The Weight of Family Messages

This particular blog is going to be more about the author, me, than about the characters in my first book, The Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir.

 I was about eight years old on the particular day I have in mind. It was a warm, bright, sunny day early in the summer with a sky of crystal clear blue. I told you

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Similar to my Forsythia Bush

before that my father was the landscape instructor at the community where we lived and therefore the gardens around our house were lovely. There was a large forsythia and bridal wreath bush at the east side of our house with the garden proper fanning out from these two foundation plants. I was in my pajamas and had crawled in under the cascading yellow forsythia bush where I had nestled down in the violets that filled in the unused patches of Daddy’s garden. I could small the warmth of the earth mixed with the dew of the morning and there was no other place in the world that I wanted to be. I could dream about anything here. My mother’s voice pierced the reverence of the moment with, “Birdie, where are you? You haven’t washed or dressed for the day and your breakfast is still on the table. It is almost 9:00 am. It’s time for you to come in here and get ready for the day!”

I was silent, holding my breath. Would she go away?

“Did you hear me?”

Reluctantly I responded, “Yes, I’ll be there in a minute.” I can’t remember now whether I waited long enough that there was another call from my mother but what I do remember is how I hated to leave that relaxed place of freedom and beautiful place for dreaming.

In a past blog I have talked about my maternal grandmother and how she supported her six children by washing clothes for a living out of the basement of her home, in

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The Basement Laundry Room

Medford Massachusetts. And I shared with you that in her own words she admitted that she was so exhausted by the end of her days, stirring clothes in soapy set tubs or bent over the ironing boards pressing fine ruffles, that she was unable to snuggle her little daughter. Their intimate times were as she crawled into bed at night and held her sleeping baby girl. So the message of hard work, done on a regular schedule, goes way back in my family. It was as if work was the passage to the wherever this life was taking all of us.

I was about ten years old when my sister, PollyAnne, cornered me and said, “Hey,

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The Davis Farmhouse which Stood South of the Apple Barn 

you know you are old enough you should think about getting a job. You can pick up apples at Davis’s apple orchard just like Owen and I did when we were small. If you want to go to college you’re going to have to earn some of the money, you know.” I knew what she was talking about because sometimes she and my big brother Owen did go and work in the apple orchards. It took me awhile but I finally cornered a girlfriend and we did go and pick up dropped apples after school and on the week-end. That first three dollar pay checked was such a prize.

Now I want to move much later into my life. My family of daughters was pretty well images PollyAnnes Hand knit mittens 10 20 2017 (2)out of the house by now and my sister PollyAnne and her husband Bud were driving up from Tennessee to spend a few days with my husband Sy and me. My brother-in-law drives a bit in overdrive (that is driving right over the tops of the other cars) and they made the trip in two days and an overnight. Polly hadn’t been in the house very long when she said, “Want to see the Christmas mittens I was working on during the trip up?”

My response was “Sure, but you were knitting in the car while it was moving?”

“Of, course! You remember Mother always said you shouldn’t have idle hands.”

“But in the car?!!”

“Of course, I always knit in the car.”

Now let’s move forward again to the point where my mother has come to live with

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Mother with my Dog Cara Cozy

Sy and me. We have moved from our retirement community home to the old mill house on Hopi Street. I have clients to attend to, my grandchildren and family are in the apartment above my head, I sing in the church choir, listen to a daughter in a frustrating marriage, write a column, and attend to the housework of our home as well as my mother’s care. One day Mother drew me aside and as if she were sharing a secret she said, “Sweetie, if you don’t slow down and take some time to rest I’m fearful you are going to get really sick.”

I wanted to scream back at her, “And who made me this way?!!” But I mumbled something about time to rest would come later.

Well, age-wise the time has come to slow down, but I have so much to do before they turn the lights out for me; and as my body begins to suggest that maybe it is time to slow down I can’t seem to shake those old weighty messages of no idle hands or hours for that matter. After this kind of a life and these family messages how do you learn to play?!!

I’m wondering: Do any of you reading this have the same problem with a weighty family message that holds you back from something that would be better for your health or wellbeing? Do you maybe have a vice induced from struggling with one of these subtle family messages? What is it?

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This is my Play?
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Can You Picture It?

images couple fighting 10 6 2017The partners in this new couple-ship have been through some nasty times with their previous marriages. She was abused emotionally and once in awhile struck repeatedly for no good reason. He came home from his nine-to-five job to find his two children still in school clothes, or not at home yet, and nothing for the supper. His wife was out of it on the couch. So, let’s move forward in time.

We find this couple not yet a couple but in a groupimages divorce support group 10 6 2017 for divorcing or newly divorced couples. It was almost love at first sight. Within a short time they discovered that they were both the responsible ones from their previous living situations and had children to be raised. So was it love at first sight or need of support for one of the biggest jobs any human being is asked to accomplish; to raise five girls into relatively stable and productive women? I know because I lived it that it was first love, and then responsibility.

