I have always dreamed vividly, and often with bizarre features that leave friends and family shaking heads as I recount the details.  My husband probably frames it best.  When I ask him if I can tell him about a dream, his usual response is, “Can I have the Cole’s notes version?”  In trying to decipher the meaning of my unusual, sometimes uncomfortable, and always very detailed dreams, I have encountered two distinct camps.

The esoteric approach places meaning on symbols in the dream with an arbitrary (or perhaps just ancient) connection.  Dreaming of a snake, for example, is said to represent impending trouble.   I do believe in the esoteric – to me the super natural is just a natural we haven’t explained yet – but somehow I have trouble investing belief in the predictive powers of seemingly disconnected symbols in dreams.

The second camp takes a psychological approach.  Depending on the psychologist, the meaning and function of dreams is seen in vastly different ways.  Freud saw dreaming as a process of wish fulfillment.  Jung felt that dreams were a result of repressed development of the conscious self.  William Domhoff stated that we should just forget about our dreams all together; unless we find them personally entertaining, as they have no function.

I tend to believe most in the approach that was outlined to me by a woman many years ago.  She had completed her PhD in psychology with a thesis in dream interpretation.  Her theory was that the meaning behind symbols and people in dreams are as individual as the dreamer him/herself. She believed that each person who is present in a dream, with a few exceptions, actually represents a part of personality of the dreamer him/herself.  If one can immediately pull out a few key attributes of the person one dreams about, one can see what part of her own nature the dream is dealing with.

Example 1: I dreamed last night of one of my students, of whom I am very fond, but he tends to be immature and emotionally needy.  Let’s call him Johnny.  If I follow this woman’s approach, I will look at his presence in my dream by asking who is the “Johnny” in me?  Since for me, Johnny is very little, needy, and demanding, this dream may be addressing my needs for care and nurturing.  Other people may view Johnny in a different manner, so his presence in their dreams would mean something different from his presence in mine.  It is also helpful, she said, to look at how the person (if familiar) is present in one’s waking life.  Johnny is one of my students, so it is possible that the dream is processing feelings I am having around work.  Going through this process with each person who is in the dream should quickly reveal the meaning of each person’s presence.

Following completion of the character analysis, the dreamer should then look at each noun that is in the forefront of the dream.  Each noun will also have a role in exposing the meaning of the dream.  Sometimes the noun is fairly self-explanatory, but at other times a short word association practice is necessary to help reveal the meaning of the object.

Example:  Last week I dreamed that I had purchased an old Victorian house in an estate sale.  Many of the original owners’ possessions had been left in the house.   Some of the items were family photo albums and diaries, which told me the story of the family that had owned the home.  I wanted to collect them all to return them to the adult children of the owner.  There were also vast collections of rare items throughout the home, which was full to capacity.  I didn’t want the children of the previous owner to try to take these away from me.  It looked like an over-filled antique store.  As I wandered the home with my mother, one door opened upon another and yet another.  She was pointing out the valuable objects and identifying them to me.  There were enormous china cabinets in nearly every room, filled with rare china and crystal.  I found collections of antique posters in nearly perfect condition.  My mom told me that I should call an antique dealer to get these collections appraised.  The home was far larger than I had ever believed, and I came to realize that there were homeless people squatting in several bedrooms of the home.  I found them sleeping in gigantic antique beds, in bedrooms the size one might find in a castle.  Some people ran out as soon as they saw me enter the room.  There was one homeless woman, who was in a huge bed, curled around her sleeping child.  When I saw the fear in her eyes, I decided I would act like I didn’t see them, and let them stay.  I walked by them, ignoring them as I talked to my mother.  The young mother in the bed kept her eyes on me the whole time.  I wanted her to know she had nothing to be afraid of.  As I continued through the home I began to think through the renovations I could make to turn these areas into small apartments for these homeless people.  I could make a bathroom here and a kitchen there.  I had enough room by far.

The woman I spoke to would suggest that I pull out the salient nouns of the dream.

Estate sale = will = death = loss of parent

Old, enormous house with many rooms = home = heart = parts of myself

Antiques = old but valuable = rich in heritage and quality = important history

Bedrooms and beds = comfort and safety

Collectibles = valued things I want to keep

Homelessness & fear = homeless is being without family or being alone in the world.

Family photo albums = my history

There were two mothers in my dream, so mother is another noun I will consider as important.

