Friday, December 28, 2007

"I long ago realized that my personal life was to be subjugated to my political responsibilities. When my democratically elected father, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was arrested in 1977 and subsequently murdered, the mantle of leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party, our nation's largest, nationwide grassroots political structure, was suddenly thrust upon me. It was not the life I planned, but it is the life I have. My husband and children accept and understand that my political responsibilities to the people of Pakistan come first, as painful as that personally is to all of us. I would like to be planning my son's move to his first year at college later this month, but instead I am planning my return to Pakistan and my party's parliamentary election campaign."

"I didn't choose this life. It chose me." (as written by Benazir Bhutto this past fall in a Blog for the Huffington Post).

Upon reading about the death of Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan, I came upon the above passage she wrote for the Huffington Post. It was requested by her long time friend Arianna Huffington when they last visited with each other. Her death is a great loss, not only to her followers in Pakistan, but to the world itself. Her long struggle for democracy and the rights of her people has been a lifelong mission, alas the one that would end her life. I am propelled to feel such sadness for the loss of such a remarkable woman. Her life, so reflective of generosity, strength, courage and self-sacrifice makes me wonder if one is born with such ordained character strength.

"I didn't choose this life. It chose me" - may be a lesson to all of us when we are so ready to complain and not easily accept certain situations in our life. It is a true statement, because in fact, life just is. As much as we'd like to think that we have control over it and the events that surround it, it is just going to happen. Life is a gift and we should live it with purpose as best as we can. Embrace it all, for all things are a gift, even those that are painful come with some meaning and lesson. It is God's way of teaching us to make whatever necessary changes need to be made to make way for a purer, happier and more purposeful way of living.

Her death and her words are a reminder to me to become more conscious about my own life.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tis the season to be.........harried?
My quest to not be a Scrooge, and I am determined!!

Yesterday, I decided to bite the bullet and head to the mall, yes the mall, just a week or so away from Christmas, I decide this. Why? Don't know! I could sense the crowds before I even get there. Traffic is heavy but nothing intolerable. So I proceed. Its interesting that since I really had no other purpose than to return something to Walmart (never made it within 20 feet of the register) and I wanted to put to use some coupons, to get Jon Jeans, that I should pick a Saturday afternoon (height of feverish shopping for some) to do this.

Parking wa
s not bad, and I managed a coveted spot in front of Macy's (Christmas Capital of the world) though I had no purpose to go to Macy's. Walk through I dare, just to get to the inside of the mall. As I ascend through the crowds, I can't tell you the craziness before my eyes. People with huge piles in their arms of stuff, while trying to drink their $5.00 Starbucks coffee. I could not help but smile (yes, slightly smugly) since I just had a small purpose and absolutely NO Christmas shopping to do.

Once in the Mall, aha, the line for the much desired and at times, feared picture with S
anta is
in full rage. Parents holding their infants and maybe an older sibling, all dressed up t
o meet with the most powerful man in December. Reminding me of my favorite Christmas movie "A Christmas Story" when Santa turns over little Ralphie to the elves, who shove him down the slide before he gets to tell him what he'd like for Christmas. Once again I smile(not in a mean spirit), as I watch parents frazzled because their little one is not wanting to stay still, their hair is a mess and one little girl has a rip on her tights and her pigtails are no longer even.

Now, I am realizing that I am way over dressed and I am starting to get hot. Being overly layered was not a good idea. Yet I am enjoying my foray into the mall. It is crowded, loud, decorated and it seems like every single store is having a sale. I finally hustle myself to the second floor where I find the store I am looking for and hooray for me the jeans are on sale. I easily find the size I need and get on line (which to my delight, was not long). I take out my wallet and take out my coupons, and would you believe there is a catch, darn. In order to use my $25.00 gift cards, I have to spend $50, and to boot the reason I got the 3 gift cards was because I already spent $150.00. So, what I thought was a sale was just a way to get me to buy more. Oh, well. The young man at the register kindly gave me the option of picking up a few more items so that I could use all 3 cards....uhhh no thanks. So I get the jeans and I happily turn to the people behind me and give them the last two cards. They were very grateful since it would mean $25.00 off their purchases. I smile again.......and wish them all a very MERRY CHRISTMAS.

[Ralphie is visiting Santa at the department store, only he can't remember what he wanted]
Santa Claus: How about a nice football?
Ralphie as Adult: [narrating] Football? Football? What's a football? With unconscious will my voice squeaked out 'football'.
Santa Claus: Okay, get him out of here.
Ralphie as Adult: [narrating] A football? Oh no, what was I doing? Wake up, Stupid! Wake up!
Ralphie: [Ralphie is shoved down the slide, but he stops himself and climbs back up] No! No! I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!
Santa Claus: You'll shoot your eye out, kid.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

On being Homeless.....

I have lived on Long Island for 21 years. Sitting in my rented apartment and reading the current trends on the housing market, I am astonished but not surprised to see how steeply things have declined. Yesterday I heard a report on our minimum wage and how though the cost of living has increased, the minimum wage has steadily remained stoic and solid in its ability to not grow. For the past several years I have watched my neighbors, expand, rebuild and explode their homes into enormous dwellings. I, on the other hand, sold my very small home 5 years ago, and though I had money to buy a home, there was nothing feasibly affordable for me on Long Island. Back then I was devastated to lose my home, but now I am almost believing it was a gift that I would later learn to appreciate.

Many homes have been knocked down to make room for bigger, yet less interesting new homes. These homes sit empty, like big card board boxes waiting for someone to come and fill them. I see many friends struggling to keep up with the cost of keeping up their homes. Fighting everyday to deal with the increase of taxes, and the skyrocketing price of oil. Those who took out line of credits on their home equity when their homes value was optimal, are now seeing their value decrease and are left with a loan payment on something that no longer exists. How did we not see this coming? Did we really believe that things could stay up forever and ever? Sadly, this is not just happening to a few people, it is happening nationwide. I watch the elderly with their fixed income, barely able to afford to keep the homes they've lived in their whole lives, going to vote locally to see if by some miracle, their voice will be heard.

