Memoir

This photo of a peaceful pair of butterflies was taken by my husband, Bob Haine. The  background of a white flower gives a tranquil setting for the two, a respite from flight and a chance to refuel. Caterpillar days are over as they take their place in the sun.

CATERPILLAR DREAMS: BUTTERFLY REALITY

It has been awhile since I have posted anything. Not because I had nothing to say or no time to say it. I have been very busy, cleaning and downsizing our home of over thirty years for a big move.

Moving to our dream home near the beach in central California was not an easy move. But we have arrived, here and now.

I have not posted anything lately because, as the caterpillar might say, “When you’re in a chrysalis state you keep still, until you’re ready to emerge as the butterfly.”

I’ve spent the months after the new year preparing to grow wings. It has been my caterpillar stage.

Nobody delves much into what the caterpillar is thinking and feeling as it hangs in that fragile cocoon. We like pondering more on what the beautiful butterfly is feeling as it floats across the sky, manifesting those gorgeous wings.

However, the ugly caterpillar stage is the most critical part of the butterfly’s development. Without this nitty-gritty formation stage, the butterfly would not exist.

It takes time, a darkened time, to formulate the butterfly. Somehow, the caterpillar knows and accepts this.

It must be frightening, at some level, to leave the only world you know, to reconstruct the body you have had, to live on the precarious edge of a branch, yet have the quiet knowing that this is the proper sequence of things.

I admit that I did not have the natural intelligence of a caterpillar when I chose to pack up my former life, leave our longtime home and move to a totally different locale.

I did not realize that not only would the structure of my home change, but that I would not be the same creature after re-establishing myself somewhere else.

The metamorphosis from a caterpillar life to a butterfly life is not easy. During the preparatory times, there are lots of questions if one is a human caterpillar. Questions like:

When is my escrow going to close? I’ve sold my home; when am I going to find a new one? What do you mean when you say that I can’t get a loan on this property?

The list goes on and on…..

Finally, there is an ah-ha moment, a time of surrender. Like the caterpillar, it is not resignation as much as the sheer acceptance that there are bigger, more mysterious forces at work.

Go into the cocoon. Dream the beautiful dream. Let the feelings of discomfort, fear, even despair, pass through like a mist. The dew is settling on the bush, and one fine day the realtor will call and say, ” The perfect house for you just went on the market today.”

You know the minute you walk through the door that this is the home you’ve been  waiting for all your life. Much like the butterfly coming out into the light for the first time, you realize this house is not just a house. It is the repository of your feelings, the carrier of your dreams. In short, it is not just a house; it is your forever home.

My husband and I were fortunate enough to find such a home, our house of love and light. I have enjoyed the rebirth, making this place a structure with our unique imprint: the blue, white, and sand colors of the beach, the blend of my art and my husband’s photography, our shared music and instruments, my touches in the surrounding garden.

I have planted butterfly bushes and “save the bees” flowers. The hummingbirds, hawks,  and finches come for visits. On the ground, a line of quail stroll by in the morning.

The coyotes, spiders, and snails are welcome here, too. If you exclude the so-called negatives in the natural ecosystem, the system collapses. We all need a home in this interdependent world.

Has the transition from city life, to part-time mountain life, and now the rural bay life been smooth?

In a word: NO.

We human butterflies are beautiful and freed from many things. But the world outside our inner world is still throwing us curves. The wind currents and earthquakes are still slamming us:

Why do we need a cardiologist, a pulmonary expert, a nephrologist, an x-ray, a CAT scan? What do you mean we may not be covered by our insurance since we moved? What if, how can, must I…?

And the wise monarch butterfly that floats past me in the yard is whispering, “Let go. Just breathe.”

When I wake up and realize I am the spirit in my body more than the body is in my spirit, I will know my winged friend is right.

It may be hard to be a butterfly in a caterpillar world, but as more and more wings open to the light, this becomes a beautiful place to be.

