I did it! I completed 54,750 words in 27 days and now have a nice fat first draft of the book I renamed Reinventing Grace when I was halfway through. In fact, it was way less than 27 days because I spent the first week of November moving into my new apartment, and quite a bit of time dealing with pneumonia. I’m delighted with meself, I must say.

Now comes the hard part: revising, editing, polishing. But that’s okay.

I think I can post a copy of the Winner’s Certificate on here, but if it doesn’t transfer over, you can see a copy on my wall at home once I get it printed!

See you soon.

Your fave writer and pesky mystic.


Melody, Unchained

Yesterday Katrisa, Cassidy, and I were in the car when Death Cab for Cutie’s song, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” came on. As one, the three of us — grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter — sang the whole song right through. Our clear voices floated from the car window into the shiny-clear day as we sang this poignant song that is a favorite with all three of us.  Of course, I had gotten one of the words wrong (‘departs’ instead of ’embarks’), but this is a trademark of mine. I don’t think there’s been a song yet that I didn’t get something wrong, but that’s part of the fun. I was gently and lovingly corrected during the instrumental bridge. What a magical few minutes!

You just can’t buy or prepare for moments like these, can you? Spontaneous, yet they only surface after thousands of mundane moments have happened. The pearl is an apt metaphor here, beginning its creation as a speck of irritating sand and becoming more beautiful as time goes on. That oyster never knows when its shell will be cracked open; the process continues until it does.

Special moments don’t necessarily need the physical presence of others. They can also accrue via such technology as Skype or Hangouts, but only once the foundation for those memory pearls has been laid through personal association, the kind that involves all five senses. If we’ve actually smelled and touched someone in addition to hearing, seeing, and speaking to them, our brains will register a Skype call in exactly the same way as if the person were there in the room with us. The same feel-good endorphins burst through the doors of perception; the same rise in serotonin levels occurs — you name it, your brain thinks it’s real, and it makes you feel happy.

So, if you decide to give Mother Earth a rest during the holidays; if you choose to cut your fossil fuel consumption so you can afford to buy from local vendors and support your community, you needn’t lose out on seeing family. Figure out how to use Skype if you haven’t yet. My fave is actually Google Hangouts because now you can video chat with anyone in the world who has a Gmail account, and the reception is very good. The point  is, there are options. Please find them and use them.

Death Cab for Cutie may not be one of your favorite groups and maybe you won’t be singing the same song we did. I highly doubt it! The Hollands have some strange and cherished rituals when it comes to song and dance. Find your own song, if that’s the kind of family and friends you have. Do what comes naturally when you’re in their company even if it’s (as a dear friend responded yesterday to my last blog) “dance naked and watch football!”

You needn’t wait for a certain calendar day to try this out, you know. Plans stifle spontaneity. Unchain your own melody and see what happens.

Are You Brave Enough?

Edits, Friday the 18th:

First, I took out “and Small” Business. Small- and medium-sized local businesses could save the country. If we stopped spending our money at the multinationals and rigidly reduced our fossil fuel consumption, we would have enough money to pay our local farmers and goods purveyors what they deserve. It’s the competition from Big Business and their insane tax breaks (which will only go insan-er under our new — gosh, I can’t even write ‘President,’ let alone say it) that cause small business owners to go under. We think we’re saving money at WalMart, for instance, but what we’re doing is killing our own community.

Second, I’m adding this thought: If Thanksgiving is all about family, then why do so many people have to work on that day? I’m not talking about those in the emergency services, but those who work for hotels, airports, restaurants. Do these employees not deserve to be home, too? Then “Black Friday” comes and family is forgotten entirely as the shoppiing frenzy begins. I propose we cancel Thanksgiving unless we can return it to a day of rest and thanks with local loved ones nearby, or helping out at our local homeless and other shelters.

Now, back to our original programming!


Today in the Old Folks Home they’re giving us a free Thanksgiving dinner. I made polite noises to the givers of the feast, but actually I had no intention of going to this dinner, and it wasn’t because I’m a vegetarian, or that they will serve Monsanto’s finest pseudo-food. I will not attend any dinner acknowledging what Thanksgiving has become, especially this year.

“Oh, but it’s about family and about being grateful!” I hear you say. No, that’s what Big  Business wants you to think. Grateful people are much more likely to spend money they don’t have, on tons of gifts they don’t want, on people they rarely see, on the obscene perversion of “Black Friday” and the silly selling season that horrific rebranded date heralds.

