Sunday, November 17, 2019

Larissa Minicucci ... a bright new star in the night skies

Posted on November 14, 2019 on my facebook page ...  it is with great sadness and a heavy heart I share that our beloved Larissa has since crossed over into the spirit world on Saturday, November 16, 2019 around 3 pm. For more on this amazing human being please check out her caring bridge site:
As many of us prepare for the crossing over into the spirit world of our beloved friend, partner, mentor, teacher I want to share with you a photo taken at the Leech Lake SIRVS clinic in Oct. 2018 with Jonathan Elbaz, current president of SIRVS which shows the spirit of Larissa, the spirit of SIRVS, and the amazing fire and spirit of SIRVS (Student Initiative for Reservation Veterinary Services). I have had the honor of working with many SIRVS presidents over the years, and they have all been amazing (Molly Kubeczko-Schmidt, Rachel Marie, Kristen Capen and this year's president elect, Hilary Hooberman).
I picked Larissa up from home so we could ride together to Leech Lake ... we have many road trips and last year after her diagnosis with cancer we had two road trips (Red Lake and Leech Lake). We had long heartfelt conversations. She told me she wasn't afraid of death - she just wasn't ready. She talked for hours about two of her deepest loves - her work with SIRVS, the students, tribal communities .. and then she talked for hours about her husband Lou.
Yesterday at the hospital I promised her that her work with SIRVS and tribal communities will continue. That I know she will be with us in spirit and that I am counting on her letting us know if we flounder or go astray by sending us a strong message ... she smiled and there was a twinkle in her eyes.
Many of us are grieving deeply already. It's like someone stuck a knife in our hearts. And my heart hurts so deeply for an amazing husband who shared with me, in his own words, how he met Larissa 16 years ago. And there was a twinkle in both their eyes.
She has touched the lives of so many, and she wants us to continue this work. I encourage us all to find a way to talk to this overwhelming, all consuming grief ... I share with you one of my favorite poems. Grief has arrived at our door step. I am going to invite Grief in ... Grief brought me a puppy from the Mille Lacs SIRVS clinic (her name is Migizi, and when I held her i could feel Larissa's presence so strongly and was guided to name her Migizi). I will be adopting Migizi. With Ahnung (means 'star' in ojibwe - spirit dog from Red Lake), Ishkode ('fire' in ojibwe - from Leech Lake) and now Migizi ('eagle in ojibwe - from Mille Lacs) I promised Larissa our collaborative work with tribal communities will continue.
Together, we will keep Larissa's spirit alive. To my friends at Leech Lake and Mille Lacs and White Earth, I ask for your support and know I can count on you ... Shirley Nordrum Sharon Nordrum Veronica Bratvold Winnie Walleye Melissa Yuenger Angela Nordman Gary Wayne Branchaud Li Boyd Mary H. Skelly Tawny Warren
Please continue to hold Larissa in your heart as she prepares her transition into the spirit world ....
Talking to Grief (by Denise Levertov)
Ah, grief, I should not treat you
like a homeless dog
who comes to the back door
for a crust, for a meatless bone.
I should trust you.
I should coax you
into the house and give you
your own corner,
a worn mat to lie on,
your own water dish.
You think I don't know you've been living
under my porch.
You long for your real place to be readied
before winter comes. You need
your name,
your collar and tag. You need
the right to warn off intruders,
to consider
my house your own
and me your person
and yourself
my own dog.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Celebrating 31 years of sobriety, of living!

Yesterday, October 1, 2019 I celebrated 31 years of sobriety. I owe my life to a puppy. A puppy I named Splat (i was playing competitive racquetball at the time, and 'splat' was my favorite shot). I had fallen 'off the wagon'. I was in so much emotional pain and wanted to numb myself from the pain so I started drinking after one previous attempt to get sober. I drank and I drank and I drank. My Papa must have known that the only way to get through to his baby girl was to bring her a puppy, so he led me to this little girl, the runt of the litter. I remember meeting this woman in Chesterfield, Missouri at my mom's house. She was selling her puppies for $100. There were six cocker spaniel puppies. All were running around and rolling over each other, chasing each other, except for this one black cocker spaniel puppy ... she found her way to me and climbed onto my legs as I was seated cross legged on the grass, and curled up and went to sleep. I looked at the woman and said, 'this one. I want this one.' Splat was my first dog. After i had written the check and sent the woman off I thought to myself, what the heck have I done?! I have never had a puppy! I don't know what to do. This little tiny being needs me. I felt this huge responsibility to care for this being. I realized I had to get myself together ... get my life back together. So on October 1, 1988, I walked back in to an AA meeting after 2 years off the wagon. I chose life. I chose Splat. I chose a new path. And something inside me knew that this time around it would be different because i had an angel my Papa sent to me, a furry 4-legged precious being ... and my sweet little princess was my heart. She saved my life. Thanks to her, and my Papa, I am alive today and I am celebrating 31 years of sobriety and life.

