Thursday, October 30, 2014

Noises Off

The Buddhists call it "Monkey Mind" and I am one of its biggest victims.
 I spend lots of time, burdened with monkeys who swing from branch to branch in my head. They oftentimes take breaks during the day but at night, they are in full swing, oh boy are they!  But at least they are fairly quiet as they do their work of distracting me from other important matters such as beauty sleep. But that's a whole other topic, one I've decided to not allow time and space for this morning as I write, listening to beautiful baroque music through ear buds.  I would not want to make any noise which might disturb my husband's sleep. God forbid.

I love these early Autumn mornings.  I am up before six and instead of damning my inability to return to slumber (the monkeys wake extra early), I have learned to welcome this, the hour before the sun rises. It's what I kindly refer now to as "Holy Hour" and I consider it a gift.  Quiet, peaceful, my time. The hour before the arrival of the noises that chase the monkeys away and fill my life with external disturbances in their place.

I've long been, let's say "noise conscious".  I have very good hearing.  Well, it's not as good as it once was but it's still decent.  When I hear a noise, I have to track it down in much the same way I have to find the source of an odor and that, my friends, has led me down more than one bad path.  A dead mouse here, a rotted potato there, find them, get rid of them and you're good for months.  But noise, that's different. Noise is everywhere and for some of us, it's very, very stressful.

It's funny that I worked in one of the world's nosiest cities and I can say with honesty, I was never bothered by it.  In fact, the noises of Manhattan during a work-week energized me and made me happy.  I'm also sure that I became immune to a lot of the sounds.It was when I came back home and found myself assaulted by the noises coming from my neighbors as they professed their dissatisfaction with each other, that I wished myself years older, suffering a hearing loss.

I once read an article on this very topic.  The writer shared my feelings about noises, especially those that invaded her private space.  In her essay, she told about a situation which was causing her lots of stress that started shortly after moving into a new apartment. Each night, her silence was crudely interrupted by a loud and unfamiliar noise, one that lasted a few minutes and then went away.  She was annoyed and baffled by what was causing the commotion.  The problem grew greater each day and her stress levels rose but she was already locked into a lease so she was powerless.....until.....she allowed her ears to lead the way and she located the source.  To her surprise, she discovered that her new apartment was right next door to a small theater and each night, she heard applause.  From that discovery on, she no longer found this to be disturbing, Her discovery turned the tables on her disturbances and, the difference between "good" and "bad" noise made her evenings pleasant as she envisioned the happy theater-goers and the lovely sound of their gratitude for a great performance. I instantly identified with the writer and made my own assessments.  I loved New York City but did not even like my neighbors.  Disparity recognized.

Yesterday morning, by 7:30, the leaf blowers were already at work, surrounding our apartment building, joined by the riding mowers.  There were five blowers, all blowing the same pile of leaves.  This was NOISE and it was relentless.  It took over my every thought for hours on end.  MY morning.  How dare they? Non-stop, not even a coffee break.  Hostile noise, punctuating a beautiful morning on a gorgeous day.  I was NOT happy and I let those sweet young men who were only doing their job, know it.  They'll be back and next time, I'm going to buy them coffee.  I'm going to make them my friends.  I'll even bring doughnuts.  I'll smile, make them smile back at me, I'll turn it all around, yes I will.

One more note on"noises versus sound."  There are some that I treasure, that I will never forget, never tire of recalling. The cries of my own newborns, seconds after their first breaths, that of my first-born grandchild, seconds after hers.  My husband saying "I do" almost forty five years ago. The beautiful voice of Elly Ameling, singing Vivaldi,coming through my ear buds at this very moment and the voices of the angels singing their morning song at Santa Chiara in Assisi almost two years ago to the day. To my dying day, I shall never forget that. Sounds, not "noise".  There's such a difference.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Trust Me

Photo Source:  Psychology Today
Have you ever been to one of those corporate training sessions, one where "bonding" activities are part of the very, very long day?  The boss hires someone who has an outstanding personality and a "way with people", most importantly, your boss, and you are all invited to stand up together and fall backwards onto the person behind you, "trusting" that he or she will catch you before you crash to the ground.  The exercise is intended to instill a feeling of trust and complete abandonment of your ability to control what happens next along with, your sense of better judgement.  So, you all lined up.  One by one, in domino style, you all fell down, into the waiting arms of the poor person behind you.  Your boss forked over a few thousand dollars to the "facilitator" and you learned nothing except that you were going to call in sick the next time a bonding event was scheduled.

