Goodbye May…you’ve been simply lovely, despite the twin evils of fibromyalgia and depression. Tulips, crabapple blossoms, lilacs, lilies of the valley, and peonies galore. Of course Catholics celebrate May as Mary’s month, and for me, May has always been my mom’s month, bittersweet now that she’s gone, since her birthday and Mother’s Day fall so close together. So goodbye to May…and hello June! I’m looking forward to summer flowers (my salvias and lupines are blooming already) and hopefully a photography trip up to the North Shore (of Lake Superior, for all of you non-Minnesotans out there).
I am so incredibly, amazingly, crabby at the moment. I overdid it with my physical therapy exercises yesterday and am paying the price today. I also, I admit, was (to my surprise) completely emotionally overwhelmed yesterday by the election of Pope Francis. Pope Francis. But I am experiencing a tough letdown today after my elation and tears, which is making me headachy and grumpy.
It’s so easy to find grace in the beautiful moments, the happy times, when it seems as though God’s love is in the very air we breathe. Which it is, of course. But now? As I sit here in our cluttered bedroom, staring at the immense pile of dirty laundry that is refusing to wash itself, not to mention the many books which I swear mate while we sleep that have no home at the moment, and I could really use a shower, if I could work up the energy to turn on the water, get some towels (any clean ones?) and dig out some shower gel and shampoo which I know we have, somewhere or other.
Yet…I look at the face of my sleeping cocker spaniel, faithfully dozing next to me on the bed. I look across the room and see our wedding portrait, and I remember that I have a husband who takes me to all of my doctor and physical therapy appointments–and they are legion–and never complains. I remember my mother, and how thrilled she would be to see Pope Francis, and I smile, and say a quick prayer to her. And I think to myself, wow, am I blessed. Even if I do suspect my physical therapist of trying to kill me.
This week’s Friday five, a tradition over at one of my all-time favorite blogs, RevGalBlogPals. Every Friday, one of the women posts a meme and invites other members to play. So this week, I’m playing!!! Here goes:
N.B. The narrative voice here asking the questions, etc., is from the original author, not me! My answers are in red.
One of the things to which this refers is clearing away clutter.
One of the best ways I have found to do this is to give everything that comes into my house a HOME. And I can easily tell that I have too many things when there are not enough homes for them all!
I gleaned the idea of items having homes from my younger sister who used to say to her toddlers, “See that book on the floor there? Is that its home? No? Please put the book into its home.” Often, I am saying the same words to myself that she said to her little ones.
In my mother’s house, the Marks-A-Lot marker always went in the cupboard next to the sink. I don’t know why, I just know that’s where the Marks-A-Lot goes, still and forever, in my house many miles away.
So: Tell us your favorite homes for five things, the places that you can always and reliably find them.
1. This one is easy. Books I’m currently reading, not including books for classes (who wants to see them first thing in the morning and last thing at night?) is my nightstand. Of course, other books frequently migrate there as well. And my Kindle is in my nightstand drawer when I’m not carrying it around the house with me like child with a blankie.
2. My dad’s things (his old missal, cards he saved from my mom and me, his photos from WWII, etc.) are in a special box kept on the first shelf in the study closet. Easy access, but out of the way enough so that, hopefully, nothing will get spilled on or chewed on (by the dog, not me, honest).
3. Old family photos that have not yet been put into albums–one of my future projects–are kept in the top left-hand drawer of my old rolltop desk that my dad made for me. Most of them are from my mom’s side (not all), and I’m still trying to figure out who some of the people in them are, and what year, approximately anyway, they were taken. The most interesting photo isn’t a photo at all, at least not in the ordinary sense; it’s a daguerrotype that must date back to at least 1860 if not earlier, of my Cherokee great-great-many greats-grandmother. (Although this is my adoptive family, so there is no blood relation.)