I am so grateful to have my part in this world and to share  life in my new homeland with my wonderful friends and neighbors.

Light and water are two components of life that no one can do without. Sunlight on the ocean makes for a perfect moment and a happy heart. This photo of Bob’s at Carlsbad Beach, California, is an inspiring example of that feeling of fulfillment.

THE MEANING OF LIFE: ONLY THE HEART KNOWS

I am sitting in a crowded restaurant waiting for almost two hours for my husband and our friend to show up. I have plenty of time to get to know my thoughts. In between bites of tasty appetizers, I look out the window to see what’s there.

I would rather look into the window of my heart and see what’s inside there…love, promise, expectation, honor, events of the past, future dreams, the glory of now, the dance of my bloodstream, my connection with parents, grandparents, children, friends, and people I haven’t met yet on the wheel of life. Even now, the year is turning toward them.

How often do I have time just to sit in a crowded, noisy restaurant and write, uninterrupted, listening to my heart. What a blessing that is! There is cacophony and chaos all around me. Children yell for “Mommy,” and multiple conversations of the packed room go in waves around the room.Yet, I am calm, as though listening to the ocean waves at sunset, having a private conversation with my heart.

That would make a good song title: Conversation With My Heart. The conversion of my life could begin by listening and then reorganizing my priorities to a finer way of living. My to do lists and New Year’s resolutions have caught the attention of my mind. Now it is time to let my heart have its say.

Love has always been the heart’s answer that leads to joy. Why haven’t I listened? Perhaps I had not yet asked the right question or phrased it properly.

What is the meaning of life, my life?

anything I want it to be if I write the words with love. The end result will be joy. The foundation will remain solid even when the world around me is crumbling in sand.

It’s just a few days into 2015  and that’s the most beautiful thought I have had so far. I can hardly wait for more to come.

The photo shown here is a lovely spot on the Oregon coast called Arch Rock. My husband got the light shining with the perfect angle. We were slated to check into a motel miles away, but we lingered at the sunset  to enjoy the moment.

DROPPING DEADLINES : PICKING UP LIFELINES INSTEAD

I had planned to do this blog as soon as my three week road trip was over. After listening and feeling “mizzle” (misty drizzle) on my face in the rain forest of Washington, I dropped the need to meet deadlines. Especially since I was the one making the deadlines. In my experience, people do not die from deadlines, especially self-imposed ones.

Most timelines can be extended, negotiated, and if missed, it’s my guess that something ever better might be around the corner. I’ve never been much of a linear thinker. I tend to be circular. I find that opportunities come around, just like some cosmic merry-go-round. I can still catch the brass ring if I lean at the right time, the moment I choose.

I am more into lifelines these days. That’s not to say I’m on a sinking ship or fallen overboard. I am not looking for a life preserver in an emergency. I am finding more and more alternatives to what I thought were rules set in stone. Stones sink.  I’d rather aim for walking on water, or at the very least, learn a better way to meet the tide.

I made a promise to myself to practice those things that are life enhancing. Daily meditation and prayer, moderate exercise, healthy food, good music, and gardening: those are my lifelines. I like to share them with my husband because that increases the pleasure.

If I ignore these necessary pleasures, the red warning light goes off. It keeps blinking until I do something about what’s causing it.

Case in point…. Before I left on vacation, I had three whiplashes, two concussions, and was struck by electricity from a rogue appliance after an earthquake. One might argue that these were just coincidences . People do have car accidents, hit heads on cupboard doors and a blue streak of electricity can strike if something is faulty.

I got the message: I was the one who was faulty. It took me awhile to learn the lesson. SLOW DOWN OR YOU MIGHT BE DEAD. That’s a deadline I did not want to meet, so I changed my ways. I bowed out of some commitments, extended some time frames, found some recreational activities that I enjoyed. I even got my first degree certification in reiki to help heal myself and others.