I lost my beloved Splat very suddenly (and what I now believe to have been a hate crime) on July 20, 2000, shortly after I moved to Minnesota. I share more about this on a blog post I wrote in 2010 (her 10 year anniversary) ... I also share more about how she (and Ahnung), through my dreams, opened the door for me to begin my healing around the sexual abuse ... from my blog: ".... Interestingly, Splat (whom I named after a racquetball shot as I playing a lot of racquetball at the time) appeared in my dreams a couple summers ago .. in fact, it was a nightmare, but it was her way to tell me I was getting ready to begin a journey of some major healing ... and she was right. For a writing class i'm taking at The Loft I chose to write about the healing and transformation I have gone through in dealing with past sexual abuse. My piece opens with the dream I had where Splat appears in July, 2008. The piece ends with a dream I recently had (July, 2010) where my dog Ahnung appears and she takes my flying!! It was my dog Splat, who's been dead for 10 years, who opened up a door I've sealed shut for decades - the secret of abuse - and it's now my dog Ahnung who is helping me move through it .... I think God knows that the angels I need come in the form of furry four-legged beings :)" ...

Thank you Splat and Ahnung for working together over the decades to help me heal. I know you are both still with me, along with Shen, Shadow, Missy and Mister guiding me along in my life's journey. Together, we celebrate 31 years of sobriety!! 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

RIP sweet Missy Bear RIP

We set Missy's spirit free yesterday morning. Grief has come again. She is here to stay. My heart hurts so deeply. I miss you Missy Bear. I miss you. Travel safe ... I find comfort in knowing you are once again with your siblings Ahnung and Mister. Till we meet again, on the other side sweet girl.

Monday, January 28, 2019

My Missy Bear ,,,,

Missy - 2008
Missy Mister Ahnung 2011
Missy and Mister 2017

My beloved Missy (14.5 years old) is approaching the end. Her final walk. She is being watched over and guided by her siblings Ahnung and Mister who are ready to greet her. I am cherishing every moment I have with her. Thank you Missy (Ahnung and Mister) for letting me know it is time to prepare ... my heart hurts ... I find comfort in knowing Ahnung and Mister will be there to greet you when the time comes.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Happy Birthday Papa!

Today is my Papa's birthday. September 14th is a special day of the year for me. My Papa crossed over to the spirit world when I was 4 years old (Dec. 20, 1968). For so long it was a pain so deep, a void so deep I found every possible way to numb the pain ... to fill the hole and emptiness ... addictive behavior and avoidance became my survival strategies. Now, 50 years later, a life time of experiences that have been both incredibly painful and also incredibly beautiful and transformative, I am now at a very different place. I believe God/Creator called my Papa because it was his time. I believe he was needed elsewhere in the universe. It's not my place to question. There are many things in this life time I will not be able to make sense of ...

50 years ago my Papa's spirit left his body. What I imagine now is his spirit leaving in this most amazing and beautiful light .... this expansive veil of light that reaches out beyond the north star and galaxies that defy what my brain can even comprehend ... and his spirit sprinkles star dust all around me, and in me. I don't feel his presence at first. All I feel is emptiness. Yet he stays with me, watches over me, protects me ... I flail and I fumble. And at the age of 20 when I attempt to take my own life, he plucks me out of the water ...when by all logical and practical explanation, I should have died ... miraculously, someone, some being, some higher power pulled me out of the water after I had lost consciousness. I know it was my Papa. I imagine him saying to me, "it's not your time yet baby".

