Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Closed-Captioning: A Special Prayer for Special People

The rainbow behind the trees. Cheyenne, Wyoming. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

At my age, most of us have heard the philosophical question, "If a tree falls in the forest, does anyone hear?" 

At my age, that question takes on a different meaning, because at my age, many people begin to lose their hearing. And if you think that's funny, wait until it happens to you and remember this post.

Styles of hearing aids. Government display/public domain. 

My father is losing his hearing because he spent his entire adult life working as a machinist. Even with the use of ear plugs, after years of working 50 hours a week in crowded rooms with the sounds of drills and vibrating machines, his hearing is almost gone. It breaks my heart, but he is a proud man, proud that he provided so well for his family. And he should be proud. 

My mother is losing her hearing due to age, and possibly a serious car accident when she was younger. She also lived a good life, worked hard, and is now ready to rest and enjoy her retirement.

Both of my parents struggle with hearing loss.  

Saying Goodbye to Sounds 

I am losing my hearing because I fell in a parking lot and as I was clinging desperately to the grocery cart a 30 pound box of wood slammed forward into the handle bar and flipped out of the cart. I landed on my back on the icy pavement and watched in terror as the box of wood fell onto my face.

I thought I was in an accident, but I was actually still in the parking lot where I had been searching for my truck. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

When I woke up I was completely blind and couldn't hear anything, not even a ringing in my ears. I remember thinking I was dead. The pain was tremendous. I passed out again. 

The second time I woke up I still couldn't see, but I heard cars and thought I was in a car accident. I tried to crawl, but when I moved pain shot through my body like snakes moving beneath my skin. I felt a woman's hand on me and barely heard her voice as she told me to lie still, that she had called for help. 

My hearing has never been the same. Along with the hearing loss I have headaches, blurred vision, speech problems, confusion, memory loss--so many problems that all started immediately. Some have improved, primarily because I am a fighter and refuse to give up or give in, but many have grown worse with time. The hearing loss continues to plague me as I try to cope with the anger, frustration, and even harassment from people who do not understand my confusion or misunderstandings, and sometimes believe I am rudely ignoring them when the truth is I cannot hear a word they speak. 

Sadly, because I still spend many hours with doctors due to my injuries, most of the rude behavior comes from medical professionals who do not have the patience we expect from them. They need prayers, too. Prayers that some day kindness and compassion will be taught to students in medical school. I often pray for the medical professionals who do not understand, or simply do not try. Some day, they will understand. They will understand when it happens to them, or someone they love. 

Beautiful, beautiful Bella. Photo by Danielle Agnew. 

There are more painful sacrifices that come with hearing loss. For instance, I can barely hear the laughter of my grandchildren, and spend so much time asking them to repeat themselves that it frustrates me! Their patience astounds me. 

The photo above is of Bella, my youngest grandchild who is coincidentally playing with her ear. When I look at this picture, I have the same thought every time--I would love to hear her laugh some day. I want to hear her voice. I want to hear her sing. I would be perfectly content to simply hear her say my name into a cell phone.

Sing! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Since the time I was a child, one of my greatest pleasures in life was listening to the sound of the birds singing in the morning as the sun rose in the sky, or calling to their mates at night. Now there are times when I see them, but cannot hear them sing. It is hard to say goodbye to sounds. 

Promotional poster for Gone with the Wind. (Public Domain.) If the wind blows in the forest, and you can't hear, will you miss the sound? Oh yes, believe me, you will. 

And...I LOVE movies. I have watched movies since I was very young. I love vintage films, documentaries, foreign films--all of them. 

Did I just change the subject? No. How can you watch a movie if you can barely hear? 


Today's special prayer goes out to the men and women who work diligently to provide closed-captions to films for people like me, my father, and my mother, who struggle with our hearing so we can continue to enjoy our lives.

I think of you every night as I search the channels for my favorite movies. Sometimes I notice minor typos when watching films that I've seen so often I've actually memorized the words. Sometimes I laugh at phrases like "Dramatic music playing softly." or "Loud ruckus in the alley." And other times I am amazed by the knowledge of people who know the name of every song playing in the film. 

