No Car

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​We are on Day 39* without a car. Our car’s engine died the third week of January. Our trusted mechanic told us it wouldn’t be worth putting in a new engine with the body our 2002 minivan had; just too much rust. We knew this day was coming, but it still left us in a numb kind of shock. It’s been our only car for several years now, and we just can’t afford a car payment. There were also some new payroll deductions so for now our salary has been reduced, significantly, and we’re not really sure how we’ll get through that. However, that is one too many problems for this discussion.

Day 39. Continue reading

My Friend, Anne

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It’s hard to know the entirety about a person even when you see them often. We tend to group people into family, friends, work colleagues, acquaintances, but in all of those labels there are those who don’t fit or who fit into more than one.

My friend, Anne was like that. I met her at church. For a long time, I didn’t know her name. She sat two rows behind me, and every daily mass that we attended together, we’d shake hands and share the peace of Christ. She always smiled at me, and reached across the separating pew, and I looked forward to our daily rite.

She knew my name before I knew hers. Even after knowing her better, I would always confuse her last name with her first name since her last name was also a first name.

She was also part of the Red Hats group that I lunched with monthly. She never wore a hat, but she always had on a brightly colored jacket and scarf. She was always put together, and she had a brightness that expounded on her outfit.

She always welcomed me, and asked about my kids.

I saw her sometimes in the grocery store.

We had one of our Red Hat luncheons at her house, just last year, and I saw her collections from her travels. One was a miniature tea pot with a red dragon on it from Wales. Her house was full of greens, and her back porch was almost identical in shape to ours, so she let me take a few pictures for my husband who’s been wanting to make ours more functional and less storage. She even invited him over to take a look at how theirs was decorated to give him some ideas.

We disagreed vehemently on politics, but the few conversations we had proved to be more discourse than argument, and a benefit to us both. 

She was just so kind to me, and vibrant. She had a booming way of talking, but she didn’t leave you being shouted at. She was just full of spirit.

She died last week. She suddenly became sick and that became worse, and than something else happened, and it just limped along, but her faith kept her. Her family and friends visited, and she called on our priest to come to see her, as recently as a few days before she died.

When I read her obituary, I discovered things I hadn’t known.

For one thing, she was 82. I know that my Red Hats group tends to be older, but I would have pegged her for 70 at the most, and more likely I thought she was in her sixties.

She was born in the town where I went to college, and in fact attended that college, studying education as I did. We graduated thirty-one years apart, both with Bachelor’s of Science degrees in Education. I don’t think either of us knew that we had that in common. Our school’s mascot is a Red Dragon, like the national symbol of Wales.

In realizing that she had been a teacher I could now recognize how she spoke. Teachers have this way of getting things across, and Anne was no different.

Her funeral is tomorrow.

She was steadfast and kind, faithful and spirited.

She will be greatly missed.

Busy, Busy Weekend

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Beginning at the top, L-R: Our Common Home book cover, Wonder Woman Pop keychain, Wonder Woman cape hanging at the comic store, March for Truth art, Carnival, Pentecost, Gishwhes Tea Party art, green flower for my hair, Pride flag. (c)2017

Some weeks go by with nothing to do or that rare week that has one or two things every day just to keep the week moving along and easy to handle. Then there was this past week.
On Wednesday, I was invited to a Ramadan dinner, a community dinner to break the daily fast that Muslims globally follow. This dinner is one that the Islamic Center holds every year. It was wonderful, and I was glad to have gone. I’m already looking forward to next year.

On Thursday, I had a church  meeting but that was cancelled, so at the last minute, we decided to pick up my daughter’s friend and go to the evening showing of Wonder Woman. I’m not sure if Thursday counts as opening night or pre-openng night. The movie was amazing, and for a moment I considered going to see it again this weekend. Yes, it was that good. It was also a school night, but it’s Wonder Woman! We’ve been waiting a long time for this one.

On Friday, I started to read (for the second time) Our Common Home: Visual meditations of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’ by Michael O’Neill McGrath, the catalyst being the Trump Administration’s short-sightedness on the welfare of our shared planet Earth. I am reading it slowly, and I am planning on using some of Brother Mickey‘s artwork as inspiration for my own tonight. Friday night was also the school’s rec night for my daughter. It was an introduction to the middle school rec nights that they have throughout the year. Then her friend slept over in anticipation of Saturday.

