Monday Meeting — Dear Daddy in 16 C

Dear Daddy in 16C

Dear Daddy in 16 C
Author: Shanell Mouland – Mother, teacher and writer
Source: Huffington Post

Dear “Daddy:”

I don’t know your name, but Kate called you “daddy” for the entire flight last week and you kindly never corrected her. In fact, you didn’t even flinch as you could probably tell that she was not confusing you with her own “daddy,” but instead making a judgment regarding your level of “safety” for her. If she calls you “daddy” then you better believe she thinks you are alright.

I sat Kate, my 3-year-old who has autism, in the middle seat knowing full well that there would be a stranger sitting next to her for the duration of this flight. I had to make a quick decision and based on her obsession with opening and closing the window shade, I figured she might be less of a distraction if she sat in the middle. I watched the entire Temple basketball team board the plane, and wondered if one of these giants might sit by Kate. They all moved toward the back. She would have liked that, she would have made some observations that I would have had to deal with, but she would have liked those players. I watched many Grandmotherly women board and hoped for one to take the seat but they walked on by.

For a fleeting moment I thought we might have a free seat beside us, and then you walked up and sat down with your briefcase and your important documents and I had a vision of Kate pouring her water all over your multi-million dollar contracts, or house deeds, or whatever it was you held. The moment you sat down, Kate started to rub your arm. Your jacket was soft and she liked the feel of it. You smiled at her and she said: “Hi, Daddy, that’s my mom.” Then she had you.

You could have shifted uncomfortably in your seat. You could have ignored her. You could have given me that “smile” that I despise because it means; “manage your child please.” You did none of that. You engaged Kate in conversation and you asked her questions about her turtles. She could never really answer your questions but she was so enamored with you that she kept eye contact and joint attention on the items you were asking her about. I watched and smiled. I made a few polite offers to distract her, but you would have none of it.

Kate: (Upon noticing you had an iPad) Is dis Daddy’s puduter?

You: This is my iPad. Would you like to see it?

Kate: To me?????? (I know she thought you were offering it to her to keep)

Me: Look with your eyes, Kate. That is not yours.

Kate: Dat’s nice!

You: (Upon noticing that Kate had an iPad) I like your computer, too. It has a nice purple case.

Kate: Daddy wanna be a bad guy? (She offered shredder to you and that, my friend, is high praise)

You: Cool.

The interaction went on and on and you never once seemed annoyed. She gave you some moments of peace while she played with her Anna and Elsa dolls. Kind of her to save you from playing Barbies, but I bet you wouldn’t have minded a bit. I bet you have little girls, too.

Not long before we landed Kate had reached her limit. She screamed to have her seatbelt off, she screamed for me to open the plane door and she cried repeating, “Plane is cwosed (closed)” over and over. You tried to redirect her attention to her toys. She was already too far gone at this point, but the fact that you tried to help your new little friend made me emotional.

In case you are wondering, she was fine the moment we stepped off the plane. Thank you for letting us go ahead of you. She was feeling overwhelmed and escaping the plane and a big, long hug was all she needed.

So, thank you. Thank you for not making me repeat those awful apologetic sentences that I so often say in public. Thank you for entertaining Kate so much that she had her most successful plane ride, yet. And, thank you for putting your papers away and playing turtles with our girl.


Thursday Re-View — Of Storms Within

S shuffled into my office at the Cancer Center carrying a worn Bible in her left hand. A middle-aged large-boned woman who had never married, she had short gray hair, men’s jeans and a plaid flannel shirt. With her tired eyes and slumped shoulders, she looked like she hadn’t smiled in years, at least.

S referred herself for issues regarding her role as primary caregiver to a brother who was dying from cancer. For the past 30 years, she had taken care of five different relatives through their cancer illness and death: her mother, brother, sister, aunt, and grandmother.

Thirty years ago, on her deathbed, S’s mother grabbed the collar of S’s blouse and made her daughter swear to “take care of” her brothers and sisters. S still felt her mother’s grip on her throat and on her life.

