6/8 – Year of Mercy – Service

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In two weeks, the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy will conclude with the closing of the Holy Doors across the world, including at my home parish, and so this is a time to think back, to reflect on the past year, and what it meant to me personally.

In addition to the several things I’ve done or experienced in the past year, one of the ways to be a part of the year of mercy is by doing merciful acts.

In the Catholic Church, there are seven Corporal Works of Mercy:

1. Feed the hungry

2. Give drink to the thirsty

3. Clothe the naked

4. Shelter the homeless

5. Comfort the sick

6. Visit the prisoners

7. Bury the dead

Earlier in the year, I was asked to volunteer for a ministry, a committee to plan and implement our church’s first Morning of Service, where our parishoners come together on and off site to do volunteer works along the lines of those corporal works. Our day of service was held yesterday to great success.

We had over two hundred people offer their services and dozens more donate items. There were groups making pet beds, rosaries, Welcome Bags for the Ronald McDonald House, visiting nursing homes, painting community rooms, building homes for Habitat for Humanity and a plethora of other works that look small and insignificant until you put them all together and see how they impact those on the receiving end.

In my short time with this parish, I have seen so many giving so much in the name of service. It astounded me at first, but now it makes me happy to be part of such a giving group as this. I continue to try and do my part to varying degrees and varying amounts of success, but I try, and that is most important.

I can’t express the feelings granted from giving. It is overwhelming and almost too much. It defies description.

While next year, there will be no jubilee, no Year of Mercy, what was begun this last year by Pope Francis and taken on by parishoners all across the world will continue through our committees, our ministries, and our parishoners.

Once the step forward is taken, it cannot be taken back.

50-36 – Memorial Cardinal

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​My mother-in-law loved her backyard. She worked harder than anyone I know on her flowers. No special mixes or soil. Her fertilizer was some compost – egg shells and fruit peels. Every spring, bags and bags of dirt, but as I said, nothing special. 

The front of the house looked nice, and inside she had a Christmas cactus that was pretty for the one week it bloomed, but the backyard was her special place. Gorgeous giant sunflowers grew along the back fence. She couldn’t wait to get rid of the mulberry tree that ruined everything around it. There was a crabapple tree that she hung windchimes and the occasional birdhouse on. It looked like a fairy playland.

When we visited in the spring, usually around Easter, we drove her to Home Depot for dirt. Pounds and pounds of dirt, and before we knew it, it was gone and she needed more, so off we’d go for a second trip to Home Depot. She didn’t drive, and she couldn’t carry that much on the bus.

She grew herbs and tomatoes, and we were sent home with dozens of them every spring.

After a while, the full garden became too much, and she began container gardening. It was unbelievable how nice the containers flourished. I’ve never seen containers grow so well. She had a green thumb, and passed it on to my husband who’s really great in our garden. He grew two pumpkins or gourds and we were all excited when we brought them into the house.

When we were visiting in June, she asked about her garden, so I took some pictures on my cell phone and brought them into the hospital to show her. She still hadn’t gotten the hang of any kind of technology; she got an air conditioner for the first summer in 2014 or ’15, but she was excited to see the pictures of the bright yellows and purples of her perennials that never disappointed her.

She died unexpectedly a few days later.

We drove down the following weekend for the memorial service. We had planned to take a few of the roots to bring some of her garden home with us. We’ll have to wait for spring to see how they’re doing. We might have to go back and retrieve a few more roots in the spring.

While I was in the bathroom getting ready for the service I noticed a bright, red bird through the window, outside in the backyard. A cardinal. He sat there long enough for me to get my cell phone and take a bunch of pictures including one that was mid-flight when it took off.

it seemed like an odd time for a single bird to show up.

Cardinals were my mother-in-law’s favorite bird.

50-35 – The Alarm

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Equal to Duran Duran for favorite bands growing up, and continuing into adulthood is The Alarm. I had a cassette that I played in the car constantly. I knew every word of every song. It didn’t hurt that they were Welsh at a time when I was obsessed with Welsh history and culture, something else that never went away.

The Alarm also holds another distinctive place in my life’s history.

In 2008, they came out with a new CD – Guerrilla Tactics. I wanted this album desperately.

In 2008, we were barely on the internet. I hadn’t even joined Live Journal then, we had no wifi – wifi was available but we didn’t trust it, so we had to be plugged into the wall. I had my first laptop, its own experiment into personal computing.

When I signed onto Amazon, well, actually, I had to create an account because I had never ordered online before, but when I signed on, I had a choice. I could buy the CD for $14.99 or I could download the MP3 version of the album for $9.99.

I actually thought about this for a couple of days. Eschew this new digital world and spend more money or give in to my innate cheapskate, get the album digitally and save the $5.

Eventually, I chose digital.

It was the first digital music I ever bought, and I listened to it always, over and over again. I transferred it to my new mp3 player, another new bit of technology that I had just discovered.

It opened a whole new world of digital media, and despite my going kicking and screaming into each new thing, I still went.

Eventually. 

50-34 – Stonehenge

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I’ve been once. Very nearly thirty years ago. What is most amazing apart from the stones themselves and the sacred space itself is how much of the feelings remain with me after so many years away.

I’ve always had a thing for rocks. Pebbles and larger, colored and polished, rough, formations that can’t be moved no matter how hard you try. When I returnd to Wales in 2009, I touched the stones of castles and rock formations, and almost none gave me the feeling that I experienced at Stonehenge.

I was lucky when I went. You could still touch the stones and move in and out, around them and about. There were some ropes to keep you from sitting on the flat ones, and of course, they didn’t want you climbing, but just being there, surrounded by the cool plains air, the cold to the touch stones, gigantic, and not just tall but broad and sturdy.

