Tag Archives: cousin

Paula’s Lighthouses

In keeping with cousin inspired stories this past month: This is my story about my cousin Paula.

If you are friends on Facebook with Paula then you have seen the many lighthouse photos she has shared.  The beacon of safety and guidance resonate with her as does the solitary beautiful settings.  She feels drawn to them as a symbol of faith and that is true but is not all.

She chooses many of the photos showing the changes of the day or weather – the beautiful sunset or sunrise or the fog covering the landscape.  Some of the photos show birds flying nearby.

What she may or may not realize is that these lighthouses hold more than the light of faith for her. They have stories that she has heard or felt relayed in a tune.  Oh, not the lyrics in a song on the radio or choir hymn at church, no these are the tunes the birds have been singing and calling to her.

Those quiet moments on her deck in the morning with a cup of coffee, she has heard the warbles and chirps of stories.  The times at night sitting around a crackling fire outside when the owl or other night feathered Aves would call out their song of narrative. She was hearing the legends and memories of these solitary places and how the birds would watch over the people stationed alone or as a secluded family.  How the birds would drop a feather to use as a quill so that the lonely folks could write their far away friends, lovers or family.

They told stories of the changes the lighthouses had endured. Of seeing the children play in the surf and building their stone castles and fishing for sea creatures.  Harrowing tales of storms and near shipwrecks.  Chronicles of gentle old couples struggling to maintain the lighthouse when no one else would come to take over the job in their declining years.

Paula can look at the photos she pulls up of the lighthouses and feels the faint knowing of it.  It is like seeing a photo of a place you have been told about for years and recognizing the nuances of the spot described.

When I see a new lighthouse photo being posted, I wonder if she remembers the story that goes with that one.

So, what I would like some (or all) of you to do is this:  Take one of the photos below or choose a lighthouse photo of your own (link of images below as well) and tell the story that comes to you when you see it.  It can be a few words, a poem, a short story, a novel or tome of any length.  Lets see if we can get enough stories or chapters to fill a week or month or volume of lighthouse stories shared here between us.  What say you?  I think it could be fun.


lighthouse 7

lighthouse 6

lighthouse 5

lighthouse 4

lighthouse 3

lighthouse 2

lighthouse 1

Best jam ever


I received a message yesterday from my talented caterer cousin saying: “Hey, I have an order to make 200 4 oz jars of jam/jelly for wedding favors! Don’t you and Teresa (my sister) have some killer jam recipe? I remember hints of a story of you two licking up some tasty jam you made together???? Do you have the recipe? Does it work with strawberries?”

She remembered hearing of this killer jam that we had made together some years back that we raved about.

It was the best jam ever.

tripple berry jam
I told my cousin it was blackberries, raspberries and blueberries and the recipe would be generally the instructions from a Sure Gel box. I further explained that we considered recipes to be a bit like the Pirate Code: Not to be followed exactly, but more of a guideline.

pirate code

A chuckle was returned from her end as she relayed that they too “fix” every recipe they see to make it just how it would go best in their repertoire.

She messaged my sister as well for the jam recipe and was given about the same answer as mine.

So I got to thinking about why those batches – we made many- were so delectable.


First, the berries were all picked by our own hands that day. Second, we probably used 20lbs. of sugar (you have to adhere to the sugar guideline or it breaks jam rules). Third, it was the sweat, laughter and love that set it apart more than anything.

blackberry thorns


If you’ve never gone to pick massive amounts of blackberries, let me relay what is involved.  The berries generally are ripe when it is the hottest, most humid days of the year.  The branches are so full of thorns that they make a scared cat with it’s claws out seem like a teddy bear. So, in order to keep from having permanent scars all over your body, you succumb to wearing very heavy thick denim overalls.  Carhartts come to mind and work very well.

Carhartt overalls

Did I mention it is always the hottest days of the year that you decide to go pick?  Now you know where the sweat part comes in.

The laughter starts just before the sweat when your trying on everyone’s overalls in the house before you go out.  Older pairs are dug out that family members have outgrown thinking that those would work well.  Until you realize that we too might have outgrown them and should any bending be required, well, lets just go for a larger pair.  How is it that there are no midsize pairs and we are left in gargantuan overalls that fit the six foot guys and we are the more height-challenged Hively(mom’s family) women size?

The laughter continues as we slog through the brier patches catching every extra inch of material on every two inches of the thorny stalks and while it is personally frustrating, it is hilarious to watch the other person.

The real problem with picking fresh berries is that you can always see just a few more really good berries just another step or two into the thicket causing you to get further and further into a trap. Then inevitably, someone in the middle of all the bushes, feeling that they might never dislodge from the thorns sticking into them from all directions, remembers they didn’t go to the bathroom before heading out.  Screams of “don’t make me laugh” are shouted as there isn’t even room to bend over hoping that will help to keep from a leak.

Then there is the “oh heck, I’m sweating so much I can’t tell what’s running down my leg anyway” comment.

The laughter continues once into the house to wash and prepare the berries as probably we are giddy with the sudden weight loss and dehydration of sweating through all of the clothing.

