Goodbye, Friend

I highly recommend “Goodbye, Friend” by Gary Kowalski if you’re dealing with the loss of a companion animal.  He is both poetic and practical. Reading his book was one of the steps I took to heal after my dog, Max had to be put down.

Here are some things I learned from him:

– Allow yourself to Grieve. There’s no set time to stop grieving.

– “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes.

Yes, our animals were with us for a season, for a reason. Their role is over in our lives and hopefully we understand what that was.

– Death makes us ask questions such as “Are we getting the most out of life? What more do we need to do or be or accomplish for our own lifetimes to feel complete?” (Please see my post on a Peaceful Death).

– “Any loss can open old wounds”, says Kowalski. If this happens, then I believe, we can heal and transform deeply if we know how to deal with it. Perhaps professional support can be useful. But it needs to be from people who can appreciate the grief we feel for animals. Not all professionals may understand the depth of our feelings for animals. Choose wisely.

– Kowalski says, “Take care of yourself”. He reminds us to eat well and rest well and if possible, not work for a while. I would add that we can allow others to take care of us too. The day after Max died, I visited a friend. She made vegan bread pudding for me, gave me herbal tea and was very gentle in how she was. I felt safe and taken care of.

– Sometimes our animals may suffer from some difficult fate. Kowalski speaks of the anger we may feel and encourages us to find healthy outlets for it, such as writing. Max had cancer and became disabled. I never felt anger but I did feel grief. But I understood that I could learn from what had happened. I was being asked to play new roles in his life. Having this learning approach helped me not feel angry.

– Kowalski mentions how important it can be to be with our animals if they are to be euthanised, and how we can communicate with them before. He says, “We can let our animals know that they are going on a trip, to a place with no strife and no suffering.” He says that we can give them permission to die by expressing our love rather than our need for them.  I watched Max die and it was difficult but I am very grateful I did. I was there to comfort him with our family. It was peaceful and prayerful.

– I love the chapter on “Healing Words” where Kowalski shares about how healing eulogies can be. He says, “When uttered with sincerity, our words may bring us closer to a place of wholeness and peace.”

– What happens after death? I’m glad he mentions varied experiences people have had – of sensing their animal again, of dreams in which their animal was healed (I had these) etc.

– Kowalski reminds us to “take care of ourselves… embrace our feelings… accept our own unique unrepeatable lifespan… pay attention to nature…. cultivate inwardness ….invoke the presence of the sacred.” For me, the paragraphs on these were some of the most healing words in the book. But there are many more…

I’m so grateful to Gary Kowalski for writing this healing gem of a book. You can purchase it from Books Depository. Perhaps you can consider getting it for your local libraries or animal shelters if they don’t have a copy. You can also recommend it to your vet and counsellors you may know of who are open to working with people who have lost their animals.

Related: Healing from the Loss of a Companion Animal 

 

Picture Books for Adults

These are the picture books in my walking library collection. They may be useful for you if you are in adult education or helping professions (counselling, coaching, etc). Or you could place them for customers to browse. Or you could lend them to colleagues and friends and chat about the ideas later.

Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus – transformation, hope, the rat race and alot more…

Drax the Dragon is about acceptance of difference.

The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein – relationships, especially on the importance of being whole

Enemy Pie – on dealing with someone you don’t like; on peace

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers – relationships, especially on healing our hurts

Snail Started It! by Katja Reider and Angele von Roehl – on bullying, saying sorry, domino effect

Mirror by Jeannie Baker – similarities and differences between two cultures

Selma by Jutta Bauer – what is happiness?

The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper and Gabi Swiatkowska. – This book is about what unites the major faith traditions – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

The North Star by Peter H.Reynolds (also available online) – on finding direction in life

An Awesome Book by Dallas Clayton (available online) – on dreaming BIG.

Day & Night by Teddy Newton – on diversity and how it can enrich our lives

Ish by Peter H.Reynolds – on creativity, imperfection (nice one for perfectionists!)

Hurry Up and Slow Down by Layn Marlow – on the value of slowing down

The Red Tree by Shaun Tan – on hope

The Other Side by Istvan Banyai – on looking at things from a different point of view

Today I am... exposes readers to a feelings vocabulary. Please check out their fb page too.

Belonging by Jeannie Baker – on community belonging, urban transformation

The General by Janet Charters and Michael Foreman – transformation, leadership

Varmints by Helen Ward & Marc Craste -on peace, hope

Stars by Mary Lyn Ray and Marla Frazee – on wonder

The Sandwich Swap by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah with Kelly DiPucchio – on intercultural understanding

Zoo by Anthony Browne – on zoo animals, captivity, empathy

Piggybook by Anthony Browne – on the value of women’s work at home

The Falling Raindrop by Neil Johnson & Joel Chin – on change

In Singapore, Woods in the Books and Bookaburra are great sources for high-quality picture books, along with the other bigger stores.

