Poem: Feline


You of fur and flicking tail

oh how your nine lives

saved mine

Despite moody moments

and shunning stares

Most days pass in

spots of sunlight

leaving bits of fuzz

everywhere

You have done well

with your canine friends

(contrary to belief)

for we are, after all,

family

in the end

But the years pass

and you grow older

faster

than I

This is both the curse

and what makes you

so precious

With humble thanks

I share this home

with your wild spirit

and grateful your magic

touched

my heart

 

 

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Someday


Today is different for me than most. A day to reflect on the inhumane treatment of animals and the continual sacrifices they must make to feed humans. I hope someday it stops.

And the centuries old disrespect and disregard of Americas Native people. It is one of our truly disgraceful periods in history.

Sure, I have plenty to be thankful about–but on this particular day, I would rather reflect on these two topics since they tie into this ‘holiday’. It has been a hard day for me for many years; today I am saying so.

May the future bring more comfort and peace to lives of those we take for granted.

 

Zoe The Only Child: The Thanksgiving Box


As Zoe lay groggy in bed, she thought about yesterday. It was vacation time from school because it was almost Thanksgiving, so Ma had taken her into the big town to get prepared. This year it was their turn to have the family dinner and everyone would be there–all of Zoe’s very favorite relatives!

Auntie Frieda was Ma’s oldest sister and was Zoe’s secret most wonderful Aunt. She brought special treats for Zoe because she knew that sometimes Zoe was sad that she had no brothers and sisters.  There were others too and everyone would laugh, sing, and eat lots of food! Zoe thought there was almost too much food and she never liked that it was sometimes wasted. She had heard in school that there were many people in the world and in our own country that were hungry.

But this year, as Zoe looked out her bedroom window and saw the pretty leaves that were still left on the trees, she wasn’t as happy as last year. Zoe was thinking about what she saw in town yesterday with Ma and she couldn’t stop seeing it in her head.

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It wasn’t often they went into town! It was kind of far away, and Ma said it was crowded and everything was so expensive. “But this time of year is special sweetheart,” she said with a smile, “and maybe we can start our Christmas shopping too.” It was extra special for Zoe to be shopping and spending time with her Mom, so she grabbed her little purse and they had hopped in their old car.

The countryside was so beautiful as they had driven along and Ma played the radio loudly. Sometimes her Mom would sing–Zoe thought her Ma had a really nice voice, but Ma only laughed and said, “You silly doodle, I sing like a goat!”

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Even though Zoe’s tummy was beginning to grumble for breakfast, she still wanted to lie in bed thinking about yesterday’s trip. She liked to daydream and many grownups told Zoe that she seemed older than her real age.

When Ma and Zoe finally had gotten to town it was buzzing with people. It was a much busier place than her small village! There were so many shops, restaurants and lots and lots of PEOPLE! It was almost a little scary to Zoe. But Ma was right with her and held her hand, so off they went.

After they had walked a while down a big street with lots of cars, Zoe had begun to notice something strange. There were very large boxes on the street and in those boxes were blankets. And on those blankets were people.  Zoe had become confused and could not understand why people would be in boxes on the street.

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“Ma,” Zoe turned and pulled on her coat, “why are there people in boxes? It’s cold outside–won’t they get cold? Why aren’t they inside?” “Oh Zoe dear,” her Mother had said sadly, “those people don’t have a place to go inside. They are homeless. They live in those boxes on the street.”

Zoe stopped walking right there when Ma had told her about these people! They lived in boxes? How could that be? This didn’t see fair, wouldn’t they get sick? “But how do they stay warm at night,” cried Zoe getting very upset. “Sometimes they make fires to stay warm and cook their food,” she had said, and Zoe could tell that her Mother was very sad too.

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Wearily, Zoe remembered all this while she lay in bed. “I know I live in a little house and we don’t have much, but I don’t have to live in a box. I guess I am very lucky,” mumbled Zoe out loud. (She often talked to herself).

Finally she got up and Zoe stumbled through the day trying to help Ma get ready, but kept trying to think about what she could do to help the box people. Wanting to help and to see what it was like not having a home or enough to eat, she began to think of an idea.