Perhaps, after all is said and done, the not-so-graceful backward swan dives into the waiting arms of my colleagues, really have paid off.  I've accomplished the task of learning to simply "trust" a lot of things lately. I oftentimes call it "answering the Universe" and I follow the call without much doubt.  For instance, just yesterday, I actually allowed myself to lie down flat on my stomach for an hour while a surgeon, in whom I placed a whole bunch of trust, performed an "Endovenous Ablation" in treatment of some ugly varicose veins in my left leg.  In other words, without asking too many questions, I laid myself down and allowed someone who I had barely known, to shove a catheter which drew a laser into my vein, slowly withdrawing it to seal off the vein forever. The whole procedure, from bee-sting-like shots into my calf, to back in the car, leg wrapped up in elastic, took one hour.  We were back in the car in less time than it takes to do a load of wash.  I am walking like a marionette but I'm walking and so far, all is well.

I will have to wait until tomorrow morning when at last, I can remove the Ace Bandage that is tightly wrapped around my lower leg, underneath the compression stocking, to get a look at what actually happened during the time I was lying on my stomach.  I don't really know what it will look like.  I did not ask. I don't know what the surgeon was doing when he told me "a few bee stings", nor do I know what went on when the lights went out and I had to don dark glasses and a face mask for the last two minutes of the "procedure". I didn't ask.

For all I know, the doctor and his little team, present in the room at the time, might have implanted chips into my leg that would identify me as an alien.  Maybe I'm radioactive.  I could even be carrying illegal drugs for a cartel for all I know.  I didn't ask.  I just laid there and I trusted and I let man tend while I let God mend.

If you never hear from me again, it may be that I have beamed up but trust me, I'll be looking down at you so please don't call me an idiot for not asking.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Happy Sadhana

We are an ecumenical community,
The Body of Christ, St. Mary of Magdala Church.
As the Church in this place at this time,
We are called to:
Gather for worship
Cherish our living catholic tradition;
Witness the Gospel; and 
Minister to others as Christians in the world.
All are welcome here.
The past two and a half years of my life have changed me.  These years actually resided within a larger group of years, hours spent in trying to find my path since my retirement from a work-life that had become stale, taking with it so many of my creative desires.  Fortunately, I did not allow my inner voices to cease and my journey is on-going.  I have become so much more aware of the gifts that the universe delivers, so alert to the messages, and the messengers and more and more, I try to follow the popcorn trail of inner-speak, allowing myself to be internally guided, to accept the fact that my thoughts need and love empathy and curiosity.

It is when I look and listen that I learn that all I really need is already here.  It is when I write that I am able to affirm this belief and it is through my creative pursuits that I have found an ability to trust my inner self more and rely less on what I took for granted as "right" for so many years.  Personal development, the building of new paths, is tough work but it can be exhilarating and fun.  

I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. Dutifully, went to Mass every Sunday and, in the earlier days, on all "Holy Days of OBLIGATION".  Just because my parents did. I followed, almost to this day, the path of least resistance in my spiritual pursuits. My mother, I now have a hunch, had ideas of her own, perhaps an inner voice that was begging to be heard, but she dutifully did what her parents did and sadly, she remained attached to "outcomes."  

It does not surprise me that at the height of my angst regarding my own spiritual journey some very, what to me are relevant signs, popped up.  First, out of the mouth of a highly unlikely person in one of my writing groups, came the link to the Chopra Center  Next, on the very day that I had decided to establish my very own "Sadhana"*, I opened my email and found a blog that was written by a former writing workshop classmate and I knew, without a doubt, that the popcorn trail has been laid out and I was ready to follow my inner voices. Boy, was I ever!!  I was convinced that the time was right and my inner guidance system would be allowed to operate in harmony with the rest of my world.

