Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sense of Direction

I have always considered myself “navigationally impaired” and one who always gets lost and needs turn by turn directions. Don’t tell me to head east or west. Tell me turn left or right. Tell me landmarks. This morning as I was doing some research on the North Star as I work on developing more lesson plans for the animal assisted education work that Ahnung and I are doing at The Lab. When Ahnung came into Pet Haven’s foster program after being rescued by Karen Good up at Red Lake reservation, she originally came with the name “Mama.” Karen names dogs she rescues or finds abandoned who are pregnant as Mama until she can come up with a more permanent name. Karen asked me to name my precious girl, who at that time was simply known as “Mama”. At the time I was going through some very difficult painful times emotionally. There was a dark cloud that loomed around me, and a heaviness in my heart from some deep, old childhood trauma. I was struggling to make sense of my roots (being raised in a third world country on the other side of the globe) and to release a childhood secret of sexual abuse by a once trusted family friend – trust violated at such a young age, it was hard for me to trust humans. Something about Mama’s eyes spoke directly to my soul and to the little girl in me. I also sensed defeat in her and exhaustion from her struggles. A week later I told Karen I had a name for “Mama” … I wanted to name her Ahnung (pronounced Ah-NUNG) which means star in ojibway. I wanted Ahnung to always remember, and to be proud, of her roots and of where she came from. I also wanted to name her star because to me, she was my north star. She was the bright light, fixed in the vast night skies, where I would hold onto as I worked through some deep childhood pains. In the same way, I wanted her to know that I would always be there for her and that we would walk together in our journey to learn to trust again. I have come to realize that Ahnung has been my inner compass.

My external sense of direction has been lacking. What Ahnung has taught me is that my internal sense of direction has been strong. I may get lost going from point A to point B because I have spent many years nurturing and watering the seeds inside of me. She is now teaching me to look outward, to notice the stars, the skies, the children … she has built a bridge for me to reach the hurt child in me and to touch the hearts of kids/youth whose hearts have been hurt and who have learned not to trust. Ahnung has been my north star. And now as a registered therapy dog she has become the north star for so many more kids. In group settings at The Lab (where Ahnung and I volunteer) working with EBD youth - in one on one sessions; in classroom presentations --- time and time again I witness transformation through the connection that takes place between Ahnung and the kids. Somehow she just knows what to do and how to create a space where a kid can feel safe … and as she looks into the eyes of a kid, and the kid looks into her eyes, it’s as if I witness the birth of star. She has taught me, and she teaches these kids, that no matter what we have gone through, we can overcome our hurts and until we are able to feel the bright star in our hearts, she will continue to light up the night skies.

Sense of direction? Orientation …. Wanting to belong and to know where we are and where we are going. We have an inherent need to orient our lives and it can be found in the sacred spaces of our roots, our work, our places of worship, our environment. We all want to belong and to feel like we have a sense of place. Is your sense of place outside of you? Inside of you? Or both? And true north? Where is that for you?

I have been blessed with the gift of Ahnung ... she has been my guide and my north star. And now she is sharing her precious gift with so many others. Miigwech Ahnung.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Health update .....

Yesterday I had an endoscopic ultrasound done at Abbott. Originally I was told I was going to have general anesthesia for the procedure. When I got there I was told it would be "conscious sedation" which is what i've had a lot of in recent procedures and excisional biopsies .... I was okay with it until the actual procedure started and they had a lot of difficult getting down my throat what had to go down my throat :) I have trouble swallowing large vitamin pills, let alone a tube (flexible as it might be!!) ;-) I didn't have any trouble with a simple endoscopy. Maybe a wider tube is used for an endoscopic ultrasound .. who knows :) In any case, I was happy when the procedure was over :)

I've been on pancreatic enzymes now for over a month. It has definitely helped with my weight loss coming to a stop and my ability to once again digest fats. I asked my gastroenterologist why I still needed to have the endoscopic ultrasound done since it appears the pancreatic enzymes were working ... He said it was important to see if there was anything else going on with my pancreas. Good news from yesterday: my pancreas looks good. The doctor said that sometimes our pancreas just stops producing enzymes and we never know why. He said it's often related to alcohol ... i told him I don't drink. He said he's seen pancreatic insufficiency with other women who don't drink and they simply can't explain why the pancreas stops producing enzymes. So ... medical diagnosis given: pancreatic insufficiency with unknown etiology.

