Inspire. September.

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My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.  

Maya Angelou

New Writing Space for the next six weeks. (c)2021

Vacation’s over. School’s begun. The Jewish Holidays have come and gone without nary a new goal or resolution in sight. First therapy session of the new season is in the books. And what do I have to show for it?

It’s not nothing, but I honestly don’t know.

The monthly greeting: How are you doing always feels like a trick question. If I’m fine, am I fine? If I’m okay, why am I here in the first place? Will I actually say what’s really on my mind?

*shrug*

I don’t know. Somehow, I muddle through another session, sometimes wondering why I still come. I’m not suicidal. My anxiety is under control. It is more than the familiarity and routine of it. Part of it, I know, is that having it on my calendar gives me something positive to look forward to. If I have moments of struggle or lows, I see the appointment on the calendar and it gets me through; I know it will be okay until the next time. It gives me something to strive for. Could I get through the month without this one hour? Maybe. But why risk it?

It’s a safe place. We all need them. Big, small, in public or private, look around for yours.

The fall is the beginning of my year. Will it remain so when my kids are entirely finished with school? That day is sadly growing closer, and I both dread it (for me) and relish it (for them). I also have so many ideas. So much to write about. Places I’ve traveled that I want to share about, both as reflections and travel advisories, advice, and photos. I have ideas for new series, new columns, new book ideas. I have ideas to expand my Facebook page for those of you on FB. I even have a list of prayers to write.

My six week memoir class has begun again. The library is sponsoring it, and even though they won’t let us in the library (a change since we registered), they have found us a pavilion in a local park that really gives off a super creative writing vibe. We’re gathering with some people who we haven’t seen in two years. We’re missing a long time friend who died last year (not Covid related). Hopefully, it remains warm enough for the six weeks we’ll be outside, but cool enough to keep the mosquitoes dormant. For those of us who’ve been meeting in the park for the last year, this weather is a piece of cake. The library provided clipboards and the teacher brought cushions for the picnic tables. I brought my own chair but I may swipe one of those cushions next week.

Our ongoing park-meeting group has a new inside place to meet – the local fire house!

I’m hoping all of these writing groups with assignments will inspire me for the rest of the fall and into the new year to come.

September 11th: A Reflection

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September 11th, 2001.

It’s hard to believe that twenty years have passed in the blink of an eye, although I can imagine for those there that day it passed less fast. I look at my twenty-four year old who at four, I relegated to his room and cartoons so I could watch the aftermath. He was still asleep when the second plane hit the towers, but I witnessed it live on television. It was shocking. I think I tried to call my parents who live on Long Island. I don’t remember if I got through the first time. We had just seen them the day before. September 10th was very much like the 11th – a bright blue sky, fluffy white clouds, sun shining warm on the cool air of the beginnings of fall. I wouldn’t have even been awake the morning of the 11th except we were having landline trouble and the Verizon guy was outside fixing something for us. We lived on the first floor of a former carriage house, and I kept my door open to let any passersby get updates from the news that I had still going on my television. My landlord was there for some reason I can’t remember now. The door was open most of the day.

We sat in front of the television solemnly for days. We cried. We called family and friends daily, just wanting to hear their voices. It took a long time to be able to pass the nearby airport with the planes taking off and landing overhead without cringing or having a minor panic attack.

On the one month anniversary, a plane crashed. We thought it was terrorism again. We were all on edge. It wasn’t. I remember the date because my father was having surgery to remove his second leg due to diabetes complications. And then November 11th was my aunt and uncle’s wedding anniversary.

It seemed that the eleventh would be on our minds for a very, very long time, and here it is twenty years later, and on this day it feels like yesterday.

On the one year anniversary our only child (at the time) had just begun kindergarten. We kept him home from school on that first 9/11 and we took him to the NYS Museum, which was near our home and visited the 9/11 exhibit which included a partially crushed fire truck. It was profoundly moving and emotional. We weren’t the only ones in tears.

Thinking about the interim years of war and increased security, embedded journalists, two more moves, an addition of two more children, buying a house with a large yard, growing as a writer, and the loss of three parents. But there was also the election of the first Black President, a high school/college graduate, a change in religion, a diagnosis of severe depression that is continually being addressed and adjusted to.

