Discovering Your Family Lineage

birdanddragon_frontcover_33When you read my first book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir you will discover that Sy, my then husband and I took our daughters to many different places in an effort to help our two families blend into one family by building new common history. So when it came time to babysit the grandchildren the pattern was already established and we took Andrew and his sister Nicole to many different places. Andrew had a love of history and Nicole a love of art so we tried to alternate our adventures so that each child would have a chance to experience the things that stirred each of their hearts.

About a year before Sy passed away we decided to go to Concord Massachusetts, a

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Headstone for Ralph Waldo Emerson

town not too distant from the town in which I grew up, and investigate to see what we could learn. This of course was a trip for Andrew. We wound up investigating the family burial plot of Ralph Waldo Emerson. The children wandered around looking at the various family headstones and Nicole suddenly called out, “Gramma, wasn’t your grandmother named Mary Moody?”

I responded, “Yes, she was but why are you asking?”

“Because there is a Mary Moody buried here in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s graveyard.”

I said, “You’re kidding!”

“No, I’m not. She’s right here. Come see.”

I did go and look and there was the name but it couldn’t be my grandmother because the dates were off. Some other person investigating the gravesite overheard us and said, “Maybe you should go to the Emerson House and take the tour. They could probably explain if there is a connection.”

Now the children were ready for a treasure hunt. We went to the Emerson Memorial emerson_house0673-400 6 23 2017House and took the tour. There was an historical guide explaining and pointing out important features of the house. At one point Andrew got close to the docent and said, “I think we may be related to Mr. Emerson.” The docent replied that he couldn’t help us with that but there was a family tree in the gift shop that we could buy and the person there might be able to help us with our investigation.

Scan_0007 Ralph Waldo Emerson Tree.jpgWe bought the family tree and still were having trouble when the shopkeeper came and asked if she could help. We told her that we had found a Mary Moody in the family burial plot but the dates were wrong. She said, “Well Mary Moody, the aunt of Ralph Waldo, had a great uncle Joseph Moody, a minister and he was known as Handkerchief Moody.” I nearly gasped, because I had been brought up hearing all about Handkerchief Moody, and that we were directly related to him.

Andrew didn’t miss my intake of air. “What is it Gramma?” he asked.

images Ralph Waldo Emerson 6 23 2017 “Well, Honey, what the lady just said means that you and your sister Nicole are related to Ralph Waldo Emerson.”

“Are you sure?” Andrew asked.

“Yes, I’m sure. My grandmother, Mary Emma Moody used to tell me all about her people that came over from England and how they settled in New England, and among them was a minister who accidentally shot a man, and as his penitence he wore a handkerchief over his face because he felt he was not fit to be seen by God with an uncovered face.”

“Wow!! We’re related to Ralph Waldo Emerson. The man in the house said he was a big writer!”

“Indeed he was a great writer, a great thinker, a social engineer, and a supporter of

Grandson Andrew

the people of his time.”

“And he lived in this house?!”

“Yes, he did.”

“Boy is my teacher going to be surprised when I take that family tree and show her that I’m related to Ralph Waldo Emerson. I have to have the family tree because otherwise she’ll think I’m just making it up.”

Granddaughter Nicole

“No, you’re not making it up, Honey, and you have to remember that your sister Nicole is also related.”

“Yeah, I know!”

When we walked back to the car that afternoon I swear that both children had a bit of a swagger. It is very important to know that you have important people who have broken the path before you and that you too have the genes and potential to be an important contributing member of our society.

Have you ever had something similar to this happen to you?


Past Life Informs Present Relationships

As a therapist who writes about psychological issues I have to make the decision: do birdanddragon_frontcover_33I use client material or talk about my family members to illustrate issues. Since most clients come because they have been badly hurt one way or another in their families of origin I would be violating and re-wounding them to use their experiences. So…my grown children graciously have allowed me to use some of their material to illustrate concepts from time to time. You may or may not know that the girls’ names have been changed in my book The Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir. This gives each daughter a little privacy.

In years past I trained with Roger Woolger, a certified Jungian analyst, to do past life therapy. He has become an authority in this form of past life regression work. I did not finish the training because he believed that the way to free a person from the strangulation of past life energy was to have the client relive the trauma and release that captured energy by fighting, screaming, cursing, beating something—whatever

Felicia, Cora, Elizabeth, JessieMay and Annie

it took to release the charge. I have a hard time forcing someone to re-experience that kind of pain and so I backed away, but during the training I was required to do a lot of regressions with my fellow students. The upshot is I have experienced lives with all of my children including the adopted daughter and my step-children. Most amazing and informative! Let me share at least one of these stories. These stories have helped me better understand why my children respond to me in the ways that they do. Remember, I said at the start of this blog that past life informs present relationships.

The past life story scene opens with me as a very young wife standing at the door of a hallway and I am about to hand a bowl of hot soup to Whitley Dresser, the man images woman handing man a bowl of soup 6 16 2017who was our psychic reader in the book store, Merlin Books, that we owned in this present lifetime. In the story he was old and cranky and miserable to live with. He took the bowl of soup, and as it was too hot for him, he threw it in my face. I was hurt and outraged. When I could get away, I went to see my father who had arranged this marriage to this much older man. I told him how cruel my husband was and that I wanted to leave and come home. Life was terrible. He soothed me as best he could but told me to stay, that the old man would not live too much longer and then I would be financially well off. I grudgingly did what my father insisted I do.