Thanksgiving originally was to thank the First Nation tribes who kept the capitalist  colonists alive that first harsh winter. Little did they know these settlers would unsettle everything they held dear and sacred. Tribe after tribe was pushed into land that the Plunderers deemed unfruitful. Far from honoring Mother Earth, the greedy colonists came to rape and pillage and plunder Her.

And they’re still doing it today. While you sit at your over-laden table congratulating yourselves on how blessed and lucky you are to be white, working, well-clothed and too-well fed, the Dakota Pipeline saga continues. Make no mistake; it will be built. It matters not one whit that it goes through land held sacred by one of the tribes whose ancestors helped the White Intruders three hundred-odd years ago. It doesn’t matter that the drinking water of at least four states will be polluted from the fracking process — long before the pipeline breaks. The pipeline will go through because (a) Big Oil realized that there was “gold in them thar hills” after all, and (b) there is nothing sacred to the pipeline builders but money. If you think otherwise, you are naive — and dangerously so. You and I are not part of the In Crowd of billionaires and never will be. That ship, you might say, has sailed. It was called the Mayflower.

Are you brave enough to stop shopping? Are you strong enough to “just say No” to spending? Are you courageous enough to realize that the real meanings behind Thanksgiving and Christmas have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH MONEY? Indeed, Love never has been about money. Never ever. Neither has Gratitude.

If you do have money — I’m talking cold, hard cash, not credit-card-fake-money — perhaps you would send it to those fighting the pipeline. Or to those opposing a similar project going on in your own city, state, or country. Can you imagine the billions of dollars that would have been spent on tat and crap suddenly showing up to stop the Dakota Pipeline? THEN the pipeline owners would listen. They only listen to money.

Do you really want to show your gratitude this season? Then do something kind for Mother Earth. Stop the rape and plunder, if only within the borders of your own home and within the circle of your own friends and family. Stop driving when you don’t need to. (First you might want to do an in-depth survey of the difference between need and want). If you aren’t brave enough, maybe it would be good to ask yourself why you continue to buy into (and I mean that so literally) a corrupt, amoral greedy system that lets you think you’re free when you’re not. They’ve cleverly covered the cell bars with brightly colored ads for shiny toys. Do you still believe you can resist best by playing their Greed Game? Really?

I am only one, but I am one. It starts and ends with me. I’m blessed by not having money, a car, or credit cards. (The real blessing is realizing having nothing is such a blessing!) Even so, there was a time I did have money, and I was totally swept up in the Capitalist Dream, too. I’m grateful to have woken up. That was no dream; it was a nightmare.

Are you brave enough to join me in saying “No” to Thanksgiving and Christmas, at least the version that’s for sale?

Ten Years After*

I love life when it’s like it is today. As if, after long and heavy rains, the sun breaks through the clouds. Rainbows form in every crystal drop and leap from every leaf. The greens are more varied than any artist’s palette, painfully beautiful.The air itself is vibrant with life and love and renewal, and I scramble to write and record the cascades of wisdom around me. I want everyone to feel this joy. I know it is possible.

I’ve always wanted to change the world. I’ve wanted it to be a free, peaceful, joyful place full of health and love. And it was today, at 4.30am on Friday, 29 October 2016, when I realised that I now hold the power to change the world. I will shift your paradigms. I will rock your foundations. Please keep reading.

During the last ten years, my life has taken twists and turns I could never have foreseen. At 4.30 this morning, I distilled the wisdoms collected from those unique personal experiences and the extraordinary people I’ve met on my journey. In gratitude for this precious distillation, I offer it gratis to you.

If you don’t believe I have the power, that’s fine. Your active participation — let alone your approval — is not required for me to change your life utterly and for the better. All you have to do is read this, and the change will begin. You see, my experience is yours, too. The ripple effect from the profound healing journey I will share with you is not bound by physical distance. In other words, Katrisa will not benefit more from this because she lives down the road from me, but she may benefit more because she already lives life with such an open mind. She is not burdened with the guilts it has taken me years to shed. She notices the synchronicities happening all around. Those of you who are similarly natured may see the truth easily, too.

But it is perfectly fine to be skeptical. I’ve needed your groundedness many times in my life, though I didn’t always appreciate it. Many of you have been led down the garden path once too often. I get that. Not a problem.

