I am exhausted

Posted by & filed under my life.

I am so tired I actually can’t even think clearly to write what I want to write. But I need to get this out of me. Holding it in makes it even worse.

What I want to say is that this past year feels full of chaos and angst, when I am on the verge of an exciting new vocation – my herbal medicine endeavors. I would love to study plant nutrition, too. I would love to just be surrounded by all this plant goodness and learning and helping people.

But, instead, I feel beaten down by all the things going on in this world, and especially this country. I’m tired of the chaos. I’m tired of the shifting stories (a.k.a. lies). I’m tired of the drama. I’m tired of the grief. My heart is dashed to pieces, daily.

I’m trying to hang on through this, waking up every morning hoping it has ended. And I used to NOT watch the news, but now I’m afraid to avoid it, wanting to keep an eye on a democracy that has been downgraded from a full one to a flawed one, ready to rise up to fight, if I need to.

I’m a lover, not a fighter. This is so hard, watching a president breaking decades-old alliances and cozying up to authoritarians, because that’s what he is and can relate to. If you listen carefully (really, it doesn’t have to be that carefully) it slips out. Like the other day when he said he wanted “his people” to sit up at attention when he speaks, just as Kim Jong Un’s people do to him. (Supposedly that was a joke, but most jokes are people’s way of saying what they want to say and having an out if it doesn’t go over well.) And when a news reporter (of a conservative station) described the two dictators meeting. There it is, right out on the table. A dictator. He’s doing his damnedest to make that happen. And where are all the checks and balances in congress? Bueller?

I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s biography. It profiled the rise of Hitler and how he slowly worked his way into his position of power. It didn’t end well for Bonhoeffer, who as a pastor joined the resistance and was eventually killed. He tried to be a voice, while the rest of the Christian Church succumbed to Hitler’s tricks and lies, and was silent.

We all know the poem….

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

It was written by Martin Niemöller, a pastor who lived through it.

The first time I read that poem was after walking through the Holocaust Memorial in Boston. It’s a powerful memorial, if you haven’t ever seen it. After getting overwhelmed by all the rest of it, I saw this poem as the last thing. I felt like I had just been gut punched.

Many people think comparing the current president to Hitler is ridiculous. But history repeats itself, if you don’t learn from it, if you don’t watch for the signs. And there are signs.

Anyhow, I’m exhausted. And I really hope there is a happy ending.

Soon.


As I wrote this, pressure from the public, the church, and republican congressmen (finally!), has caused the president to reverse a policy of separating children from their parents at the border. A policy they first denied was happening, then said they were just following existing law and it was the democrats’ fault. (Just so you know, I’m an independent, and I don’t like this blame game when either side does it.) I’m already running on fumes because I couldn’t sleep the other night after finding out about all of this. Then, last night, hearing about the concentration camps (let’s call them what they are) for the little children, I woke up this morning ready for a fight. As I set off to plan it, things changed. I’m thankful for that. But I’m still watching to figure out what I might be able to do to plug into the work of reuniting these children with their parents. And I will be praying that they can grow up to be healthy and whole, despite the trauma our country has put them through. Shame on us, when politics and policies matter more than human rights and little children are used as pawns. May God forgive us.
photo credit: JenGallardo It’s Been a Long Day via photopin (license)

Addendum: It’s painful to come back to read this. But I’m leaving it for prosperity. Because it’s how I felt during this time, and I still feel beaten down and exhausted by the harshness we are seeing in our world right now. But I am holding on to hope for a more expansive world where fear is left behind and love permeates everything. And all these wrongs are righted. A girl can dream. And dream I will continue to do.

A shared life

Posted by & filed under Poetry.

A plant’s breath gives life to us.

Our breath gives life to them.

We take in them as we breathe.

They take in us as they breathe.

Fully interconnected in a beautiful 

dance of life.

Fruit of their womb.

For us.

Scent of their perfume, 

for us.

Beauty of their adornment.

For us.

Seeds for the hope of tomorrow.

For us.

Even the sacrifice of themselves as nourishment.

For us.

These are living, giving, beings.

For us to recognize their gifts

is perhaps the greatest gift we can give them in return.

Thank you for your medicine.

Thank you for your food.

Thank you for your beauty.

