was the best way to handle some situation that had arisen with the girls. At our evening “coffee time” we did a lot of talking and strategizing and coming to compromises we could both live with. Children do understand that a couple is not always going to be chapter and verse in step with each other, but the child that knows both parents are on the same page feel much safer and are happier both as children and adults.

I bring forward in A Bird and the Dragon that–to break up the sibling bragging and rivalry–we parents have to set about building a new history. It is these common activities that bring the children together and help them see the strengths and weaknesses of each sibling. Life ceases to be a contest over who came from the best family but more about what are we going to be doing tomorrow. Presently, it gives me

000_0730
My Family of Children , Grandchildren, and Step-grandchildren at Christmas

great pleasure, when at Christmas time, which is when most of my children gather, to hear them talk about “remember when we” and then sometimes there is a nod in my direction, “and you didn’t even know about this.” Indeed I didn’t, thank goodness, and so glad that they now have memories and secrets to share.

I guess the one other thing I want to leave with you is the fact that if you want to build a blended family, you as a couple will have to check your personal ego agendas at the door—there is no room for competition in a well-functioning family. As long as the parents are competing with each other as to who is the better parent nothing good is going to happen in your family.

And I do sound so serious in this piece but there is laughter, silly events, tragic events and regular old everyday events through this building family process. It just takes a little more focus, concern, and communication then a regular family. It is work; don’t kid yourself! It is worth it when your combined children still come home with their own family war stories even after one of the parents has passed on.

One Man’s Trash is….

images Colchester Federated Church Blog 4 27 2018The church in my community is holding its gigantic indoor yard sale this weekend and I volunteered to work a couple of times during the week at setting things up and marking items for sale. We have a large indoor basketball court and this room becomes the staging area for this event. As I arrived to do my part, I stepped to the double doors of this now-marketplace area and looked at the mountains of stuff to be sorted. I thought all trash…just trash!! Then it flashed through my head, why do you feel that way about “things” when you don’t feel that way about people?

 I can’t really give you an answer to that question except to say that my mother was

download A Visit to an older woman shut-in blog 4 27 2018
A Woman I Visited

a bit of a snob having been raised in a somewhat isolating situation herself and she passed that quality on—her self-protection from what was unknown.

Now the other side of this argument that goes on inside me is the fact that from a very early age I would go and visit all the elderly and ailing women in my community. If my mother couldn’t find me she knew where to look. I guess that means people hold more value for me than things. Maybe that is what makes me a very good therapist!

When you purchase and read my first book A Bird and the Dragon: TIMG_20180128_153915932heir Love Story: A Memoir you will come to the place where I have been seeing Sy, my second husband and hero of my book, for a while and it is time my mother got to know a little bit about him. When I start to tell her about this man who is so precious to me, she stops me by saying, “Oh, Dear, I hope he is not another Robin with a broken wing!” She was referring to what she perceived was my tendency to attract men that need help or support—Okay I’ve said it before; I am a rescuer—I couldn’t be a good therapist if I didn’t have that tendency.

Anyway, there is a man in my community that I have had an interest in for about four years. It is not returned, but as my friends have become aware of this fact, I have been given chapter and verse about his failings with a very few positive comments. It confuses me because I wonder, Don’t they see the light way back in the personality that has been so damaged over the years that it is only visible to a few of us? Given the right support and attention I think one would see this man blossom. So this is a place where someone else’s trash is my treasure.

Now I hope there are some young people reading this blog because I have grandchildren that are pre-teen, middle teens, and young adults. They are wrestling all the time with these experiences of acceptance and rejection. With the rejection a

images girl rejecting boy blog 4 27 2018
In Rejection so Hard to Understand that You May be Someone Else’s Treasure

young person is inclined to accept that rejection as a commentary on who s/he is instead of seeing that a rejection is just another person’s perception that ‘you are trash to them.’ But you are most likely a TREASURE to someone else, so keep on with your process of sorting and learning. Yes, with a rejection if you can get a straight answer from the rejecter it is good to see what their suggestions are for you as you move forward. Although, so often a rejecter doesn’t really have a reason for the rejection—it is often an outgrowth of their own social experiences.

So do recognize that a rejection only signals that you are trash to THAT PERSON but likely a TREASURE to someone else. Keep looking and holding your head high. You are a treasure! I know! It is a part of my type of vision.

