Hope is a thing with feathers, That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all.-Emily Dickenson

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Gathering

I’ve been writing this blog in my head for two weeks now, but I have found there really aren’t enough words to convey all that I want to here. However, I feel it is important to try to write it down, both for myself and for those involved in my head-shaving gathering, as well as those who were unable to attend but were there in spirit. This is as close as I can come to verbally sharing my feelings of the experience.

My intent was to gather with those within my overlapping communities who have shared so much and loved and held me through this year, to honor and remember Forrest and to celebrate my survival of the past year.

The evening was an amazing, beautiful and powerful experience for me. Although nervous, I was prepared to have my head shaved. However, I was not at all prepared for the outpouring of love and compassion and blessings that I received. Even less was I prepared to understand how others seemed so touched by the experience. I often tend to feel indebted to others for how much they share with me and how important a role they play in my life. I have never felt that others might feel touched by aspects that I bring to the table. I am humbled by the comments I am still receiving about how the evening affected others.

As you can see from the slide show, my head received many blessings. To steal words from a dear friend; the idea that I don't even have words that can come close to describing the grateful ache in my heart says everything and nothing all at once. What I can say is that I am obviously, and now intentionally and directly very blessed.

As for an update on my head, I am currently maintaining the baldness. Three days after the first shaving, I found that I was in a panic that my hair seemed to be growing so quickly; I was not ready for it to grow back. I was able to wait 5 more days, then had it shaved again. I have since shaved it again. I find in cleansing and liberating in a way that I cannot really describe and a big part of me just isn’t ready to take the next step of replacing the visible sign of my grief. So, for now, I am keeping it shaved. I recommend that everyone shave their head at least once in their life.

When I think of this past year, I think of that Footprints poem where there were two sets of footprints in the sand except during the hardest times, there was only one set because that’s when “The Lord” was carrying her. For me, it’s quite different, I feel like maybe my footprints did disappear, but there were many, many footprints in the sand, from the many, many who have helped carry me through. I know it’s cheesy and sappy… but that is how I feel. That then makes me think of my Sharin’ The Herons theme of 2007 and reminds me how grateful I am that I was able to share the herons and that the weight was distributed amongst so many of you. Thank you to all who have shared and loved and carried me, I am grateful for and have more love than you can imagine for all of you.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bald is Beautiful Part 2

Before the shave:

After the shave:

Notice the wine; Forrest drove a red truck most of my childhood

My first look at the naked truth

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bald is Beautiful

I just washed my hair for the last time. Well, not the last time ever, but the last time these particular ones on my head will be washed. This evening I will be shaving my head.

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of Forrest's death. I have realized that I have little control over much in this world, but how much hair I have, at this time, I have complete control over.

I will be having a gathering with many who have walked with me and sometimes carried me this past year. Three dear friends will be shearing away layers of grief (and hair) to make room for new growth in this next year.

So, while I made up my mind months ago to shave my head to honor this event in my life, I recently decided to participate in St. Balrick's fundraiser to help raise money for kids with cancer. If you'd like to donate to St Baldricks, check out my page with a great photo of me with my hair combed out- no curls so it's really big.

Whether you choose to donate or not, consider offering up a blessing for me and my naked and exposed grief, awaiting the new growth to begin.

ps I'll post pictures soon

Monday, December 31, 2007

...and now for a brief intermission from the year in review

Yesterday was mom and Forrest's anniversary. They would have been married for 21 years. They actually got together about 8 years before that, but as my grandmother says, they lived in sin for a while.

Today is my mom's birthday. She would have been 64 years old. It seems hard to believe she has been gone for more than 7 years now. I spent the better part of this year being pretty angry with mom about Forrest's death. I suppose it wasn't safe to place the anger on Forrest for a while. Generally on her birthday I make it out to the cemetary where I sprinkled some of her ashes on top of her father's grave. That didn't happen today. It was a beautiful day but I struggled to leave the house. Carrie finally enticed me with a walk in the park with her new baby (pup) and my boys. It was good to get out, but I feel a little foggy.

This is all compounded by the fact that tomorrow is Forrest's birthday. He would have turned 66. He hated his job, it was one thing that was making him miserable, but he was set to retire this month.

Growing up, we always celebrated their anniversary on the 30th and then both of their birthdays at midnight new year's eve. That was real popular formy brother and I as teenagers. After I moved away, it was always good to call at midnight, although usually Forrest had already gone to bed.

Last night I was very sad and weepy, today I have been sad at times and disconnected at other times. I'm not depressed mind you. It's good to know the difference and allow myself to feel the saddness.

