Inspire. April.

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Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.

– NIDO QUBEIN

As I contemplated this month’s Inspire post I began with the discovery of this quotation, which led me to the three photos that appear below.

I think this quotation is perfect for this time of year, especially in this second year of pandemic as things are slowly returning to some semblance of normal. Some of us have been lost in a fog of uncertainty and some of us remain in that fog as we await our turns for vaccines, for the return of jobs, the new rules for openings, community gatherings as it becomes safer, and yet, we still wear masks (as we should), we still wash our hands frequently and use hand sanitizer (as we absolutely should), we continue to maintain our distance (as we should), and we’re in a space of feeling the year is passing us by (again).

We need to look at our present circumstances, and then start.

The Easter season is upon us, spring is springing up all around us, Ramadan begins this evening. It’s as if a new year is dawning, and there’s no reason not to treat this time as a new year, setting goals, making choices, smelling the flowers on a few new paths.

The photos below are three places I never expected to be. Having taken the photos is proof that I was actually in those places, but to me it still remains extraordinary that I was actually, physically there. Gazing at these three photos show me the magic that can happen and the magic that is inherently in a place.

The first photo is of Glenariff Falls in Northern Ireland. We found it quite by accident while looking for a place to eat – there is a restaurant behind where I was standing to take the photo. What was remarkable is that our cousins had given us directions to this very place, only we hadn’t realized it until after we’d eaten and went to look for the falls they’d recommended. These woods have a fairy feel and there are reminders of fairies throughout them including in the falls themselves. It was very peaceful and soothing just standing and watching the water fall from the top.

Northern Ireland.
(c)2017-2021

This second photo is just a road sign; however I was glad to get it when we couldn’t get to the town. We were running late to get to our hotel, still about an hour or more away, and it was raining, and at the beginning of a trip we always think there is more time to return than there really is. The sign depicts the longest town name, shortened for the sign as: Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll; also known as LlanfairPG, but known in its full glory as:

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrnwllllantysiliogogogoch.

Small town, long name.

Ynys Mon, North Wales.
(c)2017-2021

This last photo is of the Menai Suspension Bridge. We drove across it from the island of Angelsey (known as Ynys Mon in Welsh) to get to mainland Wales and on to our destination. When I traveled alone to Wales in 2009 this bridge was the source of my greatest anxiety. I had truly wanted to go to Angelsey; I had heard of its beauty and there was an ancient cairn that I wanted to visit, but I could not make myself drive over this bridge. I could see it from my hostel along the Menai Strait, and I thought about for the entire three days I stayed there. I’d walk out to the Promenade and stare at the water below the stone wall, and then stare down the strait at this bridge. Every time I thought I might I didn’t. I just couldn’t do it.

As with the ferry that got me to Wales in 2017, this bridge got me to the mainland where I could complete my pilgrimage. I wasn’t driving, but it was still a monumental achievement and it’s part of one of the places that I started.

This mid-April is another new starting point.

Menai Suspension Bridge, Ynys Mon to Bangor.
(c)2017-2021

Friday Food on Tuesday. November.

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I’m sure it’s expected that November’s Friday Food would be related to Thanksgiving. It’s related not to the day of Thanksgiving, but the feelings of giving thanks themselves.

After four years of tension, stress, and for many PTSD, we have elected Joe Biden the 46th President of the United States. His Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris is the first woman, first Black woman, first Indian-American woman to hold that office.

They were put over the top by the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and while this post is specifically about Philly, I would be remiss in not mentioning the role Black Women played in Joe Biden’s victory. We owe them a great debt of gratitutde.

In honor of Philadelphia’s role in pushing Biden and Harris over the 270 Electoral votes needed to win, my family went to a local place for cheesesteaks.

No better way to celebrate until Inauguration Day!

Cheesesteaks. (c)2020

Inspire. October.

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New Experiences from Summer. (c)2020

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” 

Eleanor Roosevelt

“Try new things and discover yourself every single day.”

– Bhavya Choudhary

“TSN”

(Try Something New) – My Husband

For the past two years, my husband has been offering this mantra: TSN, which stands for Try something new. He tries to try something new at least once a month.

I do like to try things, but I try them hesitantly.

I am inherently extraordinarily polite. If I am at someone else’s house and they offer me something that I’ve never had before or am even lukewarm on, I will take it, eat it, and thank them for it.

When we go out to dinner, I prefer tried and true food for the most part, but when I’m on vacation, I will beeline for the local specialty as well as trying new things.

