Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thanks Beyond All Thanks...

to Jon Katz for recommending this blog to his Facebook followers.  Jon, you made a girl's dream come true!  Talk about the kindness of the universe!

Jon resides on Bedlam Farm in upstate New York with his fibre artist wife, Maria Wulf, his dogs, donkeys, and chickens.  He creates with words.  She creates in stitches.  She operates Full Moon Fibre Arts.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Jon's work, he is a bestselling author, farmer, photographer, and inspiration to many folks.  Every one of his books reaches deep into my soul, stirs it up, and has helped me "stay up" as he encouraged me in a recent email.

Here's a list of Jon's books: 

  • Running to the Mountain: a journey of faith and change (2000)
  • A Dog Year: twelve months, four dogs and me (2003)
  • The New Work of Dogs: tending to life, love and family (2003)
  • The Dogs of Bedlam Farm: an adventure with sixteen sheep, three dogs, two donkeys and me (2004)
  • Dog Days: dispatches from Bedlam Farm (2005)
  • Katz on Dogs: a commonsense guide to training and living with dogs (2005)
  • A Good Dog: the story of Orson who changed my life (2006)
  • Izzy and Lenore: two dogs, an unexpected journey, and me (2008)
  • Soul of a Dog: reflections on the spirits of the animals at Bedlam Farm (2009)
  • Saving Izzy: the abandoned dog who stole my heart (2010)
  • The Dog Who Loved - Lenore: the puppy who rescued me (2010)
  • Rose in a Storm: A novel (2010)
The stories Jon shares with us focus on the dogs of Bedlam Farm, living fully, love, and learning about himself along the way.  His writing is sacred to me as I find similarities in our journeys and new ways to deal with the changes that are presented in my life.  He writes with compassion. 

Change cannot be escaped or hidden from, it happens.  Currently, as Mom and I prepare for a huge change in my life, Jon and Maria are as well.  They are planning a mid-summer's move to New Bedlam Farm where they are renewing their lives in a new space, replete with an elderly pony, named Rocky.  Rocky came with the farm.

I wanted to thank Jon publicly sooner, but my father's condition has worsened. These last few days have been spent with medical personnel and other things, such as writing his eulogy, as Dad's days left on earth are few.

I believe people come into our lives for a reason.  We either "get it" right away or not.  I think I get it.  I hope I get it.  Jon  helps us to "get it."  Visit his website, visit her website, Facebook friend him. 

Again, a million thanks and gratitude to Jon and to you for your comments and support.  You'll never know how much they truly mean to me.

More to come...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Long Tentacles of War

As we speak folks are preparing for the holiday known as Memorial Day. Families make vacation plans, organize the weekend cookouts, and head for the beach as Memorial Day marks the beginning of the summer tourist and beach season. The Ocean State's beaches are groomed to perfection and merchants pray for a healthy economic season.

Memorial Day, one of remembrance and reverence, has Southern roots. This day served as THE day to honor those soldiers who had fallen during the Civil War. Now, Memorial Day signifies a day to honor all fallen soldiers.

In my family, my father fought in World War II, both my grandfathers served in World War I, one in the Army, the other as a Navy medic. All three received some sort of injury that they carried with them throughout their lives. The scars of mustard gas and the pain of broken bones. Those were the physical injuries. Ones you could see or diagnose. Painful and debilitating. Life shortening. Snared by war's tentacles.

The price of war carries another injury, a longer tentacle if you will. One that can't been seen or tested with the medicine of the day. The emotional scars associated with war are horrific. The Greatest Generation, all who served in WWII, had a reason for not mentioning what they witnessed or did in battle. They worked hard to provide a brighter future for the world and held fast to a better way of life once the war ended. Heroes. No matter what funny stories they did offer, the back-story remained unmentionable. The embedded tentacle. The one thing that refuses to release its victim. The nightmares plague them.

War changes a soldier. There is no surgery or pill to remove this tentacle, only therapies to help the soldier cope with the unimaginable. The families suffer along with the soldier. In grief, they mourn an indescribable loss. The same is true for the injured soldier. Life with the soldier has been changed. The family knows something happened, that their loved one returned altered in some way. Everyone involved must live with war's ugly tentacles not knowing what hit them.
The beast grasps the future as well. Children of fallen soldiers grow up knowing something's missing. The love of a father or mother who they've only heard stories about before IT happened. Admittedly, I do not know how this feels for a child, but the absence of that parent's love has to be painful.

