Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween 2010

My Father loved Halloween. Being a person who valued and loved tradition, he would select our family pumpkin with great care. I can almost smell the newspaper as we would cover the kitchen table, in preparation of carving the pumpkin. I can see the knives and the metal spoon we used to scoop out the seeds and pulp from the pumpkin. And I can see the faces of the pumpkins.. always the same... two triangles for eyes, one triangle for a nose and a smiling mouth with no teeth! Occasionally Lilli and I would convince him to add triangle shaped ears. That was rare, however.

When he died in October, 1983, I began the new tradition of taking a pumpkin down to the cemetery and placing it on his grave. And today, I continued the tradition. I found the perfect pumpkin, the shape that he preferred. I didn't carve it... and I drove it down to the cemetery. It was a beautiful fall day, slightly windy but not too blustery. The sun peaked out from time to time behind the clouds. I didn't mind the clouds.. I think that Halloween should be cloudy. All of this may seem a bit silly but in light of what Halloween is all about, maybe not. And I do believe that he would be pleased. Happy Halloween Daddy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's been a blustery day!

What a day this has been! I've worked here at the University for over 10 years and never before have we been told to take shelter in a safe place. Tornado sirens blared around noon, and we took cover in the basement. It was an adventure and I got to know some very nice people from other floors. Thanks be to God that there was no serious damage. Other communities near by were not as lucky. Prayers for them.....
Happy Birthday 8th Yelda! I often call her Yelda-loo, and sometimes when she is naughty, which is quite often, Yelda from Helda. Yelda is a newfoundland dog and came to us through Rescue. We initially fostered her when she was just about 9 months old. She came from a broken and abusive home, and lacked attention and training. We placed her with a couple who seemed to be good candidates. The lady worked alot with her an did alot of obedience training. However, she was bitten by the show bug, and wanted to get a show-Mastiff. Her husband said ok, but she'd have to get rid of Yelda. Calling his bluff, or rather attempting to, she got her Mastiff, and before long, Yelda was back in Rescue. Another home was found, and it too seemed ideal. It was a farm with a lady who loved Yelda dearly. However she became quite ill, and Yelda and her strong will and spunkiness was too much for her to handle. And so back she came.

At this point I didn't feel that we could continue yanking her around. We looked at a couple of possible homes for her but in the end she stayed. She is a challenging girl.. very headstrong and smart. It's not been ideal but it's worked, and I love her dearly.

In writing this I would like to clarify the importance of Rescue. Rescue organizations for the most part do an awesome job in bringing lost and unwanted dogs back to health, in fostering and placing them. The fact that Yelda came back to us twice is no fault or reflection on rescue. It just happens. The important thing is that Yelda is safe and happy. Happy Birthday Yeldie-loo.. you are loved.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The weekend in review

Fridays always dawn with the sense of anticipation of "the weekend". It seems that I often feel like I did when I was a kid trying to sleep on Christmas Eve or on the night before we leave for a long anticipated vacation. OK... maybe that is an exaggeration.... I do do that from time to time. Yet it's still exciting. In you younger, single days, Fridays brought the excitement of going out with friends after work... going to a couple of bars, listening to music and hanging out with friends... and maybe, just maybe... meeting "Someone". And truth be told, it was on one of these Friday nights that I did meet Russell. So it's probably true that my instincts were on to something. However, I digress. I could follow that train of thought and end up with a completely different type of blog!

The thing about my weekends of late are that they end up being centered around dining out, family/friends, church and sometimes that horrible word that I seem to avoid at all costs: chores. I guess the kid in me still strongly rebels at that word... and in my mind... chores really have no place in "fun time", which weekends should be. Shouldn't they?

Well maybe not!

I'm adult after all... it even says so on my drivers license... and in reality... chores do have a place in our lives... and they don't stop on weekends. Life just doesn't work that way. So you can grumble and make it horrible, or you can deal with them as cheerfully as possible. That seems to work the best, and in looking back also seems to (at times) create wonderful memories as well.

In typical fashion, this weekend had a schedule. I am all about "the schedule" and I can fill it rapidly and with finesse. Fridays are usually quiet. Russell works late much of the time and then we stop off and grab dinner somewhere. This week we went to a small restaurant and I had a yummy steak, salad and baked sweet potato. Russell had ribs, which always seem to be good at this place (The Barbecue Hut).

