December 31, 2010
So here we are at another year’s end. I’m ten pounds heavier, but ten million times happier at how blessed 2010 really was. There is so much to be thankful for this past year that it’s hard for me to really wrap my heart around them all, but I know 2010 realizes how grateful I am for all the good and great memories I shared with loved ones and I don’t really need to go on and on about each special moment of this past year. However, I do want to share one of those moments that did happen and actually just this afternoon.
Today we attended a very special ceremony of the renewal of both my dad and stepmom’s wedding vows. On Wednesday December 29, it was their twenty year wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe it’s only been twenty years between them because, honestly, I feel like they’ve been together forever. I first met my stepmom Minerva when I was thirteen while visiting my dad in New York City. Our meeting was not exactly under the greatest of circumstances; my grandfather (my dad’s dad) had incidentally died of a heart attack during this family reunion we were having that Christmas week. My sister and I hadn’t visited our grandparents in a very long time since my own parents’ divorce had not exactly been a very amicable one. So as a result, my sister and I didn’t get a chance to visit with my dad’s side of the family very often. But on December 28, 1988, my grandfather unfortunately had his heart attack and died on the very day Minerva was to fly in from Puerto Rico (where she had moved because of work) and unbeknownst to Minerva, when my dad arrived at the airport to pick her up, all he could say to her was, “My dad died today.”
It was a sad, sad day, and I recall the dark cloud that had descended on the family as this reunion now turned into the preparation for a funeral. But I do recall a moment of serenity, and it was when I met Minerva that very day. We had all been in a state of shock and I remember feeling extremely confused and scared at what was going on around me. People were crying, people were angry, people were confused. Unfortunately because of all this, I don’t think anyone really knew how to handle me and my sister, who because we’d been on the fringes of family gatherings, we kind of felt somewhat lost in the group. But that changed the moment Minerva walked into the room and greeted us for the first time.
She was a warm and caring individual and I could tell that right from the beginning. At first I thought, who was this big-busted, Latino woman with hair so curly and puffy that you just wanted to reach out, touch it and see how squishy it really was. It was just so different from my own Chinese mother’s hair which was straight and coarse, but it was a nice change though. She approached my sister and me with great caution I remember. This was the first time she would be meeting her fiancé’s kids and on top of this now tragedy, she knew things weren’t going to be easy, but she meddled through just fine. I never resented Minerva or looked at her with suspect eyes like so many soon-to-be “step” kids might. She was too nice for that, and in some strange way on that horrible day, she became a great source of comfort to both me and my sister and she would continue to be that source of comfort for years to come. So as me and my sister stood in the little chapel today watching my dad and Minerva renew their vows, I too became overwhelmed at just how happy I am that Minerva came into our lives, and probably just as happy as my own father was and is.
But however special that moment was, it wasn’t as special as this next bit of storytelling. So like I said, my parents’ renewed their vows in a very small ceremony at their church. The ceremony was held in the little chapel connected to the main church because my parents wanted to keep things small and intimate. They had only invited a handful of people, which included me, my sister, two close friends of the family, Mary Beth and Tom, and then one other close married couple Bob, Kathleen, and their son Sebastian, and then of course, Father Norbert who besides being my parents regular pastor, he is also a very close friend of the family. So as we all gathered and Father began to get things ready for the mass and renewal ceremony in walked an older gentleman through the little chapel doors. We could tell he was afraid he was interrupting something, but he just quietly asked if weekday mass was being held here today. Of course, everyone said yes and, despite this being a private ceremony, both my parents welcomed him warmly and invited him to stay nonetheless. The older gentleman smiled and graciously thanked everyone and went to take his seat near the back of the chapel.
So there we all were, seated and talking quietly among ourselves waiting for mass to begin. At that point, Tom leaned over and said to us, “You know, I think I might actually know that man who came in.” So then Tom got up and walked over to introduce himself. We all thought that rather interesting seeing that this man would be the only person looking to come to New Year Eve mass this early afternoon. All of us cooed on about it being a small world and how interesting it was. Then Father signaled the beginning of things and my parents’ renewal ceremony began.
It was a lovely mass and ceremony, and the readings my parents chose were quite beautiful. For the first reading, my father chose a passage from Sirach 26, which speaks about the happiness a wife brings to a husband and my stepmom chose the famous “Love is” passage from Corinthians 13. The passage from Sirach was a particularly nice reading because it’s one you don’t usually hear:
"Blessed the husband of a good wife, twice-lengthened are his days; A worthy wife brings joy to her husband, peaceful and full is his life. A good wife is a generous gift bestowed upon him who fears the Lord; Be the rich or poor, his heart is content, and a smile is ever on his face.
A gracious wife delights her husband, her thoughtfulness puts flesh on his bones; A gift from the Lord is her governed speech, and her firm virtue is of surpassing worth. Choicest of blessings is a modest wife, priceless her chaste soul. A holy and decent woman adds grace upon grace; indeed, no price is worthy of her temperate soul. Like the sun rising in the Lord’s heavens, the beauty of a virtuous wife is the radiance of her home."
Any way, we all enjoyed being present for this really special moment for both my parents. After the ceremony, Tom again went over and then brought the man over to us who was otherwise a stranger to us all. As we stood chatting, it then came out how both Tom, and now Jim, had known each other. Both Tom and Jim’s wives had remained acquaintances with each other after the two couples had met during a marriage retreat they all attended many, many years ago. And incidentally, both men were now widowers. Tom lost his wife Jenny to cancer about two years ago, and Jim had lost his wife Ida some years ago too. I have to tell you, how beautiful is it that these two men would be reunited in fellowship on such a day as today? A day when the sacrament of “marriage” is being celebrated through my parents renewal of their vows, and then with the both of them sharing the experience of losing their wives.
Jim mentioned to my dad how he had never heard the passage of Sirach and felt he wished he would’ve known about it when his wife was still alive. I heard him say that and I told him, “But you know it now Jim! And you can still celebrate her and your love for her by reading it now.” He laughed and said he was on his way to his children’s homes to celebrate New Year’s Eve and he vowed to make it a point that he would share this reading with them in honor of their mother, his wife.
