If only…

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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…”

 

MEMORIAL DAY

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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.

 

JUST A PIG IN THE PARK

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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!

P.S. I will never eat pork again.

Connecting Through Color

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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.IMG_3438

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.

IMG_3437Later 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.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

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What’s it all about?

This invisible beast

Taking health

And lives

And businesses

And jobs

And money

And stability

Like a thief, it roams the earth capturing its victims in its tangled web of fear and danger.

 

What’s it all about?

The sick and the dying

The strain of the essential workers

The hungry

The want

The need

The abused

The desperate

Holding onto their last threads.

 

What’s it all about?

The fear

The anxiety

The lightheadedness

The nervousness

The nausea

The tears that come in waves out of nowhere.

 

What’s it all about?

The separation

The loneliness

The solitude

The yearning for loved ones

This thing stealing away the loving companionship of family and friends.

 

What’s it all about:

The health care workers

The saviors

The helpers

The volunteers

The food banks

The emergency relief

The donations

Uniting our nation and the world like never before.

 

What’s it all about?

The not knowing

But the trusting

The faith that moves us forward

When we want to run back to the past

The unity that brings us together

The future that will come

The promise it will bring

 

What’s it all about?

Faith.

Trust.

Hope.

EASTER MORNING

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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.

Happy Easter.

GOOD FRIDAY

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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.

HOLY MAUNDY THURSDAY

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Do you remember the last time you gathered with your family and friends to have dinner?  Mine was on March 1. It was my daughter Megan’s birthday. I made lasagna and meatballs and baked a Funfetti cake, which is her favorite. We had a lot of fun celebrating, laughing and enjoying the food along with each other’s company.  I got to hug and play games and color with my grandsons. It was loud and crazy and amazing. We didn’t know that that would be the last time we would all be together for quite some time.

Today is Holy (Maundy) Thursday. The word “maundy” means washing the feet of the poor. The Catholic Church commemorates this day as the last time Jesus and His disciples gathered for dinner, or the Last Supper. On that night He washed the feet of these twelve men, which was an act of humble love. It was the night that gave birth to Holy Communion as Jesus blessed and broke the bread and wine and gave it to His apostles saying, “Do this in remembrance of me.” I imagine they must have questioned at the time what that meant. It was the night we received the new commandment to “Love one another.”  It was the last time they would all be together. They didn’t know, but Jesus did.

This group of friends were just enjoying an evening of being together on that Holy Thursday evening. They did not have any clue as to what was going to happen in the days ahead. My family was just enjoying an evening of being together on March 1. We didn’t know what was going to happen in the days ahead. The disciples weren’t prepared. We weren’t prepared. As Catholic history progresses with the arrest of Jesus, these disciples, his friends, became scared. As more and more people in our country got sick and started dying with COVID-19, we became scared.

So here we are in real time reflecting on the events of Holy Maundy Thursday like we do each year during this Easter season.  Only this year, it is different.  This year I am sure we can actually feel the love and comradery the disciples felt that evening in the company of Jesus, and then the terror of what happened later that night in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed, was betrayed and then arrested. The disciples were afraid, isolating themselves in hiding.  One minute we, too, were enjoying dinner in the company of our loved ones, and in an instant, we became afraid of the invisible virus that was so ferociously sickening and killing so many. We now isolate ourselves.

History has proven that life as we know it can change in an instant. But we also know that faith always wins out over fear, as proven by those brave men and how they moved forward growing our faith throughout the world.

Be brave in the days ahead. Be faithful. We don’t know what will happen, but Jesus does.

And until you can hug your families and friends again, hold them close in your heart.

PALM SUNDAY

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I listen to the birds singing on this beautiful, sunny spring day. As I breathe deeply, my lungs fill with the freshness of the fragrant, crisp air. All seems well in this little corner of my world.  But it’s not. On this Palm Sunday, one of the holiest days of the year, we are cloistered in our homes. People are fighting for their lives and struggling to take a breath – something we take for granted.

On this holy day in the past I have gone to church and somewhat dreaded standing through the long Sunday gospel.  It usually took only about 15 or so minutes as the priest and deacons took turns reading the different passages, but it seemed like an eternity. As a child, it was tiring and boring to stand for that length of time. It felt torturous. As I got older it seemed like a chore you had to endure once a year. Through the years I have come to terms with this day and the reading of these familiar words. Today, especially, I wish I could be in my church and hearing this important recounting of my faith. But I can’t – no one can.

