Monday, December 21, 2015

Mouths of Babes

We had a burst of energy over the weekend and put it to use in re-organizing our spaces in our basement.  We're not sure if we're ever going to join the crowd and get ours "finished" but our basement is sacred space just as it is right now.  We went basement-less for so many years, having chosen some urban habitats over suburban retreats that afforded such amenities as down below, up above and modern appliances such as our own washer and dryer.  I don't take any of this for granted and savor every minute I get to spend in parts of our home that expand the possibilities.  For Joe, it's a rudimentary but highly functional office space and for me, it is my long-awaited "studio" that area that is all my own, the one that allows me to go after my creative pursuits with gusto and to not have to clean up after one of my sessions.  I can walk into and out of my world and my husband who understands all of this better than almost anyone else, contributed to my bliss when he brought home just the right table.  He is THE most thoughtful person I've ever known and he never stops dazzling me.  He's my glitter, the soft edge to my external manifestation which, I must admit, gets taken for crazy more often than not.  If not crazy, then "not-soft", suffice it at that.

So, we have floors and walls, all made of concrete.  What more do we need?  I'm in Heaven and so are my "studio mates", Lucy, Phoebe and Cousin Helen, a frequent visitor.  Oh, and the Hotel Costes station on my Pandora adds to the feeling of euphoria.....or is that the spray adhesive or the metallic spray paint fumes?  I think I need a respirator! Not really.  I'm careful when I'm not flying.

The shift from my side to his side, gives me a view of the wall, the one that Lucy and Phoebe went to town on shortly after we moved in.  "Yes girls, you can write on the walls".....The birth of "Lucy and Phoebe Lounge". Some pretty little drawings but best of all, several good messages from the two people I want most in the world to "get it".

"SMILE"

"LIVE, LOVE, LIFE"

"KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON"

"BE HAPPY"

And then the very best of the best:

"Start where you are
  Use what you have
  Do what you can"

I think they've already got it.  How much more creative can they get?  I ask you.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Pop, Fizz, Clink!

I sit at my desk in the early hours of a new day and stare at a blank page here at my blog site.  I know all the while that this sounds trite and over-done, the blank page, the stare, the lack of inspiration.  I can't wait for my Muse much longer.  My need to write something is great and I fear that if I don't, I won't ever again and for me, that would be a huge loss of opportunity.  Because, you see, writing is an opportunity.  It is a license.  It allows us to take what lies within, beneath the surface of our daily lives and to bring it on.  As I write, I remember things.  As I remember things, I remember more.

My memories, they swing and shift like a tree in the breeze.  Family tree.  Distance has made it difficult to keep it fresh,  to pick the fruit after long winters.  My daughter has an apple tree in her backyard.  Together, with my granddaughters, I picked apples from that tree for the first time since they moved in, several years ago.  We thought the apples were not good for eating, that the tree had not been "cultivated".  The new generation proved us wrong.  They picked, we tasted, and we discovered that these are green apples, perfect for baking and making apple sauce. And so we did.

I've weeded out a lot of our Christmas ornaments, discarding, donating, and delivering to children those that they may have wanted to preserve. From now on, each new tree brings new memories. As I was going through the boxes, I found a card from last year.  It was sent by our son and daughter in law and it simply read, "Pop, Fizz, Clink!", glittered on a very Kate Spade pink background. And, easier than I could have dreamed, I dug down to find places in my heart that have been worthy of such words and have pushed aside those that were flat and unworthy of recollection.  There are moments in one's life that are on the Pop and Fizz list and moments that are on the boil and gently simmer for a long time list.  Pops and Fizzes are the marriages, the births,the graduations, the "firsts". Slow Simmers are the magic in between, friendships, great meals, travel, good books, music, art.

My life is filled with Pops, fizzes and clinks, the Slow Simmer of simple memories, the stories that still breathe today as they did when they were first told. As I sit here waiting for my Muse, my arthritic hands remind me that it's harder to get words to the page but still so important to keep trying, if only to wish the world some glitter.

Go do it.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Love, Unhidden

We've been enjoying some fabulous weather, the kind that we should be during the month of October. It makes me feel renewed, ready for so many of the life experiences the summer, with its humidity, allowed me to ignore.  Days that are bright with sunshine, a tiny chill in the air, beg me to get outside and running around in my car, doing errands without the dreaded return to a sticky seat in an overheated vehicle.

So, this morning, I ticked a few things off my list, made a few stops in between shopping for my father, visiting him for some inane conversation, spending an hour and a half in a class led by the
most irreverent, left-wing liberal, smartest man I've ever met and daydreaming of my great gal-pal, LH, ripping his lungs out after gauging his eyeballs from their sockets. And then on to Whole Foods before returning home.

