These wise eyes look at me each time I pass through the old pantry to the kitchen. The pass-through pantry is a bane of my existence, its catch-all tendency tripping my longing for order wiring. It reminds me to find beauty in the mess. Always there is that. Both mess and beauty.
This owl was painted by a dear friend (seriously, click on the link to see what kind of friend she is) and won by me at a silent auction for Cross Keys Equine Therapy. It was meaningful to bid on and win something so whimsical and fun. From the silver sparkles to the flower and coloring, everything about this piece spoke to me.
It still speaks. Slow down. Be present. Watch. Remember.
The Barn Bashhappens again tomorrow. I am excited to see what will be offered for silent auction this time. I am eager to see who will attend. It is always a fantastic time of connection with friends old and new and catching up on the goings-on in our respective worlds.
If you are on the fence about going or even a little curious, take a risk and buy a ticket. (I JUST bought mine!) Bring a friend. Come out for an evening of fun and relaxation. I hope to see you there!
Saturday, May 19, is the Hats and Horses Fundraiser out at Cross Keys Equine Therapy. There is still space for you and a friend or several to attend this Preakness-themed event. If you are a last-minute person who waits to see what’s available, wait no longer and hop over here to order your tickets.
Come to think of it, I had better ask Steve if we have ordered ours!
We have attended this event for several years. Once I won the 50/50 raffle which paid for the babysitter hired to tend our houseful of children. Another time, I won a silent auction painting donated by my favorite local artist. Rumor has it she is offering something again this year!
It is always fun to see who attends and to mingle with friends, old and new. There are hats to decorate and silent auction items to browse. There is live music and a cash bar. The bar tender is always handsome and funny. The BBQ is delicious and desserts tempting.
Most important is the money raised to sustain the work of Cross Keys Equine Therapy. Attending this event is a fun way to offer the financial support that is so needed.
You may wonder what happens out at the farm. How do horses help with therapy?
I am glad you asked, because I had an experience at the farm back in January that I would love to share with you.
When engaging with the horse, first get permission. Wait for the horse to come to you and reach out to touch you before touching it. Just like you wouldn’t walk up to a person and begin rubbing their arm, don’t walk up and start petting the horse.
Alicia addresses board members sitting around a table preparing to exit to the fields for an experience with the horses. We are to take some time visioning the work of Cross Keys and think about how we fit into that vision. I take up my spiral-bound journal and walk outside. Our first assignment is to sit and be still.
Walking towards the field with no horses in it, I am redirected kindly to another. I nervously laugh and try not to ascribe deep significance to my faux-pas. It is difficult for me to make a decision and stick with it; to not have someone assign me a place. I carry my pop-up chair to a field with three horses in the distance and sit.
The horses are black, brown, tan. They begin moving in my direction, then stop. Wind whips over me. I settle my heart, not wanting to be rushed in the space. I find it interesting that I am in a field with three horses. What is God doing? I am not a horse person.
My vision keeps tipping to trauma. That theme runs through my story and connects my people. In a month I will commence part 2 of a certificate in story-informed trauma work. I see Cross Keys as a place for healing and hope, recovery of self, a place to engage with what has brought trauma.
Where do I fit? What do I bring?
As I ponder these questions, two horses move closer. They come to me, first the brown then the black. The tan will meet up with me later. I do not yet know this. I feel tears as these powerful animals approach me and nudge me with their noses. In their presence I feel small as I am called to rejoin the others down in the arena.
We gather at the Hope Arena for instructions on part 2. This time some of us will volunteer to enter the ring with the honey-colored horse to experience what the work is like. A therapist and equine specialist facilitate this experience.
I watch the first volunteer engage the horse and do some work. The work is to make a connection with the horse, not to mount it or ride it or do something like that. Just connect. This volunteer courageously engages the experience, following the therapist’s and specialist’s lead. Upon exiting, another volunteer is invited to step in. There is a pregnant pause.
I feel the feeling. You know the one. It’s the standing on the edge of the high dive or the top of the boat house and wanting desperately to both step off and step back. I stepped up and into the ring, terrified. Ambivalence gripped me as I battled desire for more and fear of engagement.
Being so close to a large, powerful animal in the presence of my peers and a therapist and horse specialist was intense. My default is performance, and I wanted to do all of the things right. I wanted to make a connection with the horse which meant she had to move towards me. Because I didn’t check to see, but instinctively I felt her a she.
