One Year Ago, Today...

One year ago, today, we bid farewell to my parents - who had helped us pack all day! We paid off the hired men for their hard work in loading our rental moving truck. We took one look around the house, and I nearly cried because there was still so much to do!

It was a day of melancholy, because we would be leaving Colorado and my parents behind. It was an epoch of joy, as we would set out the next day for our new home in Ohio. We were silly, sad, sappy, and STIFF from all the work we had performed that week.

I can still recall pausing on the front porch, one year ago today, and listening to the mocking bird make its "weeeeeeeeeee" call. I went down the steps and caressed the trunk of the ancient maple tree that had been in that front yard for more years than my parents have walked this earth. I drew a deep breath (because oxygen in Colorado is scarce!) and realized that we were on the verge of a new chapter in our lives - a new adventure loomed in the promise of dawn.

One year later, I can look back and honestly say that I have no regrets about our decision to leave Colorado. I have enjoyed each morning, afternoon and night in Ohio... in our own home, with my wonderful (and occasionally frustrating!) husband.

(I don't have any photographs from one year ago. But
AnnieElf got me to thinking of frogs, so I dug through some old files on my computer found this one: Monty the Dart Frog.)

Monday Observation

Mondays are dull.

They should be stricken
from the calendar

And so I offer
my photographic tribute
to my inner child.

A paleontologist, by any other name, still eats meatballs...

I've had several people ask now, including a host of AOL members, and Brother Jonathan and AnnieElf... the name "Autrice delDrago" is, of course, just my pen name. "Autrice" means historian, and "Drago" is what some of the Italians up here call dinosaurs (go figure). So, as I love paleontology, my pen-name is a poorly constructed pun on "Dinosaur Historian". Or perhaps I translated it wrong, and the phrase actually means "Give me a meatball."

Oh my goodness gracious! How can I possibly have interest in field that seems to smack of evolution? Look at it this way - God created things. He created lemurs and porcupines, cheetahs and chimps, and man. He created chicken, too. In the beginning, it wasn't chicken - it was smaller, meaner, and could jump farther than the length of your car. And He saw that it was cute. And then He decided to create man, who would grow to love chicken, so He went back, tinkered with His design, and made the chicken less jumpy, more tasty, and much easier to keep in coops.

I do not think it is a sin to believe that dinosaurs walked this earth. I do believe it is a downright shame when people insist on trying to limit God's intelligence. He is a Powerful God, a wonderful God, and a God that doesn't seem to take well to being toyed with (see Old Testament!) He is also a merciful God (see New Testament), and if He saw that the only way for us to be in Heaven was for Him to take our sins upon Himself - by becoming man and living as a human, thereby also fulfilling His covenant with old Abraham - then why is it so hard to grasp that perhaps He also put a lot of thought into this whole "Creation" thing? Who is to say how long one day is to a God who is eternal? Besides, any old being can poof things into existence.

Many ancient tales speak of gods who created things on a whim. I prefer to think of my God as having a sense of purpose, of thinking things through. Why start with a tree when you can start with a seed? And why start with a seed when you can start with an enzyme? How does it fit together? How will it continue to fit together as time passes? Consider, if you will, the miracle of birth. We are formed in our mother's womb, a soul merged with a body. Before we are formed, God knows our soul. He knows how many toes our body will have, and what color our eyes will be. Each body part can be broken down into general things, such as organs, muscles, fat etcetera. Each of those can be broken down into specific cells. Each cell can be viewed as something that holds our DNA. Beyond the general DNA coil, we see even more wonderment. But, all of it adds up to be a vessel that contains our soul. So too, does nature break down, each part fitting together to complete the whole of life on our planet. That took planning and some creative thought. Would God create using evolution? It is just a theory after all (like the Theory of Gravity!) Is it "Intelligent Design", another theory? Perhaps we will never know.

As for me? When I die, I'm going to ask God for one small favor. I do not want a heavenly mansion, or a crown. I'm going to ask Him if He would be so kind as to show me a dinosaur... a velociraptor, which is one of my favorites of all His creations, if He doesn't mind. I'm sure it was a beautiful creature, as He created it to be.

A Sunday Meditation

I woke up late today.

Not just "Sort of late, but will get there in plenty of time."

Not really a "Late, but at least I can chug down some water and get there on time."

An actual, honest "Oh Lord, give me wings and catapult me from this house!" definition of late, complete with grit teeth as I drove ("Please Lord, don't let any of these other vehicles belong to members of my parish, because I know I'm sinning by breaking the speed limit!") and with the added bonus of "Phew! Made it into a parking spot, how's my hair? I look terrible - grrrr... oops! There's our Pastor! Smile, Toni!") as I pulled up on the emergency break and leaped out of my car (for me, that is a miracle. I don't leap on good days, even if I could!) I should have stayed home, but God pushed me onward, and as I caused no traffic fatalities (namely, my own) and as I wasn't so late that Mass hadn't started yet, I figured there was a good reason to be at church this morning.

Being late has its bonuses. You get to wave to people you know as you enter the Sanctuary. I'm new to Holy Rosary, so I don't know very many people yet. Of course, everyone will have spotted me, in my ("too late for church to iron") pants and blouse. They were probably drawn from their humble prayers as I walked down the side aisle towards my place in the choir,... as my boot heels made that horrible echoing tock tock tock sound on the hard tiles (oh, to be so girlishly thin that I float because of the air conditioner blowers - why, oh why did I eat that Hershey Kiss yesterday!)

