The Birthday Gift

Posted by & filed under herbaculture, my life.

My 60th birthday is in June. My husband surprised me at Christmas with a trip to Ireland and Scotland. That won’t be happening now. I was also going to do a mother/daughter getaway with my youngest, who is turning 30 this year. Our birthdays are 4 days apart by calendar, 30 days apart by years.

I could be sad about missing these trips (I’ll be happy if we get to do our annual family beach vacation in August), but then I started thinking about it. What better gift than if the world changed for the better as a result of this pandemic? All of the things I want….

Using the tenants of permaculture as the basis of our societies. Earth Care. People Care. Fair Share. Polycultures. Multiple function. The Problem is the Solution. And there are more.

Earth Care. People Care. Fair Share. It’s all about balance. Taking only what we need. Caring for the earth and caring for each other. Planting gardens. Growing food organically. Helping those in need.

Polycultures – nature doesn’t grow in monocultures. Different species of plants and animals co-habitate. Different “cultures” live with each other, making each other better than each would be individually. This should apply to human cultures, too! And our food system. No poisons needed to fight back nature. No fighting as we learned to love each other rather than fear those who are different than us.

Multiple function and the problem is the solution. This is difficult to put into words, I think a story works best. Our chickens had a pen that was too sunny in the afternoon. I tried putting a tarp over part of the top but it was a huge pen, and the wind was always an issue. Also, I had wanted to plant grapes but we didn’t have a structure to put them on.

Voila! Both those “problems” had the same solution. Put wooden crossbars across the top of the pen and plant grapes around the edges. Grapes grow up, provide shade for the chickens and food for us (and any grapes that dropped also were food for the chickens).

Lastly, as an herbalist, I would love to see allopathic medicine more entwined with alternative medicine. Functional medicine comes close. But the key is preventative medicine, and plants shine the best here. Plants grown organically, the permaculture way in our food system, and the wild herbs that choose to grow among us.

So that’s what I want for this 60th birthday. And as much as I was looking forward to that trip to Ireland and Scotland, I would like this gift oh so much better. A gift for the world, not just me.

Photo by Sam Chang on Unsplash

The Last Chapter

Posted by & filed under my life, the puppy diaries.

It’s been a long time since I wrote a puppies diary post, which began as an outlet for my experiences raising Columbus. Six years have passed, in fact. Koda is lame and mostly deaf and seems to have a harder time seeing in the dark. She’s going to be 14 next month, and I’ve been preparing my heart for the inevitable, watching her closely to make sure she doesn’t seem in pain. Because I won’t keep her here once she isn’t living a good life.

What I never expected was for Columbus to leave us first. He died last night. I hadn’t prepared my heart for that, and it has been smashed into a million pieces. Andy’s, too. Columbus really wound up being Andy’s dog. The kind of dog that you can snuggle with and pet until the cows come home. Evenings found Columbus at Andy’s feet, looking for snuggles (and food). Just the other day Andy said, “watch this, it takes 3 seconds for him to open his eyes when I stop.” Andy was petting him, and Columbus had his head in Andy’s lap, eyes closed, look of complete bliss on his face. Then Andy stopped, his hand hovering over Columbus’ head, and we counted, “1, 2, 3” (I’m not sure we made to three). And Columbus’ eyes popped open. Andy’s hand returned to his head and Columbus’ face returned to its bliss.

Not to say that Columbus wasn’t my dog, too, or anybody’s dog, really. You were human, he adored you. I was the one that took him walking and hiking with me all these years. And to training classes. And brushed him. And shared in the feeding duties. And took him to the vet. And petted him here and there (but not everywhere).

Andy and I both went to the animal hospital last night. I’m really glad about that based on how it turned out because we were both able to be with him as he left this world, on to his next puppy diary adventure.