Scan0004 (2) Sy and Jessie early in thier relationship 10 6 2017.jpgThese two were so excited that they had found someone to love them, which they had never dared dream would happen, that they sometimes were not tuned into the rumblings that were going on around them as the girls began to find their places in the newly blending family. First the couple heard one set of children talk about what fun they had going to the animal farm; pop-corn, cotton candy, petting the animals and staying in a hotel at night. Then the comeback from the other group of girls was, “My Daddy has a boat and we go sailing every weekend!” The next round in this emerging war was about how smart each side of the family was and how stupid they thought their counterpoint sisters to be. By now the couple is realizing that this little cozy happy family wasn’t so happy. But what to do?!

The answer is simple: diversion. And we decided to set up diversion by building a new history. In A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, my first publishedBirdAndDragon_FrontCover_33 book, you will find that we started with a walk at the local arboretum. Next, my soon-to-be husband, Sy and his ex-in-laws, invited all of the children for a picnic and kite flying afternoon. At Halloween the children all went to stay for the weekend with Sy’s ex-in-laws while we had some moments for a trip to my sister’s in Vermont. Then at Christmas we forced all the girls to go on a hunt for the perfect Christmas tree and at home all the fun of digging out the old Christmas decorations and putting the chosen ones on the tree. Those decorations came from both sides of the family and gradually the children over the years chose which ones became part of the new family. In my book you will also read that on that first Christmas my children had been brought up with gifts in shoes like the Europeans, and his children knew about stockings stuffed by Santa Claus. The next Christmas it was all stuffed stockings hung up on the fireplace mantle in our mutual new home.

We took the girls to the Children’s Museum in Boston and later to the Museum of Fine images meuseum of Fine Arts in Boston MA 10 6 2017Arts in Boston, among other trips. That’s where all of the girls wanted to go look at the mummies while one only wanted to go to the gift shop. But what our girls didn’t realize was that we parents were helping them build a future together instead of leaving them to build a battlefield out of old memories. I think most couples don’t recognize or are too self-absorbed to realize that children don’t have the capacity to build a future together. And just because a couple has found solace and support in one another doesn’t mean that the children are gaining much of anything out of this new union until the parents begin to “parent them.” The old system of “I’ll raise my children and you raise your children” does not work, People!! “Wait until your father gets home,” really has never worked, either. Both parents have to parent as the need for this direction appears. Children need to see by example: respect between the couple, and then growing respect for the children, and finally, respect between the children. It takes fortitude and time—lots of time!!

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The reward comes when Sy has passed on and—now picture it—the oldest daughter, my stepdaughter calls and says, “I’m just calling to see how you are doing. We haven’t talked in awhile. Call me when you can. Love you. Bye.”

Merlin Books Magic

One of the chapters in my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A birdanddragon_frontcover_33Memoir, talks about my husband Sy and I, with little or no training, starting a bookstore, but I don’t share much about what actually took place in that bookstore. We very quickly shifted from being just a bookstore with the best-selling conventional books of the day, to a store that carried self-help books: books on healing, crystals, astrology, Wiccan, out-of-body experiences, time travel, past-life memories and so much more. Once you have the books in the store than you need the teacher to teach and explain. That is where Whitley Dresser became a member of our team–or perhaps better put, our wizard.

With all these interesting people moving through our store I also became a student. One of the first things I remember Whitley telling us was that the mind actually can direct events in real time. When he learned this he was a young man driving along a back road in rural Vermont and in a rush to get to his destination. There was a hay truck in front of him driving as only a farmer can do in Vermont and Whitley was running out of patience. He yelled out to whoever might be listening, “For God’s sake, truck, get out of my way!!” Just as the words left his mouth he saw the truck swerve, tilt to one side and go off the edge of the road. Fortunately for all concerned it was not a big drop but the truck landed on its side in a pasture and the driver had some trouble getting out. Of course then everyone had to wait for the tow truck, men to right the truck and restack the hay, while Whitley was ashamed of himself, amazed at his power, and much later arriving at his destination than he would have been if he had been patient.

Before Whitley joined our teachers, there was a man Richard Roess who taught astrology for us for the first year. It was here that I learned about the birth chart of an individual as being the blueprint for a person’s life. Not everyone lives out their chart as it is laid out, but many of us do indeed have our “walking papers” given to us at birth. We can choose to grow into much of what is in the chart or not as we please. I now use the astrology birth chart for each new therapy client that I take on because it points to where the individual has been wounded, what things are necessary to help them heal, which parent is a problem to them, or perhaps some other event that has hurt them. It also shows who they are likely to attract as a partner and where their talents lie hidden. (The link is to my web page, click on ABOUT and then Training and it will take you to a birth chart.)