I began to name what I felt, which was fear. I felt afraid to step in and move closer, but this beautiful creature was inviting me in with her deep brown eyes and golden mane tossed to one side. I decided to trust and engage as myself which meant to walk alongside of her. She drew me in from the edge of the rail where I was lingering and walked with me further into the arena.
I talked with her in this process, naming that it was difficult for me to commit to moving deeper into a space, even here as I ponder where my fit is at the farm. She gently walked with me, leading me to a red pop-up chair further in the arena. Stopping in front of the chair, she tapped her nose down on its seat and stepped aside.
I could have analyzed and excused and come up with all of the reasons why what I felt in my gut was impossible, but instead I chose to stay with the feeling of invitation to sit and be. I sat down. The horse stood beside me. All was still. A cat jumped into my lap.
The ridiculousness of that final touch broke the spell, and laughter ensued from both me and my husband before spreading to the others. Anyone who knows me knows that I am NOT the type of person who has cats randomly jump into their lap, nor do I invite that from cats. This was clearly a moment.
During the debrief with therapist and horse specialist, I named what was stirring inside. Issues of trust, fear, commitment, place, and rest all were current and all were showing up in the presence of the horse. Her engagement with me was completely different than with those who went before and after. It was unique to my need.
I experienced the beauty of equine-assisted therapy, if only briefly. It is the ability of the horse to sense and bring to the present space what is stirring in the client’s world. It is a therapist helping to name what is happening with the client and a horse specialist naming the horse’s role in the process.
It is beautiful and healing. When I wonder how it would feel to move in from the edge of a space and take my place in the room, I remember walking alongside a horse as she moved me further in from the edge. I feel the invitation to sit and belong just as I am. And just in case I doubt, I feel that cat on my lap and the laughter in my heart and know that it is real.
Please consider joining me THIS Saturday out at the farm. I would love to catch up and dream and imagine more with you. Tickets are here.
Shortly after the experience, the girl who is not a horse girl found a picture of herself as a girl wearing her favorite shirt. She feels this when she looks at the picture. That was my favorite shirt! You can see joy in all of the eyes.
I am going to be curious about that girl. Maybe she is a horse girl, after all!
One of the many challenges I face while doing this work is that of staying present in my own story and not carrying everyone else’s along with me.
Last week I sat with a wise friend who reminded me that while I play a major role in my children’s stories for a season, I am not their entire story. They will each walk their own path of growth and self-discovery with God, separate from me.
It is easy and familiar to make myself too big and too responsible. I feel a need to carry each of them with me on the journey. Instead of focusing on the work I need to do for healing, I circle back to how my woundedness has harmed those in my world. This keeps me from the task at hand, which is uncovering more of my own story and tending to my own heart.
We are all wounded and wounding souls. As I get closer to my own wounds, I see how my response to them has wounded others. This week is for tending to my own story. There will be space and time to process with those in my world when I return.
A friend gave me a care package Monday evening before I left. Among the thoughtful items in it was an adult coloring book. It has turned out to be one of the kindest gifts.
Last night, my mind swirled with all of the life still going on at home and all of the things I can’t control in everyone’s world. The bigness of this trip was bearing down on me. I struggled to stay upright and grounded.
Flipping through the coloring book, I came across this page. The scripture and flowers spoke to me as I tore it from the book and began to color one flower, then another.
I focused on the worries of my heart, giving them over to God. As I colored each flower I focused on a particular care or person. My mind stayed present in the moment.
Before bed last night I looked up the reference in my Bible and read the surrounding verses.
Unless the Lord had helped me I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave. I cried out, “I am slipping!” But your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. Psalm 94:17-10
My prayer this week is that the doubts in my mind will be replaced with the comfort of God and with renewed hope and cheer, supported by the Lord’s unfailing love.
Blessings, Friends! Thank you for your love and support on the journey and for joining me here in this space. Each of you is a gift to my heart.
I arrived at my friend’s house exhausted from a seven hour drive. What feels different from the last trip is the intensity of emotional work in addition to the changes and transitions going on at home.
Mid-winter is also not an active time of year. That first trip was an adventure and foray into the unknown. Now I know a little more about what I am showing up for. It is also spring, a beautiful, yet busy, time of year.