Thank you for sharing this space.

With us. 


photo credit: jaci XIII Mrs. Violeta via photopin (license)

We are doing okay

Posted by & filed under goodbye gracie.

We are doing okay, Max and I. (Andy’s okay, too, but I wasn’t worried about him. He wasn’t as attached.)

Grief is a strange thing. It starts out sharp, then gradually mellows, always with the ability to become sharp for a moment. Or many moments.

Max comes for a bit to snuggle. At night, even, like Gracie did. But he doesn’t stay. Last night I said to Andy, “I miss having to be careful as I snuggle down under the covers.” Gracie would settle into my lap while I lay in bed for awhile, reading, poking around on my phone, etc. Then I’d have to carefully maneuver to lay down. It was easier some nights than others. But Gracie wanted to stay, so even if she was annoyed for a minute (sometimes she would go for the ride on my legs as they moved further down the bed, other times she would jump up), she usually resettled. Sometimes in the same spot, sometimes beside me. I’m a restless sleeper. I don’t stay in the same position all the time. But she put up with a lot of that. I even would try not to disturb her during those middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom. And, like the maneuvering to lay down, it sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. But she’d come back and settle down after I climbed back into bed.

I’ve had to transition Max off of getting canned food whenever he comes around. At the end, I was giving Gracie watered-down canned food whenever she came looking for it. She never ate all that much at a time, and I figured at this point she probably wasn’t trying to eat the dry food we have in a feeder. And whenever Max realized I was feeding Gracie, he got some canned food, too. (They usually just got some at night and free-fed from the dry food during the day.)

I keep wishing she had lived longer than 13 years. Even though that’s considered senior, I’m used to my animals living long lives. Cosby was 17, Pepper (my dog) almost made it to 15, Max is 15 and still going strong, we never knew how old Blackie was because he was a stray, but he was with us for a long time. (We did have a cat named Sunny who only lived to around 12 or 13, but she wound up being totally Tracey’s cat and wanted nothing to do with the rest of us, so I don’t consider her one of my animals, even though she lived in my house.) Koda is 12 at this point, and I see her slowing down, dealing with a bum leg, and my mind can’t even go there right now. I know we are in our final time with her, too. But my heart has enough grief so I’m not letting any more in.

When I think of Gracie living only her 13 years, I also realize that maybe she lived long despite her issues. She had something called tooth resorbtive disease. It’s a dental disease and the jaw reabsorbs the root of the tooth. During that process, there are lesions in the mouth. She had two surgeries over the course of her life and only a few teeth left. I can’t help but think her jaw growth was related to this. The vet said no, but my heart says yes. So, she had an overactive jaw and, eventually, it was irreparable.

When I was taking Gracie to the vet, I had asked for her to send me signs after she left. I told her I’d look for her among the stars after twinkle twinkle little star started playing on Pandora.* But, Gracie-of-her-own-mind is sending me signs (or God is) via robins, it appears. The day after she died, a robin started flying into our window. Now, my mind knows that this is most likely a male robin seeing his reflection and attacking the intruder, but this has never happened here before. And it started the next day. That same day, while the robin was flying into the window, I looked outside and a squirrel was on a tree branch outside my window and his tail was twitching frantically. Gracie was always twitching her tail. The following morning, while I was still in bed, the robin started up again. And I’ve been seeing robins on my way out in the car and on my way back in. Even in the rain. As I came back the other night, a robin flew across the driveway and under our truck. I stopped and looked at him because it seemed so abnormal (“did he just fly under the truck?“). And once, at the kitchen sink I said, “Gracie, I miss you.” I looked up (and out the window) and there was a robin, looking at me for a moment before flying away. (I’m saying he, don’t know if it’s all the same robin, and once there were two together.)  Now, all this could be a figment of an overactive imagination, many would say. But I’m a spiritual gal, and I choose to believe otherwise. And, besides, a robin has Gracie’s colors. Black, orange, and white. The calicos of the bird world!

This is getting long, so I’ll stop now. But I’m writing all of this down so I can look back and remember. Just as grief fades, memories can, too, and I don’t want to lose the memories. This time on earth with Gracie was special. Hug your pets today! I’ll be hugging the rest of mine.