Sure enough, death came after not too long a time and I was free and well to do. There was a young lawyer whom I had seen driving a single horse drawn cabriolet coach_15_sm Lawyers Paris Carriage in Past Life Regression 6 16 2017down our street in Paris, France and I loved the way he handled his horse and the gleam of his shiny black carriage. Soon we happened to meet and eventually married. The lawyer was Sy Kessler in this life. It was a rewarding life and we had a daughter and a son. Our time together was peaceful. As the children grew older I had less responsibility and so I began to write. I was rather good at writing and began to have my material published in the manner of the day, under a pseudonym name. I joined other writers and became enthralled with the accolades and the attention. Something made me think that I would have more exposure in England and so I left Sy and my home in France and went to England to pursue my career. My daughter (Elizabeth in this life) denounced me for leaving her father and I never saw her again after I left France. The son (Felicia in this life) was a bit more forgiving and would come once and again to see me in England. I actually did not fare well in England and died alone in a garret room of tuberculosis. I never saw Sy or Elizabeth again in that life.

Now the connections: When Whitely Dresser came to ask me for a job at Merlin Books I rejected him almost immediately. It was only after I could not get the man out of my head, something about him was familiar, that I asked him back to do a psychic reading for me. And as I say in the book, A Bird and the Dragon, he became the backbone of our store. Positive payback?!!

Next, Sy always told me that if he had not become an engineer because he was told that it was lucrative, he had wanted to be a lawyer. And even took some courses for a while after we were married to become a paralegal but found what he would be doing to be too boring.

In this life, when I asked Elizabeth’s father, the Rev. Harvard Lesser, for a divorce she simply turned away from me. As a child she was very close and in the book I refer to her as my apron strings child. This was crushing for me and doing this regression helped me better understand. She also in this life grew to be close to Sy and when he died she was tied up at work, did come to the memorial service, but skipped the casting of his ashes because she wanted to remember him as he was.

Felicia was a boy in the regression story but she was the son that stood by me in that story and she is the daughter in the present time story that stands beside me. She has even offered to be my caregiver when that time comes—similar to the regression story.

All of this past life work makes me believe there is much more to our existences here on earth than we see on a day to day basis. There are many other dimensions to us and to our world if we would but dare to explore.

Passion in Marriage

birdanddragon_frontcover_33Part of the job of a writer, especially of a self-published book, is to get the word out to the public. That involves passive advertising like my writing a blog each week about people or events that relate back to my first book, The Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir. The other effort needed is to do public speaking. I’m doing an Author Talk Monday evening, June 12, 2017, 6:30 p.m., at the Waterford Public Library, on Rt.156, 49 Rope Ferry Road, in Waterford, CT. Those of you living in the eastern half of Connecticut know where I will be and hopefully my other readers will get the gist of that talk with the story in this blog.

The title of my talk is “Sweethearts Forever.” Now, forever is a long time and those of you who are married are saying good luck with that topic! But what I want to bring to your attention is that there is passion in a first or second meeting. And when you are in your teens and early twenties, that passion is about sex and physical connection. As we age we begin to recognize that there is an emotional passion, and for some a spiritual passion. Believe me, emotional and spiritual passion lasts the longest—maybe forever.  When you are young and first in love you can hardly keep your hands off of each other. As we mellow we begin to recognize the comfort and lasting connection in a knowing glance given by a loving partner from across the room.

For my talk I had overlarge bookmarks made to help me get my point across to my audiences. It consists of a star of sorts and words. I showed it to Annie, our youngest daughter when she was here to get her opinion. She approved and we went on to other things. I wanted to show her one of the uses for the card and then I couldn’t find it. She asked, “What are you looking for, The Love Star?” I hadn’t given the bookmark a name but she was exactly right. It is a Love Star. This is what I’m calling emotional passion. There are certain traits that involved individuals need to have for sexual passion to move to emotional passion. That is what I plan to talk about on Monday evening. Oh, and by the way, any and all of you are invited to come.

Rather than blowing my whole talk here, instead of using the relationship between

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Mary Emma Gould Moody

my husband Sy and me, I’m going to talk here about the relationship between my grandparents. I’ve talked about my grandmother, Mary Emma so this is a peek into her more private life. I’ve had my house up for sale for two years now and with it not selling I began to realize for some reason my God wants me here, so I’ve been unpacking the books I’d cleared out of the living room in an effort to make the room less “dark and cluttered.” As I put books back on the bookshelves I found my grandmother’s book, Mary Emma of the Square House. I think I’ve mentioned before in my blog

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Charles Owen Moody


that my grandmother wrote a book about her life and when she sent it off to a publisher he sent it back saying the language was too old fashioned for him to risk publishing the book. She put it away and it saw no light until my cousin and his wife came across the manuscript. My grandmother’s middle son then stepped forward and encouraged the couple to edit the manuscript and he would help them financially to have it published. That was done and now each of her descendants has the story of Mary Emma’s life to hold in their hands and hearts.

My grandmother writes of her first meeting with Charles, my grandfather:

“While I was there, I joined an elocution class to which his children were going, {not children of Charles} and it was at a recital given by the teacher that I first met Charles.

“It was not a case of love at first sight. I knew nothing of the fine old family behind him, and saw only an unusually tall, blond and somewhat self-conscious youth. I think he was attracted by my ability to read and recite, rather than by myself.  He paid me some slight attention and I was unimpressed.”

Farther on my grandmother states, “I am sure I was not in love in a romantic sense. I simply liked him. I think he felt much the same toward me. We preferred each other’s company….One day he asked me to marry him; it was the thought of a home that won. I told him I would marry him if the time ever came that he could provide a home. …that night, I took the little gold pen that had been his last Christmas gift and wrote, “Mary Gould Moody.” I did not like the addition to my name, and I comforted myself before I slept with the thought that he never would be able to provide a home. ….I was wrong.”

Charles Moody passed away when my grandmother was about thirty-eight, the mother of five small children with a sixth on the way. She writes:

“The next night I sent again for the doctor… “He {meaning Charles} had been anxious about himself all this afternoon,” I said. “Of course he had not reason to be.”

