Archive | June 2012

1958 A DAY IN CONVENT LIFE FROM A CHILD’S VIEWPOINT

Before writing I researched the internet for information to assist me with my memory. I found:

Notre Dame de Lourdes parish was created in July, 1874 and named after the 1858 apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes, France. The first pastor was from Montreal. Notre Dame de Lourdes is a Roman Catholic parish in Fall River, Massachusetts. The parish was established to serve the growing French-Canadian population located in the city’s Flint Village section. Since its founding, the parish has occupied three different church buildings; a wooden structure (1874–1893), a spectacular granite church (1906–1982) which is the one we went to for Sunday mass, and the current modern church since 1986. The parish complex over time has also consisted of other multiple buildings, including St. Joseph’s Orphanage, The Jesus Marie Convent, a school, the church rectory, the Brothers’ residence, and the former Msgr. Prevost High School. The parish also includes Notre Dame Cemetery, located in the city’s south end. I would love to hear any stories or information about this place.

 

 

Convent of Jesus Marie

 

 

When the New Year arrived my mother sent my sister and I to Jesus and Marie Catholic Convent on 138 St. Joseph’s street in Fall River near the seven hills. Not only have we lost our father but now our mother is sending us away. She is keeping my baby sister who is a loving soul that can provide her some comfort at this time. We will be here for the rest of the school year. I do not remember her visiting us. The memories of this time are clouded with feelings of loss, abandonment, and loneliness. To this day driving on those seven hills feels like my stomach is rising up at the same time my body is coming out of my seat, it happens to be a trigger, a reminder.

 

She was following her mother’s example: my mother and her sisters were placed in Mount Saint Francis Orphanage in Woonsocket, RI when their father died then later to St. Joseph’s Orphanage, and taken out when they got to working age. What is interesting is that St. Joseph’s is across the street from Jesus Marie Convent. All three places were focused on keeping the French culture alive with Nuns from Quebec, where my mother and my ancestors are from. This is an example of mother/daughter influences, a mother the soul chose, in order to learn lessons on planet earth; to evolve our human consciousness as part of a human family. An attitude of non-judgment and acceptance can be developed and can lead to “The Truth”, letting go of the desire to change it, will lead to the practice of living in the present moment, otherwise known as “Mindfulness”. Like the Beatles song “Let It Be”!

 

The Convent houses the nuns in addition to a boarding school for girls. The 4 story brick structure is situated in a northeast/southwest direction, there is a tower with a steeple on top, next door is a small schoolhouse. As I enter the foyer, right in the center of the building, I am overwhelmed by the immense wooden interior, for many trees have given up their life, and they have been honored with beautiful craftsmanship everywhere on walls, ceilings and floors. Right before me is a gorgeous staircase with fancy carved banisters and large landings, leading all the way up to the roof of the spire. Inside alcoves are religious figures and paintings; now the Lady in Blue is all around me. The only sound heard is feet moving on the stairs and echoing throughout the building empty of voices. Spirituality, at this point, is about developing a stronger relationship with the Lady of Lourdes who is the protector of children and she remains with me still.

 

My living quarters at Jesus and Marie Convent are furnished with a single bed, a small wooden writing-table with one little draw for writing supplies, a small wooden 4 drawer dresser for my belonging, and a stiff wooden chain. These things are all contained within a cubicle that is slightly larger than the bed, made of plywood on 3 sides; one side has a rod with a curtain for the limited privacy that I seek, that is only drawn when changing. I keep it very neat and clean for the Sisters always have us active; it’s not hard work because it’s always spotless.

 

My cubicle is one of many; there are up to 400 girls living here. I sleep on the 4th floor which contains many rows of cubicles that get lost in this humongous room with the high vaulted ceiling, beautiful shiny and slippery hardwood walls and floors, with the scent of lemon oil taking over any other smell that may try to invade this space.

 

There are doors at the far end leading to 2 other rooms. On the left side is the larger of the two where the younger girls sleep, including my sister. It is a large dormitory area and smack dab in the middle is a raised platform where a large bed is surrounded by a metal frame with white curtains drawn back, exposing the Nun’s domain. There is a small empty space around the central ruling place of power. There are many rows of cribs in a square formation around the major throne area where the toddlers sleep. On the outermost parameter is a multitude of twin beds going around the room and out to the 4 walls.

