Friday, November 28, 2008

Paper, or Stone?

Today, I was going through the Lonely Sock Basket (because that's what one does on a holiday weekend, right?) when I came across a yellow slip of paper. Yellow, not yellowed.

Written three times in a pattern to form a skull and crossbones, though I don't think that was intentional, were the words, "I hate my room."

I am thankful that my first thought was not "Oh yeah? Be thankful you have a room at all!"

You know how we parents can be.

My first thought was instant compassion for my child.

I know how it feels to be controlled by clutter. I know how it feels to be unable to throw things away "just in case." I know how it feels to scan a room and not see one clear surface.

We have been working together, this child and I, to gain tools for controlling clutter. I don't know when this note was written, but I have slowly noticed a change, an ability to let go.

I am so proud of ___________.

Hopefully, this will be learned now and not carried on into adulthood as it did with me. We struggle together, but we also mark each other's triumphs.

This week we were given a piano by some friends (thanks, G's!). So far, we've put nothing on its surface but three pretty candles.

I long for a Shaker-style home. This would be a home with few belongings since everything has a purpose. However, the Shakers believed that if it's worth making, it's worth making beautifully.

I am so ready to let go of so many things! I don't even want a garage sale. I just want it OUT.

Sometimes, I want to strangle the person who invented paper. Paper is my nemesis! It seems I gain at least a ream each day.

Then again, how awful would it be to have a bunch of stone tablets laying around?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Not Ranting

This is the time of year when I usually go on a rant about the commercialism and demotion of this holiday.

I'm not talking Turkey.

Thanksgiving is a truly American Holiday and I love it!

I'm of course talking about Christmas.

I've decided that the only way to stay calm and cheerful is to:

1. Stay out of the shopping malls.

2. Don't read the sales flyers.

3. Hold on to thankfulness from Thanksgiving. Thankfulness = Joy.

Please, can we just skip all the gift giving involving money? It has gone from cheerful to obsessive to obligatory.

What matters most?

Can we get back to celebrating the birth of Christ without commercialism?

I guess I went on a rant after all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An Irish-Catholic Tale, an Aside

Way back in this post, I had hinted about the little girl standing in the front row, far left, in pigtails. First, I need to explain her relationship to the family. You'll recall that the squirming toddler standing next to her is none other than Uncle Johnny. Chet is standing directly behind her, and Rosie is next to him. Aunt Sarah is on the far right.

To explain our relationship to the pigtailed girl, we have to go back to Grandpa U. He's the blacksmith (standing, with arms crossed) who came from Ireland. He was also a boxer who fought under the name Gallagher.

Back in Ireland, Grandpa U had a sister named Mary. This sister would come to America, meet a man, marry, and have a daughter named Marie. Mary is Rosie's aunt, and Marie is Rosie's first cousin.

Are you still with me?

Marie eventually married and gave birth to the little pigtailed girl in the photo. Her name is Marilyn. She also has a sister named Colleen.

Mary, Marie, and Marilyn. Mmmmm. :-)

I met Marilyn many years ago. The occasion was a sad one; Rosie's funeral. I was pregnant with either Kelly or Glenna (I suspect Kelly). She and her husband were so nice. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Marie moved to Hollywood, hoping to get her cute daughters into movies. They lived above the Thrifty Drug Store at Hollywood and Vine in the 1930's.

Marilyn grew up and married a man named Norman. They had five children together; four boys and one girl. Norman was a high school teacher.

Of their five children, the oldest son would become an American icon. Their only daughter would have bit parts as a baby and toddler. Another son would become a cinematographer.

You see, Marilyn married the high school teacher, Norman.

Norman Mathers.

Here is their oldest son:

Here is a picture of the Mathers family and various cousins. Can you spot Uncle Terry in the front row, blue shirt? They were all gathered to meet Betty, front row and red sweater, visiting from Ireland. Seated with a little girl standing before her is Marilyn. Standing behind Uncle Terry is Jerry. His siblings are in this photo as well.

As Paul Harvey would say, "And now you know the rest of the story."

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Taylor Day

My niece turned 10 this week! Saturday was her birthday party.

We are so thankful to God that she's still here. We're even more thankful to God that her prognosis is so great and she'll probably be here for a long, long time!

