Sunday, December 31, 2006

Decisions and Resolutions


The year 2007 will bring many questions with answers yet to be found. 2007 will require me to make decisions on subjects that will be new to me...unexplored territory.

The biggest change to Gray's and my lifestyle is, of course, dietary. I have fumbled my way through substitutions for wheat flour, discovered grains I never knew existed, now use rice syrup instead of sugar...and I make sure Graham has soy- based products instead of dairy.

I still drink organic whole milk, and I haven't given up cheeses...for whatever reason, the Universe saw fit to bless me with an ability to digest fats. My cholesterol reading is always bang on.

As we discover more foods that Graham cannot eat (after celebrating the fact that he was to introduce corn into his diet...we discovered he reacts to it, quite noticeably) we find other foods that take its place.

Corn, of course, is in almost every prepared food item on the market, in one form or another. It is in everything, or might as well be. Corn sweeteners, cornflour, corn oil is a staple ingredient in many foods...and it does not necessarily have to be listed. It is trial and error, sometimes, to find exactly what each food contains. I never knew that vitamins may contain corn, or instant coffee.

As I learn which foods can be tolerated and which cannot, I find I am in close contact with my physical body, very aware of how each food item that crosses my lips will interact with my body. It opens my eyes...I thought I was well versed in nutrition. And I am; I was just not aware of my body disliking one thing or another, or reacting to it. I did not realize how much of a detective one has to be in order to find the make-up of these different, everyday foods.

The lovely potato is one vegetable that Graham cannot eat. The potato is a member of the nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes and peppers. Many people find an allergic reaction after ingesting these foods. Eczema and atopic dermatitis are common maladies people with potato allergies can suffer from

I grew up with the potato. At every meal, I ate potatoes, and loved them. To me, still, there is nothing better than a plain, cooked potato, nothing other than salt, pepper and a little vinegar and parsley added. Steaming hot, waxy or fluffy...it matters not...this is the ultimate comfort food for me.

Graham may never have the earthy brown (or purple or red or yellow or...) potato again, if it turns out to be one of the culprits causing or aggravating his pancreatitis. And for awhile, I followed his lead, in this case, mostly because I was too lazy to cook two different things. I would just eat what Graham ate.

But last night I had a dream. I was sitting on a throne surrounded by grain...people were bringing bags of grain, and emptying the bags at my feet. There was nary a potato amongst them. And in my dream, I grieved, wanting someone to bring me potatoes, believing this was impossible.

Today, I have decided I am going to eat a baked potato for dinner. Instead of just blindly eating whatever is correct for Graham, I am going to eat what my body craves or requires. It is a little like eating Kraft Dinner when the kids were small...I ignored my needs then too.

This is my New Year's Resolution...I will no longer disregard my preferences, in food or anything else. It is too easy for me to just follow...to just do what everybody else is doing. But I don't necessarily really like it and it makes me cantankerous. What is the good in that?

It is not just in the food area where I easily lose what I really want...in many areas of my life I will allow others to advise me, and then I will take that advice, even if I didn't need it, even if I had already decided what my needs were. I am fighting my intuition, if I live my life this way.

I am going to learn to take advice, consider it, weigh it with what I have already learned about this place or thing, and then take what I can use and leave the rest.

I have always thought others knew better than I...they were experts, some of them. Who was I to fight their knowledge? But sometimes an individual body, mind and spirit knows what is required for themselves, much better than someone else does.

I seek knowledge from all sorts of alternative ways...I read nature signals, I work with Tarot Cards, I seek the knowledge in my Crystal Ball, or bowl of Water. Not many of my friends and acquaintances use these methods, and that is okay...I don't care one way or another. But if I believe in alternative ways to find an answer, if I have honed my skills in this way...it makes sense to me to use the gifts Creator has given me.

My ways of discovering how to live my life may be different, to some. Certainly I have been in the firing line many times, with people who try and change my mind, and I have learned to hide my beliefs...and the answers I obtain from them.

Decisions and resolutions require that I understand myself first, above all else. If a resolution feels right, way down deep inside, I have to believe I am on the correct path, even if it goes against the grain for everybody else. Graham doesn't care if I eat a potato; my own laziness and belief that I must be wrong took that potato from my life.

The Potato, the common tuber, showed me where I was being derailed. It was just the catalyst, the stimulus I needed to see the bigger picture.

The stimulus I required to believe in myself.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Happy New Year!

The old man stood at the foot of the mountain. His bones ached and fatigue was becoming upper- most... would he be able to sleep soon? It had been a long year.

Wind, whipping branches and dead leaves around him, howled a song that gave him his last bit of strength to climb the mountain...his last effort of the year.

Old Father Time was looking forward to handing over the reigns to another. He was looking forward to the Rocking Chair that he knew was placed on the wrap-around porch of the Time Villa...the one next to Father Time from 2005.

He reflected on this last year, as he trod the soft, needled path that led up the Mountain.

His job was to count the Days and Nights, the Minutes and Hours of the year 2006. He had done so meticulously, checking off each millimetre of Time as it passed. By all accounts, he had done a fine job, not missing a Second. Not like Father Time of 1511, who had somehow lost track of huge blocks of Time. It took the New Year's Baby of 1512 to put the whole thing back in order again.

Father Time 1511 had not ever been able to live this down, and in his old, old age, he was still counting the Minutes and Seconds, over and over. Father Time 2006 did not want to face the same fate...he had done his job impeccably.

As he trod the path winding sinuously up the mountain...a path down which, he remembered so well, he ran when he was the New Year's Baby...he reflected. He mused upon the joys and terrors of his year. He had done the best he could to alleviate the damage humanity was intent upon inflicting, upon themselves and their surroundings.

He shook his head...he had not been as successful at tempering the Storms and prevailing Winds of the year 2006 as much as he would have liked.

But there were joys, too...the year a baby was born to a couple who had given up ever conceiving, the miracle of a young man healed of cancer that was slated to take his life, the lady who started the year unable to walk who was now considering jogging...all these and many, many more were counted, just as he counted his steps up the ever unforgiving path.

Wind howled, blowing his hat off his head. Father Time stopped, and watched his hat...the one that had weathered so many squalls... tumbling down the mountain. He shrugged... it was a pity, he had wanted to keep his hat...but it was not worth going back down to retrieve it. His bones were aching more by each counted minute.

He hurried a little, but just by stopping to watch his hat, he knew he might be seconds too late to watch the New Year Baby's arrival. He would be chastised for this, he knew. But it would not be enough to keep him from the peace and serenity that encompassed the Time Villa.

And he did not want to miss the fireworks, the horns and bells that would announce the Baby's brand new beginning...another's creative outlook on the passing of Time.

Ahhh...finally. The Mountain top. Already, even before the exact Time of Midnight, he heard bells and horns, saw displays of fireworks. They were early, he mused, humanity had still not learned to wait for the correct moment...

He watched his surroundings quietly, remembering his arrival.

It never changed. Even as he thought this, a shaft of light, shining from Eternity, gently carried a swaddled babe and deposited her in Father Time's arms.

