I chose a card from The Virtues Project and it is apropos for the first day of 2021:
Acceptance is embracing life on its own terms. We are open to what is, rather than wishing for something different. We face the truth in all circumstances with honesty and courage. Acceptance helps us to bend without breaking in the winds of tests, to gather the lessons and step forward with new wisdom and awareness. We affirm others and ourselves for the qualities we do have and avoid judgment and criticism for what we don’t have. Accepting myself allows me to give what I have to the world.
Fred came to live with me November 2015. My daughter, was visiting from Edmonton. It was her often Fall visit to Mother. Checking up on me, she found me still thinking, walking and alive.
We hadn’t celebrated Thanksgiving together so we decided to make a turkey dinner with all the trimmings for just the two of us. We’d combine a late Thanksgiving and an early Christmas.
We decorated my apartment for Christmas. I’ve not put up a real Christmas tree for years. I had a little fake guy who was already decorated. I’d bring it up from storage put it on my coffee table in the corner. I’d string red lights around the about 12-inch-high fake guy, plug the lights in, voila – done!
That is, until Christmas 2015 we decided for old time sake to buy a Norfolk Pine to decorate. Off we went to Home Depot. We picked out this full, green, alive Norfolk. We put him in a grocery cart and wheeled him to the cashier. He was about 4 feet tall. Good, when we got him to my car, we flipped up the back seat in my Honda Fit. He rode home safe and sound.
We carted him up the elevator and into my apartment, all the time admiring his beauty. We found the perfect spot for him, in front of the living room window. We decorated him with precious memorabilia, I am sure to others looked like crap but to us it brought back happy memories. We found Elvis Prestly`s Christmas CD. Just like old times, we cranked up Elvis and decorated the tree. Back then on Emerson we’d tie the Christmas tree up with string to the living room window so it wouldn’t fall over.
We fondly talked and laughed and reminisced as we decorated our Norfolk. We remembered the year when we finished decorating our Christmas tree. W had it all secure and strung up to the window. We sat down admiring how great the decorations were spaced, how the lights were even, and how straight we had it propped up when, Georgia came around the corner. She stopped dead in her tracks and then took one running leap and pounced into the middle of the tree. Crash, over it went. I`m not sure if she thought it was a big green mouse all lit up or what? Cats can be strange creatures in their thought pattern.
When we finished decorating our newly purchased Norfolk Pine, fully decked and decorated we sat down to admire him. Just like old times Elvis was singing, ‘I`ll be home for Christmas’. My daughter chimed up and said, “I`ve got a name for him, “Let`s call him ‘Fred’, he looks like a Fred.” Fred it was.
In January when I took the decorations off Fred, I moved him to the south wall to sit beside the couch. I watered him, talked to him, and misted him with warm water, but slowly his branches got dry and prickly. I`d clip them off, one by one. In March Fred looked very thin and spindly; finally, I decided Fred would have to go. I left him alone for a couple of weeks until I mustered up the courage to deliver him to the green recycle bin. I got down on my bum and pushed the pot with my feet to the door. I got a black garbage bag so I wouldn`t get potting soil on my white carpet. All went well until I pulled one branch out of the pot, it wouldn’t budge. I pulled, I tugged but he stood strong. He didn’t move. I tugged again, he looked pathetic and weak but nope he wasn’t leaving the pot. Third time, no luck, fine I thought you can live if you must. I pushed the unsightly one limb Norfolk back into the living room. I placed him in front of the patio doors, watered him once a week, never to mist him again. He lived. He had no branches at the bottom. Really, he looked like a palm tree with prickly needles but he thrived, strong and healthy.
I went back to Home Depot, bought a baby Norfolk Pine and potted it at the base of Fred. I had another plant that also looked sadly pathetic. It was an Alocasia plant with only one stem and one leaf. I was going to throw her away but instead just for the heck of it I planted her under Fred beside Baby Norfolk. That one stem and one leaf grew into the most beautiful deep jade green leaves with patterned white veins.
Fred and Alocasia became best friends and together with their little baby Norfolk they blossomed into a family of green delight.
Fast forward to 2020. Fred and family sit in front of my patio window, dressed for Christmas in the little wrapped Christmas gifts my son and daughter in law strung together some 30 years ago. The little glass angel given to me by Jessica a little girl I looked after at Apple Rose Infant Toddler Care, again so many years ago, sits at the top of Fred. White lights twinkle and brighten the dull, short days of Advent.
A few weeks ago, in my journal I wrote:
Fred didn’t die, instead he continued to thrive.
Five years later, he is happy with his friends.
They’re growing so big I don’t know what to do.
