3/8 – Pilgrimage


​”This (Holy Year) is the opportune moment to change our lives!” the pope has said. “This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched!…May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion.”

 – Pope Francis

 This is what Pope Francis said when he opened up this Jubilee Holy Year of Mercy. He also mentioned that a pilgrimage would be equally beneficial closer to home if a trip to Rome wasn’t possible.

That intrigued me, and I began to think about pilgrimage in a more tangible, more accessible way.

In a mere five weeks,  we are coming to the conclusion of that Extraordinary Jubilee Year.

In some ways, I have done much towards creating a better understanding of mercy – for myself and for others. I have also reflected much more on forgiveness – again, both for myself and for others.

It took me some time to initially walk through our Holy Door; to feel as though I were ready; worthy of the entrance. I didn’t want to rush through and have it be done, like a ticky box to b checked. I wanted to discern and meditate on what it meant, and perhaps that meant that I would never walk through the portal.

I’ve written before about how I did finally reach a moment to enter, and then a second moment. When our family went on a short holiday to Niagara Falls, I wanted to go to reconciliation and to enter through the Holy Door with prayer and reflection before our journey.

Niagara Falls is one of those places that I grew up visiting and loved as a child, and that I eventually shared with my husband and later with my oldest son. Now, I was going to share it with my two younger children, but I was also going to see the magnificent and powerful falls with new eyes; eyes that had been touched by G-d and by faith.

I had spent much of my year of mercy as a spiritual pilgrim, going to places that struck me as important on my journey. Sometimes that was as simple as sitting in Starbucks or outside on a bench with a cool breeze waving my hair around.

Sometimes, it was taking a week in the spring to visit some local historical places, taking my camera and my journal and discovering new things about the places, the people, and myself despite my lack of stamina.

I went to the Shrine of the North American Martyrs, wandering in the rain, praying, and just being in the stillness of such a place of faith.

I joined three ministries at church; things that I felt a calling to, in education, in adult faith formation, and in service. Time is short, but I’m working through the process of balancing it all. 

I went on two weekend and one four-week retreats that reenergized me, and my creative spirit was able to blend with my faithful spirit. It gave meaning to the Scriptures and the environment, and propelled me forward and given me strength.

My pilgrimage of writing has been equally in the forefront and as important as my spiritual pilgrimage. I am always on the path of a pilgrim, whether I write about it or not. It is who I am.

This year of mercy will remain with me much longer than the physical year.

50-25 – Charm Bracelets


Did you ever collect charm bracelets? Collect might be a bit strong of a description for mine. I’d get them at a variety of tourist spots on vacation, and then promptly lose them upon coming home. I remember looking at them in the gift shop, twirling them around my fingers, examing each charm. I’d wear it for a little while and then it would disappear into the netherworld of lost socks and board game pieces, never to be seen again.

I have vague memories of tricorn hats, moccasins, cactus, oranges, palm trees, revolvers, horses and buggies, Amish hats and other like trinkets in fake silver and gold.

After college, I made myself a charm necklace with pendant charms that I liked but no longer wore, strung onto a shoelace or a thick piece of twine, each separated by beads. It became too heavy to wear.

In recent years, I began collecting charms again; this time on a chain bracelet. I picked things out that were meaningful to my life now. I did lose one of a bow and arrow that I’d had since the SCA and archery practice in the ’90s, and that made me sad, but I substituted a bow and arrow that I found on a keychain of The Hunger Games.

Each one means something different and symbolizes some aspect of my life now.

The charm bracelet was the first place that I put a cross after I’d begun my RCIA studies.

The compass symbolizes the constant journey I’m on, and keeps me on the path and going in the right direction.

The salt vial keeps the demons away. Actually, it’s a symbol of Supernatural, a television show that is one of my coping mechanisms for depression (along with others). It reminds me that I’m part of the Supernatural familly and to always keep fighting.

The Tree of Life is nature, and life, and something that is bigger than me.

My griffin is from my original charm necklace. It is my favorite animal. Part lion and part eagle, they are both majestic and confident, and their golden feathers are gorgeous.

The feather is in place of a quill for all my writing.

Each one is special in its own way. It is like my secular rosary.

A newer charm bracelet that my family got me for Mother’s Day. It has only a few charms that werre important to me. (c)2016

Travel – Schuyler Mansion [Albany, NY]


​Spurred on by the Hamilton phenomenon and knowing that Alexander Hamilton was a New Yorker, albeit a transplant, I went in search of his local ties of which it turns out there are many. When I looked up the Schuyler Mansion, my intention was to see a little of his past through his in-laws, Phillip Schuyler and Catherine Van Renssalaer Schuyler. It wasn’t until taking advantage of the recently added tour, When Alexander Hamilton Called Albany Home, that I got a better glimpse into Alexander Hamilton’s time in New York’s capital city of Albany.

Schuyler Mansion, front view. Vestibule was not there during Phillip Schuyler’s time. (c)2016

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50-24 – Green Candy Dish


Top of the dish, closed. (c)2016

That candy dish came to our house when my grandmother moved in with us. I thought it was the most hideous thing ever. There was a mosaic tiled tray that didn’t go with it but managed to fit into the hideous theme that apparently my mother was going for. The green on it was the same color as my grandmother’s green velvet couch, two pieces that separated. When she moved in one half of it went into the basement where I wouold lie down on it, legs over the arm watching baseball and eventually the US hockey team beat the Russians.
Looking at the dish now, I don’t know what it was that I didn’t like. I love the shine of the green even under the specks of dust. The colored tiles seem like painted slate. Someone worked very hard on that art. When I pulled it out of the bookkshelf, I started thnking about where I might put it in my office instead of keeping it safe behind glass. Perhaps put it in my mother’s curio with her rabbi and upside down ashtray that makes him taller.

I also wonder how my grandmother came to have this piece. Was it a wedding gift? It’s proably not old enough for that. I don’t recall her ever going to Israel like other family members did on my mother’s side. 

Maybe it was her new authority in our house that I transferred to her stuff. She lived with us now. She became mean, like a third parent, telling us when to be home, to wash our hands before dinner, you know, usual kid complaining stuff. I could have been better.

Maybe it’s true that we mature as we age, and despite not liking this candy dish as a kid, now that I’m older, I appreciate the fine work that went into it; the distance it traveled to come into my household, and wanting and asking for it when my mother died.

Dish, open. (c)2016

Detail of bottom. Made in Israel. (c)2016

My kids have a better appreciation for their grandparents’ things. They appreciate where they came from and the lives that they lived as kids and young adults. They’ve each had the opportunity to interview my mother-in-law for biographical reports for school and so they talk about her and her experirences often. I wish I was more like them when I was a kid.