I remember when I was a young girl my Aunt Marilyn came to visit us on Nicholson St. in Maryland. She drove down from Michigan. I’m sure I spent the day eagerly anticipating her arrival and all the fun we would have together.
When she finally reached us, her first words were, What a drive. I need a nap. She lay down on the couch for a rest as we waited nearby for any indication that nap time was over and she was rested. (Meaning, any sort of movement whatever)
That is how I felt when I arrived. I set a timer and went to my room for a rest. After 30 minutes of quiet I was ready for a walk. We walked to get ice cream.
It felt good to move after a day in the car, and the company was wonderful. We walked and talked and chose our ice cream.
When I saw Tin Roof Sundae was an option, I knew I had found my choice. There are several stories there about me and ice cream sundaes and where Tin Roof Sundae ice cream enters my story. I also understand better why Peanut Buster Parfaits are my Dairy Queen weakness.
Now it’s time to rest and write and read and talk and transition into what is coming. I am so grateful for a kind space and for kind people who care for my heart and soul so well.
To all of you who care for, have cared for, are caring for me on this journey, know that I am so grateful and hold you close at heart.
I’m sitting in the car in the rain as husband runs into Food Lion for the last of the groceries after our Saturday Costco trip. On my heart is recovery of teenage self. Literally. My chest keeps tightening and breath catching. That young woman is so lost inside of me.
This week I take one of her stories to certificate 2 training. It’s from the last year she was a teenager, 1990, where she believed her fate was sealed and all hope for choice was gone. It’s where she finally departed herself, shedding any remnants of who she was or might have been for who she was required to be.
I have punished her for that. For years she has borne the brunt of blame for trying to survive. For doing the best she could. For existing.
I’m in a weird space of feeling all of the feelings connected to that part of me as I sort them into their categories. Everything feels way too intense and current. Things that should not be a big deal seem huge. And things that really do loom large, well those feel unbearable.
Today’s 7 stares back from the calendar app on my phone, reminding me that in one month I will be another number away from nineteen. Twenty-eight numbers away, to be exact.
What is this crazy feeling of being so close, yet so far from myself? I hope to find out more this week as I regroup with others as we walk through our stories together.
I am grateful to my family for, once again, holding down the fort and to my friends for cheering me on, as I bravely go where I haven’t before, into another scene from my past.
The ducklings hatched while I was away with a friend last weekend. My husband sent a picture. It was more than I got last year which was a live view of an empty nest with a few broken eggshells. I felt grateful and said as much to him.
Last Sunday evening, I walked Dewey downtown to the water to see what I could see. There were a mama and Mallard wrangling a passel of puffballs. I knew they were mine and kept the dog up on the bridge, away from the activity, watching from a distance.
Late yesterday afternoon, my youngest asked if she and her visiting cousin could walk the dogs. (My firstborn and her husband were in town with the granddog.) I agreed with the caveat that I go with them.
They eagerly leashed the animals and headed outside. I followed close behind.
Can we walk down to check on the ducks?
I allowed them to lead the way downtown. The break in the rainy weather was nice.
From the bridge over the water, we saw a mama and Mallard with three little puffballs. Not far away was a large family of twelve ducklings, tended by their mama and Mallard. Suddenly chaos ensued as one of them wandered too close to the puffballs.
New mama pinned the wanderer to the ground, quacking furiously. With a flurry and flutter of wings, junior’s mama hurried over, giving the protective mama what for for interfering with her offspring. Order restored, new mama returned to her puffballs and the other huffed away with her ducklings in tow.
Following their Mallard, the large family waddled up the hill, leaving behind a straggler, wandering down by the water. When the lone duckling realized he was left behind, a continuous peeping quack escaped his bill as he frantically ran to and fro in the empty space by the water, looking for his family.
It was no use asking new mama for help, though he tried wandering in her direction. She came at him in a fashion that said, I dare you to come closer! Resignedly, he turned back toward the water, still calling for help.
Meanwhile, the large brood had flocked up the hill away from the water towards the parking lot where I was standing,leashes in hand. By this time I had been relegated to dog keeper while the girls sat on a bench watching the duck drama unfold.
Oh no! That duckling is lost! We have to help him!
