Talking to the Animals

Walk with the animals, talk with the animals… I walked out of my client’s house today and saw two of my very favorite regularly seen animals across the street. I know. That sounds odd to say “favorite regularly seen animals.” The truth is, I DO regularly see many animals though. Here at my house, last year I got to know Freddie and Freda, my friendly squirrels. This year we’ve become friends with Eddie, their progeny. At each of my client’s homes, I have animal friends I see every time I go to visit them. In the Rockrimmon area, I have 2 rabbit friends who get under my car in cold weather and who hop up to the window and “talk” to me when the weather isn’t cold. Then there are my deer friends. These two bucks. One is the patriarch of the herd. One is a faun I met early in the spring. It has been neat to see the faun grow up. I haven’t seen the does lately. Maybe they’re staying in a warmer area. There is the possibility that they were killed. There was someone in the neighborhood who poisoned several of the herd in the fall. It was terrible and broke our hearts. I don’t know if they caught them or not.
So, today I walked out of my client’s home and there are my guys. They started to cross the street to see me. Yeah, I know, sounds unbelievable, but it happens! The papa buck was about to walk across the street but there was a car coming up the hill much too FAST. I did something any parent will recognize–I yelled, “Deer!! STOP!!” (Except as parents we yell the name of our child, of course.). Deer stopped! He looked at me and stopped immediately. I yelled, “Stay, deer! I don’t want you to get run over!” That dang deer stayed until the cars went by, just like a chastised kid! Hahaha! Then he ambled across the street towards me and made that weird little sound deer make, almost like he was saying “thanks!” Then baby buck came across the street. He’s the one you see on video. They have such great personalities. I never knew that before I moved to Colorado. Today, interacting with these beautiful animals was one of the very best moments of my day. Alan calls me Dr. Doolittle because I “talk with the animals.” Hahaha! I talk, they make weird sounds or just stare at me. To me, that’s just incredibly awesome and reminds me that we’re not the only live creatures on this planet.

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From This Moment On-A Beautiful Tapestry of Life

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From this moment on,
Life will never be the same.
Broken hearts still beat.
Beauty still exists.
God is still love.
All weave a tapestry of
a beautiful life.

D. Elaine Wood-Lane
12/8/16

30 years ago on December 24, 1986 I lost the second of two my two brothers. It had been a really rough year and became completely unbearable on Christmas morning around 7:30 AM when my father called to let me know we had lost Joe in a horrendous, freakish car accident the night before. From that moment on, my life was completely different. I was no longer a 25 year old young mother of two whose primary worry was when to wake my two tiny sons for Christmas morning. I had survived many difficult things in 1986, but the news of my brother’s death cracked everything wide open. It is amazing, truly, what a heart can survive and what can grow in the cracks of our hearts.

On May 27, 1986 my 69 year old mother had a massive heart attack. It took two ambulances, four emergency medical technicians and a full hour to stabilize her enough to transport her to the hospital. I called my brother, Joe, and my sister, Judy, who both lived in the area, to let them know that Mother’s life was hanging by a thread and then prayed, prayed, and held onto Daddy’s hands like the life lines they were. We held onto each other’s hands. Joe and Judy came up to the hospital as soon as they were able and we all spent the night moving back and forth between the CCU waiting room and the garish lights of the cafeteria. In 1986 you could still smoke inside certain areas of the hospital, primarily the cafeteria, so we made regular trips there. You see, everyone in my family, except me, smoked at that time. In the morning, we had to make a decision to have an arterial line put into Mother’s upper chest so the doctors would have direct, immediate access to her heart.

Two days went by and Joe, Judy and I decided it would be wise to ask our brother John, in California, and our sister, Betty, also in California, to come to Texas and join us in our vigil. Betty was unable to come at that time, but John was able to come. John himself had been fighting cancer, but was supposed to be in remission so we were delighted to learn he could make the journey to Texas. Two miracles occurred when John came to Texas. First, Mother’s condition improved greatly. Second, after a seeming lifetime of bitter sibling rivalry, my two brothers reconciled. John and Joe made their peace and our hearts were greatly encouraged that things were getting better. Over the course of John’s visit, however, I realized that John’s cancer was not in remission and that he was in very bad shape. He begged me not to tell anyone else in the family. He came to say his goodbyes to us and he wanted it to be a time of joy and pleasantness rather than doom and gloom. I kept his promise and told no one.

About a month later, Mother had to have quadruple coronary bypass surgery in order to not only keep her alive, but to give her a chance to thrive once more. She survived the surgery and once again we family members made frequent trips from the CCU waiting room to the cafeteria.

