The signs we shouldn’t ignore

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When the souls we hold dear move on to the next realm, I believe with my whole heart they send us signs. As strange as it sounds, when my friend Sandra passed away in 2003 I found my ear drums pummeled by the strains of the song The Girl From Ipanema. It was not a song I would ever have on my play list, and she knew how much that song made me cringe, but its chords would sound in random places and that same song magically appeared on the list of music I have on my iPhone. I have gone through my iTunes history and I have never downloaded nor have I ever paid for that song, but it IS there and I don’t have the will to delete it.

When my dad passed, it was owls. I would hear the Barred Owls at night having what seemed to be a profound conversation and one of those miraculous creatures would frequently visit and perch itself on the largest branch of the tree closest to my deck. When I am having a bad day, those owls seem to make themselves known with their signature call and the calming effect takes me back to when I was a child and would curl into my dad’s protective embrace.

Years later, when we lost my mom, it was butterflies. Although Monarch butterflies are relatively common where I live, these stunning winged creatures would appear in such a way that we knew my mom was letting us know she was close. There was a playfulness to their flight, like she was reminding us of how strong her spirit was on Earth and how that spirit continues to be a part of our lives even though she has been gone for almost six years.

Today, still fresh from the raw emotion of having to recently let my dog go, it was birds. Callaway and I used to sit on the deck together and I would marvel at the unique species that would visit my feeders. There have been many different birds who have frequented my deck, but Chickadees have always been my favorite. With the tears still sneaking up on me, I sat in my living room today and watched at least five dozen Goldfinches jockey for a position on the feeder through the window to my right. The slight movement to my left made me look out the other window and a single Chickadee was sitting on the window sill, looking directly at me from outside the glass. It stayed for longer than a confused bird would and its gaze was trained on nothing other than me.

These are the signs that make me feel like our lives are not limited to where we are now. Every one of the signs I have acknowledged over my lifetime gives me a sense of peace. They provide me a continued connection to those important souls in my life and let me know that they have not actually left, but they are now able to communicate in a way that is special to me.

 

And just like that, I felt a sense of peace

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Many of you who have read my recent blog posts know I had to say goodbye to this beautiful soul on January third. We had twelve and a half years of a wonderful relationship together. She was so much more than just my dog and every facet of my life changed drastically when I had to make the decision to let my baby girl go.

There has not been a day during the last two weeks that I haven’t cried. The moments of grief have ranged from glistening tears slowly rolling down my cheeks to sobs that mimicked the sound of a mewling animal being viciously slaughtered. I have been physically and emotionally eviscerated.

Morning is the worst time for me. We had a routine that I loved. Even if I was ready to get up, I would rub her ears, give her the butt scratch she was waiting for and tell her “ten more minutes”. She would dutifully acknowledge my request and lie back down in her bed, anxiously waiting for that ten minutes to go by before we went for our morning walk. Her level of intelligence and understanding was remarkable.

With the passing of each calendar day, I knew the phone call would soon come telling me her ashes had been returned to the veterinary office. That call came at 1:22 pm yesterday while I was at work and I was crying before I even ended the call. I put forth my best effort to do my job as effectively as I could but I wanted nothing more than to bring my baby home. I left work early, took care of some deliveries to the food bank and slowly made the turn into the familiar parking lot.

After the welcome distraction of giving some love to the vet assistant’s beautiful dog, I took the package that looked like a giant Tiffany’s box and made my way home. When I got home, I couldn’t open that blue box. I poured some wine, paced around my house and finally gathered the courage to remove the urn that held Callaway’s remains. I placed that urn in its rightful place and I came unglued. I cried so hard I made sounds that are not of this world. But as suddenly as those tears came, they stopped. I don’t think my words will ever do justice to the sense of peace that washed over me just knowing she was home where she belongs.

There will still be many more tears shed as I remember the life we had together and how special she was but I know the happy memories of her will slowly replace the overwhelming sense of loss I currently feel. I miss you, baby girl.

 

May I please fill your half-empty glass?

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Facebook has, yet again, provided me with fodder for another blog post. As a writer, I am endlessly fascinated by the many ways people process information. My mother did tell me it takes all kinds to make the world go around and she was so right.

A friend re-posted a story about the actions of a specific location of a well-known pizza chain. (I like to believe it is a true story) Management and staff had noticed several homeless people who had been picking through their dumpster after hours to find their next meal. This pizza chain posted a sign at their front door offering these same homeless people the opportunity to come in to the restaurant for two slices of pizza and water, no questions asked. Naturally, this warmed my heart. What a wonderful gesture towards people who have obviously fallen on hard times, for whatever reason.

And then I read the comments that followed the story. The first posted reaction was much like my own. This act of human compassion restored a little of their faith in humanity. The second reaction took me completely by surprise. The words written were, “I just see them publicly shaming a homeless person”.