*We’ve only had one clear night where you could see the stars since she died. I still look up and say hello.

I want to go out happy

Posted by & filed under goodbye gracie.

I’ve mentioned before that Gracie was a calico, and quirky, and feisty, too.

But she mellowed a bit in her old age. Still always knew her mind, but was more social, more loving, especially to “strangers.”

There was even one year when my cookie swap wound up really small – two years ago – because many people either couldn’t come or got sick the last minute. Maybe it was that smaller crowd. But, whatever it was, Gracie decided to join us. When someone got up to get something, she jumped up and settled into their seat. Instead of shooing her off – she really had a look like she owned the seat at this point – they moved to another spot in the room. And Gracie became part of the girls.

The closeup of her cracks me up because it shows how perfectly she owned that seat, paws curled underneath her. She wasn’t just sitting there, she had settled in.

The pulled back picture cracks me up because look at the little cat sitting there among all the big people. One of us.

She was so fun.

I like that she got kinder as she got older. I’ve been ruminating upon death a lot over these past few days. It seems the other way around with many of the humans I know. We get set in our ways. More impatient with the little things we used to put up with. Discouraged with the world (raises hand). Instead of that, I think Gracie got a perspective that the little things didn’t matter. I want to be like Gracie in that respect.

I want to leave this life more happy than I’ve ever been.

Gracie’s Garden

Posted by & filed under goodbye gracie.

I live out in the country. Where there are predators that eat cats. But, loving the outdoors myself, I couldn’t bear to not let them outside. So all the cats I’ve ever had go out between 9am and 5pm-ish. They really come in and out all day (we don’t have a cat door, I am their door woman). 5pm is when they get their canned cat food. That would always entice them in and then I said no after that to going outside, but in the summer we would leave the slider to the screen porch open. Max really hung out there more than Gracie did, on those hot summer nights. He really wanted to be outside more than Gracie, too, and would try to sneak out in the summer after 5pm, to do night hunting. But Gracie occasionally would venture out and this rock in our shade garden was one of her favorite spots. And if she ever snuck out when I didn’t want her to, if I called her she would stop and let me pick her up and bring her back in. She was a good girl that way.

So, as I was processing my grief yesterday, the day after she left us, I went outside to work in the gardens – really, clear them and the yard from accumulated leaves and sticks that Columbus and the trees scattered on the ground over the winter. When I went around the side of the house to the shade garden, I thought about this picture I had found and realized that I wanted to now call this garden “Gracie’s Garden.” I’d like to get a cat statue to sit on this rock she loved. And a plaque. And to spread her ashes, here. She’s been such a great companion and the hole in my heart feels so big, that I want to create a space around me that is hers.

It got me thinking about my other pets. We still have their ashes (except for Cosby, who we buried). I haven’t decided yet where to spread them. Blackie loved it under the forsythia bushes, so that may be what I do for him. But Pepper roamed the yard and neighborhood. I may just lay her to rest with Cosby, since they really were our only two pets for a long time, beginning over on Sharon Drive.

Anyhow, I digress.

I started looking for cat statues that look kind of like her. I want the one I pick to be close to life size. And preferably lounging or crouching. I found a couple, including a sitting up one with a butterfly on its nose. There are a lot of sleeping ones, but Gracie never slept when she was outside. Remember those predators I mentioned? When she was just 7 months old, I started letting her out for short bits of time. I had never even known coyotes came out during the day to hunt, but apparently they do. It was March, and my windows were closed. I don’t even know how I became aware of the attack, but turns out they had gone after my free-range birds. I didn’t even know at that point that it was coyotes, I thought it might have been a hawk. But we eventually figured it out, and even the path they took on their killing spree.

Max was crying at the top of a really tall tree in the back corner of the yard. I had to coax him down. He jumped from too high up (but was okay) and raced to the house. I called Gracie’s name over and over again and couldn’t find her. And couldn’t hear her crying. I thought I had lost her. She was little and young. Easy prey. Our neighbors were out at this point, helping us. I remember going over the stone wall into their yard and saying, “I guess she’s gone.” But when I walked back over the stone wall, for some reason I looked up into the small tree that I walked by. And there she was, on a branch, mute.

