I went to the park today because it is a beautiful day for a walk, but more importantly because I am missing my dog Bella who passed one year ago today at the age of twelve-years-old. I knew I would be sad today, but I am so thankful to have had her in my life for all those years – probably the most difficult years I personally had been through. She was always by my side, keeping me company, giving me a reason to live, keeping me active with walking and giving me someone to care for when no one else was around. She was friendly and funny, loved everyone and went everywhere with me. She knew when I was happy; she knew when I was sad, comforting me always and making her presence known.
I went to the park today because it was her favorite place to be, and I wanted to walk the paths we used to walk and sit at our place under a shade tree where she used to like to take a rest. At one point during my walk I sat on a bench. A woman walked by with the cutest little dog that looked like a puppy Rottweiler. She was black with brown spots above her eyes. The dog came barreling over to me, jumping up to say hello and kissing my hands as I pet her. She plopped down between my feet and leaned on my legs. I struck up a conversation with her owner, a genuinely nice lady. The dog sat contently, occasionally looking back at me every once in a while. I found out she was not a puppy, but a twelve-year-old. Her name was Lulu, and she came to the US from Puerto Rico as a rescue puppy. I explained to the lady why I was at the park, and she said I should get another dog because they are so good for us physically and emotionally, and I agreed. Lulu didn’t want to leave, but the woman finally coaxed her to go. I continued with my walk deep in thought. Maybe Lulu was a sign from Bella to say hello and let me know she is fine and was with me. At least I would like to believe that to be true.
I have had dogs all my life, ever since I was four-years-old. I have had them two and three at a time. I love surrounding myself with animals. To be honest, I would have another dog in a heartbeat, but circumstances haven’t allowed it thus far. Being without one now feels so strange and lonely.
I know in my heart of hearts that there is one more dog to come in my life. And I believe I will know when I know. Until then I will keep on keeping on. Remembering Bella with fondness and enjoying other dogs who say hello and dogs of relatives. I will wait for that day my little one will come along. I will bring her/him to this park and show him/her Bella’s favorite places. At least I hope it will happen.
I hope you are running around in heaven with all the pets I have had in my life, my sweet Bella. And until we meet again thank you for loving me and please know how much I love you.
Life is a series of adjustments and choices. Some minor; some major. The way you react to what happens along the way becomes either a major or a minor adjustment – or a minor or major choice. Liken it to when your back or neck is hurting so you go to a chiropractor and have him align your skeletal structure. If it works, it is a minor adjustment. You are able to move on with less pain and more strength. If the pain is still there, you must choose to maybe see an orthopedic doctor for further evaluation. How long you suffer is up to you. You have to make that choice.
Let us begin when we are born. Birth itself is a plethora of adjustments as you come into the world and adapt to a multitude of so many changes as you grow moment to moment. At this stage in life, there are no choices to make. They are made for you.
The next would be reconciling from home to school. Sometimes very scary situations arise as you go from the safe cocoon of your home to the outside world. You meet many new people – teachers, other children. Some kind; some not. You learn, you work, play sports, learn an instrument, sing, do science experiments, be in a play. It is a barrage where bending and shaping is paramount to becoming the person you are meant to be. So many adjustments and so many choices. What do you like to do? What kind of friends do you want? Do you choose to stand up if you are bullied or stand down and let it happen? Are you going to do your assignments to the best of your ability or choose to just get by?
You enter puberty. Bodily changes, wants, needs and everything in between that projects you into adulthood. You choose right or wrong. Choose to follow your urges or suppress them.
You graduate high school/college. Graduating high school is a feat in itself and quite an accomplishment from grueling years of social and educational reconciliations. It is a relief, in a way, to have finished what is required educationally. You choose to go on to higher education or start a job. Choosing college will be extending your educational process. Working towards a career of your choosing. Or you learn a much-needed trade or enter the military or civil service training. You will be exposed to many personal, social, and educational experiences. It will be hard, even grueling as you navigate yourself through the years when you truly grow into an adult. Life-changing choices and so many adjustments.
You begin a career or a job. You begin to learn how to stand on your own two feet. Make a living that can support your independence from your parents. Always an adjustment with workload, new people and getting along, making enough money to pay your bills.