And then there were the classes on learning to trust one’s intuition and what a help that can be in times of trouble. I have talked about my maternal grandmother, Mary Emma, before. She had passed over many years before this event.

In the store we carried essential oils which can be used in many different ways,

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The Essential Oils in the Lower Right of Picture

perhaps most often in diffuses as aroma therapy. On this particular day I was on duty alone in the store and suddenly developed tremendous and painful gas cramps. Oh, I so wanted to run to the ladies room but there was no one to take my place at the front desk. I writhed in agony for a bit and then remembered that the essential oils were there on a front table and maybe one of them would help. “Gramma” I called out, “which oil will stop these cramps?” Clear as a bell I got back, “Peppermint.”  I walked toward the table carrying on a conversation in my head with her by saying, “But you know I really like Wintergreen better.” I had no more than finished that thought when I heard in her voice loud and clear “Peppermint!!” I did as I was told and the cramps subsided in minutes. Later, when I was changing the arrangement of essential oils I picked up the printed material that had come with them. And there in large print and underlined were the words “Wintergreen in this format is a lethal oil. Never take it internally.” Thank God for my grandmother and our mutual intuition!!

And my last story circles around Whitley and our sacred crystal. In my book A Bird and the Dragon I talk about Grampa Joe and the fact that he gave us a big crystal that he and his wife Gramma Bootsie had picked up on one of their many trips. The

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Grampa Joe and JessieMay

surfaces of the crystal points were covered with raised triangles and in the metaphysical world these are known as the ‘recorder crystals.’ Each triangle is believed to be a bit of information programed into or onto the crystal for others to discover at a later date. One day Whitley came meandering into the store a bit before his scheduled shift

Recorded Triangles on  a Record Keeper or Recorder Crystal

and walked over to the crystal and put his hands on it. He jumped back but with his hands still on the crystal and began almost chanting all the things he was seeing as he held this stone. From what I could gather he was talking about a civilization that was gone, but I would guess was somewhere in South America. He finally pulled away from the crystal, acted a bit drunk for a moment, and then said, “Don’t ever let anyone who is not educated in these affairs hold this crystal. It is much too powerful for most.”

This is the crystal that was stolen from the store just before we closed out the store and it was the only crystal never returned. I so often wonder what happened to that crystal and the person who took it. Did they know what they had? Did it cause them problems? Did it help them in their life’s journey?

Ah, another mystery; part of the magic of Merlin Books.

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The Outsiders

My book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir is about the love story birdanddragon_frontcover_33between my second husband, Sy Kessler and myself, but it is also about the little details that go into taking two damaged families and combining them successfully into one family. We still have the holiday celebrations together even after Sy’s passing! You may find I paint a rosy picture of this family-building in my book and I never really talk about the two parents who became the outsiders to the new nuclear family. Sometimes these people wreak havoc on the newly constructed family. This didn’t happen in our situation but the boundaries of the new family need to be clear and defined and the love strong and full. The following stories I tell in the hope that an Outside parent will set aside their hurts and focus on the needs of their child.

When I was still alone in Grows Town with my three girls they would visit their father, Harvard Lesser, in his home about two blocks away. When they got back to me they were giddy, wound up tight, and had no interest in the rules that had been set in my home. I would actually have to say, “You are now home. When you are in Daddy’s house you live by Daddy’s rules. When you are in my home you live by my rules.” And it usually took a day for this reminder to set in. Actually, this rule ‘my rules in my house, their rules in their house’ works well even with friends and grandparents. Don’t hesitate to use it. Children need things pretty specific.

Both of our outside parents were not really interested in the daily grind of raising

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Inside the Crystal Mall 

children and so visitation from Harvard was weekly, but visits from Sy’s ex-wife, Min were at her convenience. As the girls got a little older, Harvard’s visits consisted of picking up Elizabeth and Felicia after school and driving them to the nearby mall. They told me that he would give them money and send them off to shop, while he either sat in the lounge area or found someone in the stores to talk to. From my perspective this was not really relating to them and I think they felt the same way. When we became aware of this style of visitation we talked to the girls about the fact that they could not always have whatever they wanted. Asking Harvard to limit the amount of money he spent on them didn’t change anything.

One Christmas as the blended family was opening presents under the tree, Felicia

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One of Felicia’s Six Bikinis

opened her box from her father and sat for a moment, I think wondering if it was alright to be gleeful. What she did was to show her box with its six little bikini bathing suits inside. Sy looked at me and frowned. He didn’t have to say it. Why did a girl of ten need six skimpy bathing suits from her father? When we asked Felicia, she said he got them because she wanted them. This pattern of the Outsider buying love is all too familiar to other blended families and it is a shame for what the child wants is really to talk to and share daily events with their outside parent. They want to be seen and heard not bought. And it also teaches them that the supply of money is endless.

