Happiness from Moment to Moment

Last week I wrote about the fact that no matter how much you think you are prepared for a loved one’s passing, you aren’t. The feelings are so strong and so different from what you thought you were going to experience. But now the question becomes: Is this all there is? And the answer is “No, there is indeed more, but different.”

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The Dawning of a New Day Speaks to the Recognition that Life Goes on for Those Left Behind

The night when I drove myself home from the hospital where my second husband Sy had just died, I kept saying to myself, “Life is for the living! Life is for the living! Life is for the living!” I did it spontaneously and I think it was my effort to keep myself from just driving off the road so I could go with him. Whatever, it has turned out to be a profound statement in terms of my grief recovery because I have a strong need to live!

The second statement that has become a mantra for me is my older sister’s comment the next morning, “One step in front of the other, Little Sister, one step in front of the other.”  Both of these statements imprint the fact that we don’t really have a choice about the grieving process—the life journey moves with or without us.

I quickly turned in those early months to another one of my escape mechanisms—to

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My Long Corridor of Happiness

find another lover. That brought some rocky, sad, and funny moments online but I didn’t find a rescuer. Guess what? I was going to have to pull myself out of this sad place pretty much by myself. The next thing I had to come to grips with is that up to that point in my life I’d had a horrible 13 year first marriage with emotional pain most of the way. Then I married Sy, and I had a great and wonderful 35 years. Yes, we got into some sticky-wickets at times but worked our way out. The point is that I then thought about life as this long corridor of mostly happiness. And then it was gone!!

People recovering from a great emotional loss, be it death or the rejection of a lover, IMG_20180128_153915932believe that the happiness in life either will never come back or it will come in one long sweep of happiness. The truth that I have found is that my happiness comes now in snapshots not long running videos. For instance: the first crocus in the spring, the granddaughter who texts me with, “Do you have time for tea this week?” The long lost daughter that calls from Indiana and starts the conversation with, “You’ve missed me, I bet. Well, I’ve just been awfully busy with my new job.” Then there is the girlfriend that says come on over for supper, “I’m cooking salmon.”  Or the gentleman at the Senior Social that did a lot of the formatting on my book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir who is walking through the cocktail hour press of people, while I assume looking for his wife, but stops for a moment, looks at me, and says, “And yes, you deserve a hug!” With that he proceeds to give me a heartfelt hug. Four days ago as I sat eating my lunch on the back deck where I can look out at

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The Male Cardinal

the semi-cultivated wooded area behind my house there was a cardinal on the ground standing guard while his dull-coated partner was at the neighbors feeding site. What a splendor of red against the brown-gray of the hillside rocks. I suppose we could call these moments, things that we should write in our gratitude journals but I’m writing them in my heart to help soothe the ache of a terrific lost marital relationship.

And of course writing my book about the happy times with Sy has helped me to move beyond the excruciating pain of losing a happy partnership to death.

So I’m suggesting that, if you are suffering a great loss, shift your focus from waiting for that video that will make life happy again to the little snapshots that contain happiness.

What are some of the things that you have found that help to ease the pain of a profound loss? I’d like to hear. I’m sure some of you have some very creative experiences. You can contact me on my website www.jessiemaykessler.com and click on the CONNECT button. That way we could talk.

 

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Walking Toward the Cliff

This has been a sad week for our church family. We have just lost two members to death. My church is a very closely knit, family-focused church so the loss of one, let alone two, members of the same family is a blow.

As I thought about this event during this week, it took me back to the death of both my father and mother. When my father died I was 37, in the midst of a divorce, and

