Former columnist for the Los Angeles Post Examiner, the Baltimore Post Examiner, and Gatehouse News Service

Monday, June 17, 2013

Happy Monday! 

Allrighty, one thing I never thought I would do at this point in time is link to an article in AARP. But why get hung up on ageism? If something is helpful, it's helpful, right? So, for a list of things to do after you turn fifty, click here. I am going to go do something age appropriate...never!!!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Playoff Hockey Blues

It is playoff hockey time in America. Which means that my family's world has stopped. We measure time by games, now, not standard units of measurement like hours or days. It takes precedence over everything- everything. Case in point:

On Mother's Day, the Bruins were playing. Their game was at night, so the day was mine - I received wonderful, appropriately sweet and appreciative cards from my three sons, and I had breakfast in bed. Then, I lounged around with coffee, and then I watched two movies all by myself - Heaven. About 5 pm, I decided to take my three dogs for a walk - we had been walking four miles a day for a week, and I didn't want a (pretend) holiday to break our rhythm. Little did I know, the pampering should have just continued, because about 50 yards from my front door I fell into a gopher hole in the median strip between sidewalk and street, and sprawled into the road. The dogs, bewildered, (why a nap now? Didn't she nap enough during Out of Africa, or The Guilt Trip?) formed a protective circle around me (not really - they strained to keep moving, causing me to be stretched like Braveheart on the rack) while I stared at the pavement under my face and considered my options. Getting up was not a choice, as pain was making me nauseous and breathless. Finally a neighbor ran over with her cell phone - she was on a successful walk, one where no one falls - and helped me back to me feet/foot. Long story short, I made it home, dragging openly unsympathetic dogs behind me.

When I got home, my ankle swelled to baseball size, and the pain was an immense, throbbing nightmare. My husband and 14 year old got home from golfing (yes, on Mother's Day - I'm that swell of a person) and they were shocked to see my pitiful self crumpled on the couch with a bag of frozen peas on my ankle. My husband administered ice and sympathy, to no avail. The pain increased. "I might need to go get an x-ray," I said, to be met with wary, uncertain looks from the males in my household. I was puzzled - were all our car batteries dead? Had the hospital been closed in a random act of Obamacare? My son said, "Well, but....the Bruins are on."

"I know, but I'm hurt," I explained patiently, eyes rolling back in my head from pain. This was a teachable moment about priorities. My ankle now looked like a bumpy mountain range, indistinguishable as a separate bone in the swelling landscape of my foot. I looked to my husband, who smiled uncertainly. I could suddenly see into his brain: Playoff game. Bruins. TV at emergency room small. She's tough. It's a sprain. Playoff game.

Really? I said.

"Lets just try some wine; it'll relax you," he said. "Then we'll just check you out after the ice has had a chance to work." (In between periods one and two, I was guessing.) Well, wine is nice, but it's not a doctor. Two glasses later, however, I was cheering the Bruins on and smiling dreamily down at my ankle. I was okey-dokey. In fact, I was brave. I was a tough cookie. I love Bergeron. I'm sleepy!

So, two weeks later, the Bruins are still in contention, and the stakes have gotten even higher. All the men in my world are nervous wrecks during the games, which makes me want to watch, but also be busy. So, I bought some dog clippers Saturday, and for two hours on Saturday night, during the Bruins game, turned our dog Baby from this:

 
Into this:
 
 
 
 
 
I really did. Now the guys are calling me Edward Scissorhands, and the dog is a lot cooler (and sassier!) She does look like Liberace, which is a little unsettling, but whatever. Oh, and one little note: since my ankle is still healing, I need the guys to help me walk the dogs. So the men in my family will be walking a very dainty poodle (complete with "cufflinks") all over the neighborhood. Have fun with that, guys.

Go Bruins.( And go medical care!)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Adopt A Soldier

    
It has been almost a month since I have posted on the blog...wow, horrible! Like everyone else I am  busy, pulled in many directions with work, parenting, and the dribs and drabs of daily life. But I love the Blend, and return to it today in order to give readers a worthwhile organization to look into, and potentially get involved with.