Having known Tom and Jenny for sometime myself, I could tell how particularly touched Tom was at the coincidence of it all as well, and all I could really give Tom was a sincere smile. Words weren’t needed as we stood around taking in the “coincidence”. We all knew deep down inside that both these men’s wives were still very much there in spirit, and in some strange way, my parents weren’t the only ones who were renewing their vows today…and sincerely, on this new year’s eve, how beautiful is the timing in all this?
So yes, indeed, on this eve of renewal, I just want to take a chance to tell all my friends and family that despite maybe this particular year not being the greatest on hand, rejoice in knowing that we are just on the cusp of renewing this time all over again. With the New Year, we can plan on making new commitments as well as renewing the old ones. The past might’ve not been the greatest, the present ever enduring, but we should all keep in mind that the future is still not at hand… and so whatever we need to do to make sure it’s a good one, be sure we make the commitment to do that and good luck in doing so! There’s no doubt 2010 had its moments and just to share a bit, for me, the greatest moments of 2010 were:
1. Having the two FREE weeks off last winter during Washington’s unseasonable SNOWMEGGON, SNOMG, and SNOWPOCALYPSE.
2. My job sending me to Minnesota for two separate weeks allowing me to reconnect with an uncle and cousins I would have otherwise probably not reconnected with.
3. Going to my Dad’s 45th high school reunion and meeting all his old classmates and listening to music from the early 1960’s. I think I would have done well during that time.
4. Going to Wrigley Field and seeing a Cubs game with my Pop.
5. Going to the Chicago Art Institute and seeing the Millet’s painting “Peasants Bringing Home a Calf Born in the Fields.”
6. Spending two awesome weeks out in San Diego with my Mom.
7. Finding my therapist, Linda. (And really there is no correlation with this happening and the two weeks spent in San Diego with my mom.)
8. Taking a poetry workshop class and writing some of the best pieces of poetry I have ever written (which I promise to clean up and post soon!)
9. Painting “Eye of Whores” and “September Blue”
10. Seeing a Christmas Carol with my family at Ford's Theatre.
11. Hearing this joke: Last time I saw a mouth like that, it had a hook in it. (Caddyshack-love that movie)
And then the year wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t include the worst part of 2010:
…Which was losing my best companion One Luv in November.
But despite even that being a painful moment in my life, I still thank 2010 for all that I have experienced and learned, and I look forward to 2011 in the hopes of it being just as filled with great moments of opportunity, lessons, and laughter. For 2011, I look forward to:
1. Giving a new kitty a warm, happy home.
2. Finding a job that best utilizes all my skills and talents.
3. Writing and painting more.
4. Happiness and health to my all my family and friends.
5. And hearing more good jokes.
So as 2011 approaches, I raise my sparkling cider (I’ve decided to keep things sober this New Year, at least for once in my life), and I pray and hope all of us get that chance to renew our vows to our self to do our best to make this next year the BEST YEAR YET!
Happy New Year!!!
December 26, 2010- Merry Christmas!!!
So my family and I just got back from seeing A Christmas Carol at the Ford's Theatre, which turned out to be a rather spectacular and impressive production of the time-honored classic by Dickens. However what struck me the most wasn't the amazing costume designs or set design that kept me pretty much in awe throughout the quick 2 hours, OR the fact I was sitting in the very same theater that President Lincoln was brutally assassinated some 155 years ago, what struck me the most was the story Dickens had actually managed to write. This amazing story of a cantankerous old man named Ebenezer Scrooge, who by the grace of 4 ghosts, was able to see the error of his malfeasance and turn his life around to become the generous, gracious man we have all come to know and love. Next to Rudolph, he's probably my second Christmas hero, and the first being Jesus Christ, of course.
But I have to say, I know we all know this story well and most of us would rather gag on spoiled eggnog before we had to hear the same BAH HUMBUG line ever again, but I got to tell you, despite sometimes forgetting how meaningful such lines and stories really are and no matter how many times we expose ourselves to it, and then suddenly become immune to its "sentimentality", there are however times when we remember all too well just how important these messages really are, and I guess that is where I am tonight.
The Christmas Carol is everything the season and story of Christmas teaches. It's a perfect story, wrapped up in a perfect package and half the joy in it, is unwrapping each perfect layer of it. The first layer we meet Scrooge in all his awfulness, meanwhile catching the glimpse of those that are affected by his very mean-spiritedness. It's a superficial layer, and easily the first to come off. Second layer, the ghost of Scrooge's departed business partner Marley pays Ebenezer a visit to warn him of his ways and that he will be visited by three ghosts. The ghost of Christmas past, present, and future, layers three, four, and five...and so on. And when we have finally unwrapped all the layers of this gift, we are left to find a vulnerable, scared and all too contrite Ebenezer, who falls to the floor in utter despair at the realization of his terrible self. But even this realization isn't the completed gift because there is one more layer tucked away at the center of it all and it's the final metamorphosis of Scrooge into the good-willed, humbled, and generous man he knows now to be.
And funny but having just finished off that paragraph, I sense there will be a handful eyes that just roll at it. The same rolling eyes that are just tired of hearing the same story over and over again, and in that case, it's YOU then that I think this story should speak the most to. I swear, and I don't know if it's only because I'm paying more attention this year, but I really do feel like people have lost their Christmas spirit. Like just a bunch of bah humbugs all over the place. It seems like most people I talk to just can't WAIT for it to be OVER, and that truly makes me sad. I think that these are the same people that just don't get the message. True, I know it is difficult to get past the crowded stores or the somewhat over commercialization of the season and etc, but regardless of all that, I still don't get why that makes people hate CHRISTMAS. Christmas isn't at the end of the day about that fucker that cut me off at the Best Buy. No, that is NOT what Christmas is about and if I should ever begin to believe that's what it's about, I pray to the good Lord I get visited by all four of Scrooge's ghosts and during a time when it's most inconvenient, like when I'm on the toilet or something.
But really, Christmas IS about the Christmas Carol. It's about knowing your past, seeing your present, and acting for the good of your future and for the good future of others. Only then can we understand the error of our own ways and then seek the strength and guidance to change for the better of us all.