We love you, Taylor! Happy Birthday!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Rocky Raccoon

We have a neighborhood pest.

Each morning, we find our garbage cans tipped over and the contents everywhere. Yes, I know we could get cans with locking lids. Yes, I know we could somehow bungee the cans to the wall like our neighbor, the Harley-Democrat, does.

Would that be fair to the raccoon?

Himself: I saw him the other day and I started to feel sorry for him.

Me, thinking the scraps have been fewer since using Dinner A'Fare: Why? Is he terribly gaunt?

Himself: No. In fact, he's so fat he was barely making it across the street.

I bought two cooked chickens from Costco yesterday so I could have chicken for my lunches (and when there's a meal for dinner with ingredients I can't have). I looked at the bones with plenty of meat on them and knew our cans would be knocked over by morning.

I'm contemplating; should we just put it out there on a plate and save him the trouble? Or, as Himself has stated, is this the only exercise he gets?

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's Complicated

My Dad and his wife are coming for Christmas from Arkansas.

We're so excited and hope everything works out for this visit! There's only one problem.

This problem.

My Dad was born and raised in New Mexico. The thing about New Mexico is, no one goes anywhere without their dogs. In fact, if you don't have a dog in your truck, it's a little strange.

This, of course, creates quite a sleeping problem.

Normally, Himself and I would just give them our bed and sleep elsewhere. In New Mexico, not only does the dog drive around with you everywhere but it sleeps with you as well.

Did you click on the link? Did you see what would be coming in and sleeping in our bed? (Minus the Lab. Cody has gone on to doggy heaven.)

Dinner conversation last night.

Me: Ok, since you're all here, we have to talk about sleeping arrangements for when Grandpa and Grandma Pam are here.

Himself: That's what I'm talkin' about. We've got to figure something out.

Glenna: Are you guys really going to sleep on my bunk beds and make me sleep on the twin guest bed?

Kelly and Tyler: Wait, you guys will be sleeping upstairs? That's too weird. We've got to figure something out.

Me: That's what I'm trying to tell you. In order to avoid having their dogs on our bed and us sleeping upstairs in the children's domain, here's my thought. We temporarily move Daddy's desk into our bedroom. We take back the other twin platform bed from Tyler and put it together with the guest twin to make a king-sized bed, and then we'll move the futon up to Tyler's room for him to sleep on!

Himself: That's so crazy, it just might work!

Tyler: Futon? That bony thing? Dogs will be on my bed instead? Dogs? I am so not coming home the whole week they're here.

Kelly: I love this plan! I love it because it has nothing to do with me whatsoever!

How many of you have had to rip your home apart to make way for company? Of course, since anything can happen between now and the time they head to Florida, we're waiting until they actually leave their home before we move anything.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thursday Means We're Almost There

I love Thursday. I can take an extra 30 minutes in the morning and veg. In these hectic days, stillness has become more precious.

I wanted to upload these horrible photos of my last visit to Dinner A'Fare. I brought the girls with me and warned them severely about being careful, then I promptly knocked over an entire bucket of something white and crumbly (I didn't make that dish, so I don't know what it was) and it spewed, spewed I tell you, all over the floor.

JoAnne was great and cleaned it all up. In fact, she's amazing. As soon as I finish at a station and step over to wrap it, I turn around and it's as if I were never at that station. Super clean! I go again tomorrow!

Anyway, my computer is being whiney and won't let me upload photos. "Caution: Disk space low." Blah Blah dangerously low blah blah . . . Whatever. I know, I know, I need an external hard drive for all the photos. I know!

Amusing moments with Glenna:

Me: Ok, let's go over the math here. If you have 6Q plus Q plus 3Q, what does that give you?

Glenna: 9Q.

Me: Are you sure? What about that leftover Q?

Glenna: Oh! Oh yeah! 10Q.

Me: You're welcome!

Queen of Pun. I'm here all week, folks!

Glenna hates rice. When she was a baby and I tried to feed her rice, she would hold it in her mouth until it desintigrated into liquid. Then, she would let the liquid dribble out of her mouth. Tyler never understood this when it came to his sister and trying new foods.

