All flourishing relationships are a two way street.

Love at 75 is a work of art and craft, of continuously paddling a canoe together. Forward. 

Love is an art and craft both tender and kind and thoughtful,  … very, very thoughtful. Throughout life together those who truly love each other consider the effect of what they do and say on their soul-mate.

Romance lives! My Jim brings me treats and flowers and watches me throughout the day. He tells me I am adorable when I pucker up to share a kiss. Yes, kissing is still a very big deal. 

Our touches are lingering. A continuing communication.  A sharing.  A bond of strength. We are known for holding hands when in each other’s presence. 

Indeed, tears form happily as I realize our children still enjoy holding our hands. Holding hands with each of them from toddlerhood on through early adulthood.  And we thrive in each other’s companionship. One daughter and one son.  Add now our daughter’s husband of 20 plus years, their soon to be 17 year old son and their 13 year old daughter.  Seven of us. 

Seven has been my favorite number since I was a child. 

Why am I writing of our love and marriage on this website? My lived experience with mental illness has tossed challenges in our relationship. 

Sometimes, others have hinted that I have been lucky that my husband stayed married to me. As if we were not worthy of this love and commitment these 53 years! 

But we are braided together, strong, flexible, and happy in each other’s arms.

All healthy lifelong relationships are a two way street. 

My challenges have been public. I have always believed in my heart of hearts that being open about mental illness is essential for reducing stigma. Perhaps my writings have helped others feel hopeful.

And hope is absolutely necessary. Our children, son-in-law, grandchildren and our sons’ close friends all have an enlightened, accurate and knowledgeable appreciation of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other brain disorders.  

Jim and I have grown together since our first date, May 1965. Paddling and correcting our course as needed in a life enhancing way. Sometimes we paddled along the lake shore. Or perhaps we meandered down a river and explored a cove filled with stunning Venus fly trap plants, lily pads and wild irises (True story!) Only a few wrong bends but we worked together to navigate our way onward.

My husband taught me early that like so much of life, there is a learning curve with a canoe and a river. Yes, paddling must be learned. It’s not automatic, and if you think it is, you will flounder … maybe tip out … maybe perish, when life’s rapids occur. 

Each river, lake, stream, and cove is unique and a part of life’s journey. Each offers a growth experience. The weather and the landscape, the water and the sky  — and other people canoeing the same water, maybe or maybe not with respect for canoes and water! — are part of our journey and yours. 

Yes, I am fortunate.  And Jim is fortunate to be my husband … he’s always the first to say so!

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments, love is not love
Which alters when it alterations finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! It is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempest and is never shaken.”

 – From Sonnet CXVI
    William Shakespere, 1564-1616

Thank you kindly!
Gail Louise

Honor the Earth and Each Other – Notes on Earth Day, April 2021

From out of the earth
I sing for the animals;
I sing for them.

– Red Streaked Around the Face, Hunkpapa Sioux

Because my husband Jim and I limited our travel during 2020, I was delighted to discover acceptable flowering and foliage plants from local hardware stores. We selected two hanging baskets for our porch, identical baskets of flowering calibrachoa. Then, I could not resist two more plants: a type of sedum plus a sun loving coleus.

The calibrachoa, sedum and coleus all needed work. But each plant had promise. So I did what I had seen my father do so often. I pruned the plants … prudently and thoroughly.

Calibrachoa was just the ticket! Their flowers remind me of miniature petunias. They glowed in shades of coral, pink and red. Nature had sprinkled dabs of yellow deep inside each petal.

They thrived, and Jim affectionately named me “ The plant doctor! “

I thrived too. 

Nature can have a healing touch.

I prefer flowers, like other visual arts, to have an appeal from a distance and close-up. The bright colors of the calibrachoa beckoned to people walking by our home: Hey! Look at me! They were so intriguing I looked more closely than I intended. I peered into their depths and was rewarded by their subtle beauty.

Jim has a green thumb too. His thumb is green from raising vegetables. Wherever we lived previously, we had a vegetable garden. Sometimes a huge vegetable garden … with a rambling red raspberry patch as well! The blue jay will always remain the raspberry cane pruning bird to me. Whenever I pruned the canes, she scolded me insistently, every spring. Was I invading her space? Were her babies near?

Early each morning, you will find us sitting in our four season sunroom, observing the dawn of the new day. We follow the sun’s progress as she arcs across the eastern horizon. It is a sweet joy to attend to the unfolding season from the comfort of our sofa. The sun sweeps like a rainbow each day … everyday … throughout the year.

At twilight we walk the neighborhood, waving to folks while we witness the daylight slowly dipping westward. Each day, the sun “sets “ to brighten other continents, other countries, and other people.

Jim scans the sky nightly. Never does a day end without my husband walking outside, binocular in hand, to view the unfolding heavens.

Paul Goble describes our interaction with and responsibility for our Earth in his beautiful book “I Sing for the Animals.” As I reread his words, I am reminded what Earth and nature can bring to us, if we give her an opportunity:

“Plants and trees, birds and animals, all things like us to talk to them. They want to speak to us too, but it is not easy for them. We have to find a way to understand what they are saying to us.“

“We need not feel lonely in the fields and woods. Birds and animals, and the butterflies, speak to us. Often we are not really looking or listening. It is the same at night: the stars speak to us. We have to learn to look, and to listen. We are never alone.“

“Man’s world changes, and we hardly feel at home in the places where we grew up. The natural world is constant: the sun comes up and goes down, and the seasons follow one another and return again like a great circle. In our own changing world, it is these things which give us strength and stability.“

Let us preserve the great circle.