At this juncture of my life, I have decided it’s time to fulfill a life-long dream: to have a home on the beach. I have visualized a one story house in a quiet fishing village on the central coast of California. My husband and I both love the area. Our city home is lovely, but it’s time to find something more natural, like our mountain home. We can have the best of both worlds.

I do not let finances or the process of moving deter me. Letting go of “stuff” we have accumulated here has been refreshing for me. The house is just a reflection of our inner life as well. My husband and I have been clearing out mental things that no longer serve us and replacing them with what we truly desire.

“Today is the tomorrow I dreamed of yesterday.” That is what I will say when I cross the threshold of our new dwelling. And we will know that we have come home.

This recent photo of Mono Lake takes me halfway to heaven just looking at it. I don’t know how Bob got the Milky Way to look so close, as though I could reach out and touch it. Light is inspirational, whether it is external or internal. The best illumination is a combination of both.

ANGELIC INSPIRATIONS: WORDS WITH WINGS

Your state of mind is really where you live…not the outside world. I have lived in many different “states.” But I have never lived outside  California. My favorite state of mind is quiet contemplation because that is when I see such beautiful sights, and my best songs come to me.

It used to bother my friend Ken Porter (who is now in spirit) that I would sit down and write a song in five or ten minutes. He would spend days working on and perfecting one song. “How do you write them so fast?” he asked . My response to that question has eventually become, “ I  don’t exactly write them.”

There have been times when I consciously planned, produced, and edited a piece of poetry or music. That style of writing is rare for me now. These days (and nights) I just open up a window in my heart and let my mind take a backseat while I write the lyrics and notations down.

Afterwards, when I read back what is written on the page, I am sometimes surprised at my “creative” spelling and word usage with messages that go beyond what I know. I put my name on the copyright because I penned the song, and it would be too difficult to send the royalties to the real creator.

Since the 1980’s I have been writing songs for churches, spiritual centers, weddings, funerals, and loved ones, without any real effort on my part. The process goes something like this: I know the sermon topic, or the gospel reading, or a situation in advance, and I just ask for an appropriate song. The lyrics and music come in as soon as I make time to receive them. Sometimes, they circle like airplanes until I agree to write them down.

I remember when I was working on our first music CD, life was too hectic for me to sit down and breathe. Songs for the Soul by bobandkathi (available on the usual internet sources) did come out that year, 2012, but some songs were written at very strange hours. One time in particular, I recall awakening to a song I had been hearing as a title for days. “One Day My Soul Just Opened Up” really wanted to be “born,” but I kept saying, “I’m too busy.”

So at two o’clock when I woke up one morning, the Voice said, “You’re not too busy now.” I got up, wrote the song and dedicated it to Iyanla Vanzant, whose book I had read with the same title. (I dedicated each of the songs on that album to someone special to me.)

As far as knowing where the songs came from, I wasn’t really sure at first. When a very pleasant lady told me she saw angels around me and that they “channeled” through me, I thought perhaps she had a touch of dementia. I later came to realize what a wonderful place this world would be if everyone had the childlike simplicity to see and hear the wonderful things that are beyond standard science.

An even greater  gift is to be able to talk about it and share it with others. That makes words have wings….

I am spreading my own wings on a vacation soon where internet may not be available. Therefore, I am considering taking a few weeks off from blogging. The green of the rainforest will provide some lovely photos for my future writings. I am certain that experiences with the water, vegetation, and wildlife will inspire more to share, too.

May the busy schedules of life float away down the river until then. I will meet you on the shore.

 

 

 

Coming down from Idyllwild, California,  late one afternoon, we saw this lovely shaft of light from the cloud. Bob got the photo before it disappeared.

ANGELIC INTERVENTIONS: AMAZING GRACE IN ACTION

I love angels, and angels love me. Actually, angels love everybody and are always available to help anyone. The key is to ask for their guidance, protection, and assistance. I would not be alive today if I hadn’t received angelic interventions.