“Oh, yes, he has. I don’t think he will live through the night,” {the doctor said.}

“I dropped where I stood. ‘I’m sorry,’ said the doctor, ‘but there is nothing I can do…’”.

“Toward morning the temperature began to go down and he was sleeping….

“That night the good Danish neighbor stayed with the nurse and they sent me upstairs to bed for the first time in ten days….

“Toward morning they waked me to ask for the fever tablets….

“Later he sent the nurse for me. Pulling me close to him he said, ‘May, something must be done!’”

“I cannot go over that dreadful day of March 17, 1910. He fought with everything he had but my Charlie went to his rest before it closed. The heart had failed to take the strain.”   

I hope that you can hear through Mary Emma’s words how their relationship moved over the years from the passion of youth, or apparent lack thereof, to the emotional passion of mid-life. I grew up knowing my grandfather Charlie, because my grandmother’s love for him extended past the fact that my mother never laid eyes on her father, with his passing before she was born.

And so I come back to my Love Star. The two most important things in that star are the Respect at the top of the star and Time at the bottom of the star. My grandparents had great respect for each other and I hope you can hear it through her limited words, here. Time can be seen in many ways. I am meaning in my talk, the time to devote to each other. This couple devoted time to each other around caring for and raising their children. Their life was really hard which you would learn if you had access to the book but they never blamed one another or belittle one another. They were honest and kind to one another. Those are the next two qualities on the Love Star that are essential to a lasting emotionally passionate relationship.

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The Waterford Public Library, Waterford CT., 49 Rope Ferry Road or Rt 156

See you at my Author Talk in Waterford on Monday, 6:30 p.m., June 12th and learn what are the last qualities needed to build a passionate marital relationship.





Love is Not Enough!

If you have been through a divorce or, worse, have lost a beloved spouse to death, birdanddragon_frontcover_33you feel emotionally very shaky about your worth and your ability to move forward in the world. Then, miracle of miracles, you meet someone special and the two of you hit it off very well. You seem to have a lot in common; you value many of the same things and as the relationship develops you find you can learn to like the things that are different about the two of you. He likes baseball: you’d rather stay home and read a book but the two of you find a way to compromise on these issues. This person seems like a perfect mate to help you raise your children. Your mother always told you to pick someone with common interests!!

Next, we bring the children together and they are tense at first but then they seem to find common ground and you think, ‘the expression that love is enough, seems to be true.’ That is until the wedding bells have rung and we all now live in the same house. So often a couple is so smitten with each other that they turn a blind eye to the tensions growing between the children. He says, “Give them time. They’ll figure it out.” So you look away and the troubles in the house grow larger.

No! They won’t figure it out because the children have never been in this situation where they now have to share their parent with someone else as well as share them with other children. (There could have been a second parent in the previous household but if it is a divorce these parents were not on equal ground and the children know this. With a death it is a bit different.) And you thought sibling rivalry was bad in your own first little family!! Children have to see the parents setting the path of communication, acceptance (and that is acceptance of the other person’s children), patience, and basically what you do in these relational situations. And then we come to that ugly word: structure. Yes, children need structure; sometimes only so that they have something to rail against, but it truly does make them feel safer. It is hard on you to hold the line but you must do that if you want well-functioning adults to come out of this combined household. The greater world doesn’t give in to temper tantrums.

And one other very important factor is that you need to set up activities that the whole combined family does together. Nothing glues a family together as well as

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Day Pond in Connecticut from the Parking Lot

building a common history. My husband Sy and I did many activities with our children to help start this process of common history. One event that didn’t make it into my first book, A Bird and the Dragon, Their Love Story: A Memoir is ‘bacon in the back seat.’ I believe it was the Memorial Day weekend and Sy and I had decided we would take the girls on a picnic. We had found a state park with a pond, picnic area, and space to play games if they so desired. With girls of their ages they wanted to lie in the sun and stock the boys—from the safety of their beach blankets.

images scallops wrapped in bacon 6 1 2017I got it into my head that one of the items on the picnic list was scallops wrapped in bacon. The girls had loved them when I had done them once at home so I started out to make these delicacies while Sy got stuck rounding up much of the rest of the picnic and the paraphernalia. And of course the bacon didn’t want to stay wrapped on the scallops and the scallops all wanted to cook at different speeds and it was becoming long and not so successful.  We finally got everything loaded into the red Chevrolet cargo van along with all the girls in bathing suits, with towels and extra clothes. As we drove toward the park the sky was getting darker and darker. I’m beating myself up

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Red Van Similar to the One We had for Our Picnic

inside because my need for perfection had set us behind by a good bit. Just as we pulled into the parking lot the sky opened up and it poured rain. You could hear the outraged disappointment from the back of the van. “We’re going to have to turn around and go home!” one girl said. Then I heard, “We drove all this way to go swimming and now we can’t! Some picnic!!”  Someone else said my exact thoughts, “What was all the bother for? The picnic is ruined.” And then my Beloved said, “What do you mean the picnic is spoiled? I’m not turning around and driving home!” I looked at him in surprise because he often wanted things to go “right.” And he said back to my glance, “We’re going to spread out the blanket in the back of the van, open the back doors so you can hang your feet out into the rain, and lay out our picnic there on the blanket.”

I think it was one of the best picnics we ever had. The girls got to giggling as they got

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Good Clean Fun

their bare feet wet and when they tired of that they curled up on the seats and told ghost stories, and gossiped and I was amazed. They needed structure: the picnic. Then they needed to see that a picnic could be done in a different way. And lastly they needed to see that the parents didn’t blame each other but came up with an alternative plan. There was no “drama!” Just good clean fun!! Yes structure, acceptance, and flexibility–you can survive a blended family.

Have you with blended families found these to be some of the problems in getting the family to run as a unit? I’d like to hear your stories.