It was a typical evening. We never knew anything was wrong. I was out on the porch listening to a webinar and had come inside to watch a Netflix show with Andy before bedtime (which is early these days). As I came off the porch Koda was all excited. I asked her what was up and if she had to go outside but she went towards the living room. “Wow, you’re all excited Koda!” The living room was the way it was every night. Andy in his chair, Columbus sleeping on the floor near him. I sat down, we watched the show. Afterward, Andy got up and went to the other room. Koda was looking towards me but her ears were flattened backward. I thought she was listening for Andy but it was a weird look for her. So I got up and let her out for what we call “last outs.” I told Andy, “I just let Koda out, you can let your snoring dog out,” joking around. By the time I got Koda back in and came back into the living room Andy said, “something’s wrong.” Columbus wouldn’t get up. And he wouldn’t be enticed by a treat. He’s had times before that he’s resisted leaving the living room and heading to bed, so it took us a while to realize for sure that it wasn’t just that. At that point we FaceTimed Tracey, who assessed him remotely and told us we should take him to the emergency room.

With all this COVID-19 stuff going on, we had to drop him off and wait in the car for the doctor to call us. At one point I picked up my phone and saw it had entered “do not disturb” mode for the evening (we were past my bedtime!). Oh no! So I called the hospital and they put the doctor on the phone and she said she was just about to call us, that Columbus had something called pericardial effusion (fluid around the heart) and the rest is kind of a blur. She was talking, but during her explanation, Andy and I silently agreed that this was it. We weren’t going to go down a road with no happy ending. Columbus had lived a good life, he’d had a good day, he hadn’t suffered much before we realized something was wrong, and we weren’t going to put him through all kinds of medical stuff for something that wasn’t going to resolve. I thought we wouldn’t be able to be there with him as they euthanized him and asked if they could bring him out to us so we could say our last goodbyes, but we learned that they had an outbuilding where they were doing euthanasias to allow families to be there. What a gift. What a true gift. We petted him and told him what a good dog he was and how much we loved him as he gave up his life in this world and began his journey in the next.

It just was so sudden. It’s thrown us for a loop. Andy even remarked that Columbus was playing like a puppy this weekend while he was out stacking wood, zooming around the yard and jumping on Koda and tearing up the lawn. He was also eating pieces of wood, and that’s what we thought we were heading into – a digestive situation. I figured an x-ray, potential surgery. As we came home into the garage with an empty dog collar and Koda to face, I asked Andy, “wasn’t this morning the morning he sniped my tissue?” “Yes,” Andy replied. It seemed like ages ago. (Sniping tissues was a favorite thing for him to do. He would stealthily sneak over trying to get the tissue without us seeing him.)

I think Koda knows. I mean, in hindsight she knew and tried to tell us. I showed her his collar, told her he was gone. She sniffed my hands, which had just been stroking Columbus 20 minutes earlier. I hope she’ll be okay. Columbus was so good for her. He calmed her. He calmed us all. I keep walking around the corner expecting to see him. It’ll take a while.

Before I sat down to write this post I made a lot of phone calls to family, and texted with friends, and then read all my puppy diary entries, from the beginning (which doesn’t really flow all that well in WordPress). They made me laugh, mostly, which was great. But sadness came, too. Sadness that our dog (who never really quite made it all the way out of his naughtiness) had really grown into a great dog and now he was gone. He was so full of love. We’re going to miss all that love. We dubbed him the “aggressive lover” because he never gave up wanting to jump on people’s cars so he could see who the wonderful human was who had just entered into his world. And he jumped on people, too, including me this last time I came home from a week-long trip. Because of this he never made it as an official therapy dog, although he did earn his Canine Good Citizen certification, the first step towards that. Even so, he had plenty of therapy moments with people in real life. And I always joked that maybe when he was 11 or 12 years old he’d settle down.

He only made it to 8 1/2. Way too young to leave us. Rest in peace, dearest Columbus, you joyful, lovable, rapscallion dog.

Addendum: after we got back into the house last night, I realized I hadn’t put the cooler out for a food delivery we are expecting today. So I walked down to the farm stand with it and as I walked back towards the house I looked to the sky. It was the evening of the full moon, which had been bright in a clear sky at the animal hospital. But now there was a carpet of fluffy clouds in the sky, with enough light from the moon to illuminate them. “The sky looks like I just brushed you, Columbus,” I said because it reminded me of the clouds of fur that came off of him every brushing session (which he adored except for when you came to his tail). And then I noticed a formation in the clouds that covered half of the sky. It looked like a dog’s paw, I kid you not. The “toes” were long like fingers stretching to the edges of the horizon, but they radiated from a section of cloud that had a round cloud in the center, like a dog’s pad. It was above me and as I approached the house it was above the house. I stood in awe and said goodbye again to Columbus, the very good dog.