They proposed the idea of chasing him up the hill, but then the duckling stepped into the water and swam to the rocks on the other side, still peeping and quacking.
I decided to use the dogs to herd the wandering flock back to the water. Leading Dewey and Wren toward the large brood, we watched as they ran back down the hill and stepped into the water. They began to glide toward the duckling, his peeping quacks still out of reach.
Excitedly the girls cheered the family and duckling closer, hoping to witness a reunion. Rain began falling in a light drizzle. I, too, was hoping for reunion and resolution of this duckling drama rather than a lesson in survival of the fittest.
Suddenly there was a burst of speed as the duckling made connection with his family and came flying across the water. Literally. I have never seen a duck swim as fast as this little one who was making a mad dash to reunite with his raft.*
On the shore we cheered, then turned to head home.
I discovered the nest last spring while on a walk downtown. I would have missed it completely, had it not been for the erratic behavior of a male Mallard on a nearby patch of mulch. His frantic quacking and wing flapping engaged my curiosity, inviting me to move towards him.
A low bush stood at the edge of the sidewalk. There’s nothing to see here! quacked the duck, running back and forth. Through an opening in the branches, I noticed a female sitting on her nest. This was the cause of the male’s display. He was trying to divert attention from his mate and her clutch of eggs. Instead, he achieved the opposite.
This discovery brought me joy, as I walked home. Each day following, I made sure to walk past the nest and check on the duck. One day all that remained were empty egg shells. The ducklings had hatched, and were led away by their mama. It happened so fast. I did not even get a peek.
Mama duck is back again.
I noticed her last week on one of my walks. Since then she has been spotted both on and off of her nest. There is a pile of yellow eggs she is incubating, numbering upwards of nine, maybe ten. I am eagerly watching and waiting for the ducklings to hatch.
Maybe I will see them this year. Maybe not. Maybe I will have to pretend, once again, one of the many duck families down by the stream is mine.
The odd thing about this nest location is its distance from the stream. I imagine the mama leading her babies across the street to the grassy patch alongside the Catholic Church and down to the water. I wonder if she has a route planned out already? I wonder if traffic will stop when they cross?
Make Way for Ducklings much? This certainly isn’t Boston!
The rhythm of nature brings comfort to me. When uncertainty abounds, I know I can walk and check on my mama friend, and she will be waiting, just as I wait. She will be there until she is not. One day she will move on to the next thing and lead her ducks to water. I, too, will do the next thing.
Until then I enjoy the gift of another spring with her. I bask in the simplicity of watching Mama Duck feather her urban nest, as I work to feather mine. I lean into believing what I have, an indentation of soft earth, some downy feathers, sheltering branches, simple foods, a break in the twilight hours, is enough.
Spring arrived in a flurry of flakes and in ice crusted to the windshield when I went to pick up the girls from school.
It came to me in a broken off tree branch found and gathered while walking Dewey.
Unexpectedly, catching me off guard, the words Happy First Day of Spring! called to me from my child’s school communication notebook.
The words Due to bad weather schools will be closed tomorrow. flashed on the screen of my phone.
Spring finds me nostalgic and with more space for story. The broken tree branch with its tiny buds brought to mind a memory long forgotten, yet recently stirred. It prompted me to collect, bring home, and place into water not only that branch but two other similar small ones.
I set them in strategic locations around the house to the tune of “BaaaAab!” when Riley noticed.
On the kitchen counter
In my room
Long ago, a little girl received a letter in the mail from her grandpa M. In it she was reminded that spring was on the way, and that it was the perfect time to be watching the tree outside of the living room window for buds. She was encouraged to choose a branch to observe and sketch daily or every few days. This process would help her to slow down and notice Spring’s arrival. The little girl felt special and seen.
The memory remained tucked away in my mind until I was walking and noticed the broken-off branch. I remained curious as to why I would be so interested in the buds opening and why I would want to bring it home to put into water and continue to watch when the memory came flooding back.
It helped me understand why I love the tree in my neighbor’s yard that can be seen from both my bedroom and TV room window where I often sit to think. Lately I have been focusing on the branches and sketching them as I ponder. I understand more why I love it in the fall. The changing branches remind me of the gift of seasons and the passing of time.
Thank you for the gift of a memory, Grandpa. Your words made a big impression on a little girl.
