Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fall ... vibrant colors ... preparing to rest

Ishka (October, 2017)
The weather these past couple days here in Minnesota have been absolutely gorgeous. Fall colors. Vibrant. I have been going on hikes with Ishka. She has been amazing medicine for me on so many levels. My hikes with her give me a chance to connect with my spirit girl Ahnung. I always feel her presence strongly when I am hiking with Ishka. It also seems like Ishka draws the deer out from the woods, as yesterday we had many deer sightings. When Ishka pauses and looks into the woods I know there must be deer looking at us. She makes no attempt to go after them. They just gaze at each other. 

Ishka as a puppy (October, 2013)
I have been asking Ahnung to watch over Mister. To guide us in this final ride; to keep him as pain free as possible; to let me know when it is time to set his spirit free. It has been beautiful to watch how Ishka has been purposefully seeking to lay next to Mister. It's not something she has done on a regular basis (unlike how Mister and his sister Missy have been bonded for a decade). It's behavior out of the norm for Ishka and it has been happening with consistency .. in the mornings during meditation, and at bedtime. Mister's spirit have still been high; his appetite strong, and he still has that sparkle in his eye. His body, however, is struggling more. The cancer is spreading. Yesterday we added gabapentin to his pain meds and tomorrow he will have acupuncture again. As I hiked in the woods yesterday with Ishka I was thinking about how much I love fall. It is my favorite season. I love the sound of leaves rustling under my feet (and Ishka's paws). I love the vibrant colors. I love the smell of autumn. 
Mister and Ishka

Yesterday I was reflecting on the vibrant colors, and how soon, all the trees will be bare ... the leaves piled up ... soon, it will be winter, a time for hibernation for some animals, like squirrels. For the past couple months I have been watching the squirrels in our front yard gather walnuts from our tree and carrying them away to prepare for winter. I was reflecting on how Mister is doing the same. His spirits are still vibrant, like fall leaves ... yet I know, it won't be long, before it will also be time for my boy to rest. This time I know his rest will be a long, long rest. I know we all will have to rest some time; that we all will also leave this earth, this beautiful planet; that our spirits will be set free. Trees and animals don't resist the seasons. When an apple is ripe it simply falls from a tree -- it is time. Mister's time is coming. I know that. I honor that. It doesn't stop the hurt or the pain. Because I will miss him, and all his goofy ways of greeting me with a 'present' in his mouth (shoes, dog beds, blankets, if i am lucky, some times dog toys!) .. i will miss how he follows me around everywhere, from room to room; i will miss how he sleeps sprawled on his back, often partially on a bed, or comfortably on a coffee table; i will miss his joyful way of being ... I will miss having him keep me company in my morning meditations ...

And as my mind wandered in meditation this morning, I would tell myself to acknowledge the wandering, the worry and to simply return to the present moment. Some days, it is hard. This morning was one of those days -- my mind moved ahead, thinking of Mister ... moving to a place of grief and sadness. And then I heard Ahnung remind me to return to now, to this moment, that the greatest gift I can give to Mister is to be here, right now, with him. So with a deep breath, I returned to the moment, and i kept doing that over and over again.

I am grateful this morning for another day with Mister ... and to have him Mister, Ishka, Missy and Legacy keeping me company in meditation this morning.






Sunday, October 15, 2017

Mister reunites with his rescuer Donna

Mister reunites with Donna
In spring of 2007 Mister was one of 3 puppies found in a ditch in Spencer, Iowa. He was rescued by Donna Erickson of People For Pets in Spencer, IA. In July, 2007 Mister found his way into my home as a 'foster' .... well, as many know, that didn't work so well. I fell in love with the goofy boy and adopted him :). I've been connected with Donna on Facebook since then and she has followed Mister's adventures, antics, goofiness and life for the past decade. When Mister's diagnosis of bone cancer was confirmed last week and that it has metastasized i just knew Mister needed to take a final road trip to visit with his original rescuer Donna, and to see the shelter that gave him a second chance and the reason why he has blessed me this past decade. I am sooo grateful to Donna and People for Pets for giving this sweet gentle boy a second chance.

Donna also graciously made arrangement with Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center in Okoboji, Iowa for a complimentary room with a wonderful view for Mister.  Many thanks to Donna and to Arrowwood Resort for this gift ... Mister's final ride and adventure back home to Iowa!!!
My heart melted as i witnessed Mister and Donna reunite after 10 years.  It was Love. Pure Love.

Mister slept well last night in our hotel. He snarfed his breakfast down and we went for a short early morning walk. The stars were shining brightly. I am so grateful to have this chance to take this road trip with Mister. My partner's parents also live here so she is able to also spend time with them. Probably not another coincidence that the place where Mister was originally from, is the place where my partner's parents have chosen to retire.

As I write this blog post this morning, my sweet boy is taking a post breakfast nap :).



Thursday, October 12, 2017

It's a roller coaster ride, this final walk!

From flickr: Photo by George Bryan
Last night as I went to sleep I reflected on the day, on how Mister has been doing as we walk this Final Walk. Somehow I have been imagining a peaceful final walk ... open fields, breathtaking landscapes ... rainbows interspersed with a glowing sunrise over the horizon. Yesterday as I laid in bed watching Mister sleep I reflected on the day .... how he was doing great most of the day: even putting some pressure on his front paw; snarfing his food down; wagging his tail; looking at me with those sweet eyes ...and then in the evening for about an hour things shifted. He didn't even attempt to follow me downstairs when I went to take a shower. When I came back up he was in the exact same position on the dog bed in the office. His eyes did not have the sparkle in them and when I tried to encourage him to move a little so I could help him up, he didn't budge. He looked at me with eyes that said I can't.

