oWowCow ~ Ramblin’

We’re closing in on leaf peaking season here is SE PA & one of the tastiest ways to take in the beauty of Mother Nature is to ramble up, down or over to each of three oWowCow locations.

The closest to us is the one in Wrightstown, a glorious drive from downtown Bryn Athyn.  Head up Buck Road to County Line, turning right, then taking a left at the very next traffic light, putting you right back on Buck Road; continue down Buck until it dead ends at Street Road;  head left on Street to the 2nd traffic light (there are two, one right after the other) onto Stump Road;  turn left when IT dead ends at Bustleton.

Continue on Bustleton, crossing Bristol Road – Bustleton Pike becomes Churchville Road; slow down as the road literally cuts THROUGH the beautiful Churchville Reservoir (the Churchville Nature Center, always worth a visit, will be on your left almost immediately after crossing);  when IT dead ends, turn left onto Holland Road.

Cotinue past three (I think) streets on your left, definitely two on your right, to immediately after the road DIPS down – take a hard left onto Elm Avenue;  drive slow as you glide through the marsh portion of the reservoir on your right – keep your eyes peeled for the herons & egret that hang out in the shallow waters.

When Elm Ave dead ends at (not kidding) Bustleton Pike, turn right;  continue on Bustleton through Richboro, where it becomes 2nd Street Pike;  keep your eyes peeled as you exit Richboro for Worthington Mill Road, on your right, the first non-residential road – there’s a church on it’s left – turn left onto Worthington Mill Road.

After a yawn stretch of boring housing developments, you should see a sign for a single-lane bridge ahead – – a) take it seriously – it really is one lane & b) enjoy the beautiful view of the Neshaminy Creek flowing past the charming Worthington Mill, now a quietly knock-out house.

Continue on Worthington Mill, crossing Swamp Road (a 4-way stop because it is a nasty intersection);  continue on Worthington Mill, keeping your eyes peeled for little Mud Road on your left;  turn left onto Mud Road until it dead ends at Penns Park Road, turning right;  yes, when IT dead ends at Durham Road, turn left;  turn left into CAROUSEL VILLAGE, staying on the left to oWowCow.

There is limited seating inside, but a lot outside for sitting back & enjoying their “passionately made, warmly served” amazing ice cream.

One bite & you know that this ice cream is beyond exceptional.  They use locally sourced sources & truly are passionate about the quality of their product.

The staff is remarkably patient, however long the line, and delight in giving samples if you’re not sure Honey Lavendar or Rosemary Cardamon are right for you.  I get the mini-banana split with whatever  flavors catch my fancy (my favorites are chocolate pecan caramel & espresso), while the Hubster gets the same, always with three different versions of …  vanilla.  He raves about it!

Savor the ice cream, enjoy the whimsical setting, maybe take the mini train ride, watch the kids on the carousel.  When you’re ready to head back, just do the drive in reverse OR turn left onto Durham, take a left at the next traffic light onto 2nd Street Pike (Rt 213), which will take right back to the heart of Bryn Athyn (be sure to turn RIGHT in Richboro, where the road forks).


See this, see my sister

Everything that Brene describes as what we want to avoid are the very things that my sister, Mim, embraced.

Although it was NEVER discussed in the family, not even as an confidential explanation for the out-of-step way she intentionally lived, it was clear from my early adulthood that something was horribly amiss with her.  The way the family responded to her, which confused me back then & frustrated me all of my life, seemed like a neon sign flashing  SHE  WAS  HURT.   My suspicions were confirmed last year after I mentioned to one of her closer friends my certainty that she’d been grievously abused as a very little child – years ago, she told him that she had.

I came across this TED talk looking for Brene’s Anatomy of Trust video.  It blew me away – the more Brene talked about resisting vulnerability, the more I saw Mim.  It’s about as good an introduction as I can give to knowing my sister, as I experienced her.

Unknowingly, Mim played the dominant role in my coming to understand the 5th Commandment as being about honoring others for who they are, every bit of them, including the dark, inscrutable parts, and respecting their wholeness, even when we don’t understand it.  And that it all begins with having compassion for who WE are.

I wish that was something Mim could have understood for herself.



It’s personalities

In her Soulful Sunday share on trust, Brene Brown mentions that “as small as the moments of trust can be, those can be the moments of betrayal, as well.  To choose to not connect when there is an opportunity, is a betrayal.”  (10.35)

That summed up last Saturday for me.  Standing at the local farm market, under the oak trees shading the vegetable vendors, flower sellers & omelette makers, there unfolded moments of opportunity for connection ~or~ betrayal.