Once home, we got the dogs walked and fed and then settled in for the night. We watched our usual cooking shows on PBS... and it was a nice quiet evening. Saturday morning found us having breakfast and figuring out the rest of day. I went off to spend the day with my sister and Russell headed off to work. The plan was to meet his at his Mom's at 4 and go to Mass. Well, best laid plans even go awry. I was running late, and so I sent a text message to Russell to let him know... and was to meet them at Church.

Lilli and I had a great time together. We visited her friend, went shopping and had lunch at a new burger place.... talk about YUMMY fries. Then we went and saw our Mother.... and then I headed to church. I love going to Mass, and the readings and Gospel were exactly what I needed to hear. Funny how it seems to work out that way more often then not. After Mass, we ate at a little Greek place. Again yummy food. I told you that much of our time is centered around dining out!

As I was driving home, my mind was zig zagging all over the place, but there was one thing that became very clear. I needed to urgently do laundry. So after a stop at Walmart to pick up some things for Russell (benadryl and new boxers.. which both blew him away) I flew home and loaded the washer.

And once again we were settled in our den after a good but very hectic day. We watched a TV. Russell and the dogs dozed and I played around on Facebook. The hour grew late and Russell took Ben and went to bed. I put Kira and Yelda into bed and remembered my laundry. So I headed downstairs to put the wash into the dryer. And this is when my "master plan" went awry.

I smelled something... and it wasn't good. Something smelled hot and I was quite alarmed. There was no smoke, and nothing felt hot to the touch. I went to the washer... opened the door and discovered that it was still full of water. UH-OH, this was definitely not good. I tried to restart it, and got nothing but a weak hum. And so up the stairs I flew to wake Russell. I know I scared him and I felt bad but he needed to check this out. So back down the stairs we hurried... and he knew right away that a belt had broken. And this meant the washer was not going to work until it was fixed. CRAP, CRAP and more CRAP! Sleepy, Russell went back upstairs, and I followed, with all sorts of alternative plans for the next day zooming through my mind.

I went to bed with half formed plans. The day's schedule was pretty full... yet we had a soaking wet load of laundry to deal with. So by 8:30 we were up and at 'em. Time for chores, and team work. As I walked the dogs, I said a prayer... and this is what I really wanted to blog about. I felt tense and uneasy. And so I prayed that we have the patience and camaraderie to get through this... and my prayer was answered. After the dogs were settled, I went down to help Russell wring out the soaking wet clothes. We filled two tubs of wet clothes, and I bailed the washer while he loaded them in the car. I grabbed our detergent and a container of change that I had been saving for a rainy day. The irony of this made me grin.

And off to the laundromat we went. And truth be told.... there's something to be said for the efficiency of doing laundry this way. It goes by so fast, and it was kind of fun. We worked together as a team and got the job done. And my "master plan" schedule for Sunday remained in place, and everything worked out. We had brunch with our friends and then I went off to a concert with my cousin and a girls night out. I came home feeling like it had been a long day, but a good one. Chores had been taken care of, in the spirit of teamwork... and the result was that our spirits were happy and content as bedtime came. And of course, my prayers had been answered. Thank you God!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rest in Peace Mrs. Cleaver and Mr. C....

While listening to the radio the other day, I was so sad to hear of the passing of Barbara Billingsley, aka June Cleaver from the television so "Leave It to Beaver". As a small child, I loved this show... and remember so many episodes. It was a kind and gentle show... where family values stood strong. I've watched the reruns in recent years and have always found the show to be entertaining and true.

Another of my favorite shows was "Happy Days". Of coruse I was in my teen years when this show was on the air. Yet family values and strong parent role models were still valued. Tom Bosley as Mr. C will rank right up there with Andy Griffith as one of America's best loved father figures. And it was with great sadness that I learned of his passing a few hours ago.

In less that a week's time, we have lost two strong parenting Icons from the world of Television. Television back then was completely different than it is today. Of course the world was a different place. It's a sad commentary that today's television contains very little of these values, and that popular culture relishes in scoffing at them.

Rest in Peace Barbara and Tom. You will be dearly missed.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Walking on walnuts.. the perils of Autumn!