 

To the right is the sick room where the ill are isolated from the healthy girls, in this room age does not matter. I am lucky I am physically healthy so I don’t have to have that experience. My sister gets sick frequently and at night I can hear how mean they treat her and my heart breaks for her. I try to visit but I can only stand in the doorway. The fear of germs is heavy in the air with the smell of disinfectant creating an unseen barrier that is stifling. I am saddened by our separation; we had shared everything up until this time, always together, till now. I need her as much as she needs me.  By Experiencing a desire to care for another and to lessen the suffering continues to push caregiver goals that will lead to nursing and awareness of humanities need to break out of the chains that bind.

 

I’ve now lost connection with my sister and it contributes to my loneliness and isolation. I am going inside myself, seeking safety and comfort. I have a small transistor radio that keeps me company; listening to music when alone, outside under the trees, playing on the swings. This is the beginning of using music for healing. I gravitate to swings wherever I find them; for that feeling of freedom while reaching for the sky creates a breeze that surrounds me with hope. My relationship with the trees becomes stronger and anchors me to the earth. Going inside and being with myself has made me OK with the process that is required for meditation and contemplation. These things have become major coping mechanisms that are important part of my daily self-care approaches.

 

In the morning I wake up to the sound of bells being shaken by the sisters; hand bells with wooden handle, a brass bowl with a clapper, breaking the silence, telling me what move on. Starting with a pray at my bedside, washing up, putting on the school uniform, straightening up, making the bed with hospital corners, putting everything away, making sure nothing is left out, even the shoes have to be hidden under the bed all neat and tidy. There is a lot to be said for using prayer to start the day and having some structure in daily activities, which I still maintain today.

 

The frantic ringing of the bells informs us that it is time to leave. Once everyone is in line we head down the stairs to the chapel for mass and prays we rarely sit on those hardwood pews, mostly we are on our knees. One embarrassing time, in a quiet moment of pray, flabbergasted that I could not hold back the released of gas, it reverberates through God’s house and later there will be a joke made about it. Laughter is so important for healing, to lighten up and see the funny side of things. Being a serious person and having developed the skill to laugh at my-self brings balance to my being.

 

After mass we file out onto the landing before proceeding down the stairs to the dining area and kitchen. We girls do all the cleaning, preparing, cooking and serving of the meals under the supervision of the nuns. The hardest is stirring the large pot of Oatmeal on the stove burner, with a large wooden spoon, and for us short ones it requires a stool to stand on. The tasks are rotated so we all get experience at all aspect of kitchen life. I anticipate the clanging of the bells that announce the end of the kitchen work. I enjoy preparing healthy meals for myself and others which is something I have done since 4 yrs old. When overwhelmed this gets to be a difficult task and them I am grateful for those who feed me whether it’s a restaurant or my husband.

 

We put on our coats and walk next door to the school-house, breathing in the fresh air feeling energized and connect to life. Our morning classes are in French which is new to me because my mother only spoke it with the adults. I feel anxious and inadequate, not understanding a single word spoken and English is forbidden. I am relieved as I hear the school bell clamors for lunch time. A small meal is prepared by the school, it’s a blessing that it is done for us, and we eat in silence. There is a brief recess before returning to class. In the afternoon all the subjects are taught in English and I can get lost in mathematics and am proficient in the subjects taught helping my self-esteem. The dismissal bell tells us it’s over and to get our coats for our walk back to the boarding school. Reading, writing, education and learning provide great resources for my development and evolution and plan to continue till my dying days.

 

Back in the kitchen and cafeteria we prepare the dinner meal, serve it then clean up the mess. Exhaustion takes over and when the bells ring in the evening I am blessed with free quiet time. Sometimes I write at the small desk sitting upright reminding me of mother saying “Straighten Up” while I get my thoughts and feelings down on paper. Journaling is another tool; years of diaries help me have perspective on my life, for I have found my memory appears to change over time creating a story which is different but also valid.

