Intentions 2023

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This post was a lot to write. And rewrite. I hope you will be able to draw out something for yourselves as I call myself out and set my intentions for the next few weeks. If you are inclined to add anything or offer any suggestions, please do so in the comments. they would be most welcome.

I offered a preview last week of goals, resolutions, whatever they’re to be called this year. That can be found here if you need a reminder of my first thoughts. At the end of that post, I said that I was going to take a break, read a chapter, play a game, and get dinner ready. I did almost none of those things. I’m sure we had dinner, but I can’t think of what it was. Even Saturday night’s dinner was in flux since no one took out the meat from the freezer despite multiple requests. Last night also. (Note that these requests were not always towards others in the house; I told myself to take them out and then forgot to, so it was a multi-person failure.) Pasta until the meat defrosts, I guess.

It’s probably not a bad thing that our (my) new year is off to a less than stellar start since the years that I’m all gung-ho and organized for will often fizzle out by February.

I plan to use my Instagram more, and that was one thing I did do last week: a post on intentions there. You can view it and click to visit there from my sidebar on the left. I will share the picture below since I’m going to try and use it as a guide for my intention setting.

Intentions. (c)2023

The words I used were:

  • Focus
  • Change
  • Intentionality
  • Faith
  • Gratitude
  • Opportunity
  • Kindness
  • Accept
  • Surrender
  • Reflect
  • Begin

Each one has a different thought process behind it, some from years past, others from spiritual direction, some that simply always come up again and again (like focus and intentionality). I may add some as the weeks go by and I settle into my new year.

None of these words are easy to implement in my day-to-day life. I plan to keep a small copy of the list, perhaps with the picture and reflect on it through January, as a mantra, a guide, an accountability checklist. By accountability, I simply mean is this something that I keep in my head. Is it something that I’m aware that I’m doing or am I ignoring it because it’s hard? It’s not a grading system – no A’s or B’s, no failing or unsatisfactory. Am I doing (it, whatever it is) with intentionality or am I sleep-walking through another day?

One thing that I can take a bow on is the following: About a year or two ago, I made the decision that I did not need the last word in online discussions. I also did not need to engage with everyone there. I will still call out lies and misinformation, but at some point, it’s time to walk away. Before I made this decision, I was anxiety-riddled constantly, needing to convince people of the truth, of the facts. This decision needs to be recommitted to every day. I need to know when to walk away, when to push. I’ve been proud of myself, and while this isn’t a new year focus it is something that continues to be encouraged. Every day is a new day.

I will still speak out.

In between birthday fun for my daughter, trying out new Christmas gifts, and just relaxing with the family, I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday watching the vote for Speaker of the House. I have never seen such a shitshow on the floor of Congress, and it was a despicable showing on the second anniversary of January 6th. Two Republicans nearly came to blows, and one had to be dragged away. I was proud of my party; of their commitment to the people, to the advancement of new leadership without in-fighting and acrimony. Over the weekend, I posted part of the speech given by Minority Leader, NY Representative Hakeem Jeffries, where he took us to church so to speak. It was exhilarating, it was motivating, it was inspirational. I look forward to the day when he is Speaker. The Republicans can say they’re behavior was a lesson in democracy, but in reality, it was a lesson in dysfunction and chaos.

As I told my class last semester, everything is political. Everything. From the water that flows through our pipes to the roads we drive on, from the schools to the garbage pick-ups. We all need to be involved, every year, every election, every race. I guess that’s one of my goals. Civics 101.

Apart from politics, I need to see what priorities I need to keep and pull to the forefront. I’ve come up with three in particular, although there is always room for more. They are:

Therapy.

Writing.

Faith.

I need it all, and I need to learn how to blend them, how to connect them, how to live them, and how to balance them. I should add that word to the photo and list above: balance.

It’s all a balancing act. I’m a mom. I was a teacher. I can multi-task. I can also drop all the spinning plates. It happens. I need to accept that and move on – No. Not on; forward.

As I look at each of those words on the list and the three main places I want to focus on, how do I make it happen? How do I use all the tools available to me without constantly running around in circles, thinking I’m succeeding, but really only standing in the same place?

The first thing I’m going to do is to put a note on my calendar, about a week after Ash Wednesday. Lent is a good time for reevaluation, and I can see how and if I’ve moved forward between now and then.