My faith tells me heaven exists. That before one passes, the bad stuff jettisons itself from the body. The tentacles are removed. Their stories unfold. Remorse, regret, and the endured fear remain on earth. Heaven doesn't allow such matters beyond its gates.

My father wishes for peace. When the first Gulf War began, he wept. He has always wished for peace. Peace from the memories. Peace from the images. A peace to calm his soul.

This Memorial Day, as we head out for much needed rest and relaxation, cook up those hotdogs and hamburgers, or bask on a warm sandy beach, please take time to say a few words of thanks for the lives lost, the injured, both physically and emotionally, and the families changed by the tentacles of war. Let's pray we can slay the war beast once and for all to bring about an everlasting peace.

Thanks to the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families. You are not forgotten.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Auntie Shouldbee

Today I knit for a few minutes, just enough to catch my breath. There in front of me sat a knitted fabric I created (with the help of a pattern). Not a difficult project. In fact a pushbutton shawl pattern called “Colonnade” that I discovered on Truth be told I do need clothes for next fall and while we just got through an warm winter I don't want to hedge my bets as far as what next winter promises.

Every time I pick up the needles it's the same old story. Out pops “Auntie Shouldbee.” As in “you should be doing dishes, cleaning, doing laundry, paying bills, preparing tomorrow's schedule, etc., etc." “Shouldbee” knows the minute I'm doing what this shadow considers self- indulgent. If “Auntie Shouldbee” had human form she would resemble that old-fashioned, stern school marm with a ruler in her hand ready to fire. She pokes at my brain while nagging me over things left undone, as if I need reminding. Auntie Shouldbee and I begin to argue as I begin to knit. She's a relentless little one as she goes down the list of tasks incomplete and those to come.

Breathe, I remind myself, just breathe. You're entitled to a little downtime. Mom and Dad are resting. My daily rest has averaged about three-five hours a night over the past twelve days because Dad hit a rough patch. I struggle to concentrate on the pattern. Knit2 together. Knit2 together. Yarnover. Yarnover. Knit. Knit. Knit. Knit. Auntie Shouldbee continues to poke me. I lose my rhythm and count back to ensure I remembered the second yarn over. My mind turns into mush, but I'm gaining ground.

Putting the needles down, I have to ask myself, “Why am I knitting when there's so much to do?” Is it form of blantant escapism? Does it calm my nerves? Does it help me think? Focus? What? The answer isn't definitive. There is no answer to this question today. Not right now. Why don't I do something else others would label “more worthwhile”?

My skillset does not label me as an “uber-knitter,” although I can out-frog the best of 'em. (Frogging involves ripping back stitches for the non-knitting readers.) In all honesty and immaturity, I blame Auntie Shouldbee. She knows better than to interrupt. Auntie Shouldbee continues to rant like an angry gorilla in the room. Jumping up and down to get my attention. Not a pretty sight, especially when her stockings fall down around her ankles.

This is not to say my projects are completely abandoned or go unfinished due to boredom or a poor skillset, they aren't (OK, sometimes an endless sea of garter stitch can be off-putting). Projects have been given "time outs" in order to forgive the careless pattern writer or to slap myself a few times for failing to comprehend what the designer has written. Certainly my family has benefited from my efforts in the form of socks, handwarmers, scarfs, mittens, sweaters. The family has seen them all. Auntie Shouldbee doesn't buy the benefits.

As I continue down the pattern, a gentle thought emerges that partially answers the question. No matter what happens to be going on, the act of knitting serves me unconditionally. An on-call fibre-therapist, if you will. Knitting calms be down. Knitting makes me happy and gives me a pat on the back for a job well done. Knitting soothes my soul and reflects what I put into it. If I make an error, it's an error, but it can be fixed with forgiveness. The pattern, whether charted or written, slows my mind down and takes me away from the stresses and strains of my life as caregiver. Knitting reshapes itself to be what I need it to be at the present moment.

As for Auntie Shouldbee, she's really not so bad. We need to compromise. She does remind me of things I need to do. I just wish she wasn't so blessed cranky.