Luckily she wasn’t as high up as Max had been. We were able to get her down. I brought her into the house and she darted under the couch and stayed there for quite awhile. And I learned that my normally chatty kitty didn’t talk when she was scared.

So, Gracie never really relaxed outside. (I don’t think Max did, either. That ordeal made them both more alert.) But she would lounge on this rock in the picture, watching the world around her. The woods are a short ways away, and there are always chipmunks or squirrels or birds to spot. She also had a view of this garden from the basement windows and would watch the critters from inside when the weather was colder. They both were fair-weather outdoor cats. Sometimes on colder days they would want to go outside, but when I opened the door, Gracie would shake her paw which was the sign that she found it too cold. She just did that a few days before she died, but we also had one warmer day that she went outside for a bit. Max had been out earlier but was back inside. All of a sudden I heard him yowl. I came to see what was going on, because that was unusual. There was Gracie, sitting at the door, wanting to come in (we have a window on the side of the door that they come to, to be seen). I realized at that point Max must have known that Gracie wasn’t well, and was taking care of her, wanting her to be back inside, where it was safe.

I wish she could have had one more summer outside in her garden. But, alas, it wasn’t to be.

 


That’s all for today. Writing about her is helping me heal. Today the ache in my heart has turned to mostly dull. Yesterday, and the day I took her to the vet, it felt like it was ripping apart. I miss her more than words – these words, any words – can say.

Her name is Grace

Posted by & filed under goodbye gracie.

This morning, like every morning, she jumped on the bed, to sit in my lap and purr. For as long as I will stay in bed.

She makes it hard to get out of bed. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day. The other is at night, when she starts coming around as if to say, “hey now, when are you coming to bed for our snuggle?”

I don’t know what I’m going to do once she’s gone.

Today I made the decision that I can’t keep her with me any longer. I am headed to the veterinarian’s office in a couple of hours. Even though she still is herself at times. But I’ve had to coax her to eat the last two times. And she’s starting to hide. She’s licking all the time and last night when I found her under the guest bedroom covers, she had pink drool down the side of her chin with the bone tumor. It’s getting bigger. And I felt like she let me touch it last night, as if to allow me to make it better. The same with the herbal extract I had started to give her via dropper the last week. She trusts me. But I can’t make it better. I can only help her move on to the next stage, where there is no more pain.

I was going to write this after the appointment. Spend the morning with her. Make this last day a full one. But she didn’t want to go outside this morning. I even carried her outside and she let me know clearly that she was not interested, and pasted herself up at the door to come in. So we went on to catnip. She loved that, I took a video of it and some more pictures. And now she’s sleeping, under the covers again. And if that keeps her out of feeling pain, that’s what I want for her for her last few hours. This isn’t about me anymore. Actually, it has never been. When she was first diagnosed with a bone tumor (we had hoped it was an infection, but it didn’t respond to antibiotics, it only grew bigger) I told the vet that we weren’t putting her through chemo, we were only going to let her enjoy her last time here on earth. She’s 13. And at that point, she was acting completely like herself. I don’t even know how long she had the bump on her chin before I noticed it. The vet agreed, gave me a sheet about quality of life. Tracey (my vet tech daughter) said to pick a couple of things she liked to do and when she wasn’t doing those anymore, I’d know. I think I’ve decided a little earlier than most people might. But I’ve seen her turn a corner and it’s only downhill from here. And I watched one of my best friends die from cancer. I’m going to spare her that. We are lucky we can spare our pets that, but oh the responsibility of this decision is so, so, heavy.

I really hope there is an afterlife and that I will see her again. She’s been such a good companion. And so, enough of the grief, I’m going to talk about all she means to me right now. Because I can’t really focus on much else, anyway.

My cousin-in-law’s kitty was Gracie’s mother. She sent us a picture of the litter, and I picked Gracie from the photo. She was a pretty little thing. A calico. I have been scouring my computer files for a Gracie kitten photo but, alas, can’t find one. I’ve lost a lot of digital pictures over the years from hard drive failures. Just trust me. She was cute, had really great markings, and double paws, that were white. She looked like she wore mittens.

My daughter Kelly came with me to pick her up. She fell in love with a yellow tiger and wanted me to pick him instead. But I had my heart set on Gracie. I picked her up, put her in my lap, and she promptly stood up and jumped onto the couch and laid down next to my leg. My mind wandered to switching to the yellow tiger. But I stuck with this gal who knew her own mind. Very cat-like.

