Thursday Re-View — Conversations with Myself

High School Graduation

Thoughts on my high school graduation:

  • Congratulations on being named Salutatorian – second place folks always try harder!
  • Your first night away from home will be your first night away at college. That’s hard to believe, but then again, 1972 was a different time. Stay safe, have some fun, but not too much, and do your best. Notice I said “do your best” – I didn’t say you have to be perfect.
  • College is totally different from high school – much harder, but you can do it. Your parents were right to send you to a coed college; you’ll need to learn about how to get along with all types of people, including both genders.
  • Your boyfriend will keep in touch with you; don’t be so scared about the girls at his college. They’re not you.
  • Always believe in yourself. Your parents already do.

Lebanon Valley College

Thoughts on my college (undergraduate) graduation:

  •  You broke up with your high school boyfriend – the first boy you ever dated (Yes – your parents did make you wait until you were 17 years old!!! Things are different now, to say the least). It happened to a lot of students. You were heartbroken, but survived. In fact, you did more than that – you thrived, and met a handsome, intelligent, romantic young man who stole your heart.
  • This boyfriend broke up with you – heartbroken again – but you couldn’t compete with the Homecoming Queen. That’s all right. Wait until you see what life has in store for you!
  • Being a biology/pre-med major tested all of your discipline, used all of your brain and forced you to manage your time wisely, but in the long run, it will be worth it.
  • You believed in yourself. Your parents never stopped believing.
  • Parties?  You went to one as a freshman, to see what all the excitement was about, then one as a Senior to say good-bye to your friends. What was all the fuss???
  • What were you thinking, trying to be sorority president and residence hall advisor for your sorority house at the same time? You learned a lot about diplomacy and politics, to say the least.
  • Dean’s List, Who’s Who – you did good!  Keep striving.

Pennsylvania College of Optometry

Thoughts on my Optometry School graduation:

  • Congratulations, Doctor. You look lovely with that rose.  Best friends for life?  Probably not, but that’s okay.  There will be other friends.
  • Optometry school was such a challenge; who knew that studying one organ in the body could take 4 years of didactic and clinical hours? At least you might be able to get more than 3 hours of sleep a night from now on.
  • You’re either brave or not too smart – you actually rented office space for your own practice before you graduated? Before you took your Boards? Before you even found out if you passed State & National Boards? But I guess if you believe in yourself – if you invest in yourself – all things will be well and will work out.
  • This has been no small achievement.  By working harder now than you ever have, you’ll find it to be easier in later life.
  • You will start from nothing, and in becoming successful, earn the trust of many.  Never take that for granted.
  • Good luck in private practice (you’ll have 15 years). You have the tremendous privilege of being entrusted with people’s eyesight; take that seriously and remember to be mindful of the miracle that is sight.

Loyola University Maryland

Thoughts on my graduate school graduation:

  • You did it! You switched careers and went back to school.  Who said life begins at 40?  There were right – late 40s, anyway.
  • You found what you were born to do, where you were supposed to be.  These three years will count among the happiest times in your life.
  • As an eye doctor, you helped people to see.  Now, as a therapist, you’ll help them to see with the eyes of their heart.
  • You are going to sit with more pain, despair and suffering, in darkness, than you could ever imagine, or even know existed.  But you will be the better for it.  You will learn to look for the light.
  • You will be a keeper of secrets, a listener of stories, and you will be changed forever.  You will learn compassion and presence and gain insight into this journey called life.
  • You will see countless examples of the triumph of the human spirit, and will learn that we don’t have a soul, we are a Soul, in this, our Creator’s kindergarten.
  • As a wounded healer, you will heal others, on their way to wholeness.  But don’t forget to offer yourself that same gift.
  • You will tread on Sacred Ground.  Walk softly, for their spirits are diminished and their souls are bruised.
  • Be well, my child, be well.  The best is yet to be!

prple rose

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In Love Again at My Age???

I’m in love again.

That’s right.  Who knew?  At my age.  A married woman.  With her own family.

I can’t believe I’m broadcasting this on a blog read by millions (okay – maybe not millions, but hundreds).