So, on Sunday, joined by another searching friend,I took the plunge, dove in head-first, and found what I may have been seeking for a long time in a small congregation of people, motivated by their faith and their desire to be part of an Ecumenical Catholic community rather than an Exclusive Catholic community.  Their mission statement, above, says it simply and it is the very last line that became the bait that I grabbed and hope to hold on to for a very long time to come.

Just think....a church where all are welcome.  All.  Where personal spiritual goals are recognized and honored.  Where both men and women can become clergy.  Where all relationships are validated and no one is judged or excluded. Where people of all ages are encouraged to follow what they believe is right for them, even if it means taking the paths of resistance rather than remaining on those of least resistance. Where the homily is relevant and clear. Where the parishioners are invited to comment on what they just heard and not judged by what they say. Talk about finding Heaven on Earth!

It wasn't easy, taking that first step but it was easy stepping away from what I found to be so wrong for me. Change, even for the better, is not easy.  Discernment takes time and courage.  I'm not turning away from anything, I'm turning toward something new, exciting and liberating.  I'm listening to my inner voices, letting go of those things that I had been taught were the "rules", the only open gates to where, I'm not sure I know.

I'm listening to my thoughts with empathy and curiosity and it's a whole new way of doing business but I am glad I did not wait much longer. And, one last thing. Comments from readers are now possible again so please, feel free!

*Sadhana is a Sanskrit word that translates into "a spiritual discipline undertaken in pursuit of a goal"

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What's Not to Not Like?

Christopher Columbus photo courtesy of The Huffington Press
I've finally slept off the effects of having spent an entire "holiday" weekend with a precocious grandchild.  She wore me out, not so much physically....well, I take that back, but mentally.  My ears were at the point of bleeding.  I could not say, "my, my" one more time and my eyes could not hold their fix as often as demanded without feeling like I needed eyelid surgery.  It was a treasure of a three days and I'll go back for more again and again, one-on-one with a granddaughter. We love giving them our full attention and, in doing so, we get to know each of the two so much better.  There's a wholesome lack of competition for our time, the choice of movie at the end of the day, or day's activities.  Each of the girls gets her "moment" and, hopefully, each gets a set of memories that surely, one day they will alter to fit whatever occasion they wish, making us seem very ancient long before our time in their recounts.

The past weekend was a three day "Columbus Day" celebration.  Kids and parents, for years and years, have cherished it as the first "holiday" of the school year, the one that brings sales at the mall, special deals at the car dealerships, and mini-breaks a "tank away" for families who take twenty-second gasps at the beauty of nature and head off to remain indoors viewing racks of clothing and bins of items that they already have too much of back home. Of course, there are the requisite cider and doughnut purchases and perhaps for those who have never done it, the "must-do" apple picking.  For those who have, it is a "must-not," under any circumstances.I favor instead,  my daughter's choice.  A chip off the old block, she prefers to do her picking at a nice supermarket.  It is true what they say about that apple not falling far from the tree.

And so, we enjoyed a full three days, courtesy of Christopher Columbus, the one who sailed the Ocean Blue and became a true hero in history for having "discovered"America. Tralalalala. Stop right there Grandparents.  Big bubble about to burst.  Six hundred years have been awfully kind to a man who we now have "discovered" was not the man the textbooks wanted us to come to know and love. Our grand kids are not precocious by some kind of freak accident.  They have been genetically engineered.  We, the "children of light"brought forth the "children of brilliance" who have now brought forth the "children who won't be children for very long".  Enlightened?  Super-charged.  Tell 'em the truth, nothing but the truth and teach them to question.  Not-such-a-bad-idea but couldn't we have waited just a tad bit longer before the Facebook reveal?  Did we have to, just now, with everything else that's wrong and scary going on in the world, have to expose Chris as a man who, if he were alive today would be put on trial for crimes against humanity.
Thanks to our friends at the Huffington Post, we learn that "Columbus' reign of terror, as documented by noted historians, was so bloody, his legacy so unspeakably cruel, that Columbus makes a modern villain like Saddam Hussein look like a pale codfish." and we are asked to answer this question: "Why do we honor a man who, if he were alive today, would almost certainly be sitting on Death Row awaiting execution?"