If you have comments or a need to share a rejection or slight please contact me at my website www.jessiemaykessler.com with the contact button.

 

 

Safety

download Capital building in DC for Blog 4 20 2018In the last election this nation voted for change in Washington. Now two years in they see they have gotten change in government and they are horrified because it seems all that is going on is change. The government officials change from day to day, the president changes his views or at least his words from one day to the next, what jobs who should do seem to change and the feeling is chaos and fear. Then we add to that the changes that are going on with our planet, severe storms, great fires, great fluctuations in temperature, seasons that appear to be changing and people are afraid at a very deep unconscious level.

If you look at the television programs you see that the plans are to bring back many of the old family shows. One has already appeared with the return of “Rosanne.” Could it be that we are looking for a place of safety, a supposedly happier time?

Safety lies in the bonds of the home. Today we have allowed our homes to become a

images mother and father working on a project together for Blog 4 20 2018
Mother and Father Working with Their Children

parking lot with all the activities that are supposedly good for our children.  Often there is no place for a joint meal with the parents. I think in many homes the children don’t see both mother and father working in concert on some issue because they are never there in the home at the same time.

In the family that my second husband Sy and I created there must have been a sense of protection lasting even now that Sy has passed on. It is the older girls that, when they are annoyed at me about something, report to me that one of my daughters doesn’t like me very much.

Now there has to be some level of safety that they dare to give that report. And what the speaker doesn’t know is that when the disenchanted daughter was at her stepmother’s funeral and didn’t know I was coming, she spotted me in the vestibule of the funeral home and ignored me for a short time then came over to me. And as I reached out to hold her she dissolved into my arms sobbing.  She knew that I would not feel slighted that she was crying over her stepmother’s death and I know that this daughter doesn’t cry in public but knew my arms were a safe place if only for a few moments..

These are the bonds that are needed in our families at the moment and they are created by:

  1. Parents who are attentive most of the time
  2. Parents who take the time to discipline and hold that line in a fair manner
  3. Parents who talk to their children and listen to the replies
  4. Parents who praise for the good and minimize the bad
  5. Parents who never ridicule their children.

Many families are dealing with children with Autism or Asperger Syndrome. These are difficult children to raise because many of them are very intelligent but for some reason they don’t have the tools to communicate that fact or the connections for self-control. In the field of psychology we talk about the destruction or non-development of the prefrontal lobe of the brain. Whatever the cause, we still have to do our best to grow these children to their potential.

picture of asperger autism boy for blog 4 20 2018I have a grandson with this disorder that at first was not noticed.  As a young teenage boy he was told to pick up the mess of food and wrappers that had accumulated around where he sat to watch television. I was left by his mother with the instructions to see to it that he picked up the mess by the time she got home from work.  I apparently was too bossy in my approach, and he dug in his heels that he wasn’t going to do as I asked. I’m not sure how it escalated but next thing I knew he jumped up from the chair, tore his belt out of his pants, folded it and then advanced on me belt in his extended hand like he was going to thrash me with the belt. My counseling training and my instincts kicked in and I knew that the one thing that he did not need was for me to cower or run. I held my ground and told him to either pick up the offending papers or go downstairs where I knew his grandfather was reading in his chair. This grandson loved his grandfather and that space would be a safe place for him. It took some time but he did eventually go down to be with Sy.

Later in the week I was told that I needed to go with that grandson to his therapy images Don't poke the bear for blog 4 20 2018appointment so the therapist could hear my side of the story. I did go and after my grandson told his story, the therapist asked for my rendition. Right in the middle of what I was saying he leaned in toward me and whispered, “Don’t poke the bear!” I was taken aback but finished my version. This therapist seemed to feel that I should have retreated. I believe that what my grandson needed at that moment was someone strong enough to hold him safe from his own uncontrolled rage: a safe place to reside.

So the bottom line of what I’m saying is it is becoming imperative that we take the time in our families to strengthen the bonds that hold us together and cause us to feel loved and safe: to create stability in this changed world of chaos.

P.S. The banner across the top of my blog is the Nashoba Valley where I grew up. Since I am next to the youngest in my whole extended family and many of them are now gone, this is my picture of a safe place.

What’s the Backstory of a Book?