Then you have the young professionals, laden with their student loans, credit card debt trying to find affordable housing. I spoke to a young teacher and her husband who is in finance, and they shared that they've been trying to save because they both grew up here and this is where they too want to raise their own children. Unfortunately even with two incomes, when they crunch the numbers, they would be living pay check to pay check. Another young woman with two children shared that she and her husband bought their house at the very top of the market. Only being able to afford a small home. They are now in a situation where they have two kids, cannot afford to expand because they are afraid of taking out another loan and if they sold their home they would lose money because it is no longer worth what they paid for it.

It has become a sad truth, that my son will probably never be able to afford to buy a home on Long Island. People have be squeezed into tiny corners with few options left. It makes me wonder, will we really be able to provide a better life for our children, like our parents did so very long ago?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

To bring meaning to my previous post, I need to share a story with you about a family that I met many years ago when I was a full time Social Worker at a local hospital. To do this I must start with yesterday. I was on-call and got a call from the hospital that a patient had just come in who needed to be sent to a psych hospital. The young boy was 14 and was experiencing some serious sadness and was incredibly overwhelmed with school.

When I met with him and his family, his mother looked very familiar, but I did not say anything because in my field you meet so many people with so many stories and its so easy to mix them up. His mother, a very sweet and tearful woman, shared their story with me and told me that I was the Social Worker who helped them 7 years ago when her son, then about 6 was diagnosed with a brain tumor which was cancerous. Being that it was a grade one, the prognosis was good. Five months later he would return for another surgery to remove another tumor, this time a grade 4. Since that time in 2001, he has been in remission. Yet, according to him and his family this life changing event would change everything forever and though he is healthy, he is suffering in another way. His mother also pointed out to me that she could n
ever forget my kindness and she felt it was no coincidence that I was on call this night. I spent much time with this family last night, even giving them my number so they can call me any time. I don't typically do this, and its not really acceptable with my bosses but the fact is that this is just another human being reaching out for another one. It is not just about me doing my job, its about being a human being.

As we get closer to the holidays and I hear these stories, and I can assure you that there are so many that I hear, I realize what is important and valuable. This young man who has experienced such tribulations, pain, fear, and anxiety is far braver and more giving than most people I know, including myself. It brings me to think of our fellow blogger Matty, who gives so much to her family as well as others and who's you
ng grandson is another brave soul.

Just a few minutes ago a friend told me that someone who lost his young wife at 39 about 3 years ago, leaving four young children has been diagnosed with cancer in two different areas. I ask myself how can this happen to one family. These poor children.

I ask you all to take this year to simplify, reflect, give thanks and to pray for all those who are in need of our prayers. The power of prayer is powerful and can move mountains if you just believe. You don't have to go to church to have conversations with God. A favorite time is on my way to work in the car when I am given a new day to see, breathe, smell, touch, and be surrounded by those I love. How lucky am I, that I got to see this family again, and to enrich my own life by sharing theirs.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

With the holidays approaching us with a force that can be compared to that of the Bull Races in Spain, I am holding on tight. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday and also the one to that brings me the most stress. This year I am simplifying it even more than last year.

I work with very needy families, both emotionally and financially. I also work at a hospital where I have happened to be on call for the Christmas holiday. In reflection of these things, I have to wonder, what is Christmas all about? The truth is that over time I have seen it evolve from a simple tradition of eating, gathering and yes gifts but not like the gifts of today. Today, it is not unheard of foe someone to get a car for Christmas. The gifts our children ask for are super high tech ( that h
ave nothing to do with interacting with another human being) and well my goodness, these high tech gifts have the price tag to make me choke for a moment ....or two.

I think back to the Christmases I had as a child, of course, because that is all I have to compare it to, and I a
m saddened. I remember my family gathering at mom's because back then we all lived in the same apartment building and the purchasing of gifts for the kids was a really BIG deal because these were just regular folks, making very little money. If we each got 2 gifts that was huge. I remember it as fun, with all the children running around and the adults laughing and dancing. I remember our silver Christmas tress, which I thought came from a forest filled with them. Living in the city, this tree and all of its family was a phenomenom to me. My mother never asked what I wanted for Christmas, because basically it did not matter. I got what she could afford and I always loved every single thing, well, except for clothes.

Now here I am all grown up and I am facing Christmas, wishing I could revisit the past and show my son just one of those holidays with my family. This year for Christmas day I am seeking to do volunteer work with my family in Pennsylvania. Perhaps, a soup kitchen, a shelter or a nursing home. There is a wonderful feeling that washes over me in giving something to a stranger and watching them smile. Christmas is still a time of rejoicing and giving but this year I'd like to rejoice in giving to others.

When I look around I see how very much we have and that there is nothing that any of us really need. That is the biggest gift, the ability to see how very fortunate we are.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it
is like wrapping a present
and not giving it....
~William Arthur Ward

Thanksgiving....Allen is home and gets up at 5:30 to put the Turkey in the oven so as to have it ready for our brunch time Thanksgiving dinner. Jon is sleeping and Allen let's me sleep while he stuffs the turkey and then puts it into the oven. That being done, he quietly slips back into bed and wraps me in a warm embrace.

My family comes around 1:30 and all is done. All we have to do is eat. Though I
have a good sized eat in kitchen, it is not big enough to hold 10 people for a formal sit down. Its buffet style and we all gather around to say our graces and be thankful; we fill our plates with Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potato, home-made cranberry sauce, vegetables and stuffing.

Now all are gone and the dishes are finally done and the kitchen is clean. Allen is taking a nap before going back to PA and Jon is with his dad. The house is quiet and I plug in my small Charlie Brown tree (I love that tree), which
still lights up for me after 6 years. Buster lays quietly, after a long day of having everyone pet him. I am grateful....