Examples of this are poutine in Canada, tea in the UK, a proper British breakfast in Wales and England, Welsh cakes in Wales, chicken wings in Buffalo, cheesecake in NYC, pretzels and chocolate in Pennsylvania, lobster in Maine, crab cakes in Maryland, beignets and gumbo in New Orleans. Anywhere you go will have a specialty food to try.

On our recent visit to Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and Plattsburgh, New York, we tried many things that were new to us, but were common to the North Country and Western New York.

In the above photo, you will see:

  • Pizza Logs (from Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY)
  • The Mighty Taco, chicken quesadilla
  • Chicken Caprese Mac & Cheese (from Our House Bistro, Plattsburgh, NY)
  • Amazing orange peeler for 69¢ (at Vidler’s 5 & 10 in Aurora, NY). I’d never seen this before and it worked like a dream. If I had known how well it worked, I would have bought a dozen and given them out for Christmas!
  • Sponge Candy (from Platter’s Chocolate in Niagara Falls, NY)

This pandemic has given us many things that are new, not all of them exciting and wonderful, but we’ve hopefully taken them in stride, and will try to move forward embracing the new, the different, the exciting, and even the challenging.

“Friday” Food. August.

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It seemed as though all we ate were chicken wings, mac & cheese, soft pretzels, ice cream, and donuts! Everything was amazing! I’ll have several posts in future days with information if you travel to the western New York area. Some things can even be ordered through the mail!

Listed in clockwise order:

  1. Roast beef and gravy on a weck roll. (Say Cheese! The Comic Book Cafe.)
  2. Pizza Logs. (Anchor Bar – the home of the original Buffalo Wings.)
  3. The Mighty Taco quesadilla with sour cream.
  4. Niagara water.
  5. Char-BQ chicken wings. (Duff’s Wings)
  6. Bavarian Pretzel with mustard and cheese. (NY Beer Project)
  7. Manhattan Mac & Cheese with garlic bread (NY Beer Project)
  8. Small (really! small!) Birthday Bash Ice Cream. (De-Dee’s Dairy)
  9. Angel cream donut (like Boston Creme with vanilla cream inside). (Paula’s Donuts.)
Some of the regional and delicious foods we had while on vacation last week in Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and its environs, NY. (c)2020

Inspire. August.

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August’s inspiration posts were delayed by the entire month, but I am determined that this post tonight at the latest. It is the last day of August and there is still inspiration to be had.

August began with my being sick, some days quite ill, and I went to the Department of Health to take a covid test, which fortunately came back negative.

We’re still receiving updates from my children’s school and they are almost ready to return; one virtually and one in an in-person hybrid model.

We also were able to take a much needed family vacation, which we understand is a privilege in these uncertain times. I credit that to many things, not the least of which is the seriousness that New York State took in combatting the coronavirus. We remained in New York, and that gave us the ability to travel and to do so without a fourteen day quarantine anywhere else we may have gone. It wasn’t our original plan, but we were all together and we had a great week.

I mention this because the one thing I want to share with you for the August inspire post is a museum that we visited that I would encourage everyone to visit. I will write more about it in later days, but here is a small glimpse:

The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center is located at 825 West Depot Avenue West in Niagara Falls, New York. It has only been open for about two years, and was reopened on July 18th after Covid closures.

It is very reasonably priced: $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors (62+), $6 for children 6-12, and Free for children 5 and under.

There is limited parking shared with the Amtrak station and it is on the Discover Niagara Shuttle, a free service in the city of Niagara Falls that operates May through October. They’ve recently reopened after Covid closures.

The Heritage Center is a beautiful balance of the heartbreak of slavery and escape from bondage and the people who helped them flee. It is at once inspiring and emotional. In one instant, a story caused me to weep while others made me feel joy at their new lives in Canada.

It is a small venue, but well worth the time. I would return again to enjoy the few things that were not available due to covid restrictions.

Inside the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center. (c)2020
We are *this* close to freedom.
Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center. (c)2020

Inspire. July.

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Original art. kbwriting. (c)2020

“There’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton: An American Musical

Throughout this pandemic, I have written and arted and journaled and prayed, usually with no rhyme or reason, letting the time at home and the mood of the day take the lead.

Last week, I volunteered, but was also asked and encouraged to write something for our weekly Cursillo newsletter. Our lay director decided to start it during the pandemic to keep everyone in touch.

I was happy to do it, but it took forever to start it. I had three drafts about online retreats; just a paragraph each. I skipped two lines to try again, and then it was July 3rd.

