Friday, April 29, 2011

The Cedar Waxwings Return

photo by Jupiter Saturn
Spring continues to spring forth.  The bright red buds on the maple trees are getting fatter day by day, and the soft yellow-green buds of the willows have opened into tiny leavesWe can rest assured that even with the wacky snowfall as recently as yesterday, Spring continues to creep into our lives.  This morning on our walk, we saw a big group of gray birds flitting in the trees next to the path.  I almost kept on walking, but something told me to stop and pay attention. There were two or three beautiful cedar waxwings within six feet of us and probably 15-20 in the nearby trees.  We just stood and looked at each other from our prospective perches.  For me, the arrival of the waxwings means that spring is undeniable.  They aren't hearty like the first robins; they wait until the warm weather is really here before they take up residence.  I feel as if they have brought true spring with them.  Make sure to get out and soak up some spring sunshine, and take a minute to notice the beautiful spring emerging all around!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mother Nature sure is fickle.  My friend and I walked among raindrops and snowflakes this morning, and the wind was harsh once more.  We saw the most amazing thing.  Across the lake a large flock of small birds, possibly chickadees or juncos, was resting on a downed tree hanging over the water.  Several birds of the same species were flying in ovals next to the group and singing a happy song.  All at once, the whole group took flight and swooped around in a completely synchronized dance, and then returned to rest on the tree.  We watched them do this several times.  My friend commented that it appeared by their choreography that they were moving with one shared brain.  The beauty and wonder of it left me breathless.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cleansing Rain

This morning it was in the 40s and raining like crazy.  My friend and I dressed head to toe in rain gear, and within minutes, the whipping rain reminded us that we both need to waterproof our boots again.  There was such a beautiful solitude this morning amid the falling rain.  
Google image
It wasn't a big surprise that we didn't pass anyone along the lake path.  This is our first heavy rain since winter, and it has been a dry spring.  Everything felt dirty and dusty until this morning.  We stopped on our return loop to bless the cleansing rain.   We chose to let it wash away any discomfort or negative emotion that we had been holding.  It felt so wonderful to let everything go and breathe deeply the fresh clean air of renewal. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

You are Perfect

"May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us."

Mother Theresa

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Rare Treat

I had a nice walk in the sunshine over the weekend and decided to bring my binoculars.  What a nice surprise to discover that the small brown looking ducks across the lake was really a pair of hooded mergansers.  It was stunning to watch the male roll his head forward and back, changing the shape of the white spot on his head.  I just sat on the shore of the lake and watched the birds pass me by.  
Photo by Bill Schmoker
This morning on our return loop, I looked up into a tree right along the path where the eagles like to perch.  Sure enough, I saw a huge dark shape with a white head.  We were wondering  if the eagle might take flight as we approached.  They are known as a sign of wisdom, and I think it knew that we were no threat so far below, on foot, and just curious.  What a sight to behold.  My friend commented that he is always surprised at just how huge the eagles are up close.  What a blessing that we not only noticed the eagle, but that our crisp vision enabled us to see the amazing creature clearly.  We just stopped and breathed in our blessings today.

Friday, April 15, 2011

How Reaching for the Stars Came to Be

Do you ever wonder how someone started a business, how they got the idea, and how it all came together?  I wrote about my experience for our church newsletter.  Here is the link, and the article is on page 5.  Look for the heading "Body Spirit Connection". 

What will they remember?

Yesterday during my rounds, I was visiting with a man that suffers from advanced dementia.  I like to draw people into the moment with questions that may be easy to answer.  I found a photo of "Bob" and his wife.  Bob was in an army uniform, so we talked a bit about that.  He was a Staff Sargent in WWII.  I asked about his wife.  He was able to tell me her name which was nice.  I had a hunch and asked him if she like to sing.  I watched a light turn on for him.  He told me that she did indeed like to sing.  I asked if she sang around the house.  He got a little cloudy then and said that he didn't remember her singing around the house.  I asked if she sang in a choir.  Bob got a sparkle in his eye, became excited as he found the memory, and told me that she belonged to the church choir and loved to sing.  It was a wonderful moment for both of us. 