In honor of Memorial Day, I decided to share a link and info about a group I have become involved, with, called Adopt-A-Soldier. Getting involved is easy, and exactly what it sounds like: I adopted a U.S. soldier currently serving overseas. I am not allowed to know his exact location - only that he is in a remote region of Afghanistan. He hikes for miles daily, and sometimes does not have access to a computer for long periods of time to check in with friends and family, and keep up with life back home. He signed up to "be adopted," and I was more than happy to do so. His simple first request? Snacks that he and his fellow soldiers can store in their pockets while hiking long distances.

Snacks? That's it? No problem! I then reached out to ten friends (friends with teens and older kids - asking a parent to add anything to their May/June calendar is painful enough), and asked them to supply snacks. They came in in torrents - bags hanging from my front door handle, bags on the front steps, and one friend unloaded the back of his SUV with loads of goodies (thanks, Troy!) I will handle the packaging and mailing. We have hopefully gathered together enough snacks for my soldier (now our soldier), and many of his unit to enjoy. Most importantly: some soldiers serve with minimal support to no support from back home - no letters or packages ever come their way while they serve. There is something we can do about that, from the comfort of our homes.

You can learn more by clicking here. I am going to try to send out a box a month. Maybe you have a group of friends or family that can participate in this worthwhile project? The freedoms you have are defended by young men and women you will never meet, at great cost.  Surely we can help with snacks, socks, letters, and love. To our solider, Tony - wherever you are, you are an honorary Reilly. Thank you.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Boston, Sweet Boston

It is Sunday morning in the Boston area, two days after the capture of Suspect #2 in the Boston Marathon bombing that held an American city captive. In a sense, the entire nation was held captive via television, internet and radio reports, and the (gift? intrusion?) of on-the-spot cable news networks. Things are beginning to get back to normal here, although if I go outside, I can still hear the powerful pulsing of helicopters thirteen miles away, in Boston proper. I have been in the yard a lot, looking for my cat Girgir who disappeared about the same time. It's as if the scare wisked him away somewhere, and he has forgotten how to get back home.

I have a few friends and acquaintances who were running the Marathon, and my very dear friend was working in Boston, where she is a nurse at an eye surgery office. Her sister is an ER nurse at Mass General, where they received the first bombing victims, and she was on shift. This is my friend's second scare; she has hidden under the reception desk when her building was on lockdown previously. She gave my middle son Matt a ride home from his office in Boston, because the train had been shut down. I couldn't reach Matt by phone, as the police had interrupted cell service, in case the bombs had been detonated by cell phone. Thank God for email, and thank God he is always on it. I quickly learned that he was all right, and that his girlfriend was, too - she was at the race, but had been in a restroom during the bomb blasts. Thank God for all these things. It is frightening to know that these beautiful people - the shiny living threads that make up the very fabric of my life, were in danger as I blithely walked my dogs in my neighborhood on a sunny afternoon. Life is very uncertain.

It is really a strange and horrible feeling to be under seige. I don't live in the city itself, so I can't report on being right there, but my friends and my son can. It was horrible. There were armed (and I mean machine gun armed) police on every street, and driving down Rte. 93 it was not unusual to see a string three miles long of SWAT, police, fire, and rescue vehicles trundling down to the city, as if the whole world was ready to be lit up with explosions and death. On television, scenes of streets I know well were broadcast in all their abandoned silence, as thousands of police looked for the suspects. The grief for the victims bubbled up constantly as I ran errands, worked, or performed simple chores - trying to keep busy and yet stay ready, stay informed. I cannot believe that the victims were hurt here, at the Marathon, in Boston.