My living room is in their hands, they’re taking over.
What do I do?
Do I cut them back or put them outside?
They are beautiful, alive, they bring green into my life.
It looks like a nursery in here with Purple Violet and her child,
With Christmas Cactus in rosy red, not to mention Fred.
They Bless my life and Elphie girl, my service dog, she lays here at my feet.
I applied to Pacific Assistance Dogs for another dog. It took three years of waiting. Probably a good thing. It gave me time to accept reality. After three years of waiting, I’d obsess and think, I’m not going to be placed with a dog. I got the call in June. They had a dog for placement and would I like to meet her? I wrote in my journal:
– July 26, 2018 – Yesterday I was weepy all day long in regard to getting a dog. I watched a video about hearing dogs who live with children. I cried lots as I watched and related – so sad – kids with hearing loss, one had a brain tumor. They were both afraid of the night because of the sounds in the dark. I was reminded of how when I first lost my hearing and had no direction of sound, I too was afraid in the night. Our eyes work double time. Now the apartment I live in has a light from the hallway that comes under my door and the parking lot outside my bedroom window has a large solar light that comes on at night and lights-up the parking lot. The kids in the video were so tired but when they had a hearing dog they relaxed. I was reminded of my fatigue, anxiety and why. I cried and I cried as I watched the video.
This transition is really hard for me. It has been seventeen years since Cleo died. I have a picture of her and I sitting on my buffet in my dining room. I have her ashes in a planter on my deck. When I first got her I asked the trainer, “If I have this dog with me 24/7 and she is my ear, what will I do when I lose her?” “You will deal with that when the time comes.” It wasn’t easy when that time came. I went to bed and covered my head for two weeks.
It took me fourteen years to apply for another hearing dog. It has taken three-and-a-half years from when I applied to when I got the call., Tuesday, July 3, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. a call from PADS. It was Ron, “I have a dog ready for placement she is a small Lab…would you like to meet her…?” I went over to PADS in Burnaby Thursday, July 5, 2018 and met Elphie.
I was told when I applied, I would get a small hypoallergenic dog something like Cleo. I had expressed an interest in a Golden Retriever that is part of their breeding program but was told that dog would be too big for me and could knock me over. I was expecting maybe a small Havanese or Poodle mix. Elphie is a 50-pound dog. She has a beautiful auburn double coat of hair and soft brown eyes. She has been trained to use a gentle nose bump alert instead of a stronger paw alert. Ron asked, “What do you think?” I responded, “She’s a red head like my grand- daughter. I want her.” I had another two short bonding visits with her. Elphie and I became a team Sept. 10, 2018.
I always said Cleo and I were a match made in heaven. We connected overnight. I never once had to give Cleo a correction. She worked and loved to work. Elphie has been another story. My daughter said when I complained about something Elphie had done. “Yes, Mum you and Cleo were a match made in heaven but heaven made this match”. I wasn’t sure?
The first day home after Elphie was placed with me and we went to the dog park. I was totally naive looking forward to putting her in a sit and removing her jacket and letting her release to play. None of that happened. As soon as she saw the dogs playing, she yanked herself out of my hand and ran to the dogs in the center of the field dragging her leash behind and with her working jacket still on. I wondered if she had dislocated my left shoulder. She had not, but I had a raging head ache for two days because she jerked my neck extremely hard when she pulled the leash out of my hand. That was my first sudden and surprising awakening with her. On our first walk it was apparent we could not walk by people OR DOGS without her needing a leash correction. She wanted to visit them.
A walk in the forest with Elphie. As we walked up hills, she was so excited she kept pulling on her leash. I thought I might trip and fall with her tugs so I released her and let her go. Big mistake. She took off like lightening. I hadn’t taken her working dog insignia jacket off. I kept calling her. Nothing. Finally, she came running back toward me like the speed of light. Who is this?? She was unrecognizable. Green algae from head to tail. I soon discovered a pond a little further into the forest. It was filled with green algae so much so you couldn’t see any water. Back home. I hosed her off. I let her swim in the ocean, I took her to the pet store and bathed her. I washed her again but the algae got to her. She started scratching. Her tummy got all red with a rash. A trip to the vet. I was scared. The news was announcing how dogs were dying after a jump into poisonous algae. Three hundred dollars later. Elphie was alive and well.
The saga went on and on with Elphie. Not to mention that when I told my land lords, I was getting a service dog they were of the persuasion they did not have to abide by the laws of the BC Guide Dog and Service Dog Legislation. They continually challenged my every move, telling me I had to use the car park exit and entrance and could not use the front door or be in any common part of the building with my dog. I tried to appease them but their abuse continued and escalated until I finally called the Solicitor General Dept. and reported their behavior. My landlords received a visit from an officer. The harassment stopped. However, they look the other way when they see Elphie and I approaching and they refuse to speak to me.
