Saturday, December 31, 2016

CTRL+ALT+ DEL 2016, Task Manager the year

Goodbye 2016. The closest thing to a do-over is CTRL + ALT+ DEL and I’m hoping to restart 2017 with enhanced Processes.

On very personal note my 2016 was filled with some very awesome moments that will be stored in the Physical Memory. I was blessed to officiate very lovely weddings, and welcome with blessings a new baby girl to the McCormick-Boogaard clan.

My entire family of kids, grandkids and sons-in-law spent an awesome day together. We got a picture to prove it.

Granddaughter #1 decided to stay in college, take her time and pay her tuition out of pocket, rather than rack up more student loan debt. Although it’s sometimes is frustrating, she is growing as an adult in her own fashion. Bravo!

Grandson #1 attended his Senior Prom. He would have passed it by, since he was new to this school, but his long time friend Victoria insisted she be his date and that he not miss this important event. It was awesome!

My younger grands had notable accomplishments; #3 received the much sought after teacher nominated Husky award for kindness, something she had wanted so badly through her years in elementary school. Ironically, kindness might not be in her wheelhouse, but maybe that’s just at home.
#4 made a conscious decision to play baseball and change positions to catcher, he’s a natural.
Finally, #5 had her first dance recital performing to “Teddy Bear Picnic”, one of my mother’s favorite kiddie song, I’m sure she looked down from her heavenly seat and beamed. I know I did.

Our family suffered an unexpected death of a young brother-in-law. My admiration for my sister-in-law’s strength is immeasurable.

We said goodbye to a dear friend who just didn’t have it in him to keep going in this world, but he wanted one last cruise and we did it. It was a good thing.

Goodbye, 2016. It had some good times. Oh yeah, we visited Harry Potter in November. That was very cool!

I’m hoping the Memory of the country’s voters remember this is already a great country otherwise we would not have a vote to be counted regardless of the desired outcome.

I’m hoping the elected Users in their Service(s) engage their Performance with the Constitution as the fundamental Application(s) of the laws and principles of this country.

I remember this past year of 2016 as being filled with a distracting combination of hope and anxiety. It was exhausting.

2017 is ready for a Restart. Hit CTRL + ALT+ DEL and enter. Welcome 1/1/2017.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Size 8

Size 8

While attending a dinner party my hostess introduced me to a woman who was also her workout buddy. We found we had much in common like growing up in the city and the things we missed living in the suburbs like the neighborhood bakery. The conversation took a humorous turn when they described their daily run to a bagel bakery on their travel route. These two women leave their homes every morning at 5 a.m. and commence to their daily hour workout at the gym followed by the daily run to their favorite bagel bakery. I admired the commitment to working out every day but questioned the daily bagel run. “I can’t help it,” my hostess exclaimed, “I’m really a fat girl at heart!” I simply grinned and stated, “Well, I’m really a thin girl at heart.”

I am not a fat girl at heart. I’m not a skinny girl either and never have been. But in my mind’s eye my body image is not that of a fat person. While I don’t maintain a regular gym membership I do have a regular yoga practice which began in my early teens. Slow movement is better than no movement and often doesn’t leave me with strained or sore muscles and leaves me with a certain contented energy.

There have been many moments of clarity when I realized that my size is simply the space I take up in this universe. One of those first moments was attending an information session on the process of preparing for and living with gastric bypass surgery. I attended with my daughter who eventually went with a gastric surgery. As I looked around the room I was struck with the number of visibly sad and physically overwhelmed people who were desperate for an intervention to change their lives. Although I was gathering information and keeping company for my daughter, I knew immediately that I did not belong in that room. I was not desperate for a change, nor was I sad. There is so much more substance in my life than worrying about my weight all day.

 It was another moment that hit me while sitting in a Weight Watchers meeting listening to a lifetime member tell the group about how she still wrestles daily with her inner mindset and will always see herself as an overweight person. Her internal body image will never be thin. I thought how very sad it was that after all her hard earned success of losing weight, meeting and keeping her goal weight for years, that she still saw herself as a fat person. I realized I don’t have that image of myself. In my mind’s eye my body image in not that of a fat person.