Grief: However it Comes

birdanddragon_frontcover_33The title of my book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir almost tells you that there is going to be an ending in the story. And what I tried to focus on as I wrote was the little things that happened between my husband Sy and me as well as events around us that created our Love Story. Some of it has to do with the character of the people involved but much of it is just the nitty-gritty of two people living with five daughters all champing at the bit to be grown up and doing life their way.

Then we come to the end of the story and yet the story goes on in a different time and space. I don’t have to tell you that a sudden unexpected death was like some great force had taken my beautiful rug, called home, and torn it out from under me. An incident that you will read about in Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long Term Illness tells of me at the age of six having to go to the big city every three months to be checked over and to have blood drawn to ensure the doctors that I was indeed recovering from the Rheumatic Fever. This particular time the doctor was to

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A Doctor with a Syringe 

draw the blood and when he inserted the needle he caught the vein in my arm crosswise and the pain was excruciating and yet I didn’t cry. He pulled the needle back, apologized profusely, and tried again. By this time my arm was burning and aching. But I didn’t cry. Afterwards everyone told me how brave I was and I think that imprinted me with the message that I shouldn’t cry no matter how bad the pain. As a therapist I know otherwise but sometimes those old childhood lessons are stronger. So I didn’t cry much when Sy died. I anguished inside and then set to work trying to put my world back into some order. The fact that I wasn’t able to cry and flush my emotional system has driven a lot of that heart pain into my body, so that I’m in pain most days.

For about four months after he died I didn’t feel him anywhere around me. It was just a void; but then gradually I started to talk to his picture on the night stand beside where I sleep. I’d cry some but then move on to an accounting of the day’s events just as we used to talk at coffee time. One night when Annie, our youngest daughter was staying over with me to get me back “in order” and sleeping in the guest room, she called to me. “Are you talking to Dad?”

The Picture of Sy that I Talk to at Night

“Yes,” I answered a bit sheepishly.

And she responded, “I thought so because he hasn’t blinked my light, tonight.” (I knew she was referring to the fact that both my mother and Sy, who have passed over, will blink a light in my house whenever they want us to know that they have come for a visit. And they don’t use the same lights! I believe I’ve talked about this phenomenon in an earlier blog.)

Each day was filled with the have-to-does, groceries, meals, laundry, letters, and you name it. The pain in my mid-section didn’t go away and I questioned most everything I was doing or was going to have to do: Thanksgiving, first Christmas in a new home, dessert hour for my new neighbors, my daughter’s second wedding, the sources of money, the getting his will probated and the list goes on. By the time I’d gotten almost to that first year anniversary of his death I think the numbness was wearing off and the depression was coming. That’s why I started to write the book, to give me company in the old memories and to give Robbie, the youngest grandson, a grandfather he could hold onto as an adult. Actually it has given all of my children and grandchildren back their father and grandfather. Felicia, next to the youngest daughter, said to me yesterday, “Yeah, I’ve been reading the book, a little at a time, and it is so good to have Sy back even if it is only for a moment.”

But with all of these efforts and the struggles to get the book published and out to the public the pain had moved to the heart and was a low muddy river riding along at the bottom of my heart. I’ve thought about, I’ve even written about, what would happen to that heart if someone else should step into my life and I knew that the river would continue to flow, maybe a brook, but still there. I’m not one to take medication unless it is absolutely necessary and so I assumed that this would be the condition for the rest of my life.

Because I am associated with Hay House Publishers I get in my email most every promotion of an author or a person doing a workshop, or a health care product and some I look into and others I pass over. About three months ago, now, I got

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Bill Harris Founder of Centerpointe and the Holosync Solution

promotional material from a Bill Harris, founder of Centerpointe, in Oregon, offering me a chance to listen to his musical CD’s that were programmed to create new pathways in the brain and gradually help me to change my behaviors that were not really working well. In a sense his CD’s help the right and left hemisphere of the brain to begin talking back and forth. He promised all sorts of changes and like always I said “Yeah, Right!!”  But I signed up for his first set of CD’s and started listening. About three weeks into doing this daily routine I was putzing around the house doing my chores and I thought, “The pain in my heart; where is it? The pain has gone!!” And then I did another “Yeah! Right! Let’s wait until tomorrow.” And I checked in the next day and it was gone. Small wonder! Then I had the fear that I was going to forget Sy but that has not proven to be the case. Apparently my brain has recognized that grieving endlessly even if I’m doing it silently isn’t helping me. And I’m the one that is still alive and here on earth wrestling with the everyday. So I might as well begin to have fun with my situation.

I’m sharing this with you because you have to know that all of us grieve differently. There is sometimes a song, or a picture or a place or one of my children saying to me “Wear it well,” when I have bought a new piece of clothing, and I hear Sy’s voice and have to fight back the tears—just for a moment. Some people cry and moan, some get sick, some get angry at everyone most especially themselves; and those of you that are surrounding this person or are there yourself need to remember we all grieve differently and in our own time. I shared my experience with a girlfriend last week who lost her husband a few years before me and she looked at me and said. “Well, it’s been almost four years for you, and the pain should be easing up.” I didn’t know there was a timeline and I really feel that the Holosync CD’s have played a large part in the change. Bless the creator of this material.

If you wish, you can share your own grief story with me. Please do. I know the drill!!

Prebirth Imprints Set Core Beliefs

birdanddragon_frontcover_33If you have read my first book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir you have stumbled across the fact that I was afraid of a lot of things through the story. First I was afraid that Sy, my second husband might be as difficult as my first husband, Harvard Lesser. Then I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to raise these five girls that were to become our blended family. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be accepted for my first counseling job at the counseling center in Medfield, CT., and so it goes.