Google images
This is one of the many reasons that I love working in hospice.  It puts me in touch with what really matters over and over again.  I left wondering... if my friends and family only had a limited memory, what might they remember about me?  Life is full of little things that leave lasting impressions.  I made a new vow to LIVE, LOVE, and LAUGH more often.  That's what memories are made of.


Scaup from Google Images
Wood ducks from Google Images
Where did our warm sunny spring run off to?  We added layers again this morning to fight the nasty wind coming across the lake.  We were glad to be bundled.  Each morning we scare off two pair of wood ducks.  They are so beautiful.  On our return trip today we also flushed out a very cautious Scaup.  It was too far away to get an exact match on the species but it was quite a sight to watch it take off across the water.  Like the loon yesterday, the white underside of the Scaup was almost blindingly white.  After a winter of washed out color and a spring still brown, the bright plumage of the migrating birds is a rare treat! 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Abundant Wild Life

Loon and baby from National Geographic
Our walk this morning was chilly.  The wind hasn't gotten the memo that it is now spring.  As we neared the lake we were greeted by a calling Kingfisher.  I had forgotten that they are quite large - a fact that my friend pointed out to me.  We rounded the first corner and when the lake came into view, so did a heartwarming site - our first loon sighting of 2011!   They really are spectacularly beautiful birds.  Their white breasts are almost blinding against the deep black of their feathers.  Welcome back loons.  Now we will be lulled into deep sleep by their haunting calls echoing across the lake.  Even nights "in town" are transformed instantly to relaxing summer nights at the lake when the melodic cries of the loon reach us.  Aaaahhhhh.

Numerology of 9

I had posted in March, that I saw 9 eagles flying right over my house.  My great friend Robin just sent me the numerology for the number 9:

You said you had nine eagles flying over your house...9-symbolizes completion, ending of the old and the eagles symbolize great power/soaring spiritual self/ freedom to be used wisely/accepting responsibility/taking care of one's own needs.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wow What a Week

It's another busy week.  Yesterday I spent the whole morning at a Senior Fair that was held at a local church.  I made lots of great contacts and found many resources.  Here are just a few: 
This a  moving company specializing in planning and coordinating your move.  They work in conjunction with a mover, but they take care of the details.  They help change service address for utilities and really help people figure out how to downsize in the least stressful way.  When they leave your new dwelling, everything will be unpacked, the beds will be made, the lamps plugged in, the clocks set, and the electronics in working order.  They have been around a long time and understand the emotional upset behind moving and work with the clients to fully support them.  Amazing. 
Family Means provides respite care, caregiver support groups, caregiver coaching/counseling, and education programs.  They serve the Washington County (MN) and St Croix County (WI) areas.  They are a partner with United Way.  If you are not in these counties and need services, please contact the United Way. 
St Therese at St Odilia is a relatively new facility in Shoreview MN.  They offer Palliative Care, Hospice Care, and Spiritual Care.  The facility is an 8 bedroom home with 24 hour on-site nursing care.  It looks really beautiful and the representative that I met was delightful.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk to my dad about hospice.  He has a friend who was just enrolled in a hospice program and he said that they seem to have him heavily sedated.  He said that in his experience "hospice" meant drugged into oblivion.  I was able to come at that from a different reality.  I know that Lakeview Hospice, the organization that I volunteer for,  is amazing, but I don't know about other hospice programs.  I was able to tell him that a good hospice program should cater to the wishes of the patient as much as possible.  There is a chance that his friend is no longer lucid, and that with the medication, his symptoms are exacerbated.  The patient  or loved one along with the nurse, normally decide how often to receive pain medication, and the results vary greatly. 