I see my size in the mirror and in photographs. I’m not blind to my size. But what I see first is a smiling redhead with a really great haircut and usually along with people who love me as I am and I love them. I am big, big in size and personality. I’m a woman of intelligence and wit along with being a wife, mother, matriarch and grandmother. None of those descriptions have anything to do with my ample hourglass shape or size. And when I’ve left this earth I am relatively sure my weight and size will not be detailed on my headstone.

Once I was asked in conversation, “What if you could change something about your appearance what would it be?” Without hesitation I replied, “My nose. I’ve always wanted a patrician looking Roman nose.” One woman was surprised and responded, “Really? You wouldn’t want to be thin? You have such a pretty face.” Well, haven’t I heard that one before.

More often than not, I have been relatively comfortable in my own skin. It is the only skin I’ve got and I can’t trade it in.

I wouldn’t know what to do with ‘thin’. To be truthful, every time I endeavored to lose weight, I encountered some sort of health issue, the last one being breast cancer. I don’t believe the weight loss caused the cancer. As a matter of fact it was having cancer that led me to one of my “ah ha” moments in body acceptance. A year after completing treatment and during a follow up visit, my oncologist asked if I was interested is seeing a plastic surgeon for ‘scar revision’. I didn’t think I was a candidate for it because of my size. Her response was, “This is not a ‘size 8’ world.” No, it is not. Especially for me since I have never been a size 8, except my shoe size.

Personal validation came when the plastic surgeon requested to take before and after photos of my scar revision surgery to use in his teaching med students about treating the larger patient, because we do not live in a “size 8 world”. My body shape and size was going to contribute to the study and training of future cosmetic surgeons!

That surgery repaired more than the appearance of my chest. It reenergized my self-esteem at a time when I was physically and emotionally weary. After recovery and healing the doctor asked me what I thought about the results. “I love the view when I look down.” He said, “how you feel about what you see is 90% of my job, the rest is medicine.”

The sweetest moment of clarity came recently with cuddle time with one of my grandchildren. She was snuggling with her PopPop and left him to come and snuggle up to me. As she got comfortable he teased her and said, “Oh, I see where I stand with you.” And her priceless response was, “Well, PopPop if you were chubbier, maybe you’d be soft and comfy like Grammy.”

That’s me, woman, wife, mother, matriarch, and Grammy, all wrapped up in one big beautiful huggable package, in size 8 shoes.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Pulpit and Politics: Keeping it Real and Thinking for Myself