On August 24, 1986 we received word that John had lost his battle with cancer and was gone. Joe cried more than anyone. He had just regained his brother, only to lose him less than 70 days later. Daddy and Joe traveled to California to attend John’s funeral and to say their goodbyes. That trip was remarkable because it was the only time my daddy ever traveled by airplane anywhere and it was the last time Joe flew anywhere.

Several months went by with many changes occurring within those months. My husband, Craig, my sons and I moved to a small town in the Texas panhandle and started a new life when my husband started working for the United States Postal Service. It was the first time I had ever lived so far away from my parents. Also, our family slowly started to heal from Mother’s cardiac issues and John’s death.

Life was looking up! My husband and I bought a lovely old Victorian home in Memphis, Texas. I was able to stay at home with our sons, ages 2 and 1, and finally, we had enough money that we didn’t have to decide who we were going to pay each month for the essentials of life.

Christmas Eve rolled around and I was so excited because my mother-in-law and her sister and sister’s husband came to Memphis to celebrate Christmas with us. My baby sons were excited because it was the first time they were even aware there was such a thing as Christmas. I remember for Christmas Eve supper I made homemade cheese soup and rolls. I was feeling so grownup and domesticated and…happy, truly happy.

I started experiencing extreme right flank pain around 7:45 that evening, immediately after supper. I ran a fever, started passing blood, and felt like I was dying. My happiness had evaporated within 10 minutes. I desperately wanted it back, but could not seem to shake my pain and malaise. For the remainder of the evening and throughout the long Christmas Eve night, I was in agony. Nothing seemed to help. I finally drank a gallon of half apple cider vinegar and half water mixed together in complete desperation. My baby sons were going to have their first fun Christmas morning and by golly I wasn’t going to let anything spoil that!

Finally, around 6:30 on Christmas morning, I passed what seemed to be a large kidney stone and the pain was gone. I went to bed completely exhausted. Around 7:15 AM our phone rang. I answered the phone to hear Daddy say, “Is Craig there? I really need to speak to Craig.” As Daddy asked these questions, his voice cracked. I immediately was alerted that something was terribly wrong. After a few minutes of wrangling, Daddy finally spoke the fatal words that changed my life forever, “Elaine, well, Joe has been in a terrible car accident. Please let me speak to Craig.” “Is Joe ok? How badly was he hurt? Daddy, please just tell me!” “Elaine, sugar, I’m afraid Joe didn’t make it. He was killed instantly.” Suddenly my hands were no longer strong enough to hold the telephone. As I dropped it, Craig picked it up and I started keening and wailing in agony. How could my beloved Joe be gone? It just couldn’t be true!

You know how you always read in novels that the hero or heroine has gone numb from grief and shock? I always thought that was pure hyperbole until that morning. After my initial wailing and sobbing bout, I realized I had a job to do. It was still Christmas morning and my boys were expecting fun! By golly they were going to get it too!  So, I took some deep breaths, wiped the tears off my face and went upstairs to wake up my babies. We had a great Christmas, from what I understand. Apparently I did all the appropriate things, but  I remember none of them.

So, where does that leave things now, 30 years later and staring Christmas Eve down as it looms closer and closer? The pain is still there. I still miss my brothers. In addition, I miss my sister Betty and my parents, all of whom I’ve lost in the intervening 30 years. My life never has been the same since Christmas day 1986. However, it hasn’t been all horrific either. I’ve learned we have moments of great joy and moments of great sorrow in life. They don’t balance each other out. They never become equals. What they do accomplish is weave a tapestry of a life wherein we know to cherish the joyous moments, however brief they may be, to know with confidence God will assist us through the agonizing moments, and the rest of the moments are full of the dreams that become beautiful memories.

The most important things I’ve learned from that fateful moment on December 25, 1986 is to love and trust God, to love people and tell them so, and to love life. There is no other way to find peace in this wild and crazy tapestry we call life.

Between a Doze and a Daydream

I came out to my studio to write this afternoon. I started off writing a quadrille poem (44 words long) that would include the word spark or sparkle for dVerse Poetry’s weekly quadrille challenge. I wrote as the breeze wafted through my open door and the sun slowly shifted to highlight the artwork on the wall opposite me. The air was not too hot and not too cold, but just exactly perfect. Missy Cat came inside and found a comfy place to snooze and suddenly I realized I had been staring off into space, halfway caught between a doze and a daydream. What a perfect afternoon and a perfect feeling of peace. I realized I was more relaxed than I’ve been in ages. Did I get a lot of writing done? No. Did I get a lot of plotting and planning done for the 50,000 word novel I’m writing for NaNoWriMo? I have to say I did. Isn’t it amazing how much one can accomplish when we simply take the time to get halfway caught between a doze and a daydream? Happy Monday everybody!    Elaine