"She doesn't get it, Mom. She fusses and fusses, where if she would just swallow, it would go away!" (In our home you have to try new foods, but you don't have to eat it if you don't like it. Glenna could never get to the try it part without major drama.)

I remember once at my Uncle L's house in New Mexico, he had cooked us some delicious enchiladas. Unfortunately, the main ingredient was raw onion, a texture I could never get used to. Because I love my Uncle dearly and because the rest of the enchilada was so delicious, I tried making the onions "go away" by simply swallowing them.

In New Mexico, nothing is ever mild.

Eventually, I felt like my insides were going to burn right out of my chest. I knew I couldn't swallow any more without chewing them first, so I tried to discreetly push the onions aside on my second enchilada. Uncle soon noticed and said, "Drat! I forgot about the onions!" Evidently, my distaste for raw onion is as famous as Glenna's distaste for rice!

Another time, my beloved Grandpa VW made a pecan pie that he was quite proud of. He offered me a piece and because my grandpa walked on water, I didn't even feel like refusing, even though I hated pecans.

I tried.

I really, really tried.

I tried with three glasses of water.

Eventually, Grandpa rescued me from the pie because he loved me like that and knew I was only eating it because I loved him.

The holidays are approaching. Are there dishes you can't wait to dig into? Are there dishes you'll have to swallow to make go away, like onions, rice, and pecans? What about that one relative that brings the same thing that no one really likes, but you eat it anyway to save feelings?

We're all looking forward to Thanksgiving, the Day of Gluttony! Himself is especially hoping there will be football on since we don't get to watch it here. (Hint, hint, M family! LOL)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

If You Write It, They Will Come

Last night during dinner, the phone rang.

Hello, this is Uncle Terry.

[Gulp] I'm not in trouble, am I?

Oh, come on. You guys wouldn't think you were in trouble if the monsignor called you?

He was actually delighted with the Irish-Catholic Tale. He'll be in Florida for a conference and is going to do an overnighter with us!

Yes, you've read that correctly . . . We made it to his calendar!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Today is Tuesday, you know what that means?
We're gonna have a special guest!
So, get out the broom, sweep the place clean,
And dust off the mat so the WELCOME can be seen!
Roll out the carpet! Strike up the band!
And give out with a hip-hooray . . . HIP-HOORAY!!!
Wiggle your ears, like good Mousekateers,
We're gonna have a special guest today!
'Cause Tuesday is Guest Star Day!

I sing this every Tuesday, because I remember it from the Mickey Mouse Club. Glenna sings it with me! She even does the "wah-wah" trombone part. :-)

Today, I want you to check out a guest star. Mark Driscoll is a pastor at Mars Hill (not the one associated with Rob Bell) and he did an EXCELLENT sermon on women and femininity. The audio sermon is 90 minutes long, so turn up your speakers or put your lap top in your room and clean out your closet, drawers, under your bed, etc while you listen. This is highly recommended for women ages 16 and up (or, Moms can listen first and decide for themselves).

This sermon was recommended by Jess at Making Home, one of the blogs I love. Thanks, Jess!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Back to Monday

I need to ponder a bit more before telling the stories of the two younger sisters. So much to tell, and so much that probably shouldn't be told! Discernment, discernment.

Anyone have, oh, five tickets to California they're not using? Would love to hang out with family, say at Easter? ;-)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

An Irish-Catholic Tale, Part IX

As we continue through the list of Chet and Rosie's children, we now come to the first daughter, Mary Ann. Aunt Mary Ann has been feeding me all of this great information on her siblings, parents, and grandparents. Since the historian is rarely noted nor the photographer rarely photographed, now is my chance to let Aunt Mary Ann shine in the spotlight!

I was so young (read, self-centered) when I first began dating and then married Himself, that I cannot recall the first time I met Aunt Mary Ann. Perhaps it was at our wedding? Regardless, I remember thinking she seemed so worldly (in a good way) and sophisticated. One of her nieces gave her a gift of "Yuppie Chow" one Christmas and she not only threw her head back and laughed, but she promptly opened it and started snacking, smiling all the while.

If there's one thing I've noticed about these three sisters, it's that they go through life exactly like this - smiling all the while.