I took my seat in the back of the choir (all the better to hear our organist's voice, as my low alto goes into spasms of pitch when I try to sing with the sopranos.) Reaching up, I realized that my hair, which I have been attempting to grow out, was doing little flippy-doos at the end, thanks to the collar of my blouse, and was probably sticking out from the sides of my head. I also realized that my black pants, a gauzy-thin material, were probably not doing a good job of hiding the fact that, of all the undergarments I own, I had to reach into my dresser and pull out a flaming hot pink pair of bikini briefs. No wonder people were staring as I walked. Or was it just my imagination. Lord, have mercy. You know I'm not awake, Father. Quick check... did I at least remember to put on a bra?! Yep. Whew! I should have stayed home, and just come to the 6 PM Mass. I did brush my teeth, but didn't take enough to rinse all the toothpaste out. I could feel a bit of it crunching on my back molars.

Once Mass started, I settled in. I managed to get through the prayers and songs, and our choir was fuller today than normal. The other women sang like meadowlarks (I probably sounded like a turkey), and it was a moving experience. But, on a sad note, doing the homily, the Father that I thought was a Father (the "Young one, who always gives those fantastic homilies") told us that his time as Deacon was at an end - he would be going over to Franciscan University. Wow. All this time, listening to his homily on Sundays, and I had no idea he was Brother Jonathan. He will become a Father on December 9, and let me tell you, this young man is off to a great start! So, God nudged me to get to Mass today because He knew it would be my last chance to hear one of Brother Jonathan's messages. I would have been saddened if I had missed it. Flippie-doo hair, wrinkled clothing, and crunchy toothpaste aside, everything has its purpose.

Brother Jonathan gave a wonderful lesson about Jesus and the loaves and fishes. It's one of my more favorite scriptures, and he pointed out how one disciple was the pessimist, saying that there would be no way to feed the multitude (it would cost 200 days wages just to give everyone a bite!), while one disciple was more willing and trusting, saying "Lord, there's a boy here with 2 fishes and 5 loaves of bread." He reminded us that we can't stop world hunger alone, but that we can do our part to help ease the pangs of hunger in the community around us. He also tied in how the bread of earth was needed, because we must eat and live to be able to have the bread of heaven. I think we will all miss him greatly. Most Sundays, our Organist and I sit on the side and quietly "amen" what he teaches us. The Holy Spirit truly moves in Brother Jonathan. (And yes, I will remember to bring the bag of canned goods tonight - I forgot to pick up it in my mad sweep from the house.)

It strikes me as a good lesson today. How many times am I so caught up in doing something that I forget to remember other's needs? In my rush to get from one place to another, do I pause to consider that someone out there just could use a lift to the store, or to work? While I fly through the grocery store, bent on getting everything in the cart, do I recall that I should pick up one more can than needed, because someone else would appreciate that food? (I am happy to say that I did remember to do this when I shopped this week!) If I'm in a hurry in traffic, might it be a good idea to consider than the older gentleman in front of me may be driving to visit his daughter or son, or to buy a loaf of bread, and his slow speed is because he is being cautious behind the wheel? There are many ways we can touch someone's life. The best way is to stop and consider the needs of others. Who are we to make ourselves so important that we can't be bothered with anyone else?

Granted, I'm as timid as a field mouse. I can be tenacious, but only when strongly motivated. At heart, I am shy. So walking up to strangers is a bit overwhelming for me at times. (Hence, weeks can go by before I learn who is who at church or at work. *cheesy smile* My bad.) But what about that boy with the loaves and fish? He didn't talk to Jesus. Maybe he was just as timid? One of the disciples pointed him out to our Lord, and all the boy did was offer what he had. I can do the same, just by bringing cans and clothing for the needy. We can all learn from this lesson. Two men stood before our Lord: one said "it can't be done", and the other said "it looks sort of impossible, but Lord I trust in you." Our works reflect our faith and trust in God. When things look impossible, God finds a way. He found a way to get me to Mass on time, and He found a way to feed thousands of people with just a bit of bread and some fish.

If I keep this line of thought up, I'll have to publish this to
Mt. Saint Caffiena. LOL

Anyway, I came home and the sun was hitting my front gardens just right. The pictures you see are of the summer flowers that have bloomed over the past couple of days. Jeff and I are going to rest today and tackle the living room carpets tomorrow before heading up to his appointment at the VA. I'll try to capture a picture of my favorite rock for you.

Sunday Scribblings #18 - My 2 Cents

"My two cents". It's a phrase I use often, usually in debates where I find that both sides are so far off the mark that they have missed the main topic or purpose entirely. And so I resort to phrases such as "I think you've lost sight of it all, but that's just my two cents on the matter." No one asked for my opinion, but I sure in the hell am going to point out that the debate is too far off track.

The phrase is not really akin to "a penny for your thoughts." It is more of an American and Australian phrase meaning that one gives an opinion in a conversation that is, often, not asked for or wanted. It is also a phrase that is interchanging with "put your worth in." An example of this would be "She always has to put her two cents worth in! Why can't she just keep quiet?" It can also be used in this manner: "Stay out of this - if we want your two cents we'll ask for it."

"Two cents" is unsolicited advice, but also an "investment" (miserly) in the conversation. If one is to add their two cents, they should do so in a way that is not overbearing... after all, you are not really invested in the subject, and have decided to join in the conversation just because you have an opinion on the subject - a few pennies to spare on nothing. A wise speaker will use their "two cents" to make a strong point, perhaps to steer the conversation back to a more civil state. An unwise or rude person will use their "two cents worth" of time to make snide comments about something, or to show off how intelligent they think they are, especially as it pertains to the subject at hand.

The best users of the "two cents worth" rule are those who can add a proverb or thought without detracting from any of the other conversationalists. They offer a tidbit of information that only enhances the communication. You can take it (the comment) or leave it. Practice makes perfect. No one enjoys a 'buttinski', at any rate (be it two cents or a full dollar!)

I hope you don't mind my etymology lesson for the day. It is just my two cents worth for Sunday Scribblings.

