Monday, March 30, 2015

Home Fires

It's writing group week again and I have to prepare for Thursday.  We're meeting at my place and I'm hoping it will be a sunny morning. We'll gather around the dining room table, the one that is right in front of the ceiling to floor windows that make up the back wall of that part of the apartment.  No need to bring folding chairs from their hiding places, I have eight perfectly comfortable chairs that slide easily into their own places at the table.  That's why, when I saw it in the store, I made an instant purchase.  It was always in my head, that dining room set, and when the snap decision to buy it was made, it was easy to justify.  A place for the whole family.  The grandchildren will not have to sit elsewhere, not have to use odd chairs, but forever will have their own places at the table and there will be lots and lots of room for all.  I love that table.  It's my version of a farm table, not exactly rustic but not formal either.  It wasn't new when  we bought it, rather it was painted over by the seller, in colors that, in their neutrality, made a statement up against the backdrop of tree tops and the beautiful pond below. That table is as important as a family member, so important that during a house hunt, it became a deal breaker more than once.  There had to be a place for it, no matter what. Second in line is the fireplace.  If the table is my lifeline, the fireplace is my heart beat, my pulse.

The prompt for this week's write is the word "Home".  Sounds easy.  I find it to be anything but.  I'm having a hard time with that word but must admit, it has gotten me through some sleepless moments over the
past few nights.

I used it as a mantra for meditations that I counted on for a return to sleep.
 The opportunities were boundless.  Home improvement, home schooling, home equity, home maker, home base, home grown, home goods, home style, home land, home made, home page, home fries, home owner, home fires, home life, home plate, home cooking, home spun, home body, home plate, home, home on the range. You get it.  There are a gazillion more but I'll hold onto that fact and perhaps use it again when I am up in the middle of the night thinking about my safety and security again.  Maybe I'll meditate on a quest to discover why so many of my "homes" are attached to words like "life, plate, cooking, fires, base and maker". These came to me in a flash.  I had to sit and think of others while writing this today and it was taxing, so I stopped.

I'm just not sure what and where home is to me or even what I would answer were I asked, "So, Lynn, where do you call home?" It's probably best that I never become a contestant on The Wheel of Fortune lest I make a total fool out of myself and Pat Sajak for having asked that simple question.  I suppose the answer would and should be "Pat, I'm a New Yorker", and then I would need the next five minutes to drive home my point......bagels, lox, cream cheese, the Yankees, the Bronx, uptown, downtown, subways, taxis, pretzels with mustard, hot dogs from carts on the corner, the fruit man who doesn't want my pennies, sidewalks, beeping horns, marriage proposals from strangers on street corners, buskers, busking on subway platforms, buskers on the street, buskers in Grand Central Station.  Grand Central Station!!!!  Home is where the heart is.

I'm feeling conflicted and confused.  The Winter wraps are finally coming off.  I knew where I had to be last season. I was stuck and I missed my life.  I need it back.  We're looking for a new house now, waiting to find just the right one before lease-renewal time is here.  We're racing against other people who are emerging from their own Winter cocoons and the idea of spending twenty minutes in a house that has a For Sale sign on its front lawn, and making a decision so huge, is scaring me to death.  I'm not sure that I will ever be able to refer to a house as a "home".  I don't think I have it in me.  But I do have the fireplace and I do have the table and the chairs and wherever I go, they go and whoever sits at that table will define what it is that I call home, if only for that time they are there. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ninety One

Today would have been my mother's ninety first birthday. Damn, I just wish she had made it to 90.

I don't know where I was last year on this date, or what I was doing or thinking but for some reason the day came and the day passed but not before I placed a bouquet or flowers at the Blessed Mother shrine at the church where my parents worshiped for many years. We did not have nearly as much snow last year so placing a glass vase filled with flowers was not as out of the question as it seemed this year.  I have a different plan for honoring her with her birthday so close to Easter.  I'm sure she would approve and forgive me for not venturing out in the cold rain today.