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My Dad 15 Years Before He Died

trying to raise three daughters alone. From January until July I traveled the 100 plus miles to visit every Wednesday with my father. He was dying of a lymphatic cancer and at 80 years of age he had made the decision not to undergo any more chemotherapy. His first treatment left him sick and emotionally destroyed. “No more,” he said, and in his particular understanding of life, he knew the treatments would ultimately kill him; so with my mother’s blessing he stopped treatment. That meant that every Wednesday when I went to visit I would know that his health was not as strong as it was the week before. I was slowly walking toward the cliff beside him. Our visits were pleasant with him telling stories about his boyhood and the farmland and woods that were truly his home. By the last visit I found that my robust, outdoors-man father was in bed covered with a sheet. His now shrunken body was a boy’s size and he was curled in a fetal position in the bed. He fluttered his eyelids for a moment when I spoke but there was not much else. I sat with him talking to him about the girls’ events at home until it was time to leave. As I moved the chair back, reached for his hand, I said, “Goodbye, Dad,” and left his room. Always before as I departed I’d said, “See you next week, Dad.” In that instant when I heard my words coming back to me off the bedroom walls I knew this was the last Wednesday. Two hours after I got home the call came from my mother. “Your father passed about thirty minutes ago. It is done.”

Over the years I have been so comforted by the memories of those long drives and quiet Wednesdays with my father. But nothing prepared me for the sensations and feelings when I stepped off the cliff with my father; he going to a different life and I dropping into the pain of intense emotional loss. My father was the quiet, always there, rock at the base of my life. We weren’t close at the usual chit-chat level but were extremely close in his understanding of who I was. I had for six months been preparing for this moment… and then it was there and I was not prepared!

My mother’s journey was different and I believe I’ve shared some of it before. I was now 69 and my mother agreed with us that the time had come for her to leave the

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My Mother With the Corsage the Year before She Came to Live with Sy and Me

independence of Senior Housing. She would be coming to live in my family home with my husband, Sy, and the various grandchildren and great-grandchildren that would weave in and out of our lives. We had seven years of walking with my mother slowly down the road until she went crazy one night, a week after Hospice came in for the second time. Next morning I administered the pill that would calm my mother and a day later the decision was made to put my mother on morphine drip to ease the fear as congestive heart failure took over. The crazy night was Wednesday and by that Sunday, Easter Sunday, my mother passed away. I believe she fought the journey all those last days. I think I have recently told you about the undertakers coming to remove my mother right in the middle of

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Easter Dinner and the Pass-Through Window is Behind Daughter Elizabeth, Son-in-law Bert, Grandson Robbie and Daughter Cora

Easter Sunday dinner. They had to take her from her bedroom across the living room which was on the other side of the dining room wall with a large pass-through in that dividing wall. They were so quiet that my family never knew, as we all sat at the Easter feast that she was being taken out. Only Sy and I could see her leaving.

I never had a chance to grieve in the moment. I didn’t think I needed to—I’d had seven years of knowing this day would come. But nothing prepared me for the time when I was between Easter Sunday services at my church and called home to see how my mother was doing. Her caretaker answered the phone and said she was doing fine; but then suddenly said, “You’d better come now!” I knew she had just passed. That wrench to the heart in that moment remains indescribable, at least in my vocabulary.

My husband, Sy’s death is told in my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love

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My First Published Book

Story: A Memoir. I had lengthy preparation time for the deaths of both my parents. But Sy’s death came like a knife cutting through the dark of the night; no light anywhere and everything gone and silent.

I share these three scenarios, not because I want to be morose but because even though we are often told that you can’t prepare for a loved one’s passing, we think when we have months or years before it arrives that we will be ready. So I’m suggesting in those instances where you have time, try not to worry about all the details and how bad it is going to be when they are no longer with you. Spend your love and thoughts and time on being with them wherever they are in their journey. The moment you both jump off that cliff is the same whether you have had time to prepare or you are blind-sided. The moments of loving together will ease a bit of the pain of the jump.

If you care to share some of your experiences of loss I would be happy to listen. You can reach me on my website www.jessiemaykessler.com and use the CONNECT button to get to me. While you are on the website check out the “Whimsy” at the bottom of the training page.

Is Life a Giant Shopping Trip?

Recently, I decided to fire up my Impreza and make the long trip from my home to

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This Granny Would Have a Dog in her Lap

the new digs of friends of mine who had moved recently from their stand-alone home on Cape Cod to an assisted living apartment in Bunker City, Massachusetts, to be closer to their children. Many of you know that I am no longer a “spring chicken.” In fact, I’m not too far away from “the rocking-chair Granny.” I programmed my iPhone the night before to talk me through the trip. I felt very confident as I slipped into my relatively new car, set things up, and pressed the buttons on the dashboard, so my Blue Tooth system would take over feeding me directions. After thirty minutes of wasted time on the street in from of my house, I said, “I’ll wing it.”