Autumn is a most awesome time to venture out and take a walk. I love autumn... the cooler air is often crisp and invigorating. It invites me to venture out and take a walk... get some exercise, something that I get too little of. Yet Autumn walks can be perilous! There are all sorts of dangers awaiting the unsuspecting trekker, who could most likely be described as daydreaming while enjoying the loveliness of the day and season.

You may wonder what dangers I am eluding too. So let me widen the scope a bit and let you in on the bigger picture. Anyone who knows me will realize by now that if I were to take a walk, I would most likely be accompanied by one of our Newfoundland dogs. Our walk would begin in our yard, stopping every inch or so to sniff this blade of grass or that leaf that conveniently floated down in front of us and distracted us from our course. I usually find myself speculating every fall that our dogs have suddenly come down with attention deficit disorder, because they don't seem to focus very well because there is so much going on. We've already touched on the falling leaves. Besides distracting the dogs as they fall they also cover the grass, and sometimes other things that one would rather not step in.

And then there are the walnuts. We have a very large walnut tree in our yard. It starts dropping in August, but the nuts are easily seen and avoided. However, once the leaves begin to fall, they are harder to see. This of course creates a couple of potential hazards.

The first that comes to mind are the squirrels that are drawn to the walnuts. Now while squirrels can be pests and drain our bird-feeders at a rapid rate, I personally don't have anything against them. Yet when I've got a 120+ pound dog on a leash and a squirrel ventures in the the yard... and "said dog" notices the squirrel and decides on impulse to go MEET it... I have a problem. This would be the second hazard: walking or running on walnuts is dangerous to one's well being, not to mention one's ankles.

So if you're out and about, and encounter a pathway filled with walnuts take heed! Be safe and keep alert! And try and enjoy yourself along the way!

Friday, October 01, 2010

A Christian Connection to Halloween

I love Halloween. I always have. In fact, I have clear memories of my Dad saying that Halloween was his favorite holiday. Of course he said that about Thanksgiving.... and he was pretty big on Christmas too! :) That said... Halloween has been a big tradition and a big favorite during my life time on this earth.

Some of my dearest memories are of going to "Groby's Garden Center" and picking out the perfect pumpkin. This was almost as challenging as picking out the perfect Christmas Tree. The Carving of the pumpkin was my Dad's job, but we were there to help clean out the pumpkin and separate the seeds, which we would later roast. Beggars night was always exciting... choosing our constumes, going out with our cousins and seeing friends along the way. It was pure fun! Years later, after my Father died, I began taking a small pumpkin down to the cemetery and placing it on his grave in honor of his love of Halloween.

As I began my faith journey and eventual conversion to Catholicism, it became very clear that many of my Christian Brothers and Sisters frowned on the holiday, and suggested that in celebrating Halloween, I embracing evil. Now I will not deny that that I am a sinner.... but I do not choose to embrace evil, black magic or the dark arts. I am a Christian, and my heart belongs to God, to His son Jesus Christ and to the Holy Spirit. So before tossing out all my Halloween decorations and traditions, I decided to do some research about the origins of Halloween and the Christian connection to Halloween. Happily, I have learned quite a bit!

From the American Catholic website, I learned:

"The true origins of Halloween lie with the ancient Celtic tribes who lived in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. For the Celts, November 1 marked the beginning of a new year and the coming of winter. The night before the new year, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, Lord of the Dead. During this festival, Celts believed the souls of the dead—including ghosts, goblins and witches—returned to mingle with the living. In order to scare away the evil spirits, people would wear masks and light bonfires.

When the Romans conquered the Celts, they added their own touches to the Samhain festival, such as making centerpieces out of apples and nuts for Pomona, the Roman goddess of the orchards. The Romans also bobbed for apples and drank cider—traditions which may sound familiar to you. But where does the Christian aspect of the holiday come into play?

In 835, Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration for all the martyrs (later all saints) from May 13 to November 1. The night before became known as All Hallow’s Even or “holy evening.” Eventually the name was shortened to the current Halloween. On November 2, the Church celebrates All Souls Day.

The purpose of these feasts is to remember those who have died, whether they are officially recognized by the Church as saints or not. It is a celebration of the “communion of saints,” which reminds us that the Church is not bound by space or time.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that through the communion of saints “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things” (#1475). "

And so, in this spirit, I will continue to decorate for Halloween, to put pumpkins on my Father's grave and to hand out candy to trick or treaters, and to enjoy Autumn, and all it's riches and blessings. God Bless each and every one of you!