Still, I had envisioned Aunt Mary Ann to be rather serious, though definitely a yuppie! She loved any new gadget or item geared toward the yuppie crowd. Himself would go on and on about her CD collection and stereo equipment, loaded with James Taylor, Neil Diamond, and much more. At the time of our first meeting she was a biology teacher, so she already had that "teacher aura" about her that commanded respect.

That is, until I learned about this side of her:

Like her sisters, Aunt Mary Ann loves to laugh. In fact, Himself loves to make her laugh!

Kathleen, my Mother-in-love, with Aunt Mary Ann.

As we recall, Mary Agnes moved in with her daughter, Helen, to live out her days. While Helen and her husband, Joe, never had children of their own, she certainly took special interest in her brother's children, especially after his death in 1944.

Mary Ann would spend a week with Helen at a time. Instead of trips to the beach or parks, there were many trips to churches and charities. Instead of books about little girls on the prairie or cute kittens, Helen gave her books of Catholic saints and martyrs. These soon became Mary Ann's heroes, and the effect Helen desired for her young niece took place.

Following in the footsteps of her Aunt Nora, Mary Ann became a nun. I believe the time line of events is that she was a nun before Uncle Terry was ordained as a priest.

With celibate vows, it must have been easy to dote on her nieces and nephews, knowing she would not have children of her own. In this photo from Rosie's back yard, they're all gathered around her like chicks to the hen! Some of them are even looking at her with expressions of, "How are we supposed to act, here?"
At this gathering of cousins, the toddler boy sitting in white, very front, is none other than Himself. His sister is behind him with the large white collar and curly hair, and his brother is shoving ice cream into his mouth while looking up at the stellar Aunt Nun.

Often we step forward in faith and do the things we believe God is calling us to do. While God certainly uses events in our lives to mold us and shape us, sometimes what He's calling us to do is completely different than we originally thought.

In 1967, Mary Ann headed to Europe, specifically Rome. In her own words:

I was assigned to our international "generalate" in 1967 to create a communications office and send out bulletins to the sisters in the the 12 different countries where we had communities. They were in English, French, and Portuguese (for Portugal, Brazil, and Angola).

Between 1967 and 1969, there were two month-long meetings of delegates from all our provinces to study and revise our rules and customs with a view to bringing them up to date. It was during those meetings that we decided to stop wearing the medieval habits we'd worn up until then, among lots of other things. I attended the meetings, and with the help of my staff, put out bulletins about the proceedings.

It was a very exciting time because of all the change. There were nuns from all over the world living in the house where I was for those two years, and the official language was French (the language of our French founder) so we had mass and all religious services in French, and we spoke French at the table. When I went out, it was Italian. I only got to speak English if I was with an American or English person.

There were other Americans in Europe at the same time, of course. One of them was given Mary Ann's name by a mutual friend.

Bob (a Jesuit priest at the time) was studying theology at the Gregorian Institute in Rome for a doctorate. He had been on the faculty at Loyola here in Westchester before going there in '67, and a mutual friend of ours, a biology professor at Loyola who happened to be a nun in my order, told him to look me up if he wanted some American company. He did. We became very good friends.

One of the few nuns with a driver's license, Mary Ann would take an available car and with another nun from Bogota and Bob, would sight-see points of interest around Rome on Sundays. States Mary Ann about Bob, "He was the nicest man I had ever met."

Normally, I'd be smart enough not to get too chummy with a priest or any man because we were both dedicated to living lives of celibacy, but I let my guard down with Bob because he was 21 years older than I, and I figured that made him "harmless" as a friend. I was right about that up to a point. He always behaved completely appropriately, never forgot our situations as celibates with vows of chastity, but the fact is, we became best friends.

When Mary Ann contracted a virus and was hospitalized in Rome, it was Bob who would visit her each day. He would bring her a ukulele and try to teach her to play in order to pass the time.

Eventually, Mary Ann was sent back to Los Angeles. In 1969 she became the principal at the very school she graduated from eleven years earlier. Bob returned to Los Angeles about 4 months later and their freindship continued. While visiting, it was discovered that a chaplain was needed for the community so Bob took the position.