Well “winging it” consisted of trying to remember how we used to drive to my

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Howard Johnson’s Restaurant in Concord, Massachusetts Some Years Ago

mother’s house in Massachusetts and then modifying it to take me into the big city, which we used to do when I was a child. Of course I chose the longer route with less traffic. As a senior my response time is slow, so cars weaving in and out can drive me to distraction. The nice part about the whole trip was I discovered, that although some of the roads have been up-dated, enough of them still had the same houses or the curve of the road was the same and the Howard Johnson’s where my Dad would always stop for ice cream is still a restaurant of sorts. Lots of memories swirled as I drove.

So how is life a giant shopping trip? Well, when we go to the mall to purchase something, we shop in different stores depending on where we are in our life’s

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Toys R Us Similar to the One Where My Mother First Took my Two Younger Daughters

journey. As children we head to, or plead with, Grandmother to take us to Toys R Us. Then, when we are older, we hopefully have saved some of the baby-sitting money so we can head to the store with the short skirts and the sparkling, dangling jewelry. Then it may be off to college and the clothes are scruffy—Old Navy type or in my day, Sears. Next, it is to look at all the bridal dresses and maybe try on a few. Before you know it we are shopping at Motherhood and hoping that we can find something that still makes us look “cute.” By now, with three kids in tow, Walmart looks pretty good and just right for the budget. As we watch our children prepare for their futures, the stores are more of the funky variety or the professional suits and Staples for office equipment. Finally, for us seniors, it is usually count the pennies and wait a month until we can get that one splurge of a new blouse or pair of slacks.

As we no longer shop in the store we used to shop in three years ago, we would

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Bride in the Bridal Shop

never think about going back to Toys R Us or in the Motherhood era we wouldn’t go back looking at bridal dresses, so why do we find it so hard to move forward as we reach the rocking-chair stage? I’m open to your suggestions because I too look back and fondle in my mind all the good old times that took place back there. Why can’t we simply recognize that we are now shopping in a different store than the one we visited three years ago? By this reluctance to move forward we lose a lot of the joy of the moment. What holds us to the past? Why do we seem to run out of excitement when we get to the rocking chair?

Back to my friends! If you have read or are going to read my IMG_20180128_153915932first book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, you know that I was married to a minister during my first marriage and we were involved with the church in Grows Town, Connecticut. This is where these people became my friends. Then our lives divided and they went to New York State. Later, when my second husband, Sy, and I were taking over my mother’s summer cottage on Cape Cod, we ran into them in a restaurant. Their opinion of my first husband, Harvard, was much the same as mine, so they were delighted to meet Sy. When Sy passed away, Sarita was right there with hand written notes, cards that she had

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One of Sarita’s Handmade Greeting Cards

made herself, little gifts, and computer letters giving me encouragement and support. Her husband, Bard, offered support by giving me uninterrupted time with Sarita. I have remained close to this couple through the ensuing years.

At this life’s junction, Sarita and Bard are not in the best of health, and with finances as they are, they have had to move into a small assisted living apartment in Bunker City. This is such a sad step for Sarita. My trip was a reflection of my concern with her sadness at leaving everything that she had known for so long. When I got to their apartment, they told me that Bard was having a showing of his photos. They were on display in the common areas of the residence and their adult children were downstairs to help with the showing. We went down to see the show. As people came and went, I saw Sarita in her wheelchair become alive again as she visited and explained her husband’s photographs.

It is the people of each era in life that make each of the stores we shop in have meaning and it is apparently the loss of those people that pulls us back to what came before. If we could face each day as if it was totally new with new adventures, it wouldn’t matter if it was rocking-chair time or Toys R Us time.

Now you’ve read my version; why do you think we dread the rocking-chair so and spend so much time in the memories that came before? What if “the passing over” was simply our going to shop in a new store? I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at my website www.jessiemaykessler.com and talk to me through the CONTACT button.

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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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

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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

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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!)

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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!”

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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 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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.