Over time we found that although Harvard was getting a tax break because of

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The Covert War Between a Divorced  Couple

child support he was not paying any of the medical expenses on my children. Conversations with Harvard on this matter got nowhere.  Finally Sy put my girls on his insurance plan and the matter was closed. But there are a lot of families today that can’t possibly afford to do that and the children suffer. I sense this shirking of responsibility relates back to the covert war that can continue between the divorcing parents. But the only ones that this hurts are the children.

There are other stories but that is enough on Harvard. When it came to visitation with Min she would call beforehand to schedule a visit outside the house. That was fine. Sometimes when the visit time arrived she didn’t show. This was so painful for me to watch and have to help smooth over. I’m sure that these Outside parents had no concept of what they were doing to their children’s sense of personal value.

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I was Stirring a Pot with Min’s Spoon on Her Stove

Two incidents with Min come to mind. Sy and I were engaged to be married and it was during a school vacation. I was spending time with Sy and his girls in his home. I was busy getting breakfast when Min opened the front door and walked in. Here I am busily stirring something on her stove, in her pot, with her spoon. Talk about feeling awkward! She apologized and said she thought everyone was out of the house. I sort of apologized for being there and she waved off my comment. We struck up a short conversation. Annie, Sy’s youngest daughter, was standing by me as I was working at the stove. The moment her mother and I sat down to chat Annie crawled up into my lap. Min and I only talked for a few minutes and then it was time for her to leave. When she stood up I whispered to Annie, “You need to say goodbye to your mother.” Annie froze and squeezed my hand. Min and I talked a bit longer and then Min moved to leave the room. I bent down to Annie and I said, “You need to go say goodbye to your mother and I will hold your hand and walk with you over to her.” With this safety net, Annie complied and said her goodbyes. I was stunned!

The other incident is equally painful. Min had scheduled an appointment to take the girls out and both girls were excited and busily preparing to go. If you have read my book A Bird and the Dragon you already know that our back kitchen door opened onto a long platform up one story from the garage floor. It took us a long time to get everything put away on that first move-in together so the garage door

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Annie Stood Inside the Open Garage Watching as Her Sister Cora Ran Out the Front Door and into Their Mother’s Car

was often open and you could see who was in the car that drew up to the door from that platform. Min arrived. Cora the older daughter went racing out the front door to greet her mother. Min ushered her into the car, put the car in reverse and drove away. While this was happening, Annie was standing on that platform in preparation to go down and join her mother. You could see Annie’s little shoulders droop and I heard her quietly say, “What about me?”

I know there are reasons that there are divorces but that outside parent can affect a blended family in so many ways. I do wish the Outside parent would think about how their behavior affects and shapes their child.

Parenting doesn’t stop with the divorce decree.

Reaching Through The Veil

When I set out to write my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir I had two reasons in mind. One was to prevent myself from going into a birdanddragon_frontcover_33massive depression on the first year anniversary of my second husband Sy’s sudden death, and the other reason was to leave the love stories for Sy’s only biological grandson to read when Robbie became an adult. So I am sure people by now know that A Bird and the Dragon takes my marriage to Sy from the first days of meeting him to the last days of his life. And in those horrible days after the death, adjusting to my new life, I pretty much assumed that our days together were over. What I have found is that the days of physical contact are indeed over but the days of emotional and spiritual connection are strong and well.

I did have some warnings that he was not going to be with me forever but as most people do I turned them away and forgot. It is only looking back that I can see clearly that he was starting that new kind of communication. The biggest warning came in the summer during the time we were living in our summer cottage, between selling or big family house in Nerme, CT and building our dream senior retirement home in Forest North, in Center Town, CT. Sy was always in charge of the big purchases in our lives together: the cars, the houses, the taxes, the securities. I was in charge of those domestic expenses that usually pertained to inside of the house or to the children. We discussed most of these transactions but on this particular day we were driving in the car from our summer cottage to view the new house and out of the blue Sy said to me, “You will need to start saving for a new car.” My mind went around inside my head about three times thinking, ‘That’s not my job it’s yours.’ But I never said a word. Then the next thought was ‘that’s weird.’ But again I said nothing nor ever spoke about it.

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The Husband I Talk to at Night

In these last almost four ensuing years I have learned that in the first year after he passed he was very distant. I felt all alone and lost most of the time. I was in a new town, in a new house with only one close friend in the community. And he was gone!! But over time I began talking to his picture on my bedside stand at night as I crawled into bed. I’d talk to him and then say good night.

My mother who passed away three years prior to Sy’s passing had a very distinctive body odor. One night when I was crawling into bed, I could smell that smell and so I said, “Hey, Mom, have you come to visit me, too? Did you come along with Sy?” And to him I said, “You can’t go anywhere without her!!” Clear as a bell I got back. “You know she’s afraid to make the journey alone.” Now I have to tell you that Mom adored Sy so this was not such a strange encounter. We three settled down for a few moments together and then they both were gone and I was off to dreamland.