He was enthralled to be trusted with this tiny creature, even as the world blared forth its joy at the arrival of the New Year. Father Time knew the baby would walk within hours; he knew that the babe had all the wisdom already it required to keep constant track of Time. But he couldn't resist playing with the tiny fingers and toes; he couldn't resist hearing the Baby chuckle...in tune with the bells and whistles that were continuous from the world below.

In Father Time's own version of Time, the baby was set down, growing older before his very eyes. The bells had quietened now; Father Time would return to the Time Villa by the very same shaft of light that had carried New Year's Baby 2007 to the Mountaintop.

It was now Time for new beginnings. He stood, gave Baby 2007 her final instructions, and stepped into the Light...

Be Safe, he said to the Baby, make every Second count. Take nothing for granted and remember to count your blessings every single Minute. Don't count the Minutes ahead of Time...just the ones you are experiencing right that Second.

And with that, he stepped into the Light...and immediately began to fade away...

New Year's Baby waved her pudgy hands and heard Father Time's words dwindling in the distance....HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!

She turned, and skipped down the mountain, counting her steps in Time.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Santa must be outrageously busy at this time of year. I wonder, sometimes, if he gets over- whelmed and crabby, but I know he has learned much wisdom over the Centuries.  He must balance and centre himself a whole lot.


I think he must know by now, after years and years of handing out toys to all the kids out there, that once he has finished, he has time for a rest.


And that another whole year will pass before he has to check that toy list again...twice.


I've recently been told by my Spy Elf that his Techie Elves all got together and gave him a laptop computer. If he could only figure out this strange gift, he has the tools to be very organized, right there on his lap! I imagine he would have files in his computer with every child's name on it. With every year categorized. But I've heard that he can become quite exasperated with his newest tool.


I imagine that a few of his Techie Elves are quite sensitive, and would help Santa when the computer just becomes too difficult. I imagine the Elves would, after Santa's worked on it for awhile, urge him to find a cup of herbal tea and cookies.

And then I know the Elves fix Santa's computer so that all the boys and girls, whose files have been all mixed up by Santa, will all be back in place, easily found. It took the Elves a very long time to convince Santa that the computer was the way to go, in this day and age, rather than that long list he carried around.


Santa's not so sure, though, that hard copy list never changed, was always easily read. He never had to worry about deleting the list, as sometimes happens with the computer. He never had to worry about the anxiety that suddenly appeared...computer anxiety. He has the best Elf technicians anybody could ask for...and if it gets too tough, computer wise, he just hands it over to them.


He really doesn't have time to argue with those Elves these days, anyway. They want him to take his laptop in his sleigh, when he goes to deliver those toys to all the boys and girls who have waited a whole year. But, in his wisdom, he knows this might not be a good thing...to rely on that computer. It is not easy to contact online computer technicians, who have always promised help but rarely follow through, over Christmas. And he accepts his limitations...he can read a written list, but how does he find those lost files, once they seemingly disappear? No matter which button he pushes. Or clicks, he forgets the new terminology sometimes.


So Santa always takes his written list, along with his laptop. It is just too wearing to argue with those Elf technicians, so he pretends that he can't wait to take his laptop with him. But he hides his list in his back pocket, not even telling Mrs. Claus that he prefers the written list. She's so much better on the computer than he is, he doesn't want her to know that he prefers his list.


But as soon as he is out of sight of the North Pole, he tosses the laptop into the back of the sleigh, squares his shoulders and takes a deep breath. He takes his folded list out of his back pocket, and checks the first name. He is back in control.


After checking each name (twice!), directing his reindeer, climbing on slippery roofs, getting stuck in tight chimneys, drinking gallons of milk and eating a million cookies, Santa gets tired.


Sometimes he wishes that the boys and girls would leave some hot Chicken Soup, and a cup of Herbal tea. All those cookies are great, but that sugar just doesn't sit well in his tummy anymore. However, he shrugs his shoulders, and reminds himself to be grateful. It would be a long night without those sugary snacks to keep him going.


Finally, the last name is checked (twice!) and the Reindeer, with round tummies from all the apples and oats left outside for them, turn wearily home.


Just before he sees the lights of his compound in the North Pole, he pulls his laptop from under the empty Toy Bag, and quickly tries to make it look as if he has used it the whole night. Ding! ...goes the computer...and up comes a blue screen. With nothing on it. Oh oh.


Santa tosses the computer back onto the back seat again, and congratulates himself on a job well done. He is thankful for his wisdom in taking that long list of written names.


As his Elves, unloading the sleigh, brush off cookie crumbs and spots of milk off the upholstery of the sleigh seats, they find the laptop.


How did Santa ever manage to deliver all the toys, when the computer was frozen solid, when it wouldn't even boot up? They shrug their shoulders, telling themselves they shouldn't be too surprised...Santa's done this trip a million times without a computer, and he's just done one more. Perhaps next year...


In the meantime, Santa has eaten the chicken Soup he has dreamt about all night, has his cup of herbal tea, and finds the couch. Mrs. Claus places one of the Elf babies on his belly...and they're
off to dreamland.


Santa mumbles, just before sleep overtakes him, MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL...AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Birthday!

We celebrated my grand- daughter Brianna's twelfth birthday last night.

She's leaving childhood behind. Our conversations these days are limited to talk about her friends and their doings. She's very good, though, to her Nammy...she tries very hard to remember and talk about the things I had the absolute privilege to teach her.

When she was just a baby in my arms, I would take her down to what she later named the Secret Forest. Here was our classroom...here is where I taught her to respect all things...all beings. Here is where she named the big, old Trees, here is where she left trinkets and food for the Fairies of the Woods. Here is where she mourned her mother, Katrina...and here is where she accepted Heidi, her aunt, as her Mother.

There are many stories the big, old Trees heard, from Bree and I. Sometimes, she was joined by her friend, Ashlee...then the questions doubled, and the awe in Mother Nature's wild kingdom transpired and transformed them both.

They learned about Snakes and Slugs; about Frogs and Ferns...that the Fern leaves could be used as swords and that Frogs went through different cycles in the pond. Bree named the Snakes in the vegetable garden. One venerable old Snake, I swear to you, would wait for Bree to visit and then curl up in the Sun in the exact same spot, waiting for Bree to say hello.

Brianna's been one of the great gifts in my life. I was fortunate enough to share her younger years, to help in the formation of her beliefs...and I watch her now, as she takes the giant leap forward into young womanhood. Many of those beliefs she learned in the Secret Forest are now being applied to the world at large.

If a question is asked of Brianna, she will always, always give her most honest answer...and it is not necessarily what the questioner might want to hear. I have never been able to control Bree's actions; she has a deeply inherent belief in her own abilities and what she can and can't do. I bite my lip as I remember some of the times when I said no to something she wanted to do...and found myself doing it a few days later.

Her social skills are unparalleled; she is able to speak with ease to children and adults alike...and we all listen. Humorous words of wisdom...wisdom still largely untapped... trip off her tongue...and more than once, Bree's words have diffused problematic situations.