When I was five years old, I was not in a very safe environment. Living in an isolated desert area seven miles out of  town with an abusive person in the family led to some frightening situations. Most of my memory has been wiped clean from that time period. I do recall some scenes and sounds of severe anger: Mom’s fresh baked peach pies being thrown to the ceiling, her dark sunglasses to hide the dark bruises underneath, the verbal fighting and breaking of glasses and dishes, long nights trying to sleep with the covers over my head for protection.

Cotton sheets are not enough for protection. That’s where the angels came in.

I did not have fancy, well-thought-out prayers when I was five. I don’t even remember what I prayed the afternoon my stepfather came to get me from my ballet lesson. We started to walk down the long, steep, narrow flight of stairs. That’s when I realized I had been pushed.

I began to roll down the cement steps, trying to grab something, anything, to stop the fall. I was halfway down the flight, when something, someone, scooped me up and broke the fall.

It was a man, a nondescript man in a brown suit and a brown hat. I remember having my eyes closed for just a moment and holding my aching head. When I opened them and looked around to thank the man for rescuing me, there was no one there. There was no evidence of anyone anywhere on the stairs except for my stepfather, who told me I had imagined my elusive helper.

I told my mother about it. I think she believed me. She also knew that I had not just fallen due to clumsiness. I had so many “accidents” in those days.

I have always wanted to thank the man in the brown suit for saving my life. I have seen him since in dreams I have had. I remember one in particular where there was an extremely large golden bridge going up into the clouds. He had the hand of a little boy and was walking him up the bridge. The bridge was very beautiful, but something told me it was not my time to cross that bridge. It was comforting to know I might get picked up and escorted when it is my time.

Sometimes I have tried to rationalize this childhood experience into something more realistic. In another angelic intervention when I was older, I could understand my experience without  trying to explain it. It happened when I was twenty-seven. I am reminded of The Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel. The introduction states: “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.” Angels fit into that category, too.

Back to my angelic intervention encounter, I was driving down Interstate 10 in pouring rain, wishing I hadn’t agreed to take my friend to Orange County to meet a deadline for an application. The deluge got worse and worse. Visiblity was highly impaired.

That’s when I realized it looked like an accident was happening right in front of me. But it wasn’t…. What I was seeing was something like a video screen of an accident. I could see the border around the screen and yet I could see the flow of regular traffic in front of me as well. I saw all the details of the accident, the make and model of the cars, who was passing whom, the spin out of the dark blue car. And I knew there was a fatality involved.

When I picked up my girlfriend I told her about my weird vision and suggested we go home and get out of the rainstorm. It was the deadline day for the application, so I finally agreed to drive on and be extra careful.

As my car approached the interchange for the 57 freeway, I saw the black truck pull in front of me. “It’s happening NOW,” I said and slowed down, while we watched the accident unfold. The dark blue car hydroplaned. The driver, probably without a seat belt on, flew out of the car. (I had not seen that part in the original vision.)

I pulled over and went to see if I could help. The woman was dead. She was like a beautiful, pale, red-haired china glass doll. I had never seen a dead person before. I marveled how she could still look so lovely.

A motorist who had witnessed the accident was a nurse. She said the woman had died instantly. I knew she was in no pain, but it bothered me to see the rain pouring into her pale blue eyes. I got the red plaid blanket from my V.W. van and covered her in it. I knew there was a reason I was there to be with her, so I prayed. Sometimes, that is all one can do.

My friend stayed in the car. I was drenched, my suede coat ruined. The police questioned me about the incident. Even though I had seen the accident twice, I could hardly talk. The officer said I was in shock, to drive slowly up to the Denny’s and call for someone to drive my car home.

My husband came for me, and my friend’s son drove her to safety. I realized what a great gift I had been given. If I had not known to slow down and get out of the way, I could have hit the water pocket, too. Instead, I lived to see other days and other miracles, not just of intervention, but of angelic inspiration, which will be a topic for another time.

 

 

 

Bob took this photo in the Grand Tetons area. It’s a rugged place, but like many places that are challenging to get to, and difficult to get through, it has a special beauty worth the effort.