Saturday began with Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast – a day late and a donut short for National Donut Day, and then we were off to our local comic store to celebrate Wonder Woman Day. Free comics, tiaras, and bracelets, pins, and key chains! Fun, fun, fun. After that my son had a birthday party that turned into a sleepover. We brought him home for a shower and a change of clothes. He and my husband went to buy him a bicycle that he’s been promised before the sale ended.

In the meantime, we took the girls out to lunch, then to a local carnival. They dropped me off at church where I was reminded it was Pentecost, something I will reflect further on later in the week. The Holy Spirit is something that I have felt my whole life without knowing exactly what it was that was guiding me. While I was at church, the girls decided on another sleepover at the friend’s house. I went home and drew some art for the March for Truth that I attended virtually continuing with the Wonder Woman theme by using her lasso of truth.

My husband and I began to catch up on Sense 8, only to find out that it wasn’t renewed for a third season. I’ve already joined the online movement to try and bring it back. It is just so much and so wonderfully well done. I can’t help but feel attached to the sensates.

We are currently at our local coffee shop – Starbucks. I’m wearing a green flower in my hair ane a matching Gishwhes shirt for the International Gishwhes Tea Party taking place around the world at this exact moment.

It is also Pride month, and I spent much of last night drawing and coloring a pride flag, mostly for my own amusement, but also to share.

So much done, and this weekend isn’t even over yet. We still need to get the kids back from their respective sleepovers, watch two more episodes of Sense8, decide on dinner, and then prepare for the return of Fear the Walking Dead.

Tomorrow seems just as busy as I renew my driver’s license and get my glasses adjusted. I’ve been getting headaches and they’re barely a week old. I’m definitely seeing better, but I’m not sure constant headaches are worth the benefit. I also plan to get my international driving permit for our trip to Ireland.

I’m not sure if I have time to catch my breath.

While I do, what are some of the ways you cope with the busyness of your lives? If you comment with yours, I’ll include them in tomorrow’s post of some of my hints and tips to get through our days.

50-27 – Ice Storms

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When we first moved into our house in 1977, we had a ridiculously big ice storm. All the trees were weighed down from the crystal encompassing branches and whatever leaves were left on the trees. We lost power, and at some point we piled into our car and drove to my Grandmother’s house. She wasn’t too far, about twenty to thirty minutes, and I don’t recall how the roads were other than my usually wild anxiety of we shouldn’t be going out in this weather.

But Grandma had power and we didn’t and so we went to use her heat and to visit her and my uncle and my great-grandmother.It stayed in my mind, and after she moved and we continued to have bad winter weather over the years, I wondered where we would go to warm up when we inevitably lost power again.

Fast forward to the winter of 2008. It was our second year in our new house. The ice landed on the roof, froze, and got so heavy that it slid off onto our front stoop. We discovered that we could not use our front door throughout the winters. The danger of getting an ice concussion was too great. In fact, it was so heavy and fell so hard that it broke our wrought iron handrail, making it more or less useless.

We lost power early in the day, and everyone, including our three children, aged two, four, and eleven were bundled up as if we were going sledding or building a snowman. We were sitting in our living room under the covers, waiting for the power to come back on.

We waited all day.

We waited most of the evening, and then, after much discussion and argument found out that there was a Red Cross shelter at the high school in the village near our town.

Despite the ice covering every conceivable surface, taking down trees and power lines, the roads were remarkably clear.They would be dry from the bright sunshine the next morning although we still would not have power.

We gathered the diaper bag, a fanny pack for my stuff, and found ourselves in a new situation, waiting in line at the shelter, signing in, getting supplies from the volunteers who didn’t know how their own homes were faring.

They were kind and managed to entertain the kids when I had reached my limit. It was the most stressful experience I think I’d ever had in my life. It was surreal. There were a few other kids there, but not many. My oldest son and middle guy went to the game room and played with them while my baby girl alternated from running around in circles, crying, and being the nuisance that new walkers do, but that seems so much worse when you’re stuck in a place.

When it was time to sleep, there were cots and pillows and blankets, but my daughter wouldn’t sleep. She cried, and I had to leave the gym to rock her to sleep even though she wouldn’t go to sleep. If I sat in a chair and rocked her, she stayed quiet for short bursts.

We stayed there for two nights and moved to a new shelter at a local college for most of the next night. We were able to go home. Our gas was working so we were able to take hot showers and change our clothes. We also cleared out our refridgerator, throwing all the food away. Our house was freezing but still not cold enough to keep the food sustained. We had just gone grocery shopping in anticpation of the storm and it was two weeks before Christmas. It was a trying time.