Funny enough, Jan 2 is my biological father's birthday. Up until I was 22, I thought my brother and I shared the same father. Then enters Doug, he's actually my biological father, and Tom, who I thought was my biological father, is actually my brothers dad. Perhaps I'll blog about that sometime.

Doug and I are not very close, in fact this is the first year he didn't send a Christmas card. We had been sort of trying at a relationship, but this year I decided just because we share the same blood doesn't make him my father...so I sorta started to let go of that. Turns out it kind of pisses me off that he did too. I mean, it was his choice to do that the first time around, it should be my choice now, eh? Clearly I have no resentments there... and somehow, right now in my very irrational mind, I have decided that Forrest's death is now Doug's fault. I really don't think that... but for today and tomorrow, I don't want to be angry with Forrest, so I have to put it elsewhere. Doug's the lucky bastard that gets it this time.

I swear I'll post an upbeat blog soon.

2007 The Year in Reveiw- 3rd Quarter

July marked the beginning of my working with the finances and maintaining the website for NewCentury. I began to take on roles I never thought I would in a church. I became part of the vision team. Things were difficult as a copastor of NewCentury/co-owner of the retail part of Shekinah was leaving. Financial challenges became a focus for me both in my spiritual life as well as my personal life.
I began sort of dating the crazy lady and making myself crazy in knowing that it was not a healthy place to be, although it seemed a comfortable place to be. I was however, able to state my space and keep my boundaries. We did some hiking and photography of nature beginning on July 1st.
A NewCentury July 4th party was held at Pastor Jen's... Molly was in town and she and I walked there. I thought it ridiculous to walk the 1.5 miles there, but Molly was up for it, so we did it!
July 9th I co-hosted with Katie a Food For Thought dinner at Jon and JD's house! Tons of fun.
July 14th I woke up with fierce grief and had lunch with Catherine where I decided I was going to rescue a kitten. What better way to stuff grief than to focus on something else... so just after lunchI adopted my baby kitty Linney Grey (named after Forrest, his middle name was Lynn). The sweetest most independent and fierce 3 month old kitty in the world! She was integrated in the household within a week. Although it took my older cat Smudge a bit to get use to her.

Molly moved in upstairs July 23rd-ish I think. It was good to have a roommate... both financially and emotionally. Molly was a good one to have!

Unrelated to the roommate situation, I began to slip pretty hard into a depression and started to disconnected from others as July came to a close.
I tailspun into August. I had a movie watching night at my place August 4th... I enjoyed it, but was stressed at the same time... about 8 folks in my small space with my 4 pets made me realize I don't do well in crowds in small spaces!
I then totally lost my mind when I lost my glasses August 6th. I had them on my face in the morning before work... then they disappeared. I got a little hysterical, Pastor Jen came to pick me up and drive me to work where I thought my 2nd pair might be. I was there for about three hours when I found the 2nd pair, right there on my desk. I spent three weeks feeling crazy looking for my glasses everywhere, Molly even helped.
August 25th was the day I snapped. I met Catherine, Katie and Molly at Day's coffee to head to help Rachel move in from Atlanta. While at Day's I had this flashback of Feb. 9th; Mel and I were getting coffee there prior to meeting folks to head to Cincinnati. I was standing in line next to Mel when I got the message from Forrest that first made me aware of his struggle. The flashback brought back the "what if's". I had wanted to go see him, but his wife suggested towards the end of February that wasn't a good idea and in fact later he very angrily told me not to come, made me promise not to come visit. He was going to the doctor and getting a prescription and that should fix it. Two weeks later, I spoke with him on the phone and he sounded really good. That was 2 days before he killed himself.

I was an emotional wreck that day in August. It took all of half an hour tops with all of us moving things to the basement for Rachel. Then I headed out to crazy land. I got in my car and drove. I stumbled into a Catholic church during mass. Took communion (going to hell for sure now) and just drove some more. I was feeling crazier than I had ever been... grieving harder than I had to date. I remember thinking about driving into a tree. I was trying to find some peace, some comfort and just driving. I ended up in Loretto, KY at the Motherhouse for the Sisters of Loretto. There I sat by a lake taking pictures of the trees and in particular a feather that was caught in the leaves of the tree just above me. The feather was stuck, blowing in the wind, but unable to go anywhere, completely at the trees mercy. I had heard there were little hermitages somewhere at the Motherhouse. I wanted to stay there, but couldn't find anyone to give me any info. I sat there until I was exhausted... then headed home. I missed Rachels welcome home party that evening, because I was not in the space to socialize. Looking back now, I feel like that day was a bit of a turning point...I had hit rock bottom and had nowhere to go but up.
The next day, while trying to put myself back together, I was on the phone with Pastor Jen when I found my glasses... or at least part of them... there was a bent and twisted and broken earpiece laying in yard, obvioulsy chewed up by the lawn mower. I totally identified with my glasses at that point. Bent, twisted, broken and disconnected and a larger part of me simply missing. At least the mystery was solved.
Still seeing the crazy lady every couple of weeks or so, I found some distraction from my pain there. We hiked and took pictures, all the while I was keeping my boundaries but struggling to do so. A big part of me wanted to totally let go and start the most unhealthy relationship ever... another part of me held back. I found maintaining relationships with my friends a big struggle at this time. I wasn't happy with myself, and I was not happy in how a handful of my friendships were doing either. You know, the world was out to get me and I felt folks just weren't doing enough to help me out. Clearly, in retrospect... this was my shit, as I wallowed in my victim role for a bit.