Sensitive and defender of the underdog, Bree will turn off a movie she's wanted to watch for ages rather than watch some injustice, especially if there is some scene that is unkind to animals. She is able to commune with animals...I watch her doing so when she believes she's alone.

She sounds like an angel...but she's not. She is very much a pre-teenager. I could tell you many stories of her escapades; however, these are hers alone to tell.

All I know is, Creator smiled upon me when Brianna came into my life, shining her light into all the hidden corners. The bond we share...formed in an instant twelve years ago...is as strong as it ever was.

I have moved away from the Secret Forest; Brianna has grown and experienced more of life's lessons, without me. She has taken wisdom, too, from the enormous support group Creator saw fit to bless her with...she has a huge extended family, all of whom would offer support to her, in an instant.

For as long as I remember, Brianna has dreamt of Wolf. He figures large in her life, her room is covered in photos of Wolves. Many times, as a baby, Bree would dream, wake me up, and we would hear the howling of Wolf in the very far distance.

What more could a grandmother who practices Shamanic ways ask for?

Happy Birthday, Brianna!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dignity

Many years ago, in my youth, I believed that when my time came to die, I would do it with dignity and grace.

In my death scenario, I thought I would lie quietly in my bed, giving my last thoughts to my family and friends. When it was time, I thought, in my idealistic youth, I would just drift off on the river current that would take me to the next step of my journey.

It seems I might have been wrong.

I am watching my mother's body husk breaking down. She has had so many heart attacks I have lost count; her lungs are filling with water. There are tubes suddenly sprouting out of her body, a new one each time I visit. Her organs are giving out.

What to me seems like terribly invasive procedures...is to the medical staff life-giving procedures. I understand their point of view...they have promised to save lives; not hasten death. But, to me, a daughter watching her mother...it seems inhumane.

So I let my mother speak. I hear her complaints; I would feel the same. I use much Reiki with my mother, as does Graham...Mom says Graham chases the anger and worry out the door. She has told me this many times, although she looks perplexed when she wonders about it. A long time ago, my mother agreed to receiving Reiki energy from us...she doesn't remember this now. And she says, at this point in her life, she's not about to learn.

She only knows it works.

I let Mom speak about her impending death. She tells me to be safe...that she doesn't want to have to worry about me after her death...she says she hopes it is time for peace then. We laugh, each of us understanding that a mother's worry about her children transcends time and space and probably, eternity.

We work on letting go of her dream (so like mine!) of falling asleep quietly, for the final time, in her own home, her family surrounding her. I tell her I was so proud of her immense courage over the last year, when she gathered herself together enough to find the independence she had never had in her lifetime. I tell her she did well; now it is time to let herself be taken care of. It is time to not worry about what to have for dinner that the caregivers would know how to prepare, to not worry about her money and where it was going...to not worry about how she was going to be able to answer the door, or go to the bathroom...when nobody was there.

She needs hospital care now...attacks against her body are appearing with regularity. Sadly, she agrees. But hope is required...I tell her of the walks we'll take in the beautiful gardens surrounding some of the care homes. I tell her of watching Koi in the gardens where my father in law spent his last days. I tell her of the peace we found there, of the long philosophical chats we had.

We may not have time, Mom and I, to have those lovely walks amongst fields of flowers, so we have them now...with beeping machinery, dinging bells, constant interruptions...surrounding us. We have had a year of constant conversations; I understand her as well as I am ever going to. I understand the face she shows me; Mom loves flowers and gardens and scenic views. So I take her there, to the garden where I grew up...to the old family home.

Frown lines disappear slightly, she is more at ease as she discusses the plants that I remember, the problems she had with them and how the flowers always made up for the care. She laughs and says, Like kids!

When it is time for me to go, she tells me to go quickly. My mother has given a No Resuscitation Order...each time I leave, it may be the last time I see her alive.

She points a shaky finger at me and attempts to use the gruff voice all her daughters recognize so well...Don't ever, ever forget I love you, she says...

And I point my finger right back at her...and say...Don't you ever forget I love you!

We stare at each other.

Standoff.

And I turn and leave...before Mom's tears overflow, leaving her with whatever dignity she can still muster...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Held back from visiting Mom in the hospital by the inclement weather, I decided to heed the insistent voice I kept hearing... the one that whispered, ever more frantically ...It's Christmas!

Not one single thing has been done in preparation, in our house. The unearthly Storms that have pummelled Qualicum Beach and the rest of the Island have effectively stopped any baking or travelling to shop for gifts, for a couple of weeks, as power outages continue.

And time goes by.

There is another storm in the forecast for this afternoon; I intend to attempt to travel through it anyway. It has been a long time without any contact with my mother.

On Tuesday, despite another Wind Storm, I travelled down this side of the Island, to Nanaimo. This highway, although strewn with branches, is safer; I do not have to travel over a mountain pass, or beside a lake, or through Cathedral Grove to get there.

But my little truck fought hard to stay in its lane, when enormous gusts of Wind howled down the highway. By any one's standards, this Storm was intent on doing damage.

There are Trees hanging over power lines everywhere. BC Hydro is out in full force, repairing downed lines and cutting Trees that have fallen over, or been sheared off, with giant, jagged shards of naked wood reaching for the sky.

The continuing Wind and strange weather patterns have seriously hampered the repair efforts... hydro crews from Alberta are being flown in to lend a helping hand.

When I reach the Mall, I am struck by how few people are out shopping. Where are the Christmas hordes? The Storms have kept people at home...those fortunate few that still have power. And I hear stories of generators flying off shelves, and I hear of the need for people to know how to use these aids they are suddenly acquiring. Generators are meant to be used outdoors; there have been stories of death amongst the uninitiated, who use them without ventilation.

It is the middle of winter. Houses without a method of heating besides using electricity are very cold...and some people have been without power for many days, with only a promise that power may be restored by the weekend. Huge freezers holding last summer's garden bounty, along with meats, are defrosting, bringing hardship to many. Children are cold...how does one keep a baby warm in temperatures like these?

I search the faces of the shoppers. There are not many who look as if they are enjoying themselves, it seems difficult for others to meet my eyes or return my smile. Careworn, anxious eyes meet my gaze. Everyone that waits in line-ups with me has a story to share, about the weather. Not many sound excited over the forthcoming holiday...most have cancelled plans already made.

There are so many Storms in the long range forecast.

But I notice a child, looking up at the adults that surround him. His mother is intent on telling her story about how long her family has been without electricity; her son's face was becoming more and more anxious. Finally he tugged on her jacket. She brushed him off, placing her hand on his head, continuing with her story. He would not be denied, however.

His mother excused herself, for a moment, and looked down at him, her eyebrows raised. What about Santa, her son whispered, how will he find us, without lights?

I watched the adults around him, shamefacedly assuring the anxious little boy that Santa would find him, telling him all sorts of different ways Santa had at his disposal.

It was as if this child brought this small group of people, waiting in line with furrowed brows, to their senses. Suddenly the Christmas music didn't sound so manic; there was laughter...stories shared of how each one of us worried Santa wouldn't find us, at some point or another, in our childhoods.