If I look at the dream in this way, I come to see that I may be processing my feelings around my mother aging and losing her some day.  She is my home and my comfort and the dream itself actually deals with a death of a parent.  My mother is my history and I want to keep her.  In my dream, she is a source of information to me, as she is in waking life.  I’m afraid of the day when I won’t have her anymore.  I feel that there is much more to this dream than I have processed.  This analysis is just the result of a quick demonstration.

One strange dream that I had recently involved seeing children from my school walking up the centre of a road.  I was driving in my car and I had to go around the children in order that I didn’t run over them.  I gave them a look that was meant to say, “I know who you are and so you should be acting more safely.”  I didn’t want to stop because I knew that spikey stems were growing out of the top of my head, and I didn’t want the children to see them.  I was trying to get rid of the plants and had pulled off all the leaves.  I was now left with broken woody stems about four inches long and 1/2 inch in diameter, growing up out of my skull.  I began yanking at the stems, pulling them out by the roots, when a huge piece of my scalp came off.  It was attached to the root system of the plants and broke away from all my pulling.  I was holding the stems and staring in shock at the chalk white triangular chunk of boney scalp.  There was very little blood.  I even remember noticing a pit in the bone.  Then I woke up.

That one I think I’ll leaf for another day.  😉

 

 

 

My sweet dog-daughter Charlotte has been with us for three years now, since our fortuitous adoption of her from our local SPCA.  She has been a more than special addition to our family, regardless of her puppyhood propensity to chew designer sunglasses and shoes, after a fine appetizer of baseboard moulding.  That and a multitude of digestive issues.  Poor Charlotte has been trying to tell us that something just wasn’t right.

Read no further if you have a weak stomach…you have been duly warned.

Since bringing Charlotte home, the poor pup has gone through three years of kibble changes; different proteins – turkey, lamb, beef, chicken…we even looked at kangaroo.  We tried grain-free, organic, holistic, and finally settled on a pricey near-perfect prescription variety.

When grains were included in her diet, she scratched endlessly.  As a Rotti, Shepherd, Lab cross, she’s a shedder…but the amount that she was shedding finally prompted the purchase of a Roomba (aptly and affectionately monikered Dobbie the House Elf) just to keep the day to day fur tumbleweeds under control.

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We finally eliminated the grains and the scratching abated somewhat, but Charlotte then began experiencing terrible diarrhea.  She would stand crying at the back door, only to race out into our yard and shoot jets of diarrhea out her back end.  The very best of intentions with poop bags at the park often resulted in guilty abandonment of the soupy discharge she would leave on the ground.  The ongoing soft stool resulted in several trips to the vet to have her anal glands released, which is extremely uncommon in large dogs.

We were feeling frustrated and very sorry for our unhappy pup and finally tried a digestive prescription kibble carried by our vet.  Charlotte’s digestion was certainly improved, but far from perfect.  She was much less itchy, but not totally cured.  She still shed a great deal but we had settled on this food as a best case scenario.  What more could be done?  She didn’t like the kibble one bit and would look up at us with big sad doggy eyes, as we poured it into her bowl, only to walk away and leave it sometimes for two days.

I told myself this was normal; wolves don’t eat every day, after all.  She is just confident in her food source, I rationalized, and in no hurry to eat.

Charlotte decided to up the ante a couple of months ago and began making daily trips into the backyard, eating copious amounts of grass and then retching her poor doggy guts out.  Our vet found nothing the matter with her and chalked it up to the heat…but this doggy-momma had reached her limit.

We decided to try a raw food diet.

Enter Mountain Dog Food

This food comes in a case of four packs.  Each case is about $40, depending on the meat.

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With her evening meal, we add a 1/2 teaspoon of kelp, also provided by Mountain Dog Food.

Our distributer Deborah helpfully suggested that we buy this container from the Dollar Store, which fits one defrosted pack perfectly.

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I bought a digital kitchen scale which makes it easier to make sure Charlotte is getting the 2-3% of her ideal body weight per day.  I simply place her bowl on the scale and then zero it before adding her food.  We are giving Charlotte about 11-12 oz of food per serving, or roughly 2.5 cups per day and monitoring her weight.

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The food she is getting at the moment is ground turkey with bones, carrots, apple, alfalfa, celery and yam.

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We also give her carrots, apple slices, raw eggs with the shell crushed up, cucumber, and raw beef soup bones every once in a while, as a treat.

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She has been eating this raw diet now for just over two weeks, and I can only describe her as a transformed dog.