You have relationships. You grow and experiment with different people and personalities to find the type of person who matches what you need. You find people who are right or wrong for you and learn how to tell the difference. You choose a person that hopefully lifts you up and does not beat you down. You have heartbreaks – many along the road of life. You date. You break up. You commit. You uncommit. He commits. She does not. She commits. He does not. Heartache aplenty. You love. You hate. You stay. You move on.
You marry. Maybe. So many adjustments and compromises and ups and downs and ins and outs. You hope for the absolute best as you take that leap and maybe you have found your person who will be a partner for all of life’s compromises. Making a choice and knowing the right person from the wrong person is something not all of us figure out. This, to me, is one of life’s greatest challenges, hardest adjustments, and so many ridiculous choices. You want to trust. You want to love. You want your person. But you must ask over and over before you decide: Is it he/she?
You stay single. You learn to build a life on your own, on your own terms. Although it may be nice to have a partner, there is a lot to be said for standing on your own two feet and letting that be the core of what sustains you through life. But it is lonely and that is a big adjustment. But that is your choice.
You start a family. Greatest responsibility in life. Raising another human being to be a good, decent person. Sleepless nights. Strained patience. Worries galore. Best job in the world despite the crazy amount of challenges and choices and adjustments along the way. But you gladly take on every one of them on an almost daily basis because there is no greater love in the world.
A loved one passes. Parent, spouse, friend, sibling. Maybe your relationship was the best. Maybe it was toxic. Maybe it was not enough. Maybe it was just good enough. You grieve in a way that steals your soul and questions your mortality. But eventually you adjust to them not being there. The void never really goes away. But you must choose to find a way to move on.
You change locations. Maybe once or twice. Maybe many times. Each time adjusting to your new home/apartment, surroundings, neighbors, and community. Exhausting, invigorating, fun, scary. So many things.
You get divorced. Sometimes it is a relief. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is ugly and painful and sad. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is just what you needed to move on and have peace. You adjust to living your life on your own terms. And the void you feel vanishes as you adjust to a life on your own.
Your children grow up. They leave. Go off to college. Move onto their new independent life. It is happy. It is sad. Sometimes you let go easily. Sometimes you hold on with all your might. You try to figure out what your new life without children in the house looks like. It is the movement and hecticness and craziness pushing you to your limit that you miss. The time you dreamt of having is here and most of the time you cannot remember what it is you wanted to do with all that time. You may have trouble filling your days. Or maybe you find fun, new, fulfilling things to do and new friendships that sustain you.
You remarry. Maybe. Maybe not. Either way you know more about what you would like in a partner and what you do not want. Maybe you meet someone great who fills the void and lifts you up and rekindles your faith. Maybe you learn to fulfill your own wants and needs in life. Either way, you explore with someone new or not.
You have grandchildren. Hopefully, you do because they are the greatest blessing in the world besides your own children, of course. You love them and they love you unconditionally. They fill your life with joy and laughter and fun. You look forward to your time together like it is a big, special event because it is. You spoil them and laugh with them and would give your own life for them.
You retire. It is a relief to be done with work that you were not crazy about. Or it is sad to be without the work you loved. Now you have all the time in the world to do what you wanted if you can remember what that was. You hope you have enough money to last you. You hope you have enough ideas to fill your time or try new things and come up with something that brings you joy. So many choices.
You get old. Ugh. Not sure what this one will bring as I only now venture into that territory. Optimistically, you can live out your days without an overabundance of medical issues and be able to live independently. Or maybe at some point you will need assistance. It may be difficult, but it will be OK. You will adjust as maybe that choice is made for you. In any case you’ll be wondering what the hec happened because life goes by fast! So try to remember to have fun whenever you can.
Finally, you pass. Who knows what happens next?! With utmost faith you will be adjusting to paradise and resting in God’s arms. You hope to be hearing the words, “Well done.”
Each and every stage of life warrants some kind of realignment and innumerable choices. Major or minor will be determined by the way you handle it through your own strength, conviction, or sheer will power. My wish is that you remain standing strong and able as you move from one phase to the other without dislocation or an abundance of angst. You and only you can make that choice.
