At my house, we are in full swing with Lent which means we are beyond the half way point of learning to cope with what we've sacrificed, or "given up" for the season. Champ turned his nose on sweets this year. It was tough, but he's plugging along just fine and much more pleasant than say, in previous years when he gave up COFFEE!!!
I know Jesus didn't have a spouse and all, but seriously, wives and husbands should have a say in what the other gives up- case in point: I was not so friendly the years I gave up bacon.
(a meditative post can have meditative pictures, right?)
Jesus also didn't have Internet, but I think he was still proud of me when I prayed that for Lent I was giving up two blogs I regularly follow. They are big business blogs, and while they are great reads, I felt I needed to rein in my time spent at each- even if it was only for minutes a day.
I started reading Mckmama a long, long time ago. Her site has morphed around a few times and she certainly stirs up controversy, but I enjoy seeing what she's up to even if it's something I don't necessarily embrace. She is like my easy reading, drama novel; complete with cute kids and colorful, inspiring photography.
Now, SouleMama is a different beast entirely. The only similarities between the blogs are the large amount of children and love of photography; besides that, SouleMama is more like a classic Jane Austen novel. She is honest and talented, crafty and inspired by nature: she is everything I strive to be and yet, not.
Here's where Lent comes in. I needed to stop being so attached to Mckmama's drama and I needed to cut myself a break from Soulemama's perfect world. I needed to focus on My family and My God, so I pulled out the cyber scissors and snipped. For me, it is a harder Lenten season than bacon ever was, but so very fruitful.
Will I go back after Easter? Most certainly. These blogs have helped me to grow and explore new terrain. They have great tips and recommend amazing stuff. Heck, I learned how to make homemade marshmallows, ketchup and mustard thanks to a book review on Soulemama's blog. I owe her much.
I've been starved for color lately. Probably because it is mud season around here and while that means the moose are being spotted (Champ saw 2!) and the asparagus is beginning to make it's journey to daylight, it's still muddy. And drab. And grey brown. I needed a stab of color to get me pumped for Spring.
My eyes swept around the house and I think the Maya sling cringed when I settled on it. The ring sling has been around for a while. Bear enjoyed some time in it
and more recently, Ace...
It's great and serves it's purpose well, but since it's a hand-me-down it's not quite ME. It's muslin colored. I don't do well with shades of cream, so I headed to Dharma Trading Company and ordered a dye in a vibrant shade of red.
By the light of the full moon, we name the seasons: strawberry moon and sturgeon moon, cold moon and harvest moon.
Indeed, the season of Spring follows the pattern as it thaws through our sluice of lake ice. One night it is winter and then the March moonlight highlights our slumber and the geese call from their dark sillouette against the stars; we awaken dazed like the stumbling bears and moose to see that yes indeed, the geese have brought Spring on their wings.
March 9th, a day after the full moon, we heard them encouraging in the night. The following morning there they were, gingerly walking the perimeter of the beaver lodge ready to settle in if only there was enough water to paddle through. Bear and I read Goose Moon by Carolyn Arden(one of my favorites for this time of year) and a few books on migration while we watched and waited.
Those clever geese knew it wouldn't be long until they would be gliding around again. Within a day our entire lake had melted and by dusk we were tossing the birds a welcome home dinner of breadcrumbs. Our own dinner was a Spring Equinox celebration of the promised warmer weather to come, and once we had feasted we toasted the geese over a dessert of strawberries and cream.
Welcome geese and welcome Spring. We are glad to have you both back.
So, admittedly these photos are almost a month old- Champ still has his winter beard, Bear is in his firefighter phase and Ace still has infant (not chubby baby like now) arms. but wait! Stay with me here because these pictures still serve a purpose! A while back, Bear made Ace a Montessori styled mobile and it was so quick and easy and well received that old pictures or not, I'm plowing ahead to tell you about it.