August ended and September begans with the Labor Day weekend trip that wasn't... for me anyway. I struggled with my decision to go or not to go to Rachel's family farm in Knoxville... not finding easy practical answers... I opted out and decided to stay home and give in to the crazy lady relationship that wasn't.
Friday, August 31st, Catherine and I were to make chinese dumplings... decided we were both too overwrought to do so...instead we had pizza at Jacamo's on Goss ave. We had good pizza and she listened as I whined and wallowed about my struggle in my frienships. After dinner, I headed to the grocery and then home to find a card on my door from my friends letting me know that my new pair of frames, just like the ones that were bent and broken, were on their way. No names of who specifically, I will never know. What I do know is that it was the best surpirse anyone has ever given me. I was humbled and honored and ashamed of my judgment of where I thought others were and how I thought they should behave. It meant way more to me that just a gift of the frames. It spoke volumes to me from my friends of their love and support and their understanding of what losing my glasses began for me... my descent. This was the rope I needed to help pull me out of the depths of despair. I know that sounds sappy, but it is so true. I will never have the words to express my gratitude for this gift that gave to me on so many levels.

As for the crazy lady...fortunately, she found someone else and left me in the lurch! What a blessing for me!
Finally, I'll close the 3rd quarter of this year with a few words about my retreat in September. I blogged extensively about it so I won't cover all the points again. September 13th marked the 6 month anniversary of Forrest's death. I had tons of anxiety in doing so, but I went on a retreat into the woods. Pastor Jen had prepared a retreat survival kit for me including books, a beautiful supportive letter and a copy of the poem Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. Many other friends called and sent text messages while I was gone and Molly took care of my pets! I had great experiences and came to see that spirit is all around me. I see it better when in the woods, so that's where I have to go to be reminded.
There are a few more September highlights... but as the retreat marked another turning point... my full emergence from my depression, I will end here and begin a new chapter/4th qtr blog where I began a natural new chapter in the year.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 The Year in Review-2nd Quarter

April began with a FREEZING Easter weekend April 4-6th. I had declared 2007 the year of beer earlier, but decided in light of recent events, that bourbon was a more suitable elixer, so April is a bit of a blur. I remember Meeting Molly, another Rachel and yet another Jen- and attending an Easter camp out (for only a few hours as it was way too cold to camp) in a less than aware state of mind. That was the first time I experienced a weekend at Camp Mel's, where I was able to soak up a lot of needed love, support and nurturing.

April 13th and 14th I sang in my first VOICES concert.

April 21st was my birthday and Thunder Over Louisville. I had dinner with Robin Dianna Suzanne and Catherine... rode bikes with Catherine downtown for the craziness that is "Thunder" and went to a PJ party at Jai and Sarah's to celebrate Jai's birthday which is April 22.

Celebrated Mel's Birthday, April 25th with a cookout on the river, celebrated Catherine's April 28th birthday with a party at her house, made a trip to CaveHill with Katie, where I learned I can't climb trees any more, and Jenny treated both Catherine and I to a birthday celebration April 29th with a trip to the zoo.
May rang in with an exciting Derby, meaning another weekend at Camp Mel's, May 4-6th where we got to witness Tiff's first Derby experience.

May 10th Mel Carol and I saw the GreenCards in concert at that weird church in town.
May 11-13th was a weekend in Black Mountain North Carolina for LEAF where Molly and Rachel helped me honor the two month anniversary of Forrest's death and Mother's day, where I scattered some of Forrest's ashes not too far from where I had scattered some of mom's 6 1/2 years earlier.

A LONG drive to Madison Indiana to see the Duhks for the 2nd weekend in a row occurred on May 18th when Carol Mel Tiff and I took the scenic route.