 

The bells gentle inform us that it is time to prepare for bed, washing up, putting on nightgowns that are infused with the energy and feel of home, hanging the uniform over the chair, and bending in pray before getting under the covers. “Light Out” echoes as I am left with my thought and feelings, tumbling down, surrounding me in darkness, unable to see what is. Night time symbolizes the dark night of the soul, having to go through the process to get to the other side as the light of spirit leads the way.

 

Readers, do you identify with any part of my story, whether it’s an experience, a feeling or a response you have developed on your own path? What is your story of suffering, of turning pain into lessons for your own self-development, integrating self-care in your life? Have you written it down or fearful to do so? What is your story calling you to do, what is your heart asking you to do? Your story has to do with your purpose, mission and meaning in life, where is your intuition, your inner voice leading you? We can collaborating by getting our stories out there and contribute to a new way being, join me.

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MY FIRST DECADE OF LIFE

June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness month so I am sharing this story about my traumatic experiences that happened in the first 10 years of my life. Also it’s father’s day and I am floods with good and bad memories and how they have contributed to my healing and transformation journey that my soul chose for this lifetime. The good helps deal with the bad. Being a seeker pushes me forward.

 

My parents lived in Columbus, Ohio at the time of my birth. It was in the last 6 months of mother’s life when we shared ourselves deeply, for the first time in 40 years, the first time in our relationship and our last time together. I am very grateful I had the courage to be completely open about myself, even telling her my deepest and darkest secrets. The stories my mother tells about my early life contributes to my understanding of who I am.

 

She shared how during the birthing process “when my labor would get painful they would medicate me and the contractions would stop. Eventually after 3 episodes of this pattern, I asked for natural childbirth and not to be medicated”. When I was in my 30s I tried group Re-birthing and experienced being frozen and unable to move, this happened 3 times, it was extremely uncomfortable and I saw how true to my birth it really was. Wow, what a confirmation. Freezing is one of my coping responses, which I have worked hard to overcome, and deal with. In intensely stressful situations I have learned to use mindfulness, awareness and breathing in order to rise above my neurological responses and create new healthy pathways in my brain.

 

Mother told me “I was breast-feeding you and you were always crying. I felt you were starving so I told the doctor who disagreed and told me just to continue. I did not believe the doctor so I put you on formula and the crying decreased”. I have had digestive problems from the get go. I love milk and during childhood after meals I would be bent over in pain, which I believed was just a normal thing, later learning I am lactose intolerant. Back then you never heard about this. In my 20s, while in nursing school, I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I was instructed that they did not know much about it so I would need to learn what foods my body did not tolerate. This was very helpful suggestion-rather than taking an addictive substance named Phenobarbital, which is a barbiturate used for seizures, which they wanted to prescribe. I have always used holistic approaches to self-care.

 

“You would sit quietly in your crib for hours on end. By 9 months of age you were potty trained, you didn’t like being dirty, and when you got a spot on a dress you would cry and insisted on changing. You threw away the bottle and would insist on drinking out of a cup.” Recently I realized that I was trashing that formula and the high fructose corn syrup that was added to my water, listening to my body. IBS has been my companion into my 60s when healing occurred after consulting with a Naturopath, who treatment the Candida in my intestines and with a whole foods diet. I am a sugar freak which has caused many distressing symptoms, and getting off all those addictive foods has taken away my stomach pain. YEA! Being introverted and enjoying meditation/quiet moments is my major self-care technique my life raft. When in my 20s I took to the wilderness and learned to love the feel and smell of the earth, being alone with Mother Nature, basking in her nurturing qualities was healing by connecting with the universal life force.

 

When I was a year old my mother lost my baby brother who was born a “blue baby” my mother had RH negative blood factor, my father and the baby had RH positive, which resulted in my mother’s body experiencing the baby as a foreign body and he died the day of his birth. These babies were blue because of their circulatory problem of having poor blood flow, and not getting enough oxygen. This was due to poor fetal development because the mother’s immune system attacks the fetus, as if it is something foreign the body needs to get rid of. My parents really wanted that baby boy and they were emotional distraught over the loss of their dream. I feel as though I was always aware of emotions in others and myself, ever since childhood, which proves to be one of the driving force leading me down my path to healing.