Again, maybe I'm just lucky to be filled with the Christmas spirit tonight and lucky to adore A Christmas Carol the way that I do. I have to admit though, I wish everyone else would feel the same way... But then again, there is always next year because lucky for us all, it's a story that won't ever go away. Thank God.
December 12, 2010
So it’s been just about two weeks, and though some days it feels like everything’s going to be okay, there are still some days when everything feels like it was just yesterday when One left me, and that’s usually when I find myself just quietly beside myself. Death is just so hard to get used to, you know. It’s so permanent. And although my spirituality/religion teaches me that death isn’t the end, that it’s merely a transition into another state we have all yet to reach…it still feels like it’s the end, and that end feels soo permanent. And I guess that makes me sad. I don’t ever want to think that I will never see One again. And perhaps this is where I am having a crisis in Faith.
It’s just so hard to get used to spending those moments that I knew were reserved for just him and me. In particular those quiet moments before bed, when he would curl himself in the crook of my arm, or first thing in the morning when he would jump onto my bed and gently nudge me awake. And those are just to name a few. It’s the remembrance of those intimate silent moments that just cut me to the bone. Because now, he’s not here to have them with me. And in realizing that, it's quite painful. So recently I've just been trying to get through those little silent moments by now filling it with prayer..you know, talks between me and my god. . .but the only thing is,
I wish God was furrier.
November 30, 2010
We lost my One luv last night. It was sudden. He didn't experience a lot of pain...but I wish I can say the same for myself. My heart is breaking as we speak. I can't believe my baby is gone. He was the best friend I ever had. He helped me through so much and has truly been the best companion anyone could ever ask for. He was such a gift to me the past 8 years and I'm so thankful that I was blessed to have him for just one more month since his diagnosis. I have spent the past month truly at his side, loving him, caring for him, and just being there...and I was right there at the end. Funny, I had been somewhat fearful at what it would be like the moment the time would come...but what I discovered was that the love you have for someone will truly see you through it all, no matter what. I didn't even have to think about it. At that last moment, I just curled One comfortably on my lap and in my arms and cradled his sweet body into eternity... God rest his soul.
Thanks to all my friends that have really reached out. I truly appreciate every phone call and text and facebook message, etc. I'm not sure when I'll be able to return to this blog, right now...I'm still just trying to wrap my reality around the truth that my One Luv is gone, though never forgotten.
And just to my One luv: I love you baby, forever. See you on the otherside.
Rest In Peace...One Luv Ryan...November 29, 2010
November 21, 2010 - New Painting!
October 31, 2010
There's nothing better than getting back into the swing of things then getting into the spirit of the season and reposting one of my favorite poems I've ever written, starring none other than little black kitty. Happy Halloween!!
On this eve,
little black kitty sits in the night
waiting for his mistress to take her flight
and through the dark sky will she soon soar
casting her spells against evil forevermore,
And as he sits with her while on their way
they’ll meet those that drift unholy
on this Hallows’ day,
And together they’ll lead them out
and away from the rest they’ll go
those ghostly spirits of doubt
gone far from our pumpkin's glow.
So do not cower
should you see them during the witching hour
for their path you see across the moon
is nothing more but then a good wish for you.
October 25, 2010
My One Luv is doing really well. I did take him to the cardiologist and yes, as expected, my boy has Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, or heart disease. That is the bad news. Good news though is that it IS manageable by medication and so far, One seems to be responding REALLY well to all four meds. As you can probably imagine, the past two weeks I have been pouring all my attention on my little guy and soon I hope to bring us both out of the smoke and get us back to blogging, painting, and poetry. I never really thought I could have loved him even more than I already did, but seeing him suddenly improving in health lately has made me even more grateful to have him as my furry companion. The vet couldn’t really give me a certain prognosis, only in that we just have to pay attention to his quality of life and just move on from there. But so far, One continues to improve and is even returning to some of his old habits, like waking me every hour starting at 5 am to express how ready he is to have his breakfast. And at a time where that particular habit just made me absolutely annoyed, I now am grateful to hear his meow and feel his nudging nose. To me, that suddenly seems like best pet peeve ever.
And a special thanks to everyone for your concern and support. I truly appreciate it. And to those who continue to wonder why all the fuss when it’s only a “pet”…my only words to you are: Don’t have kids.
October 11, 2010
So it’s been a pretty scary weekend. Friday night I had to rush One to the pet emergency hospital because when I came home I noticed he was having trouble breathing. Turns out he had accumulated a good amount of fluid in his chest cavity that was causing him to have the trouble. The doctor tapped his chest and was able to get most of the fluid out. Tomorrow I will take him into the cardiologist to have a cardiogram done to see what the doctor suspects is heart disease. Good news though, it is manageable with medication in that, God willing, it’s not too severe.
So now yes, let’s begin the flow of tears. I have been a basic wreck for the past three days. Luckily, One only had to stay that Friday night and since Saturday, he seems to be resting comfortably, but again, I wish I could say the same for his momma.
Naturally on Friday when the panic over his troubled breathing set in, right on the heels of that was my panic of actually losing him, followed by the panic of having the money to save him. I had wondered in the past whether or not I’d be willing to put up the money in the event something like this happened, which is probably something a lot of us “not as well to do” pet owners wonder. Well much to my chagrin, there was no thinking about. I knew right there when I saw his labored breathing that if I had to dump half my savings into saving my little One Luv’s life, then so be it.
But before my decision to take him to the hospital was made, I was talking with a friend who was basically looking at me like I was crazy. She knows I am not the richest person on the planet, I struggle like everyone else, so she looked at me seriously and said, “Well what if you do find out it’s something serious, how are you going to pay for his care?”
I was immediately hit head on with her insinuation that perhaps I should instead “save my money” and make that decision, of you know, well … God, I can’t even write it. And while I know One is really old and his time left here on earth is probably severely limited, something in me just wouldn’t allow me to put my economic situation first. Save money or save him?? What?? I find it so callous just writing those words, but that’s just me. I mean, money doesn’t ball up next to me in the bed. Doesn’t purr or lick my hands or nose. Doesn’t run up to me like a little child would when I kneel down in front of it. (hey I don’t have kids, he’s my kid) Doesn’t meow and pick at me for attention in the middle of the night. It isn’t soft like cotton…it isn’t sweet to the touch…it isn’t conscious.