My heart got heavy. My heart hurt to see my boy in pain. My heart began to prepare itself .... then I got a call i had to take to help a resident of a tribal community I am working with here in Minneapolis. Her cat was very sick and i was exploring options for her so she could get care for her cat. While I was on the phone with her, Mister got up, came up to me, tail wagging like crazy .. then he went into the kitchen and grabbed the hand towel off the stove. He was gleefully carrying the towel around like he had struck gold, or found a bag of dog food stashed in a closet! When I got off the phone I tried to get Mister to give me the towel. Umm, no such luck he was giving up his prize item!! :) He thought it was time to play tug! So instead, we played tugged! In an instant, my heart moved from this heaviness to an incredible lightness. The space around me went from darkness to light. And the Joy I could feel from Mister moved right into my being ... there may be cancer cells in his body, but boy, he is going to make them dance in Mister style for as long as he is able!!

I will continue to hold in my heart the image of a peaceful, final walk ... it helps me. It grounds me and keeps my heart open for this inevitable transition from physical to spiritual. But truth is, this final walk is not peaceful. This final walk is more like a rollercoaster ride; like climbing a mountain then free falling; like surfing and riding the waves then getting sucked under the water and feeling water in your lungs as you struggle to breathe .. This final walk with Mister is going to be a ride, not a walk. This Final Ride is going to be filled with lots of bumps and pot holes and Mister is going to take me for the ride of my life .... sweet boy, I am ready. I will free fall with you as many times as you need me to, and I will get back up ... this is your ride sweet boy. You get to lead. You get to be the Pilot.

Mister - Winter 2011
For you Mister, we take this Final Ride together ... We ride the waves in grand Mister style until you tell me Stop!! Or I take over briefly as your co-pilot. This is your show Mister, your grand finale!

This morning, I am grateful the twinkle is back in your eyes. I am grateful to have you keep me company in morning meditation and writing. And I am ready for whatever ride you want us to go on today!!
Mister (and Ishka) this morning



Mister - dog park 2011

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Final Walks. Death. Perspective. Choice.

Over the decades I have had to say goodbye to many beloved canine companions. My very first dog (Splat) was a black cocker spaniel who wiggled her way onto my lap as an 8 week old puppy in 1988. She is the reason I am sober today. In July, 2000 shortly after I had moved to Minnesota she was taken from me suddenly from what I don't know for sure, but believe was a hate crime. She was found lifeless under a tree with blood on her collar and neck from what appeared to be a bebe gun shot. My other dog Shen had blood on her chest ... she would often wake Splat up by getting down to her level and pushing her chest against her. I wasn't prepared. I didn't have time to say goodbye. My Papa died when I had just turned 4. I don't think I really understood or knew what death was at that time. I never learned as a child how to properly grieve; how to honor my emotions, my sadness, my pain .. to cry; how to move through loss.

On Papa's birthday (September 14, 2009) my beloved Shen was diagnosed with spleen cancer. It came on suddenly ... or maybe I just hadn't seen the signs. I wasn't ready to say goodbye. Despite the veterinarians at the University of Minnesota trying to tell me in as gentle a way as possible, that surgery wouldn't give her much time, that it was palliative, and not the best choice for Shen, I couldn't let go. I chose surgery. While Shen was in surgery they confirmed the cancer had spread. She needed a blood transfusion .. I told them to do the transfusion. The cancer had spread everywhere. She needed another transfusion. I wasn't ready but I knew I had to let go. Shen's death sent me down a spiral of pain and a dark hole. My other dog Shadow was lost without Shen. They were so bonded. The pain of losing Shen is what got me to search for a way to give back. I found my way into the world of animal welfare in Minnesota, and began volunteering and getting heavily involved.

In June, 2007 ... just 10 months after Shen died, Shadow started losing weight. We soon learned he had intestinal cancer. This time I made a different choice. I would honor and celebrate and keep Shadow as comfortable as possible for his final days. We had 3 weeks with our Shadow; we had 3 weeks to say goodbye, and then one morning, in early July, he laid by the stone in our backyard where Shen's ashes had been spread, and he let us know it was time. It was time for Shadow to go be with his sister Shen.

My volunteer work in animal welfare brought me amazing pups ... Missy in 2006, Mister in 2007, Ahnung in 2008 and Ishka in 2013 (well, Ahnung brought me Ishka!). Less than 3 years after my now spirit dog Ahnung came to me we learned she had mammary cancer. On August 25, 2013 (longer than her vets thought she would survive) she crossed over into the spirit world. My Final Walk with Ahnung taught me so much. We had almost 2 years to walk this final path; to become friends with Grief and Anticipatory Grief; to explore unchartered territory and to not be afraid to enter the darkest places of pain and loss ... and with Ahnung guiding me, I learned that there is way to walk and Be with a beloved in ways beyond the physical realm. Ahnung taught me to embrace life and love in a way I never knew how ... to open up my heart completely knowing it would be shattered into pieces, and that with every heart break, my heart would open up even more.
Mister getting acupuncture

And so now as we once again walk a Final Walk with my beloved Mister I find myself able to approach this journey in a way that feels different from my first encounter with Cancer when I lost Shen. I am able to Be here for Mister with my heart wide open. I am able to cry because I am sad and because I will miss my sweet boy. But I am able to also celebrate him and all his antics and goofy ways .. and I am able to really listen to him and see him. I have regretted the decision I made to put Shen through surgery in 2006. It wasn't about Shen; it was about my inability to deal with the pain of losing her. Today, I know Shen forgives me ... it has been part of my journey to learn. Through that loss, I was able to honor Shadow's final walk with the grace and dignity he wanted, and deserved.