Carpet Chaos

There can never be enough chaos in a day, and therefore I have opted to increase my daily chaotic intake by cleaning the downstairs carpets. Really, it is nothing major to undertake. I only need to move two large pieces of furniture, leaving the chinas in place. My living room suffers for it, of course, as the items are packed just into the doorway. That room will have its revenge upon the dining room tomorrow, as I only do one area at a time.

I peeled back the rug by the register today, to show Jeff the beautiful hardwood underneath. That eager light came into his eyes, and I think he understands my nearly unfettered desire to start ripping rugs out. But that is a project for another day. Perhaps we will start with the rooms upstairs, doing one at a time, to hone our technique. Eventually, the entire house will have flooring restored back to its original state, with the exception of the kitchen, which has a nearly indestructible laminate on it already.

Not much else going on around Pembroke Cottage. The cat has had to seek a new place to nap - today is laundry day. My Mum sent me some notes she has concerning her drama lesson plans and proposals, and I have an interview at a local school on Tuesday (Social Studies teacher, but perhaps they might also allow me to begin a theatre program.) We are watching "Good Eats" on Food Network, as Alton Brown is a favorite of ours. Tomorrow is mass, and I will most likely do the 11:30 and 6:00 as Cantor.


Kyle Lindsey and Palaeos Bios

Rarely do I encounter a blog containing music that does not leave me frantically searching for the control to silence it. It is often brash, jolting and overly done. I am pleased to say I have finally encountered a blogger with a sense of excellent taste. The background music that you hear comes from Kyle's Palaeos Bios. Feel free to stop by his web site by clicking on the above link. He does a fantastic job. Kudos to you, Kyle!

Apathy? Or just bored!

It's been a very quiet couple of days. Too quiet. What thunder looms on the distant horizon?

I don't actually think anything bad is in the future. I am just a tad under the weather, and so I don't have much in the way of ambition this week. I worked a bit, and slept a lot, and have spent more of my time just trying to catch up with silly stuff online. The house, I am ashamed to report, is still coated in dust and dog hair. It's general fatigue, the kind that you can't alter no matter how much sleep you get. Every now and then, this fatigue sets in, causing my muscles to weaken and my head to ache. Since there's not much I can do in the way of seeking relief from it, I spent these periods just trying to forget that I'm tired.

I printed out my entries on this blog, on a whim and with a sense of horror (should the hosting site ever crash!), and Jeff was kind enough to run to OfficeMax for a binder and those clear plastic sheet protectors. I now have a hard copy of my journal.

In just a few days, we will celebrate our 1 year anniversary in Ohio. Looking back on this time brings smiles as well as sadness. There are still projects to do around here, and I miss my parents greatly. But we have spent one year in this state, and not a day goes by that I don't wake up glad to be here - it is a place of peace, despite the stupidity of some of my family here (who shall remain unnamed, as it would only further their opinion that I might think of them as rude dunderheads... which is true... but that is a different story! Not all of them are on my ignore list. Actually, my cousins from my grandfather's side are absolutely delightful, as is my cousin L!)

Moving memories are funny things. I kept a handwritten journal of the whole process, from arriving by plane in OH to begin our house hunt - through the following year! There is a huge gap between June 24, 2005 and Aug 15, 2005, as we were too busy for me to even chronicle things. I did a guilty recap of events on the 15th, just to keep a few memories. The things that seemed to have the biggest impression on me (as they were the things I recorded a month and a half after we arrived) were...

"We packed like mad, had to put stuff in storage, and had to leave my outdoor (Christmas) garland behind - NIGHTMARE! Mum helped with the last minute packing."

"We left CO bright and early. Kansas was HOT, 108! Zephyr and Zen had to ride in the truck with me (yes, I drove the monster moving truck) as they could not handle the heat. The VUE's AC will not work in towing mode. Jeff did a good job of driving - when he wasn't swerving because of (4) dogs. We checked into the hotel at 2 am that first leg of the trip. The next day wasn't so bad, but we were beat (by mid-afternoon). We called the men who we hired to help unload, and rescheduled, then got another hotel and slept. Left (that hotel) at 1 AM and drove... and drove... and drove, got to Steubenville and sighed with relief. The things I remember most about the drive are: 800 lb prairie dogs, "Drunken Brethren welcome you", rest stops inside the median, driving through St. Lewis through all the twists and turns.

"We didn't have enough room on the 26' truck (note: we moved ourselves 1400 miles, using a rental truck and hired moving men), so we had to pay for a hitch on the Vue. OUCH!"

"Dad Doug sent us a $500 housewarming gift to help us get by as the move cost $700 more than we planned! Thank you Dad! You saved our lives this month."

"Bought a lawnmower (8/15/2005). It's gas. Aw, our first gas lawnmower!"

My entries ramble on like that for a while, and then there is a big lag between the fall and December. Likewise, more lags between December and March. I really am terrible at keeping handwritten journals. I can't not write fast enough to keep up with my mind, and I really have never had a desire to learn shorthand.

What have I learned as I look back over this year? For one, I have learned that the grass can be greener on the other side. I do not miss Colorado, with the exception of my parents and the nature that surrounds Colorado Springs. I learned that the altitude out here is better for my joints and health. There are a few more wonderful lessons, but I'm feeling a bit too sleepy to recall them.

On a positive, I-actually-did-something-today note, I managed to do an entry on the other blog.
Mt. Saint Caffiena: The Master Carpenter and Us, if you're interested. I still have not caught up with all my email, however.

What is today, anyway? That's terrible! I'm sitting here actually wondering if it's Wednesday or Thursday. Boy, talk about apathy! It is Thursday - I asked Jeff.


Sunday Scribblings #17: "Thief!"