However, I think in knowing I have a little in savings and credit makes this a no brainer for me to be honest. And I don’t hold it against my friend for sharing a bit of reality with me. But since I do have the means, however little it may be, I have to wonder, what if I didn’t have that savings or credit? What would I do? Uh-Oh… tears. When I was there at the hospital, another owner came in that night with a really sick kitty and she instantly made the announcement to the receptionist that she didn’t have a lot of money. The medical technicians took the kitty from her, and I just tried not to think about THAT being my situation.
And yes, luckily I have the means to save him, end of tears. And in knowing I do so, I truly believe I have to try. I just can’t imagine life without my boy right now, though…I know that some day it will come. But I’ve got to forgo that trip to the islands or that fabulous wardrobe because I believe I owe it to him. I love him too much. We’ve been together for too long and just letting him go untreated seems so wrong. I mean for the first part of our relationship he helped me, so now I think it’s my turn to help him. (Revisit my October 24, 2009 blog, For Pet Lovers Only, to read our full story. Sidebar- it's been almost a full year since our last run in with danger, pray there's less run ins but more years)
When we got home Saturday night, I was sitting with One on the floor, monitoring his breathing and his health, and for just a split moment, I did begin to worry a little about the mountain of expenses I knew, and know, I will soon incur. But then for every little twist my One Luv did along the floor that night while inhaling the air around him just fine and then looking up to me with his soft purr smiling through his half-opened eyes, I figured...it's all money already well spent.
Here's the little patient, resting comfortably. The patch of missing fur is where the doctor tapped the fluid from his chest. But he's still as purrfect as ever.
September 22, 2010- Happy Moon Festival
The Lady and the Rabbit
On the moon tonight
Her hope shines as he works hard
On her way back home
Will he ever make
That sweet elixir that sends
Her back to love's arms?
She looks to the hare
His work seems steady and straight
But there she still waits
Up high in the sky
Eternally far from him
That love of her life
And hare knows this true
As he pounds and pounds away
As she sits hoping
But for lone hare too
She remains the only love
He has ever knew
Is then hare honest
With his mortar and pestle
Does he mix it right?
Or does this hare trick
To keep his lovely lady
Forever so near?
You can be the judge
But see now in the moonlight
Two great loves so very bright.
September 11, 2010
30 x 40 acrylic on canvas
Nine years ago,
I just remember the sky being so blue that day. A simply brilliant blue. Perfectly warm, sunny, and not a cloud in the sky type blue…
I had been comfortably asleep in my bed in Astoria, Queens when I got the phone call from my roommate Michael. Groggy, I answered the phone and heard his panicked cries on the other end. He screamed something about a plane going into the World Trade Center. He screamed for me to wake up my other roommate Xois, who was asleep on the couch. He then screamed for me to turn on the television. He screamed, he screamed, he screamed. It was just after 9 o’clock am.
I quickly hung up the phone, now in my own panic. I threw open my bedroom door and shouted for Xois to wake up. He sat up from the couch, completely stunned and disorientated by my order. I went to grab at the remote, but as I did, I stepped right into a full ashtray that was on the floor, which sent cigarette butts and ash everywhere. It was all a mess.
Naturally, all I had to do was hit the power button and instantly the horrendous scene flashed on the screen. Xois and I just looked at each. What the hell was going on?
We both stared at the television, neither of us knew what to say or think, and then suddenly, the second plane hit.
The next few minutes were a blur. I recall just feeling completely paralyzed. Did I just see that? Xois and I continued to stare at the screen, and it wasn’t until I saw the collapse of the first tower did I manage to feel my body again. Oh my God, this was all really happening. This wasn’t a nightmare. This wasn’t a movie. That was really a plane that smashed into a building. That was really an entire building just completely crashing.
And then the second tower fell.
I remember at that moment I started to cry. Xois did the same. I couldn’t believe it, where once stood two towers, now stood nothing. They were gone, and all that was left was smoke and ash and that blue sky—that very blue sky—behind it all.
And that really is one of the things I remember most about that tragic day, in spite of everything else, the sky really was so very blue…so very, very blue.
Later, Xois and I would go take a walk in a park over by the Hell Gate bridge near where we lived. There were a lot of people in the park that day, no doubt all walking along the water’s edge to where if one looked down the East River, one could try to catch a glimpse of the streaming smoke that was slowly drifting away from the destruction that, again, was being held up against that blue, blue sky.
I can really only think of one word that later described the mood for that day in the park with Xois. Everything was just simply somber. Our footsteps were somber, the glances of people who walked by us were somber, the sound of the wind that blew around us was somber, the slow flow of river…somber, the realization of what had just happened…somber. It was all just so somber. And again, so was the sky that day…just so simply somber in all that tragic blueness.
Again, I can’t help but just really remember at how that blue seemed to hug us all day long on September 11th, 2001, and nine years later, I’m still feeling like it hugs us blue all over again.
In loving memory . . .
August 24, 2010
Recently we had a power outage in my apartment due to a really bad storm and it lasted about 3 days. During that time, there was obviously not much to do, but maybe read and then read by candlelight. So on one of the nights, I took this photo of One (my cat) who was perched on the table and sitting next to me while I was having a glass of wine and reading by candlelight. After I took the photo and viewed it, a brief, short pop of inspiration was felt and I wrote this:
...and what emerged from the darkness
was a kitty too curious for words.
July 18, 2010: New Painting
Eye of Whores
June 27, 2010
The venerable antidote created aesthetically to impede onsetting numbness from work.
June 13, 2010
So this past weekend me, my sister, dad, and my stepmom traveled up to Mount Carmel, PA to attend the Betz Family Reunion. There we met up with my two uncles, Mike and Jimmy, and my aunt Mary, all siblings of my dad.
My grandmother Claire "Cookie" Ryan was the Betz of the family, hence, why we were all invited to attend the gathering. I haven't been back to Mt. Carmel since 2006 when we held the funeral for my grandmother. Mt. Carmel is where both my grandparents find their roots, so naturally it is THE most interesting place to visit for me since I am very much into knowing my history, etc.
