We are on YouTube!!!!!!

I am thrilled to announce that we now have a YouTube channel! Hattie and Hila’s World  https://youtube.com/channel/UCyluj-22BjvMFc5vLplfAlA premiered on October 26th.

What will happen on our channel? Some silly things, like videos of Hattie and Hila just to make people smile. Some hopefully heartwarming things like telling the story of how Hila supports and loves her Paul. Some informational pieces like learning about the writing, query, and publishing process. Grief and hope will always be discussed. Maybe some pieces about fiber arts will be included. Definitely some pieces about farming and gardening will sneak in too.

And yes, it also will be a way for us to raise awareness about ALS and the fight to get treatments that work for ALS, but hopefully not in a depressing way. Instead, we want to showcase the incredible gains being made, and the hope and spirit of the ALS community.

We hope you will visit the site, and subscribe to our channel!

Sending love to you all.

Yes, I Still Am Hopeful

The world seems to be a dark, scary, angry, disease-filled mess right now. People are sick. People are angry. Afraid. Anxious. Frustrated. Isolated. At odds with others. It is a mess!

And yet, I still am hopeful. Why? Because I see the power of the next generation. I see the power of the under 40 crowd, who give their time, money, and energy to making the world a better place. They care about each other, and those older than themselves with a fierceness and honesty that is refreshing. Not love because they were told to love others, but because their hearts and minds are open and they love relentlessly and unconditionally, but with honesty. They give me great hope.

Look around you. See the youth moving and changing the world. Give thanks for them, honor them, and those of us older than them, how about we try to make them proud of us instead of the other way around. The world we gave them is a complete and total mess, and yet, they are trying to fix it — and it’s about time we join them in that quest.

They give me hope — great, big hope.

 

The Power of a Thank You

This morning, my day started with a thank you. A thank you that means more than I can adequately express, because it was so brutally honest and heartfelt, so unsolicited, and so unexpected considering where and when we were standing.

“Thank you” can be two of the most powerful words in English, especially when it is truly meant. They show that you are connecting with another person, and recognizing that person’s efforts. It takes you outside of yourself, and gives recognition to another.

I often write about gratitude, when I practice my daily ritual of thinking about my day and either speaking (to myself) about the people and things that impacted my day in a positive manner, or I write about it. But sometimes I forget that standing face-to-face, or voice-to-voice and saying “Thank you for…” to a person is a truly magnificent thing to do.

Have you thanked people in your life recently? Truly thanked them?

Social-Distancing without Loneliness

In the Northeast, we are heading at warp speed toward late fall and winter. The time of year when it may be painfully cold to be outside. The time of year when we all tend to want to be inside by a fire, surrounded by friends and family.

But how do we do this when COVID still lurks around us? Especially if you have someone especially vulnerable in your household, how do you keep a sense of community or connections with the isolation?

Think about other ways to keep connections. Phone calls. Text messages. Emails. Zooming. Facetime. Shorter visits outside while bundled up. Postcards. Letters. Cards. Packages left on the front steps or porch. Messages written in the frost on the windshield. Get creative, people!

Our ancestors often went months, if not years, without seeing their loved ones close up. But they kept a sense of connection through other ways. Think of ways you can do the same, and share them with your friends and family — start new traditions that are safe and healthy, and use them to form new family folklore and rituals.

Let’s get creative, and make sure everyone feels connected to someone — let’s all do our part!

(And if you have great ideas — share them, please!)

The Teachings of Hattie McCat

In August, I had a strange dream. In that dream, I was told that it was time for us to get a cat again.

Again? Why now? It seemed like an odd thing to hear in a dream.

Our last cat, Sbeckles (yes, spelled correctly), died almost seven years ago. While she was the family’s cat, truly she was Sam and Ben’s cat. And even though she was smelly, not-very-smart, often dirty, and couldn’t purr to save her life, we were heartbroken when it was her time to transition onward because she was a living link to Sam. We had no intention of ever getting another cat after Sbeckles…

Then I had this dream. And we got a kitten. A teeny, tiny, light gray striped female kitten. We named her Hattie in a nod to one of our favorite Twiddle songs.

This was Hattie on her second day with us, when she fell asleep after figuring out how to climb stairs. That was our first teaching from Hattie — when you are tired, rest!

Time has passed, and Hattie has grown and grown. Each day we marvel at her learning and her personality. She brings us joy and laughter, and more love than we can express.

What else has Hattie taught us?

Exploring is good! This is Hattie exploring her own litter box…

She has also taught us to be in the moment. For example, when I am writing and she thinks it is time to take a moment to be with her, she will do anything to press that point, such as coming up under the laptop.

She has also taught us about play. Each morning, we have to play fetch with her, and she will bring us her mouse over and over, dropping it at our feet so we can throw it one more time.

She has taught us about companionship, and the benefit of being a quiet and attentive presence with us. This is Hattie keeping me company while I work.

That dream, telling us to get a kitten, was truly a gift, as was finding Hattie McCat.

The Coming of Fall

Vermont has experienced one of the warmest summers in our history this year. Frankly, Vermonters don’t do heat well. We are more a population that likes the cold. After all, we choose to live in a state that has a long, cold, snowy winter almost every year.

In the last few days, the weather has started to change. The mornings are cool. The late evenings call for a sweatshirt or a small fire in the fire pit outside. The squirrels are beginning to hurry hiding their food for the winter.