I could write volumes, in fact, I'm sure that if I scrolled down over the hundreds of posts that I have completed here over the past years, I would find that I have already done that.  I've never been at a loss for what to write about my mom.  She really was an amazing woman and you would only have known that after meeting her had you not been an old friend or family member.  We always knew it.  She never, ever gave herself the credit that she deserved nor did she ever boast about her accomplishments.  My mother was one very beautiful woman and I know that she must have been told so many times over but she redirected the spotlight and was quick to point out the beauty of someone else. She'd stop strangers on the street to pay them a compliment, knowing that her words would carry weight in one's self-esteem department.  She never missed an opportunity to do that.  A compliment, coming from her, would have brightened the dullest of days, that's how pretty she was.  My father knew it.  She was a mere sixteen years old when he first laid his eyes on her and from that very moment, he knew he had found the love of his life.  The made a handsome young couple and as the years went on, they became role models for anyone who would ever fall in love again.  We thought my father would die within months of her death. We really did.

Alas, this is not a the proper forum for eulogizing Mom.  Her memory resides deep within my heart and always will be alive therein.  I'll never hold a candle to her but will always be grateful for any similarity.

I'm saddened but also incredibly disappointed that she did not make it too far beyond her eighty ninth birthday.  I'm also very proud that she made it that far.  Her final years were spent in pain and the knowledge that she would be leaving us at any time.  She had not one, but multiple cancers, all of which she faced with courage and dignity, oh my God, such dignity.  She taught us all a lesson in how to conduct yourself in the face of adversity and how to accept whatever God planned, with grace and faith.  I just wish she could have made it into her nineties because she so richly deserved to have made it after coming so far so well.

Happy Birthday Angelina Ballerina!

Monday, March 23, 2015

3 Days Before My Mother's Birthday

This is going to be a rough week.

It started out rough, a round trip drive to a birthday party in New York.  Fifty people, screeching babies, small, hot room.

Round trip drive on a sunny Sunday. No real traffic issues going.  Hated to end it and, on the first lovely day in a very long time, go indoors to face a crowd.  Not my favorite thing.

Trip home, glided right through as if Interstate 95 was opening her heart to me and as the sun set, I felt like I was driving on velvet and that a gigantic magnet was pulling me home. My home. Safe, warm and free from judgments, from the noise, the crowd. Blessed relief.

I remember my mother telling me that in all her life, she never had a surprise party.  In fact, I doubt that in all her life, she was ever the center of attention, that she always took a back seat, allowing her family to have places of honor. I remember how many parties she threw, how many little nice times she planned for my father's birthdays.  I remember the love she had for her grandchildren and the ways she honored them with special celebrations, carefully thought-out and personalized gifts.

And I sat in a hot and over crowded room, at a birthday party, wishing that God was better at  division, fractioning off time, as I watched the faces of those of us who had lost our own mothers, knowing what their thoughts were, and I cried all the way home.

This week would have been the week of my mother's ninety first birthday and I'm mad at everyone in my family who has forgotten her and everyone who tells me to "move on" in what direction I do not know. And I wish there were some way to bring her back to the Earth for one day, if only to give her a party.

It's going to be a rough week.  If you've lost a mother, you know what I'm talking about.

Friday, March 13, 2015


What good would a Friday the Thirteenth be without a little ranting and raving?  I was in such a Zen place last week at this time and find it hard to remember that feeling.  I write essays and opinions, the Zen just helps me flesh out more of what I want to say.  Knowing my thoughts and trusting myself are very Zen-like but there's nothing like a bee in this woman's bonnet to really keep me moving on life's conveyor belt. So, today, I do breathe in....hold.....breathe out.....repeat and an idea pops into my head very easily because it has been brewing, just waiting its turn to come out and hop onto this page.