 

1951 was a difficult year for my parents. My mother had a miscarriage when RH negative reared its ugly head again. This created a hospital bill, “We were in over their heads”. This resulted in my father having to work 2 jobs so Dad and I had less time together. “You would cry when he would leave and we had decided to tell you ‘He is doing it to get you a bike’. This conversation happened over a Weegie Board experiment that wrote out “It is not your fault”. I was in my early 20s, learning to be a psychiatric nurse who loved group therapy. This information she shared lead to understanding where my feelings of guilt were coming from, the underlying cause of my poor balance and aversion to riding a bike, for I have many great memories of my daddy teaching me to ride. Creating my prosperity consciousness has been difficult due to the influence of these early experiences; money has been a major issue in my life that I work on like an onion: peeling back layers after layers of fears and limitations.

 

While in the terrible 2s, I tested the limits placed on me. I remember disobeying my father. He told me “Stay on the top of the stairs, do not to go down the stairs to the sidewalk”, while he was working on his car. Well I have a rebellious nature so I slowly and quietly went down each step on my butt till I got to the street amazed by my success. All of a sudden he was scolding me, carrying me back up the stairs, telling me “stay put”- that was not the last time I ever disobeyed him. I so wanted to be with him, enjoying our times together, happy just being near him, feeling secure and loved. I learn to create that sense of safety and security within thru living in my car while visiting some of the wildest places in the US.

 

My life was transformed in 1950 when my sister Barbara was born, I was 22 months old.  Barbara has always been a leader with great courage to try new things, something I have always admired. She taught me to get out of my crib, following her on many adventures that I would never have done on my own. I have great memories and wonderful pictures of us in our matching dresses that our Meme made for us. We loved to dance, do the can-can and play together, especially in the park with our mom & dad. We are sisters & friends. It was a wonderful time and I remember it well. To this day I honor my Meme and my ancestors for giving me those seamstress genes. I am ever so grateful for my first sister Barbara, I am forever learning a lot about relationship, communication and acceptance. Thank you little sister.

 

 

My second Trauma was at the age of 4, back in 1952, being a care-giver became a strong force, when my father got polio. I can remember that day when night fell, I was awake and praying when a woman appeared to me, I knew it was a vision; it was comforting and scary all at once. I did not know how to handle it; I did not tell anyone about it, I just told her to go away because I was scared. A few weeks later I woke up believing that I was paralyzed and saw my first psychiatrist. I felt responsible for my father’s illness because he was working a lot to get me a bike. I thought that he got polio because people got polio when they overwork. Later I would learn that he did not get the vaccine, while Barbara, Mom and I got it. Thus the responsibility for his illness really lied with him & karma. Deal with my angry at him and the healing of my abandonment wound was a difficult process due to the fact that I idealized him.

 

My father was in the hospital in an iron lung for a year and we rarely got to see him. I have a memory of that Christmas, when we visited him in the hospital, and how big the iron lung towered over us, how different he looked for he was just a head jutting out of a massive contraption. We now knew he was still with us. All we saw was his reflection in the mirror above his head. He was looking up and into the mirror, which looked down at us. I remember the joy I felt seeing that he had a picture of Barbara & I, which was taped to the cold metal cylinder, and I knew he loved us still. That old torn photo is now in digital form on my computer, we look very happy and without a care in the world. There is a lot to be said about being surrounded by love when there is a trauma; it’s easier to heal when you are surrounded by unconditional love. This I learned from a Chinese Psychiatrist who shared about his PTSD experiences. He was a young teen, escaping the Vietnam War with his family, fleeing on a crowded ship, people getting sick and dying, creating horrendous living conditions: that was countered by their tight family ties and support of each other.

 

When I was 5 years old my father was back home with us. Our life was very different because he was a quadriplegic in a wheel chair, he live in the living room, unable to get upstairs to the bedrooms. Barbara, Mom & I cared for him. We had home care because father was getting therapy on the parallel bars which were a permanent fixture in the living room. I loved being with my father and wanted to help so the care-giver in me blossomed. Back then in 1953 my mother had to go to work to support us. This was the beginning of my dream of becoming a nurse, which has proved to be my life saver.