In past blogs, I see how hard I’ve tried to convince people that prevailing ideologies and beliefs — especially when it comes to allopathic medicine — are not only off the mark, but completely the opposite of what we’ve been led to believe. Although I’ve had many experiences that attest to there being Truth out there no one talks about (for example, the infallibility of German New Medicine to pinpoint the causes of illness and thus effect lasting cures) no one has been willing to leave the side of their particular sacred cow and test the theory for themselves. Hey, it’s scary! If I had had health insurance, I wouldn’t have left my cow either! Many of you need to be shown proof of a thing before you will take it on board. It’s got to be signed by an MD or lawyer or government official. Others of you are willing, but have not the time to read all the materials. Others are willing and have the time, but don’t have the money to access the treatments I somehow stumbled into at no or low cost. That’s okay. I’m here for all of you.

That’s what makes this so exciting for me. For the first time, because I actually have insurance that pays for all my healthcare, I can share with you documentation that the healing science I believe in so fervently —GNM — works. Am I in the midst of cancer? No. Not this time. I’ve learned that people will only hear what they are prepared to believe, and I’ve not found one of you who is open to GNM’s approach when it comes to cancer.

But how about bacterial pneumonia? Viral, maybe. But surely no one can recover from a bacterial pneumonia without antibiotics? Hmm? JUST WATCH ME.

This past month I visited my family doctor twice and saw specialists in three different fields. I just didn’t feel well, and thought it was a bladder or kidney infection. Test after test: negative for UTI. (Oh, the tyranny of the tests!) Last Saturday Katrisa was with me in the ER when they decided, even after a chest x-ray, that it was a muscle spasm in the upper back. And yesterday saw me back in the ER after the high fevers and increasing unwell-ness of the week. Chest x-rays showed nothing. But a CT scan with contrast showed the infection.

I was duly given medications to fight the pneumonia and another viral infection that I’ll focus on in another blog. I was given masks to wear to protect the public from me. Oh, the sad and sympathetic looks of my kindly medical staff. Yet I left that ER full of the joys of spring! No kidding.

Why? Here’s my chance to prove to you, and to my doctors, the validity of German New Medicine. I am going to waltz in for my follow-up appointment with the two full bottles of pills I never took and a healed body. They will do a CT scan and see there is no infection left. I know this because GNM is not guesswork. When A happens to a person, B will result. EVERY TIME. Even better: if you see B, you’ll have a pretty good idea what the A was! And best of all, B is evidence that the healing is underway. Allopathic doctors cannot fix us because they think B is the disease and they, with the best of intentions, destroy the healing.

Examples of healing? Fevers. Pains. Tumours. Abscesses. Fibroids. Eczema. Incontinence. Sciatica. Osteoporosis. Sexually transmitted diseases of all types; ditto for rashes and eruptions, including cold sores. Kidney stones. Ingrown toenails, for heaven’s sake! Allopathic medicine’s doctors, insurance companies, and especially pharmaceutical companies, in their attempts to “free” us from what are actually life-giving microbes and germs, instead indenture us to lives lived in fear.

Well, here’s your chance to break free. The official German New Medicine site ( was set up for the Common Good. Knowledge truly is power, and their sole goal is to make this life-changing information available to all. Yes, there are other sites that claim to be GNM, but they are not. There are those who learned, as I am doing, about GNM and then charge people for their services. The doctor I worked with in Minnesota is one of them. But I don’t begrudge his taking money from me (at less than 1% of what just one course of chemo would have cost, I might add) because now I can share this info with you if and when you want my help.

For free. Yup, that’s what I’m going to do. I believe I was given the gifts of physical and mental health issues, multiple traumas, and relationship and employment disasters so that you would not have to undergo all of them yourselves. It is because of these that I now have the gift of time to research the GNM site and synthesise its complexities to guide you through your unique situations. I don’t need your money, either. I’ve learned to live on very little indeed — another result of my amazing life. I wouldn’t change it for the world, and I want you to feel that way about your life, too.

Because this website embraces the mystical and mysterious (and also because it’s G-rated), it is not the place for the frank discussions that are vital to an understanding of GNM science. I will set up a separate site for that. I will provide nuggets of GNM wisdom and also a place for you to ask questions anonymously. We can also chat via the internet or phone. I will not share any of your successes unless you ask me to, or you volunteer them on the readers forum.

You know, we’re all free-falling through the Air of Life. Some of us are busy making plans and fiddling with schedules and worrying about the pimple on our friend’s dog’s nose, while others of us are looking at how many shades of blue the sky is and how the clouds seem to be racing away and how those pine trees are getting bigger at an astronomical rate. I want you to join me in looking at the awesomeness of the life around you. You’ll be closer to doing it, too, when you finally comprehend GNM. It will free you up for all sorts of adventures!