Thank you Ahnung (and Shen) for the lessons you taught me about loss, grief, loving ... and Living, while we are here on earth, and also when one's spirit has transitioned.

Mister getting some love after acupuncture
I celebrate Mister. I celebrate his life, his joy, his antics, his anxiety, his ability to sleep and relax like no other dog!!! I find it amazing how much life and spirit this boy has when it is clear cancer has spread throughout his body. Dogs are truly amazing .... I have the honor of being his guardian for his time on earth. I cherish that role, And in this role, and with his guidance, we will live life fully and in whatever way he wants as we run for that finish line. Because sweet Mister, when you cross over that finish line you are crossing over to another world, and you will be free of any physical pain, and you will be with Ahnung and Shen and Shadow and Splat and Pipey, and all the other beautiful beings who have transitioned.

I learned how to be friends with Grief. To invite Grief into my home.

Today, I am learning to be friends with Cancer. To invite Cancer in; to sit with her; to offer her tea.

Dear Cancer, you have come many times before. I honor you and I see you. I know the time will come when you will take my beloved Mister with you. I thank you for the kindness you are showing to my boy right now. In the same way you showed kindness to Ahnung and she did not experience much pain, I ask you to please offer the same to Mister. And when it is time for him to go, please have him let me know with a clear sign.

I am grateful for another day with Mister. I am grateful he is still full of life and his spirit is high. I am grateful he still attempts to follow me around everywhere, begs for food, perks up for treats, and tries to carry shoes outside. I am grateful for the amazing support we have, and for his siblings watching over him.

Mister and Missy


Mister and Ishka
Shen

Splat and Shen

Shadow
Ahnung's Celebration of Life


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Listening. Connection. Signs.

Yesterday I took Mister in to my vet for chest X-rays. His lungs were covered with nodules. We had one last thread of hope to hang onto. We had sent out to a lab to see if he has a fungal disease blastomycese which could possibly be the cause for his bone degeneration and the nodules in the lungs. If the test came back negative for blasto my vet said, we can assume the nodules appearing in his chest X-ray is cancer and that his cancer has metastasized. Last night, I got the call from my vet. He was negative for blasto. The tests now confirmed what my gut has been telling me for about 6 weeks now. I was in
my car driving to Walgreens to pick up Mister's prescription for his pain meds when I got the call. My vet was kind, gentle, compassionate. I thanked him for his kindness and for the way he is in walking with us through this painful final walk. When I got off the phone, I could feel a tightness in my chest. And then the tears started to fall. My heart, once again, was feeling like it was being ripped apart. I could hear Ahnung .... I could feel Ahnung. Her presence helped me stay with the hurt, the pain, the grief.

Ahnung, and my Papa, have been my guides. I have had some significant health issues since 2009. I have learned to listen to my Papa  ... he has sent angels to watch over me and he has communicated with me through dreams. Ahnung came into my life at the end of 2008 when my health issues were just beginning ... the first of them was my pancreas. My journals and my blog have been a gift for me to return to .... It is my belief I am alive today because of Ahnung and my Papa. A dream I had in 2009 that I had cancer in my left breast is what alerted me to see my doctor, which then led me down a path of 7 surgeries to remove areas in my breast that contained atypical ductal hyperplasia and borderline DCIS. I have had more tests and procedures between 2009 and 2015; i have had doctors look at me with perplexed looks not knowing how to explain what was going on with me; i have had doctors in recent years not be able to explain how my body was not showing anymore abnormalities in tests, and how they just 'disappeared'.

In January, 2010 I was struggling with my health. I was losing weight and my pancreas had stopped producing lipase and doctors (both here in the cities and at Mayo) couldn't figure out what was going on. In January Ahnung had developed this weird looking growth on her ear. My vet said he had never seen anything like it. He sent me off to a veterinary dermatologist. A biopsy was done to remove it. A neighbor at that time was also an acupuncturist and she asked me if I could put words to what was going on in my body ... and I remember saying to her, "all i can say, is that it feels like the cells in my body are dying." The next day, I met with the vet/surgeon to go over the results of Ahnung's biopsy. She looked at me and said, I can't explain what it is. I have never seen anything like it. It could be some kind of immune disease. In looking at the cells all I can say is that she has cells that are dying." I chose not to put Ahnung on steroid treatment. In about 6 weeks the cauliflower looking growth on her ear just went away. My pancreas also began to produce lipase and I no longer needed to take the enzyme. During that time, I also distinctly remember a dream I had on Jan. 3, 2010. It was a dream where my Papa appeared. From my 1/3/2010 journal entry: "I woke up in the middle of the night to a dream where I was told I had pancreatic cancer. It was Papa speaking to me. I remember 3 levels of cancer or 3 areas where I had a tumor. The second area was a more aggressive cancer. I can sense the 3 levels in my head, and that they make up words. I just can't make them out right now .. i wish I could remember where the tumors are. The first two areas were tumors. The third was more of something like a virus or bacteria that then grew into a tumor or became a lump, and was spreading throughout my body ..."

Last Thursday (the same day I took Mister in to the vet and the reality that he may have bone cancer was revealed through X-rays) I also started to develop new symptoms. I have been doing great physically for the past couple years. My breast MRIs and my heart tests have been 'normal'. My surgeon and my cardiologist have been surprised at how great I have been doing, but very happy for me. My cardiologist (who I saw last October 2016) told me he didn't want to see me for 2 years unless I had new symptoms. I saw my surgeon last Wednesday, in fact. Normal physical exam and normal mammogram. I asked her if I could relax about this breast cancer stuff :). She responded to me, I can't explain how your recent tests have been all normal, but you are still at very high risk of getting breast cancer. We need to keep monitoring you closely. You haven't had an MRI since 2015 so I agreed to have another MRI in 6 months.