S fulfilled her promise to the point that she even nursed her aunt through her cancer: the same aunt who, whenever there was a thunderstorm when S was a little girl, made her niece get under the covers of her bed so that she could pray over the “bad girl” that God was punishing with his rage; the same aunt whose son raped and abused S for several years as a pre-teen; the same aunt who, when she found her son sexually abusing 7-year old S, forced the terrified little girl to sit in a washtub while she poured scalding hot water on S, calling her “a filthy whore.”


S, the “bad girl,” felt guilty that she was tired of giving up her life to ungrateful relatives; that she was mad at God for his continued punishment of her; and that she was now seeking counseling help when all of her “Christian friends” [note: her emphasis] told her that it was a sin against God to do so.

S’s spiritual assessment revealed that her paternal grandfather was Native American. When S spoke of him, her voice lowered, her face softened, and her body visibly relaxed. Having died years earlier, S described her grandfather as the only person who had ever shown her love, and the only person whom she could ever trust. He had lived on a farm, and when she visited him as a child, they would walk the fields together, hand in hand. He taught S to respect nature; that she was one with mother earth and all her creatures. The gentleness of her beloved grandfather’s Native American spirit world was distinctly at odds with the punitive God of her mother’s teachings.

A myriad of experiences with my Lakota friend Sonny seeped into my consciousness as I listened to S’s memories (see Mitakuye Oyasin). After several weeks with S, I carefully broached the topic of the dichotomy between what S had learned from her mother and aunt about the “burning pit of fire” that was hell, and S’s quiet certainty that her grandfather lived on peacefully in the spirit world. At times, she even felt his presence around her. S’s eyes widened as she struggled to reconcile the vast differences between those two beliefs. That being enough, we left the discussion for a later time.

The next week, S returned, but without the Bible that her friends had given her. However, she began the session with more accounts of the pressure she continued to receive from her friends about the counseling they viewed to be the “devil’s work.” At her pronouncement, a tiny part of me shuddered, certain that S was going to discontinue therapy. Instead, S went on to say that she put the question of counseling before her grandfather. At home, she had performed her usual ritual of sitting on the floor with his picture, and lighting a candle. She gave him my name and asked what he saw in my heart.


He showed S a majestic, snow-covered mountain with a crystal clear stream running zigzagged down its side. Her grandfather told S that my heart was as pure and deep as the mountain stream, and to trust that I would help her. He promised her that through me, S would come to know God.

The eyes of the heart, used yet another time, in yet another way. In that moment, I heard the echo of Sonny’s voice, raised in a sacred Lakota healing chant. Once again, God enacted His circles of grace.

S stayed with her brother through his death, all the while working on promises kept vs. those that were unreasonable; on justified guilt vs. unjustified; on the completely foreign thought of taking care of herself for once, rather than taking care of everyone else. And of returning to nature, where lightning was simply a weather phenomenon and nothing more. Where once nature had terrified her, now it gave her peace.

After her last session, I noticed that S had left a small grocery bag beneath her chair. I grabbed it and ran after her, only to find that she had disappeared. I asked my secretary to call S and tell her about the package she accidentally left. When I came back from lunch, the package was on my desk, with a note written in my secretary’s handwriting saying that this was for me. I opened it to find a color picture of a river strewn with rocks, the trees up to its edge splashed in fall colors of reds and oranges and golds. S described such a place as a favorite of her and her grandfather’s when they used to take walks together when she was a little girl.


There was a note typed in the corner:


When I see the wind blow gently through the trees,
I know you’re there.
When I stop to see life’s reflections in the rivers and streams,
I know you’re there.
When the scent of the flowers fill the air with their aroma,
I know you’re there.
How do I know you care?
I know you’re there.

Godspeed, S. Be well as you finally begin your own journey. Wherever it takes you, know that He loves you and that He will always be there.

Thank you for the privilege of sitting with you in the darkness. Walk on now, bathed in light, and in peace.


Monday Meeting — Remembering Talia Joy Castellano

Talia Joy Castellano was beautiful.

An Honorary CoverGirl beautiful.