In my junior year of high school, way back in the 70’s, a fight broke out between a group of white and a group of black students. It happened outside of the school during a recess period. I heard it got violent, the police were called, and I don’t remember many other details except that I was in class and the school was put on lockdown. I do remember we were all frightened because we were not exactly sure of what was happening or why. The students involved ran, and I don’t know if any were caught or detained. The principal would not let anyone out of the building. The buses would not run that day, and you were not allowed to walk home. The administration started calling parents to pick their child up as they were not going to be allowed to leave without a parent or guardian accompanying them. My mom didn’t drive, so she had to find a neighbor who did, and that neighbor came and picked me up with my mom.
Since I had just transferred from a strict Catholic high school, I was overwhelmed by all of this. I was quiet and reserved, and this was mind-boggling. We were all apprehensive after that never knowing the real story vs. the rumors or whether it would happen again. The situation was never addressed or clarified in any way. No announcement; no letter home. But eventually life went on and besides a few minor skirmishes, nothing major happened for the rest of the year.
That time period, in general, was one of great unrest in the country at large, and it was not unusual for schools to have random clashes between the races. It was not unusual to have kids smoking pot out in the courtyard during recess either. Civil unrest was at full tilt in the world with protesting galore. The Vietnam War was stealing our youth with senseless deaths. Peacemakers John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated. Four students at Kent State University were killed and nine others injured during a protest against the Vietnam War by the National Guard who open fired into the crowd. It was one of the greatest tragedies in our history. I remember a few years later stopping at Kent State University while driving across the country wanting to see the place where this had happened. It was eerily quiet and felt like sacred ground. This was the place where four young college kids lost their lives at the hands of the National Guard because they dared to march for what they believed in, which, ironically, was peace. There was now only a plaque commemorating that fatal day. Their bravery in standing up for what they believed was heroic. I was just rambling around trying to figure out what to do with my life during this hostile era. I really hoped for the end of the Vietnam War and wanted peace. I really wanted racial harmony and the end of brutality. But I did not proactively take a stand or try to do anything to help make it happened. If only I had tried…
The world is still a mess. Today we have people protesting the brutal murder by police of George Floyd and the many others victimized by police brutality. We also have a horrendous pandemic with US deaths by Covid-19 surpassing a total of 110,000 today. Protesters are literally risking their lives to make a stand against horrific racial brutality. There is no peace. Our nation is crying out for change. Change that is so desperately needed. And yet we have the so-called leader of our country hiding in a bunker below the White House ranting incoherently through social media. A so-called leader who commissioned the national guard to push peaceful protesters back with tear gas and rubber bullets to make way for his photo opt in front of a church holding a Bible. Not his Bible, by the way. “A bible” he clarified when asked. Did he say a prayer? No. Did he offer words of encouragement to a hurting people. No. If only…
If only…systemic change was proactively initiated back in the 70’s or 60’s or 50’s or in 1619 when slavery in the United States began. If only…I had been more proactive at a younger age in recognizing the need for and advocating for change. If only… I, as an individual had chosen another path in life to work towards a better world. If only…
I pray that reform will be initiated now for the good because we just cannot go on with the way history has played out in this country up until now. I still look to the future with hope that we as a united people will do better to make this country and the world a better place. I know in my heart of hearts that it can happen. I wish I had done more with different and wiser life choices to help to bring it about. I wish I had paid more attention to the details. But I ask you through my failures to find out the facts of what is happening and why and how you can be a part of making it materialize. And I will try to find a way in this late stage of my life to make a difference as well. I know I can immediately start by voting.
Please remember this moment in time and how our leadership is failing us and vote. This is the one most important thing we can all do right now for the common good.
My prayer is that God will bless America and help us to do better as a nation united together in understanding, love, kindness, caring and harmony. No more “If onlys…”
Today is a day to honor our military who have lost their lives in defense of our country. It is not a happy day. It is not a day to celebrate. It is a day to pause in silent remembrance and to be thankful and to pray for those who lost their most precious gift of life fighting for our freedom. These courageous warriors charged into war zones afraid but determined to overpower evil forces to keep us safe and keep us free. There is no amount of commendation that would be enough for these selfless, brave heroes.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, in all types of uniforms, in all walks of life. Today I would respectfully like to add another category of heroes who are also determined to overpower another type of evil force. And they are the healthcare workers – doctors and nurses, assistants, EMTs and all involved in the combat. They have selflessly put on their uniforms and trudged into horrific enemy territory to save us. Deliberately exposing themselves to rescue us. Many have lost their lives caring for those who are battling a different kind of terrorist in a different kind of battle in a different kind of war – the war against Covid-19.