She made up her mind in 1970 to leave the convent, but held off her decision until the end of the school year in 1971, so as not to leave the school without a principal. Bob also decided to leave the Jesuits, but it took a little longer for him to get his release papers.

Aunt Mary Ann claims there were other reasons, other than their relationship, for them to leave the convent and Jesuits. That's what she says, but this romantic heart has always thought this a beautiul love story! Because of my limited knowledge of all things Catholic, Himself had to explain it to me this way, "They divorced the church and married each other." Awwww! Sigh.

Bob lined up a one-year teaching job in Germany. Mary Ann flew out to meet him there. On the flight over, she struck up a conversation with her fellow passengers. When asked why she was going to Germany, Mary Ann figured she would never see those people again and impishly replied, "I'm a mail-order bride."

Bob and Mary Ann were married in Basel Switzerland on Oct. 3, 1972. Traveling to Munich, Berlin, Holland, Belgium, Paris, the French countryside, etc. on school breaks in an old VW, it was a year-long honeymoon!

Bob on the Rhine in Germany. Aunt Mary Ann pointed out his velour shirt. Love the 70's! Mary Ann also writes:

In 1973, we returned to Los Angeles. Bob went back to teaching theology at Loyola. They changed the name on his office door from Fr. Braus to Dr. Braus, and everyone adjusted. We lived in an apartment the first year back here and saved every penny so we could buy a house. I was teaching biology at a boys' school in East L.A. We bought the house we're in now in June '74. Bob stayed at Loyola (now Loyola Marymount) until he retired in 1987. I got a good job teaching biology at an independent K-12 school in Palos Verdes and stayed at it until I retired in 2005.

That may have been their business careers, but the roles they had in the lives of their nieces and nephews went far beyond academia. Their home in West Los Angeles became a haven for the troubled and discouraged, with "visits" lasting anywhere from a few days, to weeks, or a year to five years.

Bob with Rita's youngest, Shannon (in pigtails), and a childhood friend. Aunt Mary Ann was present at the birth of Shannon's baby boy earlier this year. Shannon also has three girls and another boy!

Bob teaching my SIL, Julie, how to play a guitar.

Bob and my nephew, Brian, building a bird house.

Whenever any of us have to fly out of Los Angeles, we stay with Bob and Mary Ann. How I would love to have to fly out of Los Angeles! We miss them terribly.

Christmas, 1979, at Kathleen's house in Hawthorne.

On a Greek cruise in 1984. This was around the time that I met them.

A beautiful portrait in 1986.

Dancing the night away in 1987.

Bob's 89th birthday in 2008 - and still looking great!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

An Irish-Catholic Tale, Part VIII

Oh no, not yet. It's too soon!

Young Kathleen felt the now familiar pangs of labor and looked again at the calendar. This, her third child, was not due for another two weeks! There was too much for her to do before the baby arrived. She tried to lie down to see if these were false contractions. With relief, she noticed the contractions had stopped. As soon as she got up to hang the laundry, however, they started again.

Not now! Tomorrow's a big day! I don't want to miss it!

Once again she tried to stop the contractions by lying down. Once again, they would stop as long as she was still, but they would continue the minute she resumed activity. She did everything she could to keep her mother-in-law from knowing. It had been a horrible year; her father-in-law, Louis, had been killed by a deranged neighbor who stabbed him in the neck. The family was still trying to recover from the shock.

Reluctantly, she informed her mother-in-law about the impending labor and requested a ride to the hospital.

What? Can't you make it stop? Bill will have to miss supper.

Supper wasn't all that would have to be missed. Tomorrow morning was to be the first mass of her older brother, Terry! He had just been ordained as a priest and now this child, eager to be born, would make her miss this momentous occasion with his own. With a sigh, she packed her hospital bag, tended to the other children, and waited for transportation.

The year was 1964, and Terry, the second of Chet and Rosie's children, had indeed become a priest. His grandmother, Mary Agnes, would have rejoiced had she lived to see it! Helen, Chet's sister, was able to rejoice for both of them.

Uncle Terry calls this his "porcelain portrait." He recalls, "I had terrible skin but they doctor the photo to make it flawless."