That night, after Ma was sound asleep, she tip-toed into the shed. Her Ma would never wake up because she was always very tired from working so hard. Zoe remembered that there was a big, huge box left in there from when the man came to bring the new refrigerator! Zoe decided to drag it in the house and sleep in it.

“I want to see what it’s like for those people I saw in the street,” she thought. Zoe knew she could not do it outside or her Mother would be very worried and upset, but at least Zoe would feel how small the space was–how dark and lonely.

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Zoe pulled it in the living room and tugged in some blankets from the couch. She made a little nest inside the box and crawled in. Inside the box, Zoe felt cramped and whispered, “it’s so dark in here. It’s a little creepy and I’m glad the box is in my house.” She thought about all the people living in real boxes outside that very night and drifted off to sleep having bad dreams about people asking her for food.

In the morning Zoe’s Mom came into the living room and saw a big box in the middle of the floor. “Good gracious,” walking slowly toward the box, “what have we here?” With her foot she kicked the side of it. Of course Zoe’s Ma had seen Zoe’s little toes sticking out the end of the box, so guessed who might have been inside.

The tap woke Zoe and she jumped hitting her head on the inside of her box-home. “Ouch,” she snapped, “where am I? Oh wait, I’m in my box, that’s right, I forgot,” said Zoe as she started to wake up.

“Good morning Sweetpea,” Ma said, “what are you up to with this box?” As Zoe crawled out she explained to Ma about wanting to see what it was like to live in a box. Zoe told her it was spooky and dark last night and way too small. “And I wasn’t even outside!” Zoe said understanding how hard it must be for the people in the streets.

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Zoe had learned some things from sleeping in the box, but it wasn’t enough.  She wanted to do more. In her dreams, the people in boxes had been asking for food. She wondered if maybe she could help by giving food too? Now she really had to think hard about what to do next.

In school kids had whispered about a boy named Joey. They said he dressed funny, was too skinny and didn’t like to play with the other kids. Some of the kids said his family was poor  and they didn’t like him because he lived in a trailer. Zoe never thought Joey was any different. She had always tried to play with Joey on the playground, but he always seemed sad and shy. Zoe thought that maybe she shouldn’t bother him because maybe he didn’t want to play with other kids. She wasn’t really sure before, but now she was wondering about Joey.

Zoe was wondering if maybe Joey didn’t have enough food all the time, or maybe he didn’t get to go to town like she did and buy things with his Ma. Maybe being poor meant that your were sad and afraid to be near other kids. Zoe had heard they came here from another country and were all alone, just like she was in the box last night. Alone and scared.

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Suddenly, she had an idea! Maybe she could invite Joey and his family for Thanksgiving! There was always plenty of food–and isn’t that what the Native Americans did way back in history? Aren’t we suppose to share and be grateful for what we have? “I will ask Ma right now,” shouted Zoe as she ran to her Ma skidding into the kitchen.

Zoe told her Mom the great idea she had about inviting Joey’s family. And, because Zoe had the best Ma in the world, she said yes! So now Zoe just had to find his house and invite them.

She knew that he lived at the end of the village and it wasn’t a very long walk. Ma said she would go too just in case Zoe got lost, so off they went hand in hand, hoping to find the right trailer!

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Once they arrived to the street where Joey lived, it was luck that Joey was outside feeding their chickens! Zoe loved all the chickens in the yard and was happy to see her classmate.  “Hey Joey,” Zoe called! “Oh hi Zoe,” Joey said in his shy voice, “what are you doing here?” “My Ma and I know you are new in town and have no family around here and wanted to invite you, your Mom and Dad for Thanksgiving dinner at our house,” Zoe said with a huge grin on her face!

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Just then a door slammed and out came a pretty woman. “Joey, who are these people,” said a woman with long dark hair? “Mama, this is Zoe from school and her Mother. They want us to come for Thanksgiving dinner! Can we Mama, please? Zoe is my friend!”  The woman looked startled and a timid smile came over her face, “Let me ask Papa first, but that is a very nice thing to ask.”

The woman went back inside and in a moment, Joey’s Papa came out too–he was tall and slim with big muscles. “Hello, I am Joseph and this is my wife Carla. We would be so happy to go to Thanksgiving with you. You see I lost my job and it is very hard now. It is like a gift you ask us. This is what makes America great,” Joseph grinned widely!