Marathon Monday is a fun day. If you are really lucky, you have tickets to go see the Red Sox play at 11 am, and then will head over to Boyleston Street to catch some of the Marathon. You can grab a sausage from a street vendor or dip into a pub for a beer, chatting with other patrons about how you will never run the Marathon, ever. How do they do it? Twenty-six (and change) grueling miles? It is Patriots Day too, so the stores and sidewalks are crowded with people laughing and smiling and relaxing together. And then there are the families wearing matching tee shirts, their small kids toting signs and colorful balloons, waiting to cheer their beloved runner on at the finish line, that special loved one who has trained and sweated and dreamed about running - and completing - the Boston Marathon. It is community at it's best. Every city has something like it, I'm sure - and yet not like it. The Boston Marathon is special, and has now become the site of explosions, mayhem, fear and death. It's a sadness and a loss that takes a while to absorb, fully.

I love Boston. I am not from here, and yet I guess that now, after twenty-five years, I am. The other day I was trying to say the name "Mark," and it came out "Maaak," and I was horrified, and my kids laughed about it. Am I getting an accent? Just as my family are the threads that make up who I am, I like to feel that my family is a part of the diverse quilt that is the Boston area, sheltering and warm. And we will do what we can, as a part of it's fabric, to help. My husband recently gave blood, we are signing up for a few fundraisers, and we will make a monetary donation. It feels like so little, but it's all we can think of to do, besides pray. We now have a scar on our Boston hearts, filled with sadness for the victims who lost life or limbs in our city.

We've got to keep on running towards the future. Now the people who are real heroes are being celebrated - police, doctors, nurses, and average Joes who rushed into chaos to help. And I will be at the finish line next year, cheering as the runners come in, glorious and trembling and whole, doing it for those who cannot. Our strength will become their strength, and we will offer it up in the face of danger or risk because you've just got to keep living.

One last thing..I hope our cat Girgir comes back. It's all clear now, buddy. All safe. Come on home to us.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

They Get By With a Little "Like" From Their Friends

Hi everybody,

Today at The Blend I need your help! My oldest son has just joined Boston band Mojo Kick as lead vocalist, and they are trying to get enough "Likes" on Facebook to be invited to music festival Bonnaroo. There they will have the opportunity to play with national acts and showcase just how good they are. They are already ranked 21st out of almost one thousand entries...let's help them get to Number 1!!!

Please click the link below to "like" their Bonnaroo page, and then share with friends! Also, please visit DAILY to "like" them - it's a daily thing.

Thank you so much! Link below photo.

mojo Kick


http://bonnaroo.sonicbids.com/artist/mojo-kick/

Friday, April 5, 2013

Boston to Baltimore

I just returned from a trip home to see my family. In years past, these trips were rushed and busy, toting children and gifts for the holidays, or children and "stuff" for vacations. Now that the kids are older I return home alone, leaving my husband to hold down the fort (thank you!!) as I travel down the highway, relaxing with each mile, drawn backwards in memory and time.

When I hit the Delaware Memorial Bridge, about hour six of the drive from Boston, my senses come alive. I can smell the sea, and I will soon be entering Baltimore. I cruise through the Fort McHenry tunnel, and I view the smokestacks of the city that speak of industry and effort. Then, it's a straight shot home, and I speed all the way, feeling the beat of my own heart.

In my mother's home are the things I love. Furniture that has been there forever (I talked on the phone as a teen sitting on that chair, I looked into this same mirror at nineteen, trying to puzzle out who was looking back.) Although my parents' home went through an extensive remodel back in the 1990's, I can look out the great room window - which used to be the family room window - and see the dogwood tree that was skinny and trying when we planted it. Now it covers the whole front lawn with glorious pink blossoms in the spring, as if to say "we are all well here." In the backyard sits the huge boulder I called my dog from as a girl, and the fir tree I used to climb with my favorite book. I see all my father's gardening efforts, and marvel at all the plants, grasses and flowers that spring alive at his touch. The wrought iron dining set is waiting in the garden, urging you to bring your coffee out and sit awhile.

At night I tuck in under warm blankets and relax, looking around the room. My mother always decorates my room with extra care when I am expected - a copy of "Garden and Gun" sits on the bedside table, or a book from childhood, or simply a candle, a vase, or a delicate figurine that glows in soft light. Something pleasing and relaxing she offers me each time, and I am grateful. I always wander to her bookshelves, and choose an old book usually on theology - I read the old words, and revel in what impressed her as I take note of passages she underlined, so long ago. She made notes, sometimes, and I get a glimpse into her thoughts, and what was going on in her life as she read these very pages.