The raspberries were picked when the blackberries were – same kind of routine with thorns and such.  The blueberries were harvested after removing he overalls and the trip to the ladies room.

Each batch varied a little in the proportions of each berry as how will one know what is best if you don’t try all combinations?  They were all so good, we never cared which one was later picked to eat.

The time spent together loving each other’s company and sharing our own stories and faux pas gets infused in those jars and is what sets them apart from anything you can ever buy.

The jam is beyond good and is like my beloved favorite pie in the world – elderberry.  I love the flavor, but it is the knowing that it takes great effort to get the berries, time spent with others in plucking for hours and someone knowing you love it making it for you that makes it the best on earth.

You can buy jam, but it isn’t the same.

Love Sally


First Butterfly Explained




Before the Medicine Man passed away, he divided his prayerful things into three groups and bestowed them upon a persons in South Dakota, New Mexico and Tennessee.  These are Caucasian folks who have been studying and training in the Lakota ways for twenty years with him and are to carry on the traditions in the way that they were taught.  They are to share with others as was the medicine man’s vision.  At each Sun Dance, they are all together in  support for the  very sacred event.

When I returned home from the first Sun Dance and my cousin said the butterflies meant something but left it at that statement without direction, I decided to do some research. I didn’t tell anyone else about the butterfly phenomenon as they were likely to ask the same questions I had and I didn’t want anyone putting ideas in my head one way or the other.  Also, if it happened to me and I didn’t know what to think, how would I expect anyone else to comprehend?  I also didn’t want to say aloud that the smaller ones that I encountered while driving were all black in color.  Such an ominous color is black.

In many cultures, the butterfly is a symbol of change.  Was my life to be changing?  Well that is always happening. I wondered if the black meant death as when I took the photo of the one in the car and found it on the web, I learned it is called a Mourning Cloak. As in the coat you wear to a funeral.

Fear and Faith are the same thing, the only difference is that fear is faith in the wrong direction.

To say that it didn’t make me wonder  – the visit of a Mourning Cloak butterfly on going there and then thousands upon thousands of black butterflies when leaving would not be truthful as it was too coincidental.  Was I worried?  Not especially.  I have always felt without question that events happen in my life for a reason and while I don’t always know what that reason is, it will at some point be revealed.

Was I totally comfortable with the events?  Obviously not, since I did not tell anyone besides my cousin.

Then one day maybe 9 months later or so, when there was a really powerful thunderstorm, a very clear thought came into my head.  The thunder had all of a sudden reminded me of the Medicine Man as that was his spirit or something like that. (You couldn’t expect me to learn everything in 5 days) The thought was that the Mourning Cloak  was to signify that it was okay for me to be at the Dance and Funeral for the Medicine Man that previous summer.  I then thought to myself that all that was great, but why didn’t I find out sooner.  To which the other half of my brain replied that it was because I never asked.  Fair enough.


So then the first butterfly is explained but I cannot resolve that the black flocks of them afterward are for the same thing.  So I continue to say nothing and go about my business.

Summer moves along and I am notified of the upcoming Sun Dance for 2014 and would I come to support again?  It was being held in New Mexico this time as it had already been through the 4 year cycle in South Dakota.

Knowing this time around that my only time with my cousin would be before and after the Dance, I shared with him early on the thought that came to me about the Mourning Cloak butterfly.  He thought that was great and probably correct and I’m not sure if we discussed the flocks I had seen afterward.

More on the other butterflies tomorrow.

Love Sally







The Butterfly Effect


out of control stressThat first year that I attended a Sun Dance in support, I was about as stressed and overworked and frustrated as I might have ever been.

In a Sun Dance, there are the dancers, the singers and the supporters.  I was informed that should I go, I would be a supporter for him as a dancer participant.  He kept emphasizing that it truly was a support role and I would be expected to help out as necessary.  Kitchen duty to prepare meals for the singers and other supporters along with pretty much any duty as needed.

going to be worth it

He kept wondering if I was okay with that role.  Really?  That is the role I play every day with my family. And ‘other duties as assigned’ is part of my job description as well.

I don’t think I will get into the every  nuts and bolts of it, but I do have a story that relates just to me about the event.

It was held on private grounds in South Dakota – a five and a half hour drive.  It was a beautiful day and my first time in that region of Wyoming and first time to SD.  Once you get into Wyoming, except for a few spots, it is easy to be going eighty miles per hour and not even realize it.  I had the windows down and pushing past that eighty mark for a few hours when I felt something on my leg.

I was wearing shorts for one of the last times in days as I had been told that once the event started I would need to wear a dress or skirt the entire time.  I’m sure there are plenty of folks that would have paid to see me in skirts for five days since I didn’t even get married in a dress!