AFTER THE RAIN: THE BEAUTIFUL WEATHER, PART TWO

The evolution of my marriage with Bob has been a blink in the universe of time. Thirty seven years and we’re still evolving, finding out what makes the other tick.

Emotionally, we stand taller together now, but physically are more bent. Perhaps arthritis is just the outward manifestation of burdens borne and cares that ran too deep. But I believe that love lightens the load and faith rebuilds  us, or finds what was supposedly lost.

We cannot bring back our lost children, our deceased parents, our absent friends. They dine at another table now. We will be reunited, but Bob and I have business to attend to here, promises to keep to ourselves and others, the fulfillments of our raison d’être.

I have had opportunities to leave the planet on quite a few occasions. Two direct angel interventions kept me here, one when I was five, and one when I was twenty seven. (I will give the account of those experiences at a later date.) I am also certain that Bob and I have been blessed by behind-the-scenes heavenly help many times.

I don’t remember the exact date, but sometime after the new millennium I discovered I had a severe kidney problem. The doctor  informed me I had a GFR of 25%. I learned a GFR (glomular filtration rate) was the measurement of how well kidneys worked. I thought I just had a 25% reduction in function. I was shocked to learn that 75% was gone.

Where had it “gone” and why was the doctor saying it would get worse? I had very little understanding of why I had been  switched from lithium to another drug to treat my bipolar illness, and why I’d been referred to a nephrologist. It was a medical wakeup call for me and my husband.

As the function went down to 20%, I learned all I could about “mighty nephrons,” the little parts of the kidneys that do the work. I even had a song I sang to them. We prayed. I visualized good health.

Bob and I went to the dialysis classes together in preparation for the getting the shunt. We discussed my options for types of dialysis. When I went to Loma Linda for the evaluations to be put on the transplant list, Bob was my faithful companion. I got on the list in 2007 and was told it could be years before I got a donor.

I was taken off the list the following year, but did not get the transplant. I had gone over the weight limit and kidney function had gone UP too high, too good, to be on the list. I never even got a shunt or put on dialysis. I told my nephrologist that there was a higher power than Kaiser (my medical HMO) and that I’d get to 30%. I did.

I had the goal of 40% by Christmas of 2012. Bob and I had released our Christmas CD, Carols for the Christ. We had concerts set up, but I started to feel more and more “funky heart rhythm.” We had to cancel our bobandkathi performances after I went through a catheter ablation which didn’t work. The six hour heart procedure, done while I was awake, established my electrical misfires were in the septum, an area that could not be fixed.

After a hospital stay two days later to try a new drug, I was sent home because it was too dangerous for my kidneys. I got a new combination of medicines and my rhythm got better. My kidney function went temporarily down. I am thinking it will be up to 40% by next Christmas.

Bob was usually the one taking me to medical adventures. When he turned sixty in 2009, he had a full physical. An elevated PSA score (a prostate screening test) led to an evaluation by a urologist. Another blood test showed an increased level. Next came the biopsy and we came back to hear the results.

Bob was positive he did not have cancer. POSITIVE. But the results were positive, too. The good news was that the cancer was in the early stages. The doctor went over the different options, complete with colorful pictures. He explained risks and side effects. He said Bob could think about it and get back to him. Bob replied, “I’ve made my choice.”

It was my turn to be surprised. I thought we’d discuss it first. He had chosen the least invasive procedure, radioactive seed implantation. I wondered if a more intense surgery would give a better chance for a longer life.

We did talk about the choice later. Bob got a wonderful radiation oncologist. Unfortunately, the doctor had his arm in a cast. We waited for him to heal, so he could do the surgery.

It was the right choice. In December, the doctor made the “template” for where the seeds of iodine 125 would be implanted. Bob had the procedure done in January of 2010. I drove him home the same day as the surgery with his list of instructions.