I laugh with my sister, and tell the jokes we have been telling for so long, that we still find funny. I ask her if I look old, and she asks me the same. The answer is always - and will always be - an emphatic "No!" We talk about the changes in the world, and can now appreciate our upbringing all the more.

This house looks like the others on the street. It has the same lines, shares the same road, the landscaping is similar. But this is the mystery of home - when I walk through the door, I am in a world that belongs to me especially, that I can always return to, for respite and renewal. The peope inside make up the texture and fiber of my heart, and we need each other. It is love, pure and simple. I'm so very, very lucky to have it, that house on our street, sheltering and sound.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hockey Hockey Hockey

To the left is a tee shirt belonging to my son James -- I love this tee shirt, and I aways smile when folding it. (He is, at 14, too old to wear it now, I think, but occaisionally he sleeps in it.) This little stick figure is saying something that every hockey player says at least a few times a week, when friends ask if they are free for a movie, a walk downtown, or to just hang out. Hockey kids always have hockey. It is a sport that takes over your life (player and family).

With this season almost over, I thought I'd share a funny essay I found on the web about hockey. Parents...you get it!! (courtesy of www.hockeysource.com).


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You Know You're An Avid Hockey Fan If.......
  • Your idea of serving breakfast is giving each of your kids a fork and dropping an Eggo in the middle of the table.
  • You reprimand your children with "minors," "majors" and "misconducts."
  • When you come to a traffic signal and the light turns green, you stop.
  • When you come to a traffic signal and the light turns red, you get really excited and chant, "He shoots! He scores!"
  • Instead of duct tape, you use hockey tape to fix everything.
  • You call a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame a "pilgrimage."
  • You went into a bank because it advertised "Free Checking"....and walked out disappointed.
  • You can pronounce anything in French, yet you have no idea what it means.
  • Every time you hear a siren you wonder who scored.
  • You're not allowed to play chess simply because the first time you played, you misunderstood the meaning of the word "Check."
  • Everything in your wardrobe is your team's colors.
  • Your closet is divided into 2 sections: HOME and AWAY
  • You make biscuits in dimensions of 3" by 1."
  • You burn the biscuits black.
  • You play a game with one of the biscuits.
  • You deck the guy who says, "Check, please."
  • You own a Zamboni.
  • You keep your Zamboni in the garage while your main car stays in the driveway.
  • Your calendar only runs from October to June.
  • You wonder how you will get through July, August, and September.
  • When someone says, "two minutes" you respond, "What for!?!"

Sunday, March 17, 2013

NASCAR Family








 
There are two sentences that I say all of the time these days, to the point where I can see them etched on my tombstone. These two sentences are, "Can you get me your keys?" and "Can you move your car?"  I say these phrases so often because we have four drivers living under one roof (a roof that only two of the drivers currently pay for). Our oldest sons are both living at home right now, and although we rarely see them, they do have cars, which they park here when they are unconscious at night in their beds. We also co-habitate with our fourteen year old, who for now only has a bike. For now.

Each evening we show the logistical and strategic acumen of a Nascar pit crew. If you put a headset on my husband and slapped a few logos on his sweatpants and tee shirt, he could pass for the real thing. Our conversations go like this:

Fred (holding clipboard): "Okay, I'm glad we're all here in the family room. Please enjoy the pizzas I paid for. Now. Let's discuss tomorrow's driveway strategy. I have to be out at 8:30, so I need for my car to be in Slot 1. Anyone leaving earlier?"

Me: "I am going to the barn at 7:30 to see the horse, so I need Slot 1. But, I have not been able to locate my keys since about 4:45 this afternoon. Everyone keep an eye out, could you? Last known location was my purse, but I can't seem to find that, either..."

Matt: "I can take Slot 2 because I can go in late to the office - I'll be leaving about 9. If anyone moves my car - the keys will be under the driver's seat - can you not move the bath towel hanging from the passenger-side window? My window just fizzled out on that side."