I’m also going to list one specific, tangible goal here related to the three subjects of therapy (which includes talk, writing, art, etc.), writing, and faith. As I’ve said, and as I believe, they are all interconnected in my life. I rely on my faith in my writing, I write about my faith, talking through things (even if only with myself) – it’s all related and yet still separate enterprises that need their own nurturing and development.

The words sound easy, but we all know that it is also hard. Hard to change, hard to grow, hard to become something different, hard to change. With the internet and social media, we can all be so self-aware and easy to be swayed towards something, even simple, non-hazardous things: a glass or water or Diet Coke?

I know that I’m more outgoing in certain ways since becoming a regular online. I wonder how I managed without the online community that sustains me as much as my family does. I speak my mind more, sometimes to my detriment. I say yes more without saying no first. I realized that I protect myself by declining, and then “changing my mind.” It lets me have the time to think, but I’m getting more comfortable with saying yes (and no when appropriate).

How do I set goals and keep myself on a trajectory of moving forward?

NaNoWriMo really motivated me to write every day, and while I haven’t been writing every day, I have been writing a lot more. I don’t mind the writing without the external validation despite really loving (and needing) the validation. Writing a book won’t work that way, however. I can’t publish every little piece online, can I?

Where do I go from here?

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New Year Intentions, Part 1

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Every year, dozens of articles, posts, podcasts and the like tell us what we need to do to make this a successful year; the one year we will finally get things done, handled: lose weight, clean the house, raise healthy, well-adjusted children, start our own businesses, and whatever else that will make us content this year.

I have never figured out what it takes to make new year’s resolutions that will stick. I try. I’ve tried renaming them: goals, plans, focus, changes, intentions (my personal favorite and the one I will continue to stick with), and aspirations.

On Sunday, I scrolled through my emails and opened the Target ad, and in a few minutes of turning pages in this first advertisement of the new year, I saw what Target and their advertising consultants think we should be focused on in our resolutions for beginning and following through on in this year:

  1. Healthy food
  2. Vitamins
  3. Skin care
  4. Exercise equipment
  5. Exercise clothes
  6. Self-help books
  7. Tax Software and Office Supplies for Taxes
  8. Storage containers
  9. Cleaning supplies
  10. Laundry supplies
  11. Food Storage
  12. Small appliances – air fryers, roombas, vacuums

A thirty-page ad.

How long will many of the consumers stick with the new exercise regimen? No between meal snacks? Brushing teeth at lunch? Not ripping off a piece of tin foil and covering the dinner plate instead of using those expensive (and very clean) containers?

To be honest, I already have three doctor’s appointments scheduled plus my physical, so I guess I’m ahead of my own procrastination. I’m also planning on replacing all the glasses (eyewear) in our family this spring.

This year, though, my focus is on my writing, expanding my writing adjacent activities, and my faithfulness and becoming centered on my spiritual life. I’m not sure precisely what that means; I’m still defining what I’m looking for, what I need in my world, and what my specific intentions are. I plan to form them in the next week and share them. This is also one reason that I reevaluate my goals and intentions throughout the year. It works out not quite quarterly: Back to School/Jewish New Year, Lent/Easter, Secular New Year. While these times are somewhat etched in stone, I still leave room for reevaluation.

This year is beginning with a few points of stress. My therapist is retiring, and I am in the process of searching for a new one. I begin that tomorrow morning, after Mass. For the last couple of years I’ve wondered if I still needed to go regularly for therapy, but in contemplating stopping, I realized that just simply having it on my calendar gives me a conversation to look forward to, a time to see, and that alone seems to curb my anxiety. Nothing is cured; anxiety doesn’t work that way, but it is part of my recovery. Those little things add up and make a difference; they give me a focus, they offer a routine, a schedule that I can look forward to and as it did when I started (with both therapy, writing, and mass) it gave me a schedule to follow. Many of these techniques remind me of posts from neurodivergent folks and how they live their lives. I wouldn’t call myself neurodivergent, but who knows. There’s something to be said for trying something new. Letting chips fall where they may and seeing what works. Including reusing cliches.

Something I said to my husband about one of our children – if this child was diagnosed as on the autistic spectrum we would make allowances, we would accommodate some of their needs and expectations. Just because they don’t wear the label doesn’t mean that we can’t still make the accommodations that they need, whether we call them quirks or personality or neurodiversity.

There is no reason that I can’t make those same allowances for myself or to expect those same allowances for myself if it makes me, helps me function better. Whatever that means for me.

I’m going to take a break, read a chapter, play a game on my kindle and work on getting dinner ready. Later in the week, I will share my New Year’s intentions. I hope to see many of you along on the journey, whether you’re here as a spectator or a participant. No change is too small. No intention too minor.