This post might upset a few people, be forewarned.
While trolling Facebook I read a post I fact checked, because I was relatively sure the headline was misleading.
Pope Francis is a pretty smart and clever authority and great PR for today's Roman Catholic church. I am grateful he has not publicly endorsed a specific candidate. Church is not the place for politics and politics is no place for religious doctrine.
Included in this link above there is a recorded homily given by Father John Lankeit where he informs the congregation of their duty as Catholics to vote pro-life.
I listened to the entire homily. I encourage you to listen. He very carefully walked a fine line of not suggesting a specific candidate or party by name.
The Church enjoys a certain tax status with the understanding of a clear separation of church and state. However I have had more than a few 'animated' discussions with my parish priests in the past during election times regarding the appropriate placement of political agenda during a time of worship that has been designed to enhance and explain the scripture that has just been presented. On one occasion I was irate that our pastor stationed people handing out sample ballots of specific candidates to vote for as we entered church for Sunday Mass. On another occasion the homily segued directly to the issue of abortion and birth control and since that's day's gospel had nothing to do with either of those issues, I gathered my children and left. At the time of my somewhat public exit in the middle of the mass, they were mortified. I said to them, "Church doesn't tell the state what to do and the state doesn't tell the church what to do." Today as grown women with children of their own, they understand better my frustration and irritation.
America is a great democracy because a political platform is no place for the platform of specific church doctrine, which has been crafted by male mostly celibate clerics, albeit by the spiritual guidance of God, whom they serve in His name. In my humble opinion the pulpit is not the place to direct a person's vote for a civil government position. That is how a theocracy takes hold.
Furthermore, the word "abortion" has not been diluted, as the Rev. Lankeit states. It is and remains a volatile and emotionally charged issue that unfortunately has been cavalierly tossed about many political candidates to suit the tenets of their platforms at the time. Those platforms seem capricious compared to the angst of someone seeking spiritual forgiveness for something they believe has made them fall from the grace of God.
I found this priest's argument/homily articulate, very carefully worded, but there is still the threat of eternal damnation if one doesn't follow the very strong suggestion of the church and which way your vote should be cast. I think that is wrong.
In high school I attended Little Flower Catholic High School for girls, from the late '60's to 1972. It was a time of the so-called sexual revolution when views about sex outside of marriage and birth control changed radically. At least they did outside the confines of Sunday Mass and religion class for us Catholic girls. We found ourselves being taught by women of a variety of age groups, some who wrestled with their own personal opinions and what the diocese directed them to teach about sex and birth control. Abortion was never discussed, not even as a sin. I also don't recall any threat of my soul being eternally damned if I succumbed to the temptation of sex outside of marriage or use birth control. WHEW! At least that is how I remember it.
Vividly, I remember one of my teachers, a nun who taught biology, actually ending a string of classes that held energizing conversations about self-respect, pre-marital sex and avoiding STD's and health advantages of using birth control with this statement, "As a Religious, I am not permitted to discuss this with you young women any further in an academic capacity." She was removed from teaching in that school the following semester.
I was raised and educated in the Roman Catholic faith. I enjoy the ceremony of mass, especially with engaging homilies that expand on the scripture and music that enhances the liturgy of the Mass. I am also a woman of independent thinking that gained some of that independent thinking through my education. The rest of that independent thinking is ingrained in my DNA. Thanks, Mom and Dad.
There are many issues that drive a highly charged political campaign. Focusing on issues that are already the law of the land is no promise of getting anything more necessary accomplished. Threatening my soul to eternal damnation should I cast my vote against Church doctrine gives me no pause.
I am confident I will be in the company of like-minded independent thinkers.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Bra’s by the Fireplace III: An Ode to us Girls

Celebrating Just being Girls.

We were young girls together more than four decades ago
Connected again when Elisa invited to dinner someone she thought she didn’t know!

To memorialize and revel in our aging gracefully
We chose to celebrate what we thought to be tastefully.

Our social director Bernadette made the plans and informed us
A mountain chalet reserved for the holiday of Columbus.

Accommodations were perfect for the weekend ahead
Except for the staircase which Rose had to tread.

Since we now move through life at a much slower clip
Rosie’s trek up those steps is fine as long as she won’t trip.

As we chat and talk over each other we find
Our lives have had substance that as kids we couldn’t define.

Now we are grownup, or at least claim to be
We plan social dates that often end in giggle fests of panties peed.

So often it’s silly simple things that cheerfully inspire
And that is how we named this weekend, “Bras by the Fire###”.

Once we settled in for the weekend we noticed the mantle had bottles of wine
Set along the chimney wall lined up in a straight line.

Who knows how the idea came to fruition
But the bras hanging from wine bottles is now a tradition.

Our brassiere styles in taste may change as we get older
But the fact still remains they are over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders.

So at least annually we gather to blather
But most important of all we check in on each other.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Stress of Buying a Car, Relived and Relieved

It was time to put OG to rest. OG is my name for my trusted 2002 Camry. It’s short for Old Girl. We are sisters in that way, with many miles clocked and regular maintenance to keep us on the road safely. OG was good to me and I to her.

When it was clear that my daily miles were beginning to be too much for OG, I was forced to part ways. 

The stress of buying a car and dealing with the dance of sales and negotiating is nothing I do well. Truthfully, I don’t do it at all. I am not a negotiator and don’t have the emotional energy for such ‘dancing’. I don’t want to do the dance of parlaying and sashaying with salespeople, their managers and whoever else needs to be consulted for me to drive away in a car.