So I leave it up to you.

With love that’s deep as the ocean and higher than the sky,
Your Favourite Mystic


*Why did I title this blog “Ten Years After”? Well, I still love that band, especially the lyrics from “I’d Love to Change the World.” We didn’t know how to do it then, but I do now.

And it was ten years ago that I was told I had ovarian cancer. I only knew the “B” then, but now I know the “A.” I hope you’ll stick with me and become an “A” student, too.

A Touchy Subject

Do you remember Diana Ross singing that somewhat sappy, but heartfelt song, “Reach out and touch somebody’s hand/ make this world a better place — if you can”? Ah, now, isn’t that nice? And I remember growing up and hearing in church, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp”; not quite as comfy-cosy as the song, but still rather noble, as it was meant to encourage a sort of Reach for the stars! You can do it! philosophy integral to budding capitalists and would-be saints.

So I thought it rather nice when in July, after applying online for the job at Smith’s, I received an email that said someone from Corporate Office would reach out to me shortly for a phone interview. Reach out they did, and soon I was cutting and selling cheese with a vengeance. This reach out phrase issued from management mouths, I noticed, with increasing regularity and, it seemed to me, with less sincerity. Were these the latest HR buzzwords? I thought to myself, thinking of other words and phrases that have come and gone over the years: segue, purposefully, teachable moment, to name but a few.

Then yesterday I rang an insurance company to see about renter’s insurance for my little bits and pieces (it’s required; none of us have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of, but that doesn’t matter to property owners). The fella came up with a sum and then asked, “How do you want to pay the $195 [yearly premium], debit or credit?” I informed him I had no such sum and if he needed the whole thing at once, he was out of luck. Not to be swayed from his sales mission, he quickly added that for a “small additional fee” (twice the premium, mind) I could pay monthly. He wanted $31. “I’m sorry,” I said, “but I don’t have that, either. I get my disability once a month and whatever I had this month went toward paying the deposit and getting moved in.”

And then he said it: “Is there no one you can reach out to for the premium? No family or friends you could reach out to who would help you secure your valuables so you could have peace of mind?” I felt physically ill, but managed to utter, “No. No, there isn’t.” To myself I was thinking, “Wow. What’s most valuable to me are the friends and family I have, not the used furniture and kitchen utensils in my apartment. My most valuable temporal items are pictures and mementos of the family and friends, and they’re irreplaceable anyway.” My long silence prompted him to ask if I was still there. I told him I was and thanked him for his time and trouble but, no, I was not going to get insurance. He kept trying and it was all I could do not to hang up on him. [A few hours later, I received an email giving me a second chance to get insurance and wanting me to complete a survey on how the agent “handled my situation” — “handle” being the operative word, of course. I did not complete the survey.]

I’ve been going over this touchy situation in my mind ever since. I recalled that in Ireland when someone is asking nicely for a loan of some money, they use the verb touch, as in “I touched him for a few quid, but he didn’t have any.” Perhaps this is the origin of the phrase, “She’s a soft touch”; it has nothing to do with, say, the soft touch of a mother’s hand or handling things with a light touch. These latter would be what Ms Ross was referring to in her song.

And what about the “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp”? In today’s parlance, does it not imply that if you haven’t grasped enough money yourself, you should reach into someone else’s pocket for some more? By using words associated with comfort, love, and caring — reach out; touch — sellers of everything from jobs to insurance to education to healthcare hope to deceive consumers into thinking of them as benign benefactors, doing them a favor instead of what’s actually happening, which is lining their own pockets with our money.

It appears Diana Ross’s song needs to be reworded for today’s capitalists: “Reach out and touch somebody’s bank; make yourself wealthy, man — if you can.”

Just Picture It

Oh, it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged! But I have a very good reason: I’m working on a new book and it incorporates my bloggings. Publishers don’t like material that has already appeared somewhere else, including online like this, so I am musing sparingly these days.

The book centres on an American woman, Wheelchair Mary, who lives in an Irish village and writes a column for the local supermarket’s twice-monthly advertising circular. The woman bears not a slight resemblance to myself. Her writer’s persona, however, is that of a 30-something Indian woman. The column’s called Good Karma.

No part-time mystic (fictional or real) worth her salt would ever miss an opportunity to share her musings on the New Year. Thus, here is what Wheelchair Mary and I — rock salts of the earth — think about it. From Plus ca Change, my latest novel:

* * *

“Good Karma

Volume 3, Issue 24

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

Dear Dilley’s Customer,

Well, here we are with the last instalment of Good Karma for this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed my little articles as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them for you! 