I think if you asked any author what the backstory of their book is you would get some very interesting answers. Thinking about this topic, it occurred to me that the IMG_20180128_153915932story behind the story might be almost as interesting as the book itself. Those that follow my Little Bird Blog know that A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir is my first published book. It started life on October 15, 2014 almost exactly one year after the hero of my book, my second husband Sy, died suddenly in the hospital. Up to that point I had fought off much of the overt grieving with all the things I had to learn to run a family home by myself. But on that day his loss became more than I could cope with, and almost in a panic, I started to write about our meeting, then our courtship, the juggling of five teenage girls, blending our two families, and it just evolved from there. At that point I told myself that I was writing this for Sy’s biological grandson, Robbie, knowing that Robbie was pretty young when his grandfather passed away and he might want to know more about Sy than just the little boy memories.

As my daughters would stop by for a visit and to see that I was “doing fine” without Sy, I would read a chapter to them, especially a chapter that was mostly about them. They began to say this is bigger than just our family; you need to publish this. Friends would go through the same process and give me the same suggestion.

From left to right Top Row: Cora, and May, Second Row: Elizabeth, Felicia, and Annie

I wrote every bit of the story from memory not a diary, or notes I had made along the way, and for that reason you will find when you read the book A Bird and the Dragon the center of the book is no longer chronologically written because once I got into each of the girls lives it became too complicated for memory. So I chose to group activities that involved each daughter.

At one point I showed my new son-in-law the part of the manuscript that involved him. He read it and said, “No! You can’t use that story.” The book would have had a better balance of interesting and mundane detail if I had left it in, but a son-in-law is far more important than a zippy, get attention story.

There are at least three ways to approach writing a book. The well-organized personimages notes organized in preperation for writing project 4 13 2018.jpg makes note cards and puts them up on a board or wall so they can move them around to get a better flow. Other writers outline the intended work before they start. The third group of writers jumps right into the middle of the pond and swims until they get to the shore. I think I’m “the jump in” type. I used to outline my English papers after I wrote them!

Okay, the book is written, close friends have done the editing—I now learn that I should have spent my money on professional organizers and editors. I didn’t have any spare money then, anyhow. Do I self-publish or hunt for an agent to sell my book to a publisher? Since I have another book that was completed years ago and rejected by many publishers–because back then you didn’t have to go through an agent—I decided that self-publishing was the better way for a first book. I may have told you this before, but one of my girlfriends heard her section of the book and went home to her computer and made the connections with the publishing house, Hay House, download Symbol of Balpoa Press 4 13 2018and their self-publishing branch Balboa Press. I had a representative on the telephone in just a few days. I looked at other self-publishing companies but found I really needed to know what I was doing to go that route and I was not in that space. Balboa did as they said they would and held my hand through much of the process, including telling me that if I kept my name on the book and used my husband’s name they couldn’t publish the book for fear of suits from family members. The real people would be too easy to trace in real time. After I pointed out that I had releases from all living relatives mentioned in the book they were ready to move forward, if I would change all the names of the places, the characters, and tweak the events.

Next, there were issues with using the poems in the book, including the poem that

Ed and Duffy 8-9-03_0018.JPG
My Sister PollyAnne

names the book. I needed releases from all of these poets whose material was written decades ago. No matter, it is not public property until 90 years after the death of the poet. And try to find relatives of the poets—a circus of letters and no responses. My sister, PollyAnne recognized how close I was to giving up on the project when I could not get publishing rights to the poem “Custard the Cowardly Dragon” by Ogden Nash and said, “Just tell them what you heard when Sy read you the poem.” I think her words helped to save the project.

Now having followed me along a bit on this journey of a first book, if you haven’t read my book,  please go and buy A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir in the book stores or online at Amazon.com and please write a review on Amazon.com. If you click on the picture of the book it will take you to a second page, scroll down until you get to where they ask if you would like to write a review and follow their directions. These reader reviews are like golden nuggets along the way to getting a second book published—agents and small publishers read these reviews looking for their next project. I think readers don’t understand how important these little reviews are to the author and to the career of an author.

I would love to hear from you with your input on this topic or with your stories of your own struggles to get into print. You can reach me through my website www.jessiemaykessler.com. And thanks for reading My Little Bird blogs.