I’m in love with the Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Hays Bald Eagle Family, and I’m addicted to watching the live feed – the Pittsburgh Eagle Cam – sponsored by the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania.

pittsburgh hays eagle

The live feed: http://triblive.com/news/projects/pittsburgheagle/

After an absence of more than 150 years, this bald eagle pair – the national bird of the United States – is nesting for the second year in the steel city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They’re in Pittsburgh because there’s food there. In fact, the near-by Monongahela River holds 76 species of fish. Much of an eagle’s diet consists of fish, although they also eat rabbits, squirrels, snakes, frogs and other small creatures, as well as scavenge dead animals.

The current nest is their second, as last year’s nest collapsed from a near-by smaller tree. The Hays female is believed to be 5 1/2 years old. The Hays male is smaller (normally by about 25%) and for those of you watching the live feed, has a small white spot on his right side, near the tail.

The eagle pair’s first egg was laid on Feb. 19th, followed by a second on Feb. 22nd and a third on Feb.25th. The Mom fended off attacks on the incubating eggs by a raccoon, a marauding raptor and a flying squirrel. The eggs hatched successfully on March 28th, 30th and April 3rd.

Pittsburgh eaglets

Three surviving eaglets is unusual, and it is not uncommon for the oldest, especially if she’s a female, to kill the youngest, something with which the parents do not interfere. Because of the difference in size of the 3 eaglets, I find myself squirming whenever they are being fed as I watch the smallest get pushed out of the way by the ravenous older and bigger siblings.

“Feed the little one. There – feed the little one!”

I’m on my desk chair, leaning back and forth, trying to help the tiniest eaglet position itself for maximum feeding. The Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania needs to install a live feed in my office; I’d be (almost) more entertaining than the eagle cam!

Sometimes during the feedings, I actually have to turn the live feed off (not for long), because I am that invested in the outcome of the tiniest eaglet’s welfare. Worrying that I will actually see it killed, or pushed out of the nest, or waste away to skeletal proportions is far too stressful for this human who gets a neck and shoulder massage every 2 weeks with little relief.

Plus, whenever the Dad brings the latest hard-won food offering to his family – a gleaming trout, a chubby squab, a cute (unidentified) furry mammal – I have to keep singing Disney’s “The Circle of Life” in order to not dwell too much on the fact that something gave up its life so that the adorable eaglets might live.

pittsburgh eaglets II

Just when I calm down, I see on one of my many bookmarked eagle websites that approximately 40% of young eagles do not survive their first flight, and I am back to being the worried, over-protective mother.

Whew – watching this eagle cam is hard work!

A week ago – and this is not a joke – I woke up from a bad dream where I was trying to save the eaglets from a rabid dog that kept climbing the tree to attack the babies. In the dream, I put together some kind of animal trap to catch the predator, but he kept outsmarting me as I perched precariously on a tree limb near the huge, foul-smelling nest. (Yes, I not only dream in color, but have the added benefit of smell-o-vision as well). I woke up before the rabid dog reached the eaglets.

I think I have too much free time on my hands…

So, dear readers, I’m in love again.

That’s right. Who knew? At my age. A married woman. With her own family.

I’m in love with the Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Hays Bald Eagle Family, and I’m addicted to watching the live feed – the Pittsburgh Eagle Cam – sponsored by the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania.

It could be worse. I could be addicted to watching reality TV shows or soap operas or the Weather Channel.

And just because I no longer cook or clean for my own family because I’m keeping watch over my second family doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.

I’m just a woman in love.

Who knew?????

pittsburgh eaglets III
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Monday Meeting — A Good Samaritan

medal man

Julio Diaz has a daily routine. Every night, the 31-year old social worker ends his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he can eat at his favorite diner.

But one night, as Diaz stepped off the No. 6 train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn.

He was walking towards the stairs when a teen-aged boy approached him and pulled out a knife.

He wanted my money, so I just gave him my wallet and said, ‘Here you go,’” Diaz says.

As the teen began to walk away, Diaz yelled, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.”

The would-be robber looked at Diaz, “like what’s going on here?” Diaz says. “He asked me, ‘Why are you doing this?’”

