#bloganuary · Thoughts

Feelings make memories

“People will forget what you say. People will forget what you do. But people will never forget how you make them feel.”

Maya Angelou

I love this quote. It is such a true statement. Be it an argument, a tender moment, a scary scene, or a hilarious joke, you will forget exactly what was said or perhaps even the cause, but you will remember the feeling associated with it and be able to pull that feeling up in your memory and your heart.

I think feelings are what make memories. My daughter claims to have very little recollection of her childhood; she was always looking forward to what’s next. As an adult who loves to travel, I’ve suggested to her that she absolutely live in the moment, look around and place her entire self there and feel; acknowledge any event, good or bad, appreciate your place in that scene, and see if it helps when trying to recall it. I think it has worked for her. Recounting her last solo trip, I could feel in the telling the excitement of kayaking in Venice and discovering the salt flats of Malta. She felt her memories.

Conversely, I believe this quote is exactly why men claim women have the memory of an elephant when it comes to an argument. I’m convinced it’s not that we remember the argument or even why there was an argument. We remember it because of how it made us feel.

The blogging challenge to keep you motivated and start the new year on the “write” track!
Childhood · holidays · Moving forward · Thoughts

And so it begins…

It’s that time of year again. I can’t complain since last year was COVID where nothing was the same as before. But it does seem like ‘it’ starts earlier and earlier every year. Where I live in a 55+ community, I actually saw a Christmas tree in the window of a neighbor’s home around Halloween.

When I was younger, every holiday seemed like a separate event to me. Now, with retailers so aggressively promoting Christmas earlier and earlier, it feels like all the preceding holidays take either a back seat, or they are simply whizzed through to get to The Big Event. Interestingly, while shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, I searched high and low for decorations for the table and a little something for the yard. I went to Hobby Lobby and Michael’s and found nothing! (I didn’t try Walmart. I just can’t.) When did they stop Thanksgiving displays?

And so now the outside Christmas decorations are beginning to go up around me. I’m tempted to join in. In fact, I was this close to putting up the tree for Thanksgiving! You have to understand; when we were kids – hand to God – we did not get a tree until Christmas Eve! (Of course I now realize it was because the trees were so cheap by then.) We would then spend the day happily decorating it, totally oblivious to the fact that this was not what every other family did.

Thank God I have a robust relationship with Amazon. I have been Christmas shopping for months. In fact, I’m pretty much done but for a few things here and there — oh, and stocking stuffers. So it’s not like I didn’t know it was coming, and coming fast. It’s just that when it does come so fast, I somehow want to slow it down, kind of stave it off for as long as I can, not because I don’t like Christmas, but because I do.

I wonder if it’s because these end-of-year holidays are just that. They are the beginning of the end of the current year, rolling us into the next. It feels sometimes like it’s an accelerating somersault that begins with Labor Day and rolls us through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, only to land us seated, feet splayed, hands braced, and eyes crossed, bracing us for the new year where we’ll start all over again.

Family & Friends · Thoughts

My gang

My sister has a group of friends she met when she was a teacher at the same Catholic school she attended as a kid. I think there’s four of them that are each others’ support group. She calls them her posse. I like that. I think it’s great to have a posse.

Me, I have a gang. Not a big gang, mind you, though the name itself would suggest that. No, it’s a small gang; sort of a gang of two. But between us, we’ve weathered births, adoptions, divorce, and heartbreaking death; life at its best and worst; while helping raise each other’s kids. They say it takes a village. My family was my village, but she is my person. She knows my darkest secrets, and I hers. After more than 30 years, I’ve learned that she will caveat to the point where I often just make a quick mental note where she started so I can get her back on track when needed. We’ll run the gamut of raucous laughter to silent sniffles, each of us knowing what the other one needs at any particular time. We will challenge each other, make us face our fears, always offer support and of course unconditional love. We can go for months on end and not talk with each other outside of maybe a text or two saying, ‘Hey, I’m still here, are you?’ And then out of the blue one of us calls the other, and we’re on the phone for hours asking about family and friends, the fun and the not-so-much-fun that’s been going on since we last spoke.

We are pretty much total opposites in many ways; it’s really a wonder we clicked as we did. And while we are the same age, she grew up in a very dysfunctional family of five where all the kids (three boys, two girls) had male names. Alcoholism ran rampant in her clan who all lived within miles of each other. Raised on a farm in mid Michigan in the 60s and 70s, hard work was no stranger to her. While the rest of her siblings stayed close to home, at 18 she left for the dance world and never returned, forever the outcast who dared to choose a different, better life. I was raised in a tight Irish-Catholic clan with 10 siblings, lots of love and laughter, pretty much oblivious to the lifestyles of other families. But I had my own struggles growing up. With six kids in eight years, there wasn’t much individual attention to spare for a needy little girl. We didn’t have much, and I wasn’t popular in school. It was a strict upbringing that included church, chores, curfews, but we knew we were loved.