  1. She drools at the sound of the tupperware container opening and devours her breakfast and dinner in minutes.
  2. Her fur is gleaming and she has stopped scratching.  Neighbours have commented on how beautiful she looks and asked if we have just bathed her.
  3. Her poops are absolutely solid and less than 50% the amount.  I accidentally stepped on one we missed picking up.  My shoe rolled off after it sat for only one or two days.  It was like a hard stone.
  4. She drinks far less water.
  5. She responds to commands far more readily and is far more calm.
  6. Her poop has no odour.
  7. She sheds less than 10% of what she shed before.
  8. She lies down and sleeps restfully instead of going from room to room, trying in vain to get comfortable.

I feel dreadful that she went through three years of discomfort when the solution appears to be so attainable and so natural.

If you are having similar issues with your dog, I could not more heartily recommend that you try this wonderful food for your own best friend, and wait to be amazed.

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Finally Home for Much Needed Vacation.

A couple of people who read my blog have contacted me recently to enquire about the writer’s block that I seem to be experiencing. My reply has been that until I see the humour in current circumstances, I would spare readers my lamenting. I began to muse, would I ever see the humour?

No. Likely not…but could I try to see the irony?

Last month, on the drive to a family gathering, I seized an opportunity, presented by the rare absence of our kids, to entertain my husband with lugubrious moaning about a multitude of intellectual and emotional struggles that I have been experiencing of late.  He drove, while patiently acting as a sounding board for my midlife blubbering.

That’s not to say that the feelings I experience aren’t valid. These thoughts certainly swing in and out of my mind.  More often than I like to admit, I am confronting the reality that certain phases of my life have come to their inevitable winter.

I watch a young mother cuddling an infant or a pregnant woman in the park, and I feel the intense maternal pull for another child.  A profound sense that I am “not done” hits me to the core, despite or  because of the decadence I experience on a daily basis as our daughter’s mother.  Yet, the fact remains that I am too old to make another pregnancy either wise for our family, or fair to a child.

Together, my husband and I soon arrived at the Bottom Line; I am not a 40 something movie star taking a first stab at motherhood.  This is real life.  I tearfully agreed.

Only momentarily quelled, I soon felt the need to continue.  (ClearlyI was determined to optimize this 45 minutes of alone-time like only a pre-menstrual woman can.)  I began talking about feeling trapped, sharing thoughts surrounding my career, and how I had really always wanted to be a doctor.  I considered that I might like to try to get into medical school but once again I was confronted with the truth.  It was too late to start over.

Too late!  Too late!

I continued weeping, undaunted.  “And!  I’ve also always dreamed about pursuing some type of career in home renovating!  Why hadn’t I thought about my other dreams, my other interests?”  I sobbed.  “Now it’s too late!  I love being a teacher but is THIS all there is?  I’m done?  This is my life?”

THIS – IS – IT???!

(I didn’t hear the screeching tires at the time.  There were no shards of glass protruding from my left eye.  I didn’t have an inkling that I had just set in motion a terrible fate.)

Enter, The Investment Property.

We bought it because it was in a great location.

We bought it to make our money start to work for us.

We bought it to try to get a bit ahead in the world.

…how could we lose?

From the moment we took possession, it was clear that something was amiss.  There was certainly a “funky” smell when we went through the home, which we foolishly attributed to the owner’s one dog, three cats, and one exceptionally large snake.  But this sort of “I think I just got sick in my mouth” kind of smell was now in a whole other stratosphere.  Friends and family audibly gasped and swung hands over their mouths and noses the moment they reached the top of the stairs to the basement.  My attempts to kill the odour by scrubbing everything with bleach and water were laughably impotent.

My always-positive father-in-law insisted, “No…I do…I really think the smell is getting better!”

It wasn’t.

Some exploring revealed the basement shower drain was on its side under the basin and water was draining right onto the concrete.  The subfloor was soaked.  We began tearing out drywall and wall studs only to find more problems.  Copper plumbing was abutted end to end and held together with only putty.  None of the drains were vented.  Live electrical wires sat buried behind walls with no marrettes.  Open junction boxes were everywhere, and nothing was grounded.  Several joists in the ceiling had been cut right through.

Four dumpsters later, it was undeniable that we had purchased a complete gut.  As I write, there is an excavator sitting in the backyard, poised to crush the freshly painted (that-could-look-cute-and-cottagey-if-it-were-white) back porch, and carve a 6X6 foot trench around the foundation of the house.  The roofing guy is coming at 2 and the window guy at 3.