You know all those papers you have to sign when you are at your doctor's office?  There are even more of them when you are admitted to the hospital.  I remember the days before that HIPPA stuff all started. For those of you who may not know, this is the abbreviation for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.  It is a federal regulation that essentially says that your medical records and all information regarding your health is private will be protected and that healthcare workers may not, under penalty of law, disclose anything about you.  In other words, years after the concept of medical confidentiality was embraced, it was revisited on a higher level, assuring Americans that the most intimate details of their medical histories were not going any further than their treatment centers of choice.  No faxes, no emails, no phone calls, no discussions. Nothing. You're protected and your healthcare systems are more careful than they have been in history, safeguarding your privacy.

If you are in the business of health care of have ever been, then you know about medical confidentiality. It probably wasn't even something that you had to be taught.  Common courtesy or common sense dictates that you don't go around discussing what you have learned about anyone's health matters.  I can recall being a young teenager, preparing for my Red Cross Nurses Aide certificate, being warned against about the harm that could be done should two little Candy Stripers discuss the "Man in Room 221" while on an elevator or even worse, on a public bus.  For God's sake, Mrs. Man in Room 221 could be within earshot and maybe she thought her Man was on a business trip. Or even worse, maybe she didn't know he was as gravely ill as you did. So, young ladies about to enter the nursing world were taught to never discuss anything for any reason and it stuck.  

My lessons in holding in confidence everything I saw or heard served me well when I became a corporate nurse.  Oh, the temptation to tell "all" has been a great one but I can't forget that Red Cross instructor, her sharp pointy finger aimed right at our heads. And, I won't. And, I never did, not even when my own job seemed to be hanging on the tread of disclose or disembark from your lovely position.  My answer always was "now you know I can't tell you that!" But geesh, if my walls could talk or yikes if the crew from "The Enquirer" ever showed up with a big wad of cash for a little story.  I held my ground and upheld the confidentiality banner, stopping many an email trail of "concern" for a sick or injured employee somewhere in some part of the Colgate Palmolive "family". We just needed to know our employee was safe, under care, getting better, transported to a facility.  We did not have to know all the details, and trust me, there were details.

So, today I emailed a well-meaning friend who has put us on a list of other well-meaning friends, asking him to please remove us from the list, to not send any more updates our way. A friend has taken ill.  He has been ill for the past seven weeks, in a hospital in Paris.  Mutual friends who are in Europe have been sending the updates. Here's the latest in what we do not need to know from people who, mind you, are not doctors:

 His color is almost back to normal and the swelling in his left arm has greatly receded such that his hand is looking almost normal in skin texture and color. 

I'm left wondering if the poor man has any idea that these people have violated his privacy to such a degree?  Do we need to know this much about his illness? Wouldn't we be pleased to know that he is progressing?  Why do we need these intimate details? I suspect that the reporters have some kind of a need to make themselves feel more important, to be on the inside, connected in some special way.I'm surprised they did not add "We walked on water to get to his bedside." And I'm left feeling very, very sorry for the man in the hospital bed, so far away from home and from his rights and I'm wondering if his friends who have done the deed ever gave a thought to HIPPA or just plain common courtesy and true compassion.  By the way, that which I cut and pasted from the email is NOTHING compared to what they have already disclosed.  All in the name of friendship? I wouldn't do that to my worst enemy.  I know that if I did, that very mean Red Cross lady would have me arrested. Isn't that what HIPPA is supposed to do?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thursday's Nameless Writers Group Prompt

Obstinate!  Obtuse!  Dense! Pig-headed! These words came easily to me as I looked at my father’s bank statement this morning only to find that hours spent on trying to cancel a pre-authorized monthly debit were in vain. I ended my ranting with the words to my husband that I have used so many times before in resolving issues on the telephone, “If we did our jobs that poorly, we would have been fired on the spot!”
I needed something to get me started and was finding it almost impossible to write anything interesting or, at the very least, amusing about the Chinese Zodiac symbol that has been my life’s companion.  I didn't even know it was my symbol until the most recent celebration of the Chinese New Year when a search on Google took into account the date and year of my birth and heartlessly spit out the verdict in the words, “You are a pig”.  Don’t get me started.