The following article on pancreatic sufficiency states: "Until a cure for pancreatic insufficiency is found, the goals of medical treatment are to modify behaviours that may exacerbate the natural history of the condition, to enable the pancreas to heal itself, to restore digestion and absorption, and to diagnose and treat endocrine insufficiency." The doctor indicated that pancreatic insufficiency in conjunction with one's inability to digest fats/nutrients can definitely cause weight loss. The article says "Pancreatic insufficiency occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough digestive fluids to break down food. It is a serious condition." I continue to have some other bizarre symptoms but the major symptoms of weight loss and the inability to digest fats are gone now that i've been taking pancreatic enzymes. Hopefully my pancreas will learn in time that it can start producing lipase on its own again.

I have a followup with my gastroenterologist in a couple weeks. Meanwhile, I will continue working with my alternative health care practitioners (naturopath, energy healer and acupuncturist/nutritionist) and I will continue to rely on the best medicine of all .... the slobbery kisses of my dogs, the unwaivering support and love of my partner and my spirituality/relationship with God.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ahnung -- bright star of the night skies

This morning I found myself reflecting back on when Ahnung first came into my life and I went back and read my blog post from 11/21/2008 (re-posted below). From the first time I laid eyes on her I just knew there was something about her ... I can't pin point what it was exactly. Call it gut instinct, a knowing, a feeling. I guess I'm learning that truth and wisdom speak to us, not in words and even tangible things, but often in symbols and signs and "gut instincts."

Ahnung has been instrumental in my own healing ... while volunteering at The Lab of St. Paul Public Schools again yesterday I realized she doesn't have to DO anything. Her presence alone is healing with the kids. Yesterday, we spent time with a young student, "M", who has been afraid of dogs and does not like to touch or pet dogs (yet somehow he is not afraid of Ahnung). As we were sitting in a circle talking/reflecting Ahnung was resting on the outside of the circle perimeter. She gets up and walks toward us. She stands between the "M" and myself with her face towards me. Out of the corner of my eye I see "M' extend his hand and start stroking Ahnung's back. Compassion. Trust. Love. Opening Up. My heart wells up as I realize at that moment the incredible healing way Ahnung has with kids, by simply being present. At the end of the group "M" asks if he can walk Ahnung out to the front of the school where he needs to catch a yellow cab back to school. I say yes and hand "M" Ahnung's orange leash. The smile on his face and the pride I feel in his heart reinforces, once again for me, that special something I saw in Ahnung back in October, 2008. She's an official therapy dog now through Delta Society. Truth is, she's always been a healer. She has also been my best medicine. Ahnung (which means star in Ojibway) has been lighting up the night skies for me, for the kids at The Lab, and for all who step into her circle of healing.

My volunteering at The Lab began with a mentorship experience with a young man "R". The healing I witnessed with the young man and the bond/trust that developed between "R" and Ahnung helped me in my own healing. Ahnung shares more about this incredible experience on her blog.

Re-post of 11/21/2008 blog entry:

Ahnung when I first met her in mid-October; she was nursing her pups.

Early this week I drove up north to Red Lake Rosie's Rescue. This was my second trip to Red Lake. On my first trip back in mid-October I met Ahnung. She had been dumped along with her litter of 8. Karen Good (founder of Red Lake Rosie's Rescue) had temporarily named her Mama. Recognizing that there was a special bond that was created almost instantaneously, she asked me to give her a name. I was honored. I pondered on what to name this gentle spirit. After considerable thought I decided on Ahnung, which means "star" in Ojibway. I wanted a name that would honor her roots and would represent the bright light in the skies of the work that Karen does on behalf of abandoned, abused and neglected animals of the Red Lake reservation. I promised Karen I would return for Ahnung. I drove back early this week. You can read more about our trip on the Red Lake Rosie's blog.

Ahnung the morning we are getting ready to head back to the cities. She had been spending her time in the igloo -- part of the big dog 'clan'. "Grandpa" is one of many shepherds who would hang out with her..

At this moment, I am compelled to write about Ahnung. There are many, many dogs that need our help, that need our compassion, that need for us to be a voice on their behalf. Many have touched my heart and soul -- Ahnung is one of them. We learned a couple weeks ago that she has heartworm. She is being treated for her heartworm and is being monitored at Bloomington Vet (Pet Haven's partner vet). For the next month she needs to be very calm and have minimal activity -- not really a challenge for this mellow, sauntering gal!! :) Since we arrived back in the cities on Tuesday night, I have visited Ahnung at the vet every day. The staff at Bloomington Vet have fallen in love with her -- it's hard not to! The first two days we hung out in a room where she would rest her head on my foot. Then we'd got outside for some fresh air and sunshine and she would saunter at her slow, definitive Ahnung pace -- no rushing this girl! :)

Ahnung resting under my writing desk at the Loft.