When I looked down to see what was tickling my leg, I saw a fairly large butterfly!  I had the windows up with the air on at my last stop and since then had been going with the speed limit or more once I had rolled down my windows and yet on my leg was a butterfly that was at least 3 inches wide at it’s larges span.  I took a photo with my Itouch that was on the seat so that I could later identify it and then it flew to the passenger window.  I rolled down the window and let it be sucked out (sure, in hindsight I could have slowed down).  But then, it made it into the car at 80mph, surely it could make it out at that speed too.

mourning cloak butterfly


Obviously the photo above is not the one taken of the specimen that was resting on my knee but it could be it as it is identical in markings.

I told my cousin about it when I got there before he was sequestered as a dancer and he said that it was good for me that the medicine man was not here as that is the kind of thing that gets people put into the dance.  I kept my mouth shut and didn’t tell anyone else until the dance was over and then I only revealed it to one other person. The other person’s reaction was the same as my cousin’s. Had it been another year when the medicine man was alive, I might have been dancing.

I didn’t fully realize until I got there that I actually wouldn’t get to speak to my cousin for the 4 days that he was dancing.  This left me with a group of people who are tightly knit and have a strict way of abiding by the customs.  I tried my best to pitch in when I could see a need and do whatever was necessary.  Not knowing anyone allowed me to just ask questions and experience the ceremony following the examples of what the other supporters would do.  I could compare it to going to a different church and not knowing how they run their service, you kind of sit back and watch and jump in when you feel you know the system.

I’ll have to skip through most of that week or you’ll be reading for a month, but to say that it nourished my soul would be not even giving it enough of it’s due.  Any of the pent up frustration and angst of work was drained of me in that week and as I would tell my cousin many times, it was a special and incredible gift that I was able to be there to experience.

When the dance, the thanksgiving meal, gifting and memorial were all over, we left, each in our own vehicles, for the return drive to my house where he would stay the night before heading off.  As we were driving out of South Dakota, we started driving through masses and masses of butterflies. I could see they were smaller and did not have the coloring of the one that had graced my presence on the way there.  I also noticed that they were all the same color and very dark.  They were literally on the roads and fields next to the road and would fly up in a wave just as they do when you encounter a flock of them in a field.

millions of butterflies

We went through several miles of what to me were millions of butterflies.  They finally dissipated and soon we were out of the state and stopping for gas.  As we were both fueling our vehicles, I was washing the butterfly gunk off of my windshield and asked cuz if he wanted me to clean his windshield as well and commented that wasn’t that a wild thing to see?  He asked what I was talking about and I said that of course I was speaking of all the millions of butterflies we had driven through a while back.

He just looked at me and kind of shook his head and said flat out that he hadn’t seen any butterflies.  There was no way I was believing him as he was just behind me and even if my car was the only one plowing through them, he would have seen the rest flying over and on each side of the cars!  “No” he said. He sincerely hadn’t seen any butterflies.

Great, I had another three hours of driving to try and figure this out before we would get to my house and I could see if he was pulling my leg or not.  Turns out, he never did see those butterflies.  He did say they meant something, he just didn’t say what that something was.

I had to wait a year to find out what they meant.

You will only need to wait a day – maybe two.

Love Sally


A Cousin Calls

05/19/15cousins are awesome

This trip probably started about three years ago when I received a phone call out of the blue from a cousin of mine.  He use to come stay with me when we were young and unmarried, but after he graduated from college and life got busier for the both of us, we just didn’t keep in touch for a while.  Eighteen years or so of a while.

I find it ironic as I write this to realize that at the time he was phoning that he having his own RAW Challenge (being that I started this blog because of the Australia RAW Challenge).  His RAW stood for “restoring ancient wisdom”.  He phoned that he was going to be passing through from Arizona where he had lived on a Hopi Indian Reservation for several months and going up to South Dakota to visit the Lakota Indians.  I won’t go into his vision too much as that is his story to tell, but let me say that he has incredible, beautiful stories to tell as he has visited tribes of many cultures on several continents and has come away with  marvelous knowledge and glimpses of cultures that few of us ever get to experience.  He knows the value of these ancient rituals and he endeavors to help to keep them alive.

As part of his journeys and meetings, he met a Lakota Medicine man who had a vision to teach other cultures about even the most sacred and previously secret ceremonies so as to show the power and prayerfulness of their ways with the knowledge that to teach others is to take away the fear and ridicule that manifests in persecution.

communication problem

My cousin started participating in these sacred ceremonies and not only learned about the people he was working with and their traditions, but of himself.

Skip ahead a year – to two years ago when he phones me and during the discussion he mentions that he is to participate in a Native American Sundance Ceremony.  Having only heard of such a thing in a movie, I asked if there was any possibility that I could come and watch.  It was one of those times that I felt that there was a chance to experience something most never will and didn’t want to miss the chance.  I did go and was amazed at the serenity of the rite and prayerful time.

more than pray

The medicine man had passed away just a month or two prior to the Sundance and at the end there was a memorial for him.  Because of this, I was immersed in a time of sharing and reflection for what had transpired with many folks there for many decades with him.  The stories of how each person met him that unfolded to me over the five days was nothing short of miraculous.

I’ll save the stories for another time. More tomorrow on how this leads to going to Tennessee.

Love Sally