The Missing Week

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I keep reading on social media how the week between Christmas and New Year’s is a missing week. I wouldn’t necessarily say that, but I would offer that it feels like one, long continuous day. My husband has been working as have my kids, but the rest of the time it feels as though not a moment has passed, and now suddenly it is 2023, and we’re off to the races and making resolutions (not quite yet) and making our beds (ha, ha, I doubt it!), and trying to make this year better than the last.

Our year ended with my (hopefully continuing) recovery from falling down the stairs and being rear-ended and losing our (and finding another miraculously) car, so in some respects it will, well, I’m not going to jinx it. It will be what it is.

I heard a homily the other day about living in the present. I am not good at that. The homilist went on to say that looking back creates anxiety and looking forward to the future creates depression, something I’ve heard before, but being in the present moment will keep you grounded. It’s a nice idea, but like saying cheer up to the person with depression, it doesn’t quite work for everyone. Nothing does. We try what we will try, and hope for the best, and move forward. Just keep swimming as Dory says.

Although swimming’s not my forte.

Unfortunately, I did not complete my reading challenge. For the last several years I’ve chosen my age as the number of books that I commit to read for the year. I’ve surpassed that usually, but this year, I fell short: only 49 books. I have written more this year and I think that’s part of why my reading fell short. Any time I would have had for reading, I was working on NaNoWriMo and my book while also planning out next semester’s classes. I mentioned in another post that I’d like to plan a writer’s retreat, but that is in its infancy. I’m not sure that I could facilitate such a large undertaking, but who knows? I hadn’t thought about teaching classes (not seriously anyway), and while I’ve still been anxiety-riddled, I did get some good feedback, and that has helped my confidence and motivation.

For 2023, my reading challenge number is 56. I’ve already started with a couple of devotionals and a Michael Crichton book I started last month. My brother got me Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, one of the books on my wish list, so that’s next! Wish me luck.

We did have some astonishing things happen in the last few days of the year and since Christmas.

For one thing, we actually finished an entire bag of bagels without throwing any of them away wastefully. This might fall under miraculously because usually by the second bagel we forget we have them especially if it’s a workday.

We also completely finished our Christmas roast beef with no leftovers. We had our Christmas dinner, we brought a plate to our son who was working (complete with dessert), and I made two Shepherd’s Pies throughout the week.

We also discovered some new television, or should I say streaming? We had dropped all of our television and streaming services except cable (that’s going soon) and Disney Plus since we watch it all the time, but for vacation we re-signed for HBO Max, Hulu, and Netflix. My son wanted HBO, so he subscribed, and Hulu was on a good deal, and we were waiting for the holidays to catch up on our Netflix shows. There are really quite a lot of things to watch.

We finished as much as we could of Stargirl, which has one more season before cancellation. I finally got to see Black Adam and Belfast, both highly recommended for differing reasons.

We also started Wednesday (wasn’t interested when I first heard about it, but I am obsessed – it is phenomenal!) and we finished Derry Girls. Today, my daughter and I are going to watch Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, after she gets home from work and after dinner.


Waiting in the wings are the Banshees of Inisherin and another re-watch of Spider-Man: No Way Home (I loved that movie!)

Writing Intentions are taking a bit more effort to form along with other New Year’s intentions. They will be in another post that I’m hoping to write this week. I’m also thinking of ways to earn money with my writing, but that is also for the more in-depth writing intentions post. I’ve seen writers I respect on Substack, but I’m not sure if that’s for me. I enjoy my time here on this site, and I don’t want to create several spaces that are just repetitions of one another. It deserves further study, and any suggestions and thoughts are welcome in the comments.

I’m hoping to keep up my optimism despite some sweeping changes, a few of which are/were unplanned and unwelcome, but moving forward is all that can be done this week and the next and reevaluate as things come up.

Today is today. Yes?

*waves to 2022* *Welcomes 2023*

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As I struggle to write this last post of the year, I think on the last few weeks. (Because honestly, I can’t remember much further back from then without looking at my calendar or camera roll.) My husband and I started watching Wednesday, the Netflix series. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it, but one episode later, and I’m hooked. We’re also finishing Derry Girls and tonight we’ll be watching Banshees of Innisherin for our New Year. This is the first year we are home alone with no kids, and I have a series of stress induced stomach flips thinking about where they are and if they’re safe. One is at a hockey game, and two are out with friends. They’re all responsible, but I still worry. That’s the nature of parenting I suppose.

