Empty Chair Holidays

Many lament the approach of holidays when there is an empty chair. Sometimes this can occur due to a loved one with a chronic illness.

Even before we lost our son, hosting for the holidays was becoming a less frequent occurrence, mainly because of the chance of emergency hospitalizations. There was one Thanksgiving, however, our son requested that we host a large gathering at our home. He wanted their daughter to be able to play with her little cousins! Of course, I jumped at the chance! Despite wintry weather conditions we had roughly two dozen relatives in various parts of our home. We got along fine, with everyone enjoying a typical Thanksgiving feast. At one point following the meal, I meandered through the house, noting many animated conversations with relatives in various rooms. I couldn’t find our son. He had retreated to a secluded spot, resting his head in his arms as he sat on an exercise machine. His request was totally a selfless one on behalf of their daughter. It was his last Thanksgiving and I wonder if he suspected that. He was always a generous soul, so I was pleased to be able to honor his wish.

Throughout my life, I’ve experienced many an empty chair from various older relatives. Nothing, however, compares to the deep grief from a seat vacated by one’s child.

While approaching our first Christmas without our son, a dull dread infiltrated my being. It can seem overwhelming to contemplate the extra work of shopping, decorating, cooking and cleaning when one’s heart is heavy. What could I do?

One of the things I did during the fall that year, was to begin going through old photos. It was very healing to reminisce via those images. I traversed through the years of raising our son and watching him as he and his wife began their family. Since our granddaughter was only four years old when she lost her daddy, I wanted to give her a way to remember him though these photos. I made her (as well as us) some children’s picture books. One book was of her dad as a very young child. A second one was comparing her dad’s childhood to his adulthood. The third book was contrasting our granddaughter to her dad doing similar things. Of course, the third one was her favorite!

Next, I had to cope with preparing for the holiday itself. Our tree was such a large monstrosity, my husband and I just decided to donate it and purchase a much smaller table top model. This seemed to somewhat ease my mind.

Another issue was that I couldn’t bear to look at the Christmas stockings I had made for our children when they were wee little. The mere sight of any stockings made my heart ache. As our two children are/were well into adulthood, perhaps we could just surrender this tradition.

Interestingly, putting up the smaller tree went quite smoothly. While I was adorning the tree, I opened a nearby window blind. During the decorating, I noticed a flutter out of the corner of my eye. There was a mourning dove flitting at the window. That just happened to be our son’s favorite bird, so it felt as if he was giving me the message that he was still with us!

As to the meal, our daughter and daughter-in-law were wonderful help with the food prep, so shared work made a light load.

Yes, within the support of our intimate family gathering, there were some tears, but with great love comes great grief. Sometimes our hearts are just so full of love, that some of it can’t help but leak from our eyes.

Any kind of empty seat holidays can be a challenge, whether it be birthdays, anniversaries or traditional holidays. Please consider whatever it takes to get you through it. Maybe create some new traditions. Delegate, simplify and compromise. Take care of your well-being. If you need a grief counselor, perhaps that could be the best holiday gift you could give yourself. Take care and know that my sympathies are with you.

Stars

Astrophysicists theorize it and the Native Americans affirm it while the Book of Revelations declares it. What is it?

…the relationship between stars and other beings.

Scientific analysis has led astrophysicists to tell us that we are made from “star stuff”. The same elements found in stars are also within our bodies.

Native American legends have long spoken of the Star People. Whether they are more human or some kind of other worldly being, I assume they either came from the stars or perhaps shone like the twinkling wonders.

The Book of Revelations reveals that Jesus’ words were “I am the bright and morning star.” We all have our own interpretations. Does this mean Jesus is truly a star? My dreamy, artistic self wants to take this scripture literally.

These lovely and profound comparisons of stars to other beings inspired this sonnet and in the process healed this mother’s soul.

Origami Lesson

My son, when you were ten, a laddie boy,

we bent and creased and crafted paper fun.

of twirly gigs and spinning fans and toys,

of magic planes that dipped and dived and spun.

Progressing next with origami folds,

then fortune tellers by the score we made.

In grouping three, I glued so it would hold.

A flower formed for you that would not fade.

You touched my blossom, made a matching one,

attached together, then exclaimed, “Mom, look,

I made a star!” Oh my! Amazing, son!

