Marriage prep with a new look

John and I will be married 40 years in June. Like couples today, we had to take a test to analyze our readiness for matrimony. I remember taking it and being asked if I would spend $100 without consulting my husband. That seemed a reasonable question then but now I laugh. I cannot get out of most grocery stores (when I was in them) without spending at least that amount. I am sure that those questions have been updated.

However, the recent pandemic has got me thinking that the marriage prep test could use some new questions based on this crisis and life in quarantine. For example:

1. If you have enough of these items but have a chance to purchase either extra toilet paper or extra ice cream — what would you choose?

2. If you are given money by the government do you a) save it, b) spend it, c) give it away or d) all of the above.

3. If you love eating a banana every  morning but you are almost out of fruit and the Instacart  cannot deliver for four days, do you share the banana with your spouse? (Based on a true story!)

4. Do you own several pairs of sweat pants and are you comfortable wearing them for more than one day?

5. Would you rather use your free time to watch the a) the news, b) home improvement shows, c) reality TV or d) the 2004 ALCS where the Red Sox made an impossible comeback against the Yankees?

6. Do you think it is important to a) sort your sock drawer, b) clean the Tupperware cupboard, c) organize the linen closet, d) all of the above or e) none of the above.

7. When faced with quarantine and a time of crisis the best responses are…

If your answers are love your family and pray then you are all set and do not worry about any other test questions. These are trying times but love and faith will sustain. Stay safe.

We were supposed to…

So many of us have looked at our calendars and seen events that were scheduled that will not take place — not now at least.

For some it is a missed party or even hair appointment. For others, it is a graduation or wedding or vacation.

I have opened my planner and sighed a bit as I realize I will not be in Wisconsin in a few weeks. And this upcoming weekend I will not be in Pennsylvania at DeSales University. I was supposed to be making a presentation with my daughter, Kerry Weber Lynch, and Salesian Brother Mickey McGrath. Brother Mickey is a famous artist and we were going to collaborate with him on a special retreat day.

It was going to be delightful on so many levels. May 2 is Kerry’s birthday so I was going to be working with my firstborn and talking about the Visitation and Pope Francis’ message on communication. As we prepared I was learning just how good my daughter is at writing, critical thinking and creativity. And we were going to get to do all of this with an amazing artist! And we got to talk about Pope Francis and storytelling!

And none of that is going to happen. But that is okay — definitely in comparison with the sorrow and heartache of so many.

But as I reflected on what was supposed to happen, I looked back at the words of Pope Francis in his message on communication. He wrote:

Amid the cacophony of voices and messages that surround us, we need a human story that can speak of ourselves and of the beauty all around us.  A narrative that can regard our world and its happenings with a tender gaze.  A narrative that can tell us that we are part of a living and interconnected tapestry. A narrative that can reveal the interweaving of the threads which connect us to one another.

The words Pope Francis had written before the pandemic hit home. And I realized that he was so right and we are being sustained through this experience by positive stories and images. And I am so glad that we have so many good storytellers who help us keep our faith.

Thank you to all who sing, paint, dance, write, photograph, sew, bake and somehow share a story that connects us.

Hope this little blog helps somewhere.

Wisdom from a three-year-old



It is no secret that I love food. I love cooking, baking, planning meals, feeding people and entertaining! This time at home has challenged me a bit as I wonder about meals and “putting on a good spread.”

So I was elated when I knew we were going to put hamburgers on the grill. I said to my three-year-old grandson, Jerome, “Do you know what we are having for supper tomorrow.”

He replied, “Yes, cheeseburgers.”

He was correct. He had heard about the big cookout from his mom.

I grinned at him and said, “That’s right. Well, don’t you know everything!”

He looked back at me and said, “No Grandma, only God knows everything.”

I was a little startled but not totally amazed. After all, this is the little guy who pretends to be Pope Jack sometimes. (The name he selected.)

And he was so right. Out of the mouth of my darling grandson came the reminder that I cannot be in control now or even when things get back to “normal.”

I do not know the reason all of this is happening. And maybe I will never know. But this experience has made me rely on and trust in God a little more.

And I thank God for my wise little Jerome who helps me see what matters.

“Only God knows everything!”

The Pope, the Arts and an Egg Salad Sandwich

Who knew the pope, some artistic inspiration, and egg salad would provide me with a new attitude? But they did.

About a week ago I wrote a blog about my lack of patience. I felt impatient but I admit that I was a bit ashamed about my whining. It made me delete the post. And then on Friday, March 27, I watched Pope Francis process through the rain in St. Peter’s Square and send me and billions of others a message of faith with his “Urbi et Orbi.”

He spoke about the calming of the storm from the gospel of Mark. I was so touched by the whole talk and the Benediction. His words hit home, especially when he said:

“It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.”

And his words seemed aimed at me when he said:

“How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.”

From Galway Cathedral

I realized that it was time to put on my “big girl” pants and see this whole experience of staying at home as an opportunity for growth. No more complaining — well a lot less complaining.

It was time to make lists, reach out to others, send notes, and show others “how to face up to and navigate a crisis.”