To be honest, I'm still absorbing all the people we met, all the stories we heard, the sights we saw, so I really don't know how to "blog" or tell the story about it just yet. But I did feel the need to update a little on just some of the feelings that possessed me as I coasted through the three days with family, both immediate and extended.
Family is a funny thing. With all its complexities, relationships, and idiosyncrasies that often arise when thinking about issues when dealing with family, there was one thing that seemed to be consistent that I did observe this weekend and, that is, once the connection is made, that connection of knowing you share the same blood as the other person standing right in front of you, however foreign or unknown they may really be, something does soften from within. And it's weird, you know you don't KNOW them, you know you might not have anything in common with them, but the very fact that you know that on this line of relationships, you're a lot closer to them than you are to the man who just took your meal ticket, really does say something about the essence of family.
However, that's not to say that those who do NOT necessarily share the same blood still isn't as much family as your own sibling or parent may be. But for poetic sake, this weekend was just about blood. And like I said, the range of emotions that flowed through me this weekend kept me feeling more and more alive than I've ever felt before. Emotions like: excitement, joy, trepidation, fear, embarrassment, alienation, curiosity, sympathy, love, compassion, interest, amusement, fun, disappointment, irritation, anger, forgiveness, hope, happiness, sadness, serenity, and over all, peace. It was a great three days, and though my Irish father still doesn't want to give his German side the 50/50 rights it's entitled to, I will: We are an UBER awesome family.
May 19, 2010
a quiet rosary said
while looking out the window
at the old magnolia tree
birdsongs and whispers
I could’ve sat all day
May 5, 2010
Last night it was like it always was
Magnetic, familiar, irrational,
and me suddenly unresolved in comfortable arms
that were disappearing before me
A dark incriminating photograph on the nightstand--
Enter my father and him pointing
with warning toward the outside opening garage door
seeing then the garbage truck driving by
the light of morning waking me.
April 11, 2010
So I really hadn’t anticipated blogging anything regarding this past Easter. I figured I’d squeak by and let the day tell its own story as it has been doing for over two thousand years. But as the good Lord would have it…I was still blessed with a short story to tell any way.
So as expected, Easter started off with my sister Clarissa and me waking to a beautiful Sunday morning. We drove to meet our father at the chapel on Bolling Air Force base, which is where my dad and stepmom, Minerva, like to worship mass regularly. Clarissa and I then sat minimally moved by the sermon given by Father Vinegar, a name we have affectionately given to our parents’ pastor because of his rather cantankerous way of preaching the gospel. You see, Father Vinegar has a way of making the “good news” sound bad. But any way, I digress.
So after mass, we went over to our dad’s house, where we were met by Minerva who had stayed back to prepare things for our Easter dinner with some family friends. The rest of the morning was then spent in preparation. I was tasked with the making of the creamed corn, green bean casserole, and other food prep for Minerva. Minerva was tasked with the cleaning and decorating of the house both inside and out. My dad was tasked to stay out of our way, and Clarissa, well, Clarissa was tasked with talking on her cell phone or sitting about.
About half way through all this prep, I was mixing the ingredients for the creamed corn, when I looked out the window and noticed Minerva sitting at the picnic table arranging a nice vase of camellias while talking to my sister who sat with her with cellphone in grip. I decided to take a break and join the two of them outside. The beautiful morning beckoned it, and as soon as I joined them, the three of us began to coo over how pretty the recently bloomed camellias were and my stepmom Minerva just couldn’t have been happier with them. Until suddenly…gasp!
As my stepmom moved her fingers around the pretty pink blooms, she noticed something about her ring.
“Oh, NO!” she exclaimed, “One of my pearls is missing!”
My sister and I looked straight to our stepmom’s hand and instantly noticed the now vacant spot of where a pretty pearl once lived, right next to another pretty pearl that was still there.
Oh shit…was all I thought. There is absolutely nothing worse than losing a really good piece of jewelry, and especially when that piece of jewelry really means something to you. It’s just one of those things that can happen that can really make your heart sink deep into your chest. When I was thirteen, my father bought me a beautiful gold Claddagh ring that had a teeny, tiny diamond set just in the middle of the heart. At the same time, he also bought my stepmom one too, though hers was set with many more diamonds, as it should’ve been. A Claddagh ring is a popular, traditional Irish ring given as a token of love. It’s also a clever way to convey one’s romantic status. You might recall the two clasped hands holding a crowned heart. I was really touched when I received it from him. My dad then told me how I should wear it, on my right hand with the heart facing outward, which symbolized my “availability” to suitors. On the left inward would symbolize otherwise. I obeyed and placed it on my right, facing out. And though I was conveying a wanton heart, my dad preferred me to think it really symbolized that the only man who held my heart at the time was him. It was a sweet gesture from a father to a daughter. I’d had a difficult time with my parents’ divorce and my dad’s remarriage to Minerva, but I think this was my dad’s way of trying to make “things better” and in his own subtle way. It was/is the only piece of jewelry my father has ever given me. But unfortunately, it was a little too big for my finger, however that didn’t matter to me. I still loved wearing it with all my heart.
One day, I was walking around the neighborhood with some girlfriends. We came to a spot we called “the wooden bridge” because there stood a wooden bridge that was built to help get across a man-made canal that ran straight through our neighborhood. We started to cross the bridge, and I don’t remember what I was thinking or saying, but I was flapping my arms about allowing the long sleeves of my jacket swoosh up and down. You know, the kind of body movement only a kid would do. Well, as I flapped on like a bird, all of the sudden I heard this, “ping!” And then, “plink!” Along with a quick, shiny movement that seem to spark from the bridge’s banister on down and all in the corner of my eye.
I immediately stopped half way up the bridge and stood, not wanting to believe the unthinkable. I then took a look down between the wooden planks beneath my feet and saw what I didn’t want to see…a point of entry from where small gentle ripples grew out into soft bellowing waves…I was heartbroken.