So a few pictures:

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~ Christmas Eve ~

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The first Christmas Eve Mass I attended was memorable for several, distinct reasons. I had been attending the daily masses pretty regularly since March and the regular pastor had returned in May from his sabbatical and the very first mass I attended with him presiding was one that I had intentions said for my friend’s death one year prior. His homily resonated with me in so many ways that from that moment on, he was my pastor, whether he knew it or not. This Christmas Eve, I was continuing to attend mass and yet had no intention of conversion. My attendance was in complement to my Jewish traditions. It was important to me. I didn’t kneel or cross myself, but the readings and the homilies spoke to me in a way that I was needing at that time.

Not knowing how holiday masses worked, I didn’t realize the amount of people who would be attending, especially the early mass when the kids were in abundance. The kids weren’t any problem, but the seating was at a premium as was the parking. I arrived at what I thought was on time, but which was late if I wanted a parking space conducive to my wobbly knee and a seat. I arrived and Father Jerry greeted me. He was happy to see me, and I him. He looked around to see if there was a seat (there wasn’t) and I said that I was fine to stand. He knew that this was not true as we had spoken about my knee in previous months. He asked a family in the last row if they could squeeze me in, and the grandfather mind you, stood so I could sit with his family, and he stood behind the pew.

This was not my first experience of the hospitality of my parish to be.

This wasn’t the first time that I knew I belonged here, whether I converted or not. Again, I wasn’t in the market for a new church or religion, but we often will get what we need when we need it rather than what we want or are looking for. This season was definitely one of those times. My conversion came before my baptism by more than a year. In my mind, while receiving the sacraments are an important part of the faith journey, for me it was something of a formality. In my heart, I was already Catholic. However, on this Christmas Eve, I wasn’t there yet.

All families have holiday traditions, whether they be in their nuclear family, their extended, their chosen family, traveling for the holiday, or staying home. One of ours from my husband’s side was Christmas Eve Chinese take out for dinner as well as a newer tradition of the Doctor Who Christmas special. My family was delayed for both by my choice to attend Christmas Eve Mass. I had already decided not to attend the Christmas Day Mass, not knowing that attending the Vigil Mass was the same in regard to the “obligation” to attend the next day’s mass. Of course, I was not under any obligation, but it still made a difference to me in knowing the distinction.

Tonight’s Christmas Eve Mass will be different from previous years. I won’t know how until I get there. We belong to a family of three parishes, and so in my church there will be only one Eve mass. We have a new pastor who I like very much but he is different, and that’s okay. The anticipation is both exciting and anxiety inducing. Instead of the last row, I’ll sit in one of the first rows with my friend in her usual seat. My family will pick up the Chinese food and I’ll meet them at home after. We have Napoleons for dessert as well as some leftover cookies once we make them for Santa. Our youngest is sixteen, almost seventeen (two more weeks), but Santa still expects his cookies. There is eggnog chilling in the fridge. Tomorrow’s dinner is planned as is the next day’s lunch with my oldest son who is working today.

Christmas Eve is preparatory, getting the church ready, getting the tree ready, getting the food ready, but also reliving a child’s birth in a manger in a cave halfway around the world, which resonates around the world. It is also preparing for the birth of a new year, looking ahead while also glancing behind, bringing forward the good, leaving the not so good. While some churches have already decorated, the inside of ours won’t be ready until we arrive tonight with wreaths and trees, wound with white lights, dim lighting makes way for brighter tomorrow, tonight the skylights are dark with the night sky. Garland and plants and flowers and of course, the empty manger that will be filled before the end of the night.

Happy Christmas Eve. May your night be peaceful and your tomorrow glorious.

Advent: First Sunday

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The theme and, I suppose the objective also, of Advent is waiting in joyful hope. This is often the titles of books marketed to Catholics for their Advent reading. And that is really what it is. Becoming Catholic taught me that the Christmas season begins on Christmas Day, and the season of Advent is a special time in its own right. Last year, I was given a set of four candles for my Advent wreath and this year I have coupled those candles with my daily reflection book, my daily readings, and beginning on Tuesday, the Novena of the Immaculate Conception. However, this Advent, while I am in joyful hope and I am waiting for the birth of Christ, I am also struggling with parts of my faith and parts of my life.

I’ve spent this entire month writing for Nanowrimo, just stream of consciousing my way through my book about my travels to Wales, and I’ve made great progress. I am very pleased. I have almost reached the 50,000 word goal and I anticipate that I will complete it before the 30th.