As with my parents’ deaths, not a day goes by that I don’t think of September 11th, although it is often remembered with the beauty of September 10th, crossing the Throgs Neck Bridge, the sun reflecting off the water of the East River, viewing the World Trade Center, the Twin Towers in the distance, pointing them out to my son in the expectation of taking him there one day. He visited the memorial and museum a couple of years ago as a firefighter.

Twenty years is a long time, but it is also a heartbeat, a fraction of life. I think I’ll go outside for a bit and just be there.

Pandemic Artifacts, Part III (of III)

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Part I
Part II

Part III:

Looking Outward: spirituality, new things, and road trips.

The third third of the pandemic wasn’t what I expected. I imagine it wasn’t what any of us expected. We thought this was it; the end. It was going to be over. We didn’t realize that there were so many ignorant, selfish people who care so little about the rest of us. I know that sounds harsh, but I can’t help how I feel on this subject. Eventually, I’ll move past it without bitterness and bile. In the meantime, I’ll try to focus on my family and how we coped in this third third.

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Inspire. August.

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August can be a tough month. Summer is both at its peak and winding down. Back to School is far off, and yet just around the corner. It’s too hot for home maintenance especially in the garage and basement as my husband wants to focus on. For our family, it’s time to get ready for our annual vacation as we stress about covid – getting it and not getting it but having our vacation canceled as so many others are having happen. There is also GISH. The annual, Guinness Book of World Record-holding scavenger hunt is about a third of the way complete, and while I can’t share actual items, I have four things that you can do at your own home that are inspirational and GISH-adjacent. But first:

“Education must, then, be not only a transmission of culture but also a provider of alternative views of the world and a strengthener of the will to explore them.”

Jerome S. Bruner

This photo will be added to my post about my recent visit to a labyrinth. I went back and found these newly painted rocks as well as a new plant, a rainbow flag, a fallen tree branch, and a basket of bubbles.

It is a good reminder to revisit places because even in the shortest times, they will change; some for the better (new rocks) and some not so much (a bit of overgrowth).

However there is always something new to see if you just open your eyes, your heart, and observe the world around you.


Those four things I mentioned above:

1. Find a cloud in the sky that you like. What does it look like to you? Take a photo. Or draw it. Whatever you do, enjoy it.

2. Write a poem. Any topic.

3. What direction do you want to travel in today? Draw a compass and make a map, like a treasure map, but all your own. What (and where) is your buried treasure?

4. Do some good. Donate time or treasure. One good organization is Random Acts and a second is the ACLU.

Make good choices. Do good. Be kind. Create.

Feast Day of St. Mary Magdalene

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I fully intended to write a reflection today on Mary Magdalene. In the past she’s gotten a bad rap, mostly from historical inaccuracies, misogyny, and bad faith takes, and in more recent years is re-emerging as an inspirational saint for girls and women alike.

As I searched for previous links to share at the end today, I discovered something I wrote in 2019 that really contained all that I wanted to say and I decided to share that link instead.

Mary Magdalene.

Enjoy this feast day of the Apostle to the Apostles, and follow the links at the end of that original reflection to read more on Mary as well as women’s roles in the church.

The Feast Day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha

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St. Kateri Tekakwitha was the first Native American woman to be canonized. This was in 2012, the same year I joined the church with my ongoing attendance. It would be another two years before I came into full communion and participation.

There were many reasons that I was attracted to St. Kateri as I considered her among others while I discerned a confirmation name (ultimately choosing St. Elen of Caernarfon as many of you know).

I have always felt a connection to the Native American people and interested in their culture and spiritual practices. As kids our parents took us to the pow-wow out on Long Island with the Shinnecock Indians. It’s hard to live anywhere in New York State and not find nearby towns with Native names.

A gift from my friend in South Dakota. It is a dream catcher and it has helped me at times when I’ve had trouble sleeping. It is Native made near the sacred Black Hills.
(c)2021

Kateri was from nearby; just west of the Capital District. She was born in the village of Ossernenon, now known as Auriesville. The village is mapped out at the Martyrs Shrine. After a small pox epidemic killed her family and left her scarred, the remaining Mohawk burned the village and moved (as was done when a disease ran rampant through their homes).

They moved further west and to the other side of the river to what is now Fonda, above where the current Kateri Shrine is located in the village called Caughnawaga. The footprint of the village can be seen and can be reached either by car or by walking the trails to the village and the spring.

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Inspire. July. Road Trips.

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“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, To gain all while you give, To roam the roads of lands remote, To travel is to live.”

