Thursday, October 28, 2010


Before I begin, let me just say one thing. When I lived in Texas, I learned that you can say anything about anybody, no matter what it is, as long as you finish it with "Bless his/her heart." Remember this for later.

This afternoon was interesting. I came home from work, having gotten the church newsletter finished just under the gun - as usual - ugh. What I wanted to do was come home and finish a little bit of creativity I'd started this morning. And I did. At least, I WAS working on it.

I heard the dog barking, so went out on the deck to see what was up. While out there, I heard the leaf blower of our "behind the church" neighbors going. That's not unusual, as they are out there almost every day blowing leaves. But today was different.

I know his name is Al because he used to own a flower shop called Flor-Al's. And one night at the Worcester Art Museum, I saw him there. Everyone was calling him Al. I heard him before I saw him; if he hadn't been making such efforts to be heard I probably wouldn't have given him a second thought. But the instant I saw him there, I knew it was my neighbor. It was very interesting to watch him - glad handing everyone and telling them how wonderful life is "now that I've sold the business and am teaching Spanish at St. John's!" I could not take my eyes off of this man. He was really having fun - and he wasn't even the star of the show! Part of me wanted to introduce myself to him, but after much thought on the matter, I decided it would be more fun to know so much about him with him not knowing me.

Anyway, this afternoon Al was out blowing leaves...again. Today he was working on their front lawn. What I noticed was that he was blowing all the leaves from their front lawn, across their driveway, and onto the church property - way past their driveway, so as to prevent them from blowing back onto their lawn. I watched in amazement for a bit, then went and walked over to where he could see me. He seemed surprised that I was standing there. I didn't know what to do, but was glad he had seen me watching. But it didn't stop him! Which made me madder...

I was raised that "Fair is Fair" and you can argue with me until I'm blue in the face, but you will never convince me that what he was doing was fair!

A few minutes later, I went back out. Without getting too close, I said to him (over the roar of the blower), "Would you mind not blowing the leaves onto the church lawn?" Without skipping a beat, he said to me, "These are YOUR leaves!" I started to reply, and he said, "These aren't MY leaves, they're YOURS!" Baffled, I muttered something under my breath that might have included the word "pig" but not so loud he could hear it. I came back home, dumbfounded. Shaking. Angry. Crazy with the difference between right and wrong.

So, our neighbor is a jerk. I'm not going to get into a pissing contest with a skunk, but I'd sure love to mail a box full of leaves to him! It saddens me to know that this man - who has never even tried to be neighborly with us - is such a jerk. It's his stuff, not mine. He's probably been blowing those leaves back onto the church lawn for years and never "been caught" before. Maybe our little interaction this afternoon will make him re-think his actions. I'm guessing not, and am still pretty upset about it, but like I said, I'm not going to start something I can't finish.

In reply I would like to say to my neighbor, FLOR-AL, that even though you are a jerk, I know that God loves you at least as much as God loves me. And that's really what baffles me. It just doesn't make sense. It just doesn't seem fair. Tonight in my dreams, I'll go outside and quietly rake all those leaves back onto your front lawn. I'll get up early and watch the look on your face when you realize what's happened. I'll laugh, knowing that you have been bitten with your own poison. And then I'll wake up and realize it was a dream and think, "Oh, well. It could have been fun. Bless his heart."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I just got off the phone with my brother, Jamie. He and his family (wife and 14-year-old daughter) live in Urbana, IL. I'd heard about the terrible weather there, so just called to check on them. It's been months since I spoke to Jamie.

I am eight years older than Jamie. He and his younger brother, David, are "Irish Twins" - meaning, they are only 15 months apart in age. What a pair they were! And cute? Well, don't even get me started...except to say that my sister and I used to love to dress them up as little girls and put them in the wagon and walk them around the neighborhood! Thank goodness, they don't remember that. But they were both so precious.

Jamie had dimples - BIG dimples - as a baby. He still has them, but you can only see them if he shaves. One of my favorite pictures of Jamie is one that my dad took of him. It's a profile shot, with Jamie holding one one of my dad's (unlit) cigars in his mouth. Precious.

Jamie and David used to play "Mary Poppins." Jamie was always Burt, in his blue and black striped sweater and a little cap. David was always Mary Poppins, wearing a straw hat with fake flowers on it. For years, those two played Mary Poppins. They would probably die if they were reading this...but, maybe they would laugh. They were so much fun!

When my mom got diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic cancer three years ago (almost to the day), Jamie and I both flew to Denver to be with her for a few days. We sort of re-connected then. I can't explain it, but I think we both felt a renewed fondness for each other after years of disconnection.