My husband’s last two car purchases were made through the same salesperson, John Sireci. At that time he was with Kia. Hubby’s experience was such that he sent relatives to deal with John when it was time for them make a car purchase, plus Kia makes a fine vehicle. We learned that John had left the Kia dealership and found him on Facebook, of all things, now with Matt Blatt , a family owned dealership.

Working with John is a pleasure. His diplomacy in steering me away from a less than desirable choice is silky smooth. I was clear that my next vehicle was one that I wanted to be fun but functional. My initial choices I thought were exactly what I had in mind, and I test drove every one of them. John, being the seasoned salesperson that he is, let me get that out of my system before recommending what ended up as my final selection, a cherry red  Elantra, sporty looking with excellent gas mileage and well within my budgeted price range.

I wish there were more sales people like John Sireci. He treats you like he would want to be treated as a customer. That kind of customer service is invaluable.  It goes a long way in wanting to keep doing business with that person. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Letters Lost and Found

We receive a fair amount of greeting cards at Christmas time. They’re mostly from family and friends. 

This past holiday I received a card that shared the same street name as ours, and at first glance the zip code could have been mine, 08080. I opened the card. It was a collage of family pictures of folks I did not know.  I checked the envelope again and my eye caught the town was Central Kildare, PEI. The zip was COB1BO. As it was handwritten, visually it could be mistaken for 08080, but after I researched the address I found that is was a Canadian zip code,  Prince Edward Island.

This Christmas card was something more than mass produced commercially boxed ones. Along with a brief personal note it was photos of a family and their latest and greatest look. I repackaged it and sent it off to the intended recipients, with a little note of explanation and a wish for happy holidays.

Today I received in the mail a lovely note of appreciation, written on handcrafted stationery, thanking me for sending off the Christmas greeting that would have been lost, along with the sentiments that went along with it.

This note came to me at the end of a frustrating and hectic day. It brought a smile to my face and warmed my heart.

My note also held a brief explanation of the beautiful rural life my new found acquaintances are making for themselves, along with an invitation to keep in touch.

I plan to respond in kind. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Happenstance and God Giggles

Happenstance – it’s a melodic word. There are many blessing moments to be enjoyed through happenstance. Through the happenstance of re-connections made through Facebook a small group of women have gathered together with the connections we made in our high school years, over 44 years ago in Little Flower Catholic High School for girls, in Philadelphia. We were empowered with youthful energy and starry-eyed ideals although, raw with emotions and raging hormones.
Today we’d like to think our emotions are not so ruled by our hormones, but rather by the trappings our lives over the last four decades. As one of the girls stated at one of our get-togethers, “it’s like we picked up where we left off in 1972.” And so we have.  Only now, instead of peace sign earrings, hip hugger jeans and Flower Power tee shirts, we have found that we don’t want too much hugging our hips, we wear our tee shirts as loose as we can get them but still like those Peace Sign earrings.

We survived adolescence and are surviving middle age pretty much in the same fashion, mostly by simply being present and listening to each other.  Our high school years were not much different than our waxing elder years. We celebrate, we mourn, we whine, we hug.

Through the unfortunate happenstance of someone getting sick and unable to attend the Broadway performance of Al Pacino in China Doll, I received a last minute invitation to spend a day in New York with this group of girls. I gladly accepted her ticket, scoured the  internet for the reviews about the performance and then sulked. The critic reviews were scathing. The weather was iffy and I found that I had to drive, driving is not usually an issue, but lately  have been having issues with driving across bridges, an unavoidable chore when you live along the Delaware river.
Burlington Bristol Bridge
Although I recently learned waning hormones in women can cause this anxiety ‘issue’ with driving across bridges, I still had to cross one of our New Jersey drawbridges into Pennsylvania, to meet up with our travelling crew. I got over it, literally and figuratively.

Once at our gathering point we piled into one vehicle and were on our way up the New Jersey turnpike to New York city. Along the way we chatted about how we were mopey and whined about getting up and on the road early on a Saturday. Eventually the conversations segued into what we always end up talking about, our kids, our grandkids, our jobs and our own aches and pains.