Happiest of Holidays to All (2019 update)

Posted by & filed under my life.

Here is the (growing) Samoiloff family year in review. I hope 2019 treated you all well. Wishing you and yours a wonderful 2020! 

Landon Carrying Wood

We’ll start with Landon. Here he is last winter helping Papa with the wood. He LOVES helping papa with the wood. Every time he comes to the house he says, “Papa, are we gonna chop some wood?” During the year he helped me pull up carrots from the garden. He did enjoy it, but Papa was at work. A few weeks later Alex and I were picking more carrots, called him over as he was helping Papa with the wood, and showed him a wonky carrot. “Want to help us pull more carrots, Landon?” “No, I’m workin’, ” he replied, and returned to Papa.

He also loves playing ping pong and asks to play that every time he comes.

Landon is now in Kindergarten and has shot up during the year. He’s a little boy now.

Leiana Head Shot

And then there is Leiana, our spunky granddaughter. We’ve been blessed with a few Leiana visits, where you can be sure I always take her to my favorite place – Roots, where she gets a smoothie, and a grilled cheese sandwich or a muffin, depending on what time we go. This year, Leiana became brave at the bounce house we go to midway between our house and Tracey and Roberto’s house, for kid exchange. The first time she wouldn’t even go on any of the inflatables, despite Tracey’s really great coaxing. The second time she got brave and now she’s unstoppable, even telling kids coming up behind her on the slides “Wait!!! My turn!” No one is ever going to tell this girl what to do. She’s her mom’s mini me in more than just looks.

She’s so much fun.

In June Andy and my mom competed in the Senior Games. Andy in track and field, my mother in pickle ball. And Will and I, their groupies, went along and we had a nice family trip in New Mexico, visiting Albuquerque (where the games took place), Taos, and Santa Fe. We went through Madrid, where Andy’s favorite movie, Wild Hogs, was filmed, we found ourselves driving through Los Alamos, site of the Manhattan Project (we did a little research about that on the spot, after we drove through security gates, were told the exact route to drive through and instructed not to take any photos. It felt like we were in a movie.).

This was the first trip us old folks used Air BnB, and it worked out really well for us! Andy and I both liked Taos the best. Andy said it felt like a Southwestern Vermont to him. It definitely was the smallest and most rural. Color us country folk. I was happy to get in a couple of short hikes and I also found out that there was an Earth Ship Community near by which we all went to visit. I had learned about them in my permaculture class (years ago) and it was so great to see them in person. (Earth Ships are ecological houses built into the soil).

Earth Ship

The biggest event of the year was Alex and Caroline’s wedding. We are so happy to officially welcome Caroline into the family. She and Alex are such a great couple. And very into family. Caroline’s brothers (Charlie & Nick) and sister-in-law (Zoey), Alex’s sisters (Tracey and Kelly) and brother-in-laws (Roberto and Greg), and their closest friends (Rachel, Sam, Sean, and Kevin) were all in the wedding party. Landon and Leiana were part of it, too. It was a real family affair, and Roberto officiated!

And if a wedding wasn’t enough joy for the year, another blessing beyond words is that Kelly & Greg moved to Massachusetts (from New Jersey) and settled in Medfield. It is so wonderful having them close by. I don’t have a great picture of them in front of their new home, so I am posting this one of them coming to Webster Lake, where my parents had their cabin. My mom sold it this year, a bittersweet ending to some fun family times.

PS Kelly and Greg ALSO got a new puppy. Her name is Ruby. She’s a cockapoo and about as cute (and smart) as they come.