I love this picture for so many reasons. First, the looks on their faces as Uncle Terry gives a blessing to Aunt Mary Ann. What to do when your brother becomes your Father? A photographer with foresight captured a special moment for both of them! Second, just peeping behind Uncle Terry's robe is my BIL, Bob. Yes, it was Himself who kept his mother from attending that day, something Uncle Terry has never let him forget!

Himself recalls this about his uncle: He's the first person I ever saw crack an egg with one hand. He also whipped off his jacket and put out a carburator fire once when we were headed to the beach. I thought that was so cool.

Along with the rigors and rituals leading up to ordination, God had some special training in store for Uncle Terry. While the details aren't important, the trials were many and led him into a lifetime of compassion for hurting people.

Uncle Terry served in West Los Angeles. My first experience at a Catholic Mass was for his Jubilee, which celebrated his 25th year as a priest. Ironically, we almost had to miss it; three weeks earlier I had given birth to his grand-nephew! Himself's son was following in his father's footsteps, marking the milestones of this dear man in a special way.

Working from the Los Angeles diocese, Uncle Terry ministers specifically to women in prisons and spends each Thanksgiving with them. He's also a nationally-known speaker at conferences and gatherings for alcoholics and addicts. His calendar is usually quite full, but obviously not too full for his family, which is most important to him. Since I joined the family in 1986, Uncle Terry has been at every significant occasion and also some not-so significant ones! The key is to get on his calendar, and he'll be there.

Speaking of his calendar, he once lost is all-important day-planner. Desperate for its vital information, he had left a message on his answering machine stating where it could be mailed if the planner was found. This same weekend, a woman was trying to reach him for counsel, but he was out of town. She would call repeatedly and listen to this same message about his lost planner, and each time she called she was a little more intoxicated. Finally, in frustration, she slurred, "You know what? **** you, **** your planner, and **** this machine!" :-D A day in the life of a West Los Angeles priest. He was also an avid runner until his knees couldn't take the beatings any longer.

Pictured: Aunt Helen, age 90, with Uncle Terry at my MIL's house. One of the siblings would always go get Aunt Helen so she didn't miss any family events. I have a picture of her holding a squirming Kelly on her lap, probably from this same event.

As I stated in yesterday's post, these siblings have remained close. When Uncle Terry became a monsignor, we all attended the mass and celebration. A typical glimpse of his humor came when he invited all of his friends to still call him Terry, while, "As for my brother and sisters, you may call me. . . Monsignor."

Uncle Terry with Betty, cousin to Rosie, visiting from Ireland.

In Ireland himself. We definitely hope to go ourselves some day!

One of the most endearing things about him is his spirit of adventure. So far, he has talked his sister into going to Ireland, white-water rafting, and sky-diving! We have a video of their sky dive and it's hysterical. I should say, my MIL was hysterical! She did not want to jump out of that plane. All of these took place after the age of 50.

Terry with kid sister, Kathleen, his adventure buddy. 2008

We haven't seen him since our last trip to California. Hopefully, he'll put us on his calendar soon and come to Florida! I'm sure we have a few roller coasters that would appeal to his daredevil spirit.
Can I say "daredevil" when describing a priest?

Friday, November 14, 2008

An Irish-Catholic Tale, Part VII

Feel free to search the archives for the full story. Sorry I don't know how to put them all under one like as some advanced bloggers are able to do! You may look under August '07.

Chet and Rosie married, then began to have children. Despite criticism from Scary Nana with Black Cats, they were mostly happy.

Tragically, Chet suffered from alcoholism and died on his 42nd birthday, leaving Rosie with 5 children and little income. Rosie's sister, Sarah, soon moved in and helped care for home and children. Everyone benefited from this arrangement. Sarah and Rosie would remain roommates until Sara's death in the 1980's.

What became of Chet and Rosie's children?

I would like to focus on the children individually. Naturally, I would like to start with Johnny. Here he's pictured standing next to his mother for a family portrait. In this photo, he's 26 years old and has been married for 6 years!

When Chet died, 12 year old Johnny would have to step up as the man of the house. He immediately went to work at an egg farm and often had to hitchhike to school. He worked several odd jobs to help support the family financially.

As his sisters grew and married, he also stepped into the father's role of giving away the bride!
Here he is with my own MIL, Kathleen, on her wedding day.

