8/8 –  Year of Mercy


On this last Sunday of he Year of Mercy, I look forward to the next year as I try to continue with ther merciful acts that I did in this past year. Not only the acts of mercy done for others, but for me as well. One of the lectures I went to last year was how to bring mercy into my own life, and to give myself mercy. We are our own worst critics after all.

In addition to today being the last day of the Year of Mercy, it is also the Feast of Christ the King and the last Sunday of the Catholic Year. Advent begins next week as we wait for the Nativity and the birth of Jesus.

As long as this year was, allowing me to cross the threshold of the holy door and visit shrines, take a variety of one day pilgrimages, pray and meditate on mercy and moving forward with myself in all the ways that I want to move forward, it also went very quickly. I was less concerned with the plenary indulgences as I was with giving myself a gift of myself.

From Pope Francis’ Instagram today:

“Even if the Holy Door closes, the true door of mercy which is the heart of Christ always remains open wide for us.”

Insta – Morning of Service


A glimpse of my parish’s Morning of Service in conjunction with the Pope’s Jubilee Year of Mercy. Top left, clockwise: Room assignments, Information/Registration table, sample rosary bracelet (which was one of the projects), worship aid for our prayer service prior to the volunteering, Fr. J during the worship service, our volunteers at the service. In the center: Magnet for all participants. (c)2016

After months of planning, my parish’s Morning of Service was finally held on November 5, 2016. We had over two hundred fifty live bodies to work on projects for a variety of community organizations, both off-site and on-site at the parish. In addition, there were dozens more who donated items and money to complete the projects.

We will meet in January to discuss how things went (fabulously) and make preliminary plans for next year’s Service Day.

I was at the information table for the morning, and I will tell you that when people left they were just as happy as when they arrived. No complaints about the early day, smiles on faces throughout the day, all ages. It was wonderful to see it in real time how this affected the volunteers in such a positive way.

It was one of the most fulfilling days I have had the pleasure to spend, and I can’t wait to continue to offer ideas for the next one and participate.

50-44 – Postpartum Depression


​When you give birth for the first or second time, the expecting books, the online information sites, and the doctors and nurses are very much aware that this is new for you, and they take great care in giving you as much information as possible including on postpartum depression.

postpartum depression can occur in women who’ve had no other history of depression.

You are told very clearly what to look for: loss of appetite, fatigue, lethargy – because none of those things happen when you have a new baby unless you have depression, right?

Two other symptoms to watch out for are if you can answer yes to the following questions:

Do you want to hurt yourself?

Do you want to hurt your baby?

Since my answers to both of those questions were  resounding NOs, I knew I was in the clear.

Despite that I couldn’t make decisions or do anything that wasn’t taking care of the baby, or even lying on the floor with the tiny baby, both of us crying hysterically. It went on and on, and every time I thought I must be depressed, I need to see a doctor about this, I would go back to those two questions and answer them:

No, I do not want to hurt myself. No, I do not want to hurt my baby. I just need a vacation; a day off. And I muddled through. I just wasn’t strong enough to handle a second baby. I must be doing something wrong.

Not to mention that my mother had just died; eight weeks after the birth of my son, which came eighteen months after the death of my dad. Of course, I was depressed, but I wasn’t, you know, depressed.

It wasn’t until eight years later and actually becoming suicidal, wanting it all to just end and being diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety was able to look back at that time, lying on the floor crying, not wanting to do anything but sit in a chair, sometimes holding my baby, not cooking or wanting to eat, did I realize that I did, in fact, have postpartum depression.

It’s hard to look back and know that if only I’d looked deeper into it, I could have come to of it sooner. As it was, when I became pregnant with my third child, when my second was only six months old did the hormones kick in, pushed the depression away, and saved my life.

I was miserable, and I had help. My husband stayed home and worked as often as he could, especially after baby number  three was born, and my mother-in-law visited and stayed with us for extended periods to help us out and visit.

We need to listen to new or not so new mothers when they complain about how hard it is. Even if we complain all the time, we need to take a special listen after the baby’s born. Offer support; don’t wait until it’s asked for. By then, it’s probably too late and the request is coming from a shrieking, arm flailing door slammer.