Suddenly seeing my Aussie-based older brother shook me up –  I thought he was outside Sydney, not in the heart of our hometown.  He casually mentioned that he & Kerry had been in town since Wednesday.  Mike spoke to me in the exact same tone of voice, with the exact same level of engagement, as the person he talked to before spotting me.  Neither of us moved in for a hug & kiss.

His host eagerly assured me,  “You are on their radar, tagged for a visit!”  That did not help with my hyperventilating over what I guess Mike & Kerry thought would be a happy shock.  What they might have planned as a big surprise went down as surreal – and not in a good way.

From Mike & Kerry’s angle, it might have seemed like a swell way to surprise me.  Up to this season, I’d been the farm market’s Cupcake Lady.  Since we have no contact outside of their Christmas card, they might not have known I skipped this season, focusing my energies on nurturing my eldercare (r)evolution efforts.

One reason for our shocked response – John as much as I – was that on their two earlier joint visits since Mom died, they ignored numerous invitations to get together.  The shift between being dissed & “Hey!  You’re on their radar & tagged for a visit!” stripped my spirits.  And I couldn’t get as upset as I wanted, to say “WHAT?” because there were people milling all around us.  Again – surreal describes how it felt.

Even at the time, I felt sorry for Mike.  Am sure it was not the reaction he expected. being relatively cold-shouldered, in front of everyone.  Kerry could reasonably have chalked it up to “typical Elsa, still rude & hurtful.”  From their point of view, possibly from their hosts’ & others, that’s how it could have seemed.

I dissect everything, so naturally did a post-mortem on last weekend.  Came up with confirmation of what I already know to be so – we process things in opposite ways, which does not bode well for building strong healthy connections.


Brene completely captured what happened last weekend – “As small as the moments of trust can be, those can be the moments of betrayal, as well.  To choose to not connect when there is an opportunity, is a betrayal.”  But one person’s experience of attempted connection can be another’s moment of betrayal.

Background:  For two previous visits – one of them including Mom’s memorial celebration – Mike & Kerry made no effort to connect with me, neither as friend nor sibling.  They did not connect with me after our sister, Mim, died – my communication with them was directed through their daughter.  They never shared their response to the online memorial tribute their daughter & I created together, which saddens me more than anything.

My guess is that Mike & Kerry avoided contact due to fear of being hurt.  They would have been right – seeing & experiencing things so differently creates an unbridgeable chasm that makes miscommunication & mangled moments of connection almost inevitable

They triangulate, I am direct.  Oh, Kerry prides herself on being a frank Aussie, but my experience is more in line with my s-i-l as someone who detailed to Mom things about me that made her blood run cold, then saying while SHE never talked to me about those things, MOM was welcome to.

This blog is an opportunity for me to do the very thing my sibs & s-i-l find so irksome – write things out, look at them from different angles, reframe situations from another person’s perspective or even a totally different set of circumstances.

Which is my rambly way of saying there are times that past histories (separate & shared), life expectations & communication styles leave even the best-intended people setting up what they hope to be heartfelt connection that’s felt as betrayal.  It’s not personal – it’s personalities.

I will forever grateful that the Universe gave me an opportunity to be open & honest with my brother, Michael.  When he asked us out to breakfast on Monday, my sensors were on overload & I said yes because I lacked the grounding to say anything else.  It didn’t take me long to realize what a disaster that could turn into – and I didn’t have the energy to take the risk.

When Mike called on Sunday to confirm the plans, I told him, tenderly & firmly, that they – especially Kerry – feel unsafe to me ~and~ past experience suggests that I am equally unsafe for them – especially Kerry.  That I wish them well & accept that they wish me well, but we – Kerry & I – do not do well together.

I was able to feel the emotions on Saturday, register & respect them, let them past through & out of me because of years of reading & our current yoga/meditation work.  Seeing the situation as the story I was telling myself  & processing it was thanks to Brene.  But the opportunity to understand, process & speak my truth to the appropriate person, at an appropriate time?  That was literally God sent, to all of us.

For some people ~ like me, my sibs & s-i-l ~  maybe the best course of action is as basic as accepting that our conflicting communication styles don’t mesh, that it’s hard for us to connect  with each other,  that we can respect each other’s good intentions & honor one another as special-place-in-the-heart people.