So as this final walk with my beloved Mister has begun, it is interesting I have also developed new symptoms. Since last Thursday I have had this rash over my heart. It doesn't itch. I kept thinking it would just go away. It hasn't. And over the weekend it started to feel like it was burning. And my joints started to hurt, but it was just my right side. My gut was telling me something is going on, but I didn't want to listen. I wanted to be able to focus my energy on Mister. Yet I kept hear Ahnung speak to me. Yesterday, after dropping Mister off at the vet, I went to see my doctor. My doctor (my regular doctor wasn't working yesterday, so I saw a different doctor) looked at it and had this very perplexed look. She said she hasn't seen anything like it. She first thought it might be shingles but then she said I don't know. She asked if it was alright for her to have some colleagues (other doctors) come to take a look. So, once again, I have stumped doctors. The other doctors were also stumped. Since I have heart problems they went ahead and did an EKG which was normal. Even though they don't really know what it is, and the rash doesn't look like a typical shingles rash and I am not having the typical symptoms, they are treating it as suspected shingles, so I am on anti viral medicine. I go in Thursday for a complete lab work and will see my regular doctor on Friday. Once again, I am having this feeling like there is something going on at a cellular level. I can't explain it. I just know something is going on in my body.

I believe my Papa has sent me angels in the bodies of furry four legged dogs. Mister has come into my life to bring Joy. He makes me laugh; he makes me smile; he is my goofy boy who lives life fully each and every day. Is it another coincidence new health issues have surfaced right when I learn Mister has bone cancer? My gut says no. My gut says, there is a reason all of this is happening. I don't know why but I know I have to trust this journey. I have to trust my Papa. I have to trust Ahnung. I also know I am committed to being here for Mister and ensuring whatever time he has left on this precious Earth will be filled with joy ..... I also know I must listen to what my body is telling me and to not ignore them. In meditation this morning, my dream from 1/3/10 kept appearing ... I could hear my Papa's voice once again telling me there is a virus (or bacteria) spreading throughout my body ... This morning in meditation the image of my Papa telling my mom on the afternoon he died, "The light. The light. The beautiful light ..." ... and I imagine an amazing peace on my Papa's face. Today, I see the light appearing in the distance. I see Mister prancing in an open field ... the light is off in the distant right now. I know the light will come closer .. and when I see Mister's gaze move towards the light, I will know that it is time. And Mister, when that time comes, I will run with you across the fields towards the light. On the other side of the light, will be my Papa, Ahnung, Shen, Shadow, Pipey.

Today, I promise to be here for you sweet boy. Today, I promise to also listen to my own body. Today, I pray for another sunset with you.





Monday, October 9, 2017

Fall. Grief. Cycle of Life. Winter.

Ishkode - Oct, 2013
This morning I found myself thinking about seasons. How the leaves are changing colors. We were up north this past weekend for a short trip. My partner and I visited Lake Bemidji State Park. On our drive up I was noticing the vibrant colors. I love fall. It is also a bittersweet time for me, as it was fall (October) of 2008 when I first met my spirit dog Ahnung up at Red Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. It was October, 2013 when I returned up to Leech Lake for the first time after the passing of Ahnung, and when she let me to my Ishkode.

How is it one's heart can be so full and so empty at the same time? How is it one's heart and one's body can hold memories like they were just yesterday? How is it the sadness of today can trigger and bring up so much from years ago? Today, I am sad as I watch my boy 11 year boy Mister struggle with pain. Yet he still has sparkle in his eyes and a wag in his tail that is exuberant and full of life. I trust he will let me know when it is time.

Mister - Oct 2017


I remember when he first arrived into my home in July, 2007. He was a little bundle of energetic puppy. He had some serious separation anxiety and I learned, he always needed to be with someone, or a companion. So he and his sister, Missy, became so bonded. He was my running buddy when I trained for my first Twin Cities marathon.

Today, Grief visits me again. Anticipatory Grief. Once again, preparing myself for our Final Walk. In 2006, I lost my beloved Shen to spleen cancer. It took her suddenly (on my Papa's birthday). I wasn't prepared. Then Shadow who was so bonded with Shen, followed her, and he was gone 7 months later -- intestinal cancer. Then in 2011 I learned Ahnung had mammary cancer. The journey of preparing for this final walk began. I also got diagnosed that year with a rare heart condition, left ventricular non compaction. Together we walked what was going to be a final walk, and we didn't know if that final walk was for Ahnung, or for me, or for both of us. In 2012 Ahnung developed another rare cancer, and then on Aug. 25, 2013 I held her as her spirit was set free. Ahnung taught me to become friends with Grief. To invite Anticipatory Grief into my home. To sit with her, to have tea, to honor what is a natural part of the cycle of life. To embrace the pain and to honor the sharp edges of loss, of grief, of losing a being you love with all your heart, that it feels like you can't breathe anymore. After Ahnung died, there were times I didn't think I could breathe, that I could go on .. yet, I knew she was with me, holding me up even though I couldn't see her, touch her, or feel her. Ahnung guided me, taught me, to BE with her in a new say.

And so, as we begin this final journey with my boy Mister, I have asked her to once again walk with me ... to walk with Mister ... to guide us.

Dear Grief, you are once again knocking on my door.

I will once again invite you in ... to sit by the fire, to have a cup of tea.

And today you come with Ahnung ... with Shen, Shadow and my partner's beloved dog, Piper.