And today... well, today is a special day ... the vet gave me the okay to take Ahnung out for a little outing. I lifted her into my Honda Element (yes, all 65+ pounds of this solid girl!) and laid her on a blankie behind the passenger seat. She rested and kept her eye on me the whole way to our special destination... we are now lounging at the Coffee Gallery at The Loft. There is deep spiritual connection I feel with Ahnung. She reminds me of both Shen and Missy. Something about her makes me feel safe, makes me feel grounded.

Ahnung - outing at The Loft .

Ahnung represents more to me than I think I am yet aware of... for now, I hold her close to my heart and promise to care for her, and she for me, as we walk side by side for the next six weeks as she goes through her heartworm treatment. Spending time with her, getting her accustomed to life in the cities... my time with her, is as much about her healing as it is about my own healing.

Thank you Ahnung... thank you Karen for all you do for the animals of Red Lake.

To view photos from my trip up north, visit my flickr site.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


The other night I had a dream where the man with white hair appeared again. This time as an American Indian elder wearing a gold buckskin fringe coat. In my dream was the woman who has previously appeared in my dream saying, "God is always with you. He is always in your heart." And in this dream, she summons the elder and she hands him a white hawk. The elder is summoned to set the hawk free. He sets the hawk free and the hawk soars into the skies with wings spread wide open ... a magnificent sight ... the hawk circles back and lands on a table near the woman and the elder. The hawk appears injured. The hawk takes a deep breath and with one last sigh, surrenders and dies peacefully.

This morning the number "613" kept popping up in my head. I open up my journal from 2006 to my June 13th entry:

"Dreams sprinkle dust of past, present, and future -
in the mixing
sometimes bridges form
sometimes tunnels form
sometimes galaxies form,
but you can't see it from where you stand
it just looks like a cloud of dust
but from a heavenly distance,
you notice, it's the Milky Galaxy

- Marilou Chanrasmi (6/13/06)

Dreams have always spoken to me. They allow me to experience a existence I often find hard to put into words. I have always had vivid dreams. As I lay my head on my pillow at night, I wonder what journey I will embark on. I embrace the night with childlike curiosity.

"In the old days our people had no education. All their wisdom and knowledge came to them from dreams. They tested their dreams and in that way learned their own strength." -Ojibwa Elder (from Honoring our Elders).

"Our dreams are like a guiding light given by the Great Spirit to souls that otherwise would wander in darkness." - American Indian Saying

We are not alone. We are never alone. Even in our darkest moments we are never alone. We recently heard on the news of a Haiti man pulled from the rubbles after 4 weeks. Doctors say he could not survive without water. He tells doctors that a man in a white coat had taken him water as he lay confined under the concrete. Who was that man? Our brains struggle to make factual sense of everything ... is it not possible that there is a God? That there are miracles? Some may say he was hallucinating.

For me, I choose to believe God was with him, bringing him water. I believe God is always with us. Life (and death) often can't be explained ... what's so magnificent about the gift we have of life, is that life truly is a mystery, and life will always be full of questions and surprises and miracles. [click here for the story on the Haiti Quake Survivor].

Photo from Flickr.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Remaining Open

It's been a little over a week now since I returned from my trip to Bloomington, Indiana. The 24 hours I spent there were surreal. Messages and symbols were everywhere. Something was calling me back to Bloomington, Indiana to the small town where it all began and where Mama and Papa met in the 1950s. A red-tail hawk greeted me as I took the exit ramp off of highway 37 onto College Avenue (the Bloomington exit) ... as I left Bloomington the next day, 2 more hawks made their presence known to me. I can still see these 3 hawks so vividly. The number 3 keeps cropping up for me in many different ways. The hawk is symbolic of being a messenger. There's a message I am to receive. The number "613" is symbolic of something ... it's the room I was in at the Hilton Garden in Bloomington, IN ... it was also the license plate on my rental car. I researched the symbolic meaning of "613" and learned that not only is it a prime number but it is the number that the Jews themselves recognize as characteristic of their faith, since it is the Number of Commandments in the Torah. It is also the number of seeds in a pomegranate, a fruit-bearing shrub or tree. The next morning for breakfast, I reached for a tea bag. The only green tea option available (as green tea is my tea of choice in the mornings) was green tea with pomegranate. I never even knew there was such a thing. I just had been reading about pomegranate the night before and its association with the number "613". Pomegranate symbolizes unity or nourishment of the soul. It also represents immortality, resurrection, and as such is a symbol of rebirth and renewal familiar from Greek and Roman art, and may symbolize Christ's Resurrection (from Art History). There are a few painting of Madonna carrying baby Jesus and holding a pomegranate. Pomegranates have a long history in symbolism, religious decoration, and mythology. I find myself being drawn to learn more about pomegranates ... its meaning, its symbolism. Would I have even noticed that the only green tea option was the one with pomegranate if the day before the number 613 cropped up twice ... speaking to me, and beckoning me to research and understand it more?