And keep a safe, loving distance.

The Anatomy of Trust – Brene Brown

Okay, it’s a Friday & this is NOT a podcast.  But it is something I need to post BEFORE the end of this remarkable week, one that has been all about trust.

Trust is, in my understanding, THE most important sense that there can be within relationship, whether with others, our self, or the Divine.

My thanks to Brene for her wisdom over the past few years.  Am posting this in place of a Friday podcast because TRUST is where I’m at.  You come too!


Trust was a major, unspoken issue in my family.  My parents had a similar strong, almost supernatural sense of trust, apparently in full bloom with their introduction.  But with everyone else, especially me, Mom had trust issues.

Mim had the most serious trust issues.  It might have been based in part in her nature – or not.  Whatever deep terrible trauma she experienced when she was very young – which was never acknowledged within the family – left her distrustful of even her nearest & dearest.  I think the only people she never spoke of as “against” her were Penny, Gray, Lark, both Beths & a couple cousins.

It seemed to me that Mim cloaked herself with snide comments & slighting observations because she felt it was better to get the thrusts in first before someone did it to her.

This was brought home to me after Mim’s death.  I was planning on making cupcakes for the long-term care facility where she’d lived.  My oldest brother warned me off, sharing that she’d told him that the staff despised her so much, “she doubted anyone would notice if she died.

That went straight to my heart – not because they were so callous & unfeeling, but because I knew from personal experience & from talking to her closest friends that the staff adored her, expressed in ways that can’t be faked to people of heart.  More than that, I’d heard Mim use either the exact same words or a variation to describe how many people – including my oldest bro – felt.

Mim could not feel accepted by people she did not trust.  No one can.  Mim wrapped herself in a straight-jacket of distrust & could not be coaxed out of it; the more she felt love from someone, the more she distrusted him or her.

I was also wrapped in distrust.  Until recently, my greatest belief was that no matter how much you seemed to like me, I would disappoint you & turn you away.  I certainly can point to the relationships in my family that went ka-blooey because of others feeling a deep lack of trust in me.  I think about my oldest brother’s children, who had terrible experiences with me because of my conflicts with their dad – they were caught in the middle & I was too short-sighted & emotionally dumb to notice.  They have BIG trust issues with me, which I respect & grieve.  My oldest brother considers me a mega liar, my sister experienced me as toxic & my s-i-l once described me as the most psychotic person she knew.  I respect & grieve their feelings, especially when they bar the way to any sort of healing.

Praise be, Mom worked her way out of some of her most entrenched trust issues.  We used a quirk of hers to create an opening to greater trust.  John or I would be headed out & she’d say, “If you’re anywhere near the pharmacy, would you pick up…?

That might sound innocuous enough, but it  drove me NUTS.  “Mom, if you need us to pick up a prescription, just TELL us.”  The next time, same thing – “If you’re anywhere near…?

It broke my heart that she didn’t think needing it was reason enough for us to want to get it.  John & I came up with a plan – when she’d ask, we’d ask her, in turn, to make it a direct request, like “Could you pick up my prescription at Bethayres Pharmacy?”  Then, we’d make sure  to pick it up,  without having to be reminded – and it was a pleasure.

To me, Mom’s reluctance to ask directly showed a lack of  her trust in our willingness to help her out.  Praise be, she developed a stronger sense of  assurance that we honestly enjoyed doing her bidding & that we would let her know if it was inconvenient & when we could pick up her order.  We used drugs to build Mom’s trust muscle!

Trust can be lost in little, middling or big ways, but it can only be restored in small ones & over time.

People we trust have been there when we needed them – stopping by Gretchen & Andrew’s at 3:30 a.m. in the morning because Mom had fallen & was being taken by ambulance to the hospital & I’d blown off getting gas hours earlier, so we were driving on fumes to a hospital 10 miles away – without a moment’s hesitation, we swapped car keys.  (The EMTs found it way bizarre that we left in a silver sedan & arrived in a blue suv.)  It’s knowing your niece & nephew WILL get to your wedding weekend, even though it’s outside Philadelphia & they’re in school in NYC & Delaware.  It’s the people who are there to give hugs when most needed, even if they haven’t the vaguest idea why.