We were fortunate that parking was close to the theater and our chosen lunch spot. As we navigated  the crowded  New York sidewalks, we were accessorized with what has become essentials for day trips, a cane, a walking stick and  a wheelchair.

By the end of the day the two of us that whined the most about the early start and often whine and complain of our bad knees, felt like we were athletic rock stars for the day. I found myself very aware and grateful for the blessing of my “good peasant stock”.  To quote a friend, it’s like a “God Giggle”. God tweaked my nose saying, “See, you’re not doing so badly after all, stop whining about your aging body. Move along.”

There can be heartfelt conflict in taking ‘me’ time. There are days when I need to escape from the matriarchal mothering demands of my multigenerational household, as do more than a few of my friends in this very special group of strong women.
It’s as good and necessary  for me as it is for the household.  While there is that conflict to escape the mothering role it was natural slip into a nurturing mindset clearing the way while we wheeled  our friend through New York streets and being mindful of the slow pace some of us needed to take with this journey at hand. It wasn’t an imposition or a chore. It was natural and simply being present in that moment with women who still see each other as young girls, another “God Giggle” in my mind.

“I will go before you and make the crooked places straight.” Isaiah 45: 2

"Forever we will be true!"

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Al Pacino in China Doll on Broadway

Did you know that Al Pacino is 75 years old?
I did not before yesterday.  
Through the misfortune of my friend Elisa getting sick with the flu, I took her place to attend the Broadway performance of China Doll, written by David Mamet and starring Al Pacino.

China Doll opened to scathing reviews, mostly directed towards Pacino’s performance along with questions about Mamet’s plot or lack thereof. Critics observed that Pacino had trouble remembering his lines and that he was difficult to hear clearly or understand.
The recently renovated Schoenfeld is small and compact enough that an actor on the stage is easily observed and heard.
The sound was fine. There was no problem hearing the volume of the dialog that was mostly various one-sided phone conversations or theatrical rants and emotional outbursts.

I found a subtle undertow to the story. Mamet gave an early brief overview of the story by saying, “the man (Mickey Ross) has just bought a new plane as a wedding present for his girl. He intends to go into semi-retirement and enjoy himself. In the process of leaving his office, giving last minute instructions to his assistant, he takes one last phone call…”

It wasn’t just one last phone call, but a continuous string a phone calls made to various unseen and unheard entities, as Mickey Ross works towards fixing a problem that at first seems to be an inconvenient bump in the road as he plans his exit to semiretirement and marriage to a beautiful much younger woman, his China Doll. That bump becomes a potential roadblock and the character of Mickey Ross is apparently someone who is quite used to having people and tools at his disposal to fix such things. He’s rude and vulgar and often berates his assistant Carson, played by Christopher Denham, and at the same time, educate Carson in how and why things happen the way they do in life and business.

An actor with the resume of Al Pacino will sell tickets  for almost any performance. That is a fact. When David Mamet initiated publicity for this play he stated that he wrote this particular play “for Al”. I can see that. Mickey Ross is an old man, self made billionaire and he’s tired and wants to down shift and coast into his Golden years with beauty and comfort. But somewhere along the way to this point he has pissed off enough people that the unseen “powers that be” are working to make sure that doesn’t happen. This is where Pacino shines in this role. His rants are often asking “What more can I do, what do you want from me?”, when all he really wants is to retire from his current life and start a new one, not so much start over, but essentially enjoy the fruits of his labor.

As for the critics’ reviews, it was obvious Pacino stumbled a line here and there, but it wasn’t egregious and he carried the show with his presence and talent. There might have been cues set up for him within the staging and the props. 
It didn’t matter to the audience. This was Al Pacino in an age appropriate role with the mouth of Tony Montana (Scarface), the shrewdness of Ricky Roma (Glengarry Glen Ross) and the wistful pining for days past of Lt. Col. Frank Slade (The Scent of a Woman).

David Mamet wrote this play for Al Pacino. But he also claimed that it was better than oral sex. It is not.