I ask you to surround us with Love, Wisdom, Courage, Comfort.

I ask you to give me the strength to honor and hold Mister up, and to make decisions and choices that will honor his spirit and the life inside of him I know will never end ... I ask you to guide me, and when the times comes, to hold my boy, and to set his spirit free from a body that is asking to rest, to hibernate, to move from Fall to Winter.

Until then, I will celebrate this innocence, goofiness, joyful nature of a beautiful rescued pup, who came to me in July 2007. And i thank his original rescuer Donna, from People for Pets in Spencer, Iowa for taking him.

We are planning a road trip this weekend to visit his original rescuer and the shelter that took him after he was found in a ditch in rural Iowa with two of his siblings. Thank you Donna for being his angel and for trusting me to be his companion for his time on Earth.

And thank you Mister (and Missy) for being my companions every morning in meditation.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

One day at a time ... Living life fully, Mister style!!!

Mister in 2009 :) ..running buddy!
For the past 6 weeks or so Mister has been limping (his left front leg). I gave it a few days to see if it would go away. It didn't so I brought him in to see the vet. They took X-rays and checked him out and didn't find anything. The vet thought it was probably a ligament or tendon he stretched or sprained. He got some pain meds (rimadyl) and I was instructed to try to keep him resting (which can be a challenge for this energetic/active boy!). He continued to limp. Something in my gut was telling me it wasn't a sprain ... I was hoping my gut was wrong. I was back at the vet for my other dog Missy (getting her platelets re-checked as she has immune mediated thrombocytopenia and we need to closely monitor her platelets). Missy's platelets were in the normal range and I told the vet (a different vet at the clinic) that i wasn't worried about Missy at this point. I was more concerned about Mister.  Even though X-rays didn't show anything something in my gut was telling me there was something else going on. I told him he was still limping. The lameness felt like there was something going on with his entire body. Something was very different. He was still a very happy go lucky boy, and his tail was wagging and he somehow figured out ways to compensate and get around, but he was clearly in pain and wouldn't put weight on his left front leg. I asked if it could be cancer. He explained a case with another dog where it turned out there was a mass pushing on his nerve and it did turn out to be cancer. He validated my gut instincts and recommended I bring him back in to get checked. I brought Mister back in on Thursday, 10/5. Mister was clearly still limping ... tail wagging vigorously though and being his usual upbeat, give me attention sweet boy :). My vet took more X-rays. Upon physical exam he pointed out how Mister's left scapula was larger than his right scapula. There was also muscle deterioration. We went over the X-rays together and he was concerned with what he saw and told me he was concerned it was one of two things ... bone disease caused by a fungus blastomyces or bone cancer (osteosarcoma). He wanted to send the X-rays off for a radiologist to review. Yesterday the call came from my vet. The radiologist confirmed what he thought. He sent a urine sample he had collected from Mister on Thursday off to check if it was blastomycosis. He suspects it isn't but wants to confirm. My gut tells me it is cancer. When he called yesterday to share the heart breaking news, he said to me, you were right. Your gut was right. Tomorrow (Monday) I will bring him for more X-rays (chest). We are going to see if the cancer has metastasized. My vet shared with me that this is an aggressive and painful cancer. Since last Thursday I have noticed a new mass on the left side of his chest by his left front leg. He has had a fatty cyst in that area for a while. This is a new lump, and it is a solid mass. My gut tells me it is a cancerous mass.

This morning I am reflecting on all the sweet memories this boy has given me .... from napping on coffee tables to 'eating' my work cell phone to going after a squirrel while we were running and I was training for my first marathon. I went head first into the concrete and when i was home icing it he was looking at me with these sad eyes ... I am sorry mom :).

I know we are embarking on a journey now ... another final walk. I have been asking Ahnung to guide us, to watch over Mister, to help us navigate these next days ...

I promise to listen to you Mister. To make whatever time you have left on this precious earth one filled with joy.

One day at a time sweet boy. We walk this together. We walk this till the very end. And when the time comes for you to cross over to the spirit world, Ahnung will be there to greet you. But until then, we do exactly what you have done for 11 years ... Live life fully with joy, each and every day!





 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The paths we walk

Last night i hiked 6 miles with my pup Ishka. Every day I walk. It is a part of my daily practice of staying grounded, connected and keeping my heart open. It is also a time for me to exercise my energetic little girl, Ishka (Ishkode, means 'fire' in ojibwe) who is my bridge to Ahnung. It was 4 years ago, not long after the passing of my spirit dog Ahnung, when she led me to this adorable little puppy who was a surrender at a Leech Lake Legacy spay/neuter clinic up at Leech Lake Reservation. I did NOT want a dog to replace Ahnung and I especially did NOT want a puppy. Yet the signs continued to come from Ahnung that I was meant to adopt this 8-9 week old puppy. I share more about this in my October 16, 2013 blog post, "Ahnung's gift to me ... Ishkode (means 'fire' in ojibway).

It has been four years. If you asked me back then where my life was going to be, I can honestly say I don't think I would have thought it would be what it is today. It has been a journey. Many paths and doors have opened up; many have closed .. i continue to listen to Ahnung, to her guidance. She speaks to me. Sometimes it is her energy I sense guiding me; sometimes it is through Ishkode; sometimes it is through my partner Joannie; sometimes it is through the squirrels, eagles, hawks .... or my other pups (Legacy, Missy or Mister) ... sometimes it is through my partner's beloved soul dog Piper who is now with Ahnung.