Reno girl got her wish…

But now the horrifying realization hits me like a straight right to the solar plexus.

OH MY GOD!  I said I wanted to be a doctor too!!

I can only pray that even Karma is governed by some laws of clemency.

Indeed, my ever-wise mom has always told me, “Be careful what you ask for, as you may surely get it.”

 

 

One of my closest friends swears that she is cursed by the rock group Heart.  Every time she hears one of their songs on the radio, something bad has happened right before, or will happen shortly after.  She says gets bad news, she suffers an accident, she loses her wallet, she drops something precious and it smashes into a million pieces…

You get the picture.

I usually play music on my docking station after my students leave and I plan for the next day.   If my friend happens to walk into my classroom and one of Heart’s songs is playing, she will spin on her heel and walk out.  Secretly, I have scoffed at this behaviour, I do admit.  I mean, really…

But, in walks April.  The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Month.  Alexander got one day and he wanted to move to Australia.  Big deal!  I want to shake him out of his all-white, stripe-less sneakers.  Poor kid.  He doesn’t know what real problems are!

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I know that April has it in for me.  I really do.  Year after year, I approach April with optimism and a fresh regard and it turns around and stabs me firmly in the back.  Then it gives a little twist.

“Ha! Ha! Ha!” it seems to cackle, “You thought I’d make this EASY on you?!  I am APRILLLLLLLL!”

What has April done to me?  Let’s see…

On Easter Weekend, our car was T-Boned and I split my head open, from my hairline to the bridge of my nose.

My dad died in April.

I miscarried on Earth Day.

My mom has been in hospital for the entire month of April.

This month at work has been a disaster.

I could go on…but I won’t.

Alexander’s day was so bad that he declared that he was moving across the world.  His mother told him that some days are terrible, even in Australia.  Last time I checked, Australia has an April, so I am out of luck there too.  However, May has finally arrived, and I am looking forward to the end of the showers and many, many flowers.

Maybe I’ll give April just one more chance…next year.

 

Today I am journeying to the funeral of my father-in-law’s first cousin.  She had a relatively short battle with cancer, and recently lost her fight on Wednesday morning.  She was a very young 60 years of age.  She was a larger-than-life woman who embodied a keen intelligence, practicality, stubborness, and that outspoken nature typical of the Dutch.  She also had a strong sense of family and was a loyal friend.  She was vibrant and witty, with a sense of humour and a zest for life for which she once told me in the Netherlands they have their own special word. 

 At the time, I likened it to the English word, “jovial.”  She didn’t respond, but I immediately knew it wasn’t the same at all.  She was a particular person.  She was usually right, and she knew it.  She was the go-to girl. 

Now, I’m left pondering; what was that word anyway?  My first impulse is to whip off an email to ask her…but she’s gone.  I can’t ask her another question again in this lifetime.  She wasn’t my best friend, but her absence feels very strange, even just to me.  She is still very much alive in my mind.

What happens when we die? 

At 17, I lost my father to cancer.  I remember acutely feeling like I couldn’t believe I was still here on Earth, when he was gone.  The death of my parent abruptly thrust my teenaged psyche into a solitary stance. 

“Without you, I still go on.” 

The paternal umbilical cord was precipitously cut.  There would be no pictures with prom dresses, no late night calls from university, no potential fiancé’s nervous request, nor proud and tearful walk down the aisle. 

The difference between 3:11 a.m. and 3:12 a.m. meant my father would never hold my daughter.  He would forever be nothing more than the stories I whisper to her in the dark, as she falls asleep.  She would know nothing more than, “What her grandfather would have said,” as I seize each opportunity to bring him to life for her.  I was blessed with a mom who stood up and filled all in the holes that she could.  Thank God for Mom.

What happens when we die?

Science states that permanent death occurs four to six minutes after the body systems shut down.  The heart and respiration stop, followed by brain death.  There is absolutely no evidence to support the existence of the afterlife, despite thousands of accounts supporting it.  Neurologists assert that the same underlying biology, as well as similar cultural experiences, account for the continuity between personal stories of near death experiences.  It’s only natural, it’s argued, that this dreamlike state would render images of lost loved ones in a nirvana-like backdrop.  Some neurologists say that, during the near death experience, the brain hovers in a state somewhere between a waking and REM consciousness.  Since REM consciousness activates the visual systems in the brain, this accounts for the intensity of colour and light in the reported experiences.  It’s all quite scientifically explainable.

Unless you believe.

I believe. 