She (given name Dale) was and is athletic. I am not. She has two children through adoption while I gave birth to three (she was there with me for the last one). She is the Diane Keaton to my Annette Benning, good at acting as if all is well when it’s not. We both weathered destructive marriages, and we are now both retired with grandchildren. We live a thousand miles apart, but we also know if one of us were in need, we would be right there for the other. We can agree to disagree on many things with no judgement while we encourage, advise, empathize, and console.

There’s a quote from Grey’s Anatomy where this ‘my person’ idea started, and I think it says it all:

This is life. Bad things happen. You find your people, you find your person, and you lean on them.

Meredith, Grey’s Anatomy

So she is my person. I have other close friends that I love dearly along with many acquaintances, and I try my best to stay in touch, even if it’s just a quick text or email. All our lives are constantly changing. After being alone for 11 years she has found a nice man she enjoys spending time with. She’s in a really good place right now, deservedly so, and I am more than happy for her happiness. I have remarried. I am in a good place as well, though there’s a bit of a ‘limbo’ feel to my days while my 94-year-old mother lives out the rest of her days with us. We are far apart in distance but always close in heart.

I love her. She is my person, my gang.

Childhood · Moving forward · Thoughts

In recovery.

I was born and raised in the Catholic church. As Irish Catholics, we were all baptized as infants, received the Sacrament of Holy Communion at seven years of age, and at 13 we acknowledged following Christ with the Sacrament of Confirmation. We attended church regularly. Like an ever-expanding parade, my siblings and I would follow Dad, single-file, to the very front of the church and fill an entire pew. If the girls forgot their chapel veils, my mother would place a Kleenex on our heads. We of course had no idea at the time why we were wearing a veil, but we never thought to question. We dutifully confessed our sins weekly through the Sacrament of Penance and knelt and recited by rote our Hail Marys and our Acts of Contrition. We said our rosaries and table grace with the speed of an auctioneer. Steeped in Catholicism, we never questioned that fact until we left home and were on our own and . . . exposed . . . to outside influences.

I have never doubted my faith and belief in God. (Well, maybe once, in college, but it was very brief.) I have always believed that Jesus is my Savior, that he died for our sins and that he will return in the second coming. I have no fear of death because I believe in heaven and hell and life eternal. I try and treat others the way I would want to be treated. I was married in the Church and raised my three children in the Catholic faith. They briefly attended Catholic school until we could no longer afford the tuition. All three received the same Sacraments I did.

But somewhere along the way I began to be disillusioned with the Church. It seemed the longer I was in the Catholic Church, the more I became aware of the intolerance and insincerity that existed most often in those professing to be staunch Catholics. (That’s actually a term often used. ‘He’s a staunch Catholic.’) I started to see the hypocrisy in so many self-proclaimed Catholics with their righteous morality and unchristian conduct. Some of these people were pillars of the parish involved in the Mass, befriending the clergy. Even the bishop showed the true colors of betrayal, at least in my eyes and certainly many others.

That was the beginning of the end for me. I call myself a recovering Catholic. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic. But I discovered it is more important and meaningful to behave as a Christian than behave as a Catholic. I have a relationship with God that I didn’t have before or perhaps had once a week for an hour on Sunday. I currently don’t attend a formal church setting, nor do I feel the need to. I work in hospice, and I see daily in our caregivers the Christ-like behavior God is seeking. Perhaps when you’re repeatedly exposed to true Christian conduct, the falseness of those who flaunt their Catholicism with hypocritical judgment and behavior becomes glaringly apparent.

Family · Thoughts

Weddings, families, and mantras.

Last year my Goddaughter, was married in a lovely ceremony with lots of family and friends in attendance. This past weekend, another niece was married in what apparently will be forever referred to as a ‘COVID’ or ‘RONA’ wedding. While they were both beautiful events, they each left me a little sad for reasons I won’t go into. Suffice it to say, one of my favorite sayings by David Foster Wallace was certainly brought to mind:

“You’ll worry less about what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do.”