For many years, I called that moment 'my bottom'. It was an uphill climb through terrain that challenged me on so many levels. It was a journey that required facing my darkest shadows and wounds and scars I desperately wanted to forget and bury at the bottom of the ocean floor. This year, in just a couple weeks, I celebrate 30 years of sobriety ... 30 years since my last drink; 30 years since I made the choice to numb my pain with alcohol. Now I look back at that moment, as the moment of awakening as a caterpillar .... of shedding skin, of becoming a chrysalis, of resting and allowing the time needed for the various parts of myself to heal and to transform, and then when I was finally ready, to emerge and break through the protective case of the cocoon ... a butterfly. And this healing journey has been one of exploring different landscapes, both inner and outer; of stumbling, making mistakes, honoring the wounds and scars that have made me who I am today, celebrating reaching various summits of mountains I never imagined I could reach ... of listening to my Papa; of learning to still my mind and be with myself through meditation and a deeper connection to the spirit world. He was gracious and sent me a 4-legged beautiful being, my first dog, Splat, who is the reason I am now able to say, on October 1, 2018 I will be celebrating 30 years of sobriety. She saved my life. And then my Papa continued to send me more beautiful 4 legged beings ... Shadow, Shen, Mister, Missy, Legacy, Ahnung, Ishkode .... all have been, and continue to be, essential in my healing.

Miigwech Papa. Miigwech for watching over me. I celebrate You today. I celebrate your birthday. I celebrate and feel and embrace the veil of star dust you sprinkled over me when I was 4 years old.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Mister appears in my dream ...

The pups (Missy, Ishka, Legacy) woke me up at 4 this morning. I let them out and decided to go back to sleep. It's Sunday after all.

I have completed my morning practice of meditation, centering and journaling. I have written in detail as much as I remember of my dream that is still so vivid, so real ... I was touching and holding Mister in my dream who appeared in what I call Act III of my dream. I was in the midst of holding and touching Mister when Ishka woke me up at 5:45 with her 'talking' :).

The past couple weeks have been incredibly full and busy for me. There have been changes for me in my work life .. a new leader of our group and a renewed fire and passion as I realize the possibility of bringing together my work life and all I do in my 'free' time, my volunteer time and my work with non-profits, social justice, indigenous communities, animal welfare and the intersection of humans and animals, somatics and my coaching practice  ... as the demands on my time have increased I have had to very intentionally create space to continue my practices and care of myself ....  working from home, it would be easy to get consumed with work ... but I have the gift of my pups (Missy, Legacy and Ishka) reminding me to take a break from work and go for a walk. It is a precious gift. My commitment to my daily morning practices of meditation, centering and journaling regardless of how busy life gets and the demands placed on me, allow me to notice subtle changes in my being ... and then I have the gift of practicing taiko, learning fue (japanese flute) and playing the piano to get me outside of my head and to immerse myself in awe and beauty and sensations, in the same way my pups invite me to get out of my head ...

So the dream early this morning was an incredible gift to me ... messages sprinkled in the scenes/acts of my dream ... a connection with the spirit world ...i will share pieces of it as there is so much I remember and feel ... too much for a blog post ...

Act I: 

I am in the lower level of the house. In the bedroom. There are others in the room I sense but the strongest presence I feel and also see is a young white male. We jump to another scene intermittently. A room of indigenous and POCs, mostly women. A community gathering. Wanting to organize at a community level to create change for their community. I have been invited to join the community gathering. Shift back to the bedroom. Those in the room are concerned about me taking on too much. I need to say 'no' to this request to join the community gathering. I am representing an organization, a non-profit, and I am taking on too much so i need to say no. In my dream, my gut says no. This is important. I want to be a part of this community gathering, as myself, not as a part of some organization. This young white male is strongly encouraging me to say no .. he says it in a kind, caring way. Then a young woman of color enters the room. She is wearing a headscarf. She is there to understand all I am doing and to help me find balance. She is there to listen and learn. She invites me to join her.

Act II:

I walk from the bedroom and am now standing over a sink of what looks like the home we had in Missouri. I feel the presence of my mother in the house. I had been wearing my mouth guard while I was in the bedroom. I wasn't even aware I had had my mouth guard on. I remove my mouth guard at the sink and rinse it out. Wow ... I notice how different it feels. The young woman with a headscarf invites me to follow her.

