Canadian Geese

I live near the Canada border.  The other day, a family of Canadian geese were in my yard.

Baby geese chasing Momma.

I have the good fortune of having a Momma bear and her cubs as my neighbors.

I call her Dolly.

Today, I saw a post trending on Facebook about Margaret Mead and the first sign of civilized humanity.  It was good:

“Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones.
But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.

A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts, Mead said.”

We are at our best when we serve others. Be civilized.”

Alot of animals do this too.  I’ve been sick with Covid and my 2 dogs refuse to leave my side. 

They slept by me all day. 

But geese, now Canadian geese, are special too. 

The V formation

Canadian geese fly south for the winter. It’s a long haul in a v formation in the sky.

1. They stick together.

2. The strongest takes the lead at first.

3. When the strongest gets tired, it falls back to the back of the group to regain strength protected from the winds by the others.

4. They rotate the front leaders and take turns with the youngest and weakest protected at the back.

5. If a goose gets hurt, shot, or falls out…2 geese volunteer to leave the group too to follow the goose down and stay with the goose until it gains strength again or passes on.

6. The geese honk alot to each other in v formation either for communication, comraderie, or encouragement.

Animals are more like humans than it seems sometimes.

Yesterday, I learned Rudyard Kipling wrote the Jungle Book while living in Vermont. Remember Mowgli? Maybe his book about the connection between man and nature had a lot to do with living here among these animals…the black bears and geese and deer here.

Anyway, I haven’t seen Dolly the bear and her baby cubs in a while. She showed up the day my son returned home from Guam. Coincidence? Maybe.

She does kinda remind me of Baloo living the bear necessities out here in Vermont. In the Jungle Book, the animals take Mowgli in and teach him how to survive and protect him. They remind me of Dolly, my Canadian geese family, and my own little “wolf pack,” my pups. We humans have a lot to learn from animals and nature too. This whole time living at this mountain cabin for a year, I thought I was letting the animals enter our domain, the fields and forests nearby, but no, it’s the other way around here. They have allowed me to be here and are beginning to trust me more. Just this morning, I saw 2 deer by my bird feeders so close to the house. I even set out a bowl of peanuts in shells for the ravens.

Something about living here in Vermont is changing me. I am becoming gentler, calmer, and healing.

And it has everything to do with the animals.

Salmon Run

He was a preacher.
They’d checked him into the nursing home.
He was wheelchair-bound.
He had dementia and required a lot of medical attention.
So his wife checked him into the home.
She came to visit him every day
but noticed his smile and his light was fading.
One day, he said he wished he could go home.
So, it was decided. They planned together to make the trip.
One last trip together
to the place he was born.
He wanted to see the ocean tide.
to hold her hand and sit on the sand.
One last time.
She sold the house, sold all the possessions.
She bought an old van.
She took out the couches and made him a bed.
She made it wheelchair accessible.
She stocked up the van with everything they would need.
Her eye sight was bad.
Her hearing even worse.
She worried they wouldn’t make it.
There would be dangers up and down the road.
They had to cross 10 states to get there.
Plus his health was failing fast.
Nevertheless, they sat together and mapped out the route carefully.
He waited for the day.
On the day he left, I saw him sitting outside in the wheelchair.
He had got up early and waited two hours in advance to be picked up. He was smiling.
It was their final salmon run upstream – against the current, against the odds,
and they were doing it together.
No matter what.

Protected by a Gang Leader

I rented Candyman. The 2021 movie tells the urban legend of a Southside region of Chicago that had project buildings built in the 1940s that by the 1980s and 1990s had become notoriously dangerous as gang and drug trade territory. Cabrini Green has an amazing history related to Irish and Italian gangs and then African American and Latino gangs later. It was originally referred to as Little Hell.

I was visiting my older sister who lived near the Lake just east of Cabrini Green and near the University of Chicago I think. She lived in a posh high-rise overlooking the waterfront. I brought my roommate Amy with me. We must have been about 19 or 20 and it must have been around the summer of 1998.

On our trip, Amy and I got all dressed up fancy to go shopping downtown and at the Navy Pier. We were Midwest girls from Kansas and we wanted to shop at all the expensive shops we didn’t have back home. We dressed up fashionably with heels and brand-name purses and our nicest clothes and by afternoon that day, we were loaded up with shopping bags. We caught a bus headed to my sister’s street on the Southside. We were tourists and so we stopped and checked with the bus driver to make sure we were on the right bus. She just looked at us and nodded but looked a little surprised.

The bus headed first west quite a ways and we got worried we were on the wrong bus. Then it turned south and we breathed a sigh of relief. But as we stayed on the bus together with all our stuff, we headed into worse and worse looking neighborhoods. We kinda got quiet and looked out the windows.