There was a memorable evening at Waterfront Wednesday May 30th that was significant in my developing role with NewCentury and was a difficult evening for a handful of folks present for varying reasons. Sheesh... April and May were busy, I am exhausted merely reading about it now.

June... June began with a tic infested (but still much fun) camping trip with Carrie and my pups June 2nd and 3rd

Another trip in town June 8th for Jen Rock, Molly and Rachel found most of the folks here in town exhausted and a bit cranky... We all now sport I love J-Rock shirts in support of her performance at a Lisa's tavern. We made the obligitory Farmer's Market visit, and then I spent a bit of time at the ER with Mel after she cut her knee and needed stitches on June 9th. I will post no photos for the sake of those with active imaginations and weak stomachs.

June 17th was the first annual Father's day at Bernheim (mark your calendars now for the 2nd annual one June 15 2008) where Carol shared her father's ties AND taught us how to tie them! I was able to scatter some more ashes and I was cranky and grieving hard... but survived it with the love and support of those around... and phone calls and messages from those not around!

June 22nd Mel, Carol and Tiff and I had a double date, where I hear I flung chocolate across the room, the bourbon was treating me right and numbing some pain.

Sometime towards the end of June, I volunteered to help out with the books and the website for NewCentury and Shekinah as I was beginning to realize how important that was becoming to my spiritual journey as well as to my survival in the midst of the muck I was traversing.

June marked the beginning of the end of one of my denial periods regarding Forrest's death as I began to slip into a depression and start to disconnect from many friends.

Thus ends the 2nd quarter of 2007... More coming soon!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

2007 The Year in Review

Halloween came and went without the intended post about costumes I had as a child, Thanksgiving came and went without a post about my thankfulness, and well… Christmas day came and went; frankly my only wish was to survive… blogging never entered my mind. Here as we are about to enter into a new year, I’d like to reflect on 2007. I intend to take a look at each month individually. Likely in more than one blog.

As a brief intro to 2007, I'll need to address the latter part of 2006... you know I can't tell a partial story!

December 10th 2006, I walked away from the unhealthy relationship of that year. Noticing my tendency to repeat the same patterns over and over, I felt the only way to break that one was to walk completey away from my best friend and any hopes of anything more with her.

Ironically, the same day also introduced me to Jud and Jen and many others who would come to help shape my 2007, followed by a December 16 meeting of Catherine, a re-meeting of Cindy, and a reaquanting with Natalie; Others who have helped me through 2007. Proving to me once again my belief that grief and loss can create a space that can be filled with great things, not a replacement mind you... something completely different and in this case more profound, genuine and fulfilling. Had I not made room for these folks, I feel certain the year would have been dratically more difficult to navigate.

This is me January 1st 2007, before I took down my Christmas tree. See it on the wall? My mom and Forrest made that in 1981. Anyway, my thought at the time was that I might like to use a photo of me and all my pets for my Christmas cards in 2007. Who knew my family would grow this year, making this a dated photo! You should have seen the 32 other photos I took. My tripod and time delay feature on my camera made this possible at all.

I have no specific memories of January. I began my netflix subscription and spent a lot of time at home watching movies and grieving. I did venture out and go to church a couple of times with Mel, who kept my head above water.

February came in with me in better shape emotionally. I saw Girlyman in concert for the 3rd time February 3rd. I believe that's the night I met Tiff, although she believes we met before then. Feb 10th a group of us headed to Cincinnati to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and to Jungle Jim's International Market. Here's a collage of some of those photos and a couple of a Feb evening of pizza movies with another Jen friend and my babies.February 10th also marked the first time I knew things weren't right with Forrest. He had called and left me a message, he didn't sound good at all. In retrospect, this was the beginning of watching a train wreck happen in slow motion.

February 16th I was introduced to more pivotal people for me in 2007. I met Jenny, Rachel, Jai, Sarah, and re-met Catherine at a Blue Umbrella's concert at the Monkey Wrench.

I don't know the exact dates, but sometime in January and February I was attending both CCC and NewCentury. I had gone to CCC the first time December 10th and was introduced to the pastor of NewCentury at the same time. Although I was unaware that NewCentury was a church. I was attending the "Just Be" services on Wed nights contently thinking it was "meditation".

In February I participated in Lenten services for the first time in my life and even decided to give up a few thing for the season.

My favorite Feb memory is participating in the headshaving process of a friend for her Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday, Feb 21st.

The last Feb memory I have is of Mardi Gras at Clifton's Pizza. I was beginning to learn that I was way too out of shape to party like the CCC folks can.