When mom became terminal, just after Thanksgiving, Jamie and I arrived in Denver again. He had brought his family, but Mary Beth and Mimi went back home and Jamie stayed. I arrived with Warren and Jonathan, and they both left together, leaving me behind. Jamie and I and Amy (baby sister) pretty much spent the next several days taking care of mom 24/7. It was a really difficult time, but we had so much fun! I felt a renewed spiritual connection with Jamie. And Amy, of course, just added to the whole wonderfulness of it all.

The morning that mom died, Jamie woke me (I was on the couch just outside her room) and said, "Mom's making some different sounds. You might want to come and see what's going on." Immediately upon walking into the room I said, "Go wake up Dad and get him down here." Less than an hour later, Mom died. I'm so thankful that my dad was there next to her, holding her hand, when she died. When it "was all over" Amy lay down on the bed next to mom for a long time. We called the rest of the family, and as folks began to trickle in, the sun started to rise.

And rise it did! It took several hours for our Hospice nurse to come - we wouldn't have anyone but her there. We all stood around the bed while she did her "last testing" of mom's frail body. She was dead! I took mom's wedding rings off her finger and gave them to my dad. A few minutes later, the guys from the mortuary arrived. They asked us to all pay our last respects - to take our time. Then they did what they had to do - behind a closed door - and brought mom out on a stretcher, her face still uncovered and available to us for one last brush of her hair and a kiss on her cheek. It was tearful; it was joyful. She was no longer meant for this world, and we knew that.

We all stood outside and watched as the mortuary guys put her into the van. The sunrise was incredible! After the van drove away, we all stood and watched this incredible expression of God's love that seemed, to us, as some sort of a message that our mom/wife/friend was destined for a place much more beautiful than we could ever imagine.

There wasn't much "shock" regarding mom's death. We all knew it was coming. We went into preparation mode (but had actually been preparing for it for weeks). Once we were all together, we started having more and more fun. Incredibly, our mother's death brought her children closer together than I believe they had ever been before. A room full of adults who grew up together, laughing and crying and playing music and teasing each other - mom would have loved being in that room...every night!...I know my Dad loved sitting there watching us!

When I flew back to Worcester after Mom's funeral I was sad to leave my family, but mostly sad to say goodbye to Jamie. We had had such a wonderful time together! I didn't want to lose that.

Sadly, we did lose that. Tonight was the first time in three years that I feel like he was interested in hearing about me and my life and my family. And we laughed! Oh, we laughed so much. About silly stuff, about serious stuff. About dad, about family, about our jobs. We laughed. I feel so renewed and so refreshed by that telephone conversation! Should I thank God for the horrible storm in Chicago yesterday, which encouraged me to call Jamie and see if they were okay? Alright, I will! Thank you God! Thank you for giving me the incentive to call and say "I'm thinking about you. How are you?" And the rest of the conversation - history now - will remain in my heart.

Little brother Jamie with the dimples who loved to play Burt and who grew up to be so smart and have a beautiful family - I LOVE YOU! Thank you for giving me YOU tonight. I will sleep well, with you in my heart.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Staying Up Late

Last night I stayed up until after 1 a.m., working on the background for the current Journey of Journals  journal (DJ's) I have through CCS. Being Sunday morning when I went to bed, waking up "later that morning" really hit me hard! I'm not kidding you - at church, during the Prayers of the People, Jonathan poked me and said, "Mom! Are you sleeping?" I was. So, after church I came home and lay on the couch for an hour and felt much better.

Tonight will not be a repeat of last night, but I will be up later than "the rest of the house." Since I do not have to go to work tomorrow, I always look at Sunday night as one of my nights off -- and I will stay up and play more with my ideas for the JOJ and wake up, excited to see the results from the night before.

I'm feeling so alive with my creativity right now, and it couldn't come at a better time. There are some real-life issues which are really troubling me right now...I won't go into details because they have nothing to do with what I'm talking about now. But they are at the forefront of my mind. Working on DJ's journal has helped those "forefront thoughts" become less and less vivid, and I'm finding myself relaxing about all of it. When it's the right time, I'll blog about it. But it's not the right time. Trust me.

Life throws us curve balls when we expect sliders, I guess. Right now, I'm up to bat and hoping for a home run. If all I get is a single to first base, I'll be's not about scoring, it's about playing the game.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

First Face

Yesterday after work I watched a video - part of a free online course I happened across - and spent over an hour watching this woman teach people how to draw a face. Amazing stuff. The whole time I was watching, all I could think was, "I cannot do this!"