I took a little quiz that came across my computer a few days ago and at the end I was told that I had been “imprinted with fear” when I was a child, and if I took this woman’s workshop I would be able to rid myself of that imprint. Unfortunately her workshop runs at the same time I have to be writing this blog to get it to you on time this week. So instead of being upset that I couldn’t attend I began to think about where could this fear imprint have come from? I am also a therapist, as is the teacher of the workshop, so I started rummaging around in my bag of goodies. Out popped my grandmother, Mary Emma Moody. Okay, so how is

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Mary Emma Two Years Before Jordan Elizabeth was Born  1908

she involved in this imprinting? Back when Grandmother was carrying my mother Jordan Elizabeth Moody she was living on a dirt farm in Colorado with a husband that was just recovering from tuberculosis. They had five children and Mary Emma was pregnant with the sixth child, Jordan. My grandfather Charles Moody died of pneumonia five months before my mother was born, leaving Mary Emma to raise five children and a new baby on a scratch-dirt farm, alone. Can you imagine the grief and then the fear this woman must have suffered as she carried my mother: how to feed six children on a dirt-farm, how to survive without a husband, where would any money for food and seed come from, who would provide the labor for the farm? The list is endless. And I know from my counseling training that whatever the mother is feeling and thinking most of the time as she carries a child is absorbed by the fetus.

If you have read my uncle Ralph Moody’s books, Little Britches, Man of the Family, Fields of Home, and Mary Emma and Company you know that Mary Emma gathered

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A Laundry Room Similar to the One in My Grandmother’s Basement

up her children after a year or so and brought them East where she could live with a brother until she could find housing. My grandmother took in laundry for a living and set up a laundry in the basement of the home she rented. This woman had to have been exhausted most of the time when my mother was growing up. So if my mother had any fears she wasn’t free to share them because her mother was too tired to be a support. My mother has told me that my grandmother held all the children very close to her because of fears that the boys would stray in a city environment and get into trouble. So now you are seeing a history of hard work and fear.

Now, my own birth came about after my mother had birthed two children and then lost two children. So when I arrived, with my mother fearing she might lose another

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JessieMay Sanderson Kessler Age Ten

child, she coddled and spoiled me a bit. Then to make matters worse at five-years-old I contracted Rheumatic Fever, which killed children back in those days, and so my mother had another whole level of fear to deal with and transfer to me.

As things evolved I turned out okay but with my own issues to conquer. You can see clearly that there is indeed an imprint of fear in my life. So my job moving forward is finding ways to understand this imprint and to challenge myself to move beyond those fears. I can tell you about one activity to take me out of my comfort zone and that is the public speaking I must do to promote my book. So if you want to help me with this ‘fear imprint’ please find organizations who would like to hear me speak on some of the things I know about relationships, loving, accepting other people’s children, and building a blended family. Maybe together, we’ll help me get rid of this imprint!

P.S. My grandfather Charlie Moody called my grandmother May instead of the Mary so this is where I got half of my name. If you look at the picture of my grandmother and then of me you can see I was meant to carry her name.


When the Wheels Come Off the Wagon

Those who have read my book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir birdanddragon_frontcover_33have already met and seen pictures of my mother Jordan Elizabeth Sanderson. But in this blog I’d like to take you from the woman pictured in the book to the woman who passed away at ninety-eight years old. Some of this may sound sacrilegious and I hope I can present this without that happening. Many of you may have taken care of an aging parent or spouse and perhaps my stories will help you. My mother spent her last seven years in our home with my husband, Sy and me, along with our grandchildren, in the apartment above us or at our dinner table. Looking back, I have to admire her fortitude to move from the town she had known since she was a new bride at eighteen to our town where she was not free to explore because she had already given up her car.

Scan_0003 Jordan Elizabeth Moody 5 12 2017
Jordan Elizabeth Moody at age eighteen just before she married Frederick Copland Sanderson

Once she had moved in with us, one of my first vivid memories is of her standing beside me in my kitchen saying, “What can I do to help?” The question was simple but not so the answer. My mother had essential tremor in her later years and it was worse when she was stressed. (Yes, living in my house with me could create a bit of stress.) Mother was also a little stooped in posture at this point. Not thinking, I responded, “Well, Mom, you could help me by peeling and cutting up these vegetables for supper.” I set about putting a cutting board at the table, my style of peeler, which she had never used before, along with my best paring knife, a dish for the vegetables, and I pulled up a chair. She stood looking at the set-up and then she said, “I can’t do that,” and she walked away. I was livid. She asked to help. She knew how to fix vegetables. She’d done it all of my life. What was her problem?!! She went back to her room and I did the vegetables and fumed. I never asked her to cut vegetables again.

By the next day I had figured out that she was used to standing to work but because 000_0006.JPGshe was stooped I assumed it would be easier for her to sit. She’d never done it that way and didn’t have the language any longer to tell me that. She was also afraid that she would cut herself when she was not in her accustomed position for doing the task. But again, either she hadn’t figured out why she couldn’t cut vegetables and then told me, or she couldn’t find the words. Both things happen to a person as they age. And on my side I assumed rather than asking, because I remembered a vital woman who cooked every day!

This event took place much later in her time with us. Mother was resting in the

My Mother in her Room with her Buddy my Dog Cara

afternoon on her bed and my sister had been at the house helping me go through my mother’s clothes and weeding many of them out to be given to family members and Good Will. I knew this was painful for my mother to watch since she loved her clothes—one of her few indulgences. The next day I was doing the job alone. My mother was again resting on her bed and I took an armful of clothes out to the other room. As I hung them up I heard this horrible thud and rushed back to the bedroom. My mother was on the floor beside her bed. I asked if she was alright and she said that she thought she was fine. I asked if she could get back up onto the bed. She could and as she sat there I checked her for any bruising. I didn’t ask what happened because it was late in the afternoon and I knew she would not be as cognizant then as she would be next morning.