This year turned out to really be full of fun and very busy – a trip to Atlanta for my niece Hailey’s wedding, a trip to North Captiva Island where our friends have a really nice house named “Beauty and the Beach,” lots and lots of prep work getting ready for wedding festivities (some at our house), including converting our porch into a sunroom – which we are enjoying very much post-wedding – painting most of the rooms downstairs (lots and lots of painting), buying some porch furniture and a canopy, re-fencing the garden (thanks a lot, Columbus, we think we finally have it dog-proofed), Caroline’s graduation from her master’s program, and lots of stuff I’m not listing. It was a very busy and good year. 

Oh, and we re-homed our chickens (and ducks and goose) this year. I miss them, but I don’t miss the work that goes along with them. I’ve got a farm girl’s heart in a city girl’s body, and I’m not getting any younger. Lugging big buckets of water all winter was hard on my body this past year.

I dream of a better world

Posted by & filed under my life.

I wrote this earlier this year. I’d like to return to writing more, because it is my happy place. So posting this dream that happened back in March….

I woke up from a bad dream last night with tears welling up in my eyes to overflowing.

I know the source of his dream was for at least two reasons:

  1. I am constantly fumbling around in my too-large purse. Things get lost in the abyss of it.
  2. I am seeing toxic criticism of people who are trying to be expansive and inclusive but judged because they didn’t say things the right way. “You don’t know what it’s like to be us so you have no rights to say what you said.” The latest was someone asking, “are you an ally?” One thinks one is, until one opens their mouths and is told they aren’t.

I was in a parking lot, fumbling in my purse for my keys. Mind you, I usually do this before I get to a parking lot to avoid this vulnerability. But, hey, this was a dream.

All of a sudden I see three men approaching in a weird way. I look up as one continues towards me. He recognizes that I have recognized what is going on. I glance around one last time as he tells me not to scream or make a fuss, this doesn’t need to be bad. I notice a bus, and my gaze settles on a black man inside of it just sitting there, dispassionate, watching. I realize screaming, or running, won’t matter because there is no one around to save me. (I don’t see the other two men anymore but as they were approaching they fanned out, like coyotes surrounding their prey, so I know they have settled somewhere to block any escape.)

I try talking to this man. Telling him I know what it feels like to feel vulnerable all the time, as a woman, and that, yes, I’m white (because I felt, after seeing that man on the bus, that race was a part of this), but that I hate our human tribalism. I try to tell him I am an ally, without using those words. I try to talk about love, and that we are all loved, no matter what, even in the midst of a moment like this. I even tell him I don’t have anything of value, that I have about $2 in my purse, all the credit cards will be cancelled by my husband, and that my phone is old and not that great. I don’t know if this is about more than taking my purse, but I don’t think it is. The man does not look like he wants to hurt me. I believed his earlier words.

None of it matters, and I wake up. My sadness is not about the purse, although I do realize there was this strong feeling of “this is mine, you are taking a part of me,” which makes me want to work on rethinking this purse thing and what I carry. But the deeper sadness was that none of my words mattered, because I was associated with my color, even though I want the world not to be about that, and that I had absolutely no power in the situation as a woman without the physical strength to defend myself. My only defenses were words and intellect, which got me nowhere.

And maybe that was the point. To experience this shared helplessness.

I dream of a better world. Except for last night, it seems.

The Tree

Posted by & filed under poetry.

Tree with large limb low to the ground.

She ran towards her old friend, tears streaming down her face. They were at it again and she just had to escape. Home was not a happy place for her. But the woods nearby were.

She ran to them, often. She was told to stay out of the forest, that teenagers hung out there, drinking. And, although she was an obedient girl, the calling of the trees were louder. She couldn’t resist entering their world and leaving hers behind.

One day just like this a few years ago, her parents in a horrible argument, she quietly stepped outside, closed the door behind her, and headed to the forest yet again. That day a path she had never noticed before beckoned to her. The sun lit it up like a lamp leading the way. Every twist and turn drew her deeper, the path continuing to entice her to what was around the next bend.