* For having a family who appreciates my cooking
* For having my husband near
* For my son Jon, that he is healthy
* For having a roof over my head and food to eat
* For my friends and their kindness
* For our health
* For all that I have and even what I don't have
* For my mom, who will be 91 in a week
* For my brother, who remembers and loves to retell stories of me as a child
* For my niece, who's laughter just makes my heart smile
* For my sister, who is highly emotional about old photos she doesn't have but I do (I printed some for her today)
* For having been born into my family and having the life that I now have

For so much more than I could ever put into words, I know that I am blessed each and every day. Happy Thanksgiving and many blessings to all.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

.....Bloggers Block

I've been terribly preoccupied lately with stuff that keeps my mind filled with enough junk that I can't seem to have a moment of I do apologize. I am absolutely feeling like a nitwit about my blog. Its incredible to me that as som
eone who regularly has intelligent conversations, reads political newspapers, listens to National Public Radio, and is fairly amusing to others, I have a terrible block.

There you go, I can't think of one thing to say. So, I will bore you with the big event in our home in Pennsylvania this week. Being a home built in the
1800's it has never had a proper heating system. For over 35 years it was used as a summer home by the previous owners. Well now that Allen is living there full-time and I do wish to visit occasionally, we decided we had to get some type of furnace. The truth is that in North Eastern Pennsylvania it gets plenty cold....burrrr, and if my husband wants to see his wife who does not live with him, there's got to be some heat (and NO, body heat does not count).

After much research by Allen, because that's his thing, we (not really) he, decided to go with a coal burning furnace. This project has been, lets say different. My husband built a giant bin in our storage shed taking up all space. The furnace was installed in increments over a 2 week period by my husband, who I must say did all this with deep love and devotion and a joyful heart. OK.
He fired it up yesterday for the first time and through out the day at work, I held my breath, praying he would not blow the house up or worse himself. I really do have faith in abilities, really I do. In the afternoon to my great joy, he emails me a picture of our now fully working furnace...yipeeeee!!Now I did not think......what happens when I am old and "I" have to shovel that coal in from outside, huumm??

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Addendum to my last blog :

As I sat at a Dunkin Donuts this evening waiting to see my grand-daughter Anna's show (Urinetown), I realized thanks to her mom, that today is All Saints Day not Ascension Thursday.....Point in Fact, I really make a terrible Catholic LOL. I can't tell one holy day from the next except for the really popular one like Christmas and Easter. That might be the reason my friend Janet thinks I may have made a good Jew. I honestly think I know more about their holy days.

Regardless, it was still a very fine day for gratitude. In more ways than one. And yes, I am proud to say I have a grand-daughter actually a couple, but thats for another day.

Today is Ascension Thursday -" The fact itself, the fact of the Ascension, is very simple. It took place forty days after Jesus rose from the dead. Forty days after he had completed His work. Jesus left the apostles and went back to heaven. This is the fact of the Ascension." (quoted from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia)

I took the day off from work as many of my colleagues did today. We get a floating holiday or two and most of us took it, leaving the
school district in a frenzy trying to find substitute teachers. My Principal teased me, asking me if I'd be going to morning mass. I chuckled stating that I would pray in the solace of my spiritual place. I have not been in a church since my son did his confirmation 3 years ago. I, having my own personal issues with the Catholic church choose not to attend. Yet, my issues are not with God, so seek him I always do.

Off I went early this morning to seek my place and I found it in a nature preserve near my home. I walked 5 miles relishing in the quiet of the morning even though just a few feet away was a major highway, I was wrapped in the solace of woods and lakes with the only noise coming from the birds and ducks that were enjoying this first day of November. The weather is slightly humid but warm for this time of year, making me worry that this is not a good sign.

I love these days when I am off from work and selfishly don't tell anyone, out of fear that requests to share my time will be imposed upon me. I take great pride in saying no but sometimes it is difficult. As I walk and listen to John Denver on my Ipod, softly so as not to break the beauty around me with too much noise, I see other people who also have taken the time to enjoy this gift from God. There was an elderly couple looking across the lake, they seemed to be lost in a private world as he reached over and kissed his beloved. I smiled and walked on, knowing they too were enjoying this moment.

After my walk is over, I usually rush to get home to see how many chores I can fit in before Jon gets home from school, but not today. I sat on bench with the most perfect view and I prayed. I prayed for a soulful life and one rich in health. I gave thanks for my sight and ability to walk. I thanked God for being so kind and generous in giving us such an exceptional home (earth), and then I cried and asked him to please forgive us for not taking better care of his gift. (for your enjoyment)

Friday, October 05, 2007


It is October 3rd, and I am sitting at dinner in a crowded, loud Mexican restaurant, I am feeling slightly light-headed, from the noise and the sinus infection that afflicted me a couple of days ago. I am not particularly hungry, partly because I don't feel well and partly because my stomach is so big I can barely breath these days. I am pregnant and due on Monday, October 5th, 1992. I am quiet and my husbands children seem to be talking a mile a minute. We are there to celebrate my step-daughters birthday. As I get up for the 3rd time to go to the bathroom, she yells, "God I hope your not planning to deliver on my Birthday". Honestly, I didn't have the energy to reply.

As luck would have it, I go home, go to bed and once again get up to use the bathroom. When I look in the bowl, I see what I believe to be my mucus plug, just floating about....
At that moment my friend Kate comes home (she's staying with us while looking for an apartment), I walk into her room and I sit on a chair and say "I feel funny". Being a good and caring friend, she makes a big fuss in making me comfortable, well as comfortable as a beached whale can get. After a few minutes I think I am OK so I get up and the flood gates open. Really the amount of water that comes out is just shocking.

At the hospital, because of my sinus infection it does not go too well. I can't breath and so my breathing and pushing is not up to par. The doctor comes and goes and comes and goes. The nurses change shifts and I am still there waiting. I spend all of Sunday along with my friend Patti, who is also my coach, in the hospital. At some point in a state of despair I tell Patti that she must go "down there"
and check if she see's this baby. Poor Patti! Forty-eight long, long hours later on Monday, October 5th, at 4:08 pm, after pushing for 5 hours, I deliver Jonathan by C-Section into our world.