And the leaves are beginning to change. Not many of them, but a few. Tiny spots of red are appearing, and soon we will be in the midst of our glorious fall foliage. For the first time in my lifetime, I expect that foliage season will be a bit quieter than normal as Vermont is discouraging visitors due to the pandemic.

What does fall mean to us? It means spending time on stacking firewood, canning, freezing produce, buttoning up the house, making sure the gardens are cleaned, and so many more tasks. While I always welcome the coming of spring, I have to admit that fall brings with it the gradual slowing of the pace of life as we spend less time farming and that slow-down is welcomed.

What about you? Are you looking forward to fall and winter or dreading it?

Are you stressed?

Over the last months, I have heard so many people mention that they are feeling stressed. Why wouldn’t you be stressed right now? In the midst of a pandemic, we are seeing civil unrest, economic concerns, and so much more.

What can you do about it that doesn’t cost additional money or put you in greater health risk? Go outside, even if just opening your door and breathing deeply. Give thanks for what is good and brings joy or peace in your life. Send a note of love or support to someone, a text will do.

Life is uncertain, no matter whether or not we are in a pandemic. Change and uncertainty are hard, period. Finding those moments of peace that open your heart and soul will help keep you whole, and will let your light shine for yourself and others.

Breathe. Give thanks. Love. Go outside. Do all of them over and over again as many times as you need!

Kindness in Times of Stress

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Everyone seems to be stressed right now. Everyone. Children seem stressed by both the limitations in a COVID-19 world, as well as internalizing the stress of the adults in their lives. Adults are stressed trying to keep everyone safe, fed and housed. Masks are tiring and can cause stress as well.

With all of that, many (or all) of us have our emotions closer to the surface than normal. You can hear people snapping at others, whether at the grocery store or over parking spaces. And mask requirements? Everyone has as strong feeling one way or another. Toilet paper? Somehow, still, there seem to be shortages, leading to nasty encounters as people try to grab packages in stores.

So, we are stressed. Much is still uncertain. But one thing is for sure. In this time of stress, we all need to reach deep inside for our patience, gratitude, and for decency in how we treat self and others. Kindness is the key to all of this.

How can we help others? It doesn’t have to be big things or gifts. Text messages saying you care can go a long way to lift spirits. Thanking people when you call a company asking for information. Returning emails promptly and with gentle wording. Saying hello to others when you are masked as they can’t see your smile. Small actions can make a huge difference.

Kindness and relentless love, they are the keys to all of us getting through this stressful time with a sense of community instead in a fractured, angry manner.

Sending love to you all!

The Power of Theater and Television

In the last week, I have been moved to tears by both a theatrical performance (televised) and a television series (Netflix). That is the power of the written word brought to life in presentation art.

First, the television series. Season 3 of Ozark, specifically the story line about Ben Davis. Now, if you haven’t watched the series, you are probably wondering why it touched me. The answer is simple, it is the most realistic and painfully honest depiction of bi-polar disorder I have ever seen on the screen. As many of you know, my father suffers from bi-polar disorder, as did Sam. When it is well-treated and controlled, the person (and those who love them) have a relatively normal life. And when it isn’t, life is chaotic, funny, painful, sad, frustrating — and all of those feelings can happen in a ten minute space of time. It is a roller coaster you can’t truly understand unless you have lived it, but the actor’s depiction of it is the best I’ve ever seen. And the response of his sister? So painfully honest and realistic… The hope. The anger. The sadness. The guilt. The willingness to try one more thing. It is a brilliant depiction, and it is a gift to the world because it gives a brief glimpse through that window of experience.

The second was watching Hamilton. Thankfully, as I hadn’t seen it prior to last night, nor did I know much about the story line, a member of the group Compassionate Friends posted online prior to the television event that the depiction of the grief of losing a child was so well done that it could be triggering. I am so thankful to that person for sharing that information, as it meant that I had a pocket full of tissues with me. The lyrics about losing a child and life after was spot on, and painful to watch. Yes, I cried. But as I looked around the people watching it outside with us, most of whom hadn’t buried a child, I saw many tears snaking down their cheeks. No, if you haven’t experienced this loss, you can never really understand it, but that theatrical representation is just plain brilliant, and again, gives a glimpse through that window.

How fortunate we are to be able to see such incredible performances, based on such strong writing, so that we can see into the lives and emotions of others.

Grievance or Gratitude?

When I was teaching, I had a colleague who often referred to whiners as growing a garden of grievances.  Lately, I admit it, I have been sowing, weeding, watering, and fertilizing a garden of gorgeous grievances. Gorgeous. Luscious. Aggressive and pervasive grievances. Why? Because, well, no other way to say it, the last couple weeks have tried my patience, and it has made me cranky.

That is not the way I want to look at life. But it has been difficult to not look at things that way. Yes, I’ve followed my practice of daily gratitude, but frankly, sometimes it has been through gritted teeth.

Today I took a deep breath. Did I really want to continue to cultivate my garden of grievances or one of gratitude? Ultimately, yes, after some tears, I came to gratitude. And then I took this picture.

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This is one of the garden boxes the men in my life made for me this spring, and it is gorgeous. I choose to grow a garden this way — appreciating love, laughter, support, kindness, and empathy.

Which kind of garden are you growing? Which kind do you want to grow?