 

1954 was a joyful loving year, I was 6 yrs old and my sister Tina was born, my mother and father shared a great love and mother always called her “My love child”. The next 3 yrs were wonderful and filled with love; dad and I would care for Tina together, on the tray he had attached on the arms of his wheel chair. What a special time it was learning to care for a new soul from a man, such an unusual experience during those times. Babies bring new life and energy to a difficult situation making life worth living for all involved. I was awed by my father’s ability to accomplish his goals with a positive attitude, using him as my role model for developing coping mechanisms that were helpful and life affirming.

 

At the age of 7 yrs I experienced my third trauma that had lasting ramifications for me in the years to come. Barbara & I were playing; she was riding a bike while I was running along beside her. We were going down a grassy small hill when I fell hitting my chin on the curb of the sidewalk, taking a bite out of the cement. This was very traumatic Jaw Injury, breaking my 2 front teeth and having the dentist say they can be fixed when I am 18 years old, creating self-esteem issues for many years. When I was in my 40s a dentist took a circular x-ray and pointed out that I had chipped a piece of bone in my chin and dislocated my jaw sometime in my childhood. Talk about symbolism and my difficulty with communications and expressing myself with others. Later when I started to do energy work, I drew a stick figure of myself with a dark line across my neck, showing how I felt; my energy was cut off between my body and mind pushing me to seek healing and understanding. Living in my head, no longer grounded in my body and leading me to body/mind approaches for healing.

 

At the age of 9 my father died which was my fourth trauma and was the most difficult to deal with. The LADY IN BLUE appeared to me again, the night of father death, my rational mind took over and she disappeared; due to fear, not having any spiritual guidance in these matters, and creating a symbol for healing. I know now she was the Virgin Mary. At that time I prayed to her and especially loved the story of the children of Fatima, and when I received my confirmation I took the name of Bernadette for it was my mother’s mother’s name. The seeker within me starts pushing me down my spiritual path. That’s a story for another time. Having shared my traumas with you helps me feel a part of the bigger picture for I know you have experienced your own and together we can light the way to healing.

Death Experiences

We moved to Central Falls; named after a waterfall in the Blackstone River, 1.5 square miles, the

most densely populated city in the nation, home to the textile mills of the 18th century, known as old mill

town. Living in a white hobbit cottage, with a chain link fence around our small grassy yard, looking

like a normal home; trying to keep death at bay. The neighbor’s trestle grapevine canopy shaded her

picnic table, creating a scene of serenity and peace; comforting us by sharing yummy treats, of stuffed

grape leaves, and fresh ripe fruit from her trees.  Always playing with our cousins, who lived up the hill

from us; having snowball fights, creating snow tunnels through snowdrifts on the sidewalk, and sliding

down the hill on linoleum, the hula-hoop craze, the slinky that goes down stairs, Easter egg hunts, and

family celebrations .Everywhere we walked was within a half-mile radius of our home; the place of

bittersweet memories and feelings that ran like melted chocolate.

 

 

Father was an amazing and a positive person, no matter how difficult things were; propelling the

wheel chair through the 3 small rooms, approaching me when I was withdraw, saying, “I want you to be

able to tell me anything”, having surgery on his paralyzed hands then learning to repair watches; when

just two years before, he was completely paralyzed and unable to do anything for himself. I watched a

man who never gave up, making me aware of my own difficulty sticking with things I found hard,

giving me encouragement to push on through obstacles, admiring him and following his example. We

were told father was very ill and would die, and so we moved here so that mother would have her three

sisters around for support.

 

 

This is the place where death came knocking; getting my attention, seeing it through the eyes

of a child 8 years old. On that dreadfully anticipated day, a week before thanksgiving, my sister and I

were walking home from school, pressing our fantasizing faces against the shop display windows in the

old brick buildings on Main street, suddenly hearing the sirens screaming, announcing the impending

demise of our father, we run through the thick gluey air around us, feeling we can’t get home fast

enough. As we turn the corner, our neighborhood has turned chaotic, the ambulance speeds past us,

straining to see in, we freeze in place, gasping for air, struggling to break free of our paralyzing fear, we

run towards the small cottage surrounded by menacing triple-decker buildings: reaching home, our worst

fears come to life, and an overpowering cloud of grief descends down upon us.

