January’s spiritual was hard to come together. I planned on posting yesterday, partly because it worked with the loose fifty-two week schedule in my mind, and partly because it was my mother-in-law’s birthday, her first since her passing in June.
As part of my own religious awakening, I had mass said for her, as I’ve been doing for another friend’s birthday and death anniversary since 2011. I thought it would be a nice way to get the entire family together and send their thoughts to her, assisted by the rest of the congregation. Yes, I do believe that. My family typically doesn’t come to church with me, and that’s alright. I invite them, and I will continue to invite them. It’s my faith. I can only share it.
The woman I usually sit with was behind us – we were too many to share the pew this week, and she was thrilled to see my family. She was grinning ear to ear, and pat my husband on the back. She is lovely, and for her and me and many others being here regularly is more than obligation; it is joy and peace and centering to get ready for the rest of the week.
There is always something that comes out of nowhere and shows us the interconnectedness of our worlds, our spirits, and our being.
Yesterday was also the Women’s March on Washington. Many women couldn’t go for economic reasons, travel reasons, personal reasons, and marches began to be organized across the country, and then across the world until there were marches and protests on all seven continents. In Chicago and Washington, DC, there were so many marchers that they couldn’t march, so they stood. Together.
With pink hats.
Pro this, pro that, and anti too.
In Washington, there were zero arrests. ZERO. How do you have over 700,000 people on the Mall in DC, and have no one arrested for anything? It’s remarkable. I think it’s unprecedented, but I don’t have the hard figures so I’m only guessing from hearing about these types of things.
I was kind of taken with the idea that the women’s march was being held on my mother-in-law’s birthday. It seemed fitting. I don’t know that I’d label her a feminist, but she was really beyond labeling. She was eighty-two when she died. She didn’t drive, didn’t even have a driver’s license. She had no internet in her house, no computer. No cell phone. Didn’t know how any of that worked. No cable until a few years ago. Her camera was a disposable Kodak that you buy at the counter in CVS or Walmart when something momental came up, like grandchildren.
It makes it sound as though she was an elderly woman.
Far from it.
Up until getting hit by a car in 2013, she was more active than I was, not that that’s saying a lot, but she was hella active. She traveled several times a year, by herself, by long distance bus. She walked everywhere or took public transportation, usually the county bus. When our kids were born, she was on the first bus north the two hundred fifty miles to help. And man, she helped. She cooked, she cleaned, she took the other kids on walks and to playgrounds.
She spoke her mind. No filters.
She was an amazing cook and seriously could take whatever was in your cupboard and make a gourmet meal out of it. No lie. I use her Christmas dinners as a model for my own (at my husband’s request). This was the first year mine was perfect. I think she must have been there adjusting the temperature, adding the right amount of pepper or garlic or steadying my hand to avoid over seasoning. The onions were to die for. The meat itself was perfectly cooked, rare enough for my husband, well enough for me. Perfect.
When she was a girl growing up in Belfast during World War II, there was rationing, where she learned how to do without, and how to do with whatever was available. As a teenager, she left home and went across the world to Australia – the Outback – Alice Springs, much more desolate than it is today. She worked and she lived with others who she’d never met before. She went to India and Afghanistan, and worked her way to the United States where she met a man, married, and had three children.
She was still adventurous, and I see her light every day in my daughter’s eyes, her clothes, her attitude. Why can’t I wear a party dress to the comic store? The question hanging in the air with her nose wrinkled and brow furrowed. The day my mother-in-law died we were visiting her, and she loved my daughter’s new shirt. Seventy percent off, and fuschia and orange from Eddie Bauer. I made a mental note to pick one up for her, so they could match on our next visit.
For her cremation, we looked for the most outlandish, brightest, orange-colored outfit that we could find. For the memorial, I wore fuschia, and my daughter wore orange. We were all brightly attired in honor or her brightness, and still, she outshone us all.
