Wading Barefoot

Rediscovering my barefoot-self

Three Cheers For Dad

Here in the last few hours before my husband wakes up I am scheming a way to make his morning a bit more special than usual.
Today is father’s day and judging by the skies it looks like that hike in the Columbia Gorge that his son was planning is going to have to be postponed. What to do now? …

I’m hoping he sleeps in today so I have time to get breakfast ready. Homemade biscuits with butter and honey. Mmmm, I’m hungry just thinking about it. I’ll get up here any minute and do just that but first I want to say happy father’s day to all you guys out there that help out at home and with the kids, who mend the fences and put out the fires. The dads who wear a uniform to work and they’re on duty day and night. That cop that just passed you has two little girls at home and that soldier in Kabul just got news that he has a son, born only yesterday. There is a neighbor of yours whose daughter is yet to be born and he watches this day pass and gets a little nervous thinking of next year, yet smiles at the thought.

Dads aren’t perfect, they say the wrong things and act all silly when they should probably be serious, but it’s not about what they do wrong – it’s about what they do right. Dads take time to listen, to teach you how to tie your shoes, to tell a story or stand by you when you’re in a bind. There are no substitutes for the role and you don’t have to be the parent of a child to be a dad. We call them stepfathers; they step in for a missing dad. Not meant to be a replacement, a step father must be a bit daunted by his task. After all most parents have about nine months to get used to the idea before parenting is upon them.

This father’s day I remember mine of course. Raymond Thomas Ryan, born after St. Patrick’s day, 1909 and died just before Thanksgiving in 1982. He had four sons and one daughter. He married my mother, built a house, raised his family and died of lung cancer, nine days after his 50 wedding anniversary. He was a truly good man who was terrified of not being worthy in the sight of his God but in my eyes he was a compass of both bravery and honor. He inspired me and fired my curiosity like no one else ever has. We’d sit at the kitchen table after dinner and plot out our (imaginary) trip across the United States on a map that covered half of the table. I got so excited thinking about the adventure and it fueled my imagination. It also gave me an uncanny sense of direction and that has been a valuable trait to have, thanks dad!

Happy Father’s Day

©Kathleen Ryan-McCullough

June 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Surreal Sunday

The sun finally broke the horizon at six this morning, but the sky had been growing light since four. The smell of freshly baked banana bread is wafting through the house yet no one has stirred from their beds. I put on fresh coffee thinking that would certainly bring at least one nose a running, but nothing, not a sound. So I wait alone in these last few minutes, before the mood and the moment change; before the house fills with the sound family and friends and the day winds itself up.

I pulled back the curtains and let the golden light of daybreak fill my living room. The cats have taken advantage of every shaft of sunlight, grooming and stretching, then curling up for a nap. I’m not far from sleep myself. I love the dawn and early morning but I am not a morning person; I was born nocturnal. Staying up to watch the day begin gives me the best of both worlds, so to speak, without having to drag myself out of bed to appreciate it.

…one more slice of bread and then I’ll sleep. Good day & Good night!

© Kathleen Ryan-McCullough

June 12, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What You Think Of – Thinks Of You

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me.
The Carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality
~Emily Dickinson

I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. I’ve tried to ignore it because it feels morbid, but it comes back over and over. As I took my shower tonight, I stood thinking about how sudden a traumatic death can happen. Having seen 20+ years of life from the inside of trauma units, emergency departments and intensive/cardiac care units, death is not some obscure concept for me. As a nurse death was daily and came in any number of forms. I’ve always wondered about that finality; does that which appears to be the end of life, in reality end at all? Does our awareness continue after our bodies cease to function? It certainly doesn’t appear so from the perspective of the living. And therein lies the age old mystery and the nature of my morbid fascination

Standing there in the shower I needed some sort of point of reference to consider what ‘traumatic death’ would be like. As if on cue one of the big air freight planes took off from PDX. I can distinguish UPS and FedEX from other planes because of the difference in the sound of their engines. Planes used solely for freight typically take off at a steeper altitude than passenger planes, probably because there aren’t those annoying people to worry about scaring the crap out of. Their engines whine and they have a particular sound that I can only describe as, ‘desperate’. It always sounds as if there is some life and death drama being played out in the sky above. Will it make it? If it crashes… what if? It was that very question of ‘what if’, that I contemplated. How fast would I die? Would there even be time for my brain to recognize that something had happened, or would it be instantaneous oblivion and nothing more?