My friend Sarah and I love to hash things out about relationships, personalities, and other deep-thinking subjects. For instance, in a particular scenario, I might act or react in an entirely different way than perhaps she would. And in trying to understand someone else’s actions, we have to remind each other, ‘Me … NOT me.’ Meaning, the way I might treat someone isn’t necessarily the way someone else might treat me in the same scenario. It’s actually very helpful when you’re on the receiving end of a situation where you simply cannot comprehend someone’s actions. It removes the burden of trying to understand the motivation behind their decision and simply realize that just because they may believe what they did was right, that doesn’t make it right for you. And that’s okay. It’s not you. It’s them.

That’s where I am with these weddings. I struggled last year, and I struggle again this year because I do not understand the thought process behind certain events. I’ve hashed it out with a few friends and even some family members, and frankly no one ‘gets’ it. And so I struggle finding the high road knowing that’s where I need to be because we are, after all, a polite and friendly bunch. But I will continue to repeat the mantra, ‘Me … NOT me’ until these feelings fade away.

And they will.


The unexpected gift of 9/11.

Ground Zero

September 11, 2001. We all remember where we were and what we were doing when the towers came down. I personally remember being at work prepping for a day of hearings when someone came in and said a plane had hit one of the World Trade Centers. We all jumped up, went to another room, and then watched in horrified silence as the morning unfolded, barely wanting to believe what our own eyes and ears were telling us.

Know what else I remember? I remember the days, weeks, and months post 9/11 and the feeling in the air in the communities around us, in the media. We suddenly seemed kinder, not so quick to cut that car off in traffic or perhaps allowing someone to get in front of us in the checkout. Whatever else our enemies were hoping for when they planned this attack, what they least expected was what actually happened. Instead of an America divided, we were an America united regardless of race, religion, or gender. We weren’t left or right. We were united Americans, and we were proud of it.

They say never forget. But I think outside of the anniversary of that day, most of us do forget. We forget the visual, we forget the fear, and we forget the enemy. Now the enemy is us. Less than 20 years later, what we are now is unrecognizable to just a generation ago. And I miss it. I feel almost guilty because of the horrific catalyst that led to that feeling, but I do. It surprises me to say it, but eventually, we felt good. Perhaps ‘good’ is the wrong word. But we felt changed. We all had each others’ backs. We talked to each other, seemed to trust each other. We were all going through the same thing.

So here we are, 19 years later, unrecognizable as the same country. Regardless of where you think the blame lies, ask yourself, in the end – and I have to say, this may well be the beginning of the end – are any of the reasons for this division so important? What should and will matter is love given and received. That is the measure of a life. How did we treat each other, our families, siblings, friends? Right, left, or middle, in the end, is it really going to matter which side we were on politically?

Stop for a moment and think. What if another 9/11 happened today? What if one of your family or close friends were caught in the tragedy? What if your neighbor or co-worker or even the homeless guy on the corner – what if they simply and suddenly didn’t exist? Would you have regrets?

I think that was the unexpected gift of 9/11. We didn’t want any regrets. We didn’t want any what-ifs. We checked in with our loved ones, expressed concern to strangers, and offered our help. We were united, all of us. My hope and prayer for today is that we can look past the outside cacophony of noise that is being shoved down our throats and remember. Remember the ultimate sacrifice of so many who lost their lives that day. Those heroes didn’t ask the victims where they stood politically. They didn’t discriminate against race or religion or gender choice when they risked their own lives to save theirs. The worst possible disgrace would be if that tragedy was for naught.

Remember that day, and then remember the gift of that day. And be kind.

Divide and conquer: to make a group of people disagree and fight with one another so that they will not join together against one. ~Miriam Webster

Randomness · Thoughts


8 E. Broad St.

Richmond, Virginia, May 30, 2020. I drove with Meg to her latest travel gig then planned on a flight home on Sunday. She’d found a beautiful studio in the historic district of downtown Richmond, second floor of a building circa 1870 with 12′ ceilings and tall windows, hardwood floors and updated everything. I loved it for her! She was actually born in Richmond, though she left at only three months old. Still, we joked about her coming back to her birthplace and learning all about the area.

We had the landlords for dinner Friday night and had a great time. Later that evening, we found ourselves with front row seats to the first night of protests after the killing of George Floyd (*Note, this Wiki article on Mr. Floyd has interestingly removed any previous mention of him holding a pistol to the belly of a pregnant woman he assaulted.) At first I was rather impressed with how organized and peaceful it all seemed. Meg and I were hanging out our windows listening to the cadence of chants and watching history being made. People were shouting, cars were honking, but it was peaceful. The next night, though, what began peacefully in the evening hours, became something entirely different as midnight approached. There was a palpable change in the atmosphere. An ugly mood seemed to take over where the peaceful protesting left off. Suddenly I was nervous about having our windows open, and I proceeded to darken our room so we couldn’t be seen.