My ring had flown off my hand and into the dark muddy canal below. I still shake my head just thinking about it. I remember I then quickly summoned about 2 or 3 of the neighborhood boys that had always milled about us girls, crying and begging them to brave the dark depths of the canal’s muddy edge. The canal was no deeper than maybe to our knees, but I certainly wasn’t going to get dirty. The boys though were kind enough to search for an hour or two for me, but to no avail, my little Claddagh ring was never found.
So of course when Minerva exclaimed the sudden loss of her precious, little pearl…I knew how important it was to instantly get into search mode, so along with my sister who was now on the phone again, we began the search.
Minerva then told us she remembered seeing both pearls secure that morning. Unfortunately, things kind of went like this after that: Minerva started cleaning. Minerva then made the bed. Minerva went downstairs. Minerva fed Fido, the family poodle. Minerva then dressed the Prime Rib. Minerva cleaned the bathroom. Minerva washed the dishes. Minerva then swept. Minerva went outside. Minerva then walked Fido. Minerva was in the bushes clipping camellias. Minerva set up the hammock. Minerva then flipped the blanket on the hammock. Minerva greeted the girls. Minerva then walked across the lawn…and well, Minerva…it’s not a small lawn.
I did feel really bad for her though, and I asked her if the ring had any significance to her in the hopes her response would be, “No, not really.” But no, instead I got the story that:
The pearl is one of two pearls that are in a ring that my dad and she had purchased in a small shop while visiting Spain the week before 9/11. They had gotten to Spain on a military flight out of Norfolk to Rota (southern Spain), driven to the city of Sevilla and was headed back on September 8 to catch a Navy flight out of Rota on September 9. But before going back to the base, they stayed overnight in the mountain village of Mejias, just above Costa del Sol, in a classic hotel. When they arrived, they found out that the town had been celebrating their patron Saint's, the Blessed Mother, feast day with mass, parades/fireworks, and dances in the town. They enjoyed the festivities so much and found the ring and matching earrings in a small jewelry store in one of many shops in the beautiful town.
It was the perfect vacation for them, a magical, romantic experience in Mejias that ended on their return home on Sunday September 10. That Monday, September 11th, they then woke up, just like everyone else did, to see the violent attack on “their” beloved World Trade Center. My stepmom used the word “their” to me because she told me the Trade Center was where she and my dad had fallen in love. It was the place where they said their goodbyes with a parting kiss before my stepmom would hop on the New Jersey Path train back to Hoboken and my dad would return to his base in Brooklyn. My dad and stepmom had a lot of romantic walks, talks, and times around the WTC, so naturally when 9/11 happened, those two little pearls that sat nestled so closely together on her ring took on a whole new meaning for both her and for him.
I didn’t know what to say after I heard her story. I just returned my eyes to the grass as I looked around the picnic table. But soon my heart felt like it did the day I looked down into that canal. I then somberly left the outside and returned into the kitchen…all the while noticing the space and the ease with which a pearl could roll across my parents’ shiny hardwood floors and into any of the floor vents or how similarly Fido’s ground chicken could camouflage such a gem. Or God, please no, not in the Prime Rib! But then like any good Catholic would on an Easter morning like so, my utter despair soon grew into a joyous hope, and as I got back to work on the food prep at kitchen counter, I decided to shout out the Mother of all prayers in times like these:
“TONY! TONY! LOOK AROUND! MINERVA’S LOST SOMETHING THAT MUST BE FOUND!!”
My sudden gregarious yelp got Fido barking and my father laughing. My dad then joined in and started shouting as well.
“St. Anthony! St. Anthony! Please, Help! Help! We need your help!”
And in the backyard, I could hear Minerva’s agreeing pleas as well, “Oh yes! YES! Please Tony! Please!”
However after our short “making light of things” moment, the still disappointment of Minerva’s loss set in again. I really did feel bad for Minerva. But then I saw I had to finish up the food prep first. I figured after I was done, I’d steal away to hunt for the missing pearl along with Minerva who still kept searching the outside and my sister too, who was again on her cell phone quietly talking to someone while she walked slowly through the grass inspecting each square foot.
But even though I returned to my food prep, I still paid attention to Minerva’s continuous laments.
“Oh I knew I should’ve been more careful! The one pearl was loose, but I thought I had glued it on securely!”
At one point I noticed my dad was just sitting in a lounge chair with Fido on his lap. I could tell he wasn’t about to look for something that I think he had already accepted was gone. He’d only roll his eyes every time Minerva wailed on about the “should of’s and would of’s”. I could tell he was thinking, Well you shouldn’t have been wearing the ring if the darn thing was loose. I just nodded my head at his realism. I knew he was right, but I hadn’t given up hope. I recall stirring the creamed corn over the stove top and thinking, Oh, wouldn’t it be cool if one of us should find Minerva’s pearl. What a blessing that would be. Please St. Anthony, help us find it. Please?? It would be really nice. And on this Easter day?
The next hour or so went on with me cooking, while my dad continued to sit in his snarky skepticism, and Minerva and my sister kept on the search. At the moment I was about to declare the creamed corn creamed…my sister blew in through the front door.
“MINERVA! MINERVA! I FOUND IT! I FOUND IT!”
I spun on my heels and caught the sight of my sister skirting in just like a spring breeze with cell phone in one hand and a pearl pinched between two fingers in her other hand. I just stood frozen in my spot with a sticky spatula suspended in the air, and my Dad started guffawing loudly which caused Fido to bark into hysterics. Minerva, who had JUST come in from the back door seemed to instantaneously meet my sister’s arrival, and she immediately started to cry in utter gratitude. We were all caught in the moment.
As soon as the discovery settled in, my sister began to explain how she used simple logic to find the pearl. She said she started to analyze in her mind what movements of Minerva’s might have caused her to flip her hand, thus forcing her pearl to fly off. I remember I laughed at my sister’s hypothesis and thought to myself, What the hell are you talking about? Any movement could have done that!! But alas I kept my skepticism, which I had obviously inherited from my father, to myself, because after all, she had found it. And she found it in a pile of mulch that was sitting next to the hammock that Minerva had been working on. Clarissa said that she imagined that the pearl could’ve flown off Minerva’s hand when she flipped and flapped at the blanket she had placed on the hammock as decoration. I thought…Ok whatever, but still utterly elated that she had found it. And we all were. Clarissa then beckoned me and Minerva to come out to inspect the place where she had found it, and as I made my way out toward the back door, I remember I looked over to my Dad and made a gesture toward the sky implying that we both knew who was really at work here. My dad then gave me the biggest grin ever. IT was awesome!