And the good Lord helped me.

This week he sent me a reminder of how beauty and the arts can help.

My son, Matthew wrote a blog about a walk in the garden. https://medium.com/@matthewweber_94171/joy-in-full-bloom-c4862cee8d1

He also hosted a show displaying some of the musical and literary talent at the University of Virginia, where he works. If you do not have time to watch it all go to the end and watch the cello player. He made me cry.

And then our family learned that Tomie de Paola, noted children’s author had died. He has been a favorite of ours since our adult children were young. His passing sent me back to watch an interview my daughter, Kerry, did with him in the fall of 2018. I got a chance to Facetime with him and he was the real deal. Watch the video that is part of the story.

https://www.americamagazine.org/arts-culture/2018/10/09/tomie-depaolas-books-help-us-find-sacred-stories-service-and-stillness

Our family favorite

I was being bombarded with so many messages, a true epiphany, about how I should be appreciating every precious day of life.

And finally, God showed himself and his sense of humor at the end of a Friday night dinner. We had munched on our egg salad sandwiches and crossed off another day of confinement. My granddaughter, Cordelia, thanked me for the egg salad. With the enthusiasm of her five years, she said, “Grandma, you know what I love best about your egg salad sandwiches?”

I said no and then asked her if it was the bread, the eggs, the mayo, or the lemon juice. She said no to each item. “It’s you! ” she said. “You’re the best part because you made them and I love you.”

So how can I whine or complain or feel impatient? This dear girl made it clear what matters.

So, I resolve to pray more and “choose what matters.”

Being Enough

This is part of my kitchen island right now. I am sharing it, not because I am proud of the jumble you see. Rather, I want everyone to know that it is okay if you are a little messy during these very messy times. If you were coming over I would put away the race car, hair bow and crackers. The book would go on the shelf and a sense of order would be restored quickly. I will do it. But I have not done it yet and that is good enough for now.

So many of us are turning to social media for connections as we quarantine our life or shelter in place. We read inspiring stories that help. We also see helpful hints about ways we can stay positive. People show beautiful meals, families praying, and opportunities to watch the opera or visit an art gallery.

Those things are all good. But if you do not want to sing Happy Birthday or pray the Our Father while washing your hands but just want this all to end — it is okay.

You are good enough if you are scared or anxious or cranky. And it is okay to either a) stay in your pajamas all day b)wear the same clothes three days in a row c)crave M and Ms every day or d) all of the above. I am d.

To clarify, I have two giant jars of the delicious candy. One I keep refrigerated. The other is for backup and to share with my grandchildren.

Certainly, I am not just eating chocolate. I try to exercise, organize and stay positive as I wonder what the future holds. These are scary times as companies shutter their doors and so many plans are put on hold.

One constant for me has been the joy of watching my grandchildren during this time of uncertainty. They are all too young to understand the reality, thank God, so they just talk with me on Facetime or visit. I let them create their own art and love it. My life is cluttered and silly and truly enough as I spend time with them. And one roll of tape and some yarn can entertain for quite some time.

Each day unfolds with strange feelings. I miss church. I miss the freedom to run to the store and pick up some chicken. I miss the feelings I had two weeks ago when I was planning talks and picking up books at the library and looking forward to my trip to Milwaukee.

So I cope. I have done some baking and cooking and enjoyed it. But I also have watched four episodes of NCIS in a row. So if you are eating a sleeve of Ritz crackers or binge watching a marathon of some show — it is good enough for today.

Ideally we should pray more, exercise more, and see this as a time of growth. But we all cope with stress in different ways. Some people clean. I hope that feeling kicks in soon. For now, I am knitting and reading and trying to walk but I am not going to worry if I am handling these days “the right way.” Remember, today, as we fret about the future in such an uncertain world, you are enough as you are — even with your mess.

Another tale of leaving college early

He received his notice. It wasn’t by e-mail but the message was the same. The second semester of his senior year was coming to an abrupt end. It was not a virus. No, it was World War II.

This smiling young man was my Dad. He smiled a lot and took things with grace and good nature. And so when he was notified that he had to leave the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and report for Basic Training on March 1, 1943, he did. He was not alone and his departure made the front page of the Daily Collegian. https://dailycollegian.com/

My Dad and 131 others had their college life interrupted in a big way. If you look at the names of the seniors you can read: Martin, Henry F. was off to the Army.

I recall my Dad saying that he had to leave college early but honestly, and perhaps a bit selfishly, I did not think much about it. Now, as I watch all the seniors in high school and college leave their beloved places of learning so abruptly and under difficult circumstances, I see my father in a new light.

This time of quarantine offered me a chance to do some research. Fortunately, UMass has some great archives and down the rabbit hole I went. There I found my father’s yearbook.

He looks so serious. Perhaps he was trying to look grown-up. Or maybe they were told not to smile. He does not look ready for war. How was he going to go from helping with the publicity of the Newman Center to dodging sniper bullets in Okinawa. (That was indeed a reality he told me when I pressed him for war details at the end of his life. ) How was this fun-loving lad going to manage?