Nanowrimo Kick-Off at the Library.
(c)2022

My personal update on the Home page explained my accident, and I believe I am in the must get worse before it gets better stage of recovery. My ankle is much better, and I am driving a little, but not far, staying in our small town when I am able. My husband has been doing everything. While I can cook, I can’t do any lifting and standing for a long period of time is difficult. Thanksgiving actually was the least stressful I have ever had. I gave a lot of directions and stirred one dish and added marshmallows to another on my own, but I had to rely on everyone else to do the heavy lifting. There were hardly any of the usual arguments, we put the turkey in the oven around 10:30am, and then everyone was free until about 4:30 when the sides would need to be prepared. I couldn’t believe how well it went.

I was even able to go to church for Thanksgiving mass. I wasn’t sure how it would go; it’s been just over a year since we lost our priest, and while our new priest is a joy, I do not like change. I wondered if we’d keep the traditions that we’ve had, that I’ve gotten used to over the last few years, and I was happy to see that most traditions held.

Our church gives all the parishioners a loaf of bread and a short prayer for our Thanksgiving table. It is one of the things I love about our church – those seemingly little things that are so personal.

Right before Thanksgiving, my husband was driving my daughter home from work when they were rear-ended. Hard. No one was hurt, PBTG, but because of the holiday we won’t know about the car until tomorrow or Tuesday. It needed to be towed from the accident. This is a struggle, and a sadness, and it is hard to get past the awfulness of possibly losing the car, something that was so important to our family. Of course, we are so relieved and grateful that no one was hurt, and it was only materials that may be lost.

Last weekend, I returned from my annual retreat. The theme was Change. And I have gone through so many changes, and many more continue to happen, whether I like it or not. I had to laugh when I found out the theme. I discovered it soon after my first reconciliation with our new priest, and after giving him the litany of things that are bothering me, and frustrating me, he commented, “Boy, you’re going through a lot of changes.” Yes. Yes, I am! In addition to the new priest, my therapist is retiring (soon!) among other things.

And I shouldn’t forget the good changes. I taught for the first time in a long time. This was for adults and it was a writing class. Next semester, I’m teaching two, so that is both exciting and terrifying. This one went well (I think), and I hope the next ones go as well and better (crosses fingers). As with all teachers, I spent more than I made, but such is the life of the classroom. I’ll hope to downsize my affinity (obsession) with handouts and maybe lower my overhead.

I’m hoping that with this Advent, I can slow down. I can focus. I can focus on my faith, and also on how I’m approaching the things in my life. It is a good time to reevaluate and reassess and wonder about the changes that will inevitably be coming, whether I like it or not.

Through it all, I’m trying to keep my perspective and my faith. This is the first day of the Advent journey which will ultimately end with the Birth of Christ. But of course, that is only the beginning, isn’t it?

Some photos that I wanted to share: The first two are works-in-progress sketches on I did on my retreat from things that I saw around me in the dining and the conference rooms. The third photo is the statue of Harriet Tubman and William Seward outside the library where the Nanowrimo Kick-Off was held on November 1st. I was also there when they dedicated the statue. I love history.

Statue of Harriet Tubman and William Seward.
(c)2022

Thank You, Jes—Angela. <3

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I watched a lot of television as a child. One of my deepest memories is lying on the living room couch, sick from school, and watching Happy Days. It wasn’t this particular episode, but I actually watched live as Fonzie jumped the shark. I wonder when my own teenagers use that phrase if they know where it came from or if they realize that Mom and Dad were there when history was made.

Consequently, when I think back on my childhood television watching it is blended together. I can’t distinguish how old I was when I watched certain things. Was it in elementary school? High school? College? And the plethora of genres and actors are infinitely uncountable.

I went through an Abbott and Costello phase. A Claudette Colbert phase. Katherine Hepburn. Cary Grant. Grace Kelly. Harrison Ford. Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys. Simon & Simon. Matlock and Murder, She Wrote. Lou Grant. The list goes on and on. I even wrote Star Wars fan fiction, which I hope is buried deeply in an abyss somewhere never to be found again.

I was especially drawn to shows about detectives, lawyers, and writers. If they were all three, well, that was the ultimate trifecta jackpot.

One of my favorites was Murder, She Wrote starring Angela Lansbury. I have always continued to admire her and follow her career as much as possible. In reading celebrations of her life, I’ve learned new things, although while they sound new, they also sound familiar. Perhaps I’ve heard them before and they sit in the back of my brain waiting for the reminders.