Who knew two years after Elphie was placed with me, we would have a world pandemic? Who knew with COVID-19 I would have to self-isolate? Who knew two years later I’d have to give up line-dancing, working out at the gym, volunteering at a senior home and give up doing my shifts at the hospital gift shop? Who knew? Who knew the lonely days and nights would be spent alone with only Elphie?
Elphie has grown wings in the last few months. No more does she pull out of my arms and run away or insist on visiting other dogs. She follows me from room to room. She is constantly by my side. She wakes me to the alarm when it goes off at six a.m. I get up and feed her and then I crawl back under the warm blankets. When she finishes her breakfast, she comes to my bedroom door and sits there until I invite her up on the bed with me. She takes a running leap, up and over me to my other side. Every time she does the leap up and over, I have to laugh out loud. She smiles and wiggles and I laugh again. She spoons with me and we snooze and cuddle for another hour.
Elphie knows the words, “night, night”. When she hears me say that she’ll head for our bedroom. I say, “Time to clean your teeth” and she will sit at the kitchen sink and let me clean her teeth. She makes me laugh. When she does her running leap from my bedroom door, up and over my body and lands beside me and sneezes in my face, I giggle and she wiggles. Oh, I almost forgot – she is a working dog and she alerts me to the smoke alarm, the telephone, the door-bell and the alarm clock. Who is Elphie? She is patience, laughter and my companion.
Professionally trained service dogs are more than pets. The bond is more than attachment. The relationship becomes a oneness. A team. I watched W5 the other night and the Toronto Canine Unit of the police department was interviewed. Constable Derek when asked who his police dog Major was to him? He said, “He’s a dog but not a dog. He is my friend and my partner”. Dogs who are professionally trained help Vets with PTST live normal lives. There are assistance dogs who are legs and arms for those in wheel chairs. As Derek said, they are dogs but not a dog…” When people would call Cleo a dog. I would say, “don’t call her a dog, she isn’t a dog.”
Cleo was love. Elphie is patience and laughter. Patience, laughter and love all needed big time with COVID threatening our lives. My daughter was right. “Heaven made this match”.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to my Fur Angels. As a friend said, “Dog is God spelled backwards.
Eighteen years ago today,
Your Daddy called to say,
Some pains in Mummy’s tummy,
He thought the baby was on its way.
At the hospital,
A nurse in witch’s costume
Came in the room with play.
Now, several hours later,
In mid afternoon,
Down the tube and into the room,
Came Belly Button Boo!
Daddy cut your umbilical cord.
Mummy sat up and smiled.
Gram was happy to see you.
The doctors and nurses
All gave a cheer and said,
“Hello Little Pumpkin,”
“We’re glad you are here.”
“Happy Halloween, WHAT… A…TREAT!!”
Five days later, Mummy and Daddy and you,
Came to Grama’s house for dinner,
Mummy was singing a song.
It went like this:
“Emily Rose, Emily Rose,
Chubby little fuzzy little,
Stuffed with fluff,
Oh…Emily Rose, Emily Rose,
Chubby little fuzzy little girl”
I ask myself, what is the mystery? My answer is Life, it’s all pure mystery. It’s how I got here, how I’ve lived all these years. I’m seventy-four years old. Just about three quarters of century on this earth, that’s a long time. I started out totally dependent on my mother to nurse me and my father to provide security. Mother always fed me but not so much the nourishment of emotional food. Father gave me security when I was very young but that security became less and less and by the time I was fourteen – gone. He was gone, my security was gone. He literally drove away. We watched the tail lights of his car go down the hill and disappear around the corner. Emotional abuse followed. He disowned me when I was fifteen. I disowned him when I was a young mother in my early twenties. What a mystery!
I had three boys and one daughter, happy years. I had a brain tumor and a marital break-up, tough times. I went to college, a means to an end to get back into the work force, an Interesting time. I made a big move from small rural living to city life. Full time employed as a single parent, a busy time. There was growth, challenge and change. Empty nest was an adjustment, retirement was an adjustment, kids gone, job gone, house gone but I’m still here. It’s a mystery.
Believe I must. Believe all is well. The baby was born, the young girl grows up. The young woman marries and has children. The middle aged woman discovers her strength. The old woman accepts the mystery of life and believes all is well. There were mistakes, events, life, and mystery.
