50-50 – Birthday Traditions

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I usually like to spend part of my birthday on my own. Since college, I have never worked on my birthday. The one time I did work-business for a new job, getting a physical and a drug test, I almost got into a car accident. Never again. 

I get up. I take a shower. I wear my favorite clothes. Today, I will wear my favorite boots and jacket. On years that my driver’s license is due, I go for a haircut and then go to DMV for a new picture on my new license.

There is a local, fancy strip mall that is more boutiques than strip mall that I like to spend the day at. The first week in December is usually not too cold if I’m wearing a heavy sweater and snood and the sun is shining. I would wander in and out of stores, window shopping, grabbing a muffin or a tea, picking up trinkets and then replacing them on their shelves.

I try new things.

In recent years, while my kids are in school, I let my husband work and I head out to Starbucks for a couple of hours. I get my free drink and a cranberry bliss bar. I take myself shopping, usually for a new pocketbook or a new wallet. I go to Target and buy myself a Christmas ornament, sometimes a new notebook.

My mother used to give me money for my birthday, and this is how I would use it. The year after she died, my husband gave me a $50 Visa gift card so I could continue my ritual for my birthday despite my mom being gone. It was one of the nicest things he’s done for my birthday.

On the weekends, I usually spend the day with my family. Sometimes, I’ll go to Starbucks for breakfast alone, but the rest of the day we’re together.

This year, today, we’re going to the firehouse for a pancake breakfast, then the local airport for the Santa Fly-in, Fantastic Beasts at the movies, and dinner at Delmonico’s Italian Steakhouse. Cake and presents after.

I’m being unusually decisive for my 50th birthday. I’m very much an I don’t know kind of person, but not this year. The only other time that I was this decisive on my birthday was when I was pregnant with my first child.

I’m looking forward to turning 50. Honestly, I don’t know why. It’s not something that I’ve looked forward to – growing older, and while this is a chapter ending, it is also a chapter beginning.

This is my final reflection of the fifty I planned before my fiftieth birthday, and I plan to write another fifty next year, a bit more focused and a bit more consistent.

I’m looking forward to what’s to come, and that in itself is unusual for me. It feels like a good thing, though.

50-49 – Birthday Freebies

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I have always been on the lookout for good deals. Kids eat free, free ice cream day at Ben & Jerry’s or Friendly’s, but the most freebie centric day has got to be a birthday.

You do need to get on email lists or sign up for rewards, but they are usually free to join, and they are well worth it.

A few of my birthday freebies and discounts that I’ve received in my emails this week.

Starbucks – free birthday drink if you’re a member of their rewards program. Don’t sign up at the last minute.

Red Robin – free birthday burger if you’re a member of their Royalty Rewards. A special note about Red Robin: their rewards program is one of the best I have ever been a part of.

Ruby Tuesday – free birthday burger with coupon.

Jimmy’s Egg – free birthday entree.

Hot Topic – $10 off $30 purchase (this is pretty reasonable)

Avenue – $10 off $50 purchase.

Hallmark – 20% off coupon

Pizza Hut – free cinnamon sticks with your next online order

Recovery Sports Grill – $5 on your Hall of Fame card (rewards card)

Olive Garden – free dessert

Chili’s – free dessert

Perkin’s Restaurant & Bakery – free Magnficent Seven meal (breakfast meal)

Texas Roadhouse – free sidekick of ribs or free appetizer

Smart Style Hair Salon (inside Wal-Mart) – discount with coupon

If you have kids, and join the kids club at Barnes & Noble, you will receive a free cupcake coupon for your child’s birthday month.

Travel – Star Trek Original Series Set Tour, Ticonderoga, New York

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It hasn’t been a week since my birthday surprise, and at times I feel as if it were just yesterday or a year ago that we took the long drive to Ticonderoga, New York to visit the Star Trek Original Series Set Tour.

It was all the more wonderful to celebrate my 50th birthday among the stars that had been in our world for those same fifty years.

I was completely speechless and wide-eyed. I had no idea that this place existed. Upon entering and checking in (we’d bought our tickets online), we were led into a large warehouse space. The modern displays and wooden walls stamped with Desilu Studios 9 were wonderfully deceiving.

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Advent Reflection – Dec. 1

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​Each of us has to decide on what or whom we will build our spiritual security.

-From the Reflection portion of Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2016-17 by Bishop Robert F. Morneau

While we’re in anticipation of the birth of Christ, it is a good time to evaluate or re-evaluate our own spiritual security and/or foundation.

Today is World AIDS Day, and while things are much better than they once were, there is still a long way to go as we strive to help those afflicted and find a cure.

Two days ago was Giving Tuesday, a charitable follow up to Black Friday. Before the end of the year, our family will contribute to:

ACLU
Planned Parenthood
NAACP
Random Acts, and

my local church parish or St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Three of these have stemmed from the recent election here in the United States. Find where you want to support with your money, time, and talents and discuss your reasons with your children. Let them make their own suggestions for charitable contributions.