The child, who had appeared in our midst dragging his feet, his head down, walked away with his mother with a spring in his step. All was right in his world now...even if there were no lights!

As I wandered off in search of another gift, I mused over how quickly the atmosphere changed, when happy stories, joyful stories, were remembered and shared. How quickly positive energy replaced the negative thoughts, destroying the weighty cloud that hung over us.

How lucky I felt, to be standing behind this little boy, and hearing the stories of reassurance. I needed them, too.

And suddenly, to me, it began to look...and feel...a lot more like Christmas.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Basic Truths

After hours of power outages yesterday afternoon and evening, my mother was returned to the hospital by ambulance.

I had tried to leave Qualicum Beach earlier in the day, but Wind held me back. A drive through the Grove and along Cameron Lake was not something I wanted to face in the driving Rain and howling Wind.

But when I spoke to my mother early in the day, she confessed to falling again, the night before. She had called her neighbours to request assistance, not allowing them to call anyone, let alone an ambulance. They banded together, these seniors. But Mom bruises easily now; she had to fess up to her caregivers. She had to admit, to them and to herself, that she could no longer walk, even the smallest bit.

Many, many long distance calls ensued between my sisters and I. Not much got done this day; but we managed to work together on finding a way out of the maze of information that was thrown at us, by caregivers and doctors and oxygen people. And then Wind threw a huge salvo; transformers blew everywhere and electrical power was no more. Telephones were down, too. Plans drew to a grinding halt.

The highway that might have taken me to my mother was closed.

It was not until later in the evening that telephones were working again. This is when I discovered my mother had been taken back to hospital by ambulance. She is on oxygen; electrical power is essential. By returning to hospital, Mom could no longer hide her desperate straits. Her doctor, having been apprised of her situation by two of my sisters, was now convinced of a different reality than the one promised him by my mother, and has indicated that he will keep her safely in the hospital Care Ward.

I would, under no circumstances, count my mother out.

Throughout all this, I felt as if a huge wall had been erected in front of me. It seemed everywhere I turned for help, I was blocked. It became very obvious...Graham noticed it first. I felt as if I was living in one of those dreams, where everything happens in slow motion or not at all.

When Wind once more blew with such force, crippling the Island, even cutting off telephones and electricity, blowing Trees across highways...I thought I'd better listen. I thought I'd better relax a little, go with the Powers That Be...and learn a little about myself.

Shaman Maggie, in her infinite gentle wisdom, had sent the four Basic Truths of Shamanism to me, indirectly. She had sent them to a student; and copied me. These Truths are always with me...I have them taped to my computer...the list is the first thing I see when I turn on my computer. For whatever reason, the instant I opened the email, I suddenly knew that I had not been using them as much as I could have been.

But it was the fourth Truth...effectiveness is the yardstick of ability...that stopped me in my tracks.

I was so intent on working hard, using authority and clear intent, to help my mother. I was beginning to wonder why I was not being heard; why was the whole scenario so very difficult? Why was I feeling blocked, even when I followed the rules? And why was nothing going the way I had intended it to?

There are outside influences here with my Mom; there were things that were totally out of any control I might have tried to exert. My mother has never listened to advice...why would she suddenly start now? My sisters and I have rarely agreed on anything longer than 5 minutes before becoming exasperated...it would take time to learn to work together.

The only thing, this lesson told me, I could do is keep my balance, and let the forces at work do their work. And watch.

All the world's a stage...

My Mom uses a different persona with each one of us... showing each of us a face that is unrecog- nizable to the other. And I see what my mother is doing...the age old use of manipulation by pushing the aged buttons between that particular child and mother.

We did not have a relationship as I grew up, my mother and I. Neither good nor bad. It just was. To me, at any rate, in the blindness of the youth. During this last year, Mom and I, on our own, grew closer...she was gentle and loving with me, she projected back to me, eventually, what I was giving to her.

But she was not this way with my sisters...she presented a different face to each of us. A different way to place us exactly where she wanted each of us on this stage of life...

And now, the Powers That Be have placed us exactly where we haven't been, my sisters and I, during our lives, on a stage where it is crucial that we work together.

It will present revelations, this sudden upheaval in all our lives...and it is out of my control. Effectiveness is the yardstick of ability...and I was blocked at every turn.

Another lesson taken in.

Still, it leaves a question...who is my Mother?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Power of Attorney

Sometimes, in the middle of crisis, my thinking, logical side... never very developed ...shuts down completely. My emotional body takes over and I have difficulty remaining balanced.

At times like these, I am thankful for my friends...I need the thinking minds, unclouded by the emotional storm of my personal life, to give me directions.

Dirty Butter, Chris, Shaman Maggie and so many others have given me that direction in many different areas. But the one item that I forgot has me stymied...but it is only a setback.

Not one of us has full Power of Attorney or Representation Agreement for health care for my mother. The reason things went relatively smoothly with my father-in-law is because we had that particular document. I am a former legal secretary; I know how important this document is. It is ingrained in me.

I allowed my mother to continually tell me that this would be too "invasive" for her. She could not make up her mind; she would not agree, saying she didn't require it, even after the information was explained to her in a very simple way. The times weren't dire; she was managing...and time went on. I still could not convince her. And here I am.

The medical people aren't required to speak to me...or anyone else, other than my mother. The fact that she's confused makes no difference. Without that document protecting her, my mother makes decisions that are potentially dangerous. And even if I do get an appointment with her doctor, unless Mom gives express permission...he does not have to divulge full information.

I remember well how many times the Power of Attorney document was used with my aged and confused father-in-law. I was given proxy, in my ex-husband's absence, and I made many decisions with Specialists, Nurses and Home Care regarding his care. They all spoke with me, the information that was given was detailed and easily couched in layman's terms.

But I forgot, in the raging river rapids I found myself in with my mother, that I had that all-important paper, when I dealt with my father-in-law.

It is an important lesson.

This is what can happen to me, when I let unbalanced bodies full reign. I realized, quite early on in my care of my mother, that I would have to research the laws on Power of Attorney. The laws changed shortly after I left the legal field. But I let the opportunity pass, lulled by week after week of no problems arising.

With Wind howling outside at 90 km, my thinking is becoming clearer...not so awash with watery emotion. I needed to have silence; I needed the calm that meditation induces within me...the balance. This brings the peace, the quiet within the storm. And within this peace, I connect with all the energies available to me...I contact the Source.

There is no way that I can tell you how strength to fight on rebuilds within me, easily overtaking the rampant emotional body, and taking control...smoothing the raging waters.

I have many more tools, now, than before I encount- ered this Storm. I have learned an important lesson, with the help of my guides and my friends. Without my friends, the quietly whispered words that were echoing in my mind...the words Power of Attorney...would not have surfaced.

And my mother, in Canada, has " the right to live at risk". So she may or may not agree, to my desire to help her.

I have to accept either of her choices.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Discharged!

I sit and write this at 5:30 am; after a sleepless night, tossing and turning, and it feels good to finally be up.