The little ones were given stuffed animals – Mickey Mouse’s to help them feel comfortable. They were also given Red Cross fleece blankets that we still have and pull out on those really cold nights.

The Red Cross people were amazing.

My friend started a collection and gave us a Walmart gift card for almost $450 to get groceries at their supermarket.

As difficult as that weekend was for all of us, it showed us what was important, and how kind and supportive our friends could be as well as the kindness of strangers who uprooted their lives to help all of us.

We see it with tornados in the Midwest, hurricanes in Florida, and winter storms in the northerrn states, but never did I expect to receive Red Cross aid in my own town.

I know that the Red Cross has its problems – all places do, but they are boots on the ground and they ask nothing in return for the victims of disaster. They kept me sane and kept my kids warm and fed when staying in our own house would not have.

In looking back, we knew we were lucky, but we were also blessed and I try to remember that when I see people struggling with everyday issues that are sometimes too much.

50-26 – Horsing Around

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Writing Prompt – High School
I had three very close friends in high school. I am still friends with them today, seeing them daily on Facebook. Every high school class has its senior skip day and we were no exception. I don’t remember which one of them planned it but it was most definitely a conspiracy against me.

First, I should say that I grew up on Long Island. I can’t swim and I hate the beach. Maybe it’s all the water. Most of the senior classes went to Jones Beach for their skip day. The school had gotten wind of this over the years, so pretty much anyone who went to Jones Beach got detention. The assistant principal, Mr. Allen would drive down there and scour the sand for students, jotting down names, walking the beach in suit and tie and his school shoes.

We, however did not get detention. We did not go to the beach.

We got into Ds car and drove east on the LIE; the Long Island Expressway. It was forever in the car. I think I was in the backseat. It was a “surprise” but clearly I was the only one in the dark. I don’t know when I figured it out, maybe there was a road sign, but we were almost there when I realized we were going to a horse ranch – a stable. Of horses. I nearly jumped from the moving car.

Here is where I should probably mention that when I was in elementary school, I went with my cousins to a dude ranch in Peekskill. I loved it there. I loved horses. They are beautiful creatures, but I could not get on the horse. Not any of them. I cried. It was traumatizing.

I wondered if crying as a high school senior was appropriate now.

I got on with ranch hand assistance and off we went. The sky was that perfect blue, not a cloud in it, dust kicking up from the hooves as we set off from the corral into the wooded area. It became a bit darker under the trees and slightly cooler, but it was still a comfortable temperature – the shade keeping the heat of the sun from really getting to us, and our horses.

I had the gentlest horse, or so they told me. He was trained to follow the horse in front of him which was great, espeically when the horse in front of mine decided to trot along the edge of the cliff. It probably wasn’t a real cliff, this was Long Island after all, and I probably wouldn’t have died or anythihng but it was still terrifying. I fell getting off at the end, but I had still done it.

One and done.

Attitude of Gratitude

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We all have our own mental lists to remind us of the wonder of our lives. Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the US, and for those of us lucky enough to have our families to celebrate with and enjoy a ridiculously large feast, it is one of those days that we are either awash with feelings or comatose from turkey and napping by mid-afternoon.

So many words to express our thoughts for this holiday season:

Thankful.

Grateful.

Gratitude.

Blessed.

Lucky.

Wonderment.

Humbled.

In less than a week, I turn 49, and then in three hundred sixty-six more days I will be 50. I’m not particularly looking forward to it, although I suppose it’s better than not turning fifty. This might be the impetus to a year long project of not counting down the days, but appreciating the days and the weeks as they pass until that milestone. This might be the baseline to reflect on, but time will tell.

These are the ten things I am most grateful for:

1. Finances – we are still living paycheck to paycheck, as are most middle-class-used-to-be’s, but there might be a light at the end of the tunnel; or at least an even-ing out of our debt.

2. Related to Finances – I’m grateful to our mechanic who let us put our recent car repairs on account so we are able to continue to drive our only car without having the cash on hand.

3. Family – my kids are healthy and doing well in school.

4. I am relatively healthy despite my chronic issues. My knees have even been feeling almost normal most of the time. It’s a welcome change.

5. Writing – I’m managing to write more often and keeping up my  quality, I think anyway. Without my regular writing workshop, which was cancelled, I’ve been lucky to give myself one day a week to work in the library for some of my forgotten projects.

6. I am really enjoying my ongoing re4lationship with Jesus Christ. There was definitely something missing from my life despite my belief in G-d and my spirituality, and I have found it with Christ and in His Church.