And the number "3" ... there's a strong spiritual symbolic meaning in 3. It has appeared in my dreams along with this man with white hair ... a recurring dream i've had. Along with the number "3" has been the number "6". It's also the day (January 3rd) that I adopted Ahnung and on January 3, 2010 my Papa for the first time appeared in my dream. And three years ago on a return trip from Cary, NC for work meetings I sat next to a man in first class who looked like the man with white hair in my dream. He sat in 3C (I was in 3D). I fumbled looking for my car keys after we landed in Minneapolis which took me about 10 minutes. The man was long gone by the time I started walking towards the parking garage. I stood waiting for the elevator to take me up to the 6th floor on the red parking ramp of the airport. As the elevator door open, the man was standing there again. The dream I had had about him was one where the elevator was free-falling and he was there "protecting" me. The elevator stopped on the 6th floor in my dream. I got into the elevator ... this was real now, not a dream .... the elevator took me up to the 6th floor. I exited to go to my car. He did too. I turned to the left. He turned to the right. I have since had dreams about this man with white hair. He recently appeared in a dream where I dreamnt about my dear friend Elaine who died from breast cancer last April. He has since appeared two more times. My last dream where I was frantically wanting him to physically appear, a woman's voice said to me "God is always with you. He is always in your heart." And on my return flight back from Indiana to Minnesota, I was automatically upgraded to first class -- and for both legs of my flight (from Indianapolis to Detroit, then Detroit to Minneapolis) I was assigned the seat 3C.

It seems like i've been walking between multiple worlds, or so it feels that way. Is that what it's like when one opens oneself up to messages and signs that are available to all of us?

I felt a strong pull to return to Bloomington, Indiana. Was it a "coincidence" that work led me there? And for a while i've been struggling to deal with the lumps on Ahnung's ears that the doctors can't figure out its cause. The next morning after I returned I checked Ahnung's ears. The lumps are going away. Is that a "coincidence?" There's a deep connection I share with Ahnung .... as I deal with my own health issues, I can feel her trying to help me. Her lumps have been a mystery to the doctors. My health issues have also been a mystery to the doctors. Yes, I will continue to work with doctors on my own health challenges ... something inside of me is screaming to me though to simply trust in God and in to remain open to all that is around me and within me.

There are messages and signs all around us. I feel blessed to have such vivid and real dreams. More than a year before pre-cancer cells were found in my left breast I had a dream I had cancer in my left breast. On January 3rd of this year my dad appeared in my dream wanting to tell me 3 things. I am unable to recall what the first thing was. The second point was to tell me I have pancreatic cancer; and the third point was that there is some kind of bacteria spreading throughout my body. It wasn't a good or bad thing. I wasn't afraid or fearful. Maybe it's real, maybe it's symbolic of something. I don't know. And to be honest, I don't think it matters. For now, all that matters is to remain open to messages and to life. All that matters is what I am able to give today. All that matters is that I am grateful for each and every day.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Red-tail hawk welcomes me to Bloomington

After a 45 minute drive from the Indianapolis airport I arrive at the exit for Bloomington, Indiana - exit 4 off of county road 37 where the sign reads "College Ave / N. Walnut Street". I've been thinking about my father and feeling his presence. As I pull off onto the exit ramp something catches my eye off on the left. I look to my left and while driving 35 mph I catch a glimpse of what looks like a huge bird ... is it a hawk? No, it can't be. I veer to the left and turn my head completely around. I see this magnificent red-tail hawk perched on a power box. Our eyes latch onto each other. His eyes are piercing yet gentle. It's as if I could hear him say "welcome." I desperately want to keep looking at this magnificent bird but turn my head back towards the road to avoid running off the road ... Was the hawk my father communicating with me? I return a couple hours later after checking into my hotel in hopes that I can get a photo of the hawk --- unfortunately the hawk is no longer there.