And then, like the surprise of a Christmas morning, she found herself at the edge of a field. Long, green grasses with their airy seed heads blew gently in the summer breeze. Wild flowers hummed as bumble bees gathered their pollen. Butterflies danced in the air above. The sound of birds and squirrel chatter and saw bugs filled the air. Fluffy cumulus clouds floated in a brilliant blue sky. What was this? Had she died and gone to heaven? And then she saw it. A grand old oak with a thick limb practically hugging the ground, longer than any limb she’d ever seen, and low enough to climb. She ran to it, jumped and locked her arms around its girth, and swung her leg up and over. She leaned against the trunk, and hugged her knees, as the tree cradled her like a baby in its mother’s arms. The cares of the world and her sadness melted away, and a loving calm entered her soul. She took a deep breath, taking it all in. This place was perfect.

She visited her friend the tree often. That grand old limb was her reading spot, the horse she’d never had but wished for with all her heart, a balance beam (she never fell), and, most of all, a place of daydreams. The bark was actually wearing down in places from her frequent visits, a sign of their time together, outward proof of their love. What would she be without this tree that had brought her such joy?

Things were changing outside of this little world of theirs, too. Enabled by the love she felt here, she was coming out of the protective shell she’d constructed around her, and life in the real world was getting better. She could even handle her parents’ arguing most of the time, blocking them out until their voices became a distant hum. But today was different. There were money issues, and they were fighting about selling the house and moving in with her mother’s sister the next town over.

They might as well have been fighting about moving across the country. She didn’t care about leaving the house. But this home of hers and her mother the tree, her father the sun, her brothers and sisters the animals – how could she leave them? She wasn’t old enough to drive and come back here. What was she going to do? She could hardly breathe. She swung herself up into her mother’s arms and the tears turned into sobs. Her cries filled the air and the air absorbed them. A gentle rain began to fall. And then she heard a calm, sweet voice. “Don’t cry, little one. We are with you always, wherever you go. We have always been watching over you. We led you here, and we will lead you to a new place. Look for us and you will find us. We love you and your heart. Your spirit is safe with us. Do not be afraid and do not be sad. Go forward and do great things. We believe in you, dear child.”

And then she noticed that the rain had stopped, along with her tears, and the sun shone more brightly than ever before.

Merry, happy, joyous greetings, 2018

Posted by & filed under my life.

This year has brought lots of introspection on how to remain steady while the world swirls around in chaos, along with the realization that if we don’t find that place of peace inside of us, we can get caught up in all sorts of drama, created either by others or ourselves.

Life on this planet, while we are privileged to be here, is a steady stream of learning opportunities. The most important, in my mind, is to recognize that and embrace change.

2018 has brought its fair amount of changes and one of the biggest is holiday changes. This year we travelled to NJ for Thanksgiving, where Kelly and Greg hosted. And Andy and I wound up at the kid’s table (by choice, our kids haven’t taken completely over yet!).

And Christmas, which has always been at our house since I declared at the beginning of our marriage that, as a kid, I travelled to both sides of the family every Christmas Day and I just wanted to stay home, was at Tracey and Roberto’s house this year.

We did have our traditional Samoiloff-family gathering pre-Christmas, minus a few of my kids and plus my mom and Will (that’s another change beginning last year).

All this is just change, and I am embracing it. At least all my kids are within driving distance!

As for work, my little Dandelion Forest business finished in the black these year. Not deep in the black but in the black nonetheless and I figured some things out. Thank you to all who supported me in this endeavor, especially Andy.

Andy, always steady, is doing great. Once again he qualified in The Senior Games, so we are headed to New Mexico next year as he competes in the long jump and 200. He also qualified for the high jump but his knee doesn’t hold up for more than a few jumps in that event, so I’m hoping he remembers that!

This fall we took a trip back to Hawaii – this time the big island, which I loved (the lava fascinated me) – to spread the ashes of a friend (his mom was from Hawaii) and his wife. We made a 2-week vacation of it, also visiting California and seeing San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, seeing redwoods, Nappa Valley, and the Sierra Nevada mountain range, where the grand Sequoias dwell. From there we went to Colorado to visit family (Cindy and Bill), which was full of fun. It was a great trip, and I crossed a few things off my bucket list!

We also visited friends in Wisconsin and I had a surprise birthday visit from my sister in June and we visited places from our childhood. Speaking of changes.

