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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.  😉

 

 

 

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Finally Home for Much Needed Vacation.

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.

I’ve been caught up in the mad, mad scramble of preparing for Christmas; school concerts, piano recitals, children’s hockey parties and general preparations, so I have been availing myself of the local drive-thru windows.  This has made me privy to a new and irritating trend – and it isn’t, “Would you like to super-size your fries?”  It hasn’t been THAT long.  It is the parting I have come to detest.

It is at Tim Horton’s, Home Depot, McDonald’s, at multiple clothing stores…even high-end stores.

It is the dreaded, Have a good one.

Ugh.

Each time, I want to stop, turn and whine at the offender;

“Really?  Awww, come-on…not you too?  And things were going so well between us!  But you had to ruin it.  You had to say it… 

A good one?!  One..what?  A good day?  Afternoon?  Evening?  Tooth extraction??!

You don’t even care enough to know what time it is!  But I already knew that.  I already knew you didn’t care whether it was the afternoon or the morning or the evening, but now you don’t even care enough to pretend you care!”

Maybe that’s the point.  Some people have stopped even pretending they care, and my rose-coloured glasses are getting all fogged up.

I fancy myself a descriptive vs. a prescriptive linguist of sorts…so I began to wonder at the etymology of the expression.  Then I pondered if, in fact, the direction may actually have come from corporate head-offices in order to increase the tone of familiarity between clerk and customer.

And so I googled the phrase.

Definition one in The Urban Dictionary states that “Have a good one” is a friendly way of saying goodbye to someone.

Not too bad.

Definition two states its a way to dismiss someone you know or someone you don’t want to know.  It can be used as a way to avoid talking to someone.

Hmmm.

Definition three may be, perhaps, most interesting to those in head-office, if the direction indeed came from them.  Have a good one is, evidently, an alias for “Have a good wank,” or “Go f*** yourself.”  

Lovely.

It really makes me see the clerk’s goodbye after yesterday’s coffee order in an entirely different light.

“Here’s your double double. Now go f*** yourself!”

Yikes!

Last night I was at the grocery store and noticed a couple of attractive young guys in their early thirties, entering the store.  They were heading my way as I made a left into the feminine products aisle, which also contained the first aid materials.  I was looking for Bactine.

“Sure,” I thought, “Of course I would be heading down the pad aisle.”

Why that makes any difference at all to anyone at all, most of all, those two guys, is really quite another question.  But these are the weird, self-absorbed places my brain sometimes travels when I forget momentarily that thirty-something guys are not looking at me anyway.  This is not even beginning to approach the question of why buying feminine products is embarrassing for women to do; but somehow, for many, it is.

For me, it’s like holding up a sign in front of the men around you, that announces, “MY PERIOD IS COMING!”  It’s a personal thing, involving my nether regions, and I don’t know why anyone else around me needs to know anything about it.  But I digress.

So I turned left into the feminine products/first aid aisle and, as fate would have it, the two guys entered the aisle behind me.  I was walking down the aisle, continuing my weird thinking, “Ha!  They probably think I’m buying pads or tampons!  But I’m NOT!  Ha!  I’M buying Bactine!”

I stopped past the feminine products in front of the first aid items and was startled to see both guys stop…where?

In front of the feminine products!

And I was privy to the conversation which went like this.

“How much is there, man?”

“A lot.”

“Maybe you should just get a diaper.”

“Ya…I know.”

“What kind did she say?”

“She didn’t…she just said, ‘HURRY!’ ”

“Oh boy.  Okay.  But there’s so many!  Look at them all!  I guess we’ll just start at the top row…”

I could hear the nervousness in their voices and I knew they were completely lost.  There was some woman somewhere, bleeding like a tap and they had no idea what she needed.

A glance over revealed the two men, each with a hand to his chin, looking up at the pads and tampons, and rocking back and forth from heel to toe.  This wasn’t going anywhere fast.

I approached the guys and tentatively asked them if they needed help.  They both heartily accepted with a huge exhale of relief.

One man explained that his wife had just had a caesarean section and the hospital was not supplying pads.  I showed them how to read the packages for sizing and told them to look for words like MAXI, OVERNIGHT and LEAK GUARD.

“Get the biggest, most absorbent ones you can,” I advised.  They nodded solemnly, wide-eyed.

Suddenly, they were grabbing bags of pads off the shelves and reading them studiously.  It was absolutely hilarious, but also very heartwarming to see how much they cared about getting the right thing for his wife.  They had no embarrassment whatsoever.  What was my problem?

I left them to their task and told them they were, “Good guys” and also thanked them for my next blog topic.  They laughed and said they were very grateful for the help.

A few minutes later, I saw them at the cash, several lines over, throwing and catching a big bag of pads high in the air.  I caught their eye and raised my eyebrows with a questioning thumbs up.  They both answered with smiles and enthusiastic thumbs up and I grinned back in reply.