Last November while my partner and I were up north in Nisswa, Minnesota ... one Sunday morning an eagle appeared. I was struggling health wise and experiencing a lot of pain that weekend. After the eagle appeared I felt a sense of peace and protection. Maybe it was my father back then too ... [i share more on my blog].

Yesterday, I had a rough day physically. New symptoms have cropped up and fatigue continues ... by 7 pm last night I was in bed. Part of me was thinking it may not be wise to travel with how i'm feeling physically, but something in my gut has been telling me I need to come to Bloomington, Indiana. I am here now in the place where my mom and dad met, fell in love, and got married. I feel their energy. I spoke to my mom before I left Minnesota this morning to let her know I was coming here. I told her I would visit the church where they got married. I did. St. Charles Borromeo church on E. Third Street. She said it's the only Catholic church. It was back in 1960. Today there are two Catholic churches. As I knelt down in church I could feel my father's presence. My mom's health is deteriorating. She is getting weaker and desperately wants to come back to the States. My health is also not the greatest. Doctor's can't seem to figure out what's going on with me. I have a conversation with my father in church, "Papa, I know you have been trying to communicate with me. I know you are trying to tell me something. I am here now. And whatever it is you need for me to know, I am ready."

A friend and my partner both tell me that the hawk is a messenger. Searching online, I find that hawks and eagles are messengers and bearers of the gods. From this site, I find: "Eagle and hawk symbolism is also associated with death, for the birds often act as the bearers of souls "heavenward." This is true of the hawk in California Indian religions as well as in the religious system of ancient Egypt, where the hawk was itself the emblem of the soul. In ancient Rome an eagle was released from an emperor's funeral pyre to signify the soul departing for the afterlife.:

There's a reason why I have been called here .... there's a reason why the hawk appeared to me as I was arriving in Bloomington. There's a reason why i'm in room 613 and the numbers on the license plate of my rental car are also 613. I believe my father called me here. I trust the answers will come when the time is right ... whenever that is.

For now, as I turn in for the night ... I will smile knowing that I am here, in Bloomington, Indiana, where it all began back in the late 1950s for Mama and Papa.

Red tail hawk photo from Flickr.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Returning to where it all began ....

I've been working for SAS now for almost 9 years. I have done a tremendous amount of traveling in that time. But in that entire time, my travels have never taken me to Indiana, let alone Bloomington, Indiana. Interestingly, about a month ago a colleague of mine asked if I would be willing to assist her in teaching a workshop at Indiana University. The workshops will be in the Indianapolis campus, but I will first be going to the Bloomington campus for a meeting. I leave tomorrow for Bloomington, Indiana. It was in the late '50s when my mom and dad met there. My mom went to IU for her Master's in Education - she traveled from the Philippines. My dad went to IU for his Master's in Optometry - he traveled from Thailand. Both traveled half way across the world, and in the small town of Bloomington, Indiana, they met, fell in love, and got married.

Papa has been communicating with me quite a bit lately. He appeared to me in a dream on January 3rd. The diamond heart (the necklace he gave to my mom when they were dating) mysteriously came loose from the chain 2 days after he visited me in my dreams. My mom has also been appearing a lot in my dream ... often as a younger woman. And last night I went to bed at 8:30 (fatigue hitting me again) and at 9 pm as I was just about to fall asleep the phone rings. My partner is unable to get to the phone in time to answer it. She says "it's probably your mom." I get out of bed to check caller id. Caller ID shows that it's Indiana University. When I saw "IN University" on the caller ID, I felt Papa's presence. Indiana University has never called me. They would have no reason to call me. I don't even know how they would have my home number. I've gotten calls from Washington University and University of Missouri - St. Louis as I'm an alum ... but Indiana University, never. So why last night? How did they get my number?

There's a reason why I have been asked to go to Indiana University by work ... the first time in almost 9 years. It's probably also not a coincidence that Indiana University called me last night. I feel like i'm being called to visit the place where it all began back in the last 1950s when Mama and Papa met. My path is leading me back to Bloomington, Indiana ... I not sure exactly why except that I know that as I stand on the ground of Indiana University, I will feel an incredible sense of peace and love knowing that this is where it began. I get this feeling that Papa is trying to tell me that Mama will be joining him soon. Mama's words to me vibrate in my heart, "I am ready to be with your Papa." Since December 20th, 1968 my mother has continued to love my father with all her heart. Death could not even separate them. I know that when the time comes for her to join Papa, that I know in her heart, she will feel like she is finally home ... and in the arms of the love of her life.