The “kids” are all doing great. Tracey is busy working towards her VTS (veterinary technician specialty) in anesthesia, Roberto is building up his client base at a new tennis facility closer to home, Alex and Caroline are busy with wedding plans and Caroline with a new job in the public school district of Dover/Sherbourn, Kelly and Greg are still working in NYC – Greg in finance, Kelly planning and overseeing running events including the NYC marathon.

As for the next generation, a.k.a. grandkids, it doesn’t get better than this. Landon is 4 1/2 already, a caring big brother and so much fun and little Leiana, at 21 months, is talkative, precocious, and determined to do anything Landon does. Their parents give them lots of learning opportunities and it shows. Start cooking, they pull a step stool up to help. And Landon is all over stacking wood with Papa and helping him with fires. You gotta embrace these years of kids wanting to help!

One of the hardest changes this year was losing our kitty Gracie to a cancer of the jaw, in March. She was 12. I still miss her.

The last change I wanted to mention is that I found my way back to church. Actually, to the same church we were at for 18 years in the center of Princeton. It began with a desire to pray for all that was going on in this world that was breaking my heart (not going to even mention things, I know so many of you who are right here with me and know) and meeting the new minister. I wanted to know if the church had any prayer vigils planned. There weren’t, but she invited me right in to help her (and others) plan a peace and unity service. And I stayed. Everyone has welcomed me back with open arms. It’s been an interesting faith journey that has helped me embrace what I truly believe.

Hope your year was full of good changes, that you’ve found your inner peace (or are at least seeking it), and that 2019 brings many blessings.

Peace and love and herbs!


Dazed and Confused

Posted by & filed under miscellaneous.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking tonight. I’m a thinker, it’s what I do.

And then I try to put things into words. This one’s a hard one, though, because it has many pieces. Here are the pieces that came at me tonight and spun me around into a realization.

I met one of the nicest people walking the planet this past year. Kind, generous, funny. And I was mentioning that to a couple other people who I don’t really know that well and they said, “yeah, but she’s weird.” I’m not sure if my annoyance showed on my face, but I did what I always do when taken aback. I lost my words. And I felt the annoyance flare up in my brain and move across my eyes. But they must not have seen it because they carried on as if they hadn’t just tried to diminish someone’s beauty. And a couple of weeks later, when I was talking to this person, enjoying her company and humor, one of those same people looked at me and rolled his eyes, as if we shared a secret, not realizing that my opinion was that he was the odd one out.

Tonight I was listening to some podcasts. One of them was Suzy Orman on Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations. And she was talking about women’s power and the power of money and how women pay attention to money for the household because that’s where the family is and that’s what is in their hearts. And then she started saying that women needed to pay attention to more than that because money is power and people are attracted to power and power then brings money and yadda, yadda, yadda. I tuned out and turned her off. And let that percolate for a bit.

Then I was listening to a couple of great Hay House talks on the Mind-Body connection. And one talking about the frontal lobe of your brain that tells you what you are “supposed” to be doing, while the rest of the mind and the heart and stomach are connected and contain the purpose of your soul, of your life. And that disease results in ignoring what they are trying to tell you and listening to the frontal lobe. And one of the talks asked the question, “if you could do anything you wanted, without worrying about any of the worries of this world, what would that be?”

And then, the percolation continued. And, as I was putting away some herbs that I had processed tonight, I was mulling everything over and said out loud, “I am powerful because I am connecting to my truth.” Even if I don’t quite know how to articulate my exact truth yet, I know that I am on the path to finally finding it. And the person I met this year is how I want to walk on this earth. Generous, loving, and kind. And to let other people know that they are generous, loving, and kind, too. And that generous, loving, and kind isn’t weird. It’s powerful. It just seems weird because we are walking around dazed and confused by this world that has taught us the opposite.

You are perfect. Follow your heart to your soul’s purpose.

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? ~ Mark 8:36

photo credit: h.koppdelaney Come Together via photopin (license)

I am exhausted

Posted by & filed under my life.

I am so tired I actually can’t even think clearly to write what I want to write. But I need to get this out of me. Holding it in makes it even worse.