My mother was discharged yesterday afternoon. A Nurse called me; the Doctor said there was nothing more to be done...Mom may as well go home. But she would have to be on oxygen, and would be set up with a tank.

I asked the Nurse...how could this be? What was wrong with Mom? She halted in her litany of instructions for Mom's care...and said...Nobody has spoken with you? I said, No. She said that was bizarre.

When Graham and I visited her two days ago, Mom wanted to go home. We assured her that we would take her, when the time came. Mom was still on a catheter, and on oxygen. I tried to find her Nurse; she was unavailable. But I spoke with another, who said she did not know anything about my mother, since she had just arrived on the Ward, but that she would send Mom's Nurse to me when she returned.

Gray and I waited; it became obvious Mom was tiring. Once more I wandered the halls in search of her nurse, once more I had no luck.

My mother seemed slightly better, the swelling in her face had receded a bit; she seemed mostly lucid...but it is hard to tell. Mom's very, very good at hiding her confusion; she presents herself as knowing exactly what she is saying, and she uses manipulation with great success. This is survival to her; she has learned this manner of behavior very well.

As we left, we told her that if she waited until Saturday or Sunday, Graham and I would take her home, if indeed she could be discharged, never believing that she actually would be. But we wanted to give her hope, we did not want to take that away from her, we wanted to leave her with something to look forward to.

As I spoke with her Nurse on the telephone, my mind became blank and my body stilled. I felt nothing...it was as if a flat line was running through my mind. I have felt this way, before, at times. I think it is shock.

Without any notice of any kind to the family of this aged, ill person, my mother arranged for this particular Nurse, when her shift was complete, to return to the hospital and drive her home. The Nurse had arranged Home Care to be there, and Mom had called a neighbour to turn the heat up in her home. Mom refused to let the Nurse call any member of the family, she would not give the telephone number of two other sisters who might have been able to help. The Nurse said she had to beg her for my telephone number.

She had already called my sister...the one who had her number down as contact person. This sister has been battling the flu; she was in bed with a migraine and sore throat. Mom had spread her demented poison well; she used what had worked before...nobody cared and nobody would help. My sister was not even able to take the call; her husband, who at the age of seventy-five and wracked with arthritis, was asked to set up the oxygen tank. He refused, knowing Graham and I had already said we would take her home on the weekend. He believed, as we all did, that the hospital would not discharge my Mom until family members could be there to take her home.

Especially when she was discharged with an oxygen tank, when she lived alone and only received care three times a day, for four or so hours spread over the three visits.

I had the presence of mind to ask...what about food? There was no food in the house...the fridge had been cleaned out. The Nurse paused and said she hadn't thought about that. Would there be a can of soup or something similar that she could eat until I could get there?

I stammered, I was not thinking straight or at all.

The Nurse assured me it was no trouble; Mom wanted to go home and she could not place her in a Taxi, with an oxygen tank. So she would drive her home, set up the tank, and leave her. I was to pick up iron pills, she would give her enough for the weekend. Mom was still in pain, she said, and Mom could no longer live without the oxygen. But Mom had managed to get out of bed by herself, and was as ambulatory as when she had entered hospital. I was to call the Doctor on Monday, if I needed more inform- ation.

I was being rail- roaded and there is no way to tell you how helpless I felt, how lost and without direction.

I asked...But how could my mother manage, how would she be able to maneuver herself when she was attached to an oxygen tank? The Nurse asked if we had thought of care homes. I said...Many, many times, but Mom refused and we cannot place her anywhere without her consent. The Nurse, becoming irritated with the huge complications of what she had assumed to be a simple thing, said...well, if she falls again, she will be back in hospital and then she would have to wait for a long term care bed.

What transpired between the Doctor and my mother? How did she manage to convince him that she was perfectly able to take care of herself? How?

Mom will use any tool...lies, charm and laughter, and careful monitoring of her confused state, to achieve her goal...and her goal was to return home right that minute, no matter what chaos she might cause by doing so. But how can a Doctor not see through this behavior...why did he not ever call us? There is no answer I can see, other than Mom's manipulation of the mind of an educated Physician.

One sister, who had not been called by the hospital, called my mother last night. She was the only one able to talk with gentle sense to my Mom, at this time. I would have called; but my sister called me and told me to take the night off, to rest, to return to the wars tomorrow. I was thankful for this...I did not want to badger my ill mother, and I was afraid I would have, I was afraid I would have lost control through my fear and anxiety for her well-being.

We don't know why she is on oxygen. We don't know anything about her health, other than that the Surgeon did not find anything more than Thrush in her throat. Is she still bleeding internally? Is this why she is on Iron pills?

When my sister called, she said Mom could barely speak, she was so out of breath. She said Mom told her she felt so nauseous and tired. And Mom told her that she was getting tangled in the oxygen lines when she attempted to walk to her wheelchair. My sister tried to tell her she needed twenty- four hour care; Mom refused, saying she knew how to take care of herself...there was no problem.

My sister was right when she told me to distance myself; last night, I had to accept that there was no more I could do to help Mom, if she did not want to help herself and work with us, instead of against us. She has convinced herself we don't care...such a false assumption, I can't even begin to tell you.

My mother, I believe, has finally fallen victim to dementia. Confused before, aged and forgetful, the black cloud of dementia sits on her shoulders now, colouring everything with counterfeit deception.

Once more, I will travel today, once more taking up cudgels on my mother's behalf. Once more, as my mother declines, I will try to convince the caregivers that she is not herself, no matter how well she hides her confusion and illness.

We have decided that we must hire twenty-four hour care for my mother, whether she agrees or not. I will have to make her see, somehow, that she must allow this. She pushes us away, now, in her frightened state. We are suddenly the enemy army.

But I have forged a new relationship, a better one from before, with my mother over the past year. I will use the tools I have in understanding dementia to defuse Mom's protests. I have hope that she will understand, after a night alone, that it is impossible for her to live like this.

But I am left with the questions. What was wrong with Mom in the first place? Did she have a stroke? Why is she suddenly on oxygen? Her breathing was fine before the hospital stay. What happened?

Until the Doctor deigns to speak with us, I have no answers.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Calling All Guides and Allies

Once more, today, I will travel to see Mom. I will attempt, again, to be a voice that will be heard...a voice that will make the medical system take heed.

I went to the hospital two days ago, fully prepared to do battle, as I mentioned in my previous post. But it was not to be.

When I arrived, I had only a couple of minutes with my Mom, long enough to see the red sign that said Nothing by Mouth. And then, I was told to wait outside her room, as Nurse after Nurse filed in. I waited outside, becoming more frightened by the minute. What was going on?

I heard a Nurse shouting at my Mom. My mom asked... Why are you screaming at me? And the Nurse, who had blanketed all old people as deaf, said...oh, I didn't know you could hear. My blood was rising.

My mother is having difficulty breathing...she is on oxygen. I heard the Nurse ask her...Why are you having trouble breathing? My Mom, getting more confused and upset by the minute, said...I don't know. And we don't know; it's one of the reasons she's in the hospital.