4. The Children’s Bible my godparents gave me for my First Communion resides in the Governor Winthrop in our living room. The Governor Winthrop is a combination secretary desk with a bookcase on top that I inherited from my Great-Aunt Millie, and it’s the perfect place for some of my most treasured old books, like my old bible. It’s dog-eared and falling apart, but just looking at it brings back the many hours I spent poring over the stories of David and Goliath, the First Christmas, and the fascinating pictures in the back of the places in the Holy Land where these exciting stories actually happened!
5. Fiona’s toys hang out on the living room floor. During the day, that is. At night she brings most of them to bed with her (us, I should say, much to the dismay of my allergist). She used to have fluffy stuffed toys, until she began destroying them, tearing them apart with great joy. So her toys now consist of chewsticks, rope toys, and Kongs, although she also considers my socks and bras toys as well. (She loves to trot out into the living room dragging one of my bras by the strap. Oh, the look of glee on her face!) Since I’m home most of the day, we usually play with each of her rope toys in turn; and I should note that part of our play consists of fishing her toys out from under the couch or the bed, which she finds great fun. I don’t, especially since I’m currently recovering from neck surgery, Sigh.
So what does it say about me, I wonder, that my longest answer is about…my dog’s toys?
Readers, I invite you to play along too! Leave your answers in the comment box, and we’ll comapre notes!
ps: the prevailing wisdom that one should never have a “junk drawer”? I don’t buy that. Because, where else do you put your birthday candles, tiny measuring tape, kite string, eyeglasses repair kits, etc.? “
We all reach times when we suddenly feel that we have more to bear than we can handle. Thank goodness I’ve lived long enough to know this is fact, because for many years, I thought I was all alone, that I was the only one who ever felt inadequate, or selfish, or so overwhelmed that all I could do was crawl under the covers and pray that morning would be a long time coming. Tonight is one of those times. I tell myself I am being silly, as I sit here typing away next to our Christmas tree. I remember every single ornament: who gave it to us, or where we bought it and where and why. There were presents under the tree, until Fiona started trying to unwrap them. (They now repose in an undisclosed location until Christmas morning.) Every day more Christmas cards from friends and family arrive in the mail, reminding me that George and I are part of a whole community of friends and family.
Yet all I can do is cry. Last Friday, as we all know, a very sick young man killed 20 children and 7 teachers at an elementary school in Newtown, CT. I’ve been immersed in discussions/disputes about gun laws, treatment of the seriously mentally ill, grief for the parents and families left behind, as well as for those little darlings who will never graduate, not even from grade school, never travel, go to college, get married. And for some reason I am having an even harder time than usual dealing with the absence of my own parents this year. My dad was like a little kid about Christmas; he and I always had so much fun together, decorating the the tree (always the day after Thanksgiving), going downtown to see all of the Christmas lights and the mechanized displays in the department store windows, especially Dayton’s. Caroling with mom and other parishioners from Incarnation. And every year, until I was 24, sitting between mom and dad at Midnight Mass, hearing the ancient words “For behold I bring you tidings of great joy…” Going up to the Creche afterwards to see the Baby Jesus lying in the manger, and in later years the Choir always sang the Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah immediately after the conclusion of Mass. Holding hands with mom and dad as we prayed in the “words our Savior taught us, Our Father who art in heaven…” and most of all, singing the old, familiar carols, especially my favorite, Silent Night, Stille Nacht, written in Germany so long ago. Now there is new family, warm, loving, caring family. I have a husband, whom I love very much. But I haven’t been able to go to Midnight Mass since I lost my mom. This is, without a doubt, the hardest time of year to be childless. We keep running into one roadblock after another with our efforts to adopt, until I have to shut myself alone in our bedroom so George doesn’t have to listen to me crying in hysteric despair. Yes, I feel selfish bringing up our loneliness for a child when I know parents out in Newtown are grieving their lost babies. But grief is grief, and it deserves to be honored and spoken of, regardless of the circumstances, or who is doing the grieving, or why. I’m particularly overwhelmed by my upcoming neck surgery. Less than two days to go now. And I feel so alone, I guess everyone does when they are facing surgery or something