Alone in my room with Jonathan in my arms, I wonder how I ever lived without him. My heart is so filled with love for this tiny baby and I pray to God that I will be just the right mom for him. Feeling a love so powerful that it still gives me a lump in my throat. When the nurse comes in to check on me I am crying and she says to me, "what's wrong" and I say, "you don't understand, everything is finally just right".

Happy 15th Birthday my Jon.......

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pictures ......of myself, my life and those I love.....

For quite awhile now I've been trying to figure out how to post a photo of myself on my site, well its not happened. Something about a URL...blah, blah, blah. I don't get it, why can't I just post from my documents. As much as I think I am computer savvy, so much does escape me.

So here are some of my favorites...............

This was fun -- hope you all enjoy!!! I still don't know how to url my photos...if anyone has a simple, stress free way of telling me how to do it, I would appreciate it. Hope all my blogger friends are doing well....Ciao

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Immigrant, or just a human being who loves America...

Two weeks ago my brother and I went to the Bronx to take our mother 91, to church. My brother, from Brooklyn, and I from Long Island, meet at our moms apartment and we all walk to church together. St. Athanasius is the parish of my childhood and my mother has been going there for over 40 years. The walk to church is only about 12 minutes but with my mother's slow, gliding pace it takes us about 30 minutes. Along the way, we make several stops to meet and greet other church goers. It is apparent to me that my sweet, and beautiful mother is well known, loved and respected in this neighborhood where so little is to be had. The community, since our arrival in the mid 1960's has undoubtedly changed. Where there once was a small population of Jews, Italians and African Americans, there are now mostly people from Central and South America.

On our Arrival to the church we are greeted by Father Smith who happily and lovingly greets my mom and asks her if she has found a plaque in the shape of a leaf on the churches tree of life which is helping to make some much need repairs to our old church (it celebrated its 100th year in 2007). To my surprise my mother has donated a generous amount in memory of my sister Lily to help her church, as have many of the other members. As I look around, I can't help but smile at the joy on their faces as they so proudly search for their plagues and I am so deeply struck when I think that these are my people, my community who is so rich in their love for their church, God and their community.

St. Athanasius, is an old church that over the many years has had few repairs. It is simply decorated, with few and simply details. There is no air conditioning and on hot day as on that day the whir of the fans send a whisper of sweet and intoxicating comfort. During the homily, which I have to say the Colombian priest, does beautifully, the service is centered on real life in the community. He talks to his congregation as if they are truly his family, mentioning names, telling a joke, sharing stories about dinner at so and so's house.

At times, I would look around and remember moments of my childhood, like when I was 8 and I wore a tube top (small shirt) to church and the old lady behind me pulled my ear and told me that I should never come to church in such attire, or when Father caught me chewing gum and told me that the good Lord was probably turning in his grave, or as we got older and my sister and I would stay out dancing all night and when we got home my mother would tell us not to even think of going to bed because we were going straight to church. This was the place where I grew up.

Towards the end of Mass I looked around and all I saw was happy, smiling faces, young, old, babies, many of them immigrants who don't have citizenship and worry every day that they may be sent back to their countries. These people who have gathered in this community and are so committed to each other. These people who struggle with poverty, cannot get medical insurance or help from our government because the are illegal. All they want is the same thing that the rest of us desire, to work, feed their families and live in a safe place where their children may one day have a chance for a better life than the one they know. These, the indigenous people of Peru, Guatemala, Ecuador, Panama, Mexico and many others stood before me with love in their eyes as the sang "God Bless America" as their closing hymn.

Standing outside my old church on this lovely sunny day, with my 90 year old mother, never believing when I was 8 that she would still be standing in front of this beautiful old church holding my hand as if I were still 8, I felt a rush of love, happiness and gratitude for Father Gigante (then the Pastor) who greeted us and welcomed us to a community that would always continue to embrace us and always welcome me home. Our family came here seeking a better and new life, just like those standing around me. Many decades later we know how very lucky we have been.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The first day of school brings back moments in which I feel as if I am eight years old again . As I drive Jonathan to school on this first day, it is warm and the prospect of another year has us both driving quietly, wishing for just another week of summer vacation. I am grateful to have this time with Jon in the car as we both watch children getting on buses and some walking to school, some with backpacks and others with just their thoughts. I know it won't be long before he goes of to college and this morning ritual will be just a sweet memory for me.

This is not just Jon's first day of his sophomore year in High School, it is also my first day of school. At 45, I still spend hours the day before school getting ready
, cooking, planning for the week as if by some weird coincidence there will be no hours left in the day. It amuses me some, how I go about this routine of food shopping, getting clothes ready, planning meals as if there will not be time left in the coming year. The first day of school is still a big event in my life, for I too go back to my school, my students and a whole new year filled with some problems but also hope, promise and new beginnings.
After dropping Jon off I am greeted on my way out of the lot, by an array of trees covered in toilet paper, floating in a stream.
In some ways I should be upset by the waste and mess, but as the sun is slowly coming up and peeking through the trees and all the kids are walking about this cloud of streamers, there is some sort of beauty around this moment. In my car, it is quiet and I am allowed to drive by this parade feeling and drinking in the beauty of the first day of school.

I walked into my school with my smiley stickers in my hand and instead of feeling bad that summer had concluded, I put on a smile and embraced the moment I had waited for, with anticipation, and I greeted my first day of school.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Besieged....but why??

I awoke this morning, to find myself in an utter state of overwhelmingness. Feeling as though I've gotten on the wrong train. I am not sure if it is the upcoming 45th year of my life, in which I am questioning direction, purpose and answers for myself. Or if its just my hormones gone wild. Often I am optimistic and balanced, this morning I am neither. It is not that I am not grateful for each moment that I have. Every day I typically wake up filled with joy at the possibilities for"potential" - potential for moments that take my breath away, potential of seeing a friend, potential of doing something good and meaningful. Today it was as if someone unplugged me, leaving me in a state, to which I can only wrinkle my nose as if smelling something foul.