Ma gave Carla all the important details of the gathering and they waved goodbye. With everthing settled, Ma and Zoe left and walked home. Zoe felt very good. She knew she wasn’t helping all the people in boxes, but she was helping one family. And now she knew that Joey was her friend!

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Thanksgiving day arrived bright and beautiful. All the guests started pouring in the house and it smelled so good. There was lots of food, almost too much! Zoe did not eat meat, but other people did, so there was all sort of stuff to eat. There was turkey, stuffing, vegetables and LOTS of desserts. Zoe hoped this year nothing would be thrown away. Maybe she and Ma could even give the leftovers to Joey and his family!

Zoe was especially thankful this year. She knew that she was a very lucky little girl. She had a home, even though it might be small, it was not a box on a street. Ma made sure she always had enough to eat and she never had to worry that she would be hungry. Zoe had family that loved her like Auntie Frieda. And this year, she had a special gift: she had her new friend Joey. Plus Zoe had learned how good it felt to be nice to other people, and Zoe thought this was the most wonderful part of Thanksgiving she had ever felt!

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A Thanksgiving Perspective


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As we near Thanksgiving I was ruminating on the President’s speech on immigration last night. I don’t like to get too political here on my blog, but I feel compelled to share a few thoughts.

First, I have to say (and which will possibly surprise or annoy some), Thanksgiving is my least favorite holiday. My feelings are based on a few reasons: it bothers me that we pick a ‘day’ to be thankful when it feels to me that so many of us don’t feel thankful much of the time (just listen to people around you); people overeat and stuff themselves on this day when so many in this country and others are starving and we continue to be so wasteful with food in this country–not to mention how unhealthy we are around food in this country; and finally the origins of this holiday seem profoundly hypocritical to me given the suffering of the Native Americans in this country today. These are my feelings, so I often spend it working, alone and/or fasting. Plus as one maitre de at a restaurant once said: Thanksgiving is a rather tragic holiday for a vegetarian. (Now I’m a vegan and gluten-free!! )

So here we are in 2014 with an immigration war raging again. It’s not the first time the politicians have fought this battle, and it’s far from over. But I thought about this war, and I thought about Thanksgiving. And I thought about those Pilgrims and the first steps they took on this land when they emigrated here. How they had hopes and dreams for a better life. How they had suffered dreadful seas and weather and lost friends,  family and left the homes they knew. They did it because they had a glimmer that maybe they could have something new, forge new fields and build a new, freer government.

They were met by strangers when they set down. Those immigrants who put their feet on this land, not their land, but the land of other caretakers who had lived here for centuries and followed the way of earth. They came in droves after and pushed the natives back. Killed the animals and brought theirs. Cut down the trees and planted their crops. Brought disease and alcohol. More immigrants came from other lands and this nation of ours grew and grew. Cities flew up. Pollution filled the skies. Cars filled the streets. The natives were placed on small tracks of lands and were told this was all they had now.

And now generations of those immigrants call themselves Americans. We, the descendants of those immigrants, call this country great. New immigrants want to come because it is a great nation with opportunity, money, jobs, education. Other immigrants, just like those first ones want to come here because they have the same hopes and dreams to make a better life for themselves and their children.  They climb fences, swim rivers, deal with police, get shot…anything to come to our wonderful country and to get away from terrorism, drug dealers, and murderers.

So on Thanksgiving, when people sit around their tables to give thanks–remember your ancestors. Remember where we all came from and why we are here and free. Think about why others might want to be also. Remember we’re not perfect either. We took when we came. Maybe we need to pay it forward now by doing right to some new immigrants because it may certainly be too late to make up for what we’ve done to the Native people who were already here.

Time Travel


Not too many of us get to travel back in time.  All the quotes say: live for today, forget about the past, don’t think about the future. Blah blah. But there can be something said about revisiting the past. About taking a peek down memory lane or even a good long walk, or better yet staring it right in the face.