There were metals bars on the few shops in the neighborhood we were approaching. There were only a few people out in the streets and few cars and no taxis. A lot of the people we saw were wearing puffed up jackets even though it was warm that day. The churches were gated with high fences and the windows were barred too. Meanwhile, the big high rise houses looked pretty rough. Concrete jungle with lots of graffiti and some of the buildings were all boarded up with dark stairwells. I remember there didn’t seem to be a lot of kids around playing outside.

We got off the bus on the street corner of my sister’s street but it clearly was not in a good neighborhood. We didn’t really know where we were but we quickly reasoned that if we headed east we’d eventually come to the lake.

We crossed the street in our heels and fancy clothes with all our shopping bags. A man came out of the barred up convenient store across from us and quickly headed down the road south. We kept our heads down and our eyes on the ground, trying not to trip as we tried to pick up our pace. We didn’t speak to each other much but we knew instinctively not to stop much and not to talk to anyone and just keep moving towards the lake.

We made it maybe two blocks.

A large 1970s style grey Lincoln town car with lowered suspension and tinted windows quickly pulled right alongside us. We looked at each other quickly and kept walking, a little scared honestly at this point.

The Lincoln followed slowly behind us by the side of curb.

We didn’t stop to talk to them and they never lowered the windows. But whoever it was followed close behind us as we headed down the road for at least 8 blocks while wearing heels and laden down with shopping bags and purses.

We were afraid of the person or people in the car but in hindsight, the person or people whoever they were became an unlikely guardian. We were safe for 8 blocks in an area of the city where a lot of drive by shootings and rapes and murders sometimes occurred. That year around 704 people lost their lives in Chicago to murder.

On the 8th block, as we neared what looked like nicer houses and restaurants and some university area, the grey Lincoln silently pulled away from us. We could see them quickly turn right and head back into the neighborhood. Whoever, it was, they seemed to have protected us and probably had some clout or some money in the neighborhood, maybe even a gang leader or something.

We never learned who they were.

Another five or so blocks and we made it to the lake and to my sister’s high-rise. When we got to her apartment, we told her what happened and she looked at us in shock. “You were in Cabrini Green,” she said surprised.

“What is that?” we asked, having never been to Chicago before.

“It’s a bad area of town. Even the taxis don’t go down there.”

You can see what Cabrini Green looked like in the 1992 movie Candyman and then in this more recent version. I’ve traveled to the Middle East and to other places where I felt uncomfortable but no place ever worried me as much as that long walk that day.

In the late 1990s, a lot of those project buildings were tore down and in recent decades much revitalization of the area has been done. It now is a pretty nice region to live and I think they even renamed it to something like the Parkland or something like that.

I guess I owe a debt of gratitude to the occupants of that grey Lincoln car with the tinted windows that day. I am 44 years old today thankfully. I’ve been lucky like that, to come across unlikely protectors and guardians here and there. I was pretty young and very naive and stupid that day. I thank God they were there, whoever they were.

Diabetic Herbal Tea

I made a video about the benefits of dandelion, cinnamon, rosemary, and peppermint in an herbal tea for Type 2 diabetics. Unfortunately my phone broke the video up into 3 sections. It’s still good information so I posted it here.

The Short Reading List

I signed up for the Penguin House reading prompts. They suggested to put a small list of books together to read. It took me a good hour searching through Amazon for about 10 books I might try. These are the ones I selected:

  1. Where the Crawdads Sing (by Delia Owens) – I think it was the setting of this story that interested me…the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I have an affinity for Ocracoke Island.
  2. The Screwtape Letters (by C.S. Lewis) – An old boss recommended this book to me. I didn’t really like that boss but what the heck, I’ll try the book. Don’t judge a book by a bad boss. If it’s anything like The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – I’ll dig it although I must admit that Edward’s turkish delight did not live up to Lewis’ hype. Ick.
  3. The House on Mango Street (by Sandra Cisneros) – yum, mangoes…enough said.
  4. Flowers for Algernon (by Daniel Keyes) – I actually read this as a kid and absolutely loved it. Just want to reread it.
  5. Watership Downs (by Richard Adams) – My mom told me this was one of her favorites, an animal story, and I love animals.
  6. Love in the Time of Cholera (by Gabriel Garcia Marquez) – We’re in a pandemic. Why not read about another one? I think I saw this in a movie once. I seem to recall it was very sad. Something about unrequited love and come on, everybody has someone from their past they are curious about looking up on Facebook now….except now you find out he’s balding and got a pot belly.
  7. The Name of the Rose (by Umberto Eco) – ok, I loved this movie with Sean Connery as a kid. I mean who wouldn’t love a medieval monastery murder mystery with a priest detective? Oh, by the way, another absolutely awesome book in a similar vein but set in Japan with samurais is The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn. Great book.
  8. Murder and Mayhem in Southeast Kansas (by Larry Wood) – ok, I’ll be honest, my friend from the Writer’s Guild wrote this..so I’m curious. Plus, the cover has the Dalton Gang from Coffeyville on it and I am certain the book talks about the Benders.
  9. Milk and Honey (by Rupi Kaur) – it’s poetry. I like poems. Plus….way, way easier to read.
  10. When Wolves become Birds (By Alise Versalla) – ok, ok, another poetry book. Hey, to be fair, there’s a lot of reading on this list and I wanted to finish easy. Plus the title kinda intrigued me.