Act III:

We are outside standing by this small body of water. The setup is similar to a polar bear exhibit at a zoo. Big rocks along the side with a body of water .. in this case it is not confined or caged. Ishka is with me in the dream. She doesn't like to swim so she is exploring the large rocks on the other side while this young woman of color asks me questions wanting to understand more about all I am doing in my life ... as I share the intersections and themes become very clear ... connecting communities, building bridges .. and she asks me about my practices, my support system ... and as I am sharing about how I my practices, my connections I notice two hound mix dogs swimming underwater towards us. Bliss. Joy. Where did they come from? I realize this small body of water is connected to something much larger. Then I see a large black dog swimming ... a black pyranees type dog .. his big head above the water and he swims towards us. The next to him is another black dog .. a flat-coated retriever type mix who looks just like Mister. I stop talking to this young woman ... my eyes fixated now on this dog that looks just like Mister.  "It can't be!! Is this real? Is this Mister. No, he's dead". This black dog continues to swim towards us and the edge. He jumps out of the water. He comes towards me ... wet black dog filled with so much joy. He is wearing a collar. As he gets closer to me I see a green looney tunes tag .. the names "Legacy" and "Mister" are on it ... then the name Shadow also appears (note: Shadow was a black dog I had who crossed over into the spirit world in 2007 .. Mister joined our family shortly after Shadow died). In my dream I am like this can't be real. Am I really seeing Mister. I am holding him, touching him. I asked the young woman who is with me, "can you see him too?" I ask her to read the name on the tag. I want her to confirm for me that this is real, and that this really is Mister, that I am not imagining it. She nods and confirms, this is real. And in the distance on the rocks where Ishka had been exploring, it is now the energy of Ahnung (who also didn't like to swim). I am holding Mister and just feeling him. I feel his heart beat ... and in the background I see other dogs swimming; the joy . the bliss. 

Then I wake up to Ishka talking.

The messages from this dream are powerful. They leave with me many questions/ponderings I sit with ...

- the importance of listening to my gut, my intuition ... of work in social justice and how privilege can be disguised in the best of intentions
- of how our voice can be stifled, and we aren't even aware of it
- of my role and work in social justice
- of the bridge with the spirit world .. the messages, the signs ...

I cherish the gift of experiencing the place where those of us in the spirit world and those of us still here on earth can come together. I commit to allowing the wisdom and messages from the spirit world to emerge ... and the space and the time, to come to life.

Miigwech Mister ... miigwech Ahnung .... miigwech Shadow ...

and miigwech to all my teachers, 2-legged and 4-legged ...

and Mister, thank you for letting me know you are happy and you are with us.

Friday, July 6, 2018

The beat goes on ... the story of my drum

I got an update from Steve of MN Taiko, maker of my taiko drum:

"The start of your drum story:

The barrel was from the T.W. Boswell Cooperage. They have locations in Napa California and in France. Your barrel came from the French cooperage. I am not sure what winery in the US imported the barrel. I buy them from a local guy who buys used barrels by the truckload. The pictures show the top of the barrel with the cooperage identification. It is from the Cote D' Or Appellation series which means it is certified French oak. I take the hoops off and recut all the staves to make a smaller barrel. One of the pictures shows the newly cut down barrel sitting beside a full size barrel. I have glued all the staves together and am waiting for the glue to cure before I begin sanding the drum. That should happen next week ..."

Steve is right .... this is the start of my drum story ... the changing of an old narrative and story that has previously come with tremendous pain and grief ... the memories of Christmas 1968 in St. Louis, Missouri at Barnes Hospital ... I was 4 years old and spending my days at the hospital with my Papa and remembering the song, Little Drummers Boy playing over and over again ....


I have no gift to bring
Pa rum pum pum pum


Shall I play for you
Pa rum pum pum pum


I played my drum for him
Pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for him
Pa rum pum pum pum,
Rum pum pum pum,
Rum pum pum pum
Then he smiled at me
Pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum


Papa, I play my drum for you.
I play my drum for the 4 year old you have watched over ..

I play because the beat of the taiko drum is the beat of my heart, your heart, our hearts. Alive. Forever connected ....