What I want to say is that this past year feels full of chaos and angst, when I am on the verge of an exciting new vocation – my herbal medicine endeavors. I would love to study plant nutrition, too. I would love to just be surrounded by all this plant goodness and learning and helping people.

But, instead, I feel beaten down by all the things going on in this world, and especially this country. I’m tired of the chaos. I’m tired of the shifting stories (a.k.a. lies). I’m tired of the drama. I’m tired of the grief. My heart is dashed to pieces, daily.

I’m trying to hang on through this, waking up every morning hoping it has ended. And I used to NOT watch the news, but now I’m afraid to avoid it, wanting to keep an eye on a democracy that has been downgraded from a full one to a flawed one, ready to rise up to fight, if I need to.

I’m a lover, not a fighter. This is so hard, watching a president breaking decades-old alliances and cozying up to authoritarians, because that’s what he is and can relate to. If you listen carefully (really, it doesn’t have to be that carefully) it slips out. Like the other day when he said he wanted “his people” to sit up at attention when he speaks, just as Kim Jong Un’s people do to him. (Supposedly that was a joke, but most jokes are people’s way of saying what they want to say and having an out if it doesn’t go over well.) And when a news reporter (of a conservative station) described the two dictators meeting. There it is, right out on the table. A dictator. He’s doing his damnedest to make that happen. And where are all the checks and balances in congress? Bueller?

I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s biography. It profiled the rise of Hitler and how he slowly worked his way into his position of power. It didn’t end well for Bonhoeffer, who as a pastor joined the resistance and was eventually killed. He tried to be a voice, while the rest of the Christian Church succumbed to Hitler’s tricks and lies, and was silent.

We all know the poem….

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

It was written by Martin Niemöller, a pastor who lived through it.

The first time I read that poem was after walking through the Holocaust Memorial in Boston. It’s a powerful memorial, if you haven’t ever seen it. After getting overwhelmed by all the rest of it, I saw this poem as the last thing. I felt like I had just been gut punched.

Many people think comparing the current president to Hitler is ridiculous. But history repeats itself, if you don’t learn from it, if you don’t watch for the signs. And there are signs.

Anyhow, I’m exhausted. And I really hope there is a happy ending.


As I wrote this, pressure from the public, the church, and republican congressmen (finally!), has caused the president to reverse a policy of separating children from their parents at the border. A policy they first denied was happening, then said they were just following existing law and it was the democrats’ fault. (Just so you know, I’m an independent, and I don’t like this blame game when either side does it.) I’m already running on fumes because I couldn’t sleep the other night after finding out about all of this. Then, last night, hearing about the concentration camps (let’s call them what they are) for the little children, I woke up this morning ready for a fight. As I set off to plan it, things changed. I’m thankful for that. But I’m still watching to figure out what I might be able to do to plug into the work of reuniting these children with their parents. And I will be praying that they can grow up to be healthy and whole, despite the trauma our country has put them through. Shame on us, when politics and policies matter more than human rights and little children are used as pawns. May God forgive us.
photo credit: JenGallardo It’s Been a Long Day via photopin (license)

Addendum: It’s painful to come back to read this. But I’m leaving it for prosperity. Because it’s how I felt during this time, and I still feel beaten down and exhausted by the harshness we are seeing in our world right now. But I am holding on to hope for a more expansive world where fear is left behind and love permeates everything. And all these wrongs are righted. A girl can dream. And dream I will continue to do.

A shared life

Posted by & filed under poetry.

A plant’s breath gives life to us.

Our breath gives life to them.

We take in them as we breathe.

They take in us as they breathe.

Fully interconnected in a beautiful 

dance of life.

Fruit of their womb.

For us.

Scent of their perfume, 

for us.

Beauty of their adornment.

For us.

Seeds for the hope of tomorrow.

For us.

Even the sacrifice of themselves as nourishment.

For us.

These are living, giving, beings.

For us to recognize their gifts

is perhaps the greatest gift we can give them in return.

Thank you for your medicine.

Thank you for your food.

Thank you for your beauty.

Thank you for sharing this space.

With us. 

photo credit: jaci XIII Mrs. Violeta via photopin (license)

We are doing okay

Posted by & filed under goodbye gracie.