I was wearing a green fleece. She snuggled into it on the ride home. Every time I had that fleece on the bed, she would snuggle into it. Once it finally became no longer wearable (it lasted a LONG time, it was just this past year), it wound up down in my sewing room, waiting for me to make a pillow for a basket she lays in. I never got to it. After I found out she was sick I just picked it up as is and laid it in the basket. I’ve found her in the basket a few times snuggling into it. I’m going to bring it with me when we go to the vet for her ride “home.”

The first time I took her to the vet, they said, “oh, a Calico, they have tough personalities.” I told them she was great, I hadn’t seen any signs of that.

The signs eventually came. She would all of a sudden just not want you to touch her. She wanted things on her own terms (we had that sign at the beginning), she would whip her tail around (I actually never could figure out if she wagged that tail like a dog because she did it when she seemed to be happy, too). It took two people to cut her nails (or one person with her wrapped up in a blanket). She would scream bloody murder and the moment we were done it was like nothing had happened, she’d just whip that tail a little more. She had that cattitude to deal with the dogs, to let them know she was the ultimate boss (Max, my other cat, runs away from Koda).

Gracie talks ALL THE TIME. She talks when she is happy. She talks when she is mad. She is a chatty kitty. I never really could figure her out. She is the QUIRKIEST kitty I’ve ever met. Her own “person.” I love her even more for that. I have a thing for quirky.

I could go on and on forever. But I won’t. The last thing I want to say is that she and Max are pals. I call them the “gang of two.” They have never allowed another cat settle into this house. We got a stray once. He would always sleep with his back against the wall. Eventually he just left. And Tracey came home with her cats for awhile. They didn’t get to stay. Gracie would walk up to Max as if to say, “Max, he’s bothering me” and all of a sudden Max would go after that cat. It was bizarre. Together, they had their own love/hate thing going on. Gracie would grab a hold of Max and groom him. I used to have a picture of that, but I haven’t found that either – I’ll keep looking. She doesn’t really groom him anymore. Gracie is queen of my lap. Max knows to stay away if she’s already present (except for last night. We all snuggled together on the couch). Max is king of the food dishes. I feed them across the room from each other and I often have to block him from coming over before Gracie is done. Once she’s done, I let him finish up her food. Many times they get into fights and I have to yell, “knock it off!” You never know when the hello is going to turn into someone looking at each other the wrong way and then the escalation begins. But it may all just be play getting out of hand. As I’ve said, I can’t figure this girl out. And even at age 13, she still (up until the last week) could be caught zooming around the house in kitten mode.

When my cat Cosby died, he had something similar. A growth. When the time came, all of us gathered around him on the bed and said goodbye. Gave him a brushing, petted him. Last night, snuggling on the couch, I feel like Max and Gracie got a goodbye time (even though they weren’t really interacting with each other, but they were both interacting with me). And Andy and I got snuggle time with her last night. She crawled under the covers and snuggled into my sideways “lap” a couple of times as I was drifting off to sleep (it was hard to do last night, knowing I was going to say goodbye to her today). And this morning, we had our last morning snuggle. My heart breaks to even write that last line.

It’s almost time to leave. I’m going to close with some pictures of my Gracie. And a link to this post I wrote about her years ago. She’s been a lovely kitty. I’m going to miss her so much.

 

 

There are so many more….Thank goodness for cameras.

PS the scary-looking picture is a yawn. But, to me, it’s always represented the wild thing she became when we cut her claws!


I’m back now. She’s gone. My lovely friend told me to ask Gracie to give me signs after she went to her next life. I told Gracie that and that we’d think about a sign. Right after that the song Twinkle Twinkle Little Star played on my Pandora Piano Guys radio station. I told her I will be looking for her up in the night sky.

The Wrong Side of a Gun

Posted by & filed under Poetry.