Though most of you may be in Christmas Panic Mode with the big day only a week away, I’d like to turn your attention to the New Year. No, not the parties or the big dinners. I mean the afters — the resolutions and goals we make and break.

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about the New Year is its global celebration, no matter a country’s religion or political system. It may be celebrated on different dates, but the idea is the same. What I didn’t like about New Year’s, though, was the setting of all those great goals and then the getting of all the guilt when I failed to live up to them.

The New Year seems a perfect time to set new goals, doesn’t it? Because advertisers know this, we’re blitzed with ads for nicotine patches, diet pills, exercise equipment and (my personal fave) organisational accessories such as file folders, storage bins and the like. For most of my New Years, I vowed to stop or start various projects, from smoking to slimming to sewing. The enthusiasm lasted maybe a week or a month, but it was always followed with great lashings of GUILT for the rest of the year. I know I’m not the only one this happens to. Why do we do this to ourselves, year after year?

Then I learned about YearSpell, a custom I discovered in Utah, of all places. Its magic is in its ability to evoke the enthusiasm I need to follow my goals as well as a do-able timeline (a year) that puts Guilt on the Naughty Step, out of my way!

And it’s so simple. It’s lots of fun done in a group, but also immensely satisfying to do all by yourself. Take a good-sized piece of cardboard, poster paper — even wood will work. I like to cut my paper in a circle perhaps 24 inches in diameter, but then I’m a big fan of circles and I also have lots of plans! You could certainly get by with a much smaller sized palette. 

Then make sure you have a pile of magazines or circulars (or even our Dilley’s circulars with Good Karma articles in them!), sharp scissors and glue. Even if you know what your goals are, I suggest you take your time looking through each magazine. Sometimes you’ll just cut out one word here and another word there, like some sort of stalker or poison-pen writer. (Instead of killing someone, though, you are doing the opposite: giving Life new meaning for yourself! Agatha Christie would have no fun with your kind of letter…) 

Let the pictures inspire you. Instead of a picture of someone sweating away on a piece of gym equipment, you might choose a picture of someone who’s successfully climbed a mountain. Instead of photos of Nicorette or gaunt people dying of lung cancer, choose a party or other scene in which people are totally enjoying themselves, without a cigarette (or drink, if booze is what you’re trying to cut back on) in sight. If you want to eat more healthfully, don’t cut out pictures of cake and then draw big red X’s through them, cut out pictures of someone who’s totally enjoying the kind of meal you think will help you lose weight. You get the idea. 

You probably won’t finish your YearSpell on New Year’s Eve or even New Year’s Day, but that’s totally okay! Work on it little by little. You’ll know when you’re finished. And when you are, hang it in a prominent place in your home, a place you’ll see it often. Look at it; read those inspiring words and phrases; see yourself in the yoga outfit doing a pose in the morning mist in a lush garden.

The beauty of this is that once you’ve placed your intentions in this very hands-on way, your mind will take over. You will find yourself in exactly the places you need to be at exactly the right moments. Your dreams, almost like magic, become reality. Taking the time to ‘stick’ meaningful things on paper means you will ‘stick’ to your goals in a whole new way. You’ll be inspired every time you look at your YearSpell, because it’s just for you. No one else. It reflects who you really are inside: an amazing, wonderful Human Being. No need or indeed room for Guilt. Keep that bad boy on the Naughty Step forever!

Onward and upward! May this be your best New You ever.



Divided We Stand

I have these beautiful gladioluses in my back garden. Fiery coral in colour, they surely would be more at home in Hawaii or California than in northern Donegal, but yet­—here they are.

My long-time friends the O’Byrnes (Noel and his son Karl, to be exact) planted various bulbs for me on the last Easter weekend. The irises have long since faded away, but the glads’ time has come. I’ve been sending pictures of their progress to the family because none of the glads had bloomed the last time the family was here, in early August.

Spaced along the back fence at irregular intervals, one of the gladioluses stands five feet tall, while the rest are maybe 2-3 feet high. They’re all Dolly Parton flowers for sure—so top-heavy they defy gravity. Add to this the high-speed winds that pummel my mini-mountain top garden and the copious amounts of rain their coral cups must contain, and you can understand why it’s (as Spock would say) ‘fascinating.’ I love to sit at my kitchen table and just gaze at them through the sliding glass doors. How do those flowers thrive with so many factors against them? They’re miracles in the making!