This is exactly what I did the other night when I met with my ex-husband (well one of them) at a local restaurant. He was in town (living in a different state) visiting a son in college. Now, I have to add, this isn’t so odd because his sister and I are still very close after 30 years or so. She came to live with us as a child, along with her brother. So there is still this partial connection to him, and we do occasionally communicate. But I have not seen him in many, many years.

We both had remarried. I have been divorced again, and his wife sadly died of cancer. There were many years of no communication between us while we were both otherwise engaged in our other lives. But for me, at least, he remained somewhere on my radar screen I suppose.

One day a few years ago, as I was putting away Christmas decorations, I found a letter he wrote as we were in the process of divorcing. It was very old–probably close to 25 years. It was on New Year’s Day that I found it. His number was easy to google, so I called it and left a message. I didn’t hear back…right away. But eventually did, and this was what officially started our conversations.

They have been sporadic over the years, but his sister is our bridge, so I keep informed.

So recently, when he suggested meeting, I was fairly stunned. I never expected it, but welcomed it. As part of my whole self exploration/healing path, it seemed like another piece in the puzzle.

Of course it was fairly awkward for us both, and we looked A LOT older! But as the course of the evening wore on, it felt pretty comfortable. Funny how easy it is to lapse back into patterns, or at least notice them. The discussions we had were interesting, cleansing, weird and normal all at the same time. It was an odd little dance.

It’s like a mirror to see how much I’ve changed, who I am now, who I was then and to say I’m sorry for the dumb things I did (there were plenty of those). It was also good to hear him articulate his mistakes (whoa!). How often are we blessed with that gift? Yes, it truly was a very empowering evening.

I’m not sure where it takes us from here. Thanksgiving is coming up and we are all slated to be together again. It seems it’ll all be fine. That feels pretty good to me. It’s another rung on that ladder of life where you know you are taking the right step. That blast from the past sets me clearly in today and helps me to feel that while I am surely much older, I’ve gained some wisdom along the way.

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The Start


 

While I spent Thanksgiving solo, the start of the rest of the holiday weekend was spent with extended family. Family does not always have to be ‘blood’. Friday true family arrived. My ‘ex’ sister in law and her daughter arrived to spend the rest of the weekend with me. I’ve known her for about 32 years since she was about 11. Her daughter is now 12, just about the age she was when I first met her. So this person is many things to me: daughter, sister and most of all cherished friend and family. And her wonderfully sweet daughter is the niece I never had. We had a spectacular time that included laughter, tears, a tiny bit of mother/daughter fight (which Auntie helped fix), shopping, eating, dancing, singing, visiting, shopping (!) and important ritual. I am not Christian, but this family needed an important cleansing and renewal, so I helped them with a special ceremony created within the realms of what I believe. It felt empowering and amazing to be practicing again and I was charged the rest of the day. And both of them seemed to feel a change within themselves–and hopefully this change will continue to grow and blossom and bring them peace and happiness. And my niece helped me to decorate my little tree afterwards: it’s my acknowledgment of all that’s good with the Christmas holiday: giving, peace, joy, family and hope. And we light the tree before the winter solstice and the dark days of winter and the cold tuck us into ourselves. But we take peace knowing that as the seeds lay dormant in the frozen ground ready to burst forth in spring, so do the tiny greens of new ideas sit ready to pop as soon as you open your heart. Blessed be.

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My Thanksgiving


 

As this “Thanksgivukkah” comes to end, I’ve spent it by myself as I usually do. I’ve not heard from two of my three daughters and the above picture shows my ‘thanksgiving dinner.’ I’ve had a very nice and relaxing, but untraditional day. I’ve spent it alone and not with family and there hasn’t been a turkey (well not a dead one) anywhere near here.  But I’m content. I slept a record 12 hours, I did my yoga, I took a very chilly walk with the dogs, talked with my Mom and some friends and simply relaxed. All things that gave me pleasure and peace and brought me thankfulness.

So for those of you other singles out there that may have spent this holiday alone in the blogosphere, I say: I hope you had a good day. We are never completely alone as long as we can log onto our wordpress account and check in and see what all our friends are doing! Have a great rest of the holiday!