I believe in my heart that this is not all bad.....for I am being forced to sit with myself and examine my inner happenings. Though, in a state duress, I know that anytime I have felt this way in the past, its because I have veered, veered from meditation, praying, and my own self. It has happened before, I get too comfortable and I stop doing the work, my daily work of the self. Because of this state, I am frazzled and now it appears that my neighbor has gotten a new toy, a motorcycle, which he has, to his delight and to the fraying of my nerves been reving up for almost 45 minutes now. Such noises to me seem a disrespect to humanity and the environment. They are not peaceful making sounds in any way.

"Oh God, thank you, he just stopped playing with his toy. Please don't let him find some other noise maker that will break the soft sounds of the birds playfulness." Yesterday he was trying to fix some screeching device like a saw for what seemed like hours until I believe one of the other neighbors complained. I am telling you it could have woken the dead.

I will be redirecting myself into some place of awareness today. Taking the time to meditate and bring balance back to myself and in doing so, bringing balance around me. When I look about me, I see the specialness of the world around me and it deeply saddens me to see the damage done. I often feel that there is something that I am suppose to be doing. I hope that in trying to find my own center and balance that I can promote it outward so that it can touch and renew, for I love life and the gift of living.

Off I go to count my blessings and then once again quiet my mind......

Monday, July 30, 2007

Its been awhile???

For those of you wondering where I've been.....update -- Note the post below. I went to Indiana (new post below). But that was weeks ago, so here it is. My computer is down...not just down but after being away for two weeks (in which it was quite fine). I come home turn it on and note that something fishy is happening...I cannot get to a web browser - none. So after spending 2 1/2 hours with Verizon on the phone desparately trying to find some solution, there was none. We checked all the wires, the router, the basement for some possible explanation - none. The gentlemen at Verizon explained quite calmly that we've tried everything and I need to have a "tech guy" come over and further check out the problem. I, not feeling so calm, and I will admit having some withdrawal issues with my blog and bloggers - proceed to freak out.

After my small melt down I now have a future appointment with the
"tech guy" for August 9th between 8 and 12 noon (yeah right). Later that evening as I am at the doctors office for my annual mammogram - I get a call, yes, as the machine is slowly coming down upon my breast - I see that its Verizon. I told the nice girl that I really needed to pick up and she sweetly rolled her eyes. And so, naked from the waist up and my breast sitting like a slab of meat (chicken cutlet), I answer my phone to find that it is Steve from Verizon wanting to know if I had a moment to do some more trouble shooting with the computer. I kindly declined giving him full details of my predicament to which he replied, " oh, uh, oh uhmm ok uhm well, uh maybe I should call later, uh uhm oh, sorry uh....thank you. Click". I think I will just wait till the "tech guy" comes over.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The mover, shaker and the Pyramid maker......

A road trip to the mid-west with Allen and Jon for Allen's family reunion....what to expect? For me, honestly, I thought it could only mean a quirky and interesting introduction to my husbands family who I had not yet met, even though we are going on two years of marriage. For Allen, perhaps some anxiety mixed in with joy at seeing his family for the first time in a long time, especially his mother who he loves and as he stated "you never know what you are going to get". For Jon, a very long car ride with his (annoying) parents and an ever so boring view (lots of green cornfields) and more boring moments to come.

What we really got was, well, so much more. Driving to Indiana from Pennsylvania entails lots of green, mountains of green, then flat greens. The 10 hour
drive would end at the home of my sister-in-law Lauren and her partner Lynn. They being the mover, shaker and the pyramid maker (will explain later). We knew that we'd arrived when we noted the political stickers at the front gate. The long driveway was segway to a colorful and lush garden, huge barking dogs, and the most beautiful Arabian horses one could hope to see after a long drive. Outside, my eyes were drawn to the white haired woman carrying a bucket, pants scrunched up to the knees, this being my mother-in-law, Kathleen Kester, who had just finished planting some fruit trees. Lauren and Lynn soon follow with embraces that immediately made me feel at home.

Inside, we were greeted by the tiniest Yorkie named, Nettie, who is quite the hostess and according to all very sick. Nettie in all her spunk d
oes not know quite how sick she is having severe COPD. Nettie soon settles into a week long of hugs, kisses and lots of love from Jon and I. So here I am in a family that so loves animals and I marry the only one who would rather eat them. Oh did I also mention Kathleen brought along with her, from her home in New Mexico, her beloved Maltese's Marcie and Cherry. Yes, it was my husbands worse nightmare, a house filled with dogs and worse than that a bunch of women who love these animals more than anything. His other sister Janine has 20 dogs, all whose names start with the letter "S". She can recite their names quite easily too. I think Janine felt it was best for Allen not to even know.

Lauren and Lynn kindly set up a tent on their property and this worked out very nicely, except on the night in which the horses were passing the tent in the middle of the night and I thought it was some insane animal, like a bear, or worse a hyena (do those even live in Indiana?).

During this visit there was a lot of reminiscing about their childhood, and Kathleen's life. Kathleen moved to New Mexico and started a whole new life after her divorce from Allen's dad. My husband has often spoken of his mom as an artist but truly I cannot even begin to describe what a gifted woman she is. She is an artist in all mediums, specializing in carvings, be it wood, stone, turquoise, bronze, she does it all. I believe Kathleen was a prodigy who never went to art school or when she attempted her husband said absolutely not. She was born with a gift, one that few people have naturally. After several days with my new family I felt sad that I could not spend more time with my mother-in-law. I wish that I could just talk to her about her work for days, trying to capture, just for a bit, her genius.