Your life too early folded, heaven took.

My fleeting flower offered from afar.

Our son exults as ever shining star.

First publication rights, Lyrical Iowa 2020, 75th Anniversary Edition

Gratitude Especially When Times Are Hard

An attitude of gratitude is crucial, especially during trying times. It is no secret that the year twenty-twenty has been fraught with challenges.

First, let’s think of what happens if we are not looking for things for which to be thankful. This would be akin to taking the “too-too” train to the destination of “Woe-Is-Me”. That little settlement is the hometown of Goldilocks. Everything there is too hot, too cold, too big, too hard or too soft. When we are looking for fault, it isn’t hard to find.

Next, let’s imagine going on a drive. Your assignment is to notice all the green cars. Green may not be the most common hue for vehicles, but if that is on your radar, you will notice them. It is a lot like playing I spy with my little eye, something that is _______. Suddenly to a room full of young ones, they will notice lots of whatever it is to be found!

The same thing is true with gratitude. If we are searching for ways to be thankful, all at once we find far more than we initially realized. The objects of our gratitude don’t have to be large or sparkly or even green. However, it must be someone or something you treasure in your heart, those special people who help to make your life ineffably sublime or that something which perhaps makes your life easier. In fact, it could even be that something which makes your life more difficult if you can find it within yourself to be grateful for the lessons it teaches.

Being thankful during times of challenge may not be the first thing on your mind. In fact, it could very well be the last. When our son was in hospice, I honestly didn’t feel the least bit thankful. It was understandably one of the most difficult periods of my life. Then, I discovered a practice of listing ten gratitudes each day. Finding ten things for which I was grateful was a huge challenge, but I did it. Granted, some of the items I listed were small conveniences, a spark of beauty, or simple, loving glances. But, the lesson I found through the struggle of this practice helped to hold my spirit in a more hopeful place. This year in particular, many have lost loved ones, health, jobs, businesses, homes, normal social outlets and family gatherings, etc. In the face of any kind of loss, gratitude can come to our rescue.

Last of all, let’s try to be like Goldilocks when she found the three items that were just right! Make that list of things that are just right for you. Make it long. Make it a habit to list at least ten each day for which you are genuinely grateful. Especially when you make gratitude a habit, you will be amazed at the transformation it can make in your life!

Here is the start to my list. I am very thankful for all of you readers of my blog. I am grateful for those of you who follow and forward my writings to spread the light so needed in our day and age. Now it is your turn!

Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude. A. A. Milne

“Enough” is a feast. Buddhist Proverb

Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life. Rumi

No matter the size of your heart, may you discover the rich abundance in “enough” as you fill and clothe yourself in gratitude. God bless!

Are You Like a Newton’s Cradle?

Tell me if you are like a Newton’s Cradle. Before you decide on any preconceived notions you may have, take a look at this “Amazing Demonstration of a Giant Newton’s Cradle”.

The Newton’s Cradle illustrates kinetic energy transferred from one object to another. It also shows an equal and opposite reaction. Additionally, this device demonstrates that energy cannot be created or destroyed.

When I studied this invention, it brought group dynamics to mind. It made me think of ways we humans may treat one another. Let’s take gossip for one. If even one person tells just one other, look how the swinging spheres so aptly illustrate the passing on of the cruel words. What about hateful or discriminatory choices? Assuming these laws of physics, this negative happening could get transferred along as well.

Now, let’s contemplate giving someone a sincere compliment! The chances are good that the recipient felt so wonderful that they likely complimented someone else. What about loving or helpful choices? Giving love to just one other radiates through untold others and is passed down the line, too! Picture this invention as sharing good vibes with others!

Perhaps you feel ready to answer. Are you like a Newton’s Cradle? Does it feel good to see your actions repeated? How does this device mirror your life?

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself. Rumi, 13th C. Persian poet

HEALING AND BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS: 639 HERTZ

All relationships must stem from our relationship with self. The comfort level of being in our own skin and love of self form the basis of what must be present to have healthy connections with others.

The year of 2020 has provided ample testing for all our relationships. With the pandemic, new situations may have been created such as viral concerns, extra regulations in the workplace, Zoom meetings for work and/or family, job loss, more togetherness or perhaps extended isolation. In the political arena, we’ve had a wide margin of differing opinions on various issues. If you feel it is time to heal and build your relationship with self in order to facilitate getting along better with others, you are reading the correct blog!