My cats, Pixie Dust and Elvis Jr. waiting for the movie to start. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

It's true--no one promised me a rose garden. God never whispered in my ear that my life would be painless. An angel has never appeared in my dreams to say that I would be blessed with a perfect life. I remind myself of this as I go to bed each night, and I remind myself that some people don't have dogs to cuddle with or cats sitting on their heads when they're trying to see the television, and I tell myself that I am truly blessed. 

Emma loves to snuggle up and watch movies. Her name means "Universal Healer." 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I still have moments when I can relax, snuggle beneath a warm blanket with my chihuahua and my cats, watch a movie and understand the plot, the dialogue, the drama, thanks to the closed-caption angels in this world. 

My prayer tonight is for you. 

Sometimes help comes from unexpected places. Sometimes peace and moments of contentment comes with help from people you don't know and will never meet. 

Bless you, all of you, who work so hard to help those of us who struggle to hear. And thank you. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Year of Loss and Grieving

Buddy and his sister, Holly, cuddling. They were always wrapped up beside each other. 

I don't know how to explain it. I can't. 

It's been a year of loss. But why it happened this way I'll never know. 

It started with a divorce. Niblet, my ex-husband's 19-year-old cat started pacing the house, howling. He wouldn't eat or sleep, he just kept...searching. Animals don't understand divorce and I've learned that cats have a unique way of grieving, which I will write about at a later time. 

My nephew and his wife died in a horrible accident. I was his nanny while I was in college. They died before I could meet his lovely young wife. 

My 15 year old chocolate lab, Buddy, was poisoned by the neighbors who parked in front of my driveway, barking at my granddaughter and I, taunting us as Buddy died in my granddaughter's arms. He was my service dog. He was gentle, goofy, fun. He never barked. It was an act of cruelty beyond comprehension and it was made clear to me that it was all done because I told my neighbor I would not hire him to mow my lawn. (When we moved my boxes out of the house we found my lawnmower in pieces with the gas tank filled up with water.)

Silly old Bud. He was the leader of the pack. So playful and funny, but always protective and he never left my side--until that one night when I left my home.

Yes, I do believe cruelty to animals should be a felony offense. 

A week later, my Flemish Giant rabbit, Katie, was dead in her hutch, paralyzed, with antifreeze all over her paws (I don't keep any chemicals anywhere near my animals). She was so deeply loved and adored by everyone. 

Katie with her friend, Layla Lou.

She had been to the vet for her checkup the day before. The vet was angry. She knew something was wrong in my neighborhood and said so in her sympathy card, but you cannot force the police to respond when they choose to look the other way.  

Such a loving creature. Katie, you are beautiful. 

My family and friends arrived in the middle of the night, packed their trucks and moved me out of my new home. I had only been in the home three months. I didn't even have time to unpack because I was still painting and redoing the floors. According to a speech made by the local sheriff, crime has increased in this county 90% over the past two years. It would have been nice to have that information before I moved to that neighborhood.

Holly, Buddy's sister, was diagnosed with cancer four years ago. Chewy, my chihuahua, was fine. Then we moved again and everyone became sick. Chewy suddenly developed a previously undiagnosed heart murmur, which turned into previously undiagnosed heart disease. 

Niblet was lighter than he was as a kitten. He was dying. We raced through a hailstorm to get him to the vet and ease his pain. Lightning hit a tree and started a fire. A tornado touched down nearby, but we made it to the vet and my granddaughter and I held him in our arms as he died. 

Niblet was handsome, playful, and huge! He loved his humans. The vet never did figure out why he died in spite of all the tests. He just stopped eating. 

Mama dog, who belonged to my grandchildren, was acting strange after they moved, too. She seemed traumatized. She was also chasing the cats. I had a dream that if she stayed in that house she would die. I asked permission to adopt her since I didn't have a cat any longer. I found a new house and moved. I left the movers with a family member and returned home to pick up Mama dog. There had been a horrible thunderstorm and the animals were already wound up from the moving. 

I tried, Mama dog. I heard you. I really did try.

When I walked through the door I felt as if I had entered a war zone. I couldn't find one of our living animals, but Samson, my daughter's giant cat, was dead. Samson was featured in a post about the "mystery drawer." I tried to take care of him before my daughter saw him. 

We will always love and miss you, Samson.

My son-in-law found Mama dog. I never had the chance to say goodbye to her. He returned and we buried Samson's remains together.  