When she was 7 years old, Talia was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma. She died on July 16th, 2013. She was 13 years old.

On her Facebook profile, she wrote: wig

“I’m Talia, I’m 13 years old and I love makeup. “Make-up is My Wig” I like to say.
 You can prob see I’m bald- I have cancer. (neuroblastoma)& leukemia)
I don’t like wearing wigs so I wear makeup to feel good and pretty inside –
and I guess outside. LOL!” 

She absolutely loved make-up. Her You Tube channel, taliajoy18, included make-up tutorials about how to effectively use eyeliner and matte bronzer, the difference between make-up for days and make-up for evenings, the latest in lipstick shades, along with hundreds of other tips. It also included updates and personal videos about her cancer treatments.

Taliajoy18 had over 750,000 subscribers.

In August, 2012, Talia commented on her notoriety:

“You Tube, and all the support that I get from everyone
telling me that I’m inspiring and not to give up,
it really makes you stop and think about how many people there are
that love you…You’re not there alone.”

In September, 2012, Ellen DeGeneres invited Talia to appear on her TV show and revealed that CoverGirl had named Talia an Honorary CoverGirl.

cover girl

At Thanksgiving, her Facebook listed the “little things” Talia was grateful for – like “how stinking cute her pooch looks in her sweaters, the smell of her mom’s corn casserole, having campfires in her back yard with her family when the sun goes down, just being in the same room as her big sister, the little hugs of encouragement from a friend…”

Five days before she died, Talia posted 76 “Things I Wanna Do Before I Die.”





She actually got to a few.

"Help a newbie with cancer."

No. 60 – Help a newbie with cancer.

She asked her Facebook fans to head out to do some of the things for her, in case she didn’t get a chance to perform all 76 wishes. To this day, her fans are still keeping Talia’s dreams alive by completing her bucket list, then posting their shots on Facebook.

water balloon fight

No. 10: Water balloon fight.

No. 3: Dance in the rain.

No. 3: Dance in the rain.

In her final days, Talia was still her brave, sweet self. Her family shared this moment:

“Talia woke up again and asked for more to drink.
Her family and friends in the room started showing her the packages and fan mail again.
After a few minutes, Talia paused.
She looked around the room and said ‘I could cry right now…’
Her Mom got up real close to her and said ‘What’s wrong baby?.. Don’t cry..’
And Talia said ‘I’m just so grateful… I’m so grateful for you guys…’
Her family said that ‘This all melted our hearts.’”

In a video interview with The Truth 365, Talia shared this:

“In a hundred years, I would like to be remembered
as the bubbly girl who wanted to do something
about childhood cancer.”

On July 16th, her family posted this tweet: “It is with a heavy heart that we share with all of you that Talia has earned her wings at 11:22am,” which continued on Facebook:

“Please lift her beautiful soul, her beautiful light to heaven
and please send your love and prayers to her family
during this most difficult time.

God speed little one, may you be free from pain and suffering,
may your soul feel the light and love that you brought to so many of us
on this Earth during the short time you were her with us.
We will miss you more than you will ever know baby girl.”

Talia Joy Castellano was beautiful.

An Honorary CoverGirl beautiful.

But even more beautiful was her bubbly outlook, her courage and determination in the face of her cancer. Her wanting to reach out to others by educating them about make-up, childhood cancer, and being a teen-ager. Her continuing to offer hope and inspiration by jotting down and sharing her own bucket list of 76 dreams just 5 days before she died.

Her smile was huge, her heart even bigger. And her soul – her soul limitless. And eternal.

Talia Joy Castellano lives on in her “Angels for Talia” site on Facebook. In every person who carries out one of her 76 “Things I Wanna Do Before I Die” in her memory. In every person who reads about her, watches her You Tube videos, or smiles when they see her picture.

Talia’s No. 41 on her list is simple: Be loved.

One more to be crossed off your bucket list, Talia. Most certainly, you are, and always will be, loved.

Thank you for inspiring those of us left behind.

Your spirit shimmers and dances with light.

You are precious.

You are beautiful.

You are loved.


related post: My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech


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


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:

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