7. I have so much gratitude that I live near enough to a shrine and a Dominican retreat center where I can go and meditate and pray. Both places offer different things, but both places are also contemplative and recharge me.

8. Friends – My recent reconnection with some friends through Facebook – one I hadn’t talked to in decades, but thought of often. I also connected with my cousins’ family, both in person and on Facebook.

9. Fandom – another layer of friendship that is unexplainable unless you are in a fandom of your own. Kind, friendly, supportive and constructive – fandom is a beautiful thing, filled with beautiful people.

10. You, dear readers. I hold such gratitude for all of you, all of you who read, comment, like, and visit. Thank you.

I really am so blessed.

Thursday Travels – Mars and the Great Wall

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This week, travels is a very loose term.

Those are just two of the places I’ve “traveled” to this week and its not over yet. I can’t share any items or pictures until the scavenger hunt is over, but I would like to say a few words about my team.

They are a phenomenal group of people, 15 people from all walks of life, single, married, working and not, spanning from California across to New York and over to Denmark. Everyone is not only chipping in their items, they’re supportive of everyone else, they offer advice and cheerleading. They are a fabulous and amazing group of absonome* creative new friends.

This is my third year and I’m having the best time.

Visit http://www.gishwhes.com to see the fun.

In the meantime, I’m off to find a superhero.

*Abnosome is a GishWhes term meaning absolutely awesome!

A St. Patrick’s Day Memory

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I’ve always been drawn to the Irish, all Celts really. The Irish captured my heart throughout childhood and college until my spirit finally fled to Wales. Today is St. Patrick’s Day, though and because of that, I will tell you one or two of my favorite St. Patrick’s Day college stories:

I went to college in a college town. Small semi-rural community with two colleges, fifty-two bars and no curfew.

One year, as usual I was underage (they raised it on my birthday), so I became the designated driver. We went to Murphy’s on the other side of town. You actually needed a car to get there; the buses didn’t run that far. We sat, they drank, and as the designated driver, I got free Cokes. At some point I was asked for my driver’s license, which I gave to the cute bartender.

He looked at it three times and exclaimed rather loudly, “Why did you give me this?! I can’t serve you!”

“But I’m not drinking!”

I had to leave and the bartender was pretty upset that I took my four friends, who were paying for their drinks, with me.

Green beer was a big thing at my college, but not in the capital where four of us were student teaching. My friend Mike and I whined (and whined) about green beer until the other two piled us into the car and drove us the 72 miles to our college town for green beer, and then back in the wee hours of the morning, but still in time for us to student teach.

We were warmed over yuck but we were there as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as we could manage. All of us that is except for Mike, who had the day off and presumably was still in bed.

🙂

REPOST: My First Church Friend

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Today is the first anniversary of my friend’s death. I posted this last year the week after her funeral:

Last Wednesday was a beautiful day. There was a bright blue sky with just enough fluffy white clouds, the sun shining like spring and very warm for January. I walked into the church and for that one second, it was a typical Wednesday Mass at Nine AM.

Except it wasn’t.

The usher said, ‘good morning,’ and handed me the program: Celebration of Christian Burial. I’d been to many of these in the last year or so from attending the regular morning masses, but this one was different. On this one, I saw my friend’s name and with a long breath I took one step from the hum of the gathering space into the solemnity of the church itself and stopped short.

There, in Shirley’s seat was her red scarf and red wool hat. I’d seen her wear it at least a dozen times in the time I’ve known her and it took a moment to realize that it wasn’t her sitting in her usual seat. Someone had set up the display on a table and with the scarf and hat they included a rose and a rosary and adjacent to it was a floor candle just in front of ‘her’ pew.

I was quickly admonished for not doing so immediately, but I was expected to sit in my usual seat, which happened to be directly behind hers. The last thing I wanted was the first thing I felt at the start of my church visits: people watching me. I wasn’t family, but at the daily 9am Mass, Shirley and I always sat together and walked out together with two other women and I uncomfortably felt as though we were being watched.

‘My’ seat had been there since Easter 2012 when I began to attend the daily Mass. I either sat immediately behind Shirley or two seats behind her, depending on who got there first. Eventually, the other two ladies who alternated with me for that seat joined me in the one pew.

It was kind of funny. No one in the Mass really knew me, but they all knew that I was part of this foursome, an odd group if ever there was one.

I picked my seat originally because of Shirley.

The first time I entered the church, I did it almost the same way I did last Wednesday: haltingly, unsure, would anyone look at me? Gee, I hoped not. But after so many steps, there is that point of no going back, even for the anxious.