So, next morning when she had had her breakfast, was washed-up, dressed and had made her bed, I went into her room and knelt down in front of where she was sitting. “Mom, what happened yesterday when you fell off the bed?” She looked at me for half a minute trying to recall and then she said, “Well, I was out riding on this horse and I don’t know what happened but something must have spooked him. He rose up on his hind legs and threw me right off. I landed with a horrible thud but nothing seemed to be broken. So there you have it. That’s what happened!” It was all I could do not to giggle. I started to correct her and then I realized that maybe she had been dreaming when she fell and that’s where the story came from, or maybe she just made it up on the spot. It didn’t matter. It was her story!! And I expect it diverted her from the pain of seeing her beloved clothes leaving her closet.

The next incident happened much closer to the end of her stay with us. Mother had been with us for about five years and I don’t remember her ever mentioning my Mother Spring 2002father during that time. Everyone in their community called him Fred but she called him Freddie; the name she knew when she was a girl of twelve visiting on his parent’s farm. In my house with Sy, her bedroom was right off the living room. Mother was sitting on the couch in the living room and it was beginning to get late. I said, “Mom, it’s time for you to be getting ready for bed.”

“Oh, it is? Can you point me to my room?”

I was taken aback since she’d been going from where she sat to her bedroom for years. “Your bedroom is right here, Mom.” I pointed her in the right direction.

She turned back to me and said, “Does Freddie know I’m staying here tonight?”

My wheels spun and I said, “Yes, he does. He knows you are here.” (He’d been dead for some twenty-five years.)

“And how does he know that?” she asked.

“I was just talking to him on the phone, Mom, a few days ago.”

“Okay. All right. I can go to bed now.” And off she trotted like a good child.

I think the thing we caretakers have to remember is that whatever story they are telling us or where they are in their memories it is their story and we need to follow along with them. Trying to explain reality becomes confusing for them and they are already confused.

The last incident was close to the end. We were having a conversation about something—I don’t remember now—and suddenly what came out of my mother’s mouth was all gobbledygook. She looked at me a bit bewildered and tried to say her thought again. This time it still came out so garbled there were no words. She looked frightened. “Mom, look at me. The wheels are coming off the wagon!”

For a moment her face was blank and then she broke into peals of laughter. “You’re right,” she said. “The wheels are coming off my wagon!”

May you also have sweet, if somewhat bizarre, memories of your aging loved ones; otherwise all the care we give to them is just drudgery.

The Pecking Order Matters

As you read my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir you birdanddragon_frontcover_33are quickly introduced to our family of five daughters. I’ve had the opportunity  to observe closely their developing personalities in terms of their psychology and how that shapes how they put their experiences to use in their adult lives. Then you add thirty years in “the chair” and after a while you begin to see patterns in family relationships and how those patterns influence one’s adult behavior. I’ve told you before that the hearts on the tree on the cover of my book represent each daughter, so as you read my stories associate them with one of the hearts: Cora is green, May is red, Elizabeth is blue, Felicia is yellow, and Annie is lavender/pink.

Cora [Green] is the oldest in both the original family and in the family that my husband Sy and I created with our marriage. As the oldest she strives to make sureScan_0002  Cora 5 5 2017.jpg she is doing what she believes we parents want her to accomplish. She pushes herself hard and she expects the younger siblings to follow her lead. Leadership is usually associated with the oldest child. They are trying to please those neophyte parents. The upshot is the younger children often find that oldest child to be bossy and know-it-all, while the oldest child feels they are responsible for the younger ones or sometimes for everything. In their adult life they may be controlling because they have already cut the path for others and wonder why the others don’t want to follow, such as a husband. They get angry when the husband bucks them. After all they KNOW how it should be done.

May [Red] was the oldest child in the original family with me and so she carries some of the attributes of the oldest child such as being a ground breaker and Scan_0002 May 5 5 2017cutting a path, but then in the family created by Sy and I she is the second child who either tries harder to achieve than the first or doesn’t try at all because it’s been done before. May also has the added burden of being next to the youngest in her biological family. [She had the opportunity to meet her biological mother and some of her siblings and half siblings a few years ago.] The upshot for May is that she doesn’t have a clear picture of what role she should play in life and therefore how she should relate to people in her adult life. She vacillates from knowing-it-all to being helpless and believing she can’t solve her problems.

Elizabeth [Blue] is the second child in her original family and the third in the family that Sy and I created. She also carries some of the biological first childScan_0002 Elizabeth 5 5 2017 characteristics because biologically she is the first child—May was adopted and although she was a family member before Elizabeth arrived, the DNA seems to override here. Elizabeth is the problem solver and has that know-it-all quality because she is the first to push through the womb. At the same time you sometimes see her retreat within the family to the position of the forgotten middle child. I feel her loneliness in that position because during some of my childhood I was that middle child. She expects men to understand her and then she retreats so they can’t find her.

Felicia [Yellow] was the third child in her original family and as such was the baby.Scan_0002 Felicia 5 5 2017 In the family that Sy and I created she is next to the youngest child. So she has those qualities of waiting to be told what to do as the younger or baby seems to demonstrate, while she can lord it over the next child down because she is not the baby in the blended family. A child in this position will vacillate from some of the qualities of the oldest; built-in leadership and then helpless to solve a problem because someone else always solved it for you.

Annie [Lavender/Pink] was the youngest child both in her family of origin and in the family Sy and I created. She is the ‘darling’ and uses that at the same time she feels that she is not respected for what she knows because the others always seem Scan_0002 Annie 5 5 2017to have learned it first. I can relate to these feelings too, because for nine years I also was the youngest in my family of origin. Annie strives hard to show that she is intelligent, can problem solve, and is of value. What is seen for both Annie and Felicia is there is a tendency to ask permission to do things in their marital family because that was their role in their blended family. What happens when as an adult you ask permission to do something of your spouse, the partner assumes the role of the parent and okays or denies your request as your parents did. This reinforces the feelings of not having your own authority or not being good enough, left over from childhood. If you want more information about this Parent/Adult/Child behavior pattern go to my website  and click on the Tidbits access.This will take you to the index of articles and around February 15, 2017 I did the Tidbit Column on “Parent, Adult, Child!” Happy reading!

