Misha Heads Home

“I can’t believe how fast things move on the outside…the world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.”   – Brooks.

That quote is from one of my favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption. I slowed myself down this week by watching that and another of Stephen King’s stories, “It.” I hadn’t seen a movie in months because I don’t own a television. When my daughter texted me to tell me my Grand Dog, Misha was not well and wondered whether I wanted to visit with her, I went over to spend the day with her watching movies, enjoying the company of daughter Rachel and her boyfriend and playing sous chef to complement the creation of her new vegetarian chili recipe.

In that scene where Brooks is released after decades from Shawshank Prison, his quote comes narrated in the form of a letter he writes to his still incarcerated prisoner friends. His profound words hold much truth for me. With social media, text, emails and comment lines everywhere, we use fewer words to express less, quicker. The human connection gets diluted. With so many typing and so few listening, meaning is lost. My preference is small group or one-on-one conversation, so I intentionally carve out time in my schedule for those opportunities as often as I can. It gives me the chance to listen, and I love that. This week it was dinner and dialog with my hair stylist/friend turned holistic Bach Flower practitioner; no phones required. It was a fascinating evening of hearing about her professional and personal lives filled with laughter and smiles that ended in a warm hug.   When I got in my car to go home, the clock on the dashboard revealed that we’d been talking for four hours, and not in short phrases or abbreviated words. Time flies when you’re having fun.

Joy was also delivered via the snail mailbox this week. I received a book from another one of my favorite Authors, Dave Barry. It’s called Best. State. Ever. And it’s about my Happy Place of Florida. Dave’s words and viewpoints have never failed to make me laugh out loud when I read them, and this book is no exception. He’s also a great guy in general, having responded to the letters I’ve written to him through the years with a personal note. Based on our shared ability to see the wonderful, hysterical absurdity of human behavior (and the results), I’m convinced that we’re twins separated at birth. The only difference is that he was published first for his observations, and I was institutionalized. Smiles! Somehow he managed to skirt the system. Anyway, I’ve been laughing all week at the book. Snail mail also brought a note handwritten in green ink from a friend author, another Dave. He lined up some beautiful sentences of gratitude in a way that touched my heart as tender words always do.   Words do not always travel from the soul to the hand to the paper. How awesome when they do. It’s what I strive to pass onto others.

Recently I wrote about my promise to leave a note of appreciation for the workers who collect my garbage/recyclables in the frigid temperatures. I penned it with a Sharpee on a large piece of paper and secured it with mailing tape to the lid of the garbage can before I rolled it to the end of the driveway.   The fun I felt while doing that was rewarding and doubled since I was freezing in the garage as I taped it. When I came home from work the next day, the note was gone. I told the story to my daughter who made me laugh by saying, “They probably threw it out.” No matter. The joy is in the giving of the words.

Capture Life Writing will soon be graduating from just a Blog to a more organized entity in the form of promoting mental wellness through human connection and the power of words.  This will involve encouraging writers, guiding others toward their authentic selves and paths, sharing nature essays to those who can no longer immerse themselves in it and helping others tell and publish their stories.   Using my passion for words and slowing down my own world brought me back to joy, and it is my desire to spend the rest of my life helping others do the same.

Misha crossed over the Rainbow Bridge last night. We adopted her eight years ago as a three-legged foster and she created for us a lifetime of happy memories.   It is hard to let go of family, even the furry kind. I’m grateful for that day spent talking with her and stroking her fur, comforting her during her last moments with us.  Passing that time savoring quiet time with loved ones.

Thanks for the reminder, Brooks.




Of Dreams and Angels


Celebrating today! He had a dream, a noble one, and Martin Luther King, Jr. shared it with the world in the form of living example and a famous speech on August 28, 1963.   In a lesser known address he made to the American Psychological Association in 1967, he stated the following, “People who are labeled ‘crazy’ or ‘mentally ill’ are often in fact ‘creatively maladjusted’ to a sick society.”   Fifty years later those words hold their relevance. I have a dream, too, Dr. King, that those labels disappear from language and that those who wear them come instead to appreciate their true selves and that there is nothing disordered about them despite what our culture and a well established medical model have come to dictate. “Thank God Almighty we’re free at last!”   It’s a work in progress, yet I believe much better because of your words and efforts. Happy Birthday, and Thank You for all of the healing your messages of hope bring to our hearts.