Young Fred: "Has everyone forgotten I'm a landscaper? I need to be moving by 6 AM! Slot 1 is mine, and I am recommending Slot 2 for Dad, 3 for Matt, and 4 for Mom. Did I get that right? Oh, and my friend Bob is coming over tonight to watch a video, so if he parks in Slot 1, is anyone leaving?"

James (14 year old): "I will probably want a Shamrock Shake around 9 PM tonight. Can Mom have Slot 1now if she parks curbside when we get back? Then Bob will still be Slot 1 when we get back. And Mom can stay curbside and take me to school on the way to the barn. Right?"

Needless to say, you only want Slot 4 (closest to house, in or near garage) if you are suffering from the flu, are under house arrest, or have lost your keys and have little hope of finding them, therefore depending on rides from your family. I am very familiar with Slot 4.

Gentlemen and Lady...start your engines!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Bailey In Da House!

A few weeks ago, one of my close friends asked me to babysit someone very special when she went away for a yoga retreat in Mexico. This special someone is fourteen years old, weighs a little over two pounds, and is balding, almost toothless, and wears very cunning little winter sweaters, and tiny fleece hoodies. I immediately answered in the affirmative to my friend's question, because I happen to love this little heartbreaker as well. This is how Bailey, the most fabulous Yorkie who ever lived, came to hijack my life, my heart and my home for a week.

When my friend Christine dropped Bailey off, I marveled. This little dog came to party -- he arrived with much varied and discriminating accoutrement that any self-respecting baby would be proud of. In came his set of stairs (carpeted), to enable him to jump on my bed, a duffel bag full of sweaters, diapers, creams, ointments, medicines, and packages and packages of Pupperoni, and Himself, entering our house with a dismissive sneeze and a warning bark, aimed at my three dogs. This bark said, I am here, and woe unto you should you cross me. I am old, and I have earned your respect.

Bailey had a few issues. Firstly, he needs to be coaxed to eat. Bailey is in kidney failure, and is not very hungry anymore. So, he must be enticed, which includes placing tiny morsels of food in a row on your bed, or lining them up on your rug, or pretending to eat them youself, saying "yum-yum-yummy!" and then offering the delicacy to Bailey. If the mood strikes, he will eat it. If not, he will look the other way, as if your insult is too great to bear. He also needs to wear diapers occaisionally, which attach to his hind end with velcro. His velcro frequently gets caught on various and sundry things; many times during the week he was velcro-ed to me, I would find. Had I dropped my hands he would just hang from my sweater like a pom-pom.

Bailey also got IV fluids every other day during his stay, which  were administered by the vet. I would bring him in wrapped in a soft baby blanket, and he would be coo-ed over by the technician as they disappeared together behind the big medical door. Bailey would come back to the waiting room all wrapped up again, looking for me with his sparkling, still-clear eyes. Well, I like to think that, but Bailey is always looking for Christine, his real mommy.

Bailey has to sleep with people -- this is non-negotiable. It would be easier for Obama to wrangle out of his interest in health care. So, Bailey would snuggle between my husband's head and mine, on yet another blanket. Then, we would gently cover him, and then proceed to worry and fuss over him all night. "Is he breathing?" I mumbled at 2 a.m. one morning, to which my husband shot up in bed, blearily saying, "Oh, no, did I crush him?" I would wait to feel Bailey stir beside me, and then cover his tiny old legs with my hand, and try to sleep again. It reminded me of when the kids were young. ("Only, babies can't jump out of bed and run away!" my mother pointed out one morning on the phone. Good point. Bailey can.)

So, what are the pay-offs to watching Bailey? Well, he loves to snuggle, and will follow you anywhere on stiff little legs that seem permanently straightened. He loves to give kisses - his tongue hangs out of is mouth due to tooth loss, I think, so even when he's not giving a kiss, sometimes he is. And to see that little face when you walk through the door is to feel a ray of sunshine shining just for you.