While I don't consider myself to be "an artist" I do love the artistic process. I love getting my hands dirty with paint and making backgrounds and thinking of words to write in my art journals. This creative outlet is so good for me!

Last night I was so tired. Part of me wanted to do something "fun" before I went to bed, but nothing was feeling interesting. But I knew I'd sleep better if I just did one little thing. So, I decided to try to draw a face. It was interesting to use the instructor's guidelines and really see something take form...not anything outstanding, mind you, but it was a face! Then I grabbed some paints and the more it went along, the more excited I became. I was drawing a face - that looked like a face!

Here is the result of that last-minute-before-bed artistic expression. I call her "First Face" and this morning, I've been holding her in different light and looking at her in many different ways. She's not perfect (like me), and she's somewhat mysterious (like me!), but she's looking right through me at something I can't name right now. She can't be recreated (nor can I...or can I?). She is who she is, and she's good enough for me (like me!).

Thanks for having a look. Comments are welcome, but if all my friends who are museum curates could hold their comments, I'd appreciate it!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Remembering my Nicho

A friend from my online artsy-fartsy group happened to mention "vessels" and how she is doing a series of items using old cigar boxes, jewelry boxes, etc. to make a series of dioramas. While she had me at the word "vessel" her comment also reminded me of my Nicho - my "Little Altar" which hadn't been given a thought in a long time. It's displayed very proudly on the shelf in our living room, but who looks at what's on their shelves after awhile?

So there I went with my camera, having a look at my old friend and hopefully turning it into a gift to share with friends. Let me tell you its story.

When my husband was in Seminary in Austin, TX, I signed up for a course called "Art & Soul." The name would have been enough for me to find interest, but the description of the course had me panting, hoping that this seminary spouse would be welcome to "sit in for free" and participate with "the paying" students.

It was this course that got my heart burning for my artistic self to shine through. I can remember it like it was yesterday, rushing home to begin my assignment and forgetting about all time and space while doing so. I even forgot (sometimes) that we were living in Austin!

Anyway, one night we were all told to choose from a selection of cigar boxes which had been provided. I chose a wooden one with a little clasp. It still smelled good (yes, like cigars) and I liked the feel of it when it was closed. We were then told about Nichos, and were assigned the project of making our own.

My Nicho is painted purple. I intentionally did not cover the outside with gesso because I did not want to lose "what it was" so the name of the cigar company still shows through on the box. For the inside, I painted a little random color on some paper. I glued little colored beads all around the inside edges (some have fallen out, I see...). On the left side, I cut two images out of Christmas cards. The gold image is of the Holy Family following the Star. But it reminded me of us - Warren, Jonathan and I - following OUR star by following our hearts and leaving our home in Denver to move to Austin and then to...who knew? This image gave me much peace of mind, allowing my insecurities to be real, but also comforting my "unknowns."

On the right side, you see two silver posts. These are just wooden objects that I painted, but are placed there as an opening - a gate, if you will - inviting us in to share ourselves with others. The little icon was a gift which seemed appropriate there as it again symbolizes us - our family. (Not that we are "Holy" just that we are "Family!") The little colored discs to the left represent problems and worries. Everyone has different concerns for themselves and for others. Some are bigger than others. The colors represent the myriad of things that people pray for and worry about. 

The little red watering can is "me" - the vessel - the one who sometimes needs to be poured out, but often needs to be filled up. Sometimes my vessel leaks, at which time I need to figure out where the leak is and have it repaired. Other times, my vessel becomes cracked. This is not always a bad thing! When it's a "good" crack, I'm flowing with being in a good reference point in my life journey...I'm being creative, my family is well, and my worries are more trivial. However, when my "crack" is a bad one, what flows out of me is like bad water and nobody wants to drink it, not even me! This is the time that I need to not find a "quick fix" but take a serious look at just what is behind this flaw and why it has become such a prominent part of who I am at that moment. Some days are better than others...I guess I'm only human!

There is one more part to my Nicho, which is barely visible (oh, my!) in the photo. It's a little brass angel hanging from a chain at the top right. It's Katie's presence in my/our lives - sometimes she moves with the breeze, other times she is steady. Same as us. Some days, she's more visible to me than others. You might say, "That's normal after 13 years" but I'm here to tell you that there is nothing normal in missing your child the way we miss Katie.

I do love my Nicho so much! Writing about it right now feels like writing about it eight years ago when I first made it. Some things leave a mark on your heart in a way you can never forget what it's there for.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Food, Glorious Food!