similar. Because no one can experience it with you. George is spending the day with me; Friday he’s taking me over to my Aunt Jo and cousin Melinda’s house, so they can fuss over me, and Sunday my birthmom is coming over to baby me. Plus, I am receiving the Catholic Sacrament of the Sick from one of my favorite priests tomorrow. So I have all of my ducks in a row, so to speak. but I still feel sick to my stomach every time I think about it. Part of my issue here is, yet again (this question has been popping up everywhere the last few days) is WHY. Damn it all, I am sick of being in pain every single blasted day of my life. Why do I have to endure more? Yes, I know other people have it worse. but I have have never understood why that is supposed to make me feel better. I’m supposed to be happy and grateful that at least I’m not suffering the way other people I love are? I don’t think so. I guess this is one of those times of, maybe not doubt, so much as feeling so desperately alone. This is why I ask for prayers, because right now I’ve lost the ability to form the words myself. I guess my tears and my writing tonight will have to be my prayers. I guess a partial answer lies in something I told a friend the night of the tragedy at Sandy Hook, when we were struggling with the question of why, of how, an event so hideously, cosmically wrong could happen:
You just sound upset, that’s all, hon. Don’t apologize for that. As to why this happened…can there possibly be a satisfactory answer? We live in a violent society. We can work for peace and justice. But does that help right now, at this very moment? All we know for sure is that God weeps with us, and that in the end God will wipe away all of our tears, and we will all be together again. And I always remember that Jesus wept when Lazarus died. He understands our feelings of grief and loss, because He experienced it too.
When Christ and his Saints Slept, Sharon Kay Penman
The Reckoning, Sharon Kay Penman
The Sunne in Splendor: A Novel of Richard III, Sharon Kay Penman
The Year 1000: What Life was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium, Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger
Here be Dragons, Sharon Kay Penman
Walking on a Rolling Deck: Life on the Ark, Kathy Berken
The Civilization of the Middle Ages, Norman Cantor
Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster, Alison Weir
Lucia: A Venetian Life in the Age of Napoleon, Andrea D. Robilant
A Venetian Affair: A True Tale of Forbidden Love in the 18th Century, Andrea D. Robilant
The Gift of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels, Thomas Cahill
Restoration London: From Poverty to Pets, from Medicine to Magic, from Slang to Sex, from Wallpaper to Women’s Rights, Liza Picard
The Seville Communion, Arturo Perez-Oerveto
In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World it Made, Norman Cantor
The Lady Elizabeth: A Novel, Alison Weir
Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot, Antonia Fraser
Blue Iris: Poems and Essays, Mary Oliver
This year’s list is dedicated to some of my favorite fellow bookworms: Aunts Barb and Jo, Emilie, Liz P., Liz H., Roxane S., and Kristine.
But most of all, this list is dedicated to my darling sister-in-law Fran, who shares my intense love of books and often subsidizes my Barnes and Noble habit, and to my mom, who instilled in me a love of the power of words and the magic of language, as well as an intense curiosity about the world around me.
THIS IS FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO KNEW AND LOVED MY MOM:
Top Ten Things I Learned From My Mother
(In No Particular Order)
She always told me that love is the only thing that really matters. You can lose your possessions, your job, and your health, but you can always hold on to the love. And in the final analysis, it’s the only thing that makes life worth living.
Decorate your house with bookcases, because you can never have too many books! Nothing ever seems quite so bad if you can curl up with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa.
Class is not determined by money or social position; rather, a truly classy person is one who goes out of her way to make others feel comfortable and special. Classy people are warm and gracious.
You’ll never get old if you are always interested in other people and continue to learn new things.
Life isn’t fair. But that doesn’t mean it can’t still be good, even wonderful, if you retain a sense of gratitude and remember what really matters.
God does not send us tragedy and pain. But he does give us the strength to bear them, the courage to face them, and the grace to learn and grow from them.
Listen to your heart and follow your star. You never know where they might lead you!
Yes, you are your brother’s–and your sister’s–keeper. Always remember that “whatsoever you do unto the least of them, that you do unto me.”
What others think of you doesn’t matter. It’s what you think of yourself that counts.
It takes more muscles to frown than to smile–and holding a grudge takes too much energy.