So with Minerva’s loss and then Clarissa’s gain, the rest of the afternoon continued on in celebration. Minerva was happy that she had found her pearl. Clarissa was happy that she had found it. I was happy that Clarissa was finally off her cellphone. And my dad was happy that all the women in his life were finally happy, and really, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Later that day, as we all sat around the table with each other and with family friends, my dad decided to pull out my stepmom’s collection of puppets. For the next thirty minutes, we sat around the dining room table, pretending to be puppeteers as we giggled and tried to make sense of our own happiness. The day had been filled with such a marvelous event that I think we were all just a little bit punch drunk. Because really, what were the odds? And one week later, as I sit here recalling the events of that day again, I’m still a little punch drunk because I can’t help but smile at the master puppeteer of it all. For the story still doesn’t end there because I’m now looking down at my right hand as I type this and I’m seeing a pretty gold Claddagh ring, encrusted with diamonds, with heart facing out, wrapped perfectly around my ring finger.
Incidentally, three weeks ago, Minerva passed onto me the Claddagh ring my dad had given her 22 years ago. When 22 years ago, I had lost the one my dad had given me. And again, as I sit here and see her ring at home now on my hand, I suddenly feel like those ripples are slowly coming to an end, and I sigh and think, so what's the moral of the story?
Don’t flap your arms around when you are wearing good jewelry.
March 23, 2010- 7:00 AM
I had a dream last night and it was the Apocalypse and a pack of hungry dogs was chasing us...but as we hid and I sat curled in your arms...I suddenly didn't feel like it was the end, but that it was really...only the beginning.
March 17, 2010
In honor of St. Patrick's Day...a limerick...
There once was a saint named Patrick,
T’was lucky to be Ireland’s good maverick,
For through his blessed talk,
Of the great shamrock,
He showed the Trinity's holy magic.
February 14, 2010
Happy Chinese New Year!
Can I admit, I am thoroughly excited for this new year! It is the year of the Tiger, and luckily, it is my good fortune to be born under such an auspicious sign, as was my mother. The last time it was the year of the Tiger was twelve years ago, and I had just moved to New York City. I remember how exciting that first year was and what it had all meant to me. I had just graduated from college, had left my home of Va. Beach, and headed straight for the big apple. I had moved in with my aunt on the upper east side and was reveling in my new city life. That first year I found a great job at True Story magazine, a great part-time job at Barnes and Noble, had entered graduate school at CUNY, and then ultimately found my first apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It had all been SUCH an exciting time.
Needless to say though, twelve years later, the only thing I still hang onto is that part-time job at Barnes and Noble. But this time, I am back in Virginia, living near Washington, D.C., working for the Department of Education, and still having that some what exciting time. The past twelve years have been...as I look out my window and into the night sky...deep like that. I've learned so much about the world and more importantly, I've learned so much about myself that's it's hard to believe I was once that naive, overly-excited girl, who'd gush over the sudden glance from a cute stranger or cry like a baby over the hurtful actions of a friend. But I guess that is what Time does for us; it just puts so much in between that what was then and what is now, is gone and well, why do we even have to think back to it all now?
So any way here I am, on the start of another twelve year cycle, and on all days, February 14th. I would be lying if I didn't admit that in my heart of hearts, I'm superstitiously hoping that the coincidence is a foretelling of my fortune this year. I would love for true love to actually happen for me during this year, this year of the Tiger, my year. How auspiciously romantic could that be? Here I feel myself feeling naive and overly excited once again, however the difference being, I know I'm being such. Silly girl. But truly, I just really hope the next twelve years continues being as deep as the previous twelve. And if I do find true love somewhere among all those...looking out...far away stars, I'll write twelve years from now, that it was my fearless Tiger that finally found him for me. Gong Xi Fa Cai!!
January 19, 2010
So I spent the better half of this past holiday weekend cleaning out my wardrobe. I hadn’t done a real good purge in YEARS, and what prompted me to take on such a task was the fact that I had turned red in the face from screaming bloody murder as I tried to wedge my storage bins back under my bed the week before. I had taken them out in order to pack more clothes in, but putting them back under my bed turned out to be a friggin nightmare. I sat on the floor with both my feet propped up against the bins using all the strength I had to squeeze them back underneath the bed. As I budged and shoved and then cursed at the stubbornness of it all, I thought at one point the bins were going to act as a jack and soon I’d find my bed levitating off the ground. Finally though, after some minutes of wrestling with them, I got them back under; however I was now left with a nagging realization that something needed to be done. I just couldn’t keep packing in my clothes. That soon I wouldn’t have any more room at all. That I REALLY needed to (and without warning comes that unavoidable wince that always seems to accompany such a thought) I REALLY needed to . . . throw stuff out.
Of course, the sigh that followed my thought would’ve made anyone think that some awful tragedy had just occurred in my life. But when really, it was just the mere realization that I’d become a bad collector of unnecessary items, and in particular, my wardrobe. It was time to deal with the inevitable. I knew I’d never wear some of these items ever again, and it really shouldn’t matter how much some of these items do matter. It was time to move on. It was time to let go.
Interestingly enough, I hadn’t planned on this wardrobe project to be so serendipitous with the new year, but the timing only gave me an even better reason to tackle it. So I spent all of last week emotionally preparing myself for this Great Purge. And I know how crazy this may sound, but I really had to talk myself into the process. I chanted all week long: Out with the old, in with the new. You’ll never, EVER have that figure again. Don’t even try it on. Just toss it out. You can always buy something else, etc. These thoughts were extremely helpful in defusing any anxiety I was beginning to feel at the thought of throwing away some of my most beloved pieces of clothing, and as the day grew nearer, I even found myself somewhat excited at the project. Yes, yes, it would be right to get rid of all these things. It would be cleansing. It would be good.