My daydream wall…

Missy Cat’s place to doze…

Happiness Tools

Over the years I’ve had many people who were suffering from worry and depression how to get out of their hole.  They would say things like, “You never seem to let things get you down. How do you do it? Is it just an act?”  Well, the truth of the matter is I’ve had very down days too.  I’ve had periods of down days so intense that I’ve sought help and taken antidepressants for the really hard times. In the past admitting this to people was risky. I remember the first time I was diagnosed with “major chronic depression.”  I was stunned!  Me?  Major chronic depression?  They had to be joking or had put someone else’s diagnosis on my chart. They weren’t joking and it was no mistake. It runs in my family on both sides, paternal and maternal. Fortunately for me, I was born an optimist who always believes “the sun will come out tomorrow,” so I’ve only once felt like totally giving up. That one time, many years ago now seems almost like a bad dream. I had spiraled down from, “what is wrong with me?” to “no one will ever love me or understand the true me” to “I can never make it! I’m completely incapable of dealing with all these challenges in my life right now” to “I wish I could just lay down, go to sleep and never wake up.”  Hello!! That last thought was a warning sign in my brain.  It was as if a dozen bells of alarm went off inside my head and all of them were LOUD!!  This was about 3:00 AM one night when I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t write, couldn’t do anything. I was spiraling down too fast.  Just as all those warning bells went off, one of my small sons stumbled into the bathroom and then into my bedroom.  “Mama, what are you doing up so late? Why are you crying?”  As I hugged his little body close to mine, I suddenly realized that I had so many blessings and so much love in my life and couldn’t afford to do anything stupid like give up. I told my son, “Sometimes grownups get sad too, but it will be ok. Mama is going to get some help. Now give me a kiss and go back to bed.”

The next morning, I called in sick and as soon as the Psychiatry Clinic opened at the Medical School where I worked, I called them and begged for an appointment. I saw a psychiatry resident that day.  He prescribed an antidepressant and asked me about my coping skills. (He’s the guy who diagnosed me with major chronic depression.)  Coping skills?  At first I was at a loss about how to respond.  He then said, “What do you do when you’re feeling down?  What do you do to perk yourself up?”   Oh!  Well, I had many things I did for that and usually they worked quite well. My problem this time around was a little more serious because I was going through a divorce, my mother was very sick, and I was trying to work, take care of my little sons and take care of my parents. Anyway, I told him what I usually did and although they sound funny, they work nine times out of ten!  I call them my happiness tools and I’ve added more as the years have passed and I’ve gone through more of life’s challenges.  I thought I would share a few of my tools to perhaps give you some inspiration for finding your own happiness tools so here goes!