The questions shouldn’t be will you hurt yourself or your baby; the question should be how are you, are you okay, can I help? Do you want me just to come over and watch you and the baby sleep for an hour?

postpartum depression is hard to recognize. I never recognized it until I was on anti-depressants and in therapy for about six months. I was lucky. I never wanted to hurt my kids. If they were with me, I wouldn’t hurt myself, but looking back it is one of the scary experiences I’ve ever had, more than when I was actually suicidal.

The good news is that I came out of it. I survived. I look at my kids everyday and I’m glad I’m here with them. I survived and I’m still surviving. I’m hyper-aware of how I feel. I have my coping mechanisms, which I’ve adapted to over time.

Don’t let anyone tell you you’re crazy or imagining things. Take care of yourself first. Love yourself first. Always keep fighting.*

[*Always Keep Fighting and Love Yourself First are from the Always Keep Fighting (AKF) campaign to raise awareness and fight depression through Supernatural actor, Jared Padalecki’s charities.]

50-43 – Why Are The Lights Out?


In my family, everyone got a cake on their birthday.

It was always a surprise.

No one knew it was coming until they entered a darkened room and the family starting singing Happy Birthday.

That was how it was supposed to go, and how it went for my entire life; at least five times a year, probably more with Mother’s and Father’s Day and my parents’ anniversary.

We’d go out to dinner and come home.

There was a bit of awkward talking, waiting for the surprise moment.

At some point, my mother asked the birthday person to do her a favor so they would leave the room. When we were older, we’d fake going to the bathroom.

Once the candles were lit and the lights turned out, my mom would call the bitthday person back down to the dining room.

The singing would start and then we’d blow out the candles, turning the lights back on. Plates and forks. Cake and frosting. I love frosting.

We never saw it coming.

Surprise family cakes were the best.

World Toilet Day


​Today is World Toilet Day.

Part of me wonders who comes up with these commemorative “holidays”, but another part of me wonders what we’d do without toilets.

In my first child care job in the very early 90s, we had a plumbing problem, and we needed to use porta-johns, for us and the children, ages 3-5. Not only did we have to use the porta-johns, they were outside the front door, so every time anyone needed to use the toilet, we’d have to go outside and wait until they were finished. It is a horrible memory. I think it might have lasted a few weeks, maybe a month, but it feels like much longer.

When my siblings and I were kids, we did quite a bit of traveling with our family. My parents believed in the family vacation. I wish things were less expensive and I could give that to my own kids. It was a brilliant childhood and fostered my love of history and other cultures, including those regional differences just along the East Coast where we typically went. We drove everywhere, even to Florida. No planes for my mother. Driving had its own charm; sometimes. Every trip began at around 4am and we drove into the sunrise. Sometimes we left in our pajamas and got dressed at the first rest stop, hours later. Many hours later.

Although, sometimes, those long, lovely travels trapped in the backseat fighting over the windows or who didn’t want to sit on the middle hump, were punctuated by bathroom requests beginning from whenever the first one woke up.

My father used to ask if we were writing a book on the bathrooms across the country for the amount of times we asked to stop. We just had to see every bathroom. Three kids and we never needed to use the bathroom at the same time. As a parent now, it is pretty ridiculous, but such is life. In fact, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

When my oldest son was young and began to use the toilet, we’d stop on the way to Grandma’s (who lived far away). For some of those long trips we carried a portable potty with us so he didn’t have to use the dirty public ones on the road. First time parents; what can I say?

As a joke we decided to take photos of my son in front of the places where he used the bathroom (outside), like McDonald’s, the thruway rest area, etc, and we made a picture book for my Dad. He loved it! He thought it was the best thing in the world! He had a great sense of humor.

I have a recurring nightmare that takes place in a toilet. It’s horrific. I won’t even describe it here; it leaves shivers on my spine. Suffice it to say, it has to do with not finding a clean toilet, wet floors, and I’m the only one bothered by it. I’m not even a germophobe; this dream really is the stuff of nightmares.