I’ve had other experiences like this with one or the other of them. My Dad has even gotten into the picture a few times, years ago. Right now he is pretty busy trying to keep my mother out of trouble, I’m sure. But all of this is preamble to what happened yesterday.

That day came yesterday when I had to go purchase that new car. And, (no I didn’t get much money saved for the car), but the miles on her were telling me it was time. I talked it over the night before with Sy and he agreed that it was more than time. So the evening before closing down the lights for the night I asked Sy to go

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This is Similar to My New Car

with me next day and just guide me through the process. On the way to the dealership I asked again for him to be around and watch that I made wise choices. I had done my research so had some idea of what I wanted and what I wanted to pay. I got a very nice young man to work with through the purchase; and I have to report that I got my new car for exactly what I had planned to spend, got the car I wanted, and the salesman also guided me to a new insurance company where I will be saving a good bit on insurance. Now when Sy and I were married and involved in doing something big like this it always seemed to go smoothly, like he was my lucky penny. And I guess by reaching through the veil he is still my lucky penny.

I hope those of you who have lost your dear one have some of these same kinds of reassurances that the relationship is not over it has only changed in its physical dynamics. I would love to hear stories like this that some of you may be carrying. Please reach me at my personal email my2little25bird78@gmail.com.

The House as Sacred Symbol

Those of you who have been lucky enough to procure a copy of my first book, A Bird birdanddragon_frontcover_33and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, know that my nuclear family moved around quite a bit. I must accept the blame. It was my restless foot that created so much of that change. Houses have always held a fascination for me. I am a bit of a dreamer and I can always envision the family that might live within a particular house. Some houses actually call to me that they need love, attention, or they are just very happy with their inhabitants. Maybe it is that preverbal thought that whatever is across the street might be better. Whatever the issues behind this fascination of mine, I have come to realize that houses are actually sacred symbols for the container of our souls. In other words they stand as symbols for all that our bodies hold: physical, emotional, and spiritual.

Several years ago, one of my daughters, I think it was Felicia, was coming out of her teenage self-absorption and said, “Hey, Mom, what do you actually do behind your office door with those therapy clients?

Without thinking I said, “I rebuild houses!”

“Yeah, right,” she responded. “And I suppose you use hammer and nails. That’s why we are never allowed to interrupt you when you are with a client. It must be bloody in there!”

We indeed were messing with each other, but actually the analogy of a course of therapy sessions as a process of rebuilding the psychological house that we live in is a good analogy. With Carl Jung’s system of counseling, which I use, we go back to

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Psychotherapist Carl Jung in his Middle Years

find the foundation experiences that have wounded the client. You can’t build a house on a foundation that is part brick, part stone, and part concrete. These foundations age and deteriorate at different rates. The same is true of people. If the father was a missing quality in the family of the client, there is a wound there. If the mother was over-protective to the point of smothering, there is a wound. If the children had to raise each other because the parents were too busy, there is a wound. So in fact I go back to look at the foundations and then we build from there—the walls, the second floor, the attic if it is needed and the roof. And yes we put in many windows to let fresh air in and to get a better view of the larger world around the client.

When I went to my first therapy session with Rev. David Eaton, oh, so many years ago, I went because I wanted to tell the therapist how horrible my first husband was Grandmother Moody 1969and how he hurt me physically and emotionally. What I actually did was cry and talk about the fact that my grandmother had died, and because the day of her funeral was a mix of snow and freezing rain, my mother decided not to tell me, the mother of small children, about the event until after it was over. I cried to Rev. Eaton saying, “I feel like my Grammy is floating around out there somewhere and I don’t know where she is.” (You have met my grandmother, Mary Emma, in other blogs and in A Bird and the Dragon. She will also be in my next book Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long-Term Illness.) As a therapist I now know that I was really telling Rev. Eaton what he needed to know: that I was out of touch with my feminine side and that was why I wasn’t able to make the relationship of a marriage work. In my experience Grandmother stood for those feminine qualities.

These last four years since my second husband, Sy died suddenly, have been difficult. Life is beginning to be much happier but there are still low days. On one of those days I decided to look on Google Maps to see if possibly my grandmother’s

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My Grandmother’s House with its Modern Changes the Basic House is Still the Same

house had survived. She has been gone for a good fifty years. The maps took me right to 9 Gibson Street, in Medford, Massachusetts and there sits the house, still sending out warm waves of recognition to a lonely grandchild. There are changes, but the driveway is still the same and the spare lot to one side where we played as little grandchildren, is still there and you can see where Grammy had the space in the back for her vegetable garden every year until into her late eighties. I sat soaking it all in and the tears streamed down my face. The house is such a representative of the energies that lived inside it; truly a sacred symbol to the heart.