Do you have other recommendations?

Related: Picture Books Went Walking…, Becoming a Walking Library

An Awesome Book

This is a very inspiring book on dreaming BIG. Read the entire book online.

What is that big dream of yours that can make the world brighter and more beautiful?

Complete this: If I made this dream happen…..

Which strengths of yours would you like to most apply to making this dream happen?

Which aspects of yourself may hold you back? Whose strengths could help compensate for your lesser-developed traits?

Who could celebrate, comfort, confront you during this journey?

What needs to blossom within you to make this dream happen? Who/what might catalyse that?

If you had a year to live, which parts of the dream would be important for you to complete by then?  

What are you grateful for today? (Instead of only living for your dream, be present with today’s gifts. That will make you happier, and as research shows, happier people are more creative, set bigger goals and transcend obstacles more easily.) Start off with listing at least three things you are grateful for each day. Levaquin

Book: Drax the Dragon Shows his True Colours

Luke, Mark and Drax

“Drax the Dragon Shows his True Colours”, by local author, Christy Lee-O’Loughlin, is a book about a dragon who is different from other dragons and his journey from challenge to acceptance.

What I love about it is Drax discovering his uniqueness and what he is good at. How is your difference an asset? What is your life purpose? These larger questions can help us break free from living lives which are limiting.

I also love how, at the end, Drax looks out for others who are also different and might be having a rough time, like he used to. Sometimes when some of us have “made it” and are part of some majority in-group, we may not want to speak truthfully about difficult issues affecting people of our minority grouping. We may even deny those problems exist. Drax is an example to us all on demonstrating the love, truth and courage he shows when he remembers, reaches out to and empowers others who are struggling like he used to.

I am also delighted to share with you the insights of a family which read the book:

Mark (7) says: “I learnt from this book that everyone is special in a different way. That means that you may be good at soccer, and your friend might be good at drawing. But everyone can still be friends and enjoy playing together.”

Luke (4) says: “I enjoy copying the drawings in this book!”

Mommy Linda says: “This book does a good job teaching kids about feelings. My younger son is now more aware about how his friends feel.”

Thanks to Mark, Luke and Linda for taking time to read together and share their thoughts on this book!

Drax is available at the national library (Singapore), Times, Popular, Borders, Kinokuniya, Page One, Amazon and Select Books.

Click here to check if item is available at the national library.

See author’s collection of materials on teaching children about diversity, bias and bullying. She also has notes to parents and teachers.

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(By the way Mark is wearing a t-shirt from the Futr Adult range. Futr Adult (say: “future adult”) is an online store that sells gifts for kids. What’s unique: the designs aim to encourage creativity and
curiosity, and provide a friendly alternative to gifts that promote commercial products or cartoon brands. Mark and Luke play an active part in generating new ideas for Futr Adult designs, and they enjoy learning about the e-commerce element. I like how the children are involved with their parents in this venture!)

Becoming a walking library

The gift of shared wonder and laughter is priceless

As I try to buy fewer physical gifts, I am learning to give experiences as gifts.

So my belated birthday gift to my friend was to be a mobile library.  I brought my picture books for her to browse during our lunch. I also my Virtues Cards for her to do a random pick. And shared with her my joy of having found Kaliktos – a sticker-transfer sheet people in my generation would have played when we were kids.

If you are a 70s child, do you remember Kaliktos? :)

She loved it so I gave it to her but other than this spur of the moment gift and our lunch at the wonderful Veganburg, my gift cost me nothing, cost the earth less, and we had a wonderful time connecting over what we were reading together.

I became a walking library for the rest of the day too at the nails shop and a dinner I attended! And it was wonderful to see adults enjoy picture books and get some beautiful messages from them!

Here’s one book from my collection. Maybe you too would like to become a mini-mobile library for your friends and others you’d like to share some uplifting messages with? Let me know how it goes? Send me pictures or post on my facebook page?

Book: The Heart and the Bottle

Ohmygoodness, I love this book.

“The Heart and the Bottle” by Oliver Jeffers is about what some of us do when our heart has been broken. We put it away, in a “safe” place, out of fear of having it broken again. And our experience of the world changes. Sometimes we don’t know how to take it back after we have put it away and have to ask for help…

The heart that is spoken of reminds me of the heart in “The Rose” (by Amanda McBroom):

It’s the heart afraid of breaking/ That never learns to dance

It’s the dream, afraid of waking/ That never takes the chance

It’s the one who won’t be taken/ Who cannot seem to give

And the soul, afraid of dying/ That never learns to live….

Maybe this book can bring some hearts back home for some…

I got this gem at “Woods in the Books“, a whimsical picture bookstore which I adore. It’s also available from the national library (Singapore).