Hans Christian Andersen

NEW Spotify Playlist: Road Trip


“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.”

Lawrence Block

During the pandemic and continuing through the last few weeks, our family has broken up our weeks of isolation pouring [th] into the car and taking road trips. North, east, and west; south is still on the list, and while they don’t have the stress or monetary expense of a full blown vacation, they do tend to get you out of your own comfortable neighborhood and out into the world, taking time to de-stress and see new sights (and sites). Even a day trip can be a fun adventure.

In the photo below are some of the places we’ve gone in the last few weeks. I’ve included links so you’re able to check out new and interesting places in the northeast, but some things – like that Mater Truck and the dragon outside a comic store – are just things we passed by and got a kick out of.

Take some time in your car and see what’s around you. It can be even cheaper if you pack a picnic lunch to bring along.

BBQ place, comic store, EA-Teriyaki Japanese at Holyoke Mall, Mater, St. Kateri Shrine, BatCycle (from the TV series, signed by Burt Ward) at comic store at Holyoke Mall, Springfield Museums, MA.
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Guess the characters!
Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden at Springfield Museums, Springfield, MA.
(c)2021

Boneyard BBQ, Utica, NY

Holyoke Mall, Holyoke, MA

St. Kateri Tekawitha National Shrine & Historic Site, Fonda, NY

Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, Springfield, MA

Not Pictured:

Martha’s Dandee Creme, Lake George, NY

Samuel’s Sweet Shop, Rhinebeck, NY

Big Moose Deli & Country Store, Hoosick, NY

Ben & Jerry’s Factory, Waterbury, VT

4th of July

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I’ve been thinking a lot about July 4th lately, as in several years lately. I grew up with patriotic parents. I don’t remember displayed flags, but the way they lived their lives and taught their children was certainly patriotic. I remember two incidences specifically. One, we were at a professional sports game (could have been baseball or football) and the National Anthem played. I eas expected to stand, and stand still. The second was at a school assembly. I was young, elementary age probably, and we stood for the Pledge of Allegiance. Kids are lazy, and they hop on one foot, and lean on the seat in front of them, and they kind of sit on the top of those seats that close when you stand up, and that was me. Not disrespectful in my mind, but bored. My father leaned down and very quietly, all the important stuff was spoken quietly, expressed to me, in no uncertain terms that I would be standing up, and stand up I did.

My father was a veteran. He didn’t choose to join the Army, but he went when called and through that we saw the power of duty and real allegiance.

I’ve always been interested in history and genealogy, My grandfather was from Canada. I loved that we were from Canada. I once said that we were part Canadian. Goodness, you’d’ve thought that I had spilled tomato sauce on a white couch. We. Are. American. Period. End of Discussion.

When I got my own house I decorated for July 4th. We even marched in a parade with our son’s day care center (although that might have been the Uncle Sam Parade), but still. Nothing extravagant, but a couple of flags, flag shirts for the kids.

When the former guy became President, we didn’t decorate. It wasn’t a conscious decision. With my depression in full force in the mid-2000s, I didn’t do much of any decorating even though I tried for some minimal effort. Even after I got into a recovery groove, I didn’t put up anything patriotic. I didn’t want to go for the fifty cent ice cream cones at the local shop for wearing red, white, and blue. I saw that 90% of the American flags I saw were accompanied by T**mp flags or co-opted into Q flags. It was dispiriting. After the November election I noticed that many of the houses that had T**mp flags had changed them to the Good Ole Stars and Stripes. They are not the same.

This year, though, as Memorial Day was approaching, I was reminded of sacrifice, of bravery. I listened to marginalized voices and remembered what many of us believe – that the potential for this country is vast, and it is still accessible.

I bought a set of bunting. It looked unbalanced, so I bought a second set. That made it better. I fastened them in place with American flags and I left my Black Lives Matter sign and added a Choose Love in June. In a couple of weeks, I will take it all down, perhaps leave one flag in place because I am a proud American. I want my kids to feel that pride, to listen to all the voices, to accept the past, much of which is only now coming to light. Being proud doesn’t mean being blind to our faults. We all have them.