And I want to end this blog with an invitation to come work with me. I am taking on

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JessieMay Kessler Author/Therapist

new therapy clients during the month of October at a reduced rate, down to $60.00 per hour from my usual rate of $125.00 per hour. I do not take insurance since I feel that no one in the insurance world has the expertise to decide how much time each client should be allowed to have. What goes on in any session is between the client and the therapist. If you are interested in taking me up on this special offer, please reach me through my website by going to http://www.jessiemaykessler.com/ and clicking on CONTACT.

Let’s build some better houses together!!

Blowing My Own Horn!

Yes, I’m back. I’ve had a month of working on rewriting my second book Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long-Term Illness. We’ve gotten through the first edit and while a second editor takes a look, I must get back to my regular life. It was a vacation of sorts!!

birdanddragon_frontcover_33I thought since I’m still showcasing my first book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, which is a published book, I should tell you that it is available on http://www.amazon.com. In fact you can go to Amazon.com, choose books, plug in my name, JessieMay Kessler and the book will come up. You can look through the pages and read some of the story. It is also available to book stores and libraries at Ingram, Baker and Taylor, and Balboa Press. And while I have your attention, if you do get the book and read it please write a review on Amazon.com. You will find the place to do that on the second page associated with my book. Thank you in advance!!

This week as I get back into routine, I thought instead of my telling you about my book I’d share what others are saying about this quiet, but enlightening little story of invincible love between a second-time-around couple and their five complicated teen-age daughters. This book is actually the third in a series of three memoirs about my life and adventures. Above I mention Sissy, and she is the heroine of what should have been the first book in the series, but then there are publishers’ opinions, while Hunt the Beloved: to Find a Heart is the middle book of the series and has yet to be finished. So keep watching!! You can find all of this information on my website www.jessiemaykessler.com.

The first review I want to share is by Carole A. Scofield and she gives the book a five star rating:

In this divisive world we inhabit today, it was so refreshing to read about a couple who loved each other enough to blend their families together rather than adhering to the “your kids, my kids” approach. How often we hear of possessiveness of one’s own children and jealousy and resentment of the spouse’s children in blended families. In this family, it was all about cohesiveness; so refreshing, as were the anecdotes about the children as they matured and left the nest. The writing reflected warmth and great sense of humor, tolerance, love and understanding. Another strength; was the total honesty, the admitting that not everything or everyone was perfect. All the “warts” were exposed, but not in a negative manner, only to illustrate the fact that they were regular people trying to succeed in the world. Perhaps the most heartwarming aspect of the book was the love between the author and her now deceased husband. Although rare in the world today, it is something to strive for. I enthusiastically recommend this lovely book.

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This is the family when we started our journey!

Another review that caught my attention was from Necia Stopa who said it briefly but so well:

I truly enjoyed reading JessieMay’s book. It was a real “page turner.” I felt like she was sharing her personal story to me as her audience. I could relate to her personal journey and felt very connected to her trials and tribulations. I’m glad I have this book in my library, as I’m sure I will read it again!

And last but not least by any means, a review by Eva P. Menon:

This is a warm story of a family with many struggles and many triumphs. I loved “spending” a weekend with JessieMay. She is a masterful story-teller. Makes one think you are sharing her life as she tells the story. Great book for a book club to read! Many life lessons one can learn and discuss.

I could go on with the professional review that was done by Barbara Bamberger Scott for the US Review of Books but I don’t want to bore you with my jumping up and down, bragging, and shouting, “Go get this book and read it!” I think you will love it, especially if family in this present chaotic world is important to you.

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This is the family in 2012 and Sy, my husband, the hero of the book, took the picture. It was his last Thanksgiving!! Can you pick out the daughters as mature women?

See you next week with more stories. And if anything in this blog raises questions for you please do contact me.

Cats! Cats! Cats!

Before I really get into this blog I want to share that I’m taking the month of August off from blogging, column writing, and many other weekly tasks so that I

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Proposed Cover for Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long Term Illness

can focus on rewriting my second book, Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long Term Illness. I had a forty minute chat with a marketing person last week and he ended our conversation with, “I run into so many writers who are busy writing their second or third book when they haven’t even figured out how to market the first book.” Inside I said ouch, but outwardly I thanked him for his time. (Some of my problem is that people who have read A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir have forgotten to go to Amazon.com, click on the picture of the book which takes you to a second page, scroll down to where you are asked to write a review, and then enter their comments. Fifty reviews or more tend to get other publishers looking at your work.) Unfortunately, I’ve lived with me long enough that when the muses say ‘time to write’ I have to drop everything and go write—brilliant move or stupid. So this is the last My Little Bird Blog until September.