Today I salute all warriors from the Revolutionary War, Mexican-American War, U.S. Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan and all the battles in between. And even though our present war is not one of brutal force and weapons, it is a war nonetheless. A war against a vicious invader ravaging and stealing precious lives, and I salute those heroes today as well.
Thank a veteran.
Thank the military.
Thank the healthcare workers.
Pray for the sick, for those who were disabled and for those who have died.
So, did I tell you the one about the lady walking a pig in the park….
No, for real. Getting out for some exercise today in our newly reopened park in New Jersey proved to be somewhat of a hallucinogenic experience for me. Imagine you are fast walking on a path with the brilliant sunshine warming your face as the wind ruffles your hair with its warm breeze. You are greeting people walking safely six feet away, practicing the mandatory social distancing. You are so happy to be out of the house breathing the fresh air that you are giddy with glee and feeling like you are having a transcendent experience.
And then through the glare of the sunny/shady walkway you see it. It looks like a lady with an extremely obese dog. As they get closer, you realize it is not a dog at all. But what?! No, wait…could it be? Now you are positive you must have taken a mind-altering drug and are having an out-of-body experience. You feel your forehead – no fever. You rub your eyes – you can see just fine. Yes, indeed, it is a pig. A lady walking a pig, as a matter of fact.
As they come closer, I begin to giggle. It is the first time in quite some time I’ve had a reason to laugh. I mean, it was so bizarrely funny. The lady smiled and I just said, “she’s beautiful!” (It looked female to me.) “And such a good walker,” I continued. Am I insane? But what do you say to a lady walking a pig in the park?! I wanted to pet it, but social distancing and all did not allow for that. I walked on shaking my head and smiling. I could hear people behind me giggling as well and sending her well wishes.
I eventually did an about face to find them and ask the owner if I could take a picture because who would believe me? She said I could. So, here it is:
During this time of unimaginable horror caused by this unrelenting pandemic and all the heart-breaking stories, I thought maybe we could enjoy a brief bit of levity. It was brilliant of this lady, however unintentional it may have been, to take her pig for a walk in a public park and give us a reason to chuckle. It definitely added a bit of fun to my day!
I hope you are smiling as you read this. Remember to look for and find things that make you laugh – that make you happy. You are allowed to enjoy your life!
I’ve been coloring pages in a children’s coloring book for the past two hours. Pictures of Cookie Monster skateboarding, a dolphin in mid-air performing at Sea World for Big Bird, Oscar and Cookie Monster, and Grover sporting an inner tube at the beach. I’m enjoying mixing and choosing the different crayons as I take in their familiar scent and chuckle to myself at the irony of it all.
Why am I doing this? Why would a sixty-something-year-old be coloring kid pictures? Because I miss my grandsons. Today I sit here by myself, lonely as hell, coloring because it makes me feel connected to them. I haven’t seen them in awhile because this invisible enemy – Covid-19 – has invaded our earth, and life as we know it has changed drastically. We are practicing social distancing. But what I want to do most is just hug my grandsons and be with them – coloring or cookie baking – riding bikes or playing soccer. I wish we could just snuggle on the couch and watch a movie. Instead, this virus has stolen these moments from me and them and everyone else in the world. I don’t know where it came from; I don’t know where it’s going or when. I just want it to vanish because it is a thief and a destructor of all things good.
Later I’ll mail these pictures off to the boys so they can put them on their refrigerator like I put their drawings on mine. I’ll enclose a card with a printed note that tells them how much I love them. I know it will make them smile, and they’ll know I am holding them close in my heart. Then I’ll call them, or they’ll call me, or FaceTime, and they will be silly and giggle and run around and act like crazy boys as I chuckle. I’ll fight back the tears until I hang up.