We are a very spoiled people here in the United States. You can go into any bathroom, assuming there is indoor plumbing, which more than likely there is, and there is no way to make a mistake. None. It’s almost relaxing how easy our toilet flushing systems are. Even using a port-a-potty at an outdoor event or in an emergency, it’s all pretty obvious where everything goes or how to get rid of the “evidence”.

My travels in the United Kingdom, especially in 1987 still pump terror through my veins if I think too long about it.

Before England, I’d never seen a pay toilet before. Or a paid shower for that matter. Nothing was automatic like it is today. You had to pump your own soap, turn on your water, turn it off, and find the paper towels. I can’t remember, but I don’t think there were any hot air dryers back then. Most water faucets had a hot knob and a cold one, but it wasn’t always standard which was which. 

For one pub toilet, you had to slip past the first stall while someone was using it to get to the end stall. My friend and I went in together and out the same way. I don’t even remember if it was single gender.

There were no second glances using the men’s room, or pretty much anything else as long as whatever it was was finished with, “Sorry, I’m American.” Shrug and smile, and a college student on holiday could get away with almost anything. After all, the men’s toilet lines were much shorter than the women’s, especially on New Year’s Eve.

To the toilets themselves, because as most of us know, the English bathroom doesn’t contain the toilet but the tub. No showers unless you were in a hostel or had an updated loo. Usually no sink either, but sometimes there was one alongside the toilet. Saved time and grime to wash before you left the stall.


I never put much thought into flushing a toilet before. I don’t think I spent this much time on the topic since my kids were potty training and even then it wasn’t rocket science.

Like ours, most are the typical seat with the tank right there. Almost none of them had a flushing lever attached to the tank, though. Once in a while, but it was never guaranteed.

It was a scavenger hunt every time I used the bathroom.

There were push buttons on top of the tank, on the side of the tank, on the floor to the left, right and back of the tank, on the wall behind the tank, and quite possibly near the door for on your way out. I personally liked that one because if there’s a problem with the plumbing you’re long gone before your shoes are wet.

But wait, that is a mere sampling of the flushing techniques on display in jolly old England.

Some had chains. Chains from the ceiling, chains on the side of the tank.

One had a tank about eight feet high attached to the wall with the chain hanging down like a light chain. The chain was the only way I noticed the tank in the first place, and I’m sure I did a double take.

I remember one had a metal rod sticking out of the tank that you had to push down, maybe like part of the thing you’d use at an old-fashioned water pump.

Toilet paper was scratchy, and there was never enough.

There wasn’t anything really in the way of latches. It was really a hope for the best that no one walked in on you.

Bathrooms were also very cold. No central heat, but they did have towel warmers which sadly hasn’t made it across the pond, at least not in a middle class home way.

There were big changes when I returned in 2009. I didn’t have quite the toileting adventures that I had twenty-two years earlier. There was central heat in most places. I stayed in mostly hostels, so those loos were dormitory style, all shared, with showers in another room. There were, however also bathrooms with weird blue lights. Apparently studies found that this put people off, particularly teenagers, so they didn’t loiter in the bathrooms doing whatever it is that teenagers loiter in the bathroom for. Smoking, drugs, sex. And this wasn’t even the pub; this was in the grocery store.

As much as I complain about our plumbing and antiquated septic system at my house, I know that when I flush ninety-nine times out of a hundred it leaves and doesn’t come back. I know exactly where it goes, in fact, so no matter how you flush it, I can spend my adventures on something simpler, like which plunger to buy next.

I was excited to learn that Japan has a museum dedicated to toilets.

For further reading, please click:

A Brief History of Toilets

Is it Time to Kill Off the Flush Toilet?

50-42 – 42


I have never had a problem telling anyone my age. In theory. After a few milestones, I really couldn’t remember my age. I wasn’t sure how I’d react to forty, and surprisingly I was fine. I didn’t have a party or anything because a few weeks later my daughter would be turning one, and that was a bigger deal for her. My family took care of me though, and the year went on.