The sun was setting. We were one of the last buses allowed in for the day, and I was very thankful. This was our only chance to visit, and this was one of the important places that I wanted to see. To touch. To feel. To be.

If you’ve never been to a place of great spirits, you can’t imagine the electricity coming off of not only the stones, but the ground below them. I’ve been to Gettysburg, and I imagine Standing Rock in North Dakota has the residual of all that has gone before it, but Stonehenge….Stonehenge is in an entirely other category; another world.

You almost don’t notice the other tourists. I was spellbound, moving from one monolith to the next, placing my hand, palm flat against the cold, rough edifice. I didn’t have to imagine what had gone before in this place; I could feel it: the heartbeat. The pulse, the pulsating of life, of forever.I never wanted to leave.

The sky dimmed and then darkened, the powerful stones becoming shadowed and dark against the darkening sky. I can remember leaving, sitting in the bus, looking out the window at the stones growing smaller as we ambled slowly away, getting further and further distant, and yet, they are still with me; within me.

There is magic there, so much that it is able to let a little bit leave with its visitors and keep them in touch with the pulse of the land, the stones, the past, and the future, and of course, whatever else we believe is out there, be it Druidic or Diety, Nature or Nurture, Spirit and Faith.

It’s taken thirty years to get this much down, and I still feel more wanting to bubble up, but not ready – I’m not ready to let it all out. I want to be selfish and keep it inside for me alone. It can’t be shared in a way that anyone else can feel what I feel. It’s too much to share so I’ve shared what I could.

(c)1987, (c)2016


(c)1987 (c)2016


Amazing. (c)1987, (c)2016


Stonehenge. (c)1987, (c)2016


Sunset at Stonehenge. (c)1987, (c)2016

50-33 – Our Engagement

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This was inspired by the prompt, Engagement from my memoir writing group. The original prompt came from The Sun magazine.

It really is an exaggeration that our engagement was a disaster. To be fair, I didn’t know it was a disaster until later, but my future husband’s plans did not go as planned. One reason is planning is hard, and planning a surprise is hard and even he would admit, he’s not good at it. Right now, he’s planning a birthday surprise for my 50th in a few weeks, and I know it’s stressing him out. 

At the time of our engagement, I didn’t know that we would be getting engaged despite thinking that it would/should happen soon. We were on vacation in Pennsylvania.

My future husband had planned on a special dinner on a boat; not quite a cruise, I think , but the timing was wrong, and so we arrived too late to do that. There were no more tickets or the last boat had already left. I don’t remember. He was trying to come up with something else that would match his vision for this evening and there was a smaller boat that we could rent. I was appalled. I hate the water. I’m terrified of it and boats. I’m not sure why this never came up before but I was adamant that no, I wasn’t getting on that rickety, little boat. Nope. Nuh-uh.

We ended up going to dinner at the Chi-Chi’s in Harrisburg. There was a two hour wait and then they forgot about us. This was actually apropos because on our first date five years before, we were at a Chi-Chi’s with a waiter who forgot us and we ended up eating for two plus hours. That first date culminated with the movie, Stealing Home which we thought was about baseball, but was actually about suicide. That was my second first date movie that turned out to be about suicide. Maybe I should pick the movies from now on.

We did eventually get engaged on that trip, in the hotel room right before his self-imposed “deadline” – my husband likes to commemorate anniversaries, so our first date, engagement, marriage are all on the same date or the day after. It’s really very sweet.

The ring he gave me was his grandmother’s ring that his mother brought over from Northern Ireland. I treasure it and twenty-two years and three kids later, our disasters still seem to be working out.

50-32 – Happy Halloween

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Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I tried so hard to find a picure of when I was a kid in the plastic Princess costume – it may have been Sleeping Beauty – but I could not find it. It’ll probably turn up around Christmas.

That is the first costume that I remember wearing as a kid. I have no real memories of other costumes until high school when I went as Oscar Madison one year and wore my Dad’s Army uniform another. Someone shaving creamed my back while I was wearing that and I was so pissed off because I wasn’t supposed to get it dirty.

Over the years, I’ve gone to several Halloween parties, some with themes like science-fiction [I was a Bajoran civilian from DS9] or superheroes and villains [as Poison Ivy].

For a decade I was in a medieval re-enactment group so every weekend was Halloween, only historically accurate.

I remember going through the drive-through at Burger King or Dunkin’ Donuts in full medieval regalia where I would get some odd looks. I went into a 7-11 once to buy soda.

Our friends have a summer family reunion that is a costumed event. Last year, we were pirates and cowboys the year before.

Gishwhes has also afforded me opportunities to dress up, most memorably as Batgirl, an homage to Yvonne Craig who had recently died.

Any excuse to dress up and have fun.

This year’s costume, as journalist/press person, is my first, perrhaps only politically charged costume.

This year, my middle son is a pink dinosaur person with a spear, and he is the happiest little kid in the world. He can’t wait until after Halloween because the pink dinosaur costume is also pajamas, and he will probably wear them every night this winter.

My daughter is Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad, and she is using all of her own clothes. Resourceful, and…a little scary. She decorated an old wiffle-ball bat and I put the makeup on her, and it is perfect.

This is what Halloween is. Kids and fun and candy, of course. This year, we’re also giving out toys and Halloween pencils that we had around the house, leftovers from a school party or McDonald’s happy meal. We did this last year, and the kids were so thrilled to get something like that.

The school parade is in an hour – my daughter’s last one in elementary school; then no more school Halloween parties. It is the end of an era.