Prayers vs. Pandemic

Here are some great and easy YouTube videos to follow to assist you in praying for loved ones during the pandemic. DailyEffectivePrayer has many short and easy-to-follow prayers that you can use. They are usually about 4 minutes long each. These are just a few of the collection. Consider your own loved ones. Does one of these categories fit that loved one? Then click on the link below and just listen and follow along with the words.

At this time, I also like these 3 prayers. The first is Psalm 91, a protection prayer against pestilence that is the exact opposite number of COVID-19. According to some videos regarding Psalm 91, the words in Hebrew have many symbols over the tops of the letters. This is supposed to mean this is a very strong spiritual warfare prayer for your family. The second video is a short hedge of protection prayer. In the biblical story of Job, a special hedge of protection surrounded Job and kept him from harm. The third video is a longer prayer but talks about pleading the blood of the lamb over your family during the pandemic. It draws from the Passover story of the Israelites.

The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn is Just to Love and Be Loved in Return

The first tape I ever bought was Nat King Cole’s Greatest Hits. Natalie Cole had just released the song with her father called Unforgettable.  It was my favorite song at the moment.  I liked love songs back then. I liked old AMC movies about love. Especially the black and white movies like Roman Holiday or any of the kodachrome Elvis movies or anything with Cary Grant. I liked everything to do with love. I was a typical young girl full of heart and dreams. So, I went to the store when I was maybe 12 in 7th grade and I bought Nat King Cole’s tape.  I still can recall that day at the mall store.    

I learned every love song on that tape, laying on my bed with my Walkman and listening to the songs with my eyes closed and smiling.  His songs were so happy and promising and full of optimism. I played the tape over and over and over again.  I wore that tape out.  His voice was amazing.  The songs I loved the best were Walking My Baby Back Home and L-O-V-E.  A lot of people today reference Nat King Cole and probably don’t even realize it.  The phrase “to love and be loved” comes from a little known song from Nat King Cole called Nature Boy.  It actually goes like this…. “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”  This song is also in the movie, Moulin Rouge. 

There’s an urban legend story about Nat King Cole’s wife.  Some say it is true.  Some say it is not.  Here is the story, irregardless.  This woulda been in the year 1965:

“An African-American woman is stranded on an Alabama Highway in a rain storm. She flags down a motorist who turns out to be a white man who takes her to where she can get a cab. She’s in a big hurry, writes down his address, and leaves. A week later, there is a knock at the man’s door. It’s the delivery of a giant console color television with a note from the woman he had helped on the rainy highway. She thanks him and says that because of his kindness, she was able to make it to her dying husband’s bedside. It is signed Mrs. Nat King Cole.”

There are other firsts in my life for different types of music playing.  The first 8-track tape I ever remember hearing when I was a little girl in the 80s dancing at my grandma’s house with my cousins was the Beegees.  I remember dancing to Stayin’ Alive.  It was a very happy moment. I must have been four or five.

My mother had a record player and to this day it is in her attic.  We only had three records we would play over and over again.  They were Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Joan Jett’s I Love Rock and Roll, and then Olivia Newton John.  I can’t remember the specific album from Olivia Newton John but I remember her singing I Honestly Love You. My mother liked her a lot.

My first CD, well, that was Wrecks n Effect or maybe Guns n Roses Appetite for Destruction.  To this day, Sweet Child of Mine is still one of my favorites. 

Once streaming came on board, it was pretty easy to access all sorts of songs and I honestly can’t remember what were my first ones then.  But I remember the tape of Nat King Cole the most of all. 

How about you?  What are your fondest memories of music?  What was your first 8-track or your first tape or CD?  What songs meant the most to you as a kid? 

Hoping for Peace

I studied abroad at 19 years old in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza. I just remember how vibrant and beautiful the places were that we saw in the Holy Lands.

Years have come and gone. I don’t have a side. I don’t choose one over the other. It’s not really my business. I don’t live there. I just remember meeting and connecting with good people on both sides in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Dead Sea region, Gaza, Ramallah, and the Golan Heights.

I’m hoping for peace for the region. I’m thinking about old teachers, colleagues from school, and roommates. I just hope tonight they are okay and safe.