It's days like this that keep me going.  I love the variety, the challenge of not having to decide exactly who I am or who I will be in the future.  Let it ride, enjoy the view (points), write essays in my head, pat myself on the shoulder for being able to put it all into perspective and to seek more and more information about what makes people keep going.

Oh, did I mention that my morning also included a trip to my beloved thrift shop?  Why, yes it did. And, as I was walking back to my car, I saw the most beautiful sight.  An older man, embracing a younger man as they were parting.  And I heard the words, "I love you.  It was so great just spending some time with you son".  Naturally, I had to but in.  "Is that your father?" "Yes, he's come thirteen hundred miles down the street to meet me for breakfast".  My words of wisdom, "Remember this moment.  You are very lucky because so few fathers say what yours is saying. Treasure this".  I could not help myself from the outburst of pleasure that their behavior induced.  It as such a treat.  A father and a son, neither of them looking particularly well-to-do, the son was a bit scruffy, and looked as if he might have had some personal challenges.  He just had that appearance.  You see it a lot around here. I can't be sure - I'm reading the book by its cover and could be off-target by miles but one thing I did know, they loved and cared for each other and they made me happy.

Hours later, after exiting the Whole Foods market and returning to my car with just a handful of groceries for which I paid a lot of money, I came across another couple.  (was it the weather?).  This time, it was a young man and woman, both dressed in chic black, black and black. They looked "smart" she wore short shorts over her black stockings. They hugged awkwardly and kissed as if they were leaving each going to go their separate ways.  And then I noticed the cause of the awkward hug. She held a lit cigarette in the arm that dangled at her side during the embrace.  This time, I thought it best to keep my mouth shut, my words, I'm sure would not be as appreciated as they were by the pony-tailed son in the tie-dyed shirt earlier in the day. I mentally spoke,hoping that maybe it is possible to read minds.

If you love her so much, why do you let her smoke?  Ugh. Go figure.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Poped

Just a brief note here.

I'm all pooped out, or shall I join the millions who probably professed that they were all "Poped" out by last night.

I amazed myself at how much viewing time I invested.  I'm not one to sit and watch CNN for any length of time, ever. But I was very much engaged and I don't know, maybe I was being "vigilant" as if I were part of the Secret Service, watching the crowds, waiting for a gun shot.  What would I do? Call the president?? Anyway, by the time he flew off last night, I was ready for him to leave but also very glad that he had come in the first place.

I was over joyed when he was elected, thrilled to say bye bye to Benedict.  I felt for the new guy, he obviously didn't want the job. But, the decision was not his.  It was HIS and turns out, it was one very good decision.  He's just what the doctor ordered, an incredible driving force for all humanity at a time when forces can't be driven fast enough.  Everybody loves him, evidenced by the millions and millions who turned out to see even the tail end of the tail end of his plane as it flew off into the sky or down onto a tarmac.  Momentous is the word that comes to mind.  Occasion is the other.  Opportunity joins them. So, now comes the bad part.

Where were the women???

Talk about "missed" opportunities. Biggest celebrations of Mass ever.  One million faithful attended in Philadelphia alone.  Could have called it the Final Judgement and saved a lot of angst for anyone who was ever born. Madison Square Garden in New York.  Huge. Lots of room for everyone but....

Not one woman on the altar.  Not one woman acting as Eucharistic Minister, at least not that I was able to find and I did look. The only women I spotted doing anything other than singing in a choir were those who carried the yellow and white umbrellas, accompanying the men who distributed Holy Communion, some three hundred and fifty-strong in Philadelphia.  Why weren't there any "altar women"?  God forbid that there might have been a female priest up there (they do exist....again....the Vatican thought they had killed them off centuries ago when they were important in the Roman Catholic church).  Pope Francis talked about women, alluded to their importance in the family but unless I seriously missed it, I didn't hear him say too much about their importance beyond that. Damn. What amazing statements could have come out of his mouth.  Think of the impact.  Think of how many people would have heard him. This would have been the time but.....

Instead, I honestly was embarrassed about the fact that the bishops all got dressed up in their fancy clothes, told jokes to the Pontiff, and filled the altars with men.  It made me feel as if women did not even exist, affirmed the total lack of acknowledgement that has gone on since the silly Canon Laws were altered to take remove them from any position of power or authority in the church.  In one of the last commentaries, a female journalist finally raised the question.  It could have been me.  She voiced my concerns beautifully, her voice strong with reason and authority, but I don't think she got an answer. Where were the women?  Holding umbrellas.