This year life as we know it has changed. Covid-19 has taken us down to our knees as people get sick and die while overwhelmed healthcare workers struggle to care for the gravely ill. We are all scared and puzzled by what has happened to our world. And this week will be overwhelmingly even more frightful in our corner of the country as we reach the so-called apex of this invisible killer.  This year we are not bored. We are anxious. Our Military is stepping in to assist and maintain some semblance of order in our country. Schools are closed. Businesses are closed. Churches are closed. People are unemployed and broke and hungry and searching for faith in the midst of this pandemic.

This week, when we need it the most, Holy Week will not be celebrated in the way we are used to. On this day, Palm Sunday, I wish I could go to church.  I wish I could stand during the long, extended gospel reading and would do it without complaint and without tiring. The tradition of my faith has become so much more important in the grand scheme of things. This day I question how idiotic it was for me to ever tire of listening to the words of this most important gospel. It seems like such an inane thing to dwell on in such a horrific time. But it is especially in times of trouble that your faith becomes even more precious. It’s the thing you hold close to your heart in times of struggle.

So, I will read this passage at home alone as I practice social distancing and offer it up for our world as we now know it. I’m asking for God’s strength and care for all of us in the uncertain days ahead.

Hold on tight to your faith, practice gratitude, be still and breathe.

 

BELLA

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I sit in front of a blank screen wondering where to begin to describe the story of my dear Bella and how much I loved her. “Oh, come on” some people who don’t understand would say, “she was just a dog.” But that’s not true.  She was my faithful companion, comical sidekick, a full-of-love bunny who spent most of her 12 years keeping me company and moving me forward during a time of transitioning from a full, happy family household to a divorced empty nester living on a shoestring budget of nothing. She gave me purpose, kept me well-exercised and chased the crushing blows of loneliness away with her steadfast companionship and funny antics. To know she was there and needed me, too, made all the difference in the world to me because with her I never felt alone.

Bella came to me as a rambunctious, border-line wild, 14-week-old Labrador retriever puppy.  I adopted her from a family who claimed they became “allergic” to her and had to get rid of her. When I went to pick her up, she was literally bouncing off the walls from one end of the room to the other.  Her name at the time, “Lightening,” was telling. She chewed the furniture, ripped up kitchen linoleum, broke baby gates, and generally drove me to the point of exhaustion. She wasn’t a cuddly dog, but I was never out of her sight, and when I was upset, she would sit by my side and look up at me as she leaned on my legs.

A definite water dog, if I said, “bath” she ran and jumped in the tub. She loved presents at Christmas and her birthday. She loved kids and dogs and cats and snow and swimming. She didn’t mind getting dressed up on Halloween. And she LOVED to eat.  A refrigerator door couldn’t open or a wrapper crinkle without her coming running. She moved with me twice and transitioned from a great big fenced in yard to having to walk down the street to do her business. I had always hoped to own another home with a yard for Bella, but that wasn’t to be the case after all.

In her later years, as she developed diabetes along with diminishing eyesight and then arthritis, she never lost her spirit. She was always willing to go wherever I wanted, and of course, was always by my side. Quick with a kiss. A foodie extraordinaire.

The house is eerily quiet now, and Lucy, my cat, looks for her constantly. They were an odd couple. Sometimes I awake in the middle of the night and listen for her breathing, which was heavy towards the end. I wake up in the morning and for a split second think I must get up and walk Bella.  Then I remember. No, life is not the same without her. No sharing my lunch and dinner.  No daily walks to the park. No sweet company to chase away the blues. Twelve years is a good, long life for a dog, but it wasn’t long enough for me.

I know in time I’ll get stronger, and sorry this is so sad.  But paying homage to the pets I have loved is closure for me. She is missed like crazy, not only by me but all my family and friends who knew her well since she traveled everywhere with me.  Everybody loved sweet Bella.

So, see you in heaven, Belly Jelly (kiss a felly). Have fun with all of our puppies and kitties up there. I love you with all of my heart. Thank you for loving me.

 

BELLA   September 26, 2007 – November 5, 2019