Lauren and Lynn, well they are just the most humble, kind and warm women and to say that I just love them is really so lame but sometimes that is the only way to say it. Lauren is a fighter (in a good way), she is a survivor and a lover. Lynn is quiet, sweet, and someone that you just know you can count on. Together they are perfect. So the reason they are the mover, the shaker and the pyramid maker is that when I asked where they slept, Lauren tells me they sleep in separate rooms because she moves a lot and gets up often because of her restless legs. Lynn just lays down on her side, face up, in a quiet and gentle posture, with her hands together making a pyramid with her fingers, peaceful as can be.

Two days after our arrival we all go to the family farm where there are numbers of cars, trailers and tents camping out for the "big" family reunion. It was a sweltering hot day but all 175 members showed up. I had never seen anything like it. I don't even think I know that many people. There was to be a family photo, yes with all 4 generations and 175 people. We all lined up in front of the old porch, babies, teens, adults and the elderly, patiently waiting for all the cameras to do their job. It was a lovely day with many lovely people.

Our trip, was a rich one. I got to see all the homes my husband lived in from the time of his birth. I got to view his family history through Lauren's labor of love - a scrapbook going back to her great grand-parents. This was a two book scrapbook honoring their mother's life. The best part was understanding my husband, who he is, where he came from and how he got to be where he is. My new family is quirky, funny, smart as heck and truly just another great addition to the family I already have.

Kathleen left the day before us to go back home to New Mexico. As we said our farewells, my heart went completely a flutter when to my great pleasure, Kathleen said six little words that made me so happy, "I think you are just swell" -- Yay I had my mother-in-laws stamp of approval. As for the others, I think we are all blessed.

Thanks Lauren, thanks Lynn...........till next time.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Being in the here and now.....

A dear friend and I spoke today about last nights lovely dinner, where we met up with two other friends, in Long Beach, New York. It was a stunning evening with a beautiful sunset (pictured above). After dinner we walked to the boardwalk and shared some reflective time together. My friend is befuddled by my consistent ability to stay centered on the here and now and not be easily seduced by thoughts of the past or a future that is unpredictable. It has not always been this way for me, for I was a compulsive thinker and pervasively distracted by thoughts that only caused me high anxiety. It is not a journey that is easily explained, the only way to speak of it, is to say that it has been a long and trying journey, one that was often conflicting and painful but also a self-reflective and eye opening one. When the mind is constantly talking, you are an active participant and that can be very exhausting. I have chosen to be an observer. My mind is no longer in control.

I told my friend that it has taken me a long time to surrender to that which I cannot control (which is most things). I live each day within that day, trying not to let my mind talk me into entering fear based projections. It is not an easy task and takes a lot of practice to redirect ones self into the present, but it does get easier. I do have future goals but they are on shelf until they need to be dealt with. I look at each day with a joyful embracing outlook because "it is what it is" and that is perfectly fine. I don't feel the need to control what is untangeable in any way. My husband lives in Pennsylvania, I am on Long Island where I need to be at this time. I see this as a time where it just has to be this way.

I know that there are things that must be done at this time and that is where I am at. To be in a constant state of wanting only leads to more wanting and wishing. Learning to surrender, and not needing to control the unforseeable allows for greater and deeper peace. It is this that I keep as my daily focus. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not......but "it is what it is".

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Looking out the window, the sky seemed so vast and beautiful. There are times when the beauty is so grand that I lose myself in all its splendor. I was home, in Pennsylvania, for the weekend and the sky which had been threatening all day to shout out loud, finally got its way. The view from my upstairs window which faces the mountains was brilliant in color. To my delight I was privy to the show in the sky.

The sky lighting up all around me, casting light where there were shadows. Colors of blue, purple, lavender and red brightened the dark country night. In my underwear and t-shirt I ran outside to watch this spectacular show of lights. Feeling so close to the earth, nature and God and grateful that I, so small in this world was lucky enough to be showered with such a sight.
No rain in sight, just a dance of lights in the pitch dark sky. How lucky am I. With my husband standing, holding me close, we watched in silence and gratitude for such a sight.

It is so easy to forget to stop, look and listen when things are so busy all the time. But at this moment, I was captivated in total delight. Standing with a great big smile, I felt like a child watching life happen for the very first time.

Friday, June 01, 2007

What a woman another woman

Several months ago upon speaking with my dear friend Mary Ann, I realized with great satisfaction, how much I enjoy her company and wisdom. Women just provide something for each other that a man cannot provide. What is this?......I think to myself, well its loyalty, honesty and plain old fashion realism. I decide that a womens group would be ideal for myself and some close women friends, all of us in the 40 and up category. Tonight we meet at Mary Ann's house, (her husband just left for a bicycle tour for the weekend). The group consists of Myself, Mary Ann, Lisa (of the sweet 16), Lisa (of the "a comforter is not a bedspread), and Chris who is Mary Ann's neighbor (who's husband left her, claiming he wants to have fun - huh!). These women are spirited, kind, funny, smart, spiritual and strong.

We are all forty something and then some. Our meetings consists of wine, food, laughter, honesty, sharing and advise after good listening. Most of our meetings are supportive and constructive. We discuss life, our children, work, and very often the men in and out of our lives. It is not a vengeful discussion but one that faces our mistakes, the good times and how we can improve our lives. Each of us has a story to share, providing some honest wisdom to the others. It is a group where we can be ourselves and not be afraid of being rejected. We respect each other and look to each other for solace when we need. It is a place where we all feel safe and loved without conditions.

In one of our sessions I posed a question, "what advice would you give to a younger women"? Following are some of the things we believe in:

1. Educate yourself.

2. Have your own savings account even if married.

3. Love your body now for in 10 years it will change, drastically.

4. Be true to yourself.

5. Surrender to what you cannot control, it will be less painful.

6. Don't give up your dreams, ever...

7. Love, respect and honor yourself first.

8. Believe..........always

9. Always do your best...

10. Don't take anything personally, its usually other peoples stuff.

11. Say what you mean and stick with it.

12. Falling in love is a wonderful journey when you no longer need it to be complete.

I can probably go on with the list, but you get the gist of it. We all agree that marriage and relationships are wonderful, when there is mutual respect, honor, humor and kindness. We all understand that we are on a journey and we are explorers in a world of immense vastness and possibilities. So here is to our journey and being enlightened.......salute!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Daughter I never had.....