Click here to check if the book is available at your favourite branch of the national library.

Waiting

I loved this book for years and a few months ago wrote to the author to ask if we could meet. She said "Yes"!

One of my favourite books is “Hope for the Flowers” by Trina Paulus. In it, two caterpillars set off on a journey together. One becomes a butterfly faster than the other. Then she waits for him although he’s still entrenched in caterpillar activities.

I met Trina at her home in New Jersey in October 2010 and asked her to pretend to be Yellow, the  butterfly. I asked her why she waited instead of moving on with another butterfly. She said, “Because I love him”.

In a 1997 interview with Carl McColman, Trina explains the beauty of waiting and spoke about Advent – which is the Catholic period of waiting for the coming of Christ before Christmas – which is happening right now.

Here’s an excerpt of the interview which first appeared in “New Leaves”:

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Carl: My favorite line in the story comes when Yellow is struggling with Stripe’s request for her to join him when he tries to climb the pillar for the second time. She realizes that “somehow, waiting and not being sure was better than action she couldn’t believe in.” That’s a powerful statement—and also a challenging one, for I believe we live in a world where “not being sure” and “waiting” are not valued. Can you share with us any insights on this wisdom? Where did you learn the value of uncertainty and waiting?

Trina: This is a frequent theme in the book. Yellow’s leadership of love is possibly best shown in her ability to wait. She waits to know what she should do next with her own life—against her immense urge to sacrifice her own becoming to please her “man.” She waits within her own cocoon. She waits for Stripe to get the point. She waits for Stripe to make his long journey down the pillar. She waits for him to go into the cocoon and finally she waits while he is experiencing his transformation within it.

My reverence for waiting and not being sure was most deeply nurtured by my experiences of silence and that great, feminine, pregnant celebration of this mystery given to us in the season of Advent, those 4 weeks before the winter solstice, the feast of new life, which the early church chose to honor the birth of Christ. I had the privilege of living this season in its full splendor during my years with The Grail, an International Women’s Movement, at their U.S. center at Grailville, Loveland, OH, and it has enriched my life with dimensions of meditation, silence and prayer not easily found.

I still try to live the spirit of Advent, but it is not possible to experience this sort of profound celebration of the not-yet of things, the waiting, in today’s world, which has so fully eliminated that season that we think of Christmas as beginning with Thanksgiving, and ending, not beginning, on December 25.This is the season that seems most totally condensed by our present world—to our detriment—I believe. We need to honor the “not yet” times in our and others’ lives, like we honor what is happening in a cocoon.

Source: http://anamchara.com/about/hob/a-conversation-with-the-compost-queen/

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Sometimes we wait for others. To learn new things. To change.  To even love us or treat us better. Sometimes we wait for a situation to change. For opportunities. For respite from a rough patch.

There are rewards to waiting...

Waiting

~ for someone or a situation that poses challenges makes me a better person. I have found that it’s much more effective to change myself than wait for someone to change.  So I am learning to wait for myself to change more patiently. But over time, if I am changing for the better and the other is not in the ways that fulfil my needs, then it might be time to stop waiting. I need to discern when others may not be honouring my time and making me wait consistently or too long to my detriment.

helps me develop more creative and deeper solutions. I find that some answers emerge over time so I try not to hurry for quick ones which may make me look efficient but not actually help me be as effective as I can truly be.  

helps me develop patience. I have been conditioned to be impatient by our society and am striving to undo it!  One thing that has helped is working for social change because deep change often takes time. As lyricist, Bob Russell wrote: “The difficult I’ll do right now/The impossible will take a little while.”

“There is more to life than increasing its speed” ~ Gandhi

Here’s wishing you the “more” in life…

And discovering when to wait and when to move on…or try a different approach. 

PS: “Hope for the Flowers” is available at Kinokuniya (Singapore) and the National Library (Singapore). It has a powerful message of hope for people of all faiths and walks of life.  Correta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King wrote this of the book:

“I read it with deep appreciation for its message.”

Click here to check if the book is available at your favourite branch of the national library.

PS: I don’t promote any one particular spiritual tradition through this blog. I do value inter-faith understanding and approach this blog from a multi-faith perspective. And I value the universal principles of love and compassion.

Book: The Gift of Nothing

New York Times Bestseller “The Gift of Nothing” by Patrick McDonnell is a lovely picture book  that makes us appreciate that sometimes we need not give people  anything tangible.

Ironically, it makes a good gift….!

Watch a preview of it. Read reviews of it. Available in the National Library (Singapore). All MUTTS books by the author are printed on recycled paper. And he’s a supporter of animal protection.

Thanks to Debby Ng for this book recommendation!

PS: I love children’s books. Some impart profound messages in minutes! So you’ll see more of them in this  category. :)