Then I had a dream. My granddaughter was spending the night, and as she cuddled in my arms we fell asleep watching a funny movie...and I had a dream. I had a dream of a woman on a hospital bed with tape on her eyes. There was a wheelchair beside the bed. I was walking through the room trying to comfort the family. I woke up screaming.   

It seemed like only days later when Chewy died. It was painful and traumatic. I gave him Rieki every night, but could not relieve his pain. 
Chewy was a fighter. He wanted to live. He was also so loving and kind. He could sense when another animal was sick just by smelling their bodies. 

Two weeks later, my younger sister died. As I walked through the hospital room trying to comfort her family I realized I was living my dream. She had tape on her eyes. Her husband was in a wheelchair beside her bed. I cannot explain. The words are in a knot in my throat. 

Two weeks after that, Holly died in my home. She collapsed in my granddaughter's arms. I pulled her onto my lap and she died there. I held her in my arms. 

The vet warned me it would happen that quickly, without warning. She was tired. She had lost her pack. She felt alone. I think she just gave up when Chewy died. She loved him so much. She loved them all. She needed them, and she knew how much they needed her. 

My favorite picture. I love your gray haired face my Holly. So beautiful. Love you forever. 

Some day I will write about my blessed little creatures and say goodbye, one by one. I will write about animals and grieving--I have learned so much about animals and grieving. 

But not now. It's too painful. Too much. 

I still dream about them, though. Nice dreams. I see them together, running through fields, running through the New Mexico desert, chasing each other. I see Chewy smiling in his sleep. I see the dogs following Katie around the backyard, sniffing her, wondering how a rabbit could possibly be so big, then sleeping by her side. I see them all in my dreams sleeping side by side. 

I will revisit them when it's time, but I've been writing this blog since 2007 and it's time to continue on with my stories of the mountains and the birds, the insects, the buffalo, antelope, deer, elk, and everyone else who crosses my path. 

All of my love Christina, Erik, Holly, Buddy, Holly, Niblet, Chewy, Katie, Mama dog and Samson. I cannot say goodbye. I won't do it. Until we meet again I will see you in my dreams.  

Buddy, Holly and Chewy soaking up the Texas sunshine. 

(Cross-posted on Blessed Little Creatures.) 

Baby Dog died on July 15, 2018. According to his vet, there is no explanation for his death. He seemed depressed and lost his appetite so the vet kept him overnight at the clinic. When they came in the next day he had died. I wish I could say more. He deserves more. I spent two hours with him the night before, lying on the grass at the vet hospital, holding him in my arms, massaging him with my toes, talking to him. Every time I mentioned Emma, his puppy friend, he thumped his tail loudly. I took his picture, and he looked healthy and beautiful. The next morning, I left when they closed and went to church, and for some reason I could not stop crying. The next morning I woke up minutes before the phone rang. The vet on duty told me they came into work that morning and found Baby still warm, but not breathing. That's all I can say for now. I will tell his story on my Blessed Little Creatures page. He deserved better. He wanted to live. This shouldn't have happened. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Rising When We Fall...

Stormy weather in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. 
Photo taken in December, 2011, copyright by Darla Sue Dollman.

“The greatest glory in living 
lies not in never falling, 
but in rising every time we fall." 
– Nelson Mandela

Learning to Love

Nelson Mandela, 1998. Photograph produced by  produced by Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news agency/Wikimedia Commons.

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
--1994, from his autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom"

Saturday, December 2, 2017

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."

--Psalm 23:1-6, The Bible, KJV

Rest in peace, Buddy, Holly, and Chewy. Find each other and walk again beside the still waters. Chase butterflies, watch the sunset, and think only of our time together. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Light It Up Blue: World Autism Month

Since April is World Autism Month, I’ve decided to #LightItUpBlue with Autism Speaks to increase understanding and awareness of autism. The issue is deeply personal to me because I have friends who are mothers of children with autism. It’s highly likely that you know someone with autism too since the CDC estimates autism’s prevalence as 1 in every 68 children in the United States.

Autism refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.

Autism’s most obvious signs tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Autism Speaks encourages parents with concerns to seek evaluation without delay, as early intervention can improve outcomes.

Bluebonnets in Texas. Light It Up Blue in April to help increase awareness of Autism.