The year was 1982 and I was 20 years old and my sister Carmen was 30. We were sitting at the pizza shop having a slice with extra cheese when she tells me that she is pregnant (and unwed) and she was wanting advice from me (yeah right) on how to break the news to our very Catholic, strict and at times puritan mother. I am not sure that I was able to provide much insight or good advice while choking on my extra cheese pizza but my mother did handle it well. Hence the birth of my beautiful niece Veronica, there should be
not misunderstanding for any family that may read this, that all our nephews and nieces are very loved and beautiful, but Veronica practically lived with us from the time of her unexpected yet delightful birth.

My sister being a single parent and let's just say inexperience in any form of res
ponsibility required much help. I being the "all about me" 20 year old thought its her baby, she'll handle it. Problem occurred when my sister came home from the hospital and with her she brought this little pink doll of a child with black curls that made you think of the softest black fur. This baby, so small, and smelling like warm honey on a summer day stole my heart forever. I fell in love and there was no turning back.

My mother became Veronica's permanent baby sister/grandma. I became her watcher, protector and teacher of sorts. Veronica grew and amazed us with her every accomplishment. We were her captive and loving audience. When my sister worked on the weekends I would take over for my mom. She brought joy in ways that I cannot explain but in the way that only small children do with their joy, laughter, and simple curiosity and innocence.

In 1987, I got married and moved to Long Island, Veronica would spend summers and most school breaks with me. The move was very difficult for the two of us. At one point I selfishly asked my sister if I could keep her during the week (so that I was ensured that she would go to a good school) and I would take her back on the weekends. My sister was terribly insulted with this and in retrospect I understand. I worried constantly about my niece and wanted to provide her with the things that my sister could not. My sister understood that it was all out of love and allowed me t
o do so. I took my niece to her first symphony, her first play and first night club. She had her first glass of wine with me and came to me with her many questions about love.

Veronica is 24 now and has had many challenges in her life but she is enormously loved, she's in College (for Speech Pathology), and she's in love. She is a sensible, smart, kind, beautiful girl with a laugh that
makes you want to embrace her for making you smile. A year ago Veronica started dating Nick, a lovely and sweet young man. Similar to a mother, I miss my girl for she visits a lot less, and calls less. I know she is so busy with School, friends and Nick and it warms my heart with joy to know that she is happy and her life is full of wonderful happenings.

On Memorial Day Veronica calls me to tell me that Nick proposed while she was visiting him in North Carolina (he's joined the Army - and how I worry). She said "yes" of course. She was afraid to call me with the news for fear of disappointing me. How could this child disappoint me when all she has done is brighten my life. I did beg her to finish school first and she agreed whole heartedly. I gave her my blessings.

In 1983 I would receive a gift that I opened one day later in life, when I realized I would not be having any more children after my loving son. I realized that my niece would always be the daughter I never had. God has a way of providing us with what we need even when we don't know it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

"A Moment of discontent"

I lay in bed listening to sweet music as the birds realize that the feeder has once again been filled. It is Sunday, Mother's Day at 6:45 am, and I am relishing the thought of lingering under my sheets, planting some flowers and even perhaps stealing a kiss from son. I always tell Jon that he should not worry about gifts and that a card would be lovely. My favorite being the homemade kind that carry a syrupy message and an awkward picture. I have to admit I am a card/letter junky. I have an addiction since he was little for little messages that say "I think of you". Allen does not quite understand my "thing" with cards or why they can make or break a day.

I am not sure which events made me a little weary of the day ahead, the pains in my back that kept me up most of the night, Jonathan breaking his pinky and needing a cast the day we were suppose to leave and meet Allen in PA (he's been there a week now trying to sort things out) or just this overall feeling that things were strained with Allen.

So here I am laying in bed trying to just concentrate on the world outside my window when from the other room I hear a bellowing, "MA!!", "There is banging and like glass brea
king coming from the closet", I roll my eyes knowing exactly what it is. I turn to Allen, "oh no not today," apparently squirrels have no regard for Mothers Day. Jon comes running to our room looking wide eyed and flipped out. "What the heck is that, you need to go check". Allen rolls over and says, "wow I am really surprised that he came today, its been a while".

A couple of days ago after investigating our squirrel problem and figuring out the best way to deal with the problem, Allen set up a rat trap. I was OK with this only I didn't want to be there when it happened. You see the squirrel lives in our attic and comes into the house when we've vacated through a hole in the closet in Jon's bedroom. I never thought it would really enter the inner part of our home, especially while we are there. For the most part the squirrel has not damaged anything (that we can see) it just kind of comes in and leaves it nuts about the house.

"Please go check," I ask Allen dreading the reality of it. Allen goes to check and says, "yep, its the squirrel, I am surprised that he's not dead," we'll give it a few minutes". I tell Jon to go to the other room and try to go back to sleep. He shakes his head and walks to the other room, coming back a few minutes later to tell us that he can still hear it thrashing about. I turn to Allen, "you have to do something", I start to cry, "I can't stand knowing that its alive and suffering". Allen gets up and goes to take care of it. I hear him go about and when he comes back, I don't ask. I don't want to know.

And so this is how I start my morning on Mother's Day. I realize that my son has fo
rgotten and I try to pretend its OK. I go about making coffee and hoping that he will soon remember and present me with my precious card. After a couple of hours I realize that its not going to happen and I want to cry. I don't want to display this at home so I tell them that I am going for a drive and from the computer and the TV I hear a united "see you later". I am devastated for I think that I ask for little from my son and husband alike. To not be acknowledged on Mother's Day made me feel forgotten and unappreciated. I drive about, then end up at Walmart (where else do forlorn mothers go?) where I waltz the isles aimlessly looking for purpose.