Missed opportunities, big time.  Come on Francis. Get with the program.  You can do it if anyone can. Just remember that  your namesake had one best friend back there in Assisi. One pretty great friend and she was, indeed, a woman.  Her name was Clare. He loved her and together, well, you know the story. So, Holy Father, when you ask me to pray for you, you better deliver because I'm expecting big things from YOU!! 

Friday, September 11, 2015

That Day, Again.....

I was going to allow myself some time this morning to write a fun piece, to recount a great little set of moments shared by three very old and faithful friends last weekend in New York.  I have written and re-written that little account in my head, several times since and almost found myself ready to share but then I found myself doing what I have done for the past fourteen years, thinking about another day in New York,one that need not be written to be shared.

I, like so many others, have written and spoken volumes on our personal experiences surrounding September eleventh. I, like so many others, need not read, write or speak of such memories for them to be just as fresh as they were by noon of that particular day.  As the day went on, more memories, many of them, horrific, became part of who we would become and I am left with finding new ways to keep my personal promise to never forget and today, as I reflect, I want to spend time remembering those things that, when I close my eyes and look backwards, I recall most vividly. Faces. Expressions of courage that surmounted those of panic, horror, shock and disbelief.

Soot-covered fellow train passengers come to mind.  They looked like statues as they joined us, the hundreds of other commuters as we traveled to the safety of our homes in utter and complete, bone-dense silence.  Alone in our thoughts but joined in our fear and our total lack of knowledge of the next steps as our world spun quickly into a new and very different place.  We didn't know at the time that we had changed planets, that fourteen years later, we would still be trying to get back to Earth. We didn't know that we never would, never can, ever. Can we?

In all of my New York City-Post-9/11 memories, the one that is most alive is that of the city the days after.  The order to restore order came from our commander, our mayor, who implored us to go on living, to not allow this act of terrorism to terrorize us. He asked that we carry on and that we do all of those things we had planned to do.....as if nothing ever happened.  Looking back now, I wonder if he also was in shock and grieving, and if he had entered the denial phase, attempting to recruit the millions so as to validate what he did not want to believe as true.

I had theater tickets for the Sunday following the attack, not quite one week later.
 The show was"Contact" and I went with a friend.  We followed the mayor's orders.  It wasn't my first time back in the city.  I had returned to work a few days before, when it was deemed "safe" to re-enter the zone, when the all-clear had resounded through the boroughs and we honestly thought it was over and we need not carry gas-masks in place of happy little purses.  At least that was what was expected of those of us who had to soothe and calm those in our charges.  I was not allowed to show signs of doubt or fear lest the people who looked to the company's healthcare professional lose confidence. So, I needed to be strong and resilient and I stepped up to the plate and wiped up tears and tears and tears, but not mine.  My office became a hallowed ground for so many who needed to run away from the reality of their losses.  Thursday and Friday of that week were two of the most challenging of my entire career.  Stay calm, Smile, Comfort and care. The worst is yet to come but for now, be soothed.

Arriving at the train station on my way to the theater that Sunday catapulted me into a new and surreal experience.  One that I can taste to this day.  Quietly, small hands-full of people moved about on their way to wherever they needed to be.  Everyone seemed to be best friends with everyone else, something that is rarely seen in New York City and certainly not at Grand Central Station where everyone is invisible most of the time.  It was a feeling that penetrated my body, my soul and, alone, I was able to finally feel the emotion that was trapped inside of my head for days, sorrow and a tremendous sense of not only loss but inadequacy.  I wanted to put my arms around the city, to embrace it and soothe it as I did the people who visited me during the prior days when, in my professional capacity, I was not helpless.  But now, my friend was hurting and there was nothing I could do to help. I found a phone, called my daughter and shared my grief before joining my friend and a full-house of others at the show.

Needless to say, extraordinary things happened during that time period, so many unexpected and filled with emotion.  For weeks, we took such good care of each other, still going through the phases of grief before we came to the acceptance phase, where we all would agree that things were different and would never be the same.  And, I finally allowed myself to cry, in public, without fear of the consequences, when the cast of the show, in lieu of a curtain call, held hands and led the audience in singing, "God Bless America". We all cried. I knew though, at that moment, that we could carry on and that we would eventually be okay again if never the same.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

School Days

It's Back To School time.  What a lousy weather pattern for this.  Hot, humid, dreadful days, tough to get through, to feel productive at home, no less in a hot, stuffy school building.  Is it me or has the climate changed so drastically since my school days?  I remember so well, the first days of the new year as a big fashion occasion.  We shed our shorts and traded them in for knee socks, corduroy jumpers, plaid skirts and Peter Pan collared blouses.  High school years found us back in our uniforms, a lighter weight version that we were to wear until the cooler days of late Fall arrived. But, back to school shopping was an annual event to which we looked forward.  I'm sure this brought tears of joy to the eyes of our parents who welcomed the return of the big yellow bus.  We had grown bored, tired of the lack of structure, and we were accidents about to happen.  Then, magically, we were transformed into obedient school children who went off, thinking that Seventeen magazine had nothing on us, and all of the creativity that we used in entertaining ourselves during July and August, got stripped away into what we learned most during our school days......conformity.