The “Light It Up Blue” campaign is about more than awareness -- it is about increasing understanding and acceptance of autism. This includes advocacy and support for people across the entire spectrum throughout their lives. It also includes advancing research into personalized treatments for autism and related conditions. I encourage you to test your understanding of autism by taking this quiz!

Certain medical and mental health issues frequently accompany autism. They include GI disorders, seizures, sleep disturbances, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and phobias.

You can help make a difference too by taking the Light It Up Blue Quiz to see how much you know about autism.

If you’re moved to do so after visiting AutismSpeaks.org, please show your support for and understanding of the challenges faced by individuals with autism by sharing a photo to #LightItUpBlue for Autism Awareness Month too.

Also, check out Autism Speaks’ nationwide calendar of autism-friendly friendly events and activities in April.

(This post was sent to me by Autism Speaks with the request that I share it on my blog, and I gladly complied.) 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A 20 Second Hug...

Baby and Grandson by Darla Sue Dollman.

According to the article "25 Psychology Facts Everyone Should Know," a 20 second hug releases chemicals in the body that help you trust the one you’re hugging.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Patience and Forgiveness

Black bear climbing into broken vessel. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman

`A man should be like a vessel that willingly receives what its owner pours into it, whether it be wine or vinegar."--Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, 'The Spiritual Athlete

To me, this quote speaks of patience, which I seem to lack lately. I've now been struggling to find a safe place for my animals and I to live for nearly three years. I've lived out of boxes and slept on the couch for various ridiculous reasons for three years, and yet, the more I begin to think I am losing my patience and my ability to accept my fate, the more I find myself turning the other cheek to those who try to harm me and simply moving on with my life. Patience and acceptance go hand in hand. 

The speaker, Rabbi Heschel, was a fascinating man, a Jewish philosopher and writer from Poland who lost most of his family to the bombings in Poland and in Nazi Concentration camps while he was at university. He escaped to the U.S. where he became an influential teacher to many who were eager to learn forgiveness, patience, and love.

Heschel walked arm in arm with Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights march at Selma. Prior to the march, he led a delegation of 800 people to the FBI Headquarters in Chicago to protest the treatment of blacks in Selma. He was surrounded by sixty police officers when he presented his petition to the Regional FBI Director, but eventually they relented and allowed him inside the building. (Sixty police officers? How many armed men does it take to restrain an elderly Jewish philosopher?) 

Heschel worked closely with Martin Luther King, Jr. to try and figure out how to repair the relationship between black and Jews in America. His daughter, Susannah Heschel, also one of the most influential Jewish philosophers of this century, continues his work to this day.

Friday, May 29, 2015

What I Wish for you...

It is cold and rainy by the lake in Colorado, and still a beautiful day. It is a good day for reflection. A good day for prayer. And this is what I pray for you:

I pray that you shall not want for food and shelter for you and those you love.

I pray that you find a green pasture to lie down in beside a cool stream and listen to the water tumbling down the mountainside, splashing against the rocks, and know that this great beauty is a gift from God.

I pray that you find peace in your hearts and souls.

I pray that you find the right path on your journey, and... even if you stray from your path, as we all must do in order to learn the direction we must take, I pray that you find your path quickly once again.

I pray that you pass by the many dangers of life safely, and are comforted, and feel no fear.

I pray that you feel confident and capable when dealing with those who would try to harm you and recognize that they, too, are children of God.

I pray that you see that the cup is full and not half empty.

I pray for goodness and compassion for you always.

I pray that you recognize that God is everywhere, in everything, and wherever you are, you are dwelling in the house of the Lord, where you will always be welcome with open arms.

May Peace be With you...

It is my wish that every word that leaves my
lips be filled with the love and compassion
that is in my heart,
and that those who hear or read my words should feel
great peace.
I know I often fail in my goals,
but I do have hope that if I stay focused
on what is in my heart,
then some day, every day,
my friends and family will...
feel my words wrap around them
like soft, warm blankets of love. 
May peace be with you.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Prayer for our Soldiers

Dear Lord:

In my moments of sadness, and selfish want, please help me to remember that men and women in the darkness of a foreign land are staring at the bright spots in the sky and praying they are stars. They shiver in the cold and wonder if each breath, this breath, this one breath, will be the very last. Lay your comforting hands upon their shoulders and whisper in their ears that there are many strangers, family, and friends back home who may never know their names, but will never forget their sacrifice. 