Diaz replied: “If you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner, and if you really want to join me…hey, you’re more than welcome.”

You know, I just felt maybe he really needed help,” Diaz explained.

Diaz and the teen-ager went into the diner and sat in a booth.

diner

The manager, dishwashers and waiters came by to say hi,” Diaz says. “The kid was like, ‘You know everybody here. Do you own this place?’”

No, I just eat here a lot,” Diaz told the teen. “He said, ‘But you’re even nice to the dishwasher.’”

Diaz replied, “Well, haven’t you been taught you should be nice to everybody?”

Yea, but I didn’t think people actually behaved that way,” the teen said.

Diaz asked him what he wanted out of life. “He just had almost a sad face,” Diaz says.

The teen couldn’t, or didn’t want, to answer Diaz.

When the bill arrived, Diaz told the teen, “Look, I guess you’re going to have to pay for the bill ’cause you have my money and I can’t pay for this. So if you give me my wallet back, I’ll gladly treat you.”

The teen “didn’t even think about it” and returned the wallet. “I gave him $20…I figured maybe it would help him.”

Diaz asked for something in return – the teen’s knife – and “he gave it to me.”

Afterward, when Diaz told his mother what happened, she said, “You’re the type of kid that if someone asked you for the time, you’d give them your watch.”

Diaz remarked: “I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.”

Well said, Mr. Diaz. Be safe.

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Thursday Re-View — From a Boy into a Man

child

He was a nice-looking young man, married, with warm brown eyes that always looked down, as if afraid meeting someone’s gaze would let them in to a place where he didn’t want to go.

His needs were simple – to explore grief-related issues regarding the recent death of his father-in-law. But in therapy, as in most things in life, those simple things can become complex fairly quickly, whether we want them to or not.

Almost 2 months into our sessions together, J had a major disagreement with his wife, during which he revealed to her that someone had sexually abused him as a child for almost 8 years.

Though this rape by his stepbrother occurred nightly, no one in the house was aware of it. If they were, it was neither acknowledged nor stopped.

While J described his rape at the hands of his abuser, I was bereft of words. The details were horrific. The most heart-wrenching part for me was to see the little boy J in the adult J’s eyes; to see the anguish, pain, bewilderment and betrayal that cried out from those many years ago. In my presence, for the first time in his life, J shared the details of that loss of innocence. He bared his soul. The little boy’s eyes beseeched me to understand, and to not betray or judge him. The hurt in his eyes mirrored what I felt he must see in my own.

Suddenly, I felt a single tear trace its way slowly down my cheek as I listened to J’s story. With that, my soul embraced his and wept. J told me later that my single tear meant more to him than anything I could have said at that moment. It validated him as worthwhile, and it told him, without words, that I walked with him in his pain.

tear

Inside the grown man who had to sleep with the lights on and the bedroom door open, who could barely touch his wife without remembering another kind of touch from his stepbrother, who felt safer in downtown Baltimore than inside his own home, was the little boy who wanted desperately to love and trust and be loved, but felt compelled to withhold himself to be safe.

As a wife and mother, I saw J as a little boy who was ashamed and embarrassed by what had happened to him, who felt responsible for allowing the abuse, and who still struggled with the fact that no one had protected him.

In listening to J’s story, I heard about the desecration of one person’s dignity; yet, I was also witness to the strength, resilience and courage of a little boy. J’s spirit could not be broken. His soul, the very essence of who he was, thrived. I was determined to fan the flickering flame of J’s spirit until it was a bonfire.

As a psychotherapist, I saw that the abuse and its secrecy brought with it shame, low self-esteem, sexual dysfunction, depression, guilt, and PTSD. Where to begin with a man who was stuck developmentally at about 8 years old?

After working with several behavioral modification techniques and guided imagery, I asked J if he had any neighbors or relatives who were about 8 years old. With a picture of a nephew in J’s mind, I asked him to compare the little boy to J’s abuser in size (the perpetrator had been large for his age). I quietly asked if a boy the size of his nephew could have overpowered J’s abuser. Awareness dawned in J’s eyes; it had not been a fair fight,, and there was nothing that any little boy could have done to overpower his attacker. In that moment, J began to forgive himself for not stopping the abuse.