I detested school.  Hated every minute.  Dreaded the first day.  Dreamed about the very last day of the very last year of my education.  I remember that so well.  It wasn't until I reached high school that I had acquired a bit of tolerance for the whole thing and that had so much to do with the friends who I knew would be there, greeting each other on that first day and tearfully hugging each other, clinging to the last vestiges of our school years, our days of innocence, as we seized our diplomas and made our way onto the bigger picture.

I met my best friend in high school.  When we were fifteen.  On a bus.  Together, we made those four years into the finest of our lives.  And, creativity?  Well, I became president of my freshman class, a Student Council member, and a delegate to a special meeting of high school students at the United Nations.  The new idea that we brainstormed......."Pacem in Terris", the Papal encyclical of the sixties.  I also captured the prize for "Religion" that year.  It's one that I am most proud of.  I didn't get it because I knew the Bible or the Catechism so well. I didn't get it because I was pious or "holy" or leafing through "Do You Have a Vocation?" brochures.

I got it because I was bold and outspoken, ready to defend the rights of all people.  I was creative and I stuck to my guns, never one to hide behind the cloak of my faith.  My rewards were many and still are, to this day.  I still have my faith, I've passed it on to others, I still consider myself to be creative and I still have my best friend backing me up whenever I doubt any of the above.

And that woman in Kentucky, the one who works at the Registry Office?  Back to school woman!!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ode to Mrs. Young

 Writing in a hurry.  Sometimes it works.Using my little laptop,  notebook computer to write in a hurry, not so much but it is part of the whole area of change and I am still adapting, making changes in my home environment and eventually, I will learn to save what I have written every few sentences so that I will not do what I usually do, lose it all, never to be retrieved.

I love being a member of a writing group.  Keeps me on my toes, er, makes me "write" something, at least every two weeks.  In a few weeks, that will change again, and I will adapt again, to the practice of writing more often if only to be prepared for a weekly writing class.  Writing to a prompt, not an easy task.  I want to offer the next suggestion.  Mine would be "write about absolutely nothing".  Worked for Seinfeld. But, alas, today it won't work.  Today, I am prompted by another group member to write about a perfect day, one that can be realized, not one that would be only in one's mind, far from reality.  So, I have spent the past two weeks thinking about this, almost penning that a perfect day would be any day that was free of the humidity that has become an unwelcomed guest for the past weeks and weeks and weeks.  Or so, it would seem.   But, this morning, one that is clear and breezy and dry, oh I love you, dry, I am able to see through the trees, once shrouded in billows of moisturized air, and write on prompt.

It's fairly simple.  A perfect day?  One that would start and end without me having to clean or organize one, single thing.  I don't need Tahiti or Bali.  I just need to get up and not feel compelled.  I just need to get out of bed,  stare out the window and resist the temptation to pick anything other than a cup of coffee. It would be utter perfection, starting with that hour of the day, the day on which I do not wipe the counter and mentally start to list everything I've ever seen on Pinterest for cleaning granite.  I'd revel in the morning sun if only I could keep my hands off a sponge or paper towel.  If I could be so fortunate as to leave the damned broom in its place and not sweep the floor.  Oh, what a day if I could refrain from looking at the sun without thinking, "this would be a killer day to hang out the wash".  My life would be complete on this day if I could leave the bottle of Windex under the sink, the dust cloth in it's tidy holder, the soap dish in the tub, filled with the water it caught underneath it's little rubber thingee that prevents the soap from getting mushy.  Oh, what a day!

This compulsion, to be always at the ready, to be forever the cleanest gal on the block?  Ask Mrs. Young, the grade school nurse at Hawthorne Public School.  I actually have a lot to thank her for.
Were it not for her, I might never have become a nurse, determined to use my profession to never, ever make anyone feel dirty or unworthy.  I may never have been as aware of the need for good self-esteem and championed it as I believe I have done in my lifetime.  Without her, I  may have had hundreds of perfect days, really perfect days.