I’ll be honest, I do not have a clue what it is like to be homeless. I have had the good fortune of continually being employed, having a roof over my head and being able to feed myself on a daily basis. Having said that, I cannot imagine if I were homeless and starving I would think I was being publicly shamed by being offered a meal I did not have to dig out of an over-sized trash bin. I would see it as a blessing, a message that someone wanted to help me in any way they could, regardless of my situation.

How horrible it must be seeing the world through such a myopic lens. The things we don’t understand, things we could never fathom in our daily lives, make us uncomfortable and say or write things without really thinking. If you can only see the negative in the story of this restaurant offering a meal to the homeless, I would like fill your half-empty glass so you can gain a new perspective and remind you of the other saying my mother was fond of was, “you should walk a mile in their shoes.”

 

 

The Art Of Reading Through Tears

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I knew it was a risk. I had been told about a book called The Art Of Racing In The Rain and had all but ignored it…until now. I began reading this book in the waiting room of my Honda dealership while passing time during an oil change and brake pad replacement. It was a fitting scene.

The book is narrated from the perspective of a dog who belongs to a race car driver. Although I am not a race car driver (perhaps only in my mind), the irony of sitting in a car dealership while beginning this book was not lost on me. I devoured the first half of the book in two hours while waiting for my car to be serviced. I sat in a small, sparsely furnished area with three very large men and openly wept while devouring every chapter I could of this novel.

There is an underlying joke between my friend and I that we would be gold medal winners if the Olympics ever created a competition for crying. Sitting in the waiting room of that car dealership while reading this book was certainly my qualifying round. Initially I did my best to conceal my tears, but these three men were on to me from the appearance of the first glistening tear that tracked its way down my cheek and they made every effort to not make eye contact from that moment forward.

I have a dog who recently turned twelve and has health issues, and the narrative in this book hit very close to home. Every well-paced paragraph reminded me that I may be mere moments away from having to realize every truth written in this book about an aging pet. It was eviscerating, but strangely comforting.

This book gave me a gift. I now know that I will have the strength to make that tough decision because it is what is best for her, not for me. Her comfort and her dignity come before my need for having more time with her. And as I cry writing the end of this post, I know it will be one of the most difficult decisions I will ever have to make, but one that has to be made….for her.

 

Hold everyone close

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When you work in hospitality, relationships are naturally created with the people you meet. For the brief time they are in your presence, they become an extended part of your circle. You share stories, you share laughs and you create a bond that continues to grow with every visit.

I have had the good fortune of nurturing a relationship that was created with six women who visit the lodge every May. Their connections run deep and they have spent the majority of their lives weaving themselves into the fabric of each other’s reality. I have had the honor of being a part of their lives for two days every May for the last seven years. They are the personification of friendship. They share a sisterhood that is evident and they spent their time at the lodge basking in old memories and creating new ones.

But all of that has changed. One of the ladies called yesterday to tell me their group would not be returning to the lodge. In the few short months since they bid us farewell, one has been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and one has progressed rapidly into Alzheimer’s Disease. As I sat in stunned silence listening to their friend on the phone, it was all I could do not to burst into tears in my office.

These women were some of the first guests I met when I started my new job at the lodge. They embraced me as if I had been a part of their lives for decades and each one has had an impact on me. I cannot begin to tell you how deeply I feel their pain. I can see all of their faces and can hear the laughter they shared during every visit. I can flash back to taking their group photo on many occasions and cannot begin to express how heavy my heart is as I write this post.

I know the future for these ladies will be forever changed. My sadness drastically pales in comparison to what they will be forced to face and I can only hope they find comfort in their memories. I will always hold on to the times they created some of those memories at the lodge and included me in those moments.

 

A simple hug

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I saw the pain in your eyes,

that is why I couldn’t look away.

And the only thing I could think to do,

is give you a hug.

It won’t fix anything,

It doesn’t make things better.

But it does let you know,

beyond a doubt,

that you matter to me

and I will always be there with open arms,

open ears

and broad shoulders.

Your friendship is a part of me now.

And you know I will always be there

whenever you need me.

(image credit)

 

 

I’m not sure when they started knocking, but they’re back

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The voices in my head, those distant sounds of characters waiting to develop themselves, have returned. They had been quelled by the busy season at work but they have since insinuated themselves back into my daily life and to say I have missed them would be a gross understatement.

Summer is my busiest time and there have not been many days through any period of June through September I have been able to harness that creativity. I got home from work after a busy Saturday changeover and there they were, ready to speak, and I was ready to listen. God, how I have missed this feeling. I have longed for those voices to speak loudly enough that I could not ignore their persistence. And now here they are, summoning me to join them on the journey they want me to document for them as I write my second book.

And, as much as I love them, my fear of them is what makes this journey so invigorating. They are bold, they have depth and sometimes they scare me. But they are speaking for themselves, willing me to open myself enough to understand their passion and apprehension and have me follow them on their pilgrimage.

This is writing. This is giving in to a force bigger than yourself and allowing the voices to tell you what they want to say. It is not creating a story, it is listening to their story and telling it, for them, in the best way you can.