And now you are saying what does that first paragraph have to do with the title, Cats! Cats! Cats!? I’m a Jungian therapist and I do much of my counseling work through dream interpretation. If you are familiar with some of psychiatrist, Carl Jung’s concepts, you know that in dreams the dog represents the masculine energy and the cat represents the feminine energy that is within each of us, regardless of our sexual tag.

birdanddragon_frontcover_33As I write stories about the people in my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Stories: A Memoir, it is so easy to just write about my daughters but they all live fairly close to me so I have to be careful as to which stories I share. In my book A Bird and the Dragon I paint a lovely picture of a blended family. I now don’t want to upset those precious relationships. So I’m going to talk about the cats each girl seemed to claim in their growing up years. Perhaps these animals were mirrors for the girls or maybe they were the counterbalance.

When my husband Sy and I married, each daughter, with the exception of Felicia, had a cat that came with them. Cora the oldest daughter brought Casey.

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Casey as I Remember Him

Casey was a mature gray and white striped cat and an explorer. I’m not sure how he got to Sy’s previous family but I remember he certainly played the part of the older sibling in our blended family. He was also the first to depart from our lives. Funny or sad, depending on how you look at it, that Cora was also the daughter who would excuse herself from as many family activities as she could. She apparently wanted to cling to the previous family. I tell the story in A Bird and the Dragon of first having to tell her that her cat had wandered down the hill from our house onto the main street below and had been killed. Then I walked with her to the spot where he lay and offered to carry him home. She told me no, Casey was her cat and she would carry him herself. I still have a vivid memory of walking behind her, her sturdy body dressed in a winter jacket, arms outstretched as she carried her precious cargo home. The same acceptance of the inevitable and the fortitude to handle the situation travels with her today. When we got back to the Ugly Green House all the girls came outside while Sy dug a grave for Casey beside the garage, said a few words over him, and we gave Casey up to God.

Next in our line-up is Pussy, May’s cat. She entered our lives back in my first marriage. May was at the age where both Harvard, my first husband, and I felt she needed an opportunity to care for someone beside herself. When we asked if

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Pussy in her Prime

she wanted a kitty she jumped for joy. I believe Harvard found that the nursery school teacher had two fluffy long haired gray kittens and she was willing to give one up.  He chose one of the kittens bringing it home to May. I can still see her hugging, to the point of squishing her new cat, dropping it and jumping up and down in glee, and then picking up and hugging the kitten again. When we asked what she would call the cat she said Pussy. Puss lived a long time and she, too, was a wanderer. One summer Harvard and I had packed up the old Mercedes ready to head to Maine and the cat was also a passenger in that ancient car where the rear seat slipped around. Harvard had a propensity for bargains! Puss was not happy to be a traveler and was making a lot of noise, so we stopped at the Mystand overlook to give everyone a rest. We had gotten out leaving the children with the cat. The back window was open and next thing we heard were the girls screaming that Puss had jumped out. Harvard and I looked for Puss for several minutes while we kept the girls in the car, it being too close to the main highway. In a short while Harvard said, “Well, we have to keep going if we are ever going to get to Maine.” The girls and I were heartbroken but he was adamant.

We had our vacation in Maine and I don’t remember May making much fuss about losing her cat. She still is a bit ‘easy come, easy go’ about things that would tear me apart. It was about two and a half years later when our neighbor called one afternoon and asked, “Didn’t you have a gray long haired cat with a white mark on her chest?” I respond, “Yes, but she ran away.” They said, “You had better come take a look. We have a gray long haired cat sitting in our kitchen.” May and I went to see. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I called, “Puss, Puss?” The cat got up and sashayed over to me. May was on her in an instant. How Pussy got from where she left the car to where we lived is mind blowing because she would have had to cross wetlands and skirt ocean inlets and we were just so glad to have her back. [On the map it doesn’t look very far but I doubt that she marched down Interstate I 95 to get back to us.] Puss was also the cat that when we left the Ugly Green House and built a new home on Lakeview, she would go back to the Ugly Green House. Because we were camping in the backyard of the new house without a telephone (no cell phones yet) the Ugly Green House owners would swing by and ask us to come and get Puss, once again.

Elizabeth was a little girl when we lived in Grows Town and I was still in that first marriage. The front door of our house had the sidelight windows down the side of the door. This fluffy three colored cat would come and sit in the bottom window. I didn’t pay much attention but soon I noticed there were dishes of milk out on the front steps. When I confronted my crew, May pointed to Elizabeth and said, “Elizabeth’s been feeding the cat milk and the dog’s food.”

I confronted Elizabeth and she confessed, “I thought if I fed her she wouldn’t go home again. Can we keep her?”

“No, we can’t keep her. She belongs to a family down the street,” I told Elizabeth.

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A close resemblance to Footsie. He apparently was a unique cat.

This went on for a while and the cat sat in our window for much of the time. (Today, Elizabeth is our family’s animal whisper.) Finally, I said to Elizabeth, “If you want to keep her we have to go down to the neighbor’s house and you have to ask the lady if she is willing to let you keep their cat.” Now Elizabeth was my shy child so I was amazed when she agreed to my terms.