I’m hoping they’ll look at the pictures every now and again and smile in their remembering of their Mimi and look forward to all the fun we’ll have again when this horror fades away and life returns to some sense of normalcy – whatever that will look like. I’m thankful that the boys are too young to understand the magnitude of what’s going on in the world. I have faith that before too long we’ll be, once again, snuggling on the couch as we watch a funny movie and laugh. Then we’ll go to the table and color pages – Ethan telling me which crayon to use on what, as Carter furiously scribbles a kaleidoscope of psychedelic renderings.
These are the things I’ll never take for granted again.
It’s early dawn in my corner of the world, and the sun is already brilliantly shining on a brand-new day. I look out of my window and see the trees just starting to bud with new greenery and the flowers blooming in beautiful pastels. All seems right in the world.
But the world as we know it is far from right. This Easter, like no others I have ever known, is different. For many it is filled with anxiety and apprehension from the assault of an enemy we can’t see. For a chosen it is unending weariness for the work they do in the care of the sick. For some it’s filled with fear for stricken members of their family or friends. For others it is the fear of not being able to care for their families as they remain jobless and desperate. For the downtrodden, it’s shrouded in grief from the loss of loved ones.
I am personally filled with hope. Hope that this enemy will eventually fall off the face of the earth like a demon conquered by faithful warriors of good. Hopeful that this new way of living is going to continue to bring out the best in people as they find new and inventive ways to live with and care for the people around them. I feel that even in isolation, I am closer to the people in the world at large. I have faith that things will get better.
This will not last forever. It can’t and it won’t. This day is more than Easter baskets and jellybeans and spring hyacinths perfuming the air. This day is about The Resurrection of Jesus Christ bringing light and hope into a dark world. It is the foundation of faith and renewal of hope. Although it’s an Easter like no other, it is the Easter that it’s always been.
So, on this day, count your blessings. Be thankful. Be loving and be kind. Hope for the day we will all be together again, forever changed, but better for having gone through this.
When I was a young girl attending Catholic School, I can remember that during the Lenten season all the statues and the crucifix in the Church were covered with purple material. It seemed bleak and sparse with nothing on display. I’m not sure of the true meaning for this ritual. Some say it focuses your attention on the prayers and the gospels or it reminds us of this special time of the Liturgical year when we fast and abstain and atone for our sins. I do remember the heightened sense of what was to come on Easter morning when everything was exposed once more, and the Church was decorated with beautiful flowers and white ribbons in celebration of the most Holy Day of the year. I also remember the anticipation of eating that first chocolate bunny after a chocolate-free Lent!
I also recall as a little kid, I, too, would get purple ribbons and wrap them around the crucifixes and statues in our house during Lent. (I was a little intense when it came to religion.) I kept a vigil of silence in my house during the hours of 12 noon and 3 pm, which we believed was the time Jesus hung on the cross. I was pretty good at ignoring my brother during that time period, my dad was usually at work, and my mom was always busy doing some kind of chore so it was easy for me to drop out. I was an introvert anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal.
As I grew up, I eventually stopped shrouding the statues and crucifixes. Most churches have stopped doing the same. When I had children, I didn’t practice the rituals of the purple cloths or silence, since it was impossible with my chatty girls in the house always having something to say.
But today I am alone, social distancing in a world that’s gone awry. The churches are closed, things seem dark and bleak and sparse, and it is silent in the house. At three I will turn on a televised Good Friday ceremony of a reenactment on how Jesus was tortured and crucified and died for our sins. I can’t help to think how dark and bleak and sparse it must have seemed to Jesus as He looked at a world that had gone against Him. How desperate and frightened His loved ones must have been to see Him suffering.
I heard a priest say recently that Jesus went through this because He loves us. And because Jesus truly loves us, we should know that true love has no fear. We should not be afraid of darkness or suffering or the unknown. This knowledge and belief bring me hope in the difficult time we are experiencing today. Even though we are alone and lonely, and many are getting sick and sadly dying, we should keep strong because, like Christ, we will rise again. This Covid-19 won’t beat us, and we will be stronger and braver for having gone through this. There will be light and a beautiful celebration when we come out of this and are together again.
Know that you are loved. Keep the faith. Keep strong. Be not afraid.