Thank you kindly,
Gail Louise

“It’s Looking A Lot Like Christmas”

Jim and I have fond memories of and admiration for the many, many special holidays that our parents provided all the years they were healthy. Christmases were joyous whether or not the preceding months had been difficult or pleasant for them. What an enduring gift!

This season we’re enjoying many Christmas traditions:  The festive wreath and evergreen trees – three this year (Yes, three trees!), decorated with old and new ornaments.  Outdoor lights glowing in the night for all; especially our lighted “Peace on Earth” sign. This proclamation a family tradition and prayer.  The many beautiful, rich and inspiring recorded melodies. Christmas services – this year we’ll attend Gail’s paternal grandparent’s church.  Holly.  Mistletoe.  Colorful poinsettias and flowering cyclamens.  The wonderful challenge of finding just the right gifts for our two fine children, terrific son–in-law and beloved grandchildren.  Grandmother’s ceramic Christmas tree (Alright, four trees).  All of us together preparing and serving delicious holiday meals.  Jim’s hot cocoa, and if I’m patient and persevering, my homemade large German Gingerbread House – this I’ll bake and frost featuring delightful Christmas candies and home-baked cookies!

Our blessings are too many to name; good health to be sure, but always beginning with loving family and friends.

Our wish for you is peace in the Christmas spirit; hope and joy in the new year. Hallelujah!

From Shame – Moving Toward Healing

During the recent half decade I have been so fortunate, as Brene Brown* describes, to have completed the journey from the “not being good enough” shame struggle to believing and knowing “who I am is enough.” Shame from having mental illness has left me. Shame from being related to other people with mental illness has left me also. I have been graced.

I only recently realized I had made this journey. I understand now how much shame – and my growing resilience in the face of shame – had influenced the course and depth of my mental illness through the years.

It didn’t happen, this journey to being shame-free, automatically. I happened to want to do what is recommended for building shame resilience for other reasons; I wanted to help others cope with mental illness. Often, as part of my work, I told my story of family and personal mental illness. I didn’t realize then, twenty five years ago, how much nurturance I would receive from assisting others.  My story of the power of shame and how I arrived at healing from shame follows …. [Read the Full Article]


*   Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW   Audio lecture, 2012: Men, Women & Worthiness, The experience of Shame and the Power of Being Enough.  Available on CD at  PO Box 8010/Boulder CO  80306.

On Healing and the Caring Community

Recently I have been re-searching the book, Souls in the Hands of a Tender God: Stories of the Search for Home and Healing on the Streets for more wisdom.

The book’s author is Rev. Craig Rennebohm, founder of the Mental Health Chaplaincy  in Seattle, WA. This UCC minister speaks of the illness experience and how healing can occur even with serious illness. He places the experience of illness in perspective with many other factors in life. He writes,”…. Our illness self, may predominate at any given moment, but is not absolute and does not determine finally who we are. An illness, no matter how grave, is but a part of our larger identity; our wholeness as persons encompass the moment of illness and far more.”

I first heard him speak at the 2013 NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) annual convention held in Seattle that year. I learned although there is no cure for mental illness but there is recovery for many, that I am experiencing healing “…within a larger frame of personal growth and caring community” as the next stage in my recovery.  Continue Reading more on his profound message.

Stubborn Hope

Endurance is a passive quality,
transforms nothing, contests nothing,
can change no state to something better
and is worthy of no high esteem;
and so it seems to me my own
deserves, if not contempt, impatience.

Yet somewhere lingers the stubborn hope
thus to endure can be a kind of fight,
preserve some value, assert some faith
and even have a kind of worth.

Dennis Brutus, former prisoner of conscience, South Africa
From Stubborn Hope, c1978 Heinemann Educational Books, Inc., Portsmouth, NH.

I have two sets of tools to use in managing my illness. One set consists of the familiar: support of friends, family, the members of my support group, my psychiatrist, plus therapy, medication, rest, exercise, use of behavioral and cognitive techniques and calm, quiet settings.

The second set is much more personal. These “tools” are experiences in my life that provide comfort when treatment isn’t effective. I list them on a set of index cards that are always ready at hand. When I’m having trouble with obsessive negative thoughts, despair, and grinding hopelessness I read through the cards individually, with care and consideration. Most cards list a single word:

“Music,” stirring music.

“Humor.” I cannot generate humor, but at some level it reaches me.

“Beauty.” Something beautiful must be near at hand. Usually it is light falling on my favorite glass vase, an illustration, or a textured fabric. My eyes and mind are soothed. Vibrant colors stop ruminating thoughts and bring peace, a dramatic although brief period of relief.

“Favorite books.” They are important as reminders of the admiration I have for the author’s intellect and talent. Virtuosity stimulates my constricted mind.

The last index card, however, cuts to the quick; sometimes there is no comfort. This card reads, “And some times, only endurance.” Years ago I wrote that phrase with a bitter heart. But since then, I have come to agree with Dennis Brutus. Endurance has value and relies on faith, albeit unrecognized by me. It reflects a stubborn hope, for tomorrow and the tomorrows to follow.

Greetings to you and to those you love and support.

On Healing…Learning to Hope despite Chronic Mental Illness

Do you or someone you love have a chronic illness? The illness and the very real struggle to stand with the person suffering from the illness can be awfully hard to bear. What’s it like for you? I have written about my chronic illness experience. Go visit the menu option On Healing and scroll down. You’ll find my essay: Learning to Hope Despite Chronic Mental Illness. Learning to hope again and learning to believe that life will again have genuine promise were sweet rewards of my patient examination of what life had been and what life could be. I started with one small but tangible bit of “up” time. The time occurred “before my very eyes” as it were. It was what I most hoped for, so I built nurturing memories on it.  I hope yours will be also.

Please read on………………………….