I related a story of a visit with a local hospice patient that I had last Friday.  "Lucille"  was just moved to hospice after she had a fall in her apartment.  We sat and talked for about 45 minutes, and she was lucid and delightful!  We held hands, played the Reverie harp, and she shared stories.  She has end stage lung cancer, and she said that she knew that she could no longer get the care that she needed at home.   During Lucille's journey with cancer, she has not had any pain but was quite uncomfortable while I was there.  She thought that she had broken at least one rib when she fell.  When she grimaced, I asked her if she was uncomfortable and when she had last had any pain medication.  She told me that she wasn't sure but knew that the nurse would come in and offer when it was time.  I reminded her that she didn't need to be uncomfortable and asked if I could speak to the nurse for her. 

The nurse came in and we talked with Lucille about how she could request different pain medication at different times.  Between all of the options, the nurse assured her that she should be comfortable.  The nurses in hospice are literally angels.  They are completely about giving care and comfort to their patients.  In my visits, I have found that if a patient's pain level changes, the nurse can contact the doctor and request an upgrade in the dosage or frequency of medication.   

Lucille was greatly relieved after our talk with the nurse and she and I decided that she would relax even more if I wrote some notes for her.  We wrote down the nurses name, and the time that she had last taken morphine.  I reminded her that she could buzz the nurse before the next dose if she was uncomfortable.  It was a delightful visit, and it felt so wonderful to show Lucille that the main interest of everyone in the facility was that she was comfortable and well cared for.  Some patients don't understand that concept after being in other homes, or in Lucille's case after taking care of herself. 

Hospice is no longer a place or process where people are drugged into oblivion until their last breath.  It can be a wonderful opportunity for patients to have some control and go their own way with dignity and compassion.

Ice Out!

Over the weekend, I went for a long walk with a friend.  It was gray and sprinkling every now and again   We decided that we wanted to walk rain or shine.  We noticed that the ice was getting thin and dark.  We had to stop to watch a blue heron that was right next to the path.  It was stunning, and so close that we could really see all of its colors and detail.  We were both breathless for a minute in its presence.  Sunday the temperature hit almost 70 degrees here which is unexpected but very welcome.  We had a dose of reality this morning when my friend and I went out; the wind was strong and biting.  When we got down to the lake we saw that the ice was out!!!  Spring is officially here.  The sun was gleaming across the water on our return route, and we were breathing in the beauty and wonder of the reflected light after so many months of snow and ice cover.  There were many types of ducks over the lake this morning.  I will try to take my binoculars and identify them.  We have many unique species during migration, and I like to log them in my bird book.  Our crocus are just emerging, and my first daffodils bloomed in the warm sunshine today.  Oh Joy smiles in their bobbing yellow heads.  Smile and breathe deeply the fresh air of Spring...

Friday, April 8, 2011


It was a glorious morning to be out and about.  The temperatures were mild enough so that the ice didn't reform along the shoreline.  We had the path to ourselves and spent the return route picking up trash that must have been under the snow.  My friend brought up the irony of people bagging up their dog's waste and then leaving the full bag behind. We would all be better off to have the dog stuff compost after a few rain showers.  Once it is put in plastic it could take years and years to degrade depending on the  plastic.
I saw my first Mallard couple this morning.  They were flying in circles around the island with the male loudly honking at the female while in hot pursuit.  They will have to compete with the geese for nesting sites but they always seem to be able to make it work.  
During my daytime walk earlier in the week, the frogs were so loud that it was almost deafening.  I got to wondering how they know when I'm approaching.  According to 
"Besides hearing sounds like humans do, frogs and salamanders can hear vibrations in the ground. When the ground vibrates, the movement travels up their front legs to the shoulder blade and then to a muscle that connects to the ear, so the amphibian can hear it. This type of hearing can be very sensitive. Not only can amphibians hear the footsteps of an approaching predator, like a raccoon, but they can also hear something as slight as an insect digging in the soil."