The Last of the Light Brigade
by Rudyard Kipling, 1891

There were thirty million English who talked of England's might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.

They felt that life was fleeting; they knew not that art was long,
That though they were dying of famine, they lived in deathless song.
They asked for a little money to keep the wolf from the door;
And the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four!

They laid their heads together that were scarred and lined and grey;
Keen were the Russian sabres, but want was keener than they;
And an old Troop-Sergeant muttered, "Let us go to the man who writes
The things on Balaclava the kiddies at school recites."

They went without bands or colours, a regiment ten-file strong,
To look for the Master-singer who had crowned them all in his song;
And, waiting his servant's order, by the garden gate they stayed,
A desolate little cluster, the last of the Light Brigade.

They strove to stand to attention, to straighten the toil-bowed back;
They drilled on an empty stomach, the loose-knit files fell slack;
With stooping of weary shoulders, in garments tattered and frayed,
They shambled into his presence, the last of the Light Brigade.

The old Troop-Sergeant was spokesman, and "Beggin' your pardon," he said,
"You wrote o' the Light Brigade, sir. Here's all that isn't dead.
An' it's all come true what you wrote, sir, regardin' the mouth of hell;
For we're all of us nigh to the workhouse, an' we thought we'd call an' tell.

"No, thank you, we don't want food, sir; but couldn't you take an' write
A sort of 'to be continued' and 'see next page' o' the fight?
We think that someone has blundered, an' couldn't you tell 'em how?
You wrote we were heroes once, sir. Please, write we are starving now."

The poor little army departed, limping and lean and forlorn.
And the heart of the Master-singer grew hot with "the scorn of scorn."
And he wrote for them wonderful verses that swept the land like flame,
Till the fatted souls of the English were scourged with the thing called Shame.

They sent a cheque to the felon that sprang from an Irish bog;
They healed the spavined cab-horse; they housed the homeless dog;
And they sent (you may call me a liar), when felon and beast were paid,
A cheque, for enough to live on, to the last of the Light Brigade.

*O thirty million English that babble of England's might,
Behold there are twenty heroes who lack their food to-night;
Our children's children are lisping to "honour the charge they made - 
"And we leave to the streets and the workhouse the charge of the Light Brigade!

*this verse was present in the first collection but was removed from the later editions.

Beecroft, John. Kipling: A Selection of his Stories and Poems, Volume II. Doubleday & Company. Garden City, New York: 1956,

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Peaceful Fields

Dark-Eyed Juncos in Berthoud, CO near Carter Lake. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

"How can we hear the song of the field while our ears have the clamor of the city to swallow?" --Kahlil Gibran

Sparrow in tree near Berthoud, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

I live on half an acre in the mountains of Colorado. There are fields behind my home filled with wildflowers in the summertime and sparkling white snow in winter. I call them my peace fields. They fill my heart with peace.

Late at night, I stand on the back porch, stare up at the stars and make my wish that some day I will be able to plant these fields with fruit trees and vegetables, and with goats and chickens. I dream that I will use the gift of these crops to help families who are struggling to feed themselves. I know how stressful and frightening life can be for young parents who must struggle to feed their families. I was once a young, single mother struggling to feed her two children when a woman, a stranger, offered to rent her home to me at a shockingly low rate. The home was surrounded by quiet, peaceful fields, and I used these fields to grow vegetables and herbs, and raise goats and chickens.

Yucca in snow. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

These are difficult times. In our county, the food program was increased in early 2000 to help families struggling with recession. Now, the food program has been reduced--for some families as much as $50 a month--in order to compensate for the increase ten years earlier. I was blessed to have friends in my community help me through my struggles. I actually paid for my daycare with goat's milk and chicken eggs so I could attend college! I know there is a reason why God sent me back to this same small town, and why I am surrounded by peaceful fields.

Tree at Carter Lake near my home in Berthoud, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

As I watch the tiny birds sitting in the trees and listen to their song it enables me to think, plan, and dream. I dream of creating a microfarm to help struggling families, and I believe that is why I am here once again, in this same place, in this same small town.

I believe everyone needs a dream. Dreams give us hope. This is my dream--to pay it forward to this wonderful community of people who helped me through the years. It is a good dream, to make wise use of these peaceful fields and help others. I feel it in my heart.