Tuning forks are a unique way to achieve healing of a wide variety of ailments. The frequency of 639 hertz strengthens and harmonizes relationships with self, family and community. It is said to enhance communication, understanding and tolerance.

One of the most brilliant scientists of all time, Nikola Tesla, stated, “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”

Now, you may find it amazing that something as simple as a tuning fork could achieve such a thing. Just think when you’ve experienced music, you’ve felt the vibrations of the music resonating within your body. As a large portion of our bodies are made up of water, we are easily affected by sound. Take a look at this example of how various frequencies change the pattern of sand upon a vibrating disk. Note how the patterns change from one beautiful form to another. Imagine these healing patterns within the cells of your body!

Different pitches affect different parts of the body. The frequency of 639 hertz focuses on the heart. Tuning forks are often used for this. However, there are many suitable YouTube videos featuring these frequencies without having to purchase a set of forks.. I have provided two examples below.

I personally tried each of these for around seven minutes. Both of them induced the relaxation response with my breath deepening and my muscles releasing tension. To get a fuller response, at least a half hour is recommended for better results. You will notice the second video below is meant to be listened to for an extended period of sleep!

If you have any serious relationship issues, a counselor may prove helpful. As with anything considered complementary or alternative, it is recommended that one’s medical professional be consulted to assure that it is a safe practice for you. Additionally, no medical claims are made. Also, bear in mind that this is a very meditative experience. Plan on sitting in a comfortable position or perhaps lying flat during your session. Just to warn you, it is possible to become light headed, so it is wise to continue to sit or recline until the feeling passes. Happy healing!

IN MY PERFECT WORLD

Each and every one of us have ideals for that which makes our world perfect. One of mine was that all children should outlive their parents. I was wrong.

When our son was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it felt earth shattering. It was one of the most devastating possibilities I could have imagined. Prior to his first major surgery, the Whipple Procedure, I was introduced to energy healing. It had positive effects for our son, so it gave us much hope. Two months following the operation, he was actually able to resume his job of heavy freight delivery. This was also during receiving several months of chemotherapy.

Meanwhile, I picked up further learning in energy healing. Every night before I went to sleep, I would work on him and ask for his being completely healed. Roughly six months after I began this practice, I had two momentous visions. One was of a rainbow, the second was of a lighthouse with the rainbow! In relating this to our son later, he shared that he had had two dreams in one night in which a man told him he was healed!

This was so inspiring that I created a five foot tall painting of my visions. A portion of the painting is on my main website page.

Also around this time, there was a popular song on the radio by Chris Daughtry which contained a verse, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it all.” Well, when that song played on my car radio, I would just belt it out at the top of my lungs. Our world seemed in order. It thrilled my heart.

It was especially wonderful when nearly two years after his surgery, he and his wife were miraculously able to conceive a child! Upon her birth, we found she was and is perfect and adorable in every way!

Before our granddaughter saw her first birthday, our son had another recurrence with an accompanying major surgery. I might add, he also had clean scans following each of these two surgeries and the subsequent treatments.

A third time he was diagnosed and treated, then received yet another clean scan. All the while, I delighted to that song about getting what I wish.

Six and a half years past his initial diagnosis, the dread disease returned with a vengeance. One of the most difficult conversations in my life came when our son told me that he just wanted to die. No parent should ever have to hear this. As much as I could not imagine my life without him in the earthly realm, I couldn’t beg him to stay and prolong his suffering. I love him too much for that. In a tearful exchange, I assured him it was okay for him to go. He was released from his ravaged body two or three months later. Interestingly, the song I referenced earlier is titled, “I’m Going Home”. That is exactly what our son desired to do, go to his true forever home.

Why do I share this story today during this potentially tumultuous time in US and world history? It is because everyone holds a differing view of a perfect world. We all aspire toward individual concepts as to what our ideal world should be. Just as I found in regards to our son, it was necessary to weigh my own desires alongside his. Sometimes our wishes can be contrary to the best interests of others. Compromise and loving acquiescence are critical discussion points for the common good as we approach not only personal matters, but national and world affairs as well.