So in rolls March... coming in like a lamb and leaving like a lion... I know the saying is the other way around... but not for me, not this year. March 3rd, Katie, Jenny, Tiff and I went to Karaoke after dancing one night. What fun! I remember feeling playful and free and enjoying my many new found friends. Lots of laughing, and developing connections and exploring my spirituality, finding a space, ever so shyly at NewCentury.

Then March 13th, Forrest took his own life. No note left behind. He took everything out of his pockets, left everything on top of the well made bed, went to the garage, presumably to reduce any mess, put a plastic bag over his head and shot himself. Funny that I can type those words with barely a tear in my eye. It stills seems so unreal and today I feel disconnected. There is the pain in my chest, and a lump in my throat, but I find it odd that's all I have. Of course I remember where I was when I found out. I was driving home from work exiting the highway at St. Catherine's Street. I had planned to walk my dogs in the park and didn't know what else to do, so I went on with the plan. Jenny, who I had known for less than a month, met me there and walked with me. Mel was in Puerto Rico. Other folks were still at work. All I could do is walk my dogs. I stopped by Robin and Dianna's. I can't remember anything else from that night. I went to work the next day at 5am and cleaned up somethings, told a few folks what happened, and left to go cut my hair. I felt it was the only thing I had any control over. Later that day, dear Catherine came and picked me up, took me for mint chocolate chip ice cream, to Wild Oats and then to her house where she made me granola. Thursday night, Mel came home. We spoke on the phone many times in the long two days between the time Forrest died and her return. I was so glad she was home. The next few days are a blur of more supportive phone calls and visits and a re-piercing of my ear... another controllable event.

Here are 2 pics of me the day after Forrest died and the rest are pictures taken during my 10 hour stay in Florida on St. Patrick's Day for Forrest's funeral. My plane landed in Orlando at 8:30am and left at 6:30pm. This was followed by the death of my biological father's mother exactly a week after Forrest's death. Before I headed to West Virginia for that funeral... I headed to the woods for an overnight stay March 20th in a cabin at Otter Creek. March 21st I attended NewCentury and discovered it was actually "church". There was communion and everything. Turns out they do this the 3rd Wednesday of each month. This one was my first, and threw me for a loop, especially while trying to deal with my grief in a quiet space.

I was in West Virginia for less than 24 hours. I had planned an "Everyone Love Kelly Party" for the March 24th, the same day as my grandmother's funeral, and well... I needed it so I drove home. Thanks to Robin and Dianna for hosting my love and support and bourbon filled evening of denial. I had a good time... see for yourself! March 25th, I got a tattoo. I have no more specific memories of March. It ended, and I survived heading full force into a headfirst tumble into April. Thus ends the first quarter of 2007. The review of rest of the year is to be continued...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Halcyon Days

I am being proactive about selecting my totem bird for 2008. I decided that I cling to much to the vulture. Vultures represent cleansing and purification. I am not at all suggesting that is a bad thing. Just 'everything in moderation'.

I appreciate vultures because they take on an undesirable role in cleaning up the world. They prevent bacteria from spreading and causing disease. I also tend to be appreciate the underdogs, it whatever capacity. I think vultures are underappreciated and therefore I appreciate them. Again, not necessaily a bad thing. But I recently realized that I may identify too much with the underdog, or the underappreciated, or the victim role. Vultures take what is left over and discarded.... I am trying to be intentional about asking for what I want in the world, in many different ways, and not just taking the leftovers, no longer living in fear of scarcity. There simply is enough of everything that I need to go around.
So I have chosen a bird that I have always been fond of. The kingfisher. One of the things this bird represents is prosperity.

Also, ironically enough, we happen to be in the season of the kingfisher...

According to Greek legend, Ceyx and Halcyon were wed. Shortly thereafter Ceyx had to make a long voyage and he drowned during a storm. Halcyon waited for his return for months. Then one day his body washed ashore. In her grief she threw herself into the ocean. The gods were moved by her love and grief. She and her husband were turned into Kingfishers and were reunited in love and peace. The Gods then declared that from one week before the winter solstice through one week after it, the seas would be calm and sun would shine. This time of peace is called the "Halycon Days"

Kingfishers also represent:
  • Connection to peaceful seas
  • Happiness and love
  • Peace
  • Indifference to surroundings
  • Clear vision through emotional waters
  • Ability to dive (focus) into emotional waters and catch ones dreams
  • New warmth
  • Sunshine
  • Prosperity
  • Love

I don't know if one can intentionally select a totem, or if they have to come into your life first to become your totem... but I can use all of the above in 2008, so I am putting it out there and claiming it! and as a disclaimer, I actually stalked an illusive kingfisher on my retreat into the woods and did capture a few very pixelated photos!