Have you ever been on the wrong side of a gun?
The end that screams death as metal hurls faster
than any force man could exert on his own
and rips apart flesh like it wasn’t even there?
Have you ever heard the screams or loosed them yourself
as the wrong side of the gun pointed its ugly finger?
Have you ever been just going about your day
when your life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness
was on the wrong side of a gun
and was splashed with blood that stains the ground and your brain
to change you forever?
Have you?
Ever?
I haven’t.
But I will listen to to the cries of those who have,
both living and dead.
Because they have a wisdom born from that
that speaks louder than anyone else.


photo credit: CaliPicture via photopin (license)

A note from me:

This poem was inspired by the kids from Parkland, FL who are speaking out against gun violence, saying #NeverAgain. And now there are “grownups” speaking out against them and putting them down. Isn’t that easy to do if you’ve never been through a massacre? And, so, as I was thinking on that, this poem began writing itself in my head. And this scary picture showed up when I searched for a picture of a gun. I decided to use it because I hope it will be a wake-up jolt for us all. We need to listen to the voices of those who have been there.

The loud voices

Posted by & filed under Poetry.

I lost myself in the loud voices;

couldn’t hear myself.

They called, cajoled,

Insisted.

“Be like us.”

“Believe like us.”

They made me afraid of being wrong.

But I see now that they were the ones afraid,

not me.

Because I’ve always known what I believe,

I just let them talk me out of it for a little while.

 


Shhhhhhhhhh. Be still, and know.

photo credit: torbakhopper how to get away with murder in the snow : tv shot, san francisco (2015) via photopin (license)

Merry Christmas 2017

Posted by & filed under my life.

I’ve sat down to write a Christmas greeting a couple of times but I stare at the blank page and ask myself, “what should I even write?” I’m not really in the mood to be chatty – say, what? But, there it is. Really. So quick updates on our lives, then I’m outa here.

Me: Herbal business progresses. Did 3 craft fairs this holiday season. Loved meeting people and talking herbs. Products are now listed on my Dandelion Forest site, but I’m refining as I go. I really like making medicinal tea blends the best. Hoping to start an herbal newsletter after the holidays.

Andy: Tennis. Crossfit. Basketball. Crossfit. Tennis. Senior Games in June, did great. We went to Alabama for that and rented an RV. It was fun. This summer will be qualifying events for the following year’s games. I am confident he will qualify in more than one event and we’ll have a nice trip to New Mexico, which we’ve never been to. Proud of my athletic hubby.

Tracey & Roberto: Big year for them! Another baby, Leiana, was born on March 3rd. She set about winning our hearts right away. Landon continues to bring us great joy. Such a neat kid (3 1/2 now). And they bought their first home, in Fairfield, CT. Still at their same jobs, tennis pro-ing and saving animals’ lives.

Alex & Caroline: Alex and his girlfriend, Caroline, got an apartment together in Brighton. They are getting their exercise, daily, living on the 4th floor. We love having them close by (relatively speaking). Both are working towards advanced degrees – Caroline doing her masters, Alex heads down in the world of GMAT studying. And they are both voracious – VORACIOUS – readers. UPDATE 1/2/18 – Alex and Caroline are engaged to be married! We are all so happy!

Kelly & Greg: Kelly got a new job working for New York Road Runners, which puts on a bunch of road races, including the NYC marathon. Greg ran the marathon (in really good time!) this year and Kelly got to give him his medal at the finish line. Special. They, also, bought a house (in Berkeley Heights), soon after moving out of NYC and into an apartment in NJ. Move in date is early February. They both still commute into the city for work.

Animals: Koda is 11 and stiffening up a bit (this dang aging thing), Columbus is 6 and as puppyish as ever, Max and Gracie are somewhat older than Koda, but I’m too lazy to look up their birth years. I think 12 & 13/14. Still doing well although Gracie is missing most of her teeth, which also makes it easier to cut her nails now that I don’t have to worry about her biting me. Our poultry count is 10 chickens, 3 ducks, and a goose. We added the goose this year (a gift from my pet sitter) and I love her to pieces. Her name is Silly. And she is.

Okay, that’s the update. Still a bit chatty. Once I started typing, my chatty genes kicked in.

But, what I really want to say, to end this, is that this year, especially, I pray for our country and world – that kindness will permeate every one and every thing, and in the spirit of Jesus and all the great spiritual teachers that pointed the way to God, we all will live from that place of pure love.

Much love to you and yours.

And herbal blessings.

Chris