Last weekend my partner and I painted rocks. She learned on a recent trip to Colorado ..."If you find a word rock, pick it up, drink in the sentiment, and place it somewhere else for another to enjoy!! Spread the love!!" So last weekend we painted rocks. One of the rocks had the word 'Fire' on one side (for Ishka) and the other side had 'Passion'. So last night Ishka was very helpful in picking a spot to place the rock along the trails at a park we hiked.

Earlier this week I have placed two other rocks at different parks. I have gone back to one of the parks to see if the rock has been moved. It has. I am hoping the word 'Be' which was painted on the rock gave someone a moment of calm as they took in a breath of fresh air and welcomed the opportunity to just 'Be'.

I am grateful to live in a state where there are so many amazing parks with miles and miles of trails. I recently took a women's intro to navigation and compass basics class .... I will always have my north star, my Ahnung, my true North ... She will always be my internal compass. Now I am moved to learn more about navigating the world externally, and noticing the relationships and connections to my inner landscape. There is deep connection between the outer landscape and our inner landscape. The more we allow ourselves to explore and learn about our inner landscape with curiosity, we open up our eyes to see the outer world with a new lens and a new perspective.

Today I am reflecting on paths and trails. In the past months I have been drawn to explore and learn more about new trails and parks. This morning I realized, I am doing the same with my internal landscape. I am exploring my inner landscape in new ways, and opening myself up to new possibilities and paths and trails.

I don't know where I will be in another 4 years. I don't even know where I will be tomorrow. My commitment is to staying open to listening, so when new paths/trails emerge I can see them. And when it is time to leave a path or trail I have been walking that I will just know it is time. What I have learned over the decades is the importance of a daily practice to keep me grounded and centered. I have my daily practice ... some have changed over the years but meditation and writing have been my constant.

Dear sweet Ahnung, you may no longer be by my side physically, yet you still walk with me, and you will always be by my side. Miigwech for the gift of Ishkode, who walks with me physically.




Saturday, September 30, 2017

Rituals. Practice. Healing.

Every morning I have a ritual. I wake up and let the pups out, any time between 4:30 and 5:30 most mornings. I step outside into the backyard with them. This morning it was a cool fall morning. It was dark until the light off of my garage lit up sensing my motion. I take deep breaths outside and look up into the skies. I thank God, my Papa, my Ahnung, for another day.

I feed the pups breakfast. I make myself some coffee. While coffee is brewing I lay down on the exercise mat in the front room (now converted into an wellness/workout room) and i measure my HRV (heart rate variability ... the following is a link that shares more info on HRV: http://www.health.com/heart-disease/heart-rate-variability). I have been measuring/tracking my HRV now for about a month and a half. My friend and colleague who is also a personal trainer opened my eyes up to HRV as a way to deepen my health and wellness .. it has been a wonderful tool in my journey to notice more around me and within me, and to notice how my body holds my stories and responds in certain conditioned ways ... (more about HRV and the vagus nerve on a future post!).

After measuring my HRV I enter my meditation/writing room. Typically two of my pups (Mister and Missy) are the ones who follow me into the meditation room ... well, they actually follow me everywhere! I light incense and I situate myself comfortably on my meditation cushion. I sit. I breathe. I notice thoughts fill up my mind. I let them go. I breathe. I notice thoughts. I let them go. I breathe .... over and over. Meditation is as essential and life giving for me as water is.

After meditation, I once again thank God, thank Buddha, thank Papa, Ahnung and all beings for the gift of life and another day.

Then I write. I journal. Some times i sketch and draw in my journal. As Julia Cameron (The Artist's Way) calls them, they are my morning pages. I write for as long as I feel called to do so. Sometimes it is 10 minutes, sometimes an hour, or even two.

And now I have added the following .. I return to the front room. Set aside the exercise mat. Pick up my jo (an aikido practice i learned while in my training in California earlier this month) and after stating my declaration, i practice the first 18 forms of the 31 jo kata movements (some day I will learn the remaining forms!) ...

I then practice ukemi .. the art of falling/surrendering.

Then I make myself breakfast ... scrambled eggs with spinach, mushroom and broccoli ... half an ezekiel muffin with almond butter and a small bowl of strawberries and raspberries.

Ritual. Practice. Prayer.

Meditation. Writing/Journaling. Intention (through jo kata and ukemi). Nourishment.

I go to bed early and I wake up early. That is the rhythm of my body. My early mornings are sacred. They are my water, my air, my fire, my earth. It is a Way I have learned to walk with the guidance of my Ahnung. And it is forever evolving as she teaches me to keep listening and noticing.

Daily practice. Daily ritual. Daily prayer.

What is your daily practice?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Center

 Enso - Zen Circle
This morning I find myself reflecting on the word 'Center'. One of Merriam Webster's definition for center is "a point, area, person, or thing that is most important or pivotal in relation to an indicated activity, interest, or condition ... a source from which something originates". I use the word Center a lot in my life. It has played a large role in my healing and life's journey. Where is my Center? Where is that place from within myself where I am able to ground myself? Is it within myself? Or is it in the spiritual realm? Can we have a spiritual Center and also a physical Center? Can we move between these various Centers as we search for homeostasis and balance in the realm of the Physical, Spiritual, Emotional and Mental?

For as long as I can remember I have always been drawn to circles. There is no beginning and no end. Every point is a beginning, and also an end. We sit facing each other. We are equals. Energy can flow in all directions. The earth is a circle. The sun and the moon is a circle. The planets in a solar system orbit around the sun in a circular manner.

When I think of Center i think of Circles. An infinite point. Vastness. Expansiveness.