Lots of happy words this week. From the window of the shuttle bus I noticed the Love and Love barber shop and Lovejoy Pizza.   At work a spontaneous bout of playing name that tune prompted an intense lyric discussion invoking lots of laughter. And having the privilege to share a storybook with a co-worker’s daughter who is advancing in her reading skills made me smile.

The kindest words though, were spoken. “Excuse me.” The gentle voice from behind startled me. After all, I was in a parking lot scraping off my car in the middle of a snowstorm. At first I thought it was my spirit guide, but quite frankly, his tone is usually more nudging and playful than polite. Smiles! I turned around and saw a small man standing there holding a large plastic bag. Recognition came when he said, “Do you have any bottles or cans in your car that you can spare?” My mind flashed back to several weeks ago when the same man approached me in the same situation outside of my work building, seven miles away by bus.   If he recalled my face or our encounter, he didn’t say so.

As the sleet and snow pelted us, he continued. “I’m homeless, so I live at the City Mission and collect bottles and cans to get by. I came here by the subway train, but I have lost my way to the station in the storm.” I knew he was being truthful about this because my workplace is next door to the City Mission. He asked so politely for so little, yet I could not honor his meager request. My car was meticulously clean, no empty cans or bottles. In today’s debit card world, I couldn’t even offer any cash or small change; only a smile and pointed finger in the direction of the subway station. It didn’t matter to him. His face lit up under his snug fitting tan hat and he smiled back. “Thank you. And may God Bless You.” He looked me in the eye and accepted my response of, “May God Bless You Too.” Then he turned toward the subway station.

As I completed my de-icing job, I thought to myself. His God/my Universe does bless me every second of every day of my life. I continued to think about that as I was guided home through reduced visibility on treacherous roads to the safety of my warm sanctuary and cooked my nutritious meal, took my warm shower and crawled into my freshly made luxurious bed. Amazing. And as I wrote in my journal, I embraced those kind words from a man who owns no more than a sack full of bottles and cans; theoretically nothing. “Thank You. May God Bless You.” By expressing those words he demonstrated that he has everything that many of us don’t. And he chose to share them with me.   The gift of appreciation, gratitude, warmth and love delivered in the middle of a snowstorm by a homeless stranger or an angel in disguise? I’ll let you decide; I already have my answer.

Smiles to all and a wish for love, freedom and blessings.

The Year in Review


Welcome to the Capture Life Writing Year in Review. I promise not to end with a list of celebrities who have left us this past year. 2017 marked my first year of intentionally living perpetual happiness. It was remarkable in terms of milestones. Smiles! I reconnected to my holistic interest of aromatherapy and delved into herbal remedies.   With a fond farewell to all of my Facebook friends I deleted my account; preferring to scroll through my thoughts via Myfi and revisiting my old passion of reading hand held books of the paper kind. Love it! I also helped celebrate three good friends into retirement, so now they walk around with what I call that retirement glow; may it never fade. Singing the “Make new friends and keep the old; one is silver and the other is gold” song, I was privileged to meet some new people who like to converse face to face and share food, one of my favorite activities.

Speaking of favorites, in September I put the finishing touches on my memoir based on my life centered around love. Although this is an ongoing story, writing Volume 1 was a gift in terms of evaluating my life; confirming my true self in the process. I’m grateful for those words having spilled out on paper. As the book unfolded, the chapter on my vocational life evolved in amazing ways with the acceptance of my dream job offer. It is a dying breed in opportunity, one that involves much live personal and phone interaction with customers. Our office is a small unit of eight dedicated staff led by a nurturing director. I was welcomed with open arms to this family-like setting.   During what will be my transitional time from UB to piloting Capture Life Writing, the work is perfect.

With a parting call to my psychiatric provider, I made the separation from the traditional mental health system that I was a part of for 19 years. I entered as a novice “bipolar” in 1998 and graduated symptom free after extensive research, personal reflection and experience and some really good people showed me the alternatives.  I was able to peel off my label for good. It is a favor I will spend the remainder of my life returning.

Which brings me to 2018. Last week I took some liberties and declared this the year of kind words and fun. One week in I’m up to my eyeballs in joy already. The biggest example came during a snowstorm stranding this past week. You may have seen this in the form of a 75-car pile up which made national news.   After two hours of waiting for the shuttle bus, I knew the drivers wouldn’t be there so I prepared to hunker down in my office for the night. An extraordinary act of kindness said otherwise. A coworker who was on duty grabbed his jacket and said, “Come on, you’ve waited long enough. I’m taking you to your car.” It was seven miles away, and It took us an hour and twenty minutes to crawl through the displaced traffic. He was practically a stranger, and he risked his reputation and job to take me. All he could offer was, “I want to. If more people did things like this, the world would be a better place.” Speaking my language.