I’ve been a military spouse but I hate the futility of war. Being a mother raising a son has taught me that. You spend so much time and effort raising and nurturing a child only to see the violence of war cut their life off unexpectedly. I am praying for the mothers and fathers of the deceased on both sides and just hoping for a good resolution.

Rejection is Just Redirection

Have you ever experienced an online troll?  What about a “hater” or even a “group of haters”? 

(By the way, this is a great song about the whole “haters gon’ hate” vibe.  To go off on a short tangent, I really love this song.)

What about someone in your environment who, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get them to treat you right?  Or maybe just someone or something that leaves you drained?    

Here’s some simple tips:

  1.  Take time out for you and practice self-care/self-love. 
  2. Be wise to the negative behaviors of others but hold yourself to a higher standard and do not stoop to that level. 

“I am sending you out as sheep among wolves, so be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”  Matthew 10:16.

  • “Do not cast your pearls before swine.”  Matthew 7:6.  This is not to say that other people are necessarily bad.  Perhaps they are not at a point in their lives that they are willing and able to receive you with love and respect.  If this is so, do not waste your energy and time trying to prove your worth to them.  Life is short and precious, it should not be wasted continually trying to be perfect for someone else’s expectations of you.  Make your own expectations.  Meet your own goals.  Dress the way you want.  Think the way you want.   You are not unworthy.  You are enough.  They just fail to see the treasure that you are, even if you may appear to be a diamond in the rough.  Remember, in this life, we do not know who God treasures either.  Some people would be the least you would expect.  Treat people fairly and stand up for yourself when you feel in your heart that you are not being treated fairly by others. 
  • Let go of bitterness and get your spirit back.  Bounce back from hardship like you’re Walter Payton.  This is extremely hard.  First, learn to take the L.  Second, learn to forgive.  Third, vow to not let the pattern repeat itself.  Respect yourself enough not to allow it to happen again.  Fourth, understand that what others meant for your harm, God may have intended for your good.  This is called providence.  It was providence that made Joseph a powerful influence in Egypt to prevent the famines despite all he went through.  Providence worked in his life and it works in your life too.  It’s just hard to see when you’re in the trenches.   You just got to believe.  Sometimes, though, we pray and pray and pray on something and it still doesn’t happen.  That’s another life lesson right there.  The failure, the rejection, the divorce, the bad grades, the whatever is going on in your life…..it is teaching you to first lean not on your own understanding of things but on a spirituality, and second, it is teaching you to love yourself.  The full and total rejection moment will teach you to find value in you, to regain your self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth.  Remember as Rocky says in this short motivational speech, “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.  It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.  You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.  But it ain’t about how hard you’re hit.   It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

 Keep moving forward towards your goals.  If you have to, start very small.  Work on your hygiene first.  Work on the way you dress.  Work on your hair, make-up, style, etc.  Go back to the gym or church or wherever you find positive vibes and happiness from meeting goals.  Don’t let others tell you not to do these things.  Do them because you need to do them to improve your self-esteem.   Raise that bar first and then move out from there to your surroundings and your interactions with others.  Begin, at the same time, to strip away that which does not serve you.  Are there behaviors or traits you have taken on that are not good?  Substance abuse problems?  Addictions?  Unhealthy habits?  What about people you interact with that wear you down?  Begin to set boundaries not just with certain people but with things you do throughout the day.  Ask yourself, do I really want to do this thing or is this something I am doing because so-and-so wants me to do it?  Once again, this comes back to self-love and self-respect.  It is not selfish to say no.  It is awareness that you need to raise the bar on your self-esteem/self-worth.  Likewise, choosing to not date certain people or hang out with certain folks that bring you down…..that is not arrogance but self-awareness that you need to protect your energy.  Your energy is vital to your overall health and success.  So start small.  Take the baby steps which can turn in to bigger steps down the road. 

These are the things I am telling myself now.  I too have faced a personal setback and I am re-learning this now.  It is a thing I have to continually re-learn painfully.  You would think I would get it the first time but no, I keep having to re-hash it over and over as I believe a lot of people do.  One thing that really helps me is YouTube.  Here’s some video advice from folks way, way, way smarter than me about how to do it.  The first three videos are about self-love.  The fourth is Maya Angelou reciting, And Still I Rise.  The two other videos are inspirational pastor sermons.  These are my two favorite sermons of all time that I must admit, I have to go back to again and again when “my chips are low” and I feel myself entering that defeated mindset mode.  I highly, highly recommend watching these sermons!  However, they are each long but packed with valuable info.  I hope that you like these videos too (please share with me as well, any videos you think would help me) and remember that whatever I am going through and whatever you are going through, we are in this together and you are enough, you are valuable, you are worthy.  Think like Walter Payton and bounce yourself back up.  Let’s get to it!