Inspire. September.

Standard

Today is the twenty-first anniversary since the attack on and the destruction of the World Trade Center. The further away we get from that day, the closer it still remains. The raw, visceral pain is somewhat dulled, but never gone. There are few days that continue to make me feel that way, that bring a tear to my eye and a catch in my throat, and this is one of them. I never know if I should meditate on it privately or write a reflection in commemoration.

On September 10th of that year, we drove home from visiting our family on Long Island, pointing out the World Trade Center to our young son from the bridge, went to sleep that night unbothered, and woke up the next morning to the unthinkable.

Today is a bittersweet day.

Last week, The Foo Fighters performed a tribute concert at Wembly Stadium for their bandmate, drummer, Taylor Hawkins who died suddenly in March at the age of fifty. Many music greats, both inspiration for and inspired by Taylor joined The Foo Fighters onstage including the likes of Paul McCartney, Stewart Copeland, The Pretenders, Mark Ronson, Geddy Lee (Rush), Brian May, Roger Taylor (Queen), Lars Ulrich (AC/DC), and Liam Gallagher (Oasis). Also featured were children of the greats: Violet Grohl (Dave Grohl of The Foo Fighters), Rufus Taylor (Roger Taylor of Queen), Wolfgang Van Halen (Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen), and in the video below Shane Hawkins, son of Taylor Hawkins.

I have been watching this set on repeat since I saw it for the first time. It exemplifies how much Shane was loved by his father and is loved by his family and his extended Foo Fighters family. He plays like a pro with the raw emotion that fits and fills the moment. His solo is time-stopping. I love the drums, and I love this so much – this kid, the same age as my youngest, playing spectacularly on his father’s drum kit for us out in the world, for Dave Grohl, looking like a proud uncle, and for his father. It is so much, and it is so profound.

I thought about when to share this video, and as I began to write about today’s memories, I thought that I would include Shane, because just like with 9/11 for New York, for our country, and our families, there was tragedy here for the Hawkins’ and Foo Fighters’ families, but as we move further away from 2001, seeing Shane Hawkins play his father’s music on his father’s drums, there is also hope for the future.

The struggles will subside, the memories will remain, the pain will dull, and the hope will live on.

Inspire. August.

Standard

I’ve often talked and written about how profoundly life-altering it was when I returned from my first (and at the time I thought only) trip to Wales. It was barely forty-eight hours and yet it left an indelible mark on my soul. It led me down new paths that branched off and created new adventures and journeys within these past thirty-five years. If I recall correctly, that first summer was spent working at (the now defunct) Waldenbook’s bookstore, where as an employee I received a 33% discount, and folks wonder why I had less money at the end of the summer than I started with. I was straightening and dusting books, and performing an additional wide plethora of mindless tasks when I noticed a small mass market paperback book high on a shelf. It was the title that drew my attention: Here Be Dragons. I thought it would be fantastical and in line with my hobby of playing Dungeons & Dragons, but I was to be disappointed in that, and extremely gratified to discover that it was a novel based in medieval Wales centering on the life and world of the Prince of Wales, Llywelyn Fawr.

I was drawn into this story quickly. This is the only book that I’ve owned three copies of: one that I read several times and gave to someone to read, a new copy to replace that one, and a digital copy for my Kindle. There were two subsequent novels, Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning, now know more or less as The Welsh Trilogy. I was all in.

The author, Sharon Kay Penman had a way of bringing me into the medieval age, and I read the rest of her books – all of them – voraciously. Not one was a disappointment. One of the things that drew me so deep was Penman’s Author’s Notes, where she discussed and explained her researching process and she defined some of the things that seemed implausible but that had in fact actually happened.

  1. Lady Joanna’s affair, the burning of the prince’s bed, and the execution of her lover. True.
  2. Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, the prince’s son was held hostage by King John and the terms of his release were detailed in the Magna Carta; yes, THE Magna Carta. True.
  3. Eleanor de Montfort kidnapped by pirates. True.

And much more.

Earlier this week, I discovered that Ms. Penman died in early 2021. I am heartbroken, but I’ve discovered her last published book, The Land Beyond the Sea, which I began this afternoon. The memories of reading her well-researched and well-developed books will continue to inspire me as I continue to gain insight into the process of writing and the joy of reading.


“We’d become aliens in our own land,” he’d warned, “denied our own laws, our own language, even our yesterdays, for a conquered people are not allowed a prideful past. Worst of all, we’d be leaving our children and grandchildren a legacy of misery and loss, a future bereft of hope.”
― Sharon Kay Penman, The Reckoning

“But in all honesty, I do not find it so peculiar a notion, that a Welshman should rule Wales.”
― Sharon Kay Penman, Falls the Shadow

“Poor Wales. So far from Heaven, so close to England.”
― Sharon Kay Penman, Here Be Dragons

“Fretting about time’s passing will not slow it down one whit.”
― Sharon Kay Penman, Here be Dragons

“for each age interprets the past in the light of its own biases.”
― Sharon Kay Penman, Falls the Shadow

Dolwyddelan Castle, built by Llywelyn Fawr (the Great) in or around the 13th century. Dolwyddelan, Gwynedd, North Wales. (I don’t imagine it looked much different in his time, especially from this angle.)
(c)2022

Mental Health Monday – Where has August gone?