I pushed myself into her room, unbelievably angry, and yet feeling totally sure of myself, something that is not common for me in an angry state. I saw them make my mother walk to the wheelchair. It was an accident waiting to happen, especially in her very weakened state.

I said...My mother rarely is able to walk without help. The Nurse totally ignored me, looking anywhere but at me, standing right beside her...a member of Mom's family. And she asked another Nurse...is she able to walk? The other Nurse didn't know.

Mom, who had a catheter draining urine, got tangled in the tubes as she tried, so hard, to do what the Nurses wanted. Her face screwed up in pain, her breathing becoming extremely unstable, she managed to seat herself. She looked up at me, her confusion and anxiety so clear in her eyes. I could not help...once more I was pushed out of the way.

I walked out of her room, into the hallway. Another Nurse took pity and told me Mom was being taken for an Endoscopy, as she was bleeding somewhere, even though her stool showed no blood. They had to rule out stomach problems. My question, knowing how invasive this procedure is, was...Is there nothing else you could do?... thinking Ct Scans or MRI's, in my ignorance of medical procedures.

Kindly, the Nurse explained that there were certain procedures that had to be done, before a CT Scan or MRI could be used. Those were the rules, set down by the government.

I was told to come along with my mother to the Surgical Ward...as they needed a member of the family there. What would they have done, had I not been there? Perhaps, eventually, they would have called my sister, who has her name down as the contact person...and perhaps not.

The Surgeon spoke to my mother and I. I was frightened and angry, hating to see my mother so confused. She was convinced she had to go to the bathroom, not understanding about the catheter. The Surgeon told me, in very medical terms, most of which went completely over my head...that Mom was bleeding internally. She did not expect to find anything, she said, as Mom's stool showed no blood, but the test had to be done.

I was to wait in the Entrance area of the hospital, and she would see me after she was done. Mom asked, Can't Marion come in with me? No, she was told gently, she could see me after the procedure was complete. I left, feeling the Surgeon's compassion and being so thankful for it.

That's all it takes, you know, just a kind, understanding word, when the world turns upside down.

I sat in the Entrance waiting area, in shock and beyond feeling upset. I was numb and trying to think of any way that I could have helped her more, but none of us knew this procedure was going to be done, none of us were able to prepare her for it. It was the way it was.

The Surgeon found me, after a time, and told me that indeed, she hadn't found anything, other than a yeast infection in Mom's throat. I forgot to tell her Mom has been battling Thrush for a long time. This was not news.

The Surgeon told me Mom would be back in her bed shortly, and would receive a blood transfusion. Then I looked into her dark eyes, and she looked back at me, and shook her head, just as I shook mine. She rubbed my arm...that piece of compassion almost made lose it...almost, but not quite. My work was not yet done.

I waited and waited, walking the halls. I notified my sister; she came and waited, too. Hours passed, no Mom. The Nurses did not know what was happening, only that she was to receive a transfusion upon her return; that she would more than likely be very tired from the procedure and medication when she did return. If we wanted to see her, we should come back after the dinner hour.

Another day has passed. I went home, finally, without seeing her...it was dark and I had to drive over the mountain pass. Other than the Surgeon, so far no other Doctor has spoken to any of us. We have no idea what is being done or not done. We are in limbo, a terrible place to be.

I tried calling her yesterday morning. There was no answer. After various tries, I called my sister, who tried, too. She could not contact her, either. When she called the Nurse's station, she was told my mother was sitting in her wheelchair, and probably didn't hear the phone.

I don't know how much to believe from my mother, who is confused and certainly may not have her facts straight. But what my mother is experiencing is quite different from what the Nurses tell us...they say she is doing great...she is just fine.

When I was finally able to contact Mom, she told me she had been sitting strapped in her wheelchair for a few hours, becoming so cold that she finally attempted to undo her straps and climb into bed. She had heard the phone and was sorry she couldn't answer...she had been unable to reach it or her call button.

She was chastised for attempting to climb into her bed.

She told me about seeing such awful things. She asked me...they were nightmares, weren't they? These frightening spiders and things I see are not really there...are they? She says she would like to talk about these things...but nobody has time...they rush away. Her doctor is new...he has only seen her once, when he had to lift her into her wheelchair from his handicapped parking space. He does not know her words are not garbled, as they are now.

He does not know that her face is not usually misshapen from swelling. He does not know that she does not have trouble breathing, to this extent. He does not know that Mom was rarely confused, before. He does not know that Mom used to be able to balance her checkbook, something she was doing as a matter of course just last week.

And he hasn't attempted to ask any one of us, either.

The province's papers and radio stations and television news are full of stories just like mine. The CBC aired a programme last week where a caller said that it was one of the most humiliating experiences of her life when she took a member of her family to the hospital. The family is treated as inconsequential. And care is long and drawn-out, with tests being used that are antiquated.

My mother will not live with me, even if I lived in a bigger home and had the ability to house her. She refuses to live with any of us. I would take her out of hospital in a minute, if I knew where to take her. Care homes are full, with year-long waiting lists. I have to find it within myself to try and get along with the system, as it is the only one we have...the only one where Mom might find help, as awful as the experience may be.

But Graham just called. He is taking the afternoon off work, he said. He will go with me to the hospital.

Graham is a Karuna Reiki Master...he uses his skills in defusing confrontation...in his job and elsewhere. He is a Scottish terrier when it comes to unfair and unkind practices. His mother is a Nurse...retired, to be sure, but she has worked in many of the province's hospitals and she still remembers very well a different time, when our medical system cared for the patient...and not the dollar. She has prepared him well.

I dreamt last night about Cat and Eagle...and I know Spirit is lending me all the strength I will require to get my mother through this. And if she does not, if this is to be her final illness, I will make sure that she is warm and that she knows that we care.

I promise you that, Mom.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Beware, British Columbia

They say the pen is mightier than the sword. I'm not entirely sure of that, since I've never used a sword, and I'm not the kind of person who writes about unfair political practices. But when those practices impact upon my family, the way they have over the past couple of years...it is time to try.

I'm not even a political person. I rarely listen to the news about the excuses these politicians come up with...the excuses are not new, after all. I am not well versed in who is who or what they do in the government...but I write now from a bruised heart.

I write in defense of my mother.

The medical system has broken down in British Columbia; it has been thus for a few years. I hear stories and have personal experience about people waiting and waiting for medical treatment; I hear stories about shoddy care when they are treated. There is a shortage of Doctors and RN's, LPN's and hospital workers, making trips to hospitals a dire last resort.

And it was a last resort for my mother, who is frightened of anything that might smack of institutionalized care. She has fought hard over the last year, since my Dad died, to stay in her own home. She has care workers that come in three times a day, dressing her, preparing food, and doing countless other things for her, that in my absence, must be done...the chores of day to day living.

But, along with shortages in everything medical, there is also a shortage of home care workers. Inevitably, my mother fell, when she was by herself...many, many times. Sometimes she dragged herself across the floor to reach her bed, just so she wouldn't have to call an ambulance, or anyone else, for that matter. She thought she could hide how desperate her situation was...because she knew the next step would be a care home.