We took the walk and Elizabeth manned up and asked the lady if she could have the woman’s cat. The woman hesitated for a moment and then said, “The cat belongs to my daughter who is away in her last year of college. I will have to check with her and let you know; but I think she isn’t going to be able to keep the cat where she is going and if you want her and my daughter agrees, you can have the cat.” I was dumbfounded and Elizabeth was overjoyed. We had to wait a week but by the time the final yes came Elizabeth had already made the cat a bed in her room. When the three colored cat was finally ours I asked Elizabeth what we were going to call her and she responded, “Footsie. She has big feet.” And indeed the cat did have five toes on each front foot and walked a bit like she had on snow shoes. Footsie lasted until we were living on Lakeview and Elizabeth was about to go off to college in Bunker’s Town. The cat contracted feline leukemia and was getting increasingly sick. I pleaded with Elizabeth to let us put Footsie down but Elizabeth said she couldn’t go there. So Footsie held on until Elizabeth was off to college and then I took her to the vet and she gratefully passed out of this world.

Felicia didn’t have a cat growing up. She has made up for it in her adult life but that story doesn’t belong here.

Annie’s cat was supposedly found under the nursery school building and Sy had

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Impy as a Kitten Found Under the Nursery School.

to help Annie capture the kitten and bring it home. Impy was also a gray and white striped cat, and friendly, full of energy like Annie. Impy was tormented a bit by the other cats—I guess it is called being ‘low man on the totem pole,’ somewhat like Annie experienced her place in the family. Impy was our “mouser” because someone left a newly dispatched mouse on the front steps of the Ugly Green House for my new clients to step over as they left a session. Hey, life comes and it goes. When Annie was off to college Impy contracted an abscess around his front fang and the infection passed up into his brain. It became the humane action to have him put down. All of the cats and the dog, Hobo, which you have read about in a previous blog, traveled to heaven from the back yard of Lakeview, in Nerme, Connecticut.  A family is just not a family without their animals! Do you agree?

We Mothers Can Never Win

birdanddragon_frontcover_33If you have read my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, you have met all of my children: Cora, May, Elizabeth, Felicia, and Annie. This week’s blog circles around Elizabeth and a social incident I had with her during her middle years at home with my husband Sy and me.

When I was a little girl and starting out on this long road of learning to socialize I would eventually get my courage up to bring a new girlfriend home for an after school visit. We’d arrive on the big yellow school bus and then I’d bring my friend into the house and back to the kitchen where my mother was ironing at the

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The Beginnings of my Social Career

old ironing board or starting preparations for supper. I’d introduce my friend to my mother and she would say hello and then offer an afterschool snack. Mother would stop what she was doing, fix the snack, and bring it to the table, all the while making small conversation with my friend. Sometimes she’d even sit down with us as we ate and continue to talk to my friend. After a while I became frustrated, and I suppose jealous, that my mother was so easily social while I struggled.

After a few years I learned that I could bring my friend into the front hall, drop our books on the bench there, and race up the front stairs to my bedroom. In a bit I’d find out what my friend wanted for a snack and go to the kitchen to get it, returning with a feast in hand. I’d managed to bypass my mother and I still had my friend’s undivided attention.

Now let’s fast forward to my daughter, Elizabeth. She also had some trouble

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Elizabeth as a Young Teen Ager

learning the ways of making friends and entertaining them. She would bring a girlfriend into the kitchen to meet me. I’d say hello and how nice it was to meet the young lady and then go back to whatever I was doing in the kitchen, all the while allowing the girls to go about getting their own snacks. One day when Elizabeth was a junior in high school she came to me and asked, “Why don’t you like any of the friends I bring home?”

I was stunned. “I like your friends, Honey. What makes you say that I don’t like them?”

“Well, every time I bring a friend home you say hello and act like you’ve got too much work to do and so don’t say much of anything to them. It looks like you don’t like my friends.”

At that point I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I think I chuckled and that made Elizabeth ever more annoyed. “Honey, there is a reason that I don’t spend a lot of time chit-chatting with your new friends.” And then I told her the story of feeling as if my mother stole all my girlfriends away from me until I figured out how to bypass her with the different kitchen routine.

I’m not sure if Elizabeth missed the point of the story or not but she replied, “But I want you to like my friends!”

You see, we try to cure the problems we had in our childhood so that our children won’t suffer what we suffered, only to find out that they want something completely different. It seems like we mothers can never win with our teenage children. Maybe boys are different. I only got to raise girls (see below) and later on, one grandson. What about you? Do you try to heal a sore spot in your history only to find that there is almost an opposite need in your child?

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Cora, Oldest Daughter
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May, Second Oldest
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Elizabeth, Middle Daughter

 

 

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Felicia, Next to Youngest Daughter
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Annie, Youngest Daughter