1180 ("Remember me")

"Remember me" implored the Thief!
Oh Hospitality!
My Guest "Today in Paradise"
I give thee guaranty.

That Courtesy will fair remain
When the Delight is Dust
With which we cite this mightiest case
Of compensated Trust.

Of all we are allowed to hope
But Affidavit stands
That this was due where most we fear
Be unexpected Friends.

I have no idea why this piece comes to mind when I read the word "Thief!" today. It was part of a collection of works that she had penned long ago, and that collection itself had been broken down and placed in such disarray that even the scholars at Harvard have a hard time deciphering things.

What does this poem mean? What message was Emily Dickinson trying to convey to us. Perhaps no message at all, and just the ramblings of her mind as she wrote. Or, perhaps, there is something profound hidden just below the surface of the verses.

My view on it has always been a flashback to the Cross, where the Thief cried out to Christ, begging Him to "Remember me!" And so, the poem falls into place for me; the thief is granted his wish, because he believes, and is thus guaranteed a place in Paradise. Perhaps Emily goes on to say that the Promise offered will always remain, even after the world begins to crumble. Our 'trust' in the Lord is compensated by him. It is a Promise, a sworn pledge that is unbreakable, so long as we place that trust, and through this relationship we understand a different view of God.

And that is simply my own Sunday Scribble. A memory of a poem, triggered by a single word.

Our 12th Wedding Anniversary

Last Saturday was Jeff and my 12th Anniversary. We had a lovely day. I slept in until late (which is always a nice thing to do), and then we decided to take a drive down to Wheeling for the Italian Festival.

One of my most favorite things in life is travel. Although I am quite happy to jump on an airplane and see new cities, I am equally entertained by visiting the countryside around me. So, the promise of the Festival meant heading over to West Virginia and taking Highway 2 south. It is a scenic route that carries you alongside the Ohio River. A high canyon wall reaches above you on the left, and hillocks and fields are draped in trees and grasses. Native wildflowers are scattered like so many gems, and overhead soar a variety of species of bird. We would pass through several small villages along the way, and as Highway 2 becomes their Main Street, our eyes are treated to old Victorian and Craftsman homes, as well as ancient commercial buildings. Oh, yes, one more reason for me to find a bad taste in my mouth for the 1950's and 1960's... 'Modern' replaced the quaint architecture, stripping it of it's Romanesque columns, gargoyles, frills and filigree. On Highway 2, 'Modern' never found its niche, and my eyes are given a reprieve from the blight of that tasteless era.

We arrived at the Festival while it was in full swing, and found a very friendly parking lot attendant (who even helped us locate a space right near the sidewalk, so Jeff would not have to walk far!) We enjoyed the Italian music wafting up from the riverfront, and the smells of so many food booths tempted us at each inhalation. Admission was free, as were our pocketbooks, and we treated ourselves to good food and Pennsylvania Dutch fry bread. We purchased a bottle of honey apple mead (because, despite it being an Italian theme, there were a host of vendors sporting English treats.)

Jeff and I strolled along the Ohio River, and I took a few pictures. A very nice gentleman asked us if we wanted to pose together, and so (a rare treat!), Jeff and I are actually in the same snapshot! The weather was nice, and we had a slight breeze to keep us cool.

We stopped at the market on our way home, and purchased some shrimp for our Jambalaya. We have always celebrated our Anniversary by making a special dinner (unless my parents take us out for a treat.) It stems from when we were newlyweds, with hardly any funds to our name. Although many women expect fancy jewelry or an expensive meal, I have never seem the use for it. To begin with, I don't wear jewelry all that often, with the exception of my wedding rings, and expensive meals are usually not as good as what Jeff can cook here at home. Perhaps on our 50th, many years from now, we will don the suit and black dress, and go out for a meal. Or not.

Dinner was a romantic affair on our back porch. We turned on the strung lights, dug out a bottle of wine, set a candle on the bistro table, and enjoyed each other's company. It was very relaxing. There are still a few fireflies around, and they helped the evening meal end on a magical note.

Sunday was much the same as always, with the exception of my participation in the choir at mass. I was asked to return for the 6 PM mass, and did so happily. Unfortunately, the organist and I had a chuckle as the preloaded new music (we are switching over to the Mass of Light platform) when off pitch... instead of singing, we ended up reciting. All in all, a good Sunday.

I was to sing at a funeral on Monday, but woke up feeling under the weather. My house is dusty, my carpets are fuzzy with fur, and about the only thing I was able to do was get the Cornish game hens in the oven. Today was a slow day, with Jeff feeling under the weather, so the house is still messy. But, I am pleased to have at least caught up on my blog, and will try to catch up on reading the blogs that I follow. One of my newfound friends, Annieelf, gave me a link to a fascinating blog about insects, called Hazzbugs, and I will try to get that link in place for you today. If it doesn't come up, you can paste into your browser window. I've also got to send off an email to Jonathan St. Andre, as he sent me one over the weekend. I have yet to sit down and actually write Pauline in the UK anything more than a few lines (congratulations to her daughter, Bex, on becoming Head Chef!) I have not forgotten you Dean, or Christa, or SquigglesMom, or Father Patrick. Don't feel too badly, dear friends... I have not even responded back to my own Mum's email! Yes, I bravely admit it: I am behind on just about all my email and other correspondence! Not to fear, for I will endeavor to be caught up by Christmas!


Today I offer a tribute to a family pet:

He was a good little dog,
bravely protecting the world from cats
and the fingers of small children.

We will miss him,
that gentle, happy soul
who always walked proudly into a room!

But today he runs free,
into the arms of God
not to be forgotten by us on earth.

Goodbye, dear Poco.
Even tho' you piddled on my rug,
you were still my sweet 'little brother'.