Trust is built in the smallest of moments.”  Today was a big trust builder with John – we were heading out this morning & we couldn’t find the small purse the keys are in.  It’s really hard to misplace this purse, since it is the head of a cat.  John names EVERYTHING, so it is called Pursey.  And there was no Pursey to be found, anywhere.

The right place to put the purse is in the key basket, but I’ve been known to put it next to the coffee pot or next to the laptop.  I searched my book bag, the pockets of my pants, checked out in the car – could not be found.  The appointment of John’s we were headed to was a wash.

And it took him a full hour before reminding me that HE had been the last one to drive the car.  At this point, I could have gone ballistic.  “Why didn’t you remind me of that earlier, as I was searching places where I might have left it!

It would have been such a good vent, but like holding a balloon when I was a kid – – something I really really really wanted,  quickly left me disappointed, dissatisfied.

I kept my mouth shut & left him to his search.  He called the friend he’d visited yesterday, the gas station where he’d stopped – nothing.

After two hours, we talked about how we approach situations.  I step back, calm my mind & wait for whatever to show up, either in front of me or in my mind.  Until this morning, John has bunched up, which only drives the energy of what’s been lost deeper & deeper into the dark.

Instead of getting snippy, I suggested he go through part of the meditation practice we do at Pura Vida – after a couple minutes, he realized that an even better activity for him would be to get in his daily walk, which he used to do listening to A.M. talk radio but now is music for the chakras.

A couple hours later, he came down to the Basement, where I was working.  He held out his right hand – there was Pursey!  “I was snugging with Sky (our small tuxedo kitty) up in the bedroom & was walking past the stuffies on the top of my bureau, when the brown shape of a cat’s head caught my eye.”  Bet it caught his heart, too!

Yesterday, instead of waking me up from a nap to ask, “Do you want to come with me to Bernie’s?” – code for “Would you drive?” – he drove himself (very rare), letting me sleep on.  When he came back, I was still zonked out.  My guess is he thought to himself, “I’ll just put Pursey right here,” tucking him in with the stuffies, “And she will be surprised to see him when she walks past!”  Except I didn’t see my purse, it had flipped over from its cat face to its brown back & John clear forgot his clever surprise.

After finding the missing Pursey, John rescheduled his morning event to late this afternoon.  All is well & I will be picking him up in about 45 minutes, at 9:00 p.m.  He will come home to a dinner of mac & cheese, a chilled Goslings Ginger Beer & a slice of pumpkin cheese cake.  Not exactly nutritious, but it will be spot on with my Hubster.

John & I have done post-mortems on our fracas since our earliest days.  The last couple years have been especially testy, probably because we’ve been on the cusp of making some mega serious breakthroughs on the cause of my still surfacing trust issues.  Today was one of several triumphs of relationship over fear.  It would have meant little without the other small but mighty victories that came before

Trust can be lost in a heart beat, but restoring it takes a long time & many moments of putting relationship – with the other &/or yourself – over ego.

If I had blown up this morning, gone ballistic over the irksome niggly bits & pieces that pester & fester relationships, tonight’s served-with-love dinner would have been an empty, albeit it tasty, gesture.  But this morning, when the moment of reckoning arose, we aced it.  So bring on the mac & cheese, the ginger beer & pumpkin cheese cake, served WITHOUT  a snide of  discordant undertones!


The joy of being 65

The sweet spot of 65 is having enough years to have achieved that blessed state ~ EQUANIMITY.

Last weekend, a whoosh of negative energies would have mangled my sense of balance;  the same energies rose, registered, were recognized & respected, passed through & OUT.  \

Today, when John couldn’t find Pursey or the ignition key, when I didn’t realize for almost an hour that he was the last one to drive Gibbs, I was frustrated with the situation but not with John.  Pursey is still missing, but the AAA guy is out in our driveway, communing with Gibbs on making a duplicate key.

Neither responses would have happened a few years back.

The gifts of growing older keep presenting themselves & I am forever grateful.  Universe – please send more of the same!


Resistance is futile – KITTENS!

Because it was one of the funkiest yet ultimately wildly productive weekends – for the very same reason it was one of the funkiest – I deserve a great kitten website!  Okay, it’s not technically a website, but when have kittens every played by anyone’s rules?

Happy Website Wednesday – enjoy the link!


Dying is a wild night & a new road*

While many shy away from discussing dying & death, my mother was at ease with the topic & downright enthusiastic about the prospect of leaving this life for what’s next.   Her faith held no fears about what’s next, plus she was fed up with being a widow, was eager to be – as she was certain she would – reunited with her O! Best Beloved.