I've had pigs on my mind for a month now, since that lovely revelation.  Each time I call to mind these big, oinky mammals, I get a picture in my mind, and it is somewhat disturbing. You know the story about the little piggies going to market?  Well, one day, while sitting in the car at a rest stop on the Autostrada somewhere in Italy, waiting for my husband to complete a trip to the mens room, a large red truck drove up and slowly passed through on its way back on to the highway.  I don’t think it stopped. As I recall, if it did, it did so for a very brief moment because when my husband returned, it was gone.  I thought it very cute at the time, a truck load of big, pink, yes they were pink, pigs. They stood shoulder to shoulder, their enormous heads in a row, a few iron railings holding them in the truck, making them look as if they were standing on a hotel balcony, enjoying a view of the sunset.  I was so taken by the sight, one of those that I was sure I had not seen before and probably never would again, at least not in this part of the United States. Naturally, I took a photo.

I know I have that picture somewhere but if there is any area in which I really lack talent, it is in the storage of photos on my computer which in this case, is probably a very merciful thing.  After the first blush of enchantment at the sight of the pigs on the balcony, I realized that they were not on a holiday at all, that they were not going to the market to buy goodies, that this was a death trip and these beautiful creations had no idea of where they would soon end up as they innocently stood in place on the truck.

And, I can’t stop thinking about the scene and I can’t help but think about the millions and millions of other innocents and how lives become so easily ended because of perceptions and powers. And I know it isn't going to change and I wish that I could have flattened all of the tires on that red truck on that day in that parking lot and I am ashamed of myself for my love of pork and the smell of bacon and I hope that I am forgiven.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mirror Mirror

Edited....didn't you notice the errors when first you read this?  I did, in the edit-read.  Forgive me.  I'm not fully recovered from a weekend of no-editing-allowed-writing.

Here's the problem that comes with having short white hair.  Everyone thinks that all women who have that combo look the same.  It's a real problem.

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My Photo
Now you tell me, do we all look alike????

I look into the mirror and there are days, I swear my mother is the person staring back at me.  I always looked like her and as I got older, I did my darnedest to change that in a lot of ways.  As we aged, we started looking more and more alike.  As a younger woman,  not so much.  My mother was really beautiful. I see pictures of her as a young woman, her long brown hair and her blue eyes, and I can only think of her as a very pretty woman.  I was never pretty. My daughter is pretty, she looks just like my mother at the same age, only with beautiful brown eyes.  But I have and always have had, blue eyes and fortunately, that is what people notice and stop their gaze.  I guess I'm more aware and more sensitive to the resemblance now that my mother is dead and my father has only me, myself, and I in his world.  I just don't want him to think of my mother when he looks at me.  She was she and I am me and that's the name of that tune.

So, when I was told by an acquaintance that she was told by some mutual acquaintances that we could be "twins", I practically went insane on the spot.  The very idea of someone looking like my twin has not gone down well.  I don't know where to turn next.  After years of trying to look somewhat unique, this is what it has come to? Is it the white hair? Should I dye it? Should I grow it long, get a perm? Oh come on, help me here!  I do believe that there really are only so many combinations, resulting in lots of people looking like each other.  I mean, it's bound to happen. But why me?  Why is it that I get that comment from so many people, so many times...."You look JUST like so and so" and then there's the one I love most "Did anyone ever tell you that you look EXACTLY like Bea Arthur?....Look at her Honey, doesn't she look JUST like Bea Arthur?" I'm only more excited when they can't remember Bea's name and refer to me as "Maude". Oh yes, I'm a Maude if ever there was one. Sure thing.  Alongside that particular joy is the one that goes this way "I swear, I've seen you before. Do I know you? Have we met? You look JUST like someone I know!", always of course, stated like "Wow, there are TWO freaks now! You look just like the other freak."