Laura Lamb is a story about me when I was a little girl. I wrote the book to and for children. My desire is for the story to promote a connection between children and nature.
Laura is a lonely little lamb as I was. We lived on 17 acres of bush land. I was an only child until I was 7. No playmates lived close by. The trees in the forest, the ferns that laced the ground, the green soft moss, they all brought me a feeling of joy and life and love.
I saw the story of Laura Lamb work its magic when I read it to a group of pre-school children. The group of about 20 children gathered around me for circle time. A little boy who I knew well was propped up on his knees at the back of the class. I watched him knowing he had attention deficit. He did not fidget, poke the other children or make noises. He sat completely focused and intent upon the pictures and the words. When I finished reading he said, “That is cute.” My heart soared.
I enjoyed writing “Laura Lamb Finds the Forest” and I hope more than many children will enjoy the story. I hope they will sit still and listen and feel the beauty of nature.
Easter Monday Morning, March 30, my first child was born.
I remember that Easter well! When I woke on Good Friday morning I looked out the window to see a gloriously sunny day. I decided to go outside to weed the flowerbed on the south side of the house. I wore a short-sleeved blue flowered maternity smock and as I wheeled the wheel barrow up the hill from the garage I could feel the warmth of the sun on my bare arms.
My tummy was heavy with child. I was tired when I reached the edge of the flowerbed so I sat on the wheelbarrow to rest. It wasn’t long before I was lying out full length with my feet hanging over the end. I remember looking up at the cloudless blue sky and listening to the birds sing. Later as I dug in the hardened soil I noticed some daffodils pushing their way up through the ground. I knew they would soon bloom in bursts of yellow. I felt so in sync with the world.
We lived in the country seven miles from town without any neighbors living near. I loved the trees and quiet stillness of the country. This was where I had always lived, up on a hill, in a house my father had built. When I married, my husband and I renovated Mother’s basement and we lived there for the next seven years.
I remember that Easter Sunday we had gone to my husband’s brother and sister-in-law for dinner. They’d had their first baby, twenty-nine days prior on March 1st. Later that evening, back home, my long-time girl friend came for a visit. We’d become best friends when we were in grade three. She and her family were new neighbors and lived a mile down the road. She’d come to visit me often that year, from Sept. until June as I lay in bed with rheumatic fever and unable to go to school. Illa and I visited late that Easter Sunday night and I got to bed in the early hours of the next day, Easter Monday. I woke with tummy pains. I woke my husband and told him I thought I was in labor. We timed the pains for just a short time; they were about five minutes apart. We decided around 5 a.m. to leave for the seven-mile trip to the hospital. We knocked on Mother’s upstairs door and told her we were on our way.
At the hospital after completing the admission forms and to my chagrin, I was taken in a wheel chair to the labor room on the third floor where my husband was asked to leave. Shortly after the nurse had prepped me the doctor walked through the door. He walked over to my bed, put his hand on my knee and said, “Now, we are going to put into practice what we have been working on over the past nine months.” “I want you to take a few deep breaths and relax.” The hypnosis we had been practicing took immediate effect. When I took my second breath I felt as if I rose above my body and was looking down at myself.
My doctor was roughly sixty years old, not a big man but on the short side with a stocky build. He appeared strong and assured. He spoke with a heavy German accent and was obviously ahead of his time to be practicing hypnosis. He’d been my paternal grand-parent’s physician. At each of my prenatal visits Dr. would teach me how to relax and listen to his voice. He would relax my whole body starting at my feet and ending at my head, telling me to tighten and relax each part of my body. He would say things like, “imagine you are going for a walk on the beach and you can feel the warm breeze blowing through your hair”, or “you are walking in warm sand and you feel it squishing up between your toes”. I did, I felt it. I trusted him explicitly.
Now in the labor room I listened to his voice and his direction and relaxed completely. He stayed with me for the next four hours and then we moved into the delivery room. I was not given any medication. Dr. adjusted the mirror above me on the delivery table and said, “There, now, can you see.” “I want you to be able to see your baby being born”. Not long after he said, “Now, it is time to start pushing the baby out.” “I want you to listen carefully and do exactly as I tell you”. “That is good,… now push down very, very, very gently…, good,…now again…, slowly now…, perfect…, another little push…, good…, maybe three more pushes and the baby will be out, good,… perfect…, I can see the head, it is crowning, can you see it?” “Oh” he said… “I can see the hair it is the same color as yours, it’s gold.” “Now one more push!”… “GREAT,… GOOD,… LOOK,… IT IS A BOY!!” I said, “Are you sure it is a boy?” and he said “Yes, I have seen boys before.” We all laughed.