My kitchen skills are improving...practice makes perfect? Maybe not, but it's such a joy for me to be able to take products in hand and create fulfilling meals with them.

This week has been especially fulfilling for me. I've had lots of time to spend working in my art journals, which gives me great pleasure...and probably makes me an easier person to live with! Here is some of what I've been doing with my art journals:

First, I honored one of my life heroes - John Lennon - on his 70th birthday. I miss you, John Lennon!

The Halloween-themed spread is not my usual style, but I had fun tearing paper, painting the background for the moon and the letters, and sketching/cutting out the witch silhouette! That's just a taste of this week's fun stuff...don't want to overwhelm anyone with a bunch of pictures.

Last night's dinner was roast pork tenderloin, sweet potato fries, and braised shredded cabbage and carrots with spinach.

This morning was spent catching up with my dear friend over coffee - time well spent for each of us "away from our normal borders" and we just talked and laughed.

Later in the day, after getting a consensus from "the boys" I made meat loaf, roasted potatoes and roasted Brussels Sprouts for dinner. Every plate was clean. Warren (my chef-turned-priest husband) said it was the best meat loaf he had ever tasted! I thought it looked like more of a Meat Blob, but it was tasty!

The sunset this evening was exquisite! The clouds were challenging the sun to see which could get out of the area the fastest. The colors took my breath away!

Tomorrow is Sunday...back to "the routine." At least the high winds are dissipating and the temps are rising. Perhaps tomorrow will bring a drive to look at the beautiful foliage -- and some photos!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

All Will Be Well...

It's been an emotional day. I just feel so far away from my sister, who had some major surgery this morning. She came through fine. I'm still worried! Amy's like a daughter to me. So I cried at work this morning "because nobody here knows me or cares about me." Then, after I got home, I got an unexpected email of love and support and prayers and cried "because somebody cares about me!"

This afternoon I practiced blowing bubbles again. A lady honked and waved when she drove by, proof that you CAN give someone an extra smile in her day...a little free gift. It made me so happy, I kept blowing bubbles for ten more minutes!

Actually, it as the lovely sunset that sent me running inside to grab my camera:

Jonathan requested GLOPP for dinner, so I obliged...fresh Italian sausage baked with black olives, fresh green beans and tomatoes, finished off with a blend of five Italian cheeses. Not bad for someone who had no idea what kind of GLOPP to make when she started!

Now, I'm feeling a bit beat up, so will call it a night. All will be well.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Feeling Chuffed?

I'm part of an online group of eclectic folks who love art, writing, poetry, photography, and just plain thinking. During September, many of us took part in a challenge to "do something creative" every day. My endeavors spread the gamut - I wrote (check out, I cooked, I worked in my art journal, and I took pictures of my world.

Some of us decided to extend the challenge for the month of October. One of these people started a discussion "about what we aren't doing" which prompted this reply from me yesterday:

"When I read your "intro" to this discussion the word "chuffed" caught my eye. Had not ever heard that word before, until Abi's blog about Ramazan. Once she explained it to me, I wondered how I'd missed that word!

Do I feel "chuffed" about the last 50 days of creating? No. But I'm inspired because in everything that's been encountered, with this "accomplishment" in mind, things are seen differently. Things like the sound of my wind chimes on my porch. That's something that can't be shared, but it inspires me to look more closely and pay attention to just what's behind the sound. The wind may be too strong for my liking, but at the same time, it's creating music for my soul.

96+ hours of rain...makes me feel dreadful, but it reminds me to think about the earth and the dirt and the roots of the trees and the plants, and how much it means to them. That's another sound that can't be shared. But it's a feeling that we all our souls being fed...with something that we'll crave once the season changes.

If I had the time, I'd love to sit on my porch and just blow bubbles. Heck, I'd stand out on the street and blow bubbles at the cars whizzing by. Doing so would make me happy, and hopefully would give the drivers of those speeding bullets a moment of a smile...something to take with them...something unexpected, like a gift they had no idea was coming.

My outlook is changing, but so is my inlook, if you will. That's where I need to focus, personally, because some days are harder than others (duh!) but my goal is to make every day worth remembering."

Today, I went to the store to buy a big bottle of bubbles. Can you believe they call that a "seasonal" product? Much to my dismay! Tomorrow, I will try again. The thought of standing in front of my house during afternoon rush hour, blowing bubbles, and helping just one person gift him/herself with an extra smile makes me very excited. I'm thinking about getting other people who live on the street to join me - maybe one afternoon a week - and see how many extra smiles we can gift people with, just from blowing bubbles.

And, hopefully you are smiling unexpectedly after reading this, my friend!