One of the things I admire most about this family is their closeness. They are the first to arrive for celebrations, sorrows, tragedies, and joys. Their closeness is something I pray my own children will imitate for the rest of their lives! Siblings are certainly forever, and I have seen this lived out in all of them.
From L to R: Kathleen, Terry, Rita, Johnny, and Mary Ann, 2006

Terry and Johnny, 2007.

Five days after his 20th birthday, Johnny married Martie. In true Irish-Catholic fashion, they began to have lots of children! Johnny wins the prize for having the most children among his siblings with seven.

Aunt Mary Ann already corrected me once when I called Monica by the wrong name! Let's see if I get it right this time: The two boys are Tom and Mike. The girls are Carol, Anne, Donna, Monica, and Lisa.

Johnny raised his family in Los Angeles county. He worked as a firefighter until he retired after a distinguished career, ending as Chief of Los Angeles County. When I met him, he was already retired. I didn't know about his career and had to ask Himself why all of his cousins adressed their father as "Chief." I quickly learned this was a respectful endearment.

Johnny loved to take vacations with his children. Aunt Martie, however, referred to them as "trips." In other words, it was fun for the family but a lot of work for her! Camping, hiking, waterskiing, snowskiing, it all involved a camper, lots of food, and lots of miles. Fortunately, California is blessed with all of those, so they rarely had to travel out of state (maybe to nearby Nevada or Utah).

More clearly identified in this photo: Back row - Monica, Anne, Carol, Donna. Front row- Tom, Martie, Johnny, Mike.

It was either in 1992 or 1996 that we all had to say goodbye to Lisa. I know I had just had a baby, but I can't remember if it was Kelly or Glenna.
Lisa was so excited to be engaged! Here she is at Aunt Mary Ann's, showing off her engagement ring.

Lisa had a beautiful little girl. While she was still nursing her infant, she complained to the doctor about pain. The doctor tried to say it was because of nursing, but the nurses in the practice urged Lisa to get a second opinion. Sure enough, she had breast cancer.

Her prognosis was actually good. Unfortunately, it was while her immunity was at its lowest due to chemotherapy that Lisa contracted Valley Fever. This is what took her life. The loss of Lisa was devistating to all of us.

Lisa posing with (L to R) Anne, Aunt Helen, and Martie.

I remember how excited we were when Lisa had her baby. At a family gathering, I walked up to whom I THOUGHT was Anne and said, "Oh! You're holding Lisa's baby!" Lisa smiled politely and said, "I AM Lisa." [blush] It was honestly hard for me to tell Anne and Lisa apart, especially when they had the same haircut, or when Lisa would grow her hair out and Anne would cut her hair to what Lisa's used to be! I mean, look at them in the above photo!

Johnny and Martie have celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary. In the following photos, they are celebrating their anniversary and Johnny's 75th birthday!

I'm so thankful I was able to spend a short amount of time with them at my BIL's wedding a few years ago. Since we moved to Florida in 1998, I haven't realized until now how much I miss the closeness of these siblings and cousins, or how great it was to see them once or twice per year. I miss catching up and watching their children grow. I hate that the only grandkids of Johnny and Martie, whose names I can remember, are Monica's twins (Zach and Dominic?).

Friends, if your famiy is nearby, celebrate them! Seek them out! Make sure your children know who their cousins are! Life is precious, and your family is precious, too.

Coming up next in the story: The Other Brother.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fight Freedom of Choice Act

Please take the time to read and decide on this important issue. I will have a "button" posted on my sidebar for this.

The Sweetest Thing of All

If I were rich, I'd have the time that I lack
To sit in the synagogue and pray.

And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall.

And I'd discuss the holy books with the learned men,
several hours every day.

That would be the sweetest thing of all.

Why do we put off the one thing that brings us peace, thankfulness, and contentment?

I'm talking about reading the Bible.

Our friend, Tevye, was lamenting about all the things he would do if he were a rich man. Not surprisingly, his home would be larger, his flocks would be larger - even his wife would be larger! Everyone passing by would exclaim, "Now, there lives a wealthy man!"

But the sweetest thing of all?

Discussing the "holy books with the learned men several hours every day."

Tevye couldn't read.