Two stand out in particular. Her daughter had fallen in with the wrong crowd and was abusing drugs, being encouraged to steal from her family. Angela moved the entire family to Ireland. The person influencing her daughter? Charles Manson. The second to stand out was that Angela hired, and even wrote specific characters for specific actors so that they would get their acting hours in to remain eligible for their union benefits. She was good people.

I was much younger than the core demographic for the show, but I was drawn in, to the stories, the characters, and the writing – both Jessica Fletcher’s writing as well as the writing of the show itself. I would find myself being able to anticipate plot points and guessing who the murderer might be and why I thought that. This is one of the reasons I love Only Murders in the Building so much. It gives me the same interactive feeling of being a part of the show.

With Murder, She Wrote since I was so much younger than Jessica, I had something to look forward to; something to attain, to reach for. She started writing later in life – a middle age that was far off for me – and so it was never an impossible dream, but something to sit on in patience; to strive for.

The picture I’ve used of Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher epitomizes my idea of a writer. I sit at my dining room table right now, clicking and clacking my keyboard as the words form on the screen. Where the sink and window are behind her, mine are within my field of vision, a tea kettle quietly bubbling, its blue light illuminating its base in place of Jessica’s tall, silver coffee pot. Next to me, there is a cup and a straw of Diet Coke, but it is often hot tea. I have papers and pens, pencils, and markers strewn about the surface of the table, a three-hole hole puncher, a pencil case, a church bulletin, a handful of bills, and of course, I’m wearing my glasses. It’s as if the fantasy life of Jessica Fletcher has come alive for me here.

And it is alive. I’m teaching a writing class, I’m writing a book, among other things, I’m drinking something full of caffeine, and I’m moving onto the next sentence, the next paragraph, the next chapter.

I’ve been thinking a lot about chapters lately, but that needs another sheet of paper, and the groceries need buying. Maybe I still have a little Jessica Fletcher in me after all.

Thank you Jessica. And thank you, Angela Lansbury. Rest well.

One Year

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(c)2022

I read this quote attributed to St. Jerome awhile ago, and since my priest was also a Jerome, I recognized him in this quote. Do your best. Be your best. I always wanted to do my best for Father Jerry; not to impress him or for accolades but because he made you want to be a better person. There is no perfection , but I am definitely a better person because of my friendship and faith journey with Father Jerry.

Last week was the first anniversary of his unexpected death. So many who were close to him are still mourning; I miss him every day. That’s not to say our new pastor isn’t wonderful and special in his own ways, but I’ve said many times in the past year, and I’ll continue to say it, but I would not be here today if not for Father Jerry. He guided me, not only through my faith, but also showing me a different focus, a different way of being, a gentler, more compassionate, more giving way of being.

He was a gentle soul, gently guiding you, not always where you wanted to be, not even where he wanted you to be, but to where you needed to be.

He accepted my silly questions and loved my family even though they didn’t come to church. The last time I saw him he had just celebrated mass and was rushing from one thing to the next – the busyness was written on his face, and still he took time for me, he sat me in the sacristy and heard my confession. I didn’t want to leave on vacation without reconciliation.

His memorial garden is complete and it was blessed and dedicated on his anniversary. It was moving and the day was beautiful. The design of the garden is extraordinary in my opinion. It was put in an area where Mary was already standing. I often sit by Mary’s statue and pray and look to her for guidance, so the space is a familiar one. The garden designer laid out five separate gardens so that when you walk it, beginning at Mary and following the stepping stones you can pray the rosary; one decade in each garden space.

Father Jerry had a secret garden in the back of the rectory. A place where he could sit with his dog, Grace, and spend time with the Master Gardener. He shared it with us during the pandemic through videos and a newspaper story. I think the idea of a memorial garden was a natural one, and a way to share his secret garden more permanently with those of us who loved him, and miss him, as well as those who will come later to worship at our parish.

Earlier in the week, I had seen the new sign, and then I sat in my car for a bit, reading through a paper on moving forward in grief. As I was reading, out of the corner of my eye, I could see a shadow moving just in and out of my peripheral vision around my car, but every time I looked directly at where I thought I saw the figure, there was no one there. This went on for a few minutes, until I finally just rolled my eyes, and thought, Father Jerry?

It was gone after that moment.

The Garden of Grace.
(c)2022

Inspire. September.

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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.

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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