I walked in on that first spring morning, and tried to look around without looking around, and immediately took notice of Shirley’s jacket. It was a black jacket and so the muted multi-colored embroidery of leaves and flowers and stems stood out against the dark wooden pew. She was wearing a pale straw cap, not quite a pill box but not quite a cabby’s cap either. I would find that she always wore a hat, and when she didn’t, she felt that she should have been. If not a hat, then a scarf for over her head. The blue paisley one went with her pale blue raincoat. She was always put together and I envied her scarves and necklaces, gifts from her daughter.

But more than that, she was lovely. Warm and welcoming and really joyful with so much faith that it seemed easy to share and as much faith that I gained on my own, I accepted the faith offered to me by my friends,  Lorraine, Arlene and especially Shirley, my first church friend.

I sat behind her that first time, and said nothing.

When she stood, I stood.

When she bowed her head, I bowed my head.

When the priest said, “Peace be with you,” and she reached her hand out to me, I clasped her hand and repeated the words rotely. Her hands were warm and it was that touch, the memory of that light handshake in the morning that got me through the rest of the day.

Every morning she would already be there. I began to recognize her car, parked in the same space in front of the church. I’d walk in, expecting to see her, and was never disappointed. I’d walk slowly down the center aisle, hoping no one would notice me, and slide in behind her, slowly moving more and more to the left so that when she turned her head she might see me.

I watched her lips move quietly, near silent as her fingers worked one bead and then the next as she said the rosary. When she finished, she dropped them gently into a little change purse-shaped pouch, snapped it closed and slipped it into her handbag, almost immediately taking out her glasses to read the Missalette, which would come later in the Mass.

After a time, when she turned to put the rosary away, she would look at me and smile, and say ‘good morning’ to me. I would respond in kind. I never said good morning before that, but church brought out the good morning in me, and each Mass was a good morning. It kept me going when I needed to keep going.

I began to ask Shirley questions about things around the church. Why were some lights in the large cross certain colors while others were not? Why is that cloth red today when it was green yesterday? I don’t remember most of the questions; there were several, and Shirley always answered them. We chatted every day. We walked out together, often all the way to her car and I’d wait until her door was closed and the engine started.

She talked about her family often – her daughter in California, her son in Florida. My family is from Long Island, and she mentioned that her brother also lived there, not far from where I had grown up. I found out that her other daughter was murdered – a victim of domestic violence. When she told me about her, I told her about my friend Brittany who had just been murdered in 2011. The first anniversary was coming up, and was actually part of the reasons I had begun visiting the church in the first place.

She was always happy to see me, and when I missed a day, she hugged me and told me that she missed seeing me. She made a point of turning around, smiling and saying hello. More often than anything else, we talked about the weather and Father Jerry’s humor in the morning, the four of us often laughing quietly and quite possibly rolling our eyes at times.

I’ve always sat behind her. How will I know where to sit now?

Sylvia

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Prompt – someone important in your life with whom you’ve lost touch with

 

Lost touch with seems to be an accidental or choice of losing touch, so I’ll stick to live people, although that doesn’t much narrow the list down. Faces assail my mind until one remains: Sylvia.

Oh, how I love Sylvia. Short and plump, coffee colored skin with a head of loose dark curls that she kept short-ish. She had a round face and a flat nose and the voice of angels. She had a way of moving as if she were floating on air or about to dance. Not just a skip in her step, but a hop and a pirouette too. Her voice soft and lilting, but more that brilliant combination of mother, sister, spiritual healer from New Orleans, Louisiana, a place that for me holds the mystical and mysteries and a longing place to try it just once.

Her husband was an NCO, a Staff Sargent, I think in the Marines. She had three kids who were about my age at the time or barely younger.

She used her softness to get her point across. We taught together for the US Navy’s child development program until she became the assistant director, one step down from where she truly belonged. She brought multi-cultural education to a place that should have had it all along considering the clientele. She taught me how to make the perfect sweet potato pie even though my own mother did not understand the concept of Dessert rather than side dish. As an aside, when I was recently in Virginia, McDonald’s had sweet potato pie instead of pumpkin. I’d consider moving south just for that.

Sylvia was encouraging and smart and strong and delicate. She was comfortable in her own skin with a bright smile. She wore loose, bright, colorful clothes and sandals with the most beautiful huge to my eye necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Her rings were simple to fit her small hands.

She inspired and awed me and the thought of her makes me smile.