When I get home, I find a very embarrassed boy, who approaches me with a hug and a kiss and says sadly, "Happy Mothers Day Mom". My niece Veronica had called while I was out to wish me a Happy Mothers Day.....awakening my son to his small blunder. I love Jon more than anything, and I don't like to guilt him but that day I could not hide my disappointment. I miss the days of sloppy wet kisses, macaroni picture frames, painted portraits of me looking like a stick figure with funny hair. I called my mom for the third time that day in case she felt a little like I did, and also, selfishly, to feel the way one does when one speaks to the person who loves them the most in the world.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

An Addendum to my last post:

At 6:00 I called my son....there was no answer. I called his fathers home to be told that he had taken him to the movies to keep him from going to Anna's party. I cannot say that I held my ground and center, calling him a few choice words. Mostly, I asked "how could you do this to Jon, someone you are suppose to love and protect? He does not answer but only questions me "why are you going to a party with my family?" - I gathered myself in order to say to him, " The question you should be asking yourself is WHY YOU ARE NOT GOING TO YOUR FAMILIES PARTY?"
I hung up the phones shaken.
I realized I could not let him control my life, he could try as he might to work his destructive behaviors but it was up to me to keep them out of my life as best as possible. He may have some control over my son but he has no control on the way I handle myself and my ability to remain grounded. I went to the party where Anna was glowing and beautiful in all of her 16 years. Lisa was a wonderful host, she looked beautiful and all that she's done for Anna came vividly through. Though Jon was not there (there were a few times when someone would ask for him and my tears would well up), he was missed and there was something lost. Lisa, Anna, Jon and I will never be separated and throughout life our love and bond will grow stronger.... there will be other party's and moments to share.
On a light note, upon getting home at about 1:45 am, I realized that Allen forgot I left my key home. I knocked, rang the bell for several minutes hoping the dog would bark. Par for the course the dog (who barks at his own shadow) would not bark and wake Allen who was sleeping upstairs. I kept saying "Buster its me mommy, please bark" - but no way. I did not have my cell phone, so I ended up driving to the local 7/11 to use the pay phone and called Allen to wake up....thankfully he did and opened the door. I fell asleep quickly and somewhat peaceful to know that I was there for those I love, even my son though he doesn't know it...yet.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

" The world breaks everyone and afterwords....
many are strong at the broken places"
~E. Hemingway
A farewell to Arms

Today is my ex-husbands' granddaughters sweet 16. Anna's mother, Lisa, and I are best friends, more like sisters. We look alike, we think alike and were married to father and son. We are both divorced from the father and son. Over the years we have seen our friendship survive the break up of the family. We have watched our children grow and have remained loyal to each other in spite of the discourse of a very dysfunctional family. Through it all Lisa and I have stuck with each other through many hard times and tears but also through laughter. Lisa was there for me when I lost Dennis on September 11th, when my niece died shortly 5 months later and then 3 months later when my dear sister Lilly passed on. I have been there for Lisa through her first and second divorce, through the pain of lives difficulties, as a single mother and then recently when her father Frank passed away just this Christmas. Lisa calls me when she needs to vent and I call her. The latest phone call this morning almost as a last minute gentle touch before a very busy day and later Anna's party to which my son Jon and I will be going
(Allen is packing to go to PA).
About an hour ago my son called me very upset (it is his father's weekend and I was to pick him up at 6:00 to go to Anna's party). At this party Anna's father Michael will be with his wife, children and his two brothers and there families. My ex has not spoken or seen Michael, his son, in about 5 years over an argument with Michaels sister. The brothers do not speak to the sister (bear with me, I know it is tricky to follow - bizarre actually). Michael did ask Lisa not to invite me (not sure why - he and I were never on bad terms) to which she stated " What!! are you crazy". Recently he asked her to tell me that I was not to say hello to him, his family nor his brothers. Ok,so back to Jon's phone call. He calls to tell me that his father is not allowing him to go to Anna's party. The phone call was heart wrenching, here is my 14 year old put in a position that no one should be in. Jon and Anna are very close. I could tell that my son was frustrated, tearful and directing his anger at me. He told me that he hates this family and can't stand what his father and I do. My heart was breaking for him. I know that Jon understands that he can be angry with me because it is safe and I will always love and support him. He is terrified of his fathers meanness and would never dare contradict him. He would never defy his father but it is safe to defy me. This I understand.
I told Jon that I understood and I felt sad that he was in such a state. Jon began to direct all his anger and frustration at me. I told him that I could challenge his father, but this scares him. I told him that one day, even if its not today, he would have to stand up to him, but, that for now I would support his decision (not that he has any choice, trust me). I told him that I loved him, he was crying and said he doesn't know what to do. I told him it was OK but that he should understand that I thought it was a terrible thing that his father was doing to him and to Anna. He said his father told him "that your mother is ruining it for everyone by going". Meanwhile Anna and Lisa (whose paying for the party) invited me. Anna calls me Nani and I have been at every major event in her life. I told Jon that I loved him and that he did not do anything wrong, that whatever choice he made, I understood why he made it. I hung up and cried from frustration at not being able to help Jon and also in knowing that 7 years after our divorce, my ex could still hurt me, not directly but by hurting our child. I cannot even but into words what I think of him as a human being and how I wish sometimes he would disappear but the other me knows that this is a journey my son has to take and I cannot stop it. I understand that there are lessons that he will learn from his dad, as I did when I was married to him. He is not a healthy person and he lives enmeshed in his own venom, it is truly quite sad.
My son is a good, kind and smart boy. I know that regardless of who his father is, my presence in his life will be his true force of goodness, truth and well-being. My son will find his way, I cannot pave the road for him nor make it a smooth one, but when he loses his way, he will know that my hand will always be within reach to guide him home.
Life is hard but we do mend and sometimes, if we are lucky, we grow stronger.....