I’m pretty clear on my spiritual foundation and when I have concerns or a lack of faith, I find a way to think more about it and get through that period.

I’m enjoying praying and meditating privately on a daily basis.

I’d like to share this article that I read this morning on Vox

Advent, explained

50-48 – Jane of All Trades

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When I was just out of college I got a job with the US Navy’s MWR** department as a child development associate. In order to be considered for this entry level, teaching assistant, minimum wage job, I needed to fill out a Department of Defense job application. I needed to provide ALL of my jobs and ALL of my addresses for the past ten years. As a newly minted college grad, the amount of jobs and addresses I had (a new one every semester and every summer, sometimes two) led to an application that was well over forty pages long.

Over the years, I’ve had occasion to look back on this application – yes, I have a copy in my files in the basement – in order to fill out other applications and write resumes, and in looking over I saw the plethora of different things I’d done. Upon leaving the work force to stay home with my kids, I did a number of other things that added to my job list and my skill set.

I often feel like the second half of my title’s proverb – jack/jane of all trades, master of none.

I feel less than instead of focusing on the first half of the proverb – jane of all trades – expressing my vast experiences and using the culmination of everything I’ve learned continually in my life daily.

I didn’t work until my first year in college. I lived a privileged life. I don’t believe most of my friends had jobs in high school. I didn’t have an allowance, but I had everything I needed. I didn’t take advantage and ask for crazy things, like spring break in Cancun or a European adventure. I went to the movies and the diner, and I didn’t do that every day. I did work a disastrous weekend at a delicatessen, which still haunts my dreams.

My first “job” was an unpaid high school internship in a law firm. I did all the usual secretarial/receptionist work, and got to go to court with one of the lawyers to observe. The other women in the office were very kind to me and I did learn a lot before I went to college to a pre-law/political science major.

When I changed majors two years later to elementary education, I did other unpaid internships in schools as a student teacher. I even got paid three times to substitute locally before I graduated.

At college, I worked as a Bio Research Assistant, which consisted of cleaning petri dishes and putting equipment in cupboards. I was also “campus security” for my dorm. I sat at the door overnight with another student and signed residents and guests in and out after the doors were locked for the night.

In the summers, I had an extraordinarily long list of retail and receptionist positions: Alexander’s* for inventory, Gimbel’s*, Kids R Us, Curtain Country*, Herman’s Sporting Goods*, JoAnn Fabrics,  as a temp for several offices. I also made and sold jewelry as a member of the SCA***.

In teaching, I taught for the US Navy program, a cooperative nursery school, day care at a college, Head Start as well as volunteering at my kids’ schools. As part of my teaching positions, I published parent resource newsletters.

I proctored the NYS Teachers’ Exams for several years.

I became a direct sales consultant for Creative Memories, a company that taught the techniques and sold products for scrapbooking.

I taught a tax class for other direct sales consultants.

I babysat.

I published a Travel Organizer chapbook.

I’ve been crafting this website and I think I’ve finally found a rhythm.

I’ve volunteered in ministries with my church in their adult enrichment, adult initiation rites, and day of service groups.

I wrote for a parenting newspaper, and then began to seriously freelance write. I’m currently working on two books: one on our home buying experience (horrible) and one on my travel/pilgrimage to North Wales (amazing). I’m also considering a book on my spiritual journey since I’ve begun attending church services and my conversion.

I have article submissions in process for The Sun Magazine and Vox.

So many things and most of them come back to writing.

Jane of all trades. I can use that.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

*since closed or out of business

**Morale, Welfare and Recreation

***Society for Creative Anachronism

Advent Reflection – Nov. 30

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​How “immediate” is your response to God’s morning call to follow in his way? Who are the individuals, whose feet are beautiful as Isaiah says, who have brought to you the good news?

– From Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2016-17 by Bishop Robert F. Morneau

When I was first encouraged through signs to visit my current church, it was simply for a quiet place to think and to ask for G-d’s help. I didn’t know Jesus, but I figured He wouldn’t mind my using His house to speak to G-d.

There was no intention to hear a call or seek out something other than guidance, and even then I was really looking for a place to find my own guidance away from the everyday.

I sat.

I thought.

I randomly opened a missal and read a passage. When that passage was exactly what I needed to read, I cried.

It wasn’t until days later that I heard the call. Something in me had changed, and I was ready. I didn’t know it until after, but I was ready to hear it, and when it came, in bright light and deafening silence, it was astonishing.

I continued to come more often, and for anyone who reads this page regularly, it is clear where that calling has brought me.

In those early days, there were two individuals who encouraged me through their prayers and music, and through them I was able to let myself be open to the call. Ben provided the music and in his own prescient way only reiterated what I was already thinking and feeling. Tim, who is now in seminary for the Lutheran Church prayed for me and encouraged me to take that first step and attend a Mass. Things changed quite suddenly after that.