DividedWeStandYesterday, though, when I opened the blinds so I could watch my amazing flowers, I saw that two of them had fallen to the ground. My hands went to my heart in shock and sorrow. Yesterday (and for many days before that) they had been standing together; today, they had succumbed and were no more. They were the two that had grown up at the same time, as it were. They had leant on each other for support; beauteous twins. Their busty blossoms could not, after all, withstand the gales and gravity.

I went out, cut the stalks, and gathered them in. They might be fallen, but they could still gladden my home. I looked at the remaining flowers. Two or three feet apart, still standing tall they were, swaying back and forth with every sharp gust of wind and burst of rain, but seemingly in no danger—even the one that was five feet tall. How did they not fall? They were taller than the ones that had.

Once inside my home, I noticed that the stem of one was deformed. It would never have grown tall, only sideways. Indeed, the stem growing at an angle like that meant any flower standing beside it was doomed as well. They would fall together.

Ah, there’s a metaphor here, I thought. Of course, I’m the crippled bloom. If I had gone back to the US, I would have been too much of a burden for the kind soul(s) nearby. The climate (economic in particular), so un-convivial to cripples, is worse for those who care for them. My children, for example, who would not be financially in a position to help even before a transplant, would have been pulled down even more by the sheer weight of the bureaucracy that accompanies those of us with disabilities.

Here in Ireland, alone, I am in a better position to thrive. The climate is milder and gentler. Yes, there are weeds of bureaucracy, but they’re relatively small and if plucked early they will not stunt my growth. I’m not relegated to waste ground; my fragile flowers are appreciated in whatever part of the garden I wish to transplant myself.

And though I am separated from my children and grandchildren by distance, we are brought together by love; they stand in their gardens, and I in mine. They are doing so bloomin’ well! And, just as I watch my garden grow when I sit at my kitchen table; I can watch my family grow every time I look through the virtual window Skype and Hangouts afford me. Instead of waiting for a physical visit that might never happen, I can track their daily progress and they can track mine. We have a virtual garden, one that is impervious to the attacks of capricious Nature.

There are many parents in Ireland whose children have been driven to live in other countries. The Irish economic climate became too harsh for their children (especially the well-educated ones) to stay, and the parents content themselves now —as I do—with the virtual contact provided by technology. The reason this works for us is that there was real contact and real love to begin with; the gardens were already blooming. Skype and Hangouts and WhatsApp and Viber are fertiliser for the growth already there.

I’d always believed that it was “United we stand, divided we fall.” Now I know that it is, actually, exactly the opposite; or, perhaps, that we are more united when divided—as long as we have a common purpose. Love determines the weather — and the ‘whether.’ Distance and money have so very little to do with it. They are the weather—not the fertile soil that holds the roots.

Bees, Happy

‘Tis a field day for Donegal bees.

I watch as they stalk each bloom

kissing deeply

secret spicy places.


they bee-stagger from my garden

full of lavender-love

to saunter through the slats

of my neighbour’s fence

and find sweet peas at last.

~ ~ ~

3 September 2015

The Garden, Ballymacool

Case Study

Last night during a lull in the Insomnia Wars, I had a dream. Personally, I think dreams are underrated; they are always significant (if only to know what not to eat before bedtime). This dream had as its main feature a lost suitcase and my futile efforts to recover it, despite realising at one point that it had nothing of value in it. My keys were returned to me, and I hadn’t even realised they were lost. I say ‘keys,’ but it was/is just one key on a chain with my Route 66 medallion and two of those mini-sized plastic cards: Dunnes Stores and my library card. (Wow. Not only were the key(s) the same ones I do in fact own. I’m after realising that they represent my favourite and/or most needful things: a roof over my head, body fuel, mind fuel, and travel. I had already had all I needed. See? Don’t dreams ROCK?)


A little background would be in order, as it’s been so long since I’ve written anything on this blog. A few months ago the Occupational Therapist assigned to me did assessments of both my personal and my home’s strengths and weaknesses. Only weaknesses get the State to part with any money, however, so she concentrated on those. The steep slope of my driveway (far too steep to be safe in my powered wheelchair) and the fact that my shower is not on the ground floor disturbed my OT the most. She wrote a smashing letter detailing the dangers of my dwelling-place and instructed me to apply to the Council for housing forthwith.


And so I did. The letter had the desired effect! Within one week I had an interview; within just two days (it must be some kind of record) I was informed that I WAS ON THE LIST! Whoo-who! Since there was no available ‘sheltered housing’ (similar to US independent living), the Council offered me the new scheme called Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). I could find suitable private accommodation and they would pay 300/month toward it. Suh-weet!!!!