Now having said all of this there are many other contributing factors which for matters of simplicity I’ve left out, but it is surprising how much the position you held in your original family shapes the role you play in your adult work situations and marital life.

Can you see how your position in your family of origin shapes the way you relate in the work world and in your personal life? You were trained as part of a pecking order!!

The Aha Moment

birdanddragon_frontcover_33Much of my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir is about the adventures of raising five preteen and teenage daughters. And there were so many nicks and crannies we could have fallen into but I think we missed most of them. It was either that or there was enough of a glow between us that it shut out our awareness of some of the crannies.

We all moved into the Ugly Green House, which you saw in last week’s blog, a week before my second husband, Sy and I said our marriage vows to one another. We were wise and set things up so that I had the girls during the February school vacation with our wedding coming at the end on Saturday. My mother had their care during the next week when the girls would be back in school and we would be on our honeymoon. Sy, I, and the girls had spent many of the preceding weekends at my home in Grows Town so my being with the girls while Sy was at work seemed like a great way to start our time together. By Wednesday of that week, I locked myself in the downstairs bathroom and cried hysterically because I could not manage the monsters that were swarming around outside my door. Sweet, loving, cooperative girls: I’m not sure where they had flown to but they weren’t in my house! I, of course, had forgotten that they were just as excited and afraid as I, of what this marriage might bring to all of us.

Now let’s fast forward a bit: the girls had ended high school, moved on to college of some sort or beyond, and the new lovers had entered the picture. Men always seem to complicate things for us women. But the thing that touched me was that as each of the girls got close to closing in on a lifetime partner they came to me and asked, “How did you know that Daddy/Sy was right for you?”

I first tried, “You just know!” And then I said, “Well, ask yourself, could you live the rest of your life happily without this person?” But in retrospect I remember that I also looked for the Aha Moment.

Sy and I hadn’t married yet and he asked me to come with him to his “Dog’s Night Out” dinner group which I mentioned in A Bird and the Dragon. I met many of the men that he worked with and their wives. I didn’t die in the process and some of my shyness eased. By the second invitation I was interested in going. When we stepped into the room everyone yelled Surprise! and Sy got that funny smirk on his face as he leaned into me and said, “I didn’t know for sure but this appears to be our wedding shower.” The food was good, the laughter fun, and then it came to the gifts. As Sy IMG_20170428_123008323.jpghanded me the second gift I got a little shiver, but hardly noticed it, and started to wrestle with the paper and the box. Sy took ahold of the box for me and I pulled out a brown wooden curved mantle clock. I had to fight back the tears because it was a duplicate of the clock that sat on the mantle for all of my days in my childhood home. I had fond memories of watching my father reset it every time we moved into daylight savings time and back. He’d stand by the mantle waiting patiently for all the chimes to ring before he moved the hands to the next position. In that instant I got that Aha shimmer. This is the right man for my life. God or my guides are reassuring me.

The next Aha Moment came when I took Sy home to meet my mother. This story is also in A Bird and the Dragon. After lunch my mother was doing her cross examination and discovered that Sy was born on the same date as her mother, Mary Scan_0001 Gramma Moody and her Six Children 4 27 2017.jpgEmma Gould Moody, whom you have met before in my blogs. [In the above picture Mary Emma, my Grandmother is in the center. My mother Jordan Elizabeth is standing behind her mother’s right shoulder, Ralph Moody, the author you have heard about before, behind my mother, and their siblings to left and right.]  Mary Emma was very much the head of our extended family. And the fact that Sy’s birthday was the same as her birthday gave him an open door into the family. I’m only sorry that my grandmother was no longer alive to meet Sy in person. But I know that by now she knows him well, on the other side of the veil. Having the same birthdays was another Aha Moment for me.

The third Aha Moment came months after I’d married Sy and I had driven into Nerme to do my grocery shopping. I was pushing my cart up one of the isles and saw this woman with light red hair standing contemplating something on one of the shelves. She moved her hand up to her face and in that instant I thought, ‘I know that gesture, that face.’ But I couldn’t pull up where I had seen this before. Curious, I wheeled my cart around to the other side of that display and then back up toward

Scan_0002 JessieMay as Birdie Sanderson 4 28 2017
Toddler Birdie Sanderson [author] JessieMay Kessler
the woman. As I got even with her she turned and said, “Birdie, is that you?” [I was nick-named ‘my little bird’ by my grandmother as a toddler and the Birdie, which I hated, remained with me up until I went to school.] I countered with, “Betty, is that you?” It was indeed Betty. Betty Graves had an older brother and sister that ran with my older brother and sister in high school in the little nowhere town where we all grew up in Massachusetts. [I’ve called it Sharkerton in my books.] Not only did Betty’s siblings know my siblings, Betty was my 4-H Club leader when I was eleven and twelve and she was sixteen and seventeen. We chatted and caught up on life events until we got to the fact that she was now the wife of the minister in the Nerme church that Sy, I, and the girls were about to check out as our new church. This was a very large Aha Moment! How in the world did God ever pull this one off? Assurance in spades to the fact that Sy and I were meant to be together.

Some teachers in the metaphysical world teach that there is a feeling associated with these kinds of events which I call the Aha Moment. Other teachers say that you actually get a shiver or see a shimmer of light when an event like the ones I’ve shared, happen to you. Whichever way you receive your information, your mind, heart, or soul are getting confirmation on some issue.

Have any of you out there experience something like I’ve presented here when you were dating, or courting, or on some other quest? Tell me! Tell me! In case you haven’t guessed by now, I love stories!