I bore witness to this intensity of light and meeting of loved ones as my dad took his last breath.  He raised his arms up in the air and shielded his eyes, as his face took on a look of incredible awe.  Whether the product of oxygen starved cellular death or REM consciousness, I know he saw something more magnificent and overwhelming than I have ever been blessed to see in this world.  He whispered, “Mommy…” and took his last breaths as we held him and said our goodbyes.

I believe.

I bore witness to my two year old daughter pointing to the rafters in Lowes and asking her father and I, “What dat lady doin’ up dere?”  We looked to the ceiling and saw nothing, but she insisted, pointing and saying, “Right dere!  What she doin’?  Why is she up dere?” 

We still saw nothing but metal trusses, but she was clear that there was a woman hovering above us all, as clear as her parents right in front of her.

Our daughter has always insisted that she “picked us” for her parents and has even spoken of her memories of my own childhood, “Before daddy was with us,” such as when my mother would tickle my back to help me get to sleep. 

Our daughter has shared knowledge of items in our home that once that belonging to loved ones, long since passed.  As a toddler she stood in a tray that was made by my great-grandfather and, to my amazement, declared, “I in Bumpa’s tray, Mama!”

I believe.

One of my favourite lines comes from a movie directed by Steven Spielberg, titled Always.  It was a remake from 1943 film, A Guy Named Joe.

Audrey Hepburn plays the role of Hap, a guardian angel who is given the job of teaching recently deceased aerial firefighter Pete Sandich how to be an angel.  She tells him that the word “inspiration” comes from the Latin “spirtus”, meaning “divine breath.”  She tells him that what human beings believe to be inspiration is actually just the angels whispering in our ears.  “They hear you inside their own minds,” she says, “As if it were their thoughts.”

No, I can’t explain it, but I believe it.  There may never be the scientific evidence to give it academic credence, but I’m satisfied to know there are angels looking over my shoulder and whispering in my ear.

Goodbye Loes.  We are all grieved to bid you go, but I know we are blessed to count you among our many guardian angels.  

Whenever you are ready, I’m listening.

 

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One of the fondest memories I have of growing up was a time when my mother awakened me in the middle of the night with a gentle shaking. I rubbed my bleary eyes, sat up, and saw her place a finger to her lips.

“Get up, Lamby,” she whispered, “We’re going to get our coats on. I have something to show you.”

At 8 years old, I was enthralled by the idea of an adventure, tiptoeing in the dark, alone with my mother. We softly closed the front door and she led me down the driveway to the gravel road.

“Look…” she said.

I caught my breath, as the final traces of my last disappeared in wisps around our heads.

Aurora Borealis was dancing in its full, magnificent splendour in the sky above the farm across the road.

Mom and I held one another in silent rapture, as I shivered in the dark.  Streams of brilliant magenta, then azure, then green, then orange, then red, then yellow, and all through the spectrum again, shot, each in turn. Each one twisted and spun in a silent, unique dance. Each dance more unexpected and breathtaking than the last.

The sky was singing. The sky was dancing. And I stood, in the middle of the night, on this gravel road, safe in my mother’s arms. I felt certain that this was a spectacle meant only for us. I knew that a special secret had been shared with me and that a window to the magic of the Earth had been opened to us, and us alone.

I don’t know exactly how long we stood, or when we headed back inside. I do know that I never forgot that quiet moment, together in the magic of the Northern Lights. As a mother, I only hoped that one day, I might have the chance to share a similar moment with my own daughter.

Two nights ago, the Earth gave me that gift.  We had been out walking Charlotte and as we rounded the last bend toward home, I glanced up to see streams of light streaking the northeastern sky.  I gestured to them and asked our daughter, “Look up, Dolly.  What’s that?”  She had heard the story of my childhood adventure, and had also been waiting for this moment.  She began shrieking with happiness and skipping around on the road, calling, “Northern lights!  Northern lights!’

We didn’t have the quiet moment witnessing the brilliant colour that my mother and I had shared, but I was so grateful that I had been there to revel in my daughter’s first experience with one of nature’s greatest spectacles.  Later that night, as I tucked her into bed, she quietly told me that she somehow felt different; as though a secret had been shared with her.  As though, now, she understood something that she didn’t understand before.  I smiled in understanding.  As a child, I had been there.  I return to this place, each and every time I see them.  One day she will be there again, with her own child, sharing in the magic of the first sighting.

This is the magic of the Aurora Borealis.  The wonder and mystery imparted by our northern sky dancers.