I happen to be a very visually imaginative person and so as the hot water of my shower began to run out, I realized that I was feeling almost anxious. It was as if, that which I thought of could also think of me! I ended the shower quite abruptly, dislodging the vision that had come over me. I’m not obsessed by death, but I am fascinated by it. Aren’t we all a bit curious about what happens to our awareness and our conciseness after death? So, while I am trying to push these thoughts out of my mind, it just seemed coincidental that random conversations about dying are also on the lips of those around me. Yesterday I spoke with three neighbors who, unprompted, each had something to say about dying; either their own death or that of someone they knew. Maybe I’m not so sure I believe in coincidence, but then again…

© Kathleen Ryan-McCullough

June 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lessons Learned

My parents said I was impatient and pushy, almost to the point of being ‘bossy’. They weren’t wrong, I still have these traits. My folks did help me learn to control my anger and be more tolerant. In fact, they raised me to question everything but to do so with as much respect to my fellow traveler as I possibly could. My temper however has been something I’ve battled with all my life. My father said I had an Irish ‘red-headed’ temper. He warned me not to eat black pepper as he believed it caused stress and ultimately, anger (I have yet to find a correlation between pepper and anger but I love black pepper).

It was his idea that I take equestrian lessons. It was quite a good idea as it turned out; the horses taught me more about my own attitude than any human ever could. You see, dogs and cats forgive easily (okay, more so for dogs than cats). As an example: Have you ever gotten mad and walked away, slamming the door behind you? Of course you have, we all have. I did this just the other day. I was at the end of my rope and knew that I had to get quiet and alone for a few minutes to get myself back together again. As I slammed my bedroom door I caught a glimpse of my three year old German Shepherd, Sally, who was in process of following me into the room. She picks up on my emotions very quickly and responds right away. So, when I let go of the door what I saw was her looking confused and a little worried. I didn’t look back, I slammed the door and laid on my bed until the knot in my throat loosened. When I came out of the room, there she was sitting in that very same spot all wiggling, waiting for me. It made me think of how much happier we all might be if we behaved more like our canine pals. I mean really, you can yell at your dog and walk away, but when you return, there’s your dog all wiggly, waiting to make up. *Dogs don’t hold grudges, although they can, and some would be quite justified in doing so. Dogs help keep us in the moment. They give us a reason to get up in the morning and remind us all the time that forgiveness is the true key to happiness.

Horses however, don’t always take forgiveness to the extremes that dogs do. Some are more tolerant than others, but for the most part, horses see things in black and white. I began training and riding horses around the age of 8. I took to it naturally. I was never afraid, I felt such a wonderful sense of peace and strength from these beautiful beasts. I also found out what it’s like to try to get the cooperation of a 1,200 pound animal when you’re in a ‘bad mood’. Wow can they be stubborn.

One Saturday morning I was riding a 7 year-old mare in an indoor ring and for reasons beyond my understanding at the time, I couldn’t get her to do anything I wanted. I became more and more frustrated until my instructor yelled my name and told me to smile. What? Smile? Ya, right! Not wanting to act like a know-it-all, I smiled and to my shock the mare almost instantly changed her attitude and began cooperating. Whatever I asked of her, I got. She wasn’t willing to ignore my negative energy by going along with me, she just wouldn’t respond to anger and moodiness. It was good for me to have learned these lessons and because I loved horses so much I made a conscious effort to keep my mood in check. It was a wonderful teaching experience that has been very valuable to me all these years later.

* Just a note about dogs who are made to fight, Pitbulls in particular. I think the people who have all but destroyed this particular breed’s reputation should be banned from polite society. I have had several relationships with pittbulls and each time it has been extremely rewarding and happy. These guys are lap-dog, lovers and gentle with children. The state of Oregon, where I live, is working to ban the breed statewide. I can’t tell you the last time I heard of a gun killing someone without a human trigger & dogs are, for the most part, the same way. Humans with greed and hate for motivators have made this breed feared and shunned. Shame on them. Karma…

© Kathleen Ryan-McCullough

June 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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