Our day revolved around watching Hamilton on Disney+. It was the premiere and for those of us unable to see the Tony Awared winning Broadway or the traveling shows, it would be the first time to view its magnificence.

I woke my family with shouts of “It’s Hamiltime!

And that began the piece that would eventually make it into the newsletter.

It was inspired in subtle ways, and then it just came to me while sitting at the keyboard.

Inspiration is everywhere.

Let it catch you when you’re least expecting it.

Inspire. June.

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Lilacs. (c)2020

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.

John Quincy Adams

This pandemic has taken, but for those of us continuing to live through it, it has also given. More time with our families. More time to think of our priorities, our spirituality, our blessings, and our failings.

As President Adams said above, this pandemic has brought patience and perseverance to all of us in varying degrees of success. We all have both despite having different levels of both, and through it all, in whatever way we are and we can, we are moving through it and adapting.

It is ever with us.

Wear your mask.

Keep your distance.

We’re all in this together.

Be well.

Patience. Perseverance.

Inspire. May.

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Statue of Mary, Journaling, Spring Blooms, Rosary, Mary by Tomie de Paola, Zen Garden. (c)2020

Mary our mother sustains us in moments of darkness, difficulty, and apparent defeat.
– Pope Francis

We’ve been slowly returning/adapting to a new normal. I don’t think we’ll go back to what we knew as normal for a long time, if at all.

I don’t think it’s helpful to be Pollyannas, but it is possible to find joy in our new circumstances.

Knowing that staying home and also wearing a mask when I go out for groceries and other supplies is my way of contributing to the mitigation and the time to search for a cure makes it a bit easier to accept my role in the effort. Each of us has a small part but all of us together can create a larger outcome.

Cooperation.

Unity.

Selflessness.

Compassion.

We all have our own struggles, but I would encourage you to find the silver lining in the cloud; the rainbow after the rain; the cliche in the trope.

Three Places Where I Find Joy

1. Cool breeze

2. Mary  *more below

3. Kindle – FB with family/friends, books, podcasts, writing – encompasses much of my person in one place, not quite a talisman, but a path, a tunnel from one place to the next; from one world to the next.

May is also Mary’s month in the church. There’s Mother’s Day and Mary is all of our Mothers. Marian devotions. May Crowinings. Pope Francis provided two new prayers to add to our rosary prayers for the month of May. 

I will have weekly Mary posts throughout May beginning below with links to the Vatican’s Rosary pages and the Pope’s letter and his two rosary prayers.

I have been praying them when I’ve prayed the rosary this week and it truly makes me feel as though I’m doing something tangible and positive during this pandemic. I may also begin a Mary meditation, but time will tell.

Inspire. March.

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Some of my tools for this year’s Lenten Journey, including art from Bro. Mickey McGrath, my rosary, a key tab from my church, journal and Scripture gift, and really thoughtful and and prayerful daily devotions for Lent from Michelle Frankl-Donnay. (c)2020

“…the road that we seek is often the road we have already found.”

– Fr. James Martin, SJ, My Life with the Saints

Thoughts

One of things I’m learning through the Cursillo movement is how I can grow in relationship to Jesus through the three principles of piety, study, and action. These are key components of Cursillo, and while I did my weekend this past October, it is still taking me some time to regularly incorporate these into my life. I believe that I’ve always done them in varying degrees, but Cursillo has given me new eyes to see what it is I’m doing.

Lent is another way, a time of the year, to reflect on my relationships and what I do for myself in spiritual ways. The picture above illustrates some of my tools for my Lenten journey.

We are all obsessed, those of us who practice with giving up something for Lent. It is usually a food or a technology – social media, cell phone during dinner, etc. A lesser known thought is to add something to your life during Lent. This is only the first full week, and I am still discerning what I will add in addition to reading the daily devotional book my church gives us.

What have I given up?

Pizza. And bacon.

I didn’t even think about it. It just appeared in my head, and once it was there, I knew it was the right choice. My family still can’t believe it.

Adding?

I’m trying to journal a bit more, and heeding Brother Mickey’s advice to take fifteen minutes a day to just be with G-d. I’ll let you know how all of that goes.

In addition to prayer and fasting for these forty days, there is also almsgiving. I always support my church and my St. Vincent de Paul Society, but for this Lent, I will also be supporting RAICES, and I encourage all of you to take up that mantle. There are still children in cages; there are still families separated. RAICES is on the front lines with all kinds of help, and have been since the beginning of this nightmare.