But when the day finally came to get started, dread seemed to set in. I don’t know how many times I walked around my bedroom, around the apartment, all around in circles, completely avoiding what I needed to do. It seemed that every time I drew closer to the bins or to my closet, some thought would enter my mind and soon I’d be walking away from the assigned task. Suddenly, I needed to make coffee. I was hungry, so how about an apple? I need to call my parents. Or, oh, did I pay that bill? And it went on, until finally even I grew impatient with myself and finally succumbed to the priority. Though I don’t know why I was avoiding it. Maybe I didn’t want to deal with the trouble I was starting to feel at having to part with some of my favorite items; the very same items that have traveled around with me for years. But regardless of the unavoidable separation anxiety I knew I’d experience, it still didn’t erase the memory of a REALLY irritated me trying to shove my bins back underneath my bed, and so then quickly I got to work.
As I began the painful process of sorting out all the pieces of clothing that were either out of date, didn’t fit me, or just simply hanging around because I “liked it,” I started thinking: Now why on earth have I held onto all this stuff for so long and is this a metaphor for life. . .for me? Have I held onto the old for too long? Have I been dragging around memories that have kept me from experiencing new and exciting things? Have I avoided creating new and better memories for the fear of forgetting the old and affective ones? Should I be holding onto such memorabilia or memories even though currently I can’t either wear them or use them for tomorrow? All these thoughts seemed to drown out the music I had on in the background, and soon I felt myself picking quietly, though intentionally, through the heaping piles of clothes.
As expected, each piece of clothing I sorted through had some sort of memory attached to it. This was my favorite top I wore at this job; the job I took after I got out of that icky situation. Or this top I wore New Year’s eve; a time when I was feeling awkward and out of place at a party where I knew no one. Or these jeans I looked awesome in, despite not having been able to fit into them in almost 4 years since that day he and I ended things very badly, etc. I sorted and sorted, and as I delved deeper and deeper into the bins and finding things that should’ve been thrown out years ago, my thoughts just kept returning to this one question: Why do I hold onto things for so long?
I soon began to worry that maybe I do this in life too much as well. That is, hold onto memories or dwell on them? I mean, I know we all go through times in our lives where we recollect in the past, revisiting those particular memories; however, I also know many people who never leave the past, never move on, and have not been able to live beyond what once was. And so I wondered, am I like that?
I think all of us are guilty of sometimes stalling on the past. After I got out of rehab (see Tattoos/The Leaf), I spent a good two years dwelling on my past. I couldn’t help. I had to go back and retrace my steps. I needed to know where I went wrong and what I should’ve done differently. It was inescapable. However, I also knew that I couldn’t always default to the past. I had to learn the lessons and move on. And I suppose that’s why I’m doing okay today. . . luckily. Unfortunately I know people who can’t seem to move on from the past. They carry their baggage full of regret, sorrow, and disappointment all throughout their life, which incidentally makes it virtually impossible for their souls to enjoy life. But how could they though? They’re so packed inside with old memories, old hauntings that at some point it’s too hard to find the feelings they might need to experience something new that could be good for them. I think, for the most part, I’ve been able to let go of a lot of “stuff”, or I think I’ve grown to where I might be getting better at NOT holding onto such superfluous memories for too long, and now that I think about it, I don’t even want to talk about them now.
So anyway, as my examination of self grew, I noticed an incredible zeal with which I began to approach the task at hand. Top after top, pants after pants, I began to pick them off with ease. I’d take an item and recall the memory of each. I would allow myself to laugh at it, roll my eyes at it, swear at it, sigh at it, and at the end of it, notice it all for what it really was: Just a big, junky pile of stuff, heaped on the floor and cluttered with bare hangers. And honestly at that point, I just couldn’t wait to be rid of it, much like how the past should be dealt with I think. You know, from time to time, it’s okay to revisit the good and the bad (and the ugly), but for the most part, packing away those memories and then unpacking them and then repacking them again and again is just not good, and instead they should just be let go so that when the next outfit does come around, there’ll be plenty of room to enjoy.
Interestingly enough, after I dropped off my three HUGE trash bags full of clothes at the local Good Will, I came back home and hopped on my Facebook account. Facebook being, of course, the mother of “facing” things old and new. I began my ritual sift through status updates, glossing over news reports, reading over particular posts, and laughing at some of the funnier ones. And then I got to one post, where I noticed a comment from a name from my past, a past some twenty years ago. It jolted me back and I called out to my sister who was in her room. When I told her who I had just seen commenting on Facebook, she let out a groan and shot me a dreadful wince. She knew that name could bring me back to a place, where God forbid, I never EVER want to go again. We both exchanged astonishments, and then that was it. She went back to her room, and I just stared at the name for one more minute. And that was it. I had no interest in unpacking that memory and then repacking it in my proverbial thought bin. Nope, just wanted to throw it out with the rest and so I did with just one click.
And that’s pretty much how most of my wardrobe purge went. For every item I threw out, it only made the next item to be thrown out much easier. And of course, I did keep a FEW things, but just enough to maybe fit in a knapsack, but no more. I was quite proud of myself toward the end, though there were a few items I did keep in the hopes of MAYBE fitting into them by summer. However I did make a promise to myself that come summer, if I can’t fit into them by then, then OUT they go. It’s that simple. If I don’t lose the weight, then it becomes dead weight, and in my opinion, I don’t want any more skeletons in my closet, they take up too much damn room.
*Now sometimes you have to have a little fun. It helps make the task go by easier. While I worked, I kept thinking I was on a movie set and I was playing the starring character in a movie called: How the Wardrobe was Won. I was Sheriff Pattee Pickoff and here I am in a standoff with my nemesis Two Button Loss Blouse and Can't Fit Slacks.
*It was a blood bath for the good, the bad, and the ugly.
*Here lies Two Button Loss Blouse and Can't Fit Slacks. May they rest at Good Will.
Ps. I know this blog post is coming on the heels of the horrendous disaster in Haiti. However I don’t know what to say about it. What can you say? Except to please donate whatever money, time, or items you can, keep the people of Haiti in your prayers, and hope for the best in their recovery.