Ubiquitous Inferno of Summer

I peer out my windows and dream of reclining on the front porch, becoming one with the antique rod iron couch (nearly the size of a twin bed!) that is pleasantly festooned with the world's most comfortable cushions. I toy with the thought of sprawling out, with a glass of iced tea and a tome, enjoying the view of pure white beams framing the lush green leaves of my maple tree. I can see the grape vine lights casting their soft glow around me as I lazily flip the pages of a poetry book or intriguing novel, lost in the depths of my own imagination as I travel through those pages to distant lands. The sounds of the numerous wind chimes would enchant my ears, a tune played as if by Wee Folk hidden within the ferns and petunias in the flowerbeds beyond.

The beguilement is sadistically shattered when I open my front door! The heat of summer rolls upon me, a wave of searing oppression which threatens to suck the air from from my lungs and roast my hide. My flowers sag from the temperature and loss of water. The birds have been driven into the shadows. The street becomes nothing more than a twisted charade of a river; heat rolls off the still black surface, threatening to scorch bare feet. There is no breeze - no escape from this ubiquitous inferno, sans a swimming pool or the cool confines of the first floor of my home, and I am reminded of a poignant veracity or two - mainly that (1.) we do not possess a swimming pool, and (2.) we live in a two-story home, and all our hobby areas are upstairs.

So, I retreat to the dark confines of my office, avowing to have an industrial-sized air conditioning unit installed by next year (damn the electric bill), and grudgingly procuring every fan we posses just to keep myself from becoming nauseated by heatstroke.

I can still enjoy reading, at the very least, and I share with you my journey with Keats this afternoon:

Endymion (Excerpts) Book I
John Keats (1795-1821)

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make'
Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.

Nor do we merely feel these essences
For one short hour; no, even as the trees
That whisper round a temple become soon
Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon,
The passion poesy, glories infinite,
Haunt us till they become a cheering light
Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast,
That, whether there be shine, or gloom o'ercast;
They always must be with us, or we die.

Therefore, 'tis with full happiness that I
Will trace the story of Endymion.
The very music of the name has gone
Into my being, and each pleasant scene
Is growing fresh before me as the green
Of our own valleys: so I will begin
Now while I cannot hear the city's din;
Now while the early budders are just new,
And run in mazes of the youngest hue
About old forests; while the willow trails
Its delicate amber; and the dairy pails
Bring home increase of milk. And, as the year
Grows lush in juicy stalks, I'll smoothly steer
My little boat, for many quiet hours,
With streams that deepen freshly into bowers.
Many and many a verse I hope to write,
Before the daisies, vermeil rimm'd and white,
Hide in deep herbage; and ere yet the bees
Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas,
I must be near the middle of my story.
O may no wintry season, bare and hoary,
See it half finish'd: but let Autumn bold,
With universal tinge of sober gold,
Be all about me when I make an end.
And now, at once adventuresome, I send
My herald thought into a wilderness:
There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress
My uncertain path with green, that I may speed
Easily onward, thorough flowers and weed.

Lu Mininni-Totin

My Mum turned 71 today. Even though we celebrated her birthday while she and Dad were visiting us, I thought I would do a little tribute to the wonderful woman who brings so much joy to our lives.

Mum was born in Steubenville, Ohio, on July 13, 1935, in a small house in the downtown area. Her father, Frank, was one of the local barbers (he once worked with Dean Martin's father, who was also a barber.) Her mother, Lily, was a homemaker. For a time, her parents lived with family members, but Mum was their "lucky baby". My grandfather started his own barber shop, and purchased a home for his wife and three daughters shortly after my mother's birth.

Lillian, or Lu (as she likes to be called) grew up in Steubenville, and attended the Catholic schools out here. She was born with a healthy dose of faith, and her passion was God. She has always been a deeply spiritual woman, not in the sense that you think - someone who prays everyday and then goes about their lives - my mother has a true walk with the Lord.

When she was in her mid teens, she and her parents and one sister had to relocate to Arizona. At the time, Steubenville had heavy pollution due to the steel mills, and my grandfather's heart and lungs couldn't handle it. Sadly, her father passed away just a year after moving. My Mum stayed with her mother, helping her as best she could, but Mum's other passion is theatre.

Mum relocated for a short time to California, and then went, alone, to New York to pursue her dreams. Believe me, my mother has talent! But, she also has morals and ethics - she has principles - and those things don't often go hand-in-hand with the entertainment industry. Mum is no prude! She worked as a singer in nightclubs, as well as starred in various musicals. She was in a television series titled "The Nurses", as well as in other programs. She also belly danced to stay trim. (To this day, her sisters lament that they didn't have her knock-out body!) But, she would not to anything that would go against her morals; in other words, she avoided the pitfalls common to many 'starving actresses' back in the day. She did not believe in "couch casting". She would not take a role that placed her in a compromising position as far as her body went. She would not play the games. Yet, she was successful. She studied under a variety of famous names. She knew the movers and shakers of that time. She was a ball of energy, with a four-octave range, and incredible talent.

She met my father in New York, while working Summerstock. They fell in love, married, and after several years, they moved back to California. After my birth, my mother vowed to offer her talents up the God, and worked as an instructor, often without pay, to help other actors learn the trade. To this day, she is active in theatre! She had written several incredible plays and musicals based on scripture (as she puts it, she is only the Holy Spirit's typist.) You would be surprised to learn which very well-known Hollywood heart-throbs studied under her (Patrick Swayze is one of them.)

My mother is remarkably intelligent, although technology is not something she takes to. She enjoys science, and literature. She can spot talent a mile away. She still has her love of God. My parents have seen many hardships in life, and have had times of great struggle (my father, also 71, still works to pay the bills!), yet she has always been able to find joy in the world around her. Truth be told, Mum is what makes joy happen... it is part of her make-up, a tangible feeling. She is a conversationalist, able to speak to anyone about any thing. She is just incredible.