Our 1997 ramble to & from DisneyWorld was highlighted on the drive down by Mom’s awakening to the possibility there was more to herself than she’d imagined, while the drive back included long discussions about what she wanted as she drew close to death.

Because Mom had already signed up with the Humanity Gifts Registry, I knew the only thing I had to do with her body was to give them a call, then decide later what to do with her ashes.  HGR would – and did – do the rest.

On the drive up through the center of Florida, through the Smokies, along the Blue Ridge, we talked about how she hoped to approach her dying, which minister she’d like to do her memorial service, the songs, the party – she always loved that Gerry Timlin talked about the fine wake they had back in Co. Kerry after his dad died & she wanted a rouser of a party, too.

By the end of the drive, I was thoroughly versed in what Mom wanted as she neared the end of her life, what she wanted done in the way of medical care, where her documents were located, and what she hoped we’d do in way of a life celebration.  All of this while she was still fit enough to brave the Magic Kingdom & walk the encircled nations of EPCOT.

Alas, a recent study in the UK shows that almost 1/3 of Brits haven’t talked about their own end-of-life issues with family or care support.  I doubt folks here in the USA are similarly reluctant to discuss what far too many consider a morbid rather than natural topic.

Dying & death were frequently part of the cocktail hour Mom enjoyed every Friday with some very senior members of her friendship circle – “Grandma” Rose, Viola Ridgeway, Cornelia Stroh were all significantly older than Mom – always broached with light hearts & even a hint of merriment. They seemed more curious than anything.   They showed no fear of death &, praise be, exited before the current era of prolonged dying.

Would that more of today’s oldsters elders ancients discussed their end of life over whiskey sours & canapes.  Sadly, per the Age UK and the Malnutrition Task Force study:

  • Most people could talk generally about death and dying within their own peer group but not their own family
  • Younger people did not feel comfortable to speak to their older friends and relatives and closed down conversations very quickly
  • Older people found it difficult to talk to professionals and family and easier to peers about wanting to stop treatment and let nature take its course
  • Older people found that their grown up children do not want grandparents to discuss dying and death with their grandchildren – even when they have a positive relationship and may take on a fair amount of childcare responsibilities
  • All age groups felt that they had no idea of what may physically happen when people approach the end of life

Ah hem…  They might want to rethink that third bullet.  Health care professionals are NOT comfortable with stopping treatment & would consider a natural death against their Hippocratic Oath.   As for the first – all I could see were Mom’s wonderful circle of older ladies toasting each other, the church & life – and talking about the end as naturally as discussing a recipe.   The fourth bullet was disconcerting – and worth a long discussion – while the 2nd is too vague to be of value.  How much younger are we talking about?  It’s my experience that those who are in their twenties & younger often seem more at ease talking with their grandparents than those over thirty & even more so over forty.   As for the last bullet – naturally all age groups have “no idea of what may physically happen when people approach the end of life” because it’s NOT a cookie cutter experience, one size does not fit most.

Digging down into the data, the survey of 2000+ found that, in discussing dying & death with others:

  • 50% said they would be worried about upsetting the other person
  • 30% said they would be worried it would offend the other person
  • 25% would simply not know how to bring up the subject
  • 22% said it would make them feel too upset
  • 20% don’t think they would be able to find the right time and place to have the conversation
  • 19% said it isn’t something they would want to think about at all

Makes sense to me.  Medical professionals have, right here in the USA, done our best to excise dying & death OUT of our normal experience.  With less & less social interaction between generations, more & more children of all ages are unlikely to see older family members get frailer, decline, move through the stages of dying.

It’s hard to have a conversation around end-of-life issues when the different generations increasingly have less & less natural contact – how many people still gather around the Sunday dinner table as an extended family?

FACT:  Death is a wild night & a new road that we will all experience & take.  It’s inescapable, a fate best faced with others by our side.  The book download on Aging UK’s website is a help, but we’re not going to find the solution to bringing up the topic if the generations aren’t connecting with each other in the first place.  Until & unless we do, the distance between the ages is only going to get worse, we’ll be clueless about what each other thinks about living, let alone dying & death.

Let’s be more like “Grandma” Rose, Mrs. Ridgeway,  Miss Cornelia & Mom, talking over sips & nibbles about life, joy, love – AND dying & death!


(* by Emily Dickinson)