The other things that brought smiles this week are simple. The irony of an empty Hershey Kiss wrapper discarded on the floor of the fitness center, fruit delivered to my desk with humor from a coworker with a smile and the statement, “Don’t be mean, eat a tangerine.” And, wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, the Bills are in the playoffs…Woot! Western New Yorkers have been lauding the Cincinnati Bengals. “Thank you!” I pray that has a trickle down effect and we learn to thank each other. A lot. Out loud. For everything.

I will end with these kind words. The Sanctuary is currently under several inches of snow. Although the sunsets are still spectacular, I’m a fair weather nature fan content with taking them in from my kitchen window. So Hat’s Off (definitely a humorous salute given the situation) to the man dressed in a fluorescent green snow suit that I just watched dump my garbage into the back of the truck on this rare subzero temperature day. I so appreciate your efforts and if I could find a way to reach a human being via your company’s website, I would tell them so right now. Next week I promise there will be a Thank You note taped to the garbage can lid.

Spread the kind words and have fun!







2018 The Year of Kind Words



Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” My Mom repeated that thousands of times to us as we were growing up. It is the only bit of her motherly advice that I disagree with.

Perhaps it is because I am such a passionate writer that I am sensitive about language, spoken and written.   During the past year I received correspondence from someone close to me that proved Mom wrong; someone who once matched my level of joy, love and compassion; the ideal partner in play. We had rekindled a lifelong friendship that resulted in a blending of our families, spending our time basking in the joy of bringing our children through their teen years teaching them our values and all about the importance of relationships. Leading by example through laughter, love and life.

And then things changed unexpectedly starting with lies, a betrayal, which resulted in a meeting with someone whose language I had never been exposed to and didn’t speak or understand that included cruel words and stories of neglect and threats to me and about my partner.   This spiraled into broken promises. The last correspondence I received from him was a text in response to a kind gesture I had extended. It was clearly written by someone with disdain in his heart for me. And even in the deepest parts of my soul where I sometimes helplessly grope to find peace with how he made the transition to caring about me to hating me, I can’t know the answers to why, because they are his. Although I quickly deleted the message, reading those words nearly destroyed me. Carved in my mind as if by a dagger, they still cause pain when I think of them. I want to leave them behind here with a lesson. From my experience, words can and do hurt others.

Every once in awhile as I am cherishing life, walking the beach or in the woods or in the moonlight, I remember the loving essence of my playmate and wish for a special person to enjoy those moments with me as we once did.   Yet because of the memory of his parting words, I choose not to take the risk, placing my trust only in my inner self, nature and the Universe. They know nothing of unkind words or gestures, so they are a reliable resource for me to give my heart.   The sun, moon and stars are always there to laugh with and to guide me and assure me that all is well. I could not find permanence with that in the human world.

What I can do is live it by being true to my word and a trustworthy human beacon to others, so I shall. I have been gifted with a talent for writing, and I vow to use that to express kindness, good words and messages of hope to others.   In my time with my playmate, I discovered the gift of eternal unconditional love which I will pass on through my words and teach others to do the same through Capture Life Writing.   I believe that by my doing that, the thoughts of those daggered words will disappear. Mom did have another saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”   That’s more like what I aspire to share.

In the wee first hours of this brand new year, I woke up to the full moon’s reflected sunlight splashed across my bedspread promising good things for the coming year.  And when I woke up this morning it was to a crisp beautiful blue sky.   I hereby declare 2018 the year of spreading kind words and fun. I can’t wait to write about it.

Happy New Year Everyone!  With Love.


For Kate

Kate arrived an hour and forty-five minutes into our two-hour long Writing and Well Being workshop. She neither removed her long black coat as she took her seat across from me, nor took out her notebook; simply rested the side of her weary face in her hand until we were through. At that time, she leaned over the table and whispered, “Mary, could I ask a favor? If it’s not too far for you, could you possibly give me a ride home?”

On the way to the parking lot, she paused with knowing sad eyes and made a decision I could see she had been wrestling with for at least the morning, probably longer. Then I noticed the overnight bag in her hand as she requested, “On second thought, I think my family can pick me up if you drop me at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center instead.” Of course I could.