Further into J’s therapy, I suggested that he write a letter to his mother, who had never acknowledged the abuse. J continually struggled with their relationship, and whether or not to have his mother as an influence in his daughter’s life. The relationship was adversarial at best, with only limited communication. The letter writing was for healing, rather than toward the eventual mailing of the letter.

letter

It took several weeks, but at the end of a session, as he made to leave, J put a few handwritten pages face down on the desk. When I read it privately, I cried. J told his mother exactly what happened for all those years; how all he ever wanted was her love and protection. He explained how he realized that he wasn’t responsible for the abuse, and that he was not a bad person. Instead, he was a human being with value who deserved to be loved. J pledged that he would spend the rest of his life protecting his daughter from harm, and becoming a better man. What happened to him would never, ever happen to her.

J’s story does not end here; his recovery would be a complex process. He never mailed the letter, but eventually told his mother all about the abuse during a heated phone call. She responded by denying such a thing happened, and called him a liar. While J hoped that his revelation would finally give him a loving, compassionate mother, he was not surprised by her reaction.

The breakthrough, however, was in J.

The little boy’s voice had finally been heard, and in the release of his secret, his heart was opened to healing. J’s journey was long, with more work and more struggles as he integrated this new J into his marriage. Yet it now included hope for the future. The man could finally forgive, love, and accept the little boy.

The shadows in dark rooms no longer held a threat; J’s eyes saw them flooded with brightness.

My heart saw a little boy at last grown into a man.

Seeing with the eyes of the heart…

man on beach

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What These Stones Have Seen

           Living Wall

Living Wall

This wall lives and breathes.

Its age shows in striking beauty, memories of the old man’s callused hands – artist’s hands – that shaped the stones with such love. No mortar for him, but only careful picking and choosing, a mosaic of gray stone laid one upon the other. Joining together stronger than alone, climbing higher.

Stop! Look at me. You may walk beside, but do not cross. I have purpose. I stand firm.

Norsemen cleaved the stone with battle axe a many, their angry cries bludgeoned into the rough surfaces. Blood soaked the stones. The breeze brings a whiff of sweat and fear from bygone centuries.

Rough edges smoothed by storms unleashing their fury, when the heavens opened to wash away the blood. Lightning strikes scar the stone with black, their fingerprints embedded deep.

             Just Green

Just Green

Stones reverberate with echoes of a horse whinnying as it leaps across the wall, the tinkling bells of sheep as they herd past the barrier, the jagged groans of a farmer tilling the rocky fields, the whispered promises of lovers lost in a clandestine embrace, the mournful dirge of a funeral procession on its way to a final good-bye.

Sounds seared into the heart of the wall, trapped for time eternal.

The wall has survived the seasons again and again. Spring, cradling a robin’s nest and its blue eggs in a small hole eroded through the years. Summer heralds laughing children and barking dogs running along its path, weaving and bobbing and balancing through the turns. Fall brings showers of leaves, dressing the stones in a cloak of bright scarlet, shiny gold, vivid copper. Winter shoulders snow piled high and ice that sparkles like diamonds in the sun. Then it starts all over again, a new.

Time marches on, we humans come and go, but the stones – the stones stand firm while they ache with our secrets. In the stillness, the wall waits.

This wall – this wall lives and breathes.

           Green Wall          Copper Carpet

Green Wall
Copper Carpet

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This work is inspired by John Grant’s stunning photos at Meticulous Mick.
I am so very grateful for his allowing me to use his photos to share this story.

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Monday Meeting — Figo, K-9 Officer

Figo

Meet Figo, a K-9 Officer paying his last respects to his fallen human partner, Kentucky Police Officer Jason Ellis. The 33-year old officer was killed in a suspected ambush.

In the photo, Figo lays a paw on Ellis’ casket.

After his partner’s death, Figo retired and is now living with Ellis’ family. Bardstown, KY Police Chief Rick McCubbin told the Associated Press that the dog and Ellis were “true partners.”

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