I bought a handful of wooden circles and then this funky mobile base to hang them on from our local wood store, but a coat hanger wrapped in ribbon could even work for this project.
We read Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Day by Robert Frost and illustrated by Susan Jeffers. I just adore this book- and poem! That link not only leads you to the book, but to a lovely blog with lots of other ideas on how to use the book. For this activity, I kept it simple. We discussed the story and talked about where we might go in the snow, but we really focused on the illustrations as they are mostly done in black and white.
Montessorians strongly believe that infants enjoy and learn from contrasting pictures of black and white. I had prepped the wooden circles by painting 3 solid white and 3 solid black. After the story, Bear painted abstract designs on each circle with the contrasting color. Once dry, we strung the circles to the mobile and let Ace have at them.
It's true babies, or at least Ace, really do enjoy the contrast of black and white and thus he began his Montessori exploration of color. And if you read between the lines, Bear began his journey of being the proud older brother who knows just how to please his sibling. ps: Blogger is blocking me from changing those sidebar pictures over there, so yeah- they are waaaay outdated too ;)
Yup yup, I'm still here. Just took a good long break to get things in order, and take a deep breath or two.
Stopping in over the weekend to wish you a clever and boisterous St Patrick's Day no matter how you chose to celebrate it.
Bear was feeling lucky and celebrated by developing an elaborate plan of how he was going to catch a leprechaun. He told me he really only wanted to talk to the wee folk and then let it go after he wished for a space ship and said he'd take the leprechaun along for a ride.
He set traps both indoors and out just to cover all his bases. This morning he was delighted to discover he came quite close to nabbing one. The generous leprechaun even left a bit o green behind.
(why yes, those are leprechaun footprints)
I also found some treasures today. As I was downloading my point and shoot camera pictures onto the computer, I discovered that Bear had been honing his photography skills.
The point and shoot camera is kept within his reach and he's been shown how to properly use it- although the above picture doesn't quite reflect that, now does it? Anyway, I found some pictures he had snapped
among them were some of Sterling. It was a surprise to see them and of course I cried, but I was so joy filled too to see that Bear had in his own way captured memories of Sterling's final days with us.
That son of mine, he is a gem in his own right and his pictures gained a perspective that I never could have achieved, even with my fancy Rebel DSLR.
Perspective. It's a game changer.
There were also about a gazillion short videos of Champ that Bear had taken. He must have followed him around for the better part of a day. Here's one of my favorites, it's all of 8 seconds long:
Oh the expression on Champ's face. This must have been one of the later videos from the day.
In my mind, there's no such thing as moving on. I mean, I'll grow from my experience with Sterling and time will help smooth rough edges, but I won't move on because I don't want to. I plan to carry her right along in my heart and never ever to move past my memories of her.
However... there's only so much wallowing a person can do, right?
To that end, let me show you a few behind the scenes moments from the past week to help clear the air:
~ he also learned to take spectacular photos of his little buddies
~this guy used a jedi mind trick to distract me while he turned 5 months old
~ a laid back weekend with friends and gorgeous weather helped to ease the sting of recent days
~Ace relaxed by taking an easy, breezy nap in the hammock
As you can detect, life is not all that bad these days, but I still find myself bumping and jolting through the hours; not quite back to self. Thank you all for your heartfelt comments and e-mails. They perk me right up when I read them and I do plan to return to all things normal soon. In the meantime though, even if I haven't responded, even if I never do, know that your words carry much weight and I've tucked then in my shirt pocket right next to my brilliant Sterling memories and my fondness for A.
I can't leave without pointing out that somehow, through all THIS, I've acquired a new reader. That kind of decision requires a spotlight, so welcome, Tattytiara, I'm glad you're here.
We miss her. We are coping and remembering all in our own way, all on our own time. The previous post felt therapeutic to put up, now it drives me to sadness each time I see it, so today there will be a new post to buffer it; a post who's time has come.