It was a little eerie to hear such a frog symphony and then as I approached, silence.  I wonder if they also have a warning call.  I thought that I heard a duck in the pond quacking, and later realized that it was a frog sound.  Being so sensitive to sound and vibration, I have a new respect for the herons and egrets who wait so patiently along the shoreline before snatching up frogs. 
Spring has truly sprung here and I plan to spend as much time outside this weekend as possible.  Try to get out and thaw your bones even if you just sit in a chair in the sunshine.  It will restore your very soul!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Off the radar

Wow, what a week.  It was filled with early morning meetings, appointments, funerals, and business.  I did manage to get out for a walk every day.  It has been cold at night and then warm during the day.  It hit 61 degrees today!!!  Often in the morning, the open water along the shoreline will refreeze, and then along comes the warm sun and it melts again.    I watched 2 geese churn through the slush, plop their bellies on the ice, and then paddle their feet until they could climb onto the ice.  It was fun to see how it was done.  My muskrat friend has been busy each morning and surprises me with her swimming speed.  She can hold her breath until we tire of waiting for her to resurface.  
One day this past week, I was trying to get my exercise and wasn't paying attention to my surroundings.  Two pileated woodpeckers flew right in front of me on the path and then landed on a nearby tree.  I resolved to be more attentive and live in the present.  I rounded a bend and flushed a blue heron from a pond.  It took off by crossing my path, and then headed for a different body of water.  They are gangly looking birds at times, but they fly with such grace!  The birds were conspiring to bring me back to the here and now and settle my busy mind.   
I had the good fortune to walk mid day on Wednesday and was deep in thought when I saw two large bird shadows cross the path.  I looked up into the cornflower blue sky to find two red tailed hawks circling slowly right above me.  I was tempted to lay on the patch and watch their dance, but I decided against it.  I would have stayed all day if my neck hadn't objected. 
I did find a sunny spot to just sit and take in my surroundings.  It was a heavenly, beautiful, sunny day. I  had brought binoculars and enjoyed getting a close-up view of the birds.  Their colors are so much more vibrant than when they are far away.  The path was a well traveled road mid day, with smart Minnesotans who said, "Look at this day!  We need to get out and enjoy it!"  I noticed that even the pets had a new spring in their steps.  

Here's a cool blue heron video that will remind you to relax and breathe:

Friday, April 1, 2011

Thursday Visits

Yesterday was hospice visiting day for the dynamic duo.  As always, I was excited to begin my "hospice day".   My friend and I did 9 visits in four different locations, so we were plenty busy.  It was an interesting day for me.  As I reflected on my day, I was thinking that I didn't feel as though I had connected in a meaningful way with many of my patients.  I decided to take some more time to mentally go through my day. 
"Martha" is a special lady.  The minute I bend down and touch her hand, she always lights up and clasps my hand in both of hers.  She is animated, appreciative, and as always, so very sweet.  She loves to visit and yesterday was no exception.  We spent a long time in the lunch room chatting while the residents waited for their lunch to arrive. 
I also remembered that as I do almost every week, I made a new friend.  "John" is wheel chair bound and almost non verbal.  His eyes kept drawing me to him.  I finally walked over, touched his shoulder, and introduced myself.  I asked someone at the facility what his name was.  I just started chatting with him about the Twins, the weather, and his lunch.  Soon, he started moving his hand around in the air.   I tried to see what he was pointing at, or figure out what he was trying to say.  I reached out and took his hand in mine and he immediately squeezed it and held on to it.  It turns out that my new friend "John" just wanted that physical connection.  I tend to forget, that to him, holding hands is a pretty big deal.  When was the last time that someone touched "John" just to nurture him?
So while I didn't have any huge aha moments yesterday, as usual, my patients and friends reminded me that sometimes it is the small things that feel so big.  It was a great day! 

Spring Fog

It was an interesting morning to get outside.  There was a thick fog early in the morning, and by the time I got out, it had mostly cleared.  There was that quiet quality hanging in the air with the last of the fog.  Everything felt a bit more muted and still.  There are huge puddles on top of the lake ice, which from the shore looked like open water.  We really felt like we could almost hear the ice melting.  I saw my first house finch  yesterday on my front porch.  The black capped chickadees were perching in my spruce tops as well.  As much as I would love to provide a nesting spot, the container is next to the front door, which makes it far from idealFor the sake of the birds, I hope that they choose a more restful location.