Standard

At least once a week, I’ve sat myself down and wanted to write and publish here, and more than once a week, I’ve failed. I checked online to see my last publication, and it was way back in July.

Where has August gone?

I stopped subscribing to more is better, so while I do track my writing and word counts, it’s for my own accountability, but I still do not like when plans go by the wayside.

Although last week was a bit of a dip for things.

My priest died nine months ago. My oldest moved after some personal stuff that we’ll call a setback. My middle son is moving out when he starts college. My daughter hates me. Fall memoir workshop was cancelled. And my therapist is retiring.

Okay, let’s be fair: My daughter doesn’t hate me. It’s really just the normal teenage daughter – mother tension, and I did tell her that I’d be writing this, so we’re good. But everything else? I guess I’d say I’m coping.

All our money went to car repairs, house repairs, gas, and groceries. At some point, we know that our kids are not going to want to continue going on vacation with us, but until that day comes, I’m here for it. We’re just doing an overnight in the Finger Lakes and making memories.

I’ve got a master list that I’m working through, and one (or twelve) of those items is publishing a few pieces before we go away, instagramming for the two days that we are away, preparing for the class that I’m teaching in the fall, and reorganizing myself. Not my stuff. Not my writing. Not my clutter, but myself. Where do I want to be in six weeks?

I will let you know sometime in the next week or so, but I am here to also remind you that there is no right way, there is only the way you choose to move forward.

Onward!

Update on Mental Health Madness

Standard

Be careful when complaining about all the commitments you have scheduled and listed out. As of last night, I have no commitments, zero, nada, zilch. None.

The spoiler is that I have covid. I suppose the good news is that those new-found allergies are not allergies, which I will appreciate more next spring. For anyone interested in the less-than-sordid details, read on:

Continue reading

Mental Health Monday

Standard

I was sick all weekend. I can always tell when I’m slightly better because my family, who have been extremely helpful and tolerant of me suddenly have earphones in, my bedroom door remains closed, and I am once again on my own; abandoned. And clearly melodramatic.

That’s not entirely true; I mean I’m definitely being melodramatic, but I also have a good family even if they can be a bit argumentative, but aren’t all families that way?

And I whine when I’m sick. I can’t help it. Fever, chills, whine. I’m a four year old.

I told them today that a little better is not not-sick. I’m still sick, and still need some help. They were happy to go to school and work.

Despite that, I was very busy today! And I really wanted to put a couple of things off, but I couldn’t because this is the only day I’m home all week. When did everything get so busy?!

What did I do today, you ask:

Continue reading

National Pretzel Day

Standard

Whether hot or cold, soft or hard, tiny twists or sticks, I think my favorite snack is the pretzel. With a dill vegetable dip, mustard (yellow or deli), beer cheese, or melted cheddar, it doesn’t matter – the pretzel is the main attraction.

My go-to brand is Rold Gold, but there is nothing like a soft New York pretzel with mustard. In fact, when we needed to use something quintessentially identifiable for our state for our team photo for GISH, I chose a soft pretzel with mustard while sitting at the Erie Canal.

I want one today!

(c)2022
(c)2022

Inspire. April.

Standard

To many people holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.”

Phillip Andrew Adams

Palms from Palm Sunday.
(c)2022

This week marks my massaversary. Two years before I received my sacraments, I began attending church services. It was during Holy Week that this started and it marked a profound change in my life. Attending mass, sitting alone in a pew reading Scripture didn’t make all my problems go away; they didn’t suddenly create a magical turnaround in my mental health issues, my personal issues, my crisis, but it did create light in the darkness, both metaphorically and literally in a bright light vision. I met new people who influenced me in all the positive ways you want friends to influence you. I discovered a group of people who were glad to know me, and provided material help despite not knowing me from Adam. I saw what a calling was through their actions, and I saw what it means to walk with Christ.

I was welcomed with great joy, and I continue to be.

My massaversary is more than simply a date on a calendar or a memory of long ago. It is present, it is here, it is now, and I am welcomed with great joy whenever I enter the church and cross my self with the holy water from the font in the gathering space.

Even in an empty building, I am welcomed because Christ is always present.

I will try to put words on my feelings in small ways as the week continues on, and as the Lenten Journey ends and Easter begins.

Lenten Journey – Week 5

Standard

As we celebrate Holy Week, we are still looking back on Week 5 of Lent. Last week was another busy week. My labyrinth (photos below cut) had to be continued on the back of my card. I wrote about our church’s soup ministry during Lent and that had some profound close moments and memories. Even though I missed rosary last week, I had dinner with my family and sometimes that has precedence. I’ve been working on Felicia Day’s book, Embrace Your Weird, and it’s really forcing me to look inward which is perfectly in tune with the Lenten desert.