  1. Have an attitude of gratitude!  Even on the worst days, if you’ll give yourself a few moments at the end of the day to reflect and think on it, you can usually find at least one thing to be grateful for during that day. Usually, once you get started, you can find many things to be thankful and happy about. As an example, one day, during a huge rain storm on the way to work, my car flooded out in the middle of the busiest road in town. My car died in the middle lane of this road and cars were bumper to bumper. Why my car bit the dust, I was completely at a loss! This was before cell phones so I couldn’t just call someone to come help me. My car wasn’t big, but I didn’t want to get out in a foot of water and try to push it to the side by myself. Fortunately, I lived in Texas, where people help one another and suddenly a cowboy (I swear to God, a real cowboy), knocked on my window and said, “Ma’am, do you need some help? I can push you over to the side with my truck if you put your car in neutral and steer!” I was never so happy to see anyone in my life! I put my car in neutral, he positioned his truck behind my little white car and within minutes my car was safely on the parking lot at the side of the road. He didn’t stop there, however! He asked if I needed a ride to work and gave it to me! He wouldn’t let me pay him anything for helping me. He just gave me a big ol’ cowboy smile and said, “Maybe someday you can help someone similarly and we’ll be even!”  With that he drove off and I went to work.  Point of this story?  Yes, it was awful that my car bit the dust in a rainstorm, but I was very grateful for the young man’s help AND the reminder that there are many good people in the world doing good things just because.
  2. Journal. I’ve journaled for years and years and I can tell you right now that it is some of the best therapy you can undergo for the cost of one journal and a pen or pencil. Often I’ve started journaling, feeling lost and overwhelmed, having no idea what I was going to write, and by the time I finished, I had expressed all my emotions, sorted out in my head exactly what was bothering me, and how to overcome it!  At the very least, getting all those negative thoughts and emotions out of your head onto paper tends to remove them from their neverending cycle in your head and helps you feel better.  I’m a Christian, so often I end my journal entries in gratitude prayers, thanking God for helping me see things more clearly and objectively. I also thank Him for always being there with me to give me strength.
  3. Rearrange your furniture!  Ok, maybe rearranging your furniture isn’t your cup of tea, but when I would get really stressed out, I’d start deep cleaning my house or apartment and figuring out an entirely new furniture arranagement and moving furniture. I can’t tell you how much better I always felt afterwards. It was like a new beginning. What really was at work here, however, was physical movement and exercise. You can’t sit in the same place, grousing over your misfortunes, and expect to feel any better. You’ve got to get up, move, exercise, and get those feel good endorphins going that come about as the result of that.  Sweat, get your heart rate up, and it’s amazing how much better you’ll feel! Many people swear by taking walks (I’ve done that too), jogging, yoga, weight training, or crossfit. For me, now at my age, I tend to take walks and do yoga or dance!  I jump up out of that comfy chair, turn on Pandora to some happy, jazzy dance music, grab up my dog and dance my heart out! My dog thinks I’m crazy, but we have a blast and I always feel better afterwards!  I don’t move much furniture any longer, but vacuuming and housecleaning offers good therapeutic effects too.
  4. Color or cut my hair. I’m a woman. It’s what we do. Hahaha! In all seriousness, if you’re feeling negatively about your appearance, do something positive to change it. Sometimes we all need a little beauty maintenance and/or cleaning up. Hair was my personal obsession, but for others it might be as simple as going for a mani/pedi, shaving one’s legs or beard (depending on gender), or taking a long warm bubble bath. Perhaps it means buying some new clothes that fit your body and style better. A change in your personal hygiene and appearance can work wonders for your self-esteem and mood.
  5. Use essential lavender or vanilla oils or scents. It has been proven that both of these scents improve mood and overall feelings of well-being.  Lavender oil is also good for migraines and other aches and pains. Google it for all the therapeutic uses it can provide. Perhaps you don’t have lavender oil, but you can find lavender scented candles, perfumes, air deodorants, and a dozen other products that have lavender in them. If all else fails, sniffing vanilla extract or baking something with vanilla in it works wonders too!
  6. Talk! Talk to a friend, a counselor, life coach, clergyman, or stranger at the grocery store! It is essential that we communicate with others how we are feeling and get feedback on that. To be honest, sometimes it is easier to talk to a stranger at the grocery store than someone we know because we know the likelihood of ever seeing them again is slim and therefore anything we say is truly “safe.”  Friends we trust, counselors, life coaches and clergymen are also excellent choices too! As a transitional life coach, I feel the primary core of my job is to listen and then pray for my clients. Most of the time people know what their goals are and how to achieve them, but need to talk to someone about them and get validation that they are on the right track.
  7. Pray, talk to God, meditate and b-r-e-a-t-h-e. As a person of faith, I have learned that if I will pray and ask for strength, courage and wisdom on handling problems or situations, God provides those things in spades, often before I’ve even finished praying. God wants to hear from us and have an intimate relationship with us. He’s like the anxious father, just wishing and waiting that his child will ask for help and include him in their problems. Jesus said, “I assure you: Anything you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.” John 16:24b-25  I don’t think Jesus was talking about asking for a million dollars and getting it here. I think He is saying that if you ask for help, you will receive it. I’ve had these kinds of prayers answered in a thousand different unexpected ways. God has always provided what I needed.  He hasn’t provided everything I wanted, but my and my family’s needs have always been met.  Honestly, this happiness tool should be at the top of the list rather than at the bottom because I believe it is the most important. Meditation and deep breathing are other tools that are very effective too. If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, hide out in the bathroom for five minutes, get very quiet, let your mind slow down and empty itself of all stresses, and take 4 or 5 deep cleansing breaths. Breathe in hope, life and joy. Breathe out stress, anxiety, and fears.

This has turned into a long piece and I truly didn’t intend for it to do so. I feel it is so important to have some tools in our toolbelt to deal with depression and self-doubt and find happiness and equilibrium. Sometimes we need professional help, as mentioned above. Sometimes we can use these tools and they help us achieve our goal of happiness as well.

“Happy is a man who finds wisdom and who acquires understanding, for she (wisdom) is more profitable than silver, and her revenue is better than gold. She is more precious than jewels; nothing you desire compares with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left, riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant, and all her paths, peaceful. She is a tree of life to those who embrace her, and those who hold on to her are happy.”  Proverbs 3:13-18

I pray that your day will be blessed with wisdom and happiness!