Back up. Whoaaaaaaaa, Nellie! The paper on which the letter was written was tangible enough, and I’m sure their wish to help me out was sincere, but there is, in reality, no available local authority housing. There is, in reality, virtually no suitable private housing available either.


What’s a poor cripple to do? I’ve been searching since mid-May, ever since I got the OT’s letter, but the few places I saw online, when I rang to see if they were wheelchair-accessible, were off the market as soon as an able-bodied person could get themselves over there. (It helped that these lessees didn’t have the added HAP paperwork, of course. Irish landlords hold a deep horror for all paperwork and the spectre of government that accompanies it. Unlike American landlords, they’re not afraid of my disabilities. One of the perks of living in a place where people are not obsessed by insurance, I might add.) Anyway, Arranging Transport is my third most time-consuming activity: first place goes to Sleep; second goes to Filling Out Paperwork. (You may wonder at my describing Sleep as an activity, but if you had the dreams I do, you’d know why! I accomplish in those hours all those things I used to do in real life — and then some. It’s a pleasant place to be.)


Then, lo and behold, last week I found a place in Letterkenny, way the hoo-hah out there and offering a greater chance that I could be stranded because of lack of — you guessed it! — Transport. I’ve had several occasions here where the wheelchair taxi gets me to my destination but cannot get me home again. These occasions have been inconvenient and scary, but I did manage to get home in the wheelchair; in this new place I would not be so lucky. In addition, my neighbour warned me that the noise transfer from overhead in these apartments was horrific. In my stair-climbing past, I always chose top floor apartments if I could get them, but those days are long gone. Unless I can get a wee bungalow, I’m doomed to living under people’s feet. (Hmmm…methinks there’s another self-discovery essay lurking in those words…)


Anyway, I arranged to have the prospective landlord collect my walker and me so I could look at the place. (My wheelchair weighs more than I do. It does not, despite its ads’ proclamations, “fold up for easy transport!” LIE. It’s a job for Superman.) The fatigue from the outing, which took three hours to prepare for and about an hour to complete, left me decimated. The thought of an actual move, and the stress that accompanies it, overwhelmed me.


I wondered: if I have to move anyway, do I want to stay in Letterkenny? Perhaps there would be something in Sligo? Donegal has no trains, but Sligo does. All the Irish Rail trains accommodate wheelchair users, you see — unlike the buses — and I have a free Travel Pass. Sheltered housing is available in Sligo or Mayo, too, for when I need that full-time care. So I looked online and sure enough, there was a place in Ballymote I’d tried to get into when I first came to Ireland. (Remember: my US disability pension does not allow me to live in the major populated areas of Ireland. Rural areas are much less expensive but require a car, and I no longer have that option.)


I talked to the letting agent and arranged that I would take the bus to Sligo and the train from Sligo to Ballymote. The buses on the Letterkenny – Sligo – Galway route have no wheelchair access, so the driver was going to somehow get me into a bus seat and stow my Rollator in the luggage compartment. The agent was going to meet me at Ballymote. I was hoping that my friends from Tubbercurry would meet me at the apartments and bring a transport wheelchair so I could see the place properly and judge its interior wheelchair access. The whole adventure, all told, would take twelve hours.


And I don’t manage well with hour-long events? What was I thinking?


And therein was the problem: I was thinking, not enquiring. I was swallowing whole both the medical practitioners’ recommendations and the fears of well-meaning friends. I felt I had to move because THEY felt I had to move. Further, I had given in to What If? scenarios and future thinking. What if we have as much ice and snow as last year and I can’t get up the driveway at all? What if I can’t get to the __________ (supermarket, doctor, bank, etc. etc.)? What if I never get to see ____________ (my kids, my grandkids, my friends) again because I can’t get a ___________ (train/bus/plane/taxi/horse & cart)?


I keep thinking I need access to various forms of transport, but I don’t. I’m not going anywhere. My life is like the key chain in my dream: I have books; I have food; I have a roof over my head. And I have the memories of my travels, as expressed in my dream by the Route 66 souvenir I bought when I drove cross-country from Albuquerque to Maple Park. (I had lots of baggage on that trip.)