Eventually, sometimes she would be taken to hospital, by ambulance, after a fall. After being told she was on too many medications, after she was told that she could walk, if she only tried, after she was made to feel it was all her fault...she would be sent home. Sometimes at 2 AM.

My mother is 85. A grand age for someone who lived through World War II, widowed twice and divorced once, lived through quadruple heart bypasses, lived through the pain of a burst appendix in her seventies and countless other medical problems. When my Dad died, it was the first time in her life that she lived alone. Now there was no one who insisted that she receive proper medical care.

But Mom is a survivor. Sometimes beset by enormous fears, she would become crabby. She would tell me, I am crabby today...everyone bothers me. Most of her careworkers understood; some did not. And these workers, inexperienced ones, would place a complaint against Mom, prompting visits from her caseworker, who suggested to my Mom that a home would be the best place for her. Mom's greatest fear was becoming true.

Last week, after three falls on different days, Mom called me and said her back was hurting. I wondered about pleurisy, since she had suffered with that malady before. No, she said, the pain was different.

I live 40 km away from Mom and the roads were impassable for a time with snow and ice. I told her to tell her careworkers. She did. They asked her if her arm was numb. It wasn't, she said.
But three days of pain finally made the workers call my sister, to tell her Mom needed to be taken to the doctor.

The last time we took her to her doctor's, she fell out of the car and lay in the parking lot, in the gutter, in the pouring rain. Neither my sister or I were able to pull her up...her Doctor finally came out and lifted her into her wheel chair. My sister would not have been able to take Mom anywhere by herself...Mom's knees give out at the most inopportune moments. And it had already been proven that we do not have the skills required to pick her up.

My sister called an ambulance.

There is a black cloud that hovers over hospitals these days. People are made to feel silly, for fearing the worst, feeling fear, when illness strikes and one must go to hospital. People are not listened to...the medical people have no time. In Mom's case, some of her tests showed problems with her heart, and she had a compression fracture, from either osteoporosis or her many falls. She was kept in this time, mostly for pain management, we were told...and a heart specialist was called to see her over the weekend.

At first, she seemed alright, when I visited. In pain, but alright. There were moments when sharp pains appeared in her head. We told the nurses, who checked her blood pressure, and gave her pain medication. I stayed with her until the medication took hold. She was lucid and making sense, even through the cloudiness medication can induce.

But the next day, Mom started seeing things that were impossible. She insisted bugs, people she knew, and her grandkids, none of whom were there, were all around her. She phoned my sister, at eight o'clock at night, out of breath and frightened beyond compare.

I had made sure Mom had a telephone. But I could not get through. My sister phoned the hospital the next morning; they said Mom did not have a phone. My sister said she did, Mom had phoned her the night before and since Mom could not get out of bed....? Eventually, they found it.

By the time my sister, who had to wait for visiting hours (we had been told in no uncertain terms to not come to the hospital until 2 PM) saw my Mom, Mom was well on her way...seeing things and making little sense. My sister told the nurses, who had not noticed anything with my Mom. They said they did not know her...it was impossible to tell. Does this mean that the medical people know all the other patients under their care? But one LPN had noticed my Mom seemed confused that morning.

My sister phoned me, very upset. Our mother, she said, was not being taken care of...she was left in her bed with no one checking her, unwashed and frightened, looking worse than when she entered the hospital. When she told the nurses about Mom's sudden confusion, they said it was due to medication. When they checked, it was noticed that Mom had had no medication since the day before. And this is a lady in the hospital for pain management?

So Mom's sudden confusion had nothing to do with medication. But I remembered my father-in-law hospitalized three years before his death suddenly becoming very confused, telling us he had seen certain nurses having sex in the next bed, with butterflies flying around them. We told the nurses then, too...but it was not until we finally phoned his doctor, that they discovered he had hydrocephalus. Quickly, then, he was taken for MRI's and CT scans, and operated upon. He weathered the operation at the age of 89. This experience made me think...

After I spoke with Mom by telephone, she told me the nurses had asked her if she was seeing things. I asked, are you, Mom? No, of course not, she assured me...and then proceeded to tell me the hospital needed cleaning...there were bugs everywhere. And there was a dark man behind her head and one of her grandchildren was sitting by her side. This grandchild lives in Vancouver, and was certainly not sitting by her side. The dark man...he sounds familiar.

I phoned her doctor, who was too busy to speak to me, but his nurse took down the information, and said he would check her this morning.

I don't know if Mom has hydrocephalus; I only know that it is estimated that 14% of the elderly in care homes are misdiagnosed with it, giving the diagnosis of dementia. I am not a medical person, I only have personal experience with it. Untreated, death will occur. I know, too, that I am tired of the treatment my family has received.

Stymied, I sit here and write. After a weepy, frustrated breakdown last night, and a sleepless night, I am girding my loins, so to speak. I am leaving for the hospital in a couple of hours. I will wash her myself, I will make so much noise doing so, during visiting hours, that it will be noticed by every last person on her ward, medical or otherwise.

If my inappropriate behavior has me thrown out, or hopefully, jailed, I have told Graham not to get me out...but to send reporters. People who own pens. So angry now, I will speak with any and all...with my guides and allies fully in agreement.

Tell me, Mr. Premier, if it was your mother lying uncared for in a hospital bed, what would you do?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Five Things People Don't Know About Me

Hmmm...my friend Lorna has tagged me. She was tagged by Matt. Look out, Matt, you are going to feel as if you have been hit by a Blizzard!

It was hard to come up with five things people don't know about me...I really am an open book. I hide very little, other than my feelings. But everybody has at least five things, right? This morning, however, my brain shut down and absolutely nothing came to mind.

Gray mentioned a few things...I told him those were items that were going to remain secret! There is a limit!

But here goes...pretty boring stuff. I'm sure there has to be more that is blog friendly...I just can't think of them at the moment.

1. I must eat licorice and read before I go to sleep each night. The licorice is a European brand, sugar free and salt free, that nobody likes other than me. It is one of my security blankets from childhood. I took licorice into the delivery room, when I had my first child. They tried to take it away from me...they only tried once!

And I have been known to read advertising flyers in bed, if I can't find a book. There is something about the written word that lulls me to sleep.

2. Until I met Graham, I used the same pillow that I grew up with. It was 50 years old...a feather pillow my mother made out of old goose down duvets. Gray was not fond of this pillow...he mentioned something about germs and mites, while I told him about all the dreams this pillow held.

But the germs and mites took the upper-hand; however, I was unable to throw it out. It still sits in a chair in our bedroom, a new cover replacing the old. It is so old, that washing it is out of the question now...there will be feathers all over the place. I tell people this pillow will be worth many dollars someday, as an antique. But I have to become famous first...there aren't many people who will overlook the germs and mites!

3. After a job at the age of thirteen ironing people's clothing, I rarely iron. For years, I didn't even own an ironing board. My tablecloths had better be permanent pressed; if they're not, I will put them on the table all wrinkled, dreaming of the time when they have been washed so often, there are no wrinkles left.