Forty-one hit pretty hard. I guess all of the mid-life angst that I didn’t have at forty came crashing down at forty-one. It was traumatic, and I couldn’t tell you why. I cried. But…at the end of that year was gong to be the best birthday, the birthday that would bring all the knowledge of the world, all the answers that I was looking for my entire life even if I didn’t know what the questions were, and that was:


Such a simple number, comes right after 41 but before 43, but still 42 held it all. The answer.

To life, the universe, and everything.

When asked how old I was, I grinned and said very firmly this is my Douglas Adams birthday. My year of Douglas Adams.

Most people understood, but many did not.

I did not suggest they read the book. I let them wallow in their ignorance. After all, I can’t complete everyone’s lives with one single explanation on the merits of reading one book, even if it is life altering, but it’s probably not for everyone, but I digress.

All I would say in response to Happy Birthday, how old are you was:

It’s my Douglas Adams year.

In answer to their quizzical look, I’d continue:

42. Life, the universe, and everything.

It all made sense.

That was my best birthday and it lasted all year.

50-41 – Salisbury Tea


​Some memories are clearer than others. When I think of Salisbury, I remember several bits rather than a cohesive narrative. I have vague images of people and places and really strong feelings evoked by the smell of rain on stone. Simply the mention of the Cotswolds region and I think lovingly of the hostel warden who let us in early because of the freezing air. He showed us his books on the area and we talked with him for what seemed like hours although it was probably closer to minutes. I can picture Kathy and I poring over the books in what I remember being a study with overstuffed chairs and shelves of books. It was probably less of a study and more of a nook but it is in my mind’s eyes as from an Austen novel.

I have no memory of coming off the train and walking on a regular sidewalk. Our bags were heavy. We’d just left London and I already had an extra bag. In some ways, twenty odd years later would be much easier with my own car.

The street was narrow, going hurriedly but clumsily over the cobblestones and through the slate colored grey stone archway that matched the sky. Salisbury held everything from prehistoric and Druidic to medieval and Christian to modern with that extra touch of living in a British comedy. All there for tourist and native alike, slight eye roll and wondering if this was real or if it was done as pantomime for our benefit.

I take pictures of everything so it boggles my mind that I do not have a photos of the actual medieval clock in the CAthedral. It is possible that photographs weren’t allowed. It’s possible that the picture was blurry and lost to the annals of a box of college things that will never be seen again. I do remember amazement, thought, and I recall sitting on a wall near the Cathedral – I have a photo of a flowering tree in January from there so it must be true – and we eating peanut butter spread on crackers, although I think it was either Melba toast or mini bread squares the size of crackers – non-perishable, easy to carry and thrifty. Let’s be hone now, frugal or cheap is a more appropriate designation.

What stands out most vividly, besides scaring another hosteler that evening while watching Poltergeist, was the wacky tea shoppe that Kathy and I wandered into. There were so many things on the wall, it was hard to miss the tiny flowery wallpaper. There were small round table with two or three chairs. I think they were metal, like patio furniture rather than wood, and they were all white. I feel as though a doily factory exploded in this shoppe. People were there, chatting quietly, sipping tea, adding milk, dabbing creme onto scones, the click of the spoon hitting the tea cup unmistakable and nearly constant.

At the back of the shop was a counter where you got your order and behind the counter were three old women. Ancient would be more apt. They were all quite deaf or extraordinarily hard of hearing. Although they didn’t have one, it would not have surprised me one whit if they had one of those ear trumpets that you would put into your ear and had someone scream into.

They were shouting orders back and forth and repeating as necessary because of the hearing. It was very much like the Where’s the Beef commercials.

As Americans, we were already loud, but not quite loud enough for this place.

I’d like a tea with milk please.


Tea. With milk, said a little louder.


One more time.

She turned to the lady behind her, in the more kitcheny area and repeated my order.

What? came the reply from the back.

The first woman repeated it.


A third woman back there repeated it even louder and was met with a silent nod as tea kettles were poured and prepared and given to us on a tray. We must have paid but I don’t actually remember paying. I also don’t recall if we got anything to eat with our tea.