The only glimpse he had of scripture was when the rabbi unrolled the scrolls in the synagogue. The only scripture he was fed was what the rabbi read to him.

From where I sit in my living room, there are two Bibles in my line of sight. There's another in my purse, two more in my school room, one in Himself's office, one in my bedroom, two in Kelly's room, three in Ty's room, Glenna's are everywhere . . . you get the picture.

I have just finished a Bible study and I'm eager for another. But sometimes, sometimes, just reading the Bible myself is the "sweetest thing of all." I used to fuss and fret about where I should start reading or how much I should read each day. I'm so thankful for the NTM missionary who comes to our church and shared with me a simple, yet obvious, way to read the Bible:

Just read it.

Start at the beginning, read it all the way through. When finished, start over.

In other words, read it! Daily, yearly, perpetually, read the Bible. I cannot understand God and His love for me unless I do.

Slowly, imperfectly, non-legalistcally, I am reading the Bible. I'm in Deuteronomy. I do not always understand what I read, and sometimes it makes me downright angry, but I have a Living Author with me as I turn each page, eager to give me understanding. Thankfully, He's also eager to not give me understanding.When He wants me to know, I'll know.

And, that's all I need to know.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Retreat '08

Last year, I took Green Monkey on retreat and showed the insider's view. This year, I wanted to talk a little more about our location.

First of all, it's a good idea to have a good idea when it comes to eating dinner. Some wanted fish, some wanted anything but fish, and that's why we ended up here:

The food wasn't all bad, but as you can see by the wall behind us, food is not the first priority of this place! From L to R: Anne, Julie, Laura, BA, Stacie, moi.

For some odd reason, I found myself alone on Saturday. The posse in the photo above was going to hit the beach once again. Since I was facing an operation the following week to have a pre-cancerous mole removed from my back, I opted out of baking in the sun.

I decided to hit the downtown area to "see what I could see."

This is Daytona Beach. I should emphasize, this is Daytona Beach in the day time, and not during Bike Week or Biketoberfest. If you've never been there, allow me to show you some of the sights from main street.

This place had loud music playing as you walked by. It was kind of clever, but be warned! They take their auto racing seriously. After all, Daytona Beach, on the actual beach, was the birthplace of the Daytona 400.

Here, I'm heading west down Main Street. To save all you parents some serious headaches, just know this: Do not take your children down Main Street in Daytona Beach. Especially, do not take them into any of the stores! If you think you'll be able to find cute souveniers, you may. However, you'll have to plow through a lot of downright nastiness in order to do so.
The bikers were friendly enough, probably because they'd had a few shots under their belts. Main Street is the street where the bikers gather. It's designed specifically for them and to them.

One has to remember that most bikers today are doctors, lawyers, mortgage brokers, etc. In other words, they have some coin to drop. Well, maybe not the mortgage broker.

I'm wondering how old these signs actually are and whether they're as vital today as they would have been in the 70's and 80's:
I can understand no drugs, but no attitudes? Awww, come on! It's kind of great to know you don't have to wear your shirt until 7 pm! NO MC Club shirts though, which I'm guessing stands for Motorcycle Club. I could see how a doctor with a few shots under his belt would get offended by someone else's club shirt and you know that never ends well.

Here's some real-live bikers. It didn't hit me until later that perhaps I wasn't in the safest place. I think dressing like a middle-America church lady may have offered me some protection.

The only thing more disturbing about the following photo is the fact that it requires a sign stating it's not for sale. Meaning, so many people have wanted to buy it, they posted a sign.

I moved off of Main Street and headed toward a type of outdoor mall with a movie theater. I found these two guys playing the blues in front of Sbucks:
They were quite good! They actually laughed when I mimed that I wanted to take their picture. Sorry I didn't have some bills to toss at them!

This mall opens right onto the beach, which is so cool. I took my church-lady-dressed-self and decided to put my toes in the water as I made my way back to my vehicle.

I was dressed, and I looked weird.
What do you expect at a beach? I didn't dare get closer to these guys, but not only did they have identical poses, they had identical tattoos.

I guess it's their way of getting around the no MC Club shirt signs. Just print it right on the skin and have at it until 7 pm when, of course, shirts are required.


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