The morning’s rain had changed to blinding snow, so it was some time before I was able to clear the car off.   Although I offered the front seat, she insisted she was more comfortable in the back, nervous with other drivers and accustomed to riding in taxis. Although the Center was just a few miles away, the roads were treacherous. I could see the fear in Kate’s face in my rearview mirror. Not sure whether this was caused by the drive or her condition, I was especially cautious and mindful to keep her calm.  As I drove, I thought about her. I knew very little about this delicate woman, not even her last name. I did know that treating amnesia brought her to our group and when she shared her work through our spontaneous writing exercises it was poetic and insightful genius. Her voice was soft and gentle as if speaking would harm her.   I didn’t even know if the family she spoke of earlier was real or part of her fading memory.

She knew the route to the hospital well. When we arrived I helped her out of the back seat, held her tiny frame in a great big hug as we wished each other a Merry Christmas. It broke my heart to leave her there. She thanked me profusely for helping. I know it didn’t occur to her that she was the one doing me the favor.

With the weather conditions, it took me over an hour on side roads to complete the journey home, which ordinarily would take thirty minutes. That gave me time to contemplate what I had just experienced.   As “Oh Holy Night” played on my car stereo, tears rolled down my cheeks. It was difficult to erase the image of Kate, her long white hair contrasting with her coat as she disappeared into the hospital through the fluffy flakes, grasping her bag. Only two weeks ago I had severed my ties with the mental health system that had sometimes helped, often frustrated me for nineteen years. Kate was evidence that it served its purpose, yet I so longed for her not to be there at Christmas or at all.  My tears shifted from empathy to gratitude-driven as I thought of my own evolving holiday situation. I had earned the title “empty nester” recently when my son smiled and hugged me after stuffing his last trunk load saying, “You knew this day would come.”   Indeed, but so soon?

It will be the first Christmas morning of my life waking up in a quiet house.   Yet I am anything but alone. Christmas Eve will be spent with a large extended loving family, friends and feast.   On Christmas day when I have heavenly peace, it will be in a warm house surrounded by nature. I’ll build a fire in the fireplace and curl up in a blanket with my notebook and a cup of tea.   I’ll fondly reminisce about Christmas’ past and manifest the promises of 2018, which will bring a return to the beach in a big way and vocational transformation back to my true holistic self through new services at Capture Life Writing. Then at sunset I will lift a glass of wine in a toast to Kate thanking her for the unexpected Christmas message she delivered to my heart and send back that magic to her in the form of peace and love.

This season allows me to celebrate the light, as many traditions do. It’s represented in all religions and even Mother Nature shows us with the solstice. As I write this, she is showing it to me in the form of the sunlight glistening off of the ice on the branches of the mighty willows across the street. Stunning. I take this as a reminder of the light we have inside all of us and it brings me joy.

Wishing you all light, laughter and love this season.

Ruby Heads Home

“I am at the emergency vet with Ruby,” read the 10:00 pm text from my daughter. My eight-year-old grand dog was lethargic and had not been eating since the day before, so she brought her in for examination. She was waiting for blood work results when she texted me. I immediately called her and we chatted a bit to pass the time and she promised to keep me updated. A little while later she called with alarming news. All of Ruby’s organs were failing from an infection that she had apparently been fighting for a long time. She had likely been in pain. The vet offered to keep her in the hospital; my daughter made the decision instead to take her to her more comfortable surroundings at home. Her boyfriend was out of town, scheduled to return the next afternoon. Ruby is a Daddy’s girl who clings to his heels at every step, so any decisions needed to be made with him.

My daughter accepted my offer to stay with her overnight. Before I left the house, I let my own dog outside. I looked up into the clear sky and said a prayer, glancing at the constellations. A moment later, a shooting star streaked across the sky. The orionid meteor shower was presenting a gift; signaling something and triggering a sense of awe within me.

When I arrived at my daughter’s, she and I and a friend surrounded Ruby, giving her pets and whispers to comfort her. We curled up around her on the floor and couch. She was as still as I had ever seen her, and later pulled herself up with our assistance to her favorite place on the couch. We stayed in close Facetime and phone touch with Ruby’s Daddy who was feeling helpless. Alternating shedding tears and sharing photos and memories of her healthy days, we fell into half slumber. Toward dawn I woke up to the sound of my daughter’s distressed cries. Her arms were cradled around Ruby who was having a major seizure. Calls to the vet, confusion and our best efforts to calm her brought her through. When it was over, Ruby was breathing erratically and looking fearful. We contacted my daughter’s boyfriend to deliver the news. In a Facetime exchange that I will never forget, they made the mutual decision to end her suffering, him saying Goodbye to his baby from 1,900 miles away and giving her his blessing to let go. She visibly responded by wiggling to the sound of his voice while we all sobbed.