They were led to me by Jesus and He allowed me to be open to their guidance, whether any of us consciously knew it or not.

In all its struggle, that year was a blessing that brought so many more blessings.

This Advent it is good to look back at how we’ve gotten where we are, and to draw the map on our hearts to where we’re heading in the next few weeks and months.

50-47 – Niagara Falls

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I can’t remember how many times I’ve been to Niagara Falls. It is the one place that I’ve been to in almost every place of my life. I went as a kid with my parents and siblings, I went with my husband while we were dating, we brought my young son right before he started kindergarten, and we recetnly went with our whole family of five.

The city iteself changes, and over the last forty years or so, the Falls have even changed, but yet, they still remain the same.

I recognize the crowded streets, the carnival like atmosphere, the bright lights, the cold spray from the Falls, the huge ferris wheel that we could see from our hotel room window.

Parking was worse this last time, and I had trouble with my knee, but overall it was a lasting memory that we will enjoy for a long time.

Standing across from the Falls, my hand on the cold stone wall that kept me from falling down the hill to the sharp rocks below. I would stand there and stare, occasionally taking pictures, occasionally closing my eyes and just standing there, listening to the wind, the water hitting the bottom. I couldn’t feel the spray from there, but I could see it.

We wanted to take the kids on the Maid of the Mist, but the boats had also changed. Maid of the Mist only docked on the American side. The Canadian had a new tour from Hornblower Niagara Cruises. The boats were red trimmed, and the ponchos were red and biodegradable. The boat was less choppy and I liked it much better than when I was a kid.

When I was a kid, I refused to go on until my family came back safe, then my Dad took me alone. Since they didn’t drown, I figured it was okay for me to go. The anxiety is strong in me. At that time, you couldn’t keep the rain jackets. They were much heavier, rubbery, and hot, so very hot.

This boat still rocked and we were drenched from going under or close enough to the falls that the spray was heavier than any torrential downpour I’ve ever been in.

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Advent Reflections

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This is the first week of Advent, the four or five weeks culminating in the Nativity and the birth of Jesus. It is a time of waiting, of searching, of journeying, always moving forward but not forgetting what and where we’ve come from.

My church gives out a small meditation/reflection book for Advent (and also for Lent), and it is the perfect size for a five minute read. As I mentioned on Sunday, it is the opportunity to either read it and begin your day or take a longer time and meditate on it, perhaps discover your own reflection.

I won’t guarantee a daily reflecton, but as I read each day’s pages, I may write some thoughts down and share them here.

This week is the first week of Advent, but it is also filled with other meaningful days: Today begins the Novena of the Immaculate Conception, the nine day prayer period that concludes with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In addition to a holy day of obligation, this is also my church’s patron. I read the prayer for the today’s first day, and will pray it each day until the feast day. I will also pray the rosary, one of the links to the Holy Mother.

We also have a series of half days from school, the penultimate episode for the mid-season of The Walking Dead, mid-season finales of all our other shows, my niece’s Sweet 16 birthday, my daughter’s winter concert with chorus, and my 50th birthday in four days.I have four more of my 50 Reflections to complete before then, and a wonderful birthday surprise to share that my family gave me this past weekend. (I mentioned some of it in my reflection called Adventure that posted on Sunday.)

Today’s Meditation Questions/Suggestions for discernment from the Robert F. Morneau book, pictured above:

What happens to your heart when you are looked at in a loving way? When you look at others is it a stare and critical analysis, or is it a childlike look of affection?
I find myself doing both the critical stare and the look of affection at various times throughout the days. I enjoy watching my two youngest children sitting side by side, one on their tablet, the other reading a book with three other books piled next to her, not fighting, not yelling, not arguing. There are even moments that we need them to do a chore or errand, and we leave them be because it’s so nice to have the brotherly and sisterly peace that is so often missing at their ages as they compete and try each other’s patience.

It’s important to be able to recognize the critical stare and sort out if it’s warranted, even in a small way. I try to pull myself back from that judgment and look away, then start again for a more compassionate thought process.

I know that with our current political climate, I am having a much more difficult time not being judgmental and angry, but I have been walking away more, and instead of 24/7 cable news, I’ve been picking a few programs for a few minutes a day to catch up on breaking news and I save important articles to read before I post or make comments. I’ve only had one breakdown/rant and I refuse to go back to where I was as a political junkie in 2012 when I quit cold turkey. I plan on being politically active and advocate for my beliefs, but in keeping that critical stare at bay, I can think more, discern more, let G-d lead, and act more.

Advent is waiting, and waiting is okay. It is the time we need to gather ourselves, both physically and spiritually to greet this new year, to collect our thoughts, meditate on what’s important, and meet Jesus in his birth. G-d will meet us where we are; we need to meet him as well, and then journey together.