There were interesting precautions. He could not be around pregnant women or have a child on his lap for a while. There were sexual and urinary issues to heal. He was given a paper to carry to show doctors and X-ray screeners. He jokingly referred to himself as “radioactive man” to our friends. It was a small price to pay for an extended life together.

Now he volunteers for the American Cancer Society as a “Road to Recovery” driver, giving free rides to patients for their chemo and radiation treatments. Sometimes I have complained about the time it takes from our schedule. That’s when I forget what it means to Bob and to the ones he’s driving. I am very proud of him for his dedication.

As for the beautiful weather of life, BRING IT ON!

Here is Bob Haine at Mono Lake, California, on one of his photo trips.

Bob Haine at Mono Lake ©2013  Nancy Speaker

Bob Haine at Mono Lake
Photo By: Nancy Speaker

Sagres, Portugal, is the setting for this beautiful rainbow. Bob and I went to Portugal for my 60th birthday. I had broken my foot earlier, but refused to cancel the trip. After pushing my wheelchair over cobblestones in the rain, my husband was glad to relax and snap a series of gorgeous sky shots.

AFTER THE RAIN: THE BEAUTIFUL WEATHER, PART ONE

So much of my early life had turmoil. It was a blessing to find the “rainbow of my life,” Bob Haine. Or maybe he found me. Either way, after the first week of school, we met at a T.G.I.F. party sponsored by the local teachers’ union.

It was probably not a meeting to go into the history books, but the details carved a place in my heart. First he impressed me by knowing my correct shoe size. During an economically lean time he had supplemented his substitute teaching income by selling shoes at Bullocks. It was not his favorite job. He probably never dreamed it would lead to a fateful pickup line.

Bob had been fired from his first teaching job, as fifth grade teacher in a catholic school. His crime was passing gas after eating lentil soup, and then explaining to the students  that “farting” was a natural body function. The head nun did not appreciate him using an “F” word. This firing led to being  hired by the Chaffey High School District. I was hired that same year. This is another example of how a setback can lead to a positive outcome.

Our first date was not without difficulties, but they were fun ones. Bob was having the passenger seat in his Toyota reupholstered, so I sat on a pillow on the floor. After dinner we went on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Will Rogers State Beach, near Santa Monica. We were having a great conversation when he pulled into a gas station on the Pacific Coast Highway.

I got out to use the restroom. When I came back outside I saw his car driving away, my purse inside, and me not sure if this was going to be a very long night. He did come back and picked me up. It was his first, but not his last, attempt to get me to see the lighter side of life.

In a few months, Bob asked me to marry him while at our special spot, lifeguard station 14. That was over thirty seven years ago. He always jokes about the musical reason he married me: I was the first woman he’d met who could harmonize with him, in more ways than one.

We have been harmonizing together ever since that first date, singing Beatle songs at two in the morning. Now we perform as the married duet of bobandkathi. Seven music videos and three CDs later, he is still the melody singer and lead guitarist. I am the harmony and the background mandolinist, as well as the songwriter.

The music of my married life has not been without dissonance. I was diagnosed as bipolar in 1985, some months after the loss of my first pregnancy. It was a difficult time for both of us. Losing the next two pregnancies was not much easier.

It was fortunate I married a “rock,” because the breakdowns led to very rocky times. I am reminded of a line I wrote in a song for a wedding: “You will be the rock and I will be the flower that blooms through the stone.” And I did bloom, although I think of myself as a late bloomer. It took awhile to ground myself. It took awhile to pull out the two hundred songs I had written, the almost forty years of journals and poetry I’d saved, and realize I might have something worthwhile to say.

My breakdowns were breakthroughs as well. But I didn’t see that until much later when I had a grander vista of life. I reread and reviewed my life from a different perspective. I could see that the good weather had come from the storms. No rain: no rainbow.

My photographer-singer husband (a former French teacher) has always liked the optimistic phrase, “Après la pluie, le beau temps.” The translation: “After the rain, the beautiful weather.” Our weather has gotten progressively better, but we have passed through more rainy seasons as well. Some have even been life threatening.