We are doing okay, Max and I. (Andy’s okay, too, but I wasn’t worried about him. He wasn’t as attached.)

Grief is a strange thing. It starts out sharp, then gradually mellows, always with the ability to become sharp for a moment. Or many moments.

Max comes for a bit to snuggle. At night, even, like Gracie did. But he doesn’t stay. Last night I said to Andy, “I miss having to be careful as I snuggle down under the covers.” Gracie would settle into my lap while I lay in bed for awhile, reading, poking around on my phone, etc. Then I’d have to carefully maneuver to lay down. It was easier some nights than others. But Gracie wanted to stay, so even if she was annoyed for a minute (sometimes she would go for the ride on my legs as they moved further down the bed, other times she would jump up), she usually resettled. Sometimes in the same spot, sometimes beside me. I’m a restless sleeper. I don’t stay in the same position all the time. But she put up with a lot of that. I even would try not to disturb her during those middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom. And, like the maneuvering to lay down, it sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. But she’d come back and settle down after I climbed back into bed.

I’ve had to transition Max off of getting canned food whenever he comes around. At the end, I was giving Gracie watered-down canned food whenever she came looking for it. She never ate all that much at a time, and I figured at this point she probably wasn’t trying to eat the dry food we have in a feeder. And whenever Max realized I was feeding Gracie, he got some canned food, too. (They usually just got some at night and free-fed from the dry food during the day.)

I keep wishing she had lived longer than 13 years. Even though that’s considered senior, I’m used to my animals living long lives. Cosby was 17, Pepper (my dog) almost made it to 15, Max is 15 and still going strong, we never knew how old Blackie was because he was a stray, but he was with us for a long time. (We did have a cat named Sunny who only lived to around 12 or 13, but she wound up being totally Tracey’s cat and wanted nothing to do with the rest of us, so I don’t consider her one of my animals, even though she lived in my house.) Koda is 12 at this point, and I see her slowing down, dealing with a bum leg, and my mind can’t even go there right now. I know we are in our final time with her, too. But my heart has enough grief so I’m not letting any more in.

When I think of Gracie living only her 13 years, I also realize that maybe she lived long despite her issues. She had something called tooth resorbtive disease. It’s a dental disease and the jaw reabsorbs the root of the tooth. During that process, there are lesions in the mouth. She had two surgeries over the course of her life and only a few teeth left. I can’t help but think her jaw growth was related to this. The vet said no, but my heart says yes. So, she had an overactive jaw and, eventually, it was irreparable.

When I was taking Gracie to the vet, I had asked for her to send me signs after she left. I told her I’d look for her among the stars after twinkle twinkle little star started playing on Pandora.* But, Gracie-of-her-own-mind is sending me signs (or God is) via robins, it appears. The day after she died, a robin started flying into our window. Now, my mind knows that this is most likely a male robin seeing his reflection and attacking the intruder, but this has never happened here before. And it started the next day. That same day, while the robin was flying into the window, I looked outside and a squirrel was on a tree branch outside my window and his tail was twitching frantically. Gracie was always twitching her tail. The following morning, while I was still in bed, the robin started up again. And I’ve been seeing robins on my way out in the car and on my way back in. Even in the rain. As I came back the other night, a robin flew across the driveway and under our truck. I stopped and looked at him because it seemed so abnormal (“did he just fly under the truck?“). And once, at the kitchen sink I said, “Gracie, I miss you.” I looked up (and out the window) and there was a robin, looking at me for a moment before flying away. (I’m saying he, don’t know if it’s all the same robin, and once there were two together.)  Now, all this could be a figment of an overactive imagination, many would say. But I’m a spiritual gal, and I choose to believe otherwise. And, besides, a robin has Gracie’s colors. Black, orange, and white. The calicos of the bird world!

This is getting long, so I’ll stop now. But I’m writing all of this down so I can look back and remember. Just as grief fades, memories can, too, and I don’t want to lose the memories. This time on earth with Gracie was special. Hug your pets today! I’ll be hugging the rest of mine.

*We’ve only had one clear night where you could see the stars since she died. I still look up and say hello.