I would take into consideration not actions, in which everything is relative, but wishes. Tell me what you want and I’ll tell you who you are. Anton Chekhov

May you wish well.

IS OUR 2020 WORLD A CRAZY QUILT?

The year 2020 has caused many to question where we are headed. We are in the midst of huge world challenges with what appears to be a hodgepodge of issues. Let’s take a look at what is called a crazy quilt.

This particular style of quilt was first made during the Victorian era in the late 1800’s. Its name was derived from a seeming lack of a constructed pattern. Until I really studied the layout of the fabrics, I assumed it to be entirely random. However, there is a framework. In searching for continuous straight lines, I saw a grid of large squares. Then, within each square there are four adjoined kite-like shapes positioned to resemble the four cardinal directions on a compass. The fact that each piece is created from other smaller sections disguises much of the framework.

These quilts were a clever way to utilize scraps from other sewing. This type of project was popular during hard times or simply in following the philosophy of waste not, want not. My maternal grandmother made this one roughly a half century ago. It contains remnants of cloth from three generations! This is a history of my grandmother’s dresses and aprons and my mother’s dresses and blouses as well as little dresses my sister and I wore.

In looking at each individual piece of fabric, I see beauty and a sense of design and pattern. There may be fabric in another square that coordinates more closely in its inherent characteristics than with the adjoining pieces. However, all are lovely in their own way, fitting neatly against one another as puzzle pieces.

As this quilt has some age to it, it is quite fragile. You may even notice one particular section with the white lining showing. The lighter cloth beneath appears as the darker colored cloth on top is disintegrating.

It seems that the year of 2020 has clearly polarized many factions within the world having to do with economics, health, race relations, science, diversity, politics, etc. It certainly does have the feel and appearance of a crazy quilt.

Let us continue to ponder the makings of this quilt. Maybe if we look hard enough at our world, we can find our cardinal points of direction once again. We can build on our history and still appreciate individual differences of beauty. Those things that are antiquated may fade away and yet inspire our future. We can intelligently utilize our world resources. Perhaps we can all nip a few excess corners to fit as a puzzle of oneness. Do you know what the secret is to moving forward? It is love, simply love, just as the love of my grandmother in sewing this quilt, one stitch at a time.

MASKED EMOTIONS: Where Do They Go? What Can We Do?

The topic of masked emotions is currently very timely. Not only are many of us masking our faces for viral protection, but may also be hiding our emotions. Sometimes we are concerned with upsetting others by truly expressing our feelings. Perhaps we are frightened or angry regarding many world issues involving the pandemic, be it concerns over the illness itself, potential of sickness or death of loved ones or perhaps the management or mismanagement of viral spread. We may be upset over economic worries or inequality of human rights, political upheaval or even severe global weather patterns.

Sometimes one feeling can mask another. As grieving a child is one of the toughest bereavements to bear, it can feel as if that grief masks other grief. First we lost our son, then we lost my dad and my brother. We lost these three in a nearly twenty-six month period. Somehow I feel as if I’ve not yet fully grieved the latter two. I know I must deal with this.

For some of us folks, the loss of a child may mask our abilities to function in the world by wallowing in our grief. In this case, the family is dealing with not only the loss of the child, but also of a floundering parent. This extreme emotion creates a reduction of that parent’s life by creating a barrier between self and world. This constant and grievous wall of tears may seem as if it is shielding one from further grief. It is actually preventing the ability to live a vibrant and fulfilling life.

It is possible to find coping mechanisms.

Due to the journey I’ve traversed in the past decade or so, there have been many avenues opened to me regarding health and emotions. I chose this topic for October as this month holds the birthday of our dearly departed son. Many times there are trigger dates such as day of birth, day of death or holidays in which we need to practice extra care in kindness to ourselves.

If we do not feel and release our emotions, it is akin to eating them. However, these feelings do not go the way of food and become excreted through our digestive systems. Swallowed emotions take their toll by parasitically taking up residence in various parts of our bodies.

Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth in uglier ways. Sigmund Freud

Louise Hay, author of You Can Heal Your Life, has a list of ten affirmations to help those whose lives have been masked by grief.

https://www.healyourlife.com/10-affirmations-to-heal-your-broken-heart

Through working with her clients Louise Hay discovered that people with certain ailments were repressing similar emotions as others with the same malady. Here is a website containing her list of possible dis-eases (as she called them) along with affirmations she recommended for the healing process to begin.

http://lovehonourandrespect.org/emotional-health/louise-hay-affirmations-for-illnesses

Another fascinating figure in the arena of emotions and health is Master Chunyi Lin, author of Born a Healer. In Traditional Chinese Medicine practice, each of five major organs is the seat of certain negative as well as positive emotions. There is a fine balance and interaction between these organs and emotions with subsequent results from either ignoring or enhancing the flow of energy. Here is his site illustrating these emotions on a five elements chart. (Please scroll down to the two five pointed star charts on this site.)

https://www.springforestqigong.com/five-elements-qigong-for-self-healing

At times when I’ve had an intuitive practitioner working on me, they will notice lodged emotions in certain parts of my body. These professionals are capable of assisting the release of our pent up feelings. This enables healing to occur.

Over three weeks ago, I planned my blog topics in advance. This one was to include information from Louise Hay as well as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Not quite two weeks ago, I found Hay House was offering their incomparable Writer’s Workshop for the first time in a virtual format. Hay House is the company Louise Hay founded. As I jumped at the opportunity, I gratefully spent twenty concentrated hours this past Saturday and Sunday learning more about the crafts of writing and publication. Intriguingly, another workshop attendee, who hails from Melbourne, Australia, contacted me out of the blue. She is a doctor in TCM. Little did I know that the Universe would conspire to tell me my timing was right to delve into the philosophies of Louise Hay as well as TCM!

Glorious is the day when we no longer have the need to mask ourselves from anything!

THINK LIKE WATER

It was sometime in the middle of my art teaching career, there were four sixth grade girls of note. They loved art so much that they had nicknames for one another. The first three names made sense to me: Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo. We’d been studying those particular artists. The fourth name, however, was Bob Ross! We hadn’t talked about him in class. While Mr. Ross isn’t found in art history books, his television show did encourage many to pick up a paintbrush and even make a life path of art. I do admire this happy little tree guy with his upbeat attitude as well as his ability to bolster the self-confidence of budding artists.

Even though teaching about Bob Ross wasn’t on my list of priorities, toward the end of my career, I did show a brief video of him just because it was a fun and optimistic piece to show at the end of the year. There was one single line in this clip (see below) which had always intrigued me, “think like water.”

I decided I wanted to go explore the concept of thinking like water at a nearby hiking trail. A river winds through this nature preserve. It was quite nostalgic when my husband and I were there as we spent many peaceful afternoons on this path with our children when they were young. This seemed the best place in the world to contemplate how to think like water.

Here are ten ways I perceived we could think like water.

1. Water is necessary for life. Play an indispensable part in the lives of others.

2. Water seeks the path of least resistance. It is most natural and productive to go with the flow.

3. Water goes around obstacles, ever flowing. If, in the process, the obstruction is stationary, water wears it down. Go around barriers, wear them out, and be persistent toward your goal.

4. Water is capable of being solid, liquid or gas. Be flexible to change when given different environments.

5. Water is nurturing. Not only does it provide habitat for critters of the air, land and water, it also creates endless entertainment for humans who love water activities. Be an uplifting and supportive presence.

6. Water may be the most refreshing drink. Have a welcoming, revitalizing spirit for others.

7. Water is cleansing. Leave a place cleaner than when you arrived. Whether you are camping or shopping or anything in between, the only evidence you were there should be a tidy and clutter free space.

8. Water puts out fires. Settle disputes being cognizant of the quantity of your inner resources.

9. Pools of water contain many wonderful things at the bottom. Know that at your inner core you hold many hidden treasures.

10. Water has the capacity to match the essence of what is near. If it is a calm day, the beautiful hillsides and graceful trees reflect upon the still waters. A stormy hour is mirrored by the whip of white caps. All the while, the water remains comparatively placid in the deep. Echo the being of others back to them, allowing a calm demeanor to shine forth through your eyes.

These are my ten thoughts of how we may think like water. As our bodies are comprised of a high percentage of water, perhaps this is food water for thought. We could each easily say, “I am water”, so join me by thinking like it, too!

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