In the dream, I had arranged my suitcases in the last train carriage in such a way as to discourage anyone else from sharing the space. My intent was to sleep the whole way, you see. After leaving my stuff strategically placed, I wandered along beside the train, looking at the people on the platform (and probably searching for the dining car). I had arrived early and the old-fashioned, Orient-Express-like train had not yet left the station. When I returned to my compartment, however, there was another woman there. She’d moved my suitcases to another car and I was livid. “This is my compartment!” I shouted at her. “I need to sleep and I must lie down! I can’t sleep sitting up! You had no right to move my suitcases.” (Was this the dream equivalent of Who Moved My Cheese?)


The woman, who reminded me of an Irish pal of mine I’ve lost touch with, Sharon Brady, said, “Well, the train is full now, but if you want your bags they’re three or four cars down. I stuck them under the seat.” I didn’t have time to saunter; I needed to get those bags! I rushed along outside the train, the top of my head even with the bottoms of people’s feet (there’s that image again!), asking if anyone had seen the brown soft-sided suitcases with leather accents. The stationmaster was beckoning me onto the train, but still I kept going forward, well past the point the Sharon lookalike had said she’d put the bags. I reached the front of the train and there was no sign of them. Exasperated, the stationmaster told me I had to get on, then and there. I did, downcast, and vowed I would search every cabin again at the next stop.


I made it back to my train car, still agitated that I could not find my suitcase. (It had gone from two suitcases to only one, for some reason I can’t fathom.) The door slid open and a passenger from further down came in, holding my key chain. “Are these yours?” he said. “They must have fallen out of your coat pocket when you came looking for your bags.”


I instantly felt inside my pockets. I was unaware of even wearing a coat until that point, let alone having lost the keys. “Why, yes! They’re mine.” I took them from his hand. “You didn’t find the bag, though?” The Sharon said, “There must have been something of great value in that suitcase to mean more than those keys.”


I went over in my head what I’d packed in the suitcase. Nothing of value, just some clothes and toiletries. I thought to myself, Surely there was something more important in there to have obsessed about it to this degree? I racked my brain, but no: there hadn’t been anything of importance in the case. And then I was struck with how ungrateful I’d been toward the person who’d found my keys. I had focused on the worthless suitcase and hadn’t even noticed I’d lost the key to my home. Anything else could be replaced, but not the key. “Thank you, young man. Thank you so very much for finding my keys. I’m sorry I was so ungrateful.” I turned to the Sharon and said, “You’re right. There was nothing of value in that case. All I need, I already have.” Then I woke up.


The Real and True Reality? I do not have the strength to go further than the door of the wheelchair taxi or Town Bus. I don’t have the stamina for more. Indeed, a move to a new home would do more harm than good. Yes, I would get 300 euros a month, but when has money ever been the key to Happiness? I could win the lottery tomorrow and it wouldn’t change a thing. And the best bit? Not only am I physically unable to undertake major journeys, I don’t need to go any further than my own front door. I’ve got the ruby slippers. (No, really! I do! Lee Barnes gave them to me last winter.)


This is the second detailed, memorable dream I’ve had featuring baggage. A few days before my hospitalization at the end of April, I had one where I was focused on a black backpack. My childhood friend Gayle, who passed away thirty years ago and appears in dreams before life-changing events, was with me. She kept saying, “You don’t need all this stuff. You don’t need this where you’re going.”


And Gayle was so right, as was the Sharon in my dream last night (who is, of course, a representation of the Me I’ve lost touch with). We carry all these cases (worst-case scenarios; best-case scenarios) without checking the contents to see if we really need what’s in there. Not only that, we use our precious energy dragging them with us at all costs. We can’t use the key to open the door to our Present if our hands are full of yesterday’s baggage, can we?


When I woke up today, I felt a great relief. I don’t have to find a new place to live. I don’t have to spend what precious energy I have left searching for what I’ve lost, either, for I haven’t lost anything of value. What I treasure is either still here, or is in a place to which I cannot travel — and for which I can pack no suitcase.


A point in case.

Perfect Thyming

ThymeI slide the glass door
In wafts
smell of thyme
mint and lavender travel, too,
but thyme
the stronger scent
reaches me first.

lord of herbs,
travels first —
lavender and mint
close on her

This thyme’s a woman,
three times the lady
I am.
I but planted her
grounded her roots;
her powers are her own.

I remember past thymes —
irradiated —
big-city, rushed-life thymes; or
bagged and tagged
tea-thymes that
by their very de-naturement
could not be a patch on this thyme,
the thyme before me,
the thyme that might heal all wounds.

This thyme
I’ve got it right.
I pluck it gently
savour it fully.

There’s no present like my thyme.