Immediately after, we carried Ruby out to the car and placed her in the back seat for her final journey in this life. From my vantage point in the front passenger seat I could hear my daughter’s calming voice soothing Ruby with comments like, “It’s okay Little Bear, Mommy is here” and “Your so brave, we’re almost there.” My heart was bursting with love and admiration for her courage. When Ruby had another seizure, my daughter cried out again and I was terrified. We were all crying. We also knew that Ruby was close to a way out of this.

When we arrived at the vet’s, the technicians were waiting with a gurney. It was all over in just a few minutes. Ruby was in a peaceful, relieved state at last, and so were we for the moment. I sent my daughter and her friend outside. She had been through enough, and I wanted to spare her the expense, paperwork and system that reduces precious life to an itemized list of services. I made the best of it by accepting the condolences of the kind woman behind the counter. “I’m so sorry. Always, there are no words.” I thanked her, appreciating the compassion and the shaman in me explaining that I could already feel Ruby’s spirit gathering around me. She responded with a similar story about a dog that she owned whose presence she still feels by her side. We parted with a shared smile of likeminded spiritual thoughts.

I held that smile as I exited the building to find my daughter and friend sitting on the curb grieving in their personal ways. “Are you not human?” she asked. “How can you be smiling in a moment like this?” My answer was to point out the sounds of the birds in the sunrise who along with me were welcoming Ruby’s spirit and energy back into the non-physical; far away from her earthly suffering. She had a blast with her Mommy and Daddy, but knew it was time to move on and now she was free.

Later, driving home from my daughter’s house, I’m thinking to myself that grief is perceived so differently by all of us. I view it as individual levels of processing love. My sadness about Ruby’s departure from this life is equivalent to the joy she brought us in her time here. I am also someone who believes that all living creatures come from a source of pure light, love and energy, and return to that. Death is not a relevant concept; I view it as a smooth transition from stream to stream. There is a license plate on the car in front of me that says DFY GRVT. Defy gravity. I laugh out loud and think, “Good girl, Ruby.”

As I sit in the sanctuary this evening reflecting on the events that began this day, birds of various kinds visit, and stinkbugs, ladybugs and bees arrive. I am aware of the distant sound of katydids buzzing; dogs barking. They celebrate the arrival of Ruby. Then I remember the praying mantis who spent two days in the sanctuary last week; I marveled at her visit. I smile at the memory of Ruby chasing her squeaky rubber hot dog, and at the same cry tears for my daughter and her boyfriend’s loss. I admire the strength and courage demonstrated by them in the act of granting her the freedom to go home. I’m so proud of that.

Most of all, I give thanks to the amazing Universe for the gift of that rare shooting star, for I know it was evidence of pavement for Ruby’s exciting next path. She also gets a crescent moon to guide her.

Fare thee well Ruby and Happy Travels.






All I Know is Love

Feeling grateful after I finished a major project for her, my supervisor (bless her heart) told me to spend the afternoon doing whatever I wanted with my time.  No surprise, I chose to write.  Posed at the keyboard and ready for whatever topic entered my mind, I felt a bit of lingering sadness in the air from the conversations surrounding the Las Vegas tragedy earlier in the week.  Thinking about this and other situations that have no answer for the “Why?” question, the following poem came to me.   Being inspired to write poetry is rare for me, and what I compose I rarely share.  Yet as the words poured out on the paper, they soothed me, so I felt the urge to post.

Peaceful weekend, everyone.


All I can do is love.
I cancelled the cable, gave away the television, limit Wifi.
The incoming media was stifling the voice of my inner spirit.
Of course, the stories still get relayed via the grapevine.
I have no power to stop the terrorists, mass shooters; the violence.
Yet I am able to make the choice to love, so I do.

I am aware of the lawsuits, mistrust, diseases, disposable relationships, unrest.
Some in my closest circles are hurting each other; themselves.
I put them in their light and help when I am able.
And always shower them with love. 

It is my desire and nature to bring smiles into another’s day;
kind words and deeds to friends and strangers.
Steering away from the politics and drama not in my control;
pushing forever forward on a path of joy.
Some call me ignorant, blind, living with my head in the sand.
Because I choose to see the beauty on the Earth; in this life.
And seek out those who know it too.
Because all we know is love.

Big love, little love, feel love, live love, spread love.
It is all my intuitive self leads me to do.
Lost in a world sometimes alone not knowing where to begin.
I remember that starting with love is always a good place.
So I manage to find a way.