Every child can say they have had days where their mother drives them insane. Mum and I have had plenty of those, although looking back on them, I grin at all the foolishness I pulled just to ruffle her feathers. Children just can't appreciate their parents until they, the child, grow up enough to understand that their parents are human. Likewise, I am sure there were days when, despite her love for me, my mother wanted to drop me into a pillowcase and leave me on the neighbor's doorstep. I really was a stubborn, selfish child.

From my mother, I learned my morals and ethics. I learned to see both sides of the coin. I saw the world through her eyes, because she was always open enough to share it with me. I learned theatre, all aspects (living in a family like mine, it's a given), and she helped me develop my own talents. Two years ago, my mother even sat down with me to strengthen my voice for a (paid) production I was involved with (that kind of instruction does not come cheap in the real world, and really, I could not have had a better teacher!) When my family is involved with a production, we are not 'mum' and 'dad' and 'daughter'. We call each other by our first names, and work as a well-oiled team. (Yes, I miss that, Mum!!!) We know each other so well that words don't need to be said to express pride or frustration.

So, today, I honor her with an entry into my journal. Truly, words really can never say fully what is in my heart. To say "I love you" just seems too simple as a means of expressing how much she means to me. I can say "I miss you", and that in itself almost touches upon how my heart grieves that she lives so far away from us. I can say "Mum, happy birthday" and she knows that the phrase is more than just a greeting. Instead, I leave her with a bit of inspiration. You see, the Aldonzas of the world have never understood her. Even though they would spit on her for her dreams and her ministry, she has always seen the inner beauty they posses, and has always patiently reached out to them. Much like the musical from which the following lyrics are taken, in the end, the Aldonzas understand and embrace the message given. Mum, never stop bringing that message to the world!

Why do you do these things?

DON QUIXOTE: What things?

ALDONZA: These ridiculous... the things you do!

DON QUIXOTE: I hope to add some measure of grace to the world.

ALDONZA: The world's a dung heap and we are maggots that crawl on it!

DON QUIXOTE: My Lady knows better in her heart.

ALDONZA: What's in my heart will get me halfway to hell. And you, Senior Don Quixote-you're going to take such a beating!

DON QUIXOTE: Whether I win or lose does not matter.

ALDONZA: What does?

DON QUIXOTE: Only that I follow the quest.

ALDONZA: (spits) That for your Quest! (turns, marches away; stops, turns back and asks, awkwardly) What does that mean... quest?

DON QUIXOTE: It is the mission of each true knight... His duty... nay, his privilege!...

To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go;

To right the unrightable wrong.
To love, pure and chaste, from afar,
To try, when your arms are too weary,
To reach the unreachable star!

This is my Quest to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far,
To fight for the right
Without question or pause,
To be willing to march into hell
For a heavenly cause!

And I know, if I'll only be true
To this glorious Quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest.

And the world will be better for this,
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable stars!

We love you, Mum!


Pittsburgh, Airplanes, and Gloom

I awoke today with a strong sense that the world didn't have the right feel to it. I, by no means, am trying to state that I am some sort of psychic, and there is little chance that I will take out a second mortgage to pay for a tool-free number so people could call me for $2 a minute readings. I just had that peculiar feeling that today would be bizarre. It intensified as I peeked out of the bedroom window, to be greeted by a gray haze that seemed to blanket the land, creeping into every nook and dell, and sitting like an unmovable dinge within the trees. The skies themselves looked bleak, yet the air was warm and dry. Ah, yes, the classic tale-tell signs of a Blah Summer Day.

Jeff and I dressed, and headed out for his VA appointment in Pittsburgh, PA. As we approached Lover's Lane, our eyes widened at the sight of bumper to bumper traffic. How strange for this little town! On any given day, there might be ten vehicles at the intersection of Lover's Lane and Sunset Blvd - woe! cry the natives of Steubenville, cursing the congestion! - so I am almost certain today's sudden onslaught of heavy traffic would have melted the brains of some of our less-worldly denizens. What on earth was happening? Had we been plucked from our beds in the middle of the night by Rod Sterling himself?

The cause of the traffic (which sprawled down Sunset, nearly past the turnoff for University Drive) was a Piper PA-18 Super Cub (airplane) that crashed on US Route 22. The single-engine airplane came to a stop on the on-ramp to this commonly used highway early this afternoon. (They are now saying that it struck the power lines that cross the bluffs above the highway. Also, I am saddened to say, the 22 year-old man who piloted the craft was pronounced dead at the scene by our coroner, Dr. Metcalf. No one else was injured. What a sad loss of life, and this young man's family is in our prayers.)

Jeff and I were able to loop around, although we were now 30 minutes behind schedule, and I made good time on the highway by applying a lead foot to the gas pedal. We arrived at the VA only 20 minutes late, and Jeff had his appointment with Physical Therapy. We thought that, at last, the day was returning to a normal state, despite the gray haze that was heavy even in Pittsburgh. I sat in my favorite garden spot, while Jeff took care of his travel voucher and such, and the scent of the newly bloomed flowers seemed to chase away the strange gloom in the air. My rock is nearly covered in ivy now, and I could almost daydream of Fae folk dancing upon it in the moonlight. It really is a bit of an enchanted garden in the middle of technology.

We headed back, taking Penn Avenue - big mistake. The All-Star games are being played, and Penn Avenue was a madhouse (for a second, I wondered if the slow traffic flow was caused by another airplane accident!) The congestion did allow us to slow down our drive and take in some of the Pittsburgh sights. Jeff tried to capture a few snapshots of the Goodyear Blimp with my camera (as I was driving), and we took a few more of the people along the street.