No Tomorrow


Today, one day before “Thanksgiving” I was on a fatal car accident at work. Being the paramedic, I went into the significantly damaged vehicle with the driver to see what the injuries were and if there was anything that could be done. The minute I saw her, I knew her injuries would not sustain life. She was showing the last ‘expirations’ of breath that we call agonal respirations.

I discovered upon leaving the vehicle that her sixteen year old daughter was a passenger and needed medical aid also. So I immediately moved to attend to her. She was transported with serious, but non-life threatening injuries. She asked a few times how her mother was during the transport. My partner gave her an honest, but allusive answer. It was not our place to tell her about her mother’s death.

Even though I knew her mother was dead or transitioning toward death when I entered the car, it was my choice not to leave her in there by herself. There was nothing medically I could do for her at that point, but I personally feel that no person should have to die like that alone. Whatever religion or whomever she may believe in, either in an after life or deity, her spirit was leaving her earthly form as her last breath left her.

She was not conscious and I do not delude myself that she knew I was there. But in my heart I hoped that I helped her pass over to wherever. I quietly told her it was OK, that she wasn’t alone. I was a medical examiner for some years and am comfortable with death. Traumatic death is especially hard for the living, and probably for the dying too.

I know when I had my car accident and I thought I was going to die, it was scary, dark and so lonely. She probably did think about her children as I did and what would become of everyone. Hopefully my presence was somehow felt.

It reminded me again of reverence of life, the brevity of our time here, the need for gratitude, how every day needs to be  for thanksgiving, to remember what’s important and laugh, love and don’t bother with anger.

Any moment, around any corner, any artery, any loaded gun in one second can knowingly or unknowingly topple your life and dreams. And then your loved ones will be left behind to question: did we love enough? Did we do all the things we wanted? Did we have enough fun together? Why did we fight so much?

So the next time you go to bed angry at someone you love, or you’re driving too fast because you’re late to work, or you yell at someone, or you stop talking to an old friend for a dumb reason, or you don’t do something fun because it cost just a little too much–think about it again and remember: there may be no tomorrow to try again.

 

Scrooge Of Thanksgiving


As some of you who follow my blog know, I’ve been attending my local UU church a little more regularly. Today was our ‘harvest supper’. UU’s would never call it a ‘Thanksgiving’ dinner, because that would be labeling it something traditional and potentially politically incorrect for some. That doesn’t particularly bother me. What does bother me, is the Thanksgiving holiday itself.

It happens to be one of my least favorite holidays. I’ll probably offend people here, but this holiday has gotten under my skin for many, many years. To me it is the epitome of so many things that are wrong with American society.

A holiday that promotes gluttony and over-eating in a country that is already ripe with over-eaters is crazy in my mind. Food, food, food presented in excess and eating until you’re going to bust just really, personally, turns me off. Especially when you keep in mind the millions (billions?) of starving people in the world today. I used to fast on this day just to make a point. Giving out free turkey in a soup kitchen, now that’s a good thing.

And then we look at what this holiday is celebrating: the pilgrims and the “Indians” coming together for a meal and sharing food. Don’t even get me started on the state of affairs of the Native American people now in the this country! How the white man has devastated the land that was theirs and took most of it. Now we have currently left them in poverty, poorly educated with many of them turning to alcohol. Their whole way of life was robbed, yet we celebrate this day! Do you think they are thankful?

I hear so many people talking of the stress of it too: going to their families and trying to blend. For me, years ago being a vegetarian trying to fit into my in-laws was like a nightmare. This is NOT a vegetarian friendly holiday. Now being a vegan AND gluten free…well, forget about it! Thank goodness I’m divorced. Usually I just sit at home, work a shift or go out to eat. As a maitre de once said: Oh, Thanksgiving is a tragic holiday for a vegetarian! Too true!

And as far as being thankful: why save it up for one day? I try to be every day. Yes, I understand sitting around a table with friends and family and have a mass of thankfulness, but it seems very contrived. Just another Hallmark moment.

Or maybe I’m just a Scrooge of Thanksgiving? Maybe some ghostly turkey will visit me tonight and scare me half to death. And instead of Tiny Tim’s crutch there will be empty beer bottles to make me feel guilty. And scenes from Thanksgiving to come flashing before me…. and yet, and yet…. Nah, I still think I’d rather stay home and read a book.