Esther’s knowing eyebrows move up and down rapidly. She says this each time I tell her, or she overhears, that I have eight children. She seems to know what everyone does in their spare time. When a portly man passes us on deck she looks to me and says, I know what HE does in HIS spare time.
Esther is 88 with bright eyes and a foggy mind. Attentive to her appearance, her thin white hair is updone with various clips and combs, topped with a black floppy bow. This gives the appearance of a crown which helps me to remember her name. Queen Esther. The black bow is a fixture of her look each time I cross paths with her.
She introduces herself as Esther the Pester, but I cannot bring myself to call her that as so many passengers do freely. Hey, Esther the Pester! To me she is just Esther.
She is the one who ends up with the heartiest portion of food at our plated dinner each evening. While my plate arrives with a small piece of fish and some steamed vegetables, Esther’s is piled high with pasta, topped with a chicken breast or two.
Oh my, I’ll never be able to eat all of this. Do you want some? This question is rhetorical, as Esther begins cutting into chicken and sliding pasta onto my plate. She comes from a time when it was a sin to waste so much food. I agree that it is wasteful, but how did I end up the starving child that Esther must feed?
I take the food onto my plate graciously, for along with the generous sharing of her food is the generous sharing of the wine she has brought on board. It is not a bad tradeoff. My glass is filled and refilled copiously.
Esther was a beauty in her day, I am told. I believe it. Her eyes still sparkle, and her smile is free. The deep wrinkles on her face give her character and don’t seem dour at all. She, or someone who loves her, is attentive to her appearance. She looks attractive and smart in her dress.
Each night the photostaff takes several pictures of our table. Esther looks lovely in every picture. She really does. This hints that she looked pretty good once upon a time.
I used to live in Hollywood at Hollywood Studios when I was younger. Several other girls who lived there became actresses in movies. I could have, too, but I wouldn’t cooperate. She says this with that up and down eyebrow movement of hers. It’s pretty clear that cooperating would have involved sleeping with someone somewhere along the line.
This conversation took place eight years before its time, back in 2009. The media had not yet exploded with Hollywood (and beyond) sexual harassment allegations. If hashtags were even a thing, they were not yet mainstream. I was just a young woman listening to an old one relate her life experience and a part of her story.
I assure Esther that I’m glad that she didn’t cooperate or we might not be sharing a table on this cruise ship. I have no other words to offer. Only presence. We sit.
If I get ice cream for dessert will you have some? What flavor should I choose?
Something in me senses that Esther is a Butter Pecan kind of girl, which is exactly what I request for her.
A friend recently posted Change is messy as his Facebook status. It quickly became my mantra for this season of transition.
I don’t like change or messy.
A vivid picture of this took place the other evening as I gathered materials to plant the porch planter. It once housed the hibiscus, which has since gone the way of plants who have lived out their time with us. I try not to read too much into its death.
I had an idea in my head of what I would like to try with the pot and began the process of change. Garden gloves on so as not to dirty my hands, I began gingerly scooping soil and piling compost to the side and around the inside edge of the full pot to make room for the new plant.
Oh no, some dirt spilled out onto the porch. I need to find something to scoop the extra soil into. Why can’t I just shove it around in the pot and try to make room for the new plant? I really don’t want to make a mess.
Trying to scoop a deep enough hole for the new plant to fit into the pot properly without spilling any soil out was impossibly frustrating. I didn’t want to make a mess in the midst of potting a plant. That sounds ridiculous, but it’s where I was!
My first attempt at placing the plant revealed the hole to be too shallow. Tempted to just shove it in and make do by heaping soil high around it, I knew that I would regret this decision later. I removed the plant, laid it on its side, and continued to dig deeper.
This is taking too long. I really want to just get it done and enjoy the finished product. Time is ticking!
Often that is how it is with change. We have to wait for it to happen. We have to be in the midst of the messiness. We begin to ache.
Oh, my back! Why does bending and squatting hurt so much more these days?
I stood to stretch and survey the initial result and subsequent mess I had made before beginning the process of sweeping up the remaining soil.
A few days later, the makeshift empty milk jug watering can was replaced by my luvvvah with a new one along with some additional flowers to add to the pot.
Sometimes change is surprising.
Hello, Beautiful Blooms! I am looking forward to watching you grow and change this summer!