4. I won't pass a person on the street who is asking for money, without giving some. Sometimes, I get besieged...the word spreads quickly. One time, I handed out what cash I had, and then told them they had to share...they had to pass it on. I'll always wonder if some of them did, but I believe that when the time is right...they will remember.

5. Phew! This one is one that many of us share. I have to read four different horoscopes every morning, and I must read two or three different Tarot card spreads, again each morning. There is a tiny hole that is left if I don't check out the stars or the cards for what the day might bring.

I like my routine. I have been accused of being obsessive-compulsive...but everyone knows that!

So now, I am supposed to tag five other people. Here goes: Dirty Butter, Sheila, Hannalie, Dave and DaveM. I know all these people will thank me...in time.

Time heals all things, right?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Change

When I was a child, by the age of six I had already faced many changes. I had emigrated with my family from Germany, my mother and father divorced, I had a new baby sister and I gained a stepfather.

School was one change too many. I was terrified of everything...the huge yellow school bus with the shouting children, the echoing halls of this...place...where I was required to spend most of my day...even the bathroom frightened me. We had an outhouse at home.

But I especially remember the shrieking children, as I watched them from under the coat racks that lined the long hallways. My coat smelled like home, I think. Homesick, I hung on to it, on those wintry days when all the kids played inside the school. The hallways and basement became the playground.

I was not used to children, even if I was one. My playmates were the family dogs, Trees, Plants and Stones outside. It was a quiet, natural world that I inhabited...any excitement around being generated by my own imagination. We lived on a rural property and far from the nearest town.

I did not know it was alright to shriek like that. Indoors, at that. I was afraid the wrath of the grown-ups around would come down on all of us, even me, who was not participating. It made my head hurt...the noisy confusion bombarded me from all directions, there in my little hidey-hole.

It seemed the fear took hold for months; I think it was only the first term. As I screamed my head off, my mother would place me on the bus and the bus driver would hand me over to one of the older girls, who held my hand and attempted to keep me in my seat. Still hiccuping with sobs, I would then, upon arrival at school, be handed over to my teacher, Miss Daily. She had incredible patience with me, letting me cling to her skirt for most of the school day.

I was never teased by my classmates; I have no idea why, since there was plenty of teasing happening with other students. Perhaps they recognized my absolute terror, perhaps kids can be kind, as well as cruel...I will never know. But they just accepted me, hiding behind my coat and all.

Eventually, some kids would come over and talk to me, racing off to play or chase somebody else at times. And eventually, I would run with them, leaving my coat hanging behind, for longer and longer periods of time. In time, too, I would shriek with laughter, chasing the boys or being chased. And I would no longer be frightened of the bathroom...it had become a matter of course.

But I remember well how I integrated myself into the social life of my school. As I hid behind the coats, hanging on to the cloth, wrapping the fur on the collar around my fingers...I watched these children. Each and every one of them became very familiar to me...their speech, their body language, what they laughed at, and how they interacted with each other.

And I told myself, over and over, one thing. I told myself that one day, I would no longer be frightened, I told myself that one day I would run and shriek with abandon, leaving fear behind. I told myself that the sky would not fall if I accepted and adapted to this irrevocable change that had been presented to me. I challenged myself to look at this opportunity without fear.

And to do this, I had to assimilate this whole different atmosphere into my very being. That is why I watched and waited. I learned who and how and what these children...these strange little beings, who were just like me...were. These were my tools, although I was too young to realize it. This ability to watch and wait and learn has never left me. This is a way of life that others sometimes may find slow...but it has never let me down.

Then I had to stand and face my Fear. I had to understand I had allowed that Fear to assume illogically huge proportions, and it was growing by the minute! And so, in my six year old mind, I had to shift it over...instead of letting Fear grow bigger, I could let it grow smaller.

It was a big lesson from my guides for a little girl. The idea that I could shift my reality and change what was so frightening has guided me throughout life's travails.

I'm still able to get wrapped up in fearful behavior, becoming anxious or angry...sending negativity flying into the ether. Sometimes I let myself shout with terrifying anger, or cry with abandon...but even then, there is a part of me that watches and learns what it is that is frightening me so intensely.

Then I remember that little girl, who hung on to her coat for awhile, and then stood away, facing her fear of change.

And I can do no less, as an adult.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Arctic Front

The North Wind has brought the Arctic to our doorstep. Wind's voice sounds like long, slow moans, as it helps clothe branches of Trees and Shrubs with a mantle of Snow and Ice.

Water, so abundant last week, has frozen in place...the treacherous Ice lying in wait underneath the Snow.

And there is a mountain of Snow, it seems. It has snowed for three days and nights, starting with the coldest Blizzard I can remember. It is still snowing; the forecast is for another huge Snow Storm to hit on Wednesday.

These photos were taken three days ago. Today, after another night of snowfall, I went out once again to clear branches of Snow. But it wasn't to be... Snow has turned to Ice and is clinging and enveloping each branch. The branches are brittle with cold; I hear snapping sounds from twigs in the distance. Were I to brush them, in the interests of helping, it would be all to easy to introduce harm instead.

I break holes through Ice in the ponds, where Koi lives, deep beneath plant roots. It is cold...so cold. It feels as if it will never be warm again...the ice-laden breath of the Arctic has driven all thoughts of Summer and too much heat from my memory.

For awhile, the dogs like the cold. It is a change from the mud and water we slogged through last week. I appreciate Snow, too; it keeps the dogs clean...no more muddy feet. Even as the driving Snow blurs and obscures the sight out of windows, kids are playing...building snowmen and forts and race cars and playing hockey. Their muffled, happy laughter rings true.

But the dogs get cold, in this icy Northeast Wind, and so do I. I go inside, sending the plants, so frozen and lifeless, many Reiki blessings to help them through this continuing strange onslaught of aberrant weather. What will be next? What is the weather showing us, trying to tell us? We have had an unusually long, dry Summer and through most of Autumn, we have had little rain.

But in November ...things changed. Weather became just as extreme as the hot dry days of Summer. We are no longer in a temperate climate, it seems. The normal topic of conversations these days is the weather. The question...What will the weather do today?...is on every one's lips. Life has changed for many people...no longer is electricity something we take for granted; nor is Water, still being boiled in many areas. Some towns and villages are cut off from the outside world. Suddenly, due to the whims of something we can't control, our way of life is no longer a sure thing.

The Snow and Ice contributes to the sense of emergency. The muffled sounds and whines of emergency vehicles has become almost constant. There are many elderly people who live here; weather such as this can sometimes precipitate dire straits, with electricity flickering on and off. We are lucky to have the paramedics we do...lives are being saved.

The landscape, with blowing Snow and howling Wind mostly obscuring familiar land points, is eerily beautiful, picturesque as a Winter postcard. But it looks like this from inside, where Gray and I are warm, grateful for our good fortune in still having electricity.

Outside, an Arctic Front holds us in its hoary grip...bringing change to our modern lifestyles and reminding us of ancient lessons learned long ago from Mother Earth.

Ancient lessons of survival.
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