I am realizing now my center has shifted throughout my life. I found my Center in different places as I worked to heal childhood traumas. Childhood sexual abuse moved me out of my physical body to survive. I found my Center in the spiritual realm as I struggled to find meaning, place, purpose, belonging, when the physical world, my physical body and humans did not feel safe. I found my Center in the eternal bond with my Papa, and in the angels guided me to .... Ahnung, and other 'angels' who came to me in the form of dogs. I find it interesting that the brightest star, Sirius, is also known as the Dog Star. Ahnung, my spirit dog, continues to be my north star, and she continues to guide me from the spirit world. She continues to be my Center as I explore ways to find a new Center in my physical body; as I explore to return home to my body; as I explore learning a new language of listening to my body as it hold the stories and the narratives of my life.

I am curious and full of wonder as I navigate my Way and my life through new and unchartered territories. This morning, I am curious as to how we all navigate our way through life. Do we look for the stars in our night skies to guide us? Do we listen to the wisdom of our bodies, and to the wisdom of spirits and beings around us? Do we embrace mystery or do we fear mystery? Do we adjust our sails according to the winds? Do we live only in our head and brain, trusting only what makes logical sense and what we can see?

What does it mean to Center? What would a Centering practice look like? And why is Centering so important?


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ukemi ... the art of falling .... Surrendering.

I recently began working with a new trainer. A trainer who is also a friend and a colleague and who has inspired me to move forward into a new chapter in my life .. an exciting new journey of somatic coaching. Last night we met. He is also an aikido practitioner. I tried aikido almost 20 years ago. I remember loving it and feeling how so much of it resonated with me on so many levels. Last night he taught me ukemi, the art of falling. He demonstrated for me the 'back fall'. As I watched I found myself mesmerized. Effortless. Flowing. Circular. Then he asked me to try it. Not so flowing and effortless :).

He told me, philosophically ... ukemi is about surrendering. He shared an article with me written by Richard Strozzi, "The Aiki Way: The Art of Falling" ... " ... falling requires surrendering to gravity, the energetic field of our lovely planet. To live a conscious, evolving life surrender is a requirement at every stage of growth. When we surrender we fall into a larger luminescent, unknown space. Falling is the practice of surrendering ..."

Almost 30 years ago, I surrendered to my inability to control my drinking. Surrendering was my first step in acknowledging I had a drinking problem. I find myself reflecting on surrendering ... the different levels and layers of surrendering. Letting go. Am I really surrendering? Am I really letting go? How do I find balance in feeling grounded and centered, and surrendering to the fall ... to gravity? Trusting in the fall and the journey; trusting I will land, or I will fly.

I remember when I was playing competitive racquetball. As I would get ready to take a shot, I would some times lift my head and look at the front wall which is turn would alter my form and the direction of the racquetball. My coach would tell me, 'Trust me .. the wall won't move." In competitive sports I was taught to look through my mind's eye, to visualize.

Today, I hold the following question in my heart and in my body ... What do I need to surrender to? What do I need to fall into?


Friday, August 25, 2017

Ahnung's 4th year anniversary - Grief visits again

Lake Superior (Two Harbors, Aug. 2017)
This year as the 4th year anniversary approached Grief arrived again. She had been visiting as she had when Ahnung was still with me physically. This time, she came to prepare us for the transitioning of the beloved 16.5 year old soul mate of my partner Joannie ... Piper (aka Pipey). On Aug. 17th, Ahnung welcomed Pipey into the spirit world. I believe she was there to assist Pipey as her spirit was set free from a body that had served her well, and much longer than most are able to ... Pipey, like Ahnung, was sent from God to help a specific Human through a difficult time in their lives and to open up their hearts.

Piper (Pipey)
Both Ahnung and Pipey walked with their Humans (myself and my partner) until their job on Earth was done.

Thank you Ahnung and Piper for your service; for watching over us; for bringing us together; for touching our hearts so we could learn to trust again; for believing in us when we couldn't believe in ourselves; for infusing your light, spirit and energy into not only our bodies and being, but into so many others blessed to meet you, whether in person, or virtually.

This morning I reflect on my journey and friendship with Grief.

I share past writings on this friendship, first unwanted .. when she came to my door in December, 2012:

Anticipatory Grief: Making Friends (December 27, 2012)

Grief walks up to your front door. It’s not time yet, you say. Yet she keeps on walking. She walks past the rose bushes in your front yard. She walks past the boulders you’ve carefully laid in her path. She walks past the detours you’ve planted to steer her around you and away from you. This time She is focused. And the rain is pouring and thunder is booming as the earth shakes and vibrates.

“Please,” She says, “I need shelter. I need to come in -- if only for a moment. “

Reluctantly, I let Grief in. I offer her a cup of warm tea. We sit by the fireplace.

“Why have you come?” I ask. “It’s not yet time.”

“It’s time. I am by myself tonight. Tomorrow I may not be alone. I may bring thousands of Me and there will be nothing you can do. We will break down your door. We will drown you. “

She pauses for a moment.

She strokes my dog Ahnung.

“Sit with Me now.”

We share stories. We cry. We laugh. Ahnung lays between us. A calm breeze permeates the room.

“It’s time for me go,” Grief says.

“But we have so much more to share,” I say.

She smiles. She rises, and Ahnung walks alongside her. Ahnung stops at the front door as Grief turns around to face me.

“I will be return. I may come alone, or I may bring a friend. Now, go be with Ahnung.”

We melt into the breeze coming through the open door.


Anticipatory Grief Visits Again (Mar. 3, 2013)

You came to visit me again last night.

Most days I see the clear blue skies, I catch my breath when I look up into the night skies, and I walk with my feet planted solidly on our earth.