I adore Penn Avenue. It passes The Strip, as well as the heart of the Theatre District. There is so much culture packed along this road, and the sights and smells take you all over the US... Harlem, New York, Chicago, San Francisco! We saw three handsome black boys, with their baggy pants and long tee-shirts, walking down the street laughing and joking with each other. We saw the Orthodox Jewish men, dressed in black with the wide brim hats, ducking into the their delis and bakeries. Italians, Greeks, and Polish folk chatted along the Avenue, trying to make the best out of a cloudy day. As we neared the arena, throngs of people strolled about, and traffic police with white gloves and whistles directed both pedestrians and vehicles along their way. This is humanity at its best! Carefree, friendly, and packed together to celebrate a common cause (even if it is a "Sports" cause, which I usually don't care to participate in.)

Finally, we arrived home (passing the downed plane on 22 - traffic was flowing by then, and not too much rubber necking was going on.) Jeff put chicken on for a boil, and I made sweet potatoes. He was too hot and tired to eat anything tonight, as is now napping. The gloom is still in the air, and I can honestly say I have never seen so many rescue vehicles as I did today... plus, we are under a flood watch!

One more thing - has anyone else had trouble loading pictures onto their blogger account? I had to use a friend's photo hosting site just to get pictures loaded here today.


On this date in history...

Absolutely nothing of great significance happened today. I am being totally honest in that statement!

I thought I would go to the 11:30 Mass, as I had been invited to join the choir last week, but our Director was unable to attend today, thus I had butterflies in the gut for absolutely no reason! I am not complaining, as it did allow me to meet the other two ladies in the choir, but I can not help but feel just a little crestfallen that I didn't get to participate (none of us did.)

My parents called from the road - they are almost to Kansas - and will be stopping for the final night of the trip home. They are holding up beautifully, and even the dogs are behaving themselves.

Jeff and I tackled the front yard, mowing the grass and deadheading the flowers. We filled the feeder and placed fresh water in the bird bath. The usual weekend stuff - chatting with neighbors, waving at cars going past the house, and debating what we were going to have for supper.

This certainly are dull around here. Even the cat is lethargic from lack of entertainment.

I should, of course, utilize this down time to update all the things I wanted to post from last week. I should also investigate the whereabouts of the missing washcloth that went AWOL between the laundry shoot and the dryer yesterday. I certainly could get some work done online!

Yet, I am just not up to it today. I was even too lazy to bother replacing the toilet paper roll - which I left hanging, empty, this morning, as a tribute to my desire to fly out the door so as to not be late to mass. Hmm - I'm not too lazy to go snap a picture of it for you. Say "Cheese!"

Here I sit, munching on a hamburger - sans the bun, as I'm on my anti-carb kick again - and wondering if I should update
Mt. Saint Caffiena's readers or just call it a day and fall into the cool comfort of clean cotton sheets.

This is what happens when I have too much time on my hands, yet not enough ambition to actually begin a project. Besides, I hear the bed calling me.

Running the Race of Life - Jonathan St. Andre

My goodness! I have been following a blog off and on, and just realized that one of our wonderful Franciscan Friars (TOR) is assisting in my Parish this summer! Well, my mind is either out to lunch, or not even bothering to check in with my body... how embarrassing! I am delighted to say he is serving as a Deacon at Holy Rosary, and we've probably been missing each other like ships in the night! (What a small world, eh AnnieElf???)

Welcome, Jonathan, and I hope you don't mind me linking your blog here. Dear readers, please stop by his blog and lend your support as he begins a new chapter in his life.
Running the race of life

(As I write this, my husband is smiling... nothing beats a winter night like inviting our wonderful clergy over for coffee and laughter.)

Vintage Moon Studio

I have found another delightful blog - Vintage Moon Studio. Deb Lewis has an eye for design, and her creations are stunning! Please take a moment to sneak a peek at her work.

You can also access it by typing into your browser.

The Memory of Farewells Always Lingers

I just watched Mum and Dad's car pull from the driveway, as they begin their trip back to Colorado. I don't know why I always get upset when this happens, but then again, I do. As a child, memories of cars leaving driveways always brought on tears.

When I was very small, and if I was able to wake up in time, I would sneak to the library window and watch my father's car leave the driveway as he headed to work through heavy Los Angeles traffic. Sometimes I would even race outside, and squint - before they tore down the orchard, you could see the freeway from our drive - and I would wait until I saw his small white Pinto, just a tiny spec in the distance, zip past. When I spent the weekend with my Nonna, I would run from room to room, watching their car as they pulled away from their apartment building (which usually got me scolded, as I was not to run in her upstairs apartment!) When Nonna left California for Missouri, I stood in the driveway with my Mum, and watched the car pull away. My mother said, "we will never see her again alive" at that point, and in my heart I knew it was true. I could feel it. Suddenly, cars pulling out of driveways grew to great emotional importance to me, and I memorized that feeling, so that I would remember it. In Colorado, I watched their car leave for the final time outside our rental. I waved to them, tears flowing down my face, but in my heart I knew that I would see them again. So, today, in the morning hours, with perfect sunshine and the smell of summer in my nostrils, I hugged my parents and then watched them leave our driveway... waving to me from the car... but, I know that I will see them both again.

I cried, as always. I watched for as long as possible, no longer an adult, but a small child seeing the ones they love most slip down the rough street and turn the corner. I watched until I could no longer see them, and in my mind's eye, I pictured them turning onto Lovers Lane and then heading towards Krogers to pick up Tiger Bars. Suddenly the porch pillar was inadequate to support me, but a gentle touch and then the warm embrace of my husband became the strength that I needed, and we wrapped each other in an embrace. This time, and the goodbye in Colorado, I was not alone. I had him, also silently crying, beside me.