Of course, my thoughts on Columbus have greatly changed.  Who knew?  I believe in the right to life, all life (I don't give a rat's ass about what you think of that and if you don't like it, please remember you were not forced to visit my blog), and if Chris disrespected life, tortured and killed people, I haven't any room in my heart for him and will be willing to join the growing numbers (courtesy of Facebook) who are also not amused.  But now?  Why now?  Ebola.  Be-headings. War. Guns killing innocents. Pedophiles in the news every day.  These poor kids.  Do they stand a chance at happy, carefree childhood?  Even if you keep yours away from the evening news, the exposure will come from a school friend who wasn't as shielded.  Kids, talking like adults at the office would. I may not be as smart as my own kids but I can predict the future, in a somewhat eerie way and I'm predicting that the best bet for a choice of profession will be in the field of mental health.  Remember all those new grads who headed for I.B.M. in the sixties?  Their grand kids will be hot and heavy in pursuit of counseling degrees because there will be plenty of business.  Brave new world, at their doorstep.

My friend Barbara and I shared a lively hour on the phone last night, our discussions almost always leading to our thoughts on current world situations and our collective sighs result from our frustrations at having so little personal power to change anything.  She was unaware of the new perspective on Columbus so I filled her in to the best of my ability and added, "what's next, Barbara, Christmas?" She reminded me that it has been up for grabs for a few years now, just like Easter and a few others.  But, there's Halloween.  "Nah," she said,"Halloween will always be around."  After all, it is the celebration of sinister and evil, nothing there with which to tamper or dissuade participation. Watch out,Thanksgiving, you're sure to be next.  Gluttony is something we Americans celebrate every day so who needs a day during which we actually gather as a family and sit down at a table, enjoying each other's company, sharing a value?  Why now?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Dearest Elizabeth

Dearest Elizabeth,

I've been thinking about you for a few months.  It's funny how people pop into our minds and hang out there for some random reason.  You can't know how many times I said to myself  "I must call Liz" and how many times I procrastinated.  You are one of only three of my friends who don't use email and when you called me a few years ago, you told me that you were not a computer user and I understood.  You sounded happy and relaxed, the way I remember you always having been.  Uncomplicated, a role model for living a simple and meaningful life.  You did just fine without modern technology.  Good for you, my friend.

I remember when we first met.  Your brother Bob brought me to your home on Court Street in Provincetown.  I think I was all of seventeen and you, nineteen, already a mother to the most adorable baby boy in the entire world, Aaron.  How could he not have been beautiful, that little Portagee who had your same lovely face, the same big brown eyes that held a glow as if they were lit by candles.  You, a single mom, living a simple life with your parents who adored your son and sacrificed anything and everything they had to make a home for both of you.  Your home became a place, so familiar and comforting to me, that I can walk through it in my mind to this day.  White walls, a pantry, a kitchen for gathering, a narrow set of stairs that led up to the three bedrooms that belonged to you and your two brothers.  Did you parents even have a bedroom of their own?  Your brother was my first real boyfriend and you accepted me into your heart as if I would one day become his wife, from the very moment we met.  And it was from that very first moment that I started to share with the world my thoughts on your amazing beauty and your sweet, sweet personality.  But, I always wondered if you wanted more in your life.  It was so hard to tell.  You were so totally in love with your baby and rarely complained about being so young and so out of the game already.

I remember Jennifer Milley and I, both young and poor nursing students.  Together, we scraped together three dollars and bought Aaron a little shirt.  You would have thought we had paid for his college, you were so grateful and gracious.  Your manners were impeccable, your formal education, so limited. But, my friend, you ran rings around the better educated and more-privileged people I then knew or have since.  You were so wise and so practical and I knew your wanted more and one day, you found it.  Along came your friend, Tommy Turner.  "Tucker" was what we all called him.  He became spellbound, fell madly in love with you and your baby boy and you found a way to love him back, knowing that he was going to provide you with happiness and security, the two things that were missing in your beautiful life.  And, you did marry him.  It was winter, wasn't it?  I can't recall the date but I know that as your maid of honor, I wore purple velvet, my dress recycled as a short version of the one I wore to Cam's wedding as a bridesmaid, months before.  I don't think your brother was my boyfriend but maybe he was.  My memory serves me best as I think of you and Tommy on that day and then the nice little house in Truro; Aaron had his own room, a back yard, and a daddy who adored him.  Next in your new life, a baby girl and another great honor for me, not only a namesake, but a first godchild, Jennifer Lynn Turner.  Now, you had two babies to share.  I was so happy for you and so happy for myself.  Tommy worked hard and his pride grew by leaps and bounds to the point of a near heart-burst on that day we all christened the "Jennifer Lynn" at Rock Harbor. I had a new boyfriend by then and Joe came to love you all in the same way I did.  Family.