There is some true business to attend to here: as I was searching for ways to celebrate Sterling's life during her final moments with us, I could not find much inspiration on the Internet. There were suggestions of possible donations, if cremation would be an option, how to talk about it to others, how to cope in the days after, but nothing about the actual event.
Certainly one of the ways I can honor Sterling is by using her life and her death to help other pet owners; I gave this post a very search engine friendly title and will explain how we held Sterling's passing in the hope that it may help other pet owners find peace in their anguish.
Sterling's death and wake ceremony
When all options had been explored and it was determined that the kindest, gentlest thing to do for Sterling would be to put her to sleep, we put some processes into motion.
-We opted for a "call out" fee from our vet which enabled us to put Sterling to sleep in the familiarity of her own home. If your vet has that option, I highly recommend it. It helped all of us, including our other dog, Trot, and our 3 year old son, to cherish the sacred final moments with her. This was to be family time, pure and simple.
-Familiar music was played throughout the day. In our case it was James Taylor who has always sung in the background of any big decisions of my life. Sterling, I'm sure, knew this. Or maybe this part was just for me, but either way, it helped.
-We fed her whatever she wanted and bought a special pint of her favorite ice cream to toast her with. This part was a bit macabre for me - like a final meal- but on reflection, I'm so glad we did it.
-She was cozily tucked in to her bed in her favorite part of the house. We started a warm fire for her and placed some important things from her life along the mantle as a makeshift altar: her collar, pictures, a sage smudge stick, a lit candle, a cow figurine to represent her love of them, a letter from the Humane society to her, a book of Mary Oliver poems, and Dog Heaven.
-Throughout the day we all took turns snuggling with her, sharing our favorite memories, crying, remembering with pictures, and looking in to her eyes to just listen to her.
-As time drew near, our infant son miraculously decided to take a nap. Bear, the 3 year old, was given the option to follow his heart with how much he might participate. We reviewed all we had talked about with him in the weeks leading up to this: Sterling will die, we all die because everything from the Earth goes back to the Earth, once we die, we no longer need our bodies, once we die we are no longer in pain. It is ok to cry, it is ok to grieve. And in our family the belief is- Sterling is going to Heaven.
- we gave Trot and Sterling some final time together before removing him from the room for the actual injection. Perhaps you will opt to keep any sibling dogs in the room, but from my research and talking to the vet, we choose not to.
- final goodbyes and the family gathered around Sterling. Her head was in my lap, I stroked her fur and read a prayer: God of merciful death, We stand here knowing that life must be winnowed to thrive. This is a holy act performed: to open a gateway for a willing One to come to you. This is an act of healing, a release from suffering, an end to pain. He is One whose arms are open to embrace you. Godspeed.
I whispered sweet nothings to her, I refused to cry at this moment, and instead savored the smell of her fur. As she was about to pass, we prayed: Beloved one, you are dying, but you are not alone. We are here with you, the beloved dead and Georgie await you. You go from love into love. Carry with you only love. May our love carry you and open the way. -Carry only love-
- The vet quietly left and Trot was let back in, we gave him time alone with Sterling and then we gathered around her again. It was sad and beautiful and oh so peaceful.
(3 weeks ago)
- I had time alone with Sterling while Bear and Champ went to the woods to finalize her burial ground. The wake lasted 2 hours before Champ took her to be buried. I chose not to go for that part, but Bear wanted to see it all. He had been prepared by reading "Dog Heaven" by Cynthia Rylant and "The Tenth Good Thing About Barney" by Judith Viorst.
(one of the first digital pictures I have of her - 2007) - as the days go on, I will make a photo album full of her pictures, we will donate to the shelter she lived at before coming in to my life, and we will burn the smudge stick to leave behind only happy memories, but for now we cry, we laugh and we remember.
By this stage of my life, I've experienced quite a few moments. Enough that, I've finally figured out I'm supposed to be accountable to them all: the rough patches, the over-the-moons, the hilarious encounters. I don't have moment mastery, but at least I now keep better records.