At yesterday’s Mass, the processional hymn was We Are Called. You can see the words in the picture above, but I’ll reiterate them again below because they perfectly encapsulated the March on Women, the independence of women honored and celebrated, sung and danced by and to.
We are called to act with justice
we are called to love tenderly
we are called to serve one another
If we remember these words, whether sung in church or said in our minds, we can persevere and move forward. Always forward. We can get through whatever we need to so long as we act with justice, love tenderly, and serve one another. Remember mercy and compassion. And remember those women who’ve gone before us to pave the way. We are all marching in some way to make things better for ourselves and our children. Equal rights are not given.
We all go across the world to a strange land, and we do whatever it takes.
We stand up and we speak out.
And we don’t stop.
I wanted to take my daughter to the gathering in our state’s capital, but it conflicted with my mother-in-law’s mass. I was able to send my spirit to Washington along with my name on a sign, from a Gishwhes colleague who wanted to bring us all with her. How appropriate to the March and to Gishwhes. I had one friend in Seneca Falls, home of Susan B. Anthony. I had one friend in Chicago. My Instagram was filled with the L.A. march. Gen and the boys in Texas.
We’re not coming. We’re here.
All of our spirits have come together to say we’re here, you will listen, we’re not going back, the resistance is now.
Cold and grey.
Always a chance of snow.
For us, January comes with the continued holiday rush.
Christmas has barely ended, and it’s New Year’s.
Then it’s my daughter’s birthday. She wants the tree down, and I do not. There is no compromise; not yet. There’s birthday dinner, birthday cake, birthday snack for school, presents, and there are still birthday parties.
Before we have a chance to take a breath, it’s Martin Luther King Day with the Super Bowl right around the corner, and then we can almost see Ash Wednesday peeking at us.
There is no respite despite this being the time of the year that we need respite the most.
Snow days are a double edged sword, and there’s a randomness of not knowing how the day will go.
There is a bittersweetness. Next year, both of the little ones will be in middle school. Right now they still want to cuddle and tell awful kid jokes and laugh at everything, but they also like the television and their tablets, Lego and books. They cook a little for themselves, something I hate on many levels. One, they’re growing up too fast. Two, I become my mother and think it’s too dangerous for them to use the stove. Three, I feel like I should be the mommy, and do it all. I don’t want to be Martha Stewart; I want to be Ann Romano or Florida Evans or Frankie Heck, but really I want to be me, just with more energy and less anxiety.
I will sit.
I will drink tea.
I will write and listen to music and read.
It is grey out, and grey means deep breaths and goal setting, and art, and resolutions. It is time to regroup, whether that means career or hobby or writerly things or politics.
January’s reward is a cup of hot tea in a cozy too big chair with a scarf around my shoulders, my Kindle resting on my knee as I read the next book or the magazine subscription.
Despite dropping the ball for several of the weeks, leading to a ridiculously busy final two months, I really enjoyed writing the fifty reflections about fifty.
Or rather reflections on the last fifty years before I officially turned fifty.
For 2017, my goal is to write one reflection or short essay each week for the next fifty-two weeks, exploring this next year. I won’t be turning fifty again, but I plan to enjoy and stretch out my fiftieth year.
This set of fifty or so reflections will have a bit more structure than relying on whatever struck my fancy in the moment as I did this past year, although I wouldn’t completely discount that either.
I’ll start each month with a blurb about the month itself, followed up with a photo, a spiritual reflection, and a person who inspires or otherwise influences me.
I sat down to write a quick outline, and I was amused that after completeing my preliminary list of random people that I wanted to write about and share that I had an evenly divided list of six men and six women. I don’t think I could have done that if I had tried to. Looking over my list, the people who I admire are a mix of performers, artists, religious, politicians, journalists, and saints. They are more different than alike, but each has its own way that draws me (and others) to them.
I’ve enjoyed the last year of looking back and I’m hoping that with these fifty-two weeks coming up that I can not only continue to look back but also look ahead. There is so much more to come.