My thoughts always seem to find you in a summer maternity blouse, sliding down the slide into the swimming pool at my parent's Eastham house.  Pregnant with Rachel.  Another beautiful baby for the Turner family. And I wondered how you were dealing with Tucker's drinking and his black-outs and hoped to God that you would all make it through, that your happiness would one day return and that you and Tommy could be as you were back there on Court Street, filled with love and hope.  I admired you for your fortitude and heard you say unhappy things for the first time since I had met you, years before. Tough times, loss, your marriage started to seem strained.  I was sure that you wanted more in life. But, you held your place as a woman who I loved and admired, one from whom I had learned and would learn so much more.

There are things I have already forgotten in my life, things that I am sure occurred but my brain has not held on to but Elizabeth, I will, to my dying day, never forget your phone call on that July evening.  I wasn't until I had to tell my own mother and my own children, that it became real and that I cried.  I still can't imagine it all. Your beautiful babies, their grandmother, a head-on collision.  The wake, the funeral, your sobs....."my babies...." Your baby girl, laid to rest in the white dress that I had made her for her First Communion only months before. Your baby boy's big brown eyes, no longer lighting up his beautiful face.So many years ago and I can bring myself back to that day, those moments, see the floral pieces, feel the emptiness and know that you wanted anything in life now, but this.

Again, I found my self enthralled by your amazing talent for living.  I know that it took time and finally, Tucker, to bring you back to life by telling you that you had jumped into the grave with your children and he,who had lost children and his own mother, needed you to be there for him and for your little Rachel and for yourself.  And so, you restored your beauty and Tommy kept his vow to not abandon his sobriety, the vow he made on the day of the funeral when he said "I quit drinking for my kids so I'll be damned if I am going to start again now that they're dead".  And then, another baby for you to love, Ryan.

I don't know what transpired in the years before you and Tucker fell apart. I won't even venture a guess at what finally destroyed your dreams but perhaps when it was all said and done, you found out what I had been wondering all those years, that you really did want more and when I last visited you on the Cape, miles away from Provincetown and Truro, I recognized it and rejoiced and then you moved to Maine and I lost touch with you.  But, I knew you had re-discovered happiness and hoped for the best for dear Tucker.  I'm sure that the best, was you, and doubt that he ever found anything better in his life,but maybe.

What I do know is that he said the loveliest things about you last summer.  I found this out through the "grapevine," from a mutual friend that I did not even know we had, one who I had only recently discovered to have grown up in P-town.  I asked if she knew you and she told me that she was at your funeral and that Tommy "spoke" lovingly. And then she added that it was so sad, his death only six months after yours.  She told me something that I had already known, that she thought that you and Tommy always shared a love, through it all.  I would have thought the same.

And now, I'm sad, so very, very sad Elizabeth.  I cry when I think of it all, from the very start to the end, one, that as a friend,  I should have known was coming.  And I wonder if you are buried near your babies in Truro and I hate myself for not making that phone call, a long time ago.  At least, I now know why you have been on my mind.  Perhaps your spirit surrounded me and wanted me to know that you were back with Tommy Tucker and your babies.  I can't help but think that is what you always wanted. But you waited patiently and lived a sweet and simple and love-filled life. Of that,  I'm certain.  I can still see your smile and I pray it never left you.