We sat and sipped and listened in astonishment as our conversation was repeated with the customers who came after us. We grinned occasionally at the absurdity of it all.

It was so perfectly, stereotypically British that I would not have been surprised had Mrs. Slocum come out of the back complaining about her day.

I don’t remember what was upstairs – there was a little shop, but I do remember going up the narrow stairs and then coming back down relatively quickly. We slid past other customers coming in, back onto the narrow cobbled walkway, under the stone arch that had been there since before America was a nascent thought and back to the hostel; or more likely to the hostel for the first time after our very British sustenance. Tea cures all ills, and with its special powers we were able to walk the rest of the way to the hostel where we would stay the night and then continue west by train through the lush green countryside bordered by grey sky.

January in England. We made our own sunshine.

50-40 – Collections


I have always been a collector. I’m not quite at the hoarding stage yet, but it’s not that far off, so I need to be ever vigilant and aware so I don’t end up on the nighttime news when they come with a shovel.

Our whole family collects something or other. My oldest son collects fire department memorabilia and history, books and pictures. My husband and middle son collect comic books and action figures. My middle son also collects Lego. He loves to build them and display them. He also continues to play with them. My daughter collects clothes. She wants to be a fashion designer and she loves putting new outfits together and seeing how she can make something old new again.

In my basement, I have videotapes and newspaper articles, magazines that I wanted to keep forever. I have the newspaper when NY Yankee Thurman Munson died. I have magazines when Princess Diana was married and I saved the newspapers somewhere for President Obama’s inauguration.

I have a collection of pewter pieces, primarily on the medieval theme, but also groupings of griffins, my favorite animal. Yes, of course, it’s a real animal.

I collect some stamp sets and sheets, usually the ones that my kids would want to have when they’re older. I’ve showcased some of them on here recently.

I collect coins. Not anything really worth much, but just a remembrance of where I’ve been or gifts that I’ve been given. I’m not sure where they all are, but I have German marks and French francs. A shekel and a Scottish paper pound. My friend sent me New Zealand money from his home and my husband brought me coins from the Philippines when he was there for his work. I almost always have Canadian money on me somewhere. We just went over the border this past summer for a couple of days vacation.

I also collect Hufflepuffs. They are a rare find, so I’m pretty sure I’ve got everything sold in our local stores, including Hot Topic.

My biggest collection is my pins. I love pins. I buy them wherever I am, and I am sent them by frineds, although I usually have to ask. I have San Francisco and Las Vegas from a friend. I have a Hello Kitty from Japan and my son brought me an Eiffel Tower pin from Paris. He recently went to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and he brought me my newest pin from there commemorating the fire department. Another new pin is my 50th anniversary Star Trek pin that a friend got for me at a convention. I have loved Star Trek since I was a little girl, and I thought that since I was also turning 50 this year, I’d really like the pin. The picture below is what my jacket looks like currently, but I display my pins on corkboard and need to get a few more squares of it to get the rest of them on.

My collections remind me of things, whether they’re what’s depicted on the pins or they remind me of the person who gave it to me, or the adventure I had when I got the pin. That’s especially true of my Gettysburg Bike Week pin.

All of my collections remind me of who I am and the important things I’ve done and want to remember.

The pins currently on my jacket: from the top, clockwise: my RCIA cross, trio of crosses from the Shrine of the North American Martyrs, rainbow Pride, Gishwhes, safety pin, Niagara Falls, 9/11 Memorial, 50th anniversary Star Trek, Hufflepuff, Supernatural anti-possession symbol, Star Labs, Michonne and Daryl from The Walking Dead, Wales, Niagara Falls/Hard Rock Cafe, 9/11 Memorial larger version. (c)2016

Pewter, Top, clockwise: Griffin hatching out of an egg, Griffin, Ceirdwen, griffin, medieval table, Ladron, griffin. (c)2016

Hufflepuff, Coins, Stamps. Left, then top to bottom: Hufflepuff pin, Hufflepuff key chain, coins from Canada, UK, and US Bicentennial, Repeal of the Stamp Act stamp sheet. (c)2016