Is it too much to ask for the World? For the Universe? For eternity …. For strings of days to never end with my sweet Ahnung? Is it too much to ask for Cancer to step to the back of the line? Is it too much to ask for the Love, the Wisdom, the Resilience, the brightness of Ahnung to shine on forever?

Dear Grief, I respect you. I honor you. I know you have a place in this world and in this universe. I know it’s not my place to negotiate with you. Yet when the earth shakes below my feet and when the ground moves and the tremors knock me off center, I desperately grab onto Ahnung. Last night, it was just an earth tremor. How many more tremors will I walk through with Ahnung? How many more tremors can the ground beneath us withstand until the inevitable quake on the horizon arrives? How many more tremors will I be blessed to endure before the ground beneath us splits open and swallows Ahnung? And will I be swallowed too? Will I be swallowed by the pain of You, dear Grief, as I desperately hold onto my soul, my Ahnung, as she slips away from me?

How? How do I accept, with grace, this Final Walk?

Grief looks me in the eye.

“When the earth shakes, and the ground beneath you falters, look up into the skies. Look into Ahnung’s eyes. Look up at the North Star. I gift you with the tremors.”

“Ahnung is in your heart. You are One. She is in your blood. She is in your bones. She is in the Earth. She is in the Air you breath. She is the Fire inside of you. She is in the oceans, the rivers and lakes, the rocks. When she is gone, she will live on in you.”

I hold onto Ahnung as the earth beneath us stops shaking. I bury my face in her thick neck. I hold her. I hold her as tightly as I can. I hold her again.


Anticipatory Grief … Here to Stay (August 24, 2013)

Grief knocks on my door again. Ahnung greets Her at the door. This time she arrives with bags in hand.

“It is time.”

She opens the door, takes my hand and leads me outside.

We get down on our knees. She places one hand over Ahnung’s heart and one hand over my heart.

And she repeats to me what she said months earlier:

“Ahnung is in your heart. You are One. She is in your blood. She is in your bones. She is in the Earth. She is in the Air you breath. She is the Fire inside of you. She is in the oceans, the rivers and lakes, the rocks. When she is gone, she will live on in you.”

I look into Ahnung’s eyes.

Grief takes my hand, “It is time. We must begin the walk.”

In the dark, we are guided by the north star and the beat of our hearts.

My new house guest: Grief (August 31, 2013)

On August 25, 2013, as the sun was setting, I held my Ahnung in my arms, surrounded by friends, as her heart stopped beating. The weight of her body fell into my arms. She was gone. Physically gone. My heart wanted to stop breathing with her.

Grief, you took her place.

I have floundered in the darkness.

You again remind me of what you said to me in your many visits:

Ahnung is in your heart. You are One. She is in your blood. She is in your bones. She is in the Earth. She is in the Air you breath. She is the Fire inside of you. She is in the oceans, the rivers and lakes, the rocks. When she is gone, she will live on in you.

Grief holds my hand. Walk with me. Close your eyes.

“When I visit you in waves know that I come with your Ahnung. Ride the waves with us. Open your heart … in the cracks and shattered pieces of your heart, let the light in, let the water in …  you must also let the sharp edges cut you. Sink into the waves. Hold onto me, hold onto Ahnung. One day I promise you, you will ride the waves with us and I will leave you. You  will learn a new dance and a new way to Be with Ahnung.”

I invite Grief into my house. I set up a guest room for her.

"How long will you stay?" I ask.

"You will let me know. Listen. Listen to your heart, to Ahnung's heart. There is a beat, a strong heart beat in the silence and in the spaces."

We sit by the fireplace and I offer her a cup of tea.

Into the night .... We tell each other stories. We sit in silence.

“Ahnung is with you.”

I look at at my new friend, “Teach me. Teach me to listen in a new way.”

Two Hearts.
Two Souls.
One Love.
------------

This morning I reflect on these words my friend Grief shared with me:

Ahnung is in your heart. You are One. She is in your blood. She is in your bones. She is in the Earth. She is in the Air you breath. She is the Fire inside of you. She is in the oceans, the rivers and lakes, the rocks. When she is gone, she will live on in you.”

I have learned, with her help, and Ahnung, to embody these words. Earlier this week, my partner and I traveled up north to Lake Superior. We scattered some of Ahnung and Pipey's ashes into Lake Superior as the sun was setting on Aug. 20th ... along the rocky shores of Lake Superior, in Two Harbors, we found a quiet area. My partner played native American flute music, we offered tobacco, lit sage and as we scattered sprinkles of ashes of our beloved soul beings, we thanked them. I asked for Ahnung to watch over Pipey; to welcome her and show her the ropes of an amazing spirit world; to watch over my partner; to keep watching over me; to keep teaching me; to keep opening up my heart. I thanked her for bringing my partner Joannie and Piper into my life.

The next day we went to Gooseberry Falls State Park. We scattered more of their ashes in Gooseberry River, and in the trees. As I released Ahnung's ashes into the river, I thanked Ahnung once again for being everywhere and for continuing her work. I thanked Grief too .... Yes, Ahnung is the Fire inside of me ... she is in the oceans, the rivers and the lakes, the rocks. And yes, she continues to live on inside of me and through me.

Gooseberry Falls State Park

Lake Superior (Two Harbors)

These beautiful words of Rumi helped me through this journey .. they helped me welcome Grief into my home ... to find myself and crack my heart open so I could stay connected with Ahnung and to learn a new language ...

'Go and find yourself first
So you can also find Me

Don't run away from grief, o soul
Look for the remedy inside the pain
because the rose came from the thorn
and the ruby came from the stone'

'Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with their heart and soul, there is no separation'

~ Rumi

Miigwech Ahnung and Piper.