Easter Monday morning my firstborn baby boy was born at 10:10 a.m. He was slightly underweight at only six pounds. They placed him in the incubator beside me and I am certain I saw a smile on his face and I most definitely had a smile on mine. I looked out the case room window and saw the Easter Bunny hop across the grass. I was so happy. I can honestly say I felt no pain, only some mild discomfort. I saw and remembered crystal clear the entire birth. I give the credit of a painless and perfect birthing to the professional practice of hypnosis by my doctor and my ability to relax and listen to him.
My firstborn Son is bright, beautiful and like pure gold. Each year as Easter comes around and as I witness daffodils birthing through the ground I know that they TOO will be bright, beautiful and like pure gold bringing with them Spring happiness.
THE MEANING & SYMBOLISM OF narcissus / daffodil
Symbolizing rebirth and new beginnings, the daffodil is virtually synonymous with spring. The March BIRTH FLOWER a gift of daffodils is said to ensure happiness.
My Cleo dog came to live with me in 1998. She was described to me as a back-yard Poodle, two and a half years old, apricot in colour and weighed eleven pounds. Her tail had not been clipped and was long and fluffy. They said, “She is quite beautiful”. She’d been given to them by a working couple who lived in Parksville. The working couple would tether Angel on their clothes line when they went to work. The couple had heard about Pacific Assistance Dog Society from a friend and thought Angel (her name at the time but was later changed by P.A.D.S. to Cleo). Cleo tested to be intelligent and fearless, both characteristics needed to be trained as a working dog.
I’d been diagnosed with a benign brain tumour (acoustic neuroma) in 1981 and I had undergone a fifteen-and-a-half-hour micro surgery. The tumour was successfully removed but I was left with some residual effects: I was deaf in my left ear; I had a badly bruised facial nerve and a damaged vestibular nerve. I’d often feel tippy when I walked; I had short term memory loss and couldn’t sequence information the way I did before the surgery; my left eye was a little wonky and my smile was crocked, I was embarrassed when food would pop out of my mouth because of the weak muscles in my mouth; I could hear sound but it was flat and I had no idea what direction it was coming from, word discrimination was blurred. The two years after my surgery were long and difficult for both me and our family, in fact it was traumatic. My more than twenty-year marriage ended. I was determined to make the best possible recovery; I returned to college to upgrade my education so I could re-enter the work force after being an at-home mum for the past twenty-two years.
An employment counsellor, Leslie, from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Association who was profoundly deaf was working with me to help me re-enter the work place. In one of our sessions she told me about her professionally trained hearing dog and as she talked about her dog I felt an overwhelming desire to have one too. She said they were very expensive. I didn’t have much money but I did have a house and I said, “I will sell my house if I have to”. Leslie contacted P.A.D.S. and had them send me an application form. I was told there would be a very long wait but to my surprise within a few months I got a phone call from them saying they had a dog for me. They told me her ten-month training had been sponsored and paid for by a party who lived in North Vancouver and the only cost to me would be for her kennel, leash and her insignia P.A.D.S. Jacket. Thankfully, I was then full-time employed as an Early Childhood Educator Arrangements were made for me to be off work for a week so the trainer from P.A.D.S. could come and train ME to work with the dog.
I watched from my dining room window as the trainer and Cleo walked down our long driveway. I couldn’t believe my eyes…she was beautiful. As I watched her walking down the driveway with proud, quick, assured steps, her long tail swooped up over her back I wondered how she could be so beautiful and smart at the same time. The trainer introduced us and said she would leave us to get acquainted with one another and would return in the morning for a boot-camp day of hard work. Upon return she said, “Cleo looks different…so relaxed and happy, I think she has really bonded with you.”
When the boot camp training week was over I asked Terry a very difficult question. I said, “I cannot imagine how I will deal with her death when that happens?” She said, “You will deal with that when it happens”. It was difficult. When it happened I went to bed and covered my head for days.
Cleo was my best friend, helper and restorer of life for twelve loving years. December 26, 2001 my good friend, Gaye picked us up and drove us to the Vet and then to the doggy crematorium. I had Cleo wrapped in her favourite blanket. My son Bruce brought the blanket back for me as a gift from Mexico and Cleo would, when she could, would snuggle into it. When the needle went into her leg I held her on her back close to my heart. She didn’t flinch. We looked deep into each other eyes. Her eyes told me she trusted me and my eyes told her I loved her. I will always miss her, and remember her in gratitude and love.
OUR FIRST DAYS WORKING TOGETHER AS A TEAM – 1998 OUR LAST DAY TOGETHER – 2001