Photo by Steve Helber

Police in SWAT gear quietly moved in and blocked a cross street between Broad and Grace, mostly watching and waiting as if alerted to something we weren’t aware of yet. Helicopters hovered over the city, and there was an eerie almost movie-set quality to the scene. A GRTC bus had been set ablaze along with a RiteAid store. A block over, dumpsters were ignited and tear gas was deployed. The pawn shop below us became a target, and thugs attempted to break in from both the front where it was caged and the back where it had a steel vault-type door. I saw several cops come running after them, one had his rifle drawn. They were chased away, but only temporarily.

The tension was ridiculous. When you hear the words, ‘things are fluid,’ you think you know what that means. But when you’re on the front line of a near riot, it’s the perfect description. The quiet becomes ominous. The adrenaline starts pumping, and fear, at least for me, outweighs curiosity. Meg was bolder, brasher … and angry. Around 3:00 a.m., via OnStar, she had discovered they’d gone through the parking lot behind our building and trashed and looted every vehicle, including her new GMC Terrain. She’d taken a video, which meant she could see them, and they could see her. Desperately trying to make her see sense, I reminded her it was just a car. It was just a car.

I was scheduled to fly out the next evening. Hating to leaving her there, I was grateful to the landlords who took her under their wing. They boarded up the first floors of their downtown buildings, and they had Meg and Luna stay with them a couple nights while she started her new job. The hospital, just a few blocks away on the same historic street, let her leave work early that first week to avoid any danger. Poor Luna, her anxiety apparent, has slowly begun to adjust to her location with the help of new friends and a wonderful doggie daycare just across the street from the apartment. Things have calmed down, but Meg hasn’t. She can’t sleep. Even though her building is quite secure, she doesn’t feel safe. Every night or weekend holds the the quiet threat of the unknown. This is an historic area with lots of reminders of the Confederacy and all it stood for. There continues to be organized, peaceful gatherings nearby, but thankfully her street has remained relatively quiet. Three weeks later her car is still being repaired. The landlord has put an extra lock on her door, and she bought security cameras for inside her place. She had been so looking forward to her time there. She’s met some great people and made several new friends right in her building. But it has certainly not been at all what she expected.

We’re going up to visit her in July. Maybe that’ll add some normalcy and fun to her time there. I hope so. It’s still a beautiful area, but I’ll be glad when she’s back in Florida again.



Our new vocabulary: COVID-19, flatten the curve, coronavirus, Muhan, China. I can’t say I would have missed any of these words had I never heard them uttered. What they have caused worldwide is indescribable. They keep saying we’ll get through this, and I know that’s true, but I do believe there will be a new normal at the other end. And while we’re in the midst of it with so many unknowns and so many restrictions on living a life; seeing our plans fall by the wayside, being unable to to do so many things we used to take for granted; well, I realize some of us handle it better than others.

Social media can be such an eye-opener. People post such deep, philosophical thoughts – typically someone else’s – and then others ‘Like’ them or ‘Heart’ them or whatever. I read them trying to imagine myself posting similar things, and I find myself literally tearing up, unable to form a coherent thought or opinion about them or even caring to. Rather, I find myself at the precipice of the ‘rabbit hole’, a term a friend and I coined that describes that almost irresistible tunnel one can fall into with almost no will to stop. And at the bottom of that hole is darkness.

I know we’ve all been there. I was there for many years until my only feeling was the non-feeling of apathy. I haven’t been there in awhile. But I now catch myself at the edge, recognizing the danger and pulling myself back from it. I do all the things I would suggest to someone with my mindset. I keep busy, I ride my bike, I pray, I read and knit and do crossword puzzles. I occasionally allow myself to sit in my car at the beach with the windows open and let the negative ions try and balance what’s going on inside. A string of pelicans alongside me can bring a smile to my face. The ocean does seem bluer at times, and the vacant streets make it a pleasure to drive through our normally bustling vintage beach town. Driving home I play music and make a feeble attempt to sing along. Once there, tv news is avoided, though I will admit it’s time to ban it from my phone, as well. I cannot affect it, but it can certainly affect me.

A good movie in the evening helps. A good night’s sleep would help even more. I feel like an ungrateful child, telling my inner self to pull up my big-girl panties and knock it off. I have my mom here and David, both amazingly cheerful no matter what. And even though I feel as if I’m breaking some law, I do see my grandkids once in awhile and even some friends. I’m one of the very lucky ones, and I know it. I absolutely do know it.

But right now, like a million others, I’m just struggling.