Bailey won't be here much longer; his time here is almost over. He has been loved and treasured by my friend, so I am comforted to know he lived his days well. It was an honor to take care of him for a week, and I will mourn when he passes. My husband found a tiny, faded hoodie with the words "Rock Star" emblazoned on it in our laundry basket, and I got choked up. I will remember the special trip back to caring for dependent, defenseless little lives in the middle of the night - my own babies, long ago. I enjoyed Bailey's puffs of breath in my ear in the dark of night that said, again and again, in steady rhythm, I'm still here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Oscars Wrap-Up

 The Oscars, held last night to celebrate the movies of 2012, started and ended as it usually does for me. I began the broadcast with such high hopes--dressed in my ball gown and tiara, holding a martini, my family full of males locked in the basement. I looked forward to taking in the gorgeous gowns, the upswept hairstyles, and the un-naturally beautiful, (sort-of waxy) people -- seriously, how do these people look so good -- Jane Fonda is how old? I looked forward to luxuriating in clips of high-minded movies and heartfelt speeches. Ahh, life can be so relaxing, so sweet...

Cut to two hours later, about 10:30 pm. Somehow my thirteen year old and my husband have gotten into the family room, and are talking loudly about the upcoming state hockey tournament. The Oscar presenters are handing out awards I could care less about -- I'm sorry!-- like Sound Editing Underwater, and Eyelash Animation Techniques. Who cares? Bring on the stars and the statuettes! My dogs are crowding me out on the couch, and I have consumed two bowls of ice cream. My flannel bathrobe is waaay too hot, and my patience is waaay too short.

 Finally, it is the last half-hour. I am hanging half-off the couch, trying to escape my own hot flashes. Hold on...suddenly, the awards tumble in like dominoes! Jennifer Lawrence falls! Renee Zellweger seems "sleepy!" Anne Hathaway keeps it to a ten minute thank you speech!  My favorite film Argo wins Best Picture! Ben Affleck babbles about his wife and Iran! It's gettin' good, baby!

 As for the host, Seth MacFarlane, here is my review: believe it or not, I have never seen Family Guy. I never let my kids watch it, so why would I watch it? But the Academy hired him, and they know his material, obstensibly. Sooooo...what's the surprise? He came and did what he does, which is to put down everyone, particularly women, men, children, animals, and all inanimate objects. He can sing and dance though! I can't help but wish for the days I never knew, when Rita Hayworth and Elizabeth Taylor and Gregory Peck attended the Oscars. They must have been dazzing to behold, and did not have to endure songs about "boobs" while they waited to see if they won an Oscar.

Every year I vow never again. I will choose to read a good historical novel next time the Oscars are on, or practice the cello, (I'd better go buy one and begin lessons), or do some painting with watercolors. I will not be sucked in by the glitteratti, so far removed from my own life. They are just people, after all, and I am far too old to be swept up in the Oscars.

Yeah, right. If they bring Billy Crystal back... I'm in!

 





 


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Portlandia - 'One Party At A Time'

Funny...these post-college kids cannot even write a protest song without inserting partying, no matter how hard they try. Portlandia almost always hits on the truth in their sketches!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Already?

Ahhh, after that post about how I was going to use my will to be observant this Lent, and how I would be looking heavenward....well, we didn't even make it to Mass last night. My husband came home tired, there was homework to be done, and I had thrown a roaster chicken in the oven that was done right at 7, the time of the Mass. Remember those lofty words about looking heavenward and stumbling? I didn't even last ten hours. This is life. Starting fresh again today with the same hopes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday

Before I became a Catholic, I was always somewhat awed by the ashes on the foreheads of the faithful. My thoughts went like this, as a younger woman: 1) what do the ashes signify? 2) wow, these people are brave to go around wearing these all day, just letting it all hang out, and 3) I feel left out.