Rest in peace, all of you. And thank you for sharing the best parts of your lives.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Prompt: What I Long For

I belong to an on-line writing community, one to which I haven't posted to in a very long time. It's called the Writer's Journey Roadmap, and it is authored by Laura Davis.  You can find out more about Laura here:  Every Tuesday, Laura sends out inspiring quotes and "provocative writing prompts" via email.  The result is a supportive environment in which writers from any place in the world can delve deep and come up with honest thoughts on any number of topics or ideas.  Most of the prompts call for writers to introspect and to put forth their innermost and honest thoughts.  This, of course, is not easy.  Writing to be read is scary sometimes but at all times, honest writing is a gift that we give ourselves if we take the time.  Again and again, I think of one of the most profound quotes I've ever found relating to writing.  It goes like this......It is when we write that we learn most about ourselves.

So, I'm going to try to answer as many of Laura Davis' future prompts with this new season ahead and will share a few, certainly not all, starting with today's.  I did not have to give it much thought and here it is in it's simplicity, my response to Laura.


 My heart longs to have a body that is held up b y beautiful legs. I've always wanted to have perfectly proportioned, slim, but shapely legs. But, as I write this, I can’t help but get into my real self, the one with the fat, lumpy legs, the woman who feels so blessed in so many other ways. The one who has been given the gift of compassion and the intelligence to understand what is so wrong with my heart longing for something so unimportant when every day there are people in this world, my world, who would long to have legs, any legs. So, my heart longs for an end to cruelty and war. My heart’s desire is to go back in time, at least far enough to the days before events as horrific as the Boston Marathon bombing, the World Trade Center tragedy, the unrest and horror in the Middle East. Were I to have the power to satisfy my heart’s longings, just the power to do so, I would be totally happy.

Monday, October 6, 2014


The "Womanly Art of Breastfeeding"

The Amazing art of Christopher Malatesta

My entry into parenthood did not come fifty years ago.  Mine came almost forty four years ago, back in the day when "cool" things were just starting to emerge in the world of motherhood and when the words "natural childbirth" were only spoken in places where kids who's moms sprinkled wheat germ on their oatmeal hung out.  There was a nasty war going on in Vietnam, our friends were going off to some place we had not even heard about in our geography classes, and not returning.  We still remembered where we were when we first heard of the gigantic traffic jam on the New York Thruway, caused by people heading off to a place called "Woodstock", and college romances always led to weddings soon after graduations.  Oh, I could list so many more things that would describe those days, but I have an aversion to those things we get via forwarded emails, that make us sit, read and reminisce ad nauseum.  I'm just going to say that there were some of us who were on the cusp when it came to the new age, long before a lot of things became "cool". I know that one day, in the not-too-distant future, I will be writing volumes more about all of this but for now, let me tell my little story.

The first photo, the black and white, shows the founding mothers of the LaLeche League.  They were a group of moms who took on the noble task of making sure that the world knew of the benefits of breastfeeding babies, something that had gone out of vogue many years prior to that time.  The little group grew and grew, becoming an international organization, one that would be referred to later on as a "militant"group.  Yes, they were.  No, they were not.  They simply had a great idea, one that could possibly make babies healthier and moms happier should they chose that route.  They believed that babies came first, no matter what method of feeding.  Babies took time and it was time well spent.  We moms had questions, they had answers.  We had zero support from our moms and most of our friends, they had tons of it and it was that support that became the incubator for countless friendships, fifty years before the internet and the cold face of Facebook.  And it was at a LaLeche League gathering, one that I needed to attend so badly after relocating to Cape Cod, that I met a group of women who I shall never forget.  One of them was a tiny, soft-spoken, kind-hearted person who also had a baby girl.  She gave birth to another baby girl and eventually, to a baby boy who she named Christopher.

I recognized the name but it wasn't until I saw him, his dad and his sister last Tuesday afternoon, working together so lovingly, to hang his huge show at the Cultural Center, that I put it all together. A young, emerging artist, getting ready for a huge show.  And, it was at the opening reception of that huge show that we re-united.  Two moms, two dads, grown children, big hugs and smiles. Christopher's older sister is now forty one.  My daughter is also forty one.  And yes, we spent many happy hours together, nursing our babies, something that we'll always remember and cherish.  For us, it was an art form or at least that is the height to which we elevated it.