So, here I am, still crying, because I began missing them as soon as they closed the car doors. And, I have been crying off an on, while I did the dishes, and sat down to write this. I tend to cry when my emotional triggers are pushed - getting teary over a commercial isn't so uncommon around here, as I have a tendency towards empathy for those in emotional situations - but my tears today are not ones of grief. Just sadness. Two weeks is not enough time, nor would be two years or two decades, for family to sit together and enjoy each other's company. Had they stayed for a month, my tears would be just as flowing, and in my heart, I would have wanted yet another month to spend with them.

Part of me kicks myself for not journaling activities daily, because I know I could turn to this journal and remember each thing that happened. But, I did not want to give up a second apart from them. Sure, I had the Cramps this week, and yes we spent a few days with her sisters, but my time with my parents is precious to me, and eternity wouldn't even be enough (here I am, repeating myself. Forgive me for that.) So, rather than journal, I pushed it aside. I will try to back track over the next few days, so that I can recapture things.

Cars change, and people age, but the memory of farewells always lingers. There never is a good-bye, as the finality of that statement is too great. "So long", of course, was once a greeting, although its meaning has been lost to time for most people who do not bother to study etymology. Instead, I choose to say "I love you", which comes from my heart and means "I love you, and will always love you, and thank you for all you have given me."

I love you Mum and Dad! I miss you being here!

Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH

We went over to Franciscan University today, as Mum wanted to see the campus and Dad wanted to video things. It was a perfect day to go, with a cool breeze and hardly any people around.

We drove past the various buildings, but Mum really wanted to see the areas used on some of the programs from EWTN, so I drove them to the chapel.

The chapel is nestled on one side of the campus, amidst the green trees. There is a walkway that leads up to the building, and you can also visit the Tomb of the Tomb of the Unborn Child, the Stations of the Cross (a woodland walk itself), and the Nativity. We didn't do the Stations, as my parents' legs (and mine) wouldn't make it down the steep stairs, but we paused at different places to pray (and snap photos!)

The Chapel itself is a small stone structure, with heavy wooden doors and interior beams. It has a stone floor, and just a few pews for sitting. It reminds me of an old European church, pulled from the pre-Renaissance period, and sitting within there feels like a trip back in time. One can almost conjure up the image of a portly friar greeting you at the door.

Interior of the Chapel, and the Tomb of the Unborn Child

The Nativity sits behind the chapel, and it too is built from stone.

I got a thrill today - I came home and was reading through Annie's blog, and suddenly realized that I was standing right where she was on her trip out here! Neat!

I will get around to updated things from the past few days. It's been busy around here, and we are trying to get as much family time together as possible. Things may not even be updated until this weekend.


My Birthday!

Today is my birthday. I am 35, officially. We had a wonderful day today, although at times it was stressful (not in a bad way) as we all four were working towards getting cooking done for the party (I had to add the picture of my Mum's hands... I love her hands! They are so beautiful!)

Many people bemoan their birthdays, considering them a hallmark of getting older. I don't. Age is in the heart and mind, and since I've lived a long time with physical problems, betting older just means that I made it through one more good year. My birthday isn't just the day I was born, but also the day my Mother celebrated her first true Mother's Day. July 1st is also my Dad's first Father's Day.

We began cooking early, and our company began to arrive at 5 PM. I'm not going to give out names of family members, as most of them don't even have computers and would probably freak if they knew I was telling folks around the world their names!) but I can say that my Aunt who lives locally, and her daughter and granddaughter came in, as did my great aunt, and her sons and grandson and his wife. My aunt and uncle from out of state were here as well.

Everyone looks wonderful, thank God, and we had a very nice evening. My 'local' aunt gave me a beautiful hand-tuned wind chime for my front porch (I collect them, and love to hear them in the wind), and my aunt and uncle gave me a beautiful canister set from the Cracker Barrel (I've been wanting this set for several months, and they didn't even realize it!) They also gave me an angel figurine, which is sitting on my bar. My couz L gave me a gift certificate to Koffmans, which means I can browse through their stuff and find something in my size. We received several house warming cards and cash gifts, so I can put that towards finding something special for the porch or kitchen.

My parents gave me the best gift of all, just by coming to visit us! But, they also gave me two very cherished things (in addition to all the things they have been pampering us with, such as lights for the porch, electrical stuff, and laughter!) My great aunt had given them a soup tourine for their wedding. It has been part of our holiday dinners at their house for all my life, holding not only wonderful home made soups, but also so many good memories. They gave the tourine to me, for my birthday, which means more to me that words can even begin to express. They also gave me Nonna's silver tea set, which they restored for her many years ago. She didn't want to take the restored set with her when she moved out of state, and so she gave it back to my Mum. My Mum has cherished these two things for so many reasons, none of which are material. And now, I can cherish them, because they hold my childhood memories as well.

Still, the best gift you can ever give me is to share the day with me. having Mum and Dad here means more to us than they will ever know. Just like having Dad (Jeff's Dad) here the week before meant so much to us! Family is the most important thing. It isn't about stuff, or what they can do for you, or what you can get. It's about love. It's about sharing good times and bad. It's about accepting people for who they are and loving them, even when they get on your nerves. It's an honest love, bubbling from the heart, that can be felt just by how they greet you or how you are hugged. Needless to say, our parents give the best hugs! What made my birthday wonderful was sharing that day with everyone. My mother's birthday is on the 13th, and so I included her special day in the celebration today. Yes, I was sad because Jeff's Dad had to return home before today, and yes there are more cousins out there who could not travel to Ohio to visit this week, but they were here with us in spirit.

So, to my family, I say Thank You!

And, to Jeff, and Mum and Dad, I say THANK YOU for EVERYTHING YOU DID TO MAKE THE DAY SPECIAL!! Dad... thank you especially for doing those dishes!