I want desperately and wholeheartedly to look like myself, to be my own person, to walk in only my shoes, to have my own thoughts, to see things my way without having to explain them to you, to make my own choices, to love who I love, like who I like, don't like who I don't like and to be my own self.  Did I already say that?

Of course, this whole thing would have been entirely different had someone told me that she had been told that I could be her twin and that person was Helen Miran.  That would have been a whole lotta different story.

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Monday, March 9, 2015


It was EXACTly what I needed.  A full week-end away.  Over the damned bridge that so much of the time keeps us hostage in the Winter but, I must admit, also serves to shut us off from the rest of the world in the Summer, allowing us to have a well-earned front row seat at one of the best shows produced by Mother Nature.

Recently, I came within an inch of plunking down a bunch of money, getting on a plane, and spending a week at a retreat house in County Cork, Ireland.  My goal was to participate in a workshop, one that I was hoping would ultimately help me to become a better writer through the use of new listening skills.  I found the method, Proprioceptive Writing, through a search and found that it was to be offered this April at the lovely Anan Cara Retreat House. I shared the news of my find with another writer-friend and her interest was peaked to the level at which she did some searching on her own and happily announced one day that she had found a workshop in Portland, Maine.  Now, while the thought of being on a creative retreat in Ireland sounded sinfully good, I honestly did not look forward to leaving the country and exchanging my dollars for Euros.  I've had enough of both and am contented with my choice to stay in this beautiful country and reap the benefits of being an American for as long as they last.

So, Bev and I hit the road on Friday and we did not look back once,only stopping for lunch before we arrived at the lovely cottage she found for our stay, at Scarborough Beach, Maine.  After settling in, we set my phone's GPS and bounded off into the cold of downtown Portland.  It did not take me too long to start what I have been mentally doing for quite some time now.....wondering about life in this seacoast city.  Never having been to Portland, I had very little to guide me but my visceral thoughts.Being a sucker for cobblestone streets and artsy shops and tiny ethnic eateries, I fell instantly in love and very envious of those who call this place home. We poked around a bit, found the best-ever vintage shop, and at six o'clock, arrived at the Maine College of Art which is located right, smack in the heart of the downtown.  Room 200. Six places at a table.  Our instructor, Charles, friendly and welcoming.  Not one bit of intimidation, not yet at least, that would come later.  The other four students filed in, took their places, and for that evening, the entire next day, and half of Sunday, we wrapped ourselves in discovering PW. We learned to write our minds alive and I can't begin to explain any of it to you.

Let me just say that Proprioceptive Writing or the Proprioceptive Method as it should really be called, is not about "writing" at all.  It might be easiest for the reader here to Google the whole thing but even after you do so, it is highly unlikely that you will fully understand it.  I still have a hard time getting it all.  Even our instructor, one who has been actively practicing the method for thirty-some years, has a hard time explaining the metaphor.  Proprioceptors are in the medical world.  We began a practice of using something that is so far from the medical world, it's ridiculous.  Those who practice Proprioceptive Writing are not focusing on writing at all, and it has nothing to do with health.  Wellness?  Maybe.  Listening? Totally.  Learning to listen to thoughts, to give them a life, to question them, validate them, play with them, and find ways to use them or at the very least, trust them. What world does that belong to?  Hmmm.

So, in twelve hours, we did four "Writes".  The only scary moment came after the first of them when Charles told us that now, we must read out loud, what we had just written. Of course, I balked, not understanding that this was so much a part of the process.  He was reassuring, encouraging, but not demanding and, after the first person read, I held my hand up high and became the second reader.   Just as he had promised, nothing bad happened to anyone in this class just as nothing bad has ever happened in any other Proprioceptive Workshop, anywhere in the world.  Only good.  Good, good, good.