 

 

Being in the back seat of the car give me a drive-in theater view; we pull into the Charles

Chapin hospital’s drive-up, large bay view window, keeping the polio monster away. My vision alters,

the scene becomes surreal; we are at a drive-in movie, father is a  TV. actor, lying on a metal table,

surrounded by masked people all in white, closing the curtain on his last act, his final curtain call.

Mother returns and tell us “your father is dead”. We hold onto each other crying, not fully gasping her

meaning, just knowing he was gone from us forever.

 

 

Here I’d like to consider the word dead; it is a four-letter word, considered obscene, not easily

talked about, defined as the end of life, whose meaning brings fear, dread, loss, grief, anger, disbelief

denial, anguish, and maybe even acceptance, of the loss of a loved one, or when facing ones death. Since

my first contact with the grim reaper back in 1957, I was drawn by the gravity of the situation, always

aware when the angel of death was just around the corner, learning not to hide from it.

 

 

I was an adult, when my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, and given the death sentence.

While death was knocking at the door, we were together in the 2nd story yellow sears siding house,

where her mother had stared death in the face; spending our days sharing our life stories, determined to

leave no unfinished business,  opening up and connecting with each other,  hearing her say “ I know my

daughter as an adult”; learning the importance of closure. I supported myself working at RI hospice,

caring for the dying and their love ones; being the on call nurse from 5pm to 8am, covering the state of

Rhode Island, in the deep dark nights of the soul, going to their homes, sitting with them while they

experienced the valley of death, and staying with the family till the body was taken to the mortuary.

Learning to be with those who are dying, in an open supportive way, was what I experienced that year.

 

 

I was a hospice nurse for 10 years after the loss of mother, working with a team, we were a

family who gave excellent care and learning to enjoy life and not take things for granted. Dying is the

state leading up to the place called Death, an area shrouded in mystery. Death comes in all shades and

colors; good deaths for those who have lived a loving life, transformational deaths for those who have

lead exceptionally unselfish aware lives, peaceful deaths for those who are ready, and bad painful deaths

for those not able to let go; learning we die the way we live.  We can be holding on to attachments, not

being able to let go! Our resistance, pain, agitation and anger can mobilize energy, temporarily. During

the final 36 hours, it is not uncommon for the dying to rally and have lots of energy to do things they

have not done in awhile; eat a large meal, wake up and say goodbye, get out of bed, walk outside; then

suddenly pass on; while the family are in shock, having believed that they had gotten better. There may

be unfinished business; waiting for someone to visit, for someone to give permission to die, to say that

its OK, that everyone will be OK, and will miss them. There is a thin curtain between reality and altered

states of consciousness during the dying process; they may describe seeing those who have gone before

them, coming to assist them through the transition.  Some eventually get so exhausted that death creep in

and steals them away, not able to keep death at bay. Death is not at our beck and call.

 

 

Today I interact with Alaskan pioneers, who live well beyond their 90s, asking, “why am I still

here?” wondering, “what use am I?”. They are strong people, having a great ability to adapt to the harsh

environment, who live with diseases and illnesses that kill others, with a strong life force that is slowly

evaporating into the ethers, while they share with us, their final gifts of wisdom, acceptance and love. Is

it so difficult for us to just sit with them, listen to their stories, and enjoying them, before death comes

and takes them away?

Hello world!

I am just so excited because this is my first domain name!

I will be learning WordPress and sharing my message with you the reader.

I am an Integrative Nurse Coach having received training in New York from the top nurses in this field:

Barbara Dossey, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, FAAN

Bonney Schaub RN, MS, PMHCNS BC

Susan Luck RN,BS, MS, HNC, CCN

 

I am an RN, BS.  with 40+ years of Holistic Nursing experience, in the areas of Mental Health,Psychiatry, and Hospice.

I use a variety of Self-care Techniques that I have gathered together throughout my career:

Awareness Practices, Resiliency Training, Dreaming, Shadow Work and Journal Writing.

My focus is on balancing Body/Mind/Spirit/Environment.

Come join me on a journey to Transformation!

Let’s create joyful, healthy & abundant lives that will radiate out to our communities for a better world for the children.

The areas I will blog about are: Health & Wellness, Trauma & Abuse, Death & Dying, and Self-Care. Keep Evolving!