In God’s Time

Have you ever had the experience of being with a close friend, partner, or spouse birdanddragon_frontcover_33and after you get to share your stories you find that you have been waltzing around each other for some time without ever touching or meeting each other?

My chain of events that fit this concept started back when I was married the first time to Rev. Harvard Lesser. If you have read my book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir you know that I married a minister right out of college and within a year or so of being his wife we began to try to have children. If you’ve read one of my previous blogs about keeping my butterfly you know that having children didn’t start out so well. But that is not where this blog is headed.

Harvard and I, along with however many children were with us at the time, would head off to visit my mother in Massachusetts. Sometimes we went because she was lonely or I was, or because it was Thanksgiving which was her big holiday. Many times as we made the turn off of Route 32 heading north to later connect with Route 12, I would look at the large house on the corner of that intersection and think to myself, ‘I wonder who lives there? I wonder what they do and what they are like. That house looks so homey to me.’ I never happened to share my thoughts with Harvard because he wasn’t into that sort of day dreaming stuff. Now hold that thought for further along in this story.

Later, in the marriage to Harvard, he was having a hard time with the church in Grows Town where he was serving as the youth minister and eventually he was 13166071_868774833244499_4775438722494439392_nGroton Congregational Churchgiven a choice, which ultimately resulted in his leaving the ministry for a while. He went into a deep depression and was virtually a house zombie for most of that winter. The following spring I was out and about doing errands when I ran into this gentleman who wanted to sell me World Book Encyclopedias and I turned him down. But when he asked if I knew of anyone who might want a job selling encyclopedias I answered, “Yes.” I told him about Harvard, that he had worked as a minister but was now taking some time away. It wasn’t too much later when this same gentleman showed up at our door and began a cold sell to see if he could enlist Harvard to become a salesman for the company. Ultimately, Harvard joined the company and sold World Book Encyclopedias for several years.

Now, Harvard’s temperament was generally fairly even, although he was talkative, except during those times when someone had made him very upset and he would have (as I’ve called it before) a hissy-fit. So this particular evening when he got home from selling I was surprised at how quiet he was and noted his spirit seemed down. “Harvard, is there something wrong?” I asked. He dodged my question at first but then he came out with it.

“I was selling over in Nerme and the people threw me out of the house.”

“They threw you out of the house? How did that happen?”

“Well, I’d gotten a teacher from the school where this couple have their children and I enlisted her to get us in the door. It is a technique that we use all the time. When the wife discovered that I was there to sell World Book instead of talking about one of their children she went ballistic. As her husband came back from the kitchen with a glass of water for me, he quickly understood what was going on and insisted that we leave.”

“Oh, Honey, I’m so sorry. That had to have been terrible,” I said as I tried to console him.

He didn’t say too much more and I had to get to bed because I had small children who would be up early the next morning: May holding Felicia, and Elizabeth.Scan_0017 May Felicia Elizabeth

Now we move several years forward in the story. I’ve met Sy in the divorce group and we have begun to date and share stories from our pasts. My children, who of course are going back and forth to visit with their father, Harvard, were busy filling him in on all the details of their mother’s new romance. One day as he returned my girls from their visit he asked if I had a moment to talk and I invited him into the kitchen. He said, “I was wondering, does your new boyfriend live in Nerme in a big blue house sort of set on a hill with a swing set off to the left of the house?

I thought for a moment and then said, “Yes, he does. Why do you ask?”

“It was that man and his wife that threw me out of the house all those years ago in Nerme!!”

No longer being as compassionate towards Harvard as I was before, I responded with, “Isn’t that amazing! What a small world!” I’m not sure my comment gave Harvard what he wanted, but his information certainly surprised me. [The first waltz in my recognition that Sy and I were together because of God’s timing, not ours.]

Later, as Sy and I shared more of our history I discovered that while I was a new bride in the old farmhouse parsonage of Harvard’s first parish, Sy was newly Scan_0019 Parsonage Farm House in Southeastern CT.jpgreturned from serving his country and was going on the GI bill to college at University of CT. The parsonage sat high on the hill above Route 32 and Sy was driving up and down Route 32 almost daily from the lower end of Connecticut to the college. When he first told me I said, “Why didn’t you wave when you went by?” and he replied, “You didn’t tell me you were up there waiting for me!” [Waltz two in our dance on God’s time.]

Okay, now to the house on the corner. In A Bird and the Dragon I talk about trying to find someone to care for our girls while we take a mini vacation to go introduce Sy to my sister PollyAnne and her family in central Vermont. We had a lot of trouble finding someone who would babysit the girls on a Halloween weekend. Finally, Sy’s in-laws, Bootsie and Joe, said they could take the girls. The car was packed, the girls were loaded in and we are driving along Route 32 heading north. As we made the turn in the road that Harvard and I always took going to my mother’s, Sy waved his hand in the direction of my day-dream house and said, “Bootsie and Joe moved not too long ago but they used to live in that big house right on the corner.” I think my mouth fell open at that point and all I could say was, “I’ve always loved that house!” [Waltz three in God’s timing.]

Have you ever had these kinds of experiences with someone close to you? It really makes me believe that there is a plan to our lives which is ever unfolding and it is up to us to figure out and do our part to bring it to fruition, even if we don’t understand the plan. I’d like to hear about your stories of finding your intimate connections to important people in your lives.

P.S. The featured image as my  Topper is looking across the Nashoba River Valley from east to west. And if you look very closely there is a perpendicular white spec about a fourth of the way from the right of the picture. That is the water tower that provided the water for the boys at the Industrial School for Boys, in Shirley (Shakerton) Massachusetts and was just above my parent’s retirement home. The Industrial School has been leveled and in it’s place is a maximum security prison, which was on the news last night (April 19, 2017) because of the suicide of a famous inmate, Aaron Hernandez.