It may seem as though I’ve only decorated because Joe Biden became President. I’d agree, partially. We bought our house in 2006, and for the following July 4th we put up some flags and two buntings. It looked spiffy – very patriotic. I mention this because in 2007, President Bush was president, so this isn’t about only decorating for a Democratic President. I will say that President Biden’s concern and care for this country and especially for its people was an unconscious impetus to want to show off my colors. I have a place to store these buntings and flags safely, and I’ll know where they are so they can go up again next summer, just in time for the next 4th of July. Maybe they’ll go up for Flag Day and Juneteenth next year.

Front View. (c)2021
Close up View. (c)2021

Pandemic Artifacts – Part I (of III)

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Sometimes, often, we need to look back at, as well as from the outside of circumstances to realize that there are themes that emerge, and the pandemic was no exception. The pandemic and subsequent lockdown gave us a unique opportunity (albeit at great cost) to look back at a year of new things and old ones, and to look inward.

We were inspired to do things but we were also inspired to slow down and do no things.

Recently, as lockdown, and at the same time, the school year came to a close, my daughter’s teacher gave the class a multi-dimensional project to look back on their pandemic and recognize some of the things that got them through the last year plus. The project and subsequent presentation included themes from memoir, historic timelines, artifacts, creative non-fiction, presentation, and art. Each component was unique and I was excited watching her accomplish each one and it gave me a perfect prompt for my next writing group. It went over very well with my friends, and as I wrote and read my submission, I began to notice themes.

Initially, I had chosen nine photos from across the year, and in laying them out to write about them, I saw that they unintentionally and neatly fell into three distinct sections:

  1. Keeping Safe: Hand-washing, lockdown, information, and isolation.
  2. Community: Neighbors, neighborhood, rainbows, household helpers, tools, the murder of George Floyd and ensuing protests.
  3. Looking Outward: spirituality, new things, and road trips.

The following three part series explores those themes and the significance of some of those pandemic artifacts for me, and hopefully you’ll think of the small or not-so-small things that got you through this unprecedented, uncharted pandemic year.

I created my own timeline (in retrospect) and divided it into three sections, beginning and ending with the first and third photo of each line of my original nine photos. The first third of the timeline and the original photo appear below. I would note that the sections are not evenly split; the first third has significantly more milestones than the other two in what seems like a much shorter time. In those beginning times, I think we were all so surprised by how quickly everything just stopped, even time it seemed.

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Inspire. Surprise.

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The only thing that should surprise us is that there are still some things that can surprise us.

Francois de La Rochefoucauld

The kids will be out of school soon. Things are winding down just as the world is winding back up. People are talking about the return of Broadway, In The Heights is in theatres, and I’m considering going…TO…A…THEATRE. (Practice for Black Widow, which I’ve been informed we WILL see in theatres in a few weeks.) Vacations are being planned, and we may actually see our cousins for Thanksgiving.

With all that taken into consideration, I decided to give myself a morning. Take a short drive and visit one of our local labyrinths. The temperature was a perfect seventy-six degrees.

The labyrinth itself is nestled in a quiet park on a quiet street in a sleepy Victorian former Methodist camp village. The roads are narrow and people drive a little too fast going from one end of town to the other. There is small parking area and the park is a field of grass with several trees that houses the birds and squirrels. It’s very Disney Princess-y.

My plan was to walk the labyrinth, pray parts of it, and sit on one of the benches for a few minutes in the quiet; give myself a little time and space before the summer heat makes that less possible.

When I arrived I could see from a distance that something was slightly different. Some of the rocks that form the labyrinth looked odd, larger, shinier; they really stood out from a distance. The closer I got, the more my eyes widened with surprise at what I found. Much of the labyrinth’s rocks had been replaced, repositioned, new soil beneath them, and some of the rocks making the path had been painted with a variety of things – a Scripture verse, a saying, a bumper sticker sounding Love Wins, all matter of animals and insects, Celtic knots, flowers, and symbols. One rock even had a photograph of two men attached to it. There was a pinwheel and new, bursting with color potted plants.

I walked through, marveling at the changes, at the brightness of the painted rocks, and I took several pictures. Once I reached the center of the labyrinth, I stepped out and spent ten minutes on the bench facing the labyrinth (even though my eyes were closed most of the time) letting myself attempt centering prayer with rocks for my mind’s focus.

There were still a few more left to rejuvenate and I look forward to returning in a couple of weeks to find what other surprises are in store.


The Labyrinth that is Full of Surprises. One.
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The Labyrinth that is Full of Surprises. Two.
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The Labyrinth that is Full of Surprises. Three.
(c)2021