I was not baptized until I was an adult, at age 27. It was on this day of baptism that I entered the Catholic church, despite several lingering doubts. My doubts were basically that a church as rich monetarily as the Catholic church couldn't be very evangelistic, and I also had a problem with the Adoration of Mary. It seemed that the veneration of Mary practiced by Catholics put her on a par with Christ, which I disagreed with. But, as a wise priest told me, as I sat in a chair in his office (very pregnant with my second son, squirming a lot), if I waited for a church to come along that suited all of my needs (and whims, and ever-changing ideas), I would be waiting a long time. So, I took a breath, and dove in to the life of a Catholic. Thanks, Father Kirwan!

I enjoy the tempo of the Mass. I like knowing what will happen next; it gives me a chance to focus my thoughts on worship and prayer, not on the activity before me. No, we are not as flashy as other denominations, usually - we don't use theatrics very often, and our music is often solemn, and old. (Boring, my 13 year old might say.)But in an ever-changing world, it suits me, to have the order of the Mass to count on. And, I like knowing that Catholics all around the world are hearing the same scriptures as I am, in a pew in a church in my small town in Massachusetts. It makes me feel like a microscopic part of a much larger effort at truth and understanding each week.

I have made my peace with Mary. She was, and is, an exceptional and blessed woman. Who but a mother completely devoted to God's will could watch her son being crucified in front of her? This alone is amazing, and not of this earth. And I do believe she continues her work of grace and healing today.

As for the money -- yes, the Catholic church in Rome has it; from pictures of the Vatican it seems that everything there is dripping with gold. But here in the U.S. churches are closing, and the Catholic church is paying for the priest abuse scandal that rocked several countries around the world. In my mind, they are not paying heavily enough in a very important way - all abusers should be jailed, no matter what their garments look like -  not "reassigned". But a cost is there, and it is a dear, sad cost -  they caused many to lose faith, and lose hope. That is an awesome sin and shame, making people lose faith, and heart.

The church is a human institution, and will fail us now and again. All churches will. But today, on Ash Wednesday, I celebrate my beliefs, and the freedom I have in America to exercise them. I will try to keep my thoughts on those Christians around the world persecuted for their beliefs. And I will focus the next forty days on being the best I can be, as I prepare for Easter. And the best I can be will be to disappear, to lose a sense of myself, and focus on God. I will fall short, yes, I will stumble and let human emotions and anxieties get the best of me sometimes. Bit I will try to remember the ashes I receive tonight, as my outward symbol of an interior love. I will use one of God's greatest gifts - the gift of will - to keep my eyes looking heavenward even if my feet are on the ground.

Life is short. Lead it as you feel led to.



Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Barn in Winter

A barn in winter is a starkly beautiful place. Wind whistles through the barn doors, and brings gusts of cold air into the sawdust aisle, and slips under the old wooden matching doors of the horses' stalls.Your fingers freeze, then go numb as you try to unbuckle buckles, fasten clasps, or straighten out your saddle blanket, anxious to start moving.You warm your horse's bit in your wool glove while you saddle him up, dreading making him hold a cold bar of metal in his mouth when you ride.You warm yourself on his large warm body as you work, giving extra hugs.You must be careful when you love him, however, static electricity will spark up from your gloved hands, causing him to jerk in fear. He is already cold, no need to add scared to the mix. Your horses's breath and yours mingles as you hurry to get up and get going.

Water buckets and water troughs freeze. and the ground freezes, too.You wish for a more spiked boot as you walk with your horse back to the snowy field after your ride, worried that you, or he, or both will suddenly fall on the slick, hidden ice, lurking under the snow on the dirt lane. Mud has frozen into ruts like the tines on a yard rake, fanning out and ending at the fenceline. The only color in sight is your lead line that connects you to your horse, the one you picked out to get you through winter. It is bulky, and bright pink, and as familiar as your purse handles in your hand. At the fence you say goodbye; he will go back to standing with the other horses in his blanket you saved up for, waiting to be let inside for grain and hay and four planked walls.You will return to your work, your worries, and your day. But for that minute you are alone in the cold, under stark trees and a lowered, gray-white sky. It's quiet, and he knows you love him. A tear freezes like a diamond in your eye before it can even fall -- it may be several days before you can return to the sweet, frozen silence he welcomes you into.