Also, last week’s Last Supper retreat was so much more than a one day experience. It really brought so much out of what the retreat house means to me. It was something of a spiritual experience in just being there, amid the familiar faces and places. It was wonderful.

Now I prepare myself for the Triduum – the last days of Christ and the beginning of eternal life. We need to walk through the fire so to speak, carry our crosses and come out on Easter Sunday reborn. I’m looking forward to it.

Continue reading

Friday Food. The Last Soup Delivery.

Standard

Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,

and delight yourselves in rich food.

Isaiah 55:2b (NRSV)

I had a quick Friday Food, and then I went on retreat yesterday. Let me explain about the retreat first and give you some interesting background as we enter into the last days before Holy Week (on the Christian calendar). It was a look at The Last Supper and the day began with Mass where we ate of the Eucharistic bread. Then a look at The Last Supper in each of the four Gospels, how they were similar and not.

We ended with a beautiful lunch of open-faced turkey sandwiches. I only mention this because of the base of bread that held the rest. The songs chosen for the mass were perfect, the homily was perfect, and everything reflected the entire day’s subject. We were fortified in so many ways: intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and nutritionally. We were a week ahead of Jesus as we shared in the meal with our friends, some of whom we hadn’t seen in the past two pandemic years save for Zoom. In fact, one of the women I encountered I didn’t recognize with her mask on since I’d almost only seen her on the computer!

One of the other huge joys of yesterday was the amount of familiar faces that I did see. Every time I turned in a new direction, I was met with a wave from someone new, and someone I knew, and who I’d known for years, but hadn’t seen in several, again due to the pandemic.

There was also a hug, unexpected but welcome and it lifted me. Such joy shared. When it ended we prolonged it with another deep embrace, and coming so soon after mass, it just set my day in the right direction.
I was open to possibility, to upcoming knowledge and history, and continuing my faith journey, and doing it especially among friends.

All of this occurred one day after my weekly sustenance from our parish soup delivery. Every week during Lent (during the pandemic since before covid we shared a soup meal in the parish hall), my parish has prepared soup and bread and delivered them to parishioners. My son, who recently began to work, looked forward to Wednesday when he came home to a delicious bowl of soup for snack prior to dinner. This week was the last week, and it is what I call a legacy soup.

The woman who created the recipe was a friend of mine and she died last year. At the very beginning of the pandemic, she left a voice mail for me, expressing that Father Jerry asked her to call and to check on our family and see if we needed anything. It was so typical of this woman and my priest, and the entire parish that I belong to. (Our school district did the same thing regarding school lunches and internet access. We are well and truly blessed.)

The soup is similar to chicken noodle but no noodles. It’s been called Mary Lou’s Famous Chicken Pot Pie Soup and it was brought with homemade pie crust crackers. It is the most unexpected taste in a cracker, and eaten with the pot pie soup it is a perfect blend of joy and faith in the mouth. I love that this is the last soup of the season, and as I ate it, I thought of Mary Lou and her always positive greetings and cheer. She was one of the first people I saw in church in that long ago March of 2020, both of us wearing homemade masks (I in my folded bandana) and nodding at each other. It was one of the things that kept me going and kept my faith from deserting me. In fact, it was also my parish that kept my faith from deserting me.

Food is foundational. Before the pandemic, my church had a community Holy Thursday dinner before the Mass. At the Thanksgiving mass, we are given a small loaf of bread to bring our church into our family meal. During the pandemic, we held online cooking classes from a parishioner who is a professional chef. Food is central to our being, and as I’ve found, to the church family.

Food nourishes, and replenishes, and gives us a banquet of sharing with our families, and as the presenter expressed it yesterday, a table of fellowship, spreading our personal news and sharing the Good News.

What also connected it for me, was two of the links she provided as resources that I am excited to share with you:
1. Food and Drink in Luke’s Gospel (website)
2. Eating Your Way Through Luke’s Gospel (book)

As this Holy Week begins, I hope you’ll find friends and family around your table, breaking bread together and remembering the first Eucharist demonstrated by Jesus at The Last Supper.

Lenten Labyrinth – Week 4

Standard

Publishing these in the middle of the next week gives me time to reflect on the week that’s passed, reevaluate my journey and see what changes need to be made in my spiritual life. It’s a when, not an if. There are usually a few. I think I’ve put writing in the center of the labyrinth since even my spirituality involves an excess of writing, but I feel that there must be more that I’m looking for when I get to the center. I may take a walk later this week (or more probably next) at one of our local labyrinths.

I’m also a little stuck on the exercises in Felicia Day’s book Embrace Your Weird. She suggests filming yourself. (Not going to happen.) But I still need to step back and watch myself with new eyes and then answer her questions. This guide is for fostering creativity, but I find that the parts of my life are so interconnected that I can’t help but reflect on my faith and spirit. I’ll pick it back up this afternoon when I get home from my errands. I think I’ll do my daily readings then as well.

I still haven’t been able to answer what it is I’m being called to, although I feel the tugging.

Continue reading