The yearbook showed him pictured with his fraternity brothers at QTV. And a candid on the next page reveals a lighter side.

My father is behind the kid with the drink. I do not know the occasion but it probably ended with my father playing the piano. He loved Big Band music. He also loved God and his faith helped him as he transitioned from a senior in college to a soldier.

I think his faith faith helped him to cope with the sudden and difficult end to his college career. And I do know that he did not let that moment define him. He was not bitter or angry about it. It was not the path he expected or would have chosen but it was a path that led him to a new life. In fact, it placed him at a USO dance in Springfield where he met my mother. So the end was a new beginning and one for which I am particularly grateful. And it is my hope that all seniors who have missed out realize that as hard as it is, it can be okay — maybe really good in hindsight. Here’s hoping.

My Dad and an Army buddy.

Sweet sailing into a birthday

John’s birthday was celebrated formally on July 18th,  but he began the festivities a bit early with a delightful day in Boston.

Matthew planned a special day which included a trip to Georges Island. It is part of the Boston Harbor Islands and the ship departed from the Long Wharf North, near the New England Aquarium.

Waiting for our ship to come in...

The ride out to the island was smooth and filled with nice breezes and pleasant companions — Matt, Nell, John and yours truly.

The island contains Fort Warren, which housed prisoners of war during the Civil War.

Outside wall of the fort.

John always looks at things with a keen eye.

The masonry needs a bit of work

It has lots of open space and beautiful views.

Looking out at the clear, blue sea

Visitors also were offered a peek into history with actors and old-time games.

We almost got off the island with ease… BUT

Behind Bars

And she was not the only one to be put in the slammer…

Two wise guys

We did make it back to Boston and enjoyed a fabulous Italian meal in the North End.

Walking in Paul Revere’s neighborhood

Our day concluded with good food, even better company and MILKSHAKES!! Life is good and growing older is fun when you spend a day like this!!!!

Riding the rails…

The Berkshire Scenic Railway is another gem in western Massachusetts.

We visited it recently and recommend it to all who like trains, adventure, history or hot dogs!

A snack before boarding!

A visit with the hot dog man is an adventure, too!

Our ride began at the Lenox station.  We were in the parlor car, which offers cloth seats and a free beverage and snack.

Ready to roll

The trip is narrated by delightful volunteers who describe the surrounding area and offer a bit of history. The railway also has a newlsetter with descriptions for the mile posts along the way.

There also is a museum which brings one back in time. Actually, the whole experience makes one think fondly of the past.

Inside the museum

Learning train hand signals...

We met the train engineer who described all the training necessary to motor our way down the track. He, too, had a Lionel train as a youngster!

Chatting about choo choos.

We even got to see our engineer in action when he backed up the engine.

The railway also offers you a chance to stand at the back of the train and have a unique view. It made us think of FDR and other politicians who campaigned from the back of a train.

A view from the rear of the train.

One of our conductors was from Brooklyn and had many stories to tell…

The train takes you through Lee and onto Stockbridge, where you can visit the station. The Fitzpatrick family (of the Red Lion Inn) own the station and let the railway use it.

Stockbridge station

You really feel as if you have traveled back in time.

He's got a ticket to ride!

And it is always good to travel in style…especially with a hat box!

The railway also offers special rides for fall foliage, pumpkin picking, a murder mystery and even one that is themed on the Polar Express. (Tickets for that go on sale July 25th!)

This trip was a delight and one that brought a lot of smiles.

For more information about the Berkshire Scenic Railway, log onto www.BerkshireSceenicRailroad.org.

Coffee, coffee everywhere

 

It has been nearly a week since I gave up coffee for Lent.

I must admit that I was very tired and a bit cranky on Ash Wednesday. I did not have the horrific headache that many people told me I might get. My head was a bit fuzzy and I took two aspirin but otherwise showed no real effects.

I think it was not so painful, physically, because I drank mostly de-caf coffee. Still, I must admit that I miss my coffee. My husband, John, and I were driving with our daughter, Elizabeth one day when she was home for spring break.  We passed a Dunkin Donuts store and I literally waved at it and sighed. (Yes, a bit dramatic.)

On Sunday morning I wanted my coffee with my newspaper so much. However, I made it.  One of the things that keeps me from caving in and having a cup is that I have told so many people about this Lenten effort. I don’t want to say, “I only made it two days!”  And, I am stubborn and would be ashamed if I couldn’t put God before coffee for just a few weeks.

Still, it is not easy. I came into work and could smell coffee brewing. I felt sluggish from the change to Daylight Savings Time. I then went out on an assignment and the person we were interviewing had made coffee and banana bread. Temptation is everywhere.

However, I am trying to stick this out. I am like the little engine that could…I think I can, I think I can.

Of course, I also look at the tragedy in Japan and tell myself to get over myself and buck up. A few weeks without coffee is nothing compared the pain of so many others.

So how is your Lent going?

We can still see out our windows…

The snow came down Jan. 12th and showed no signs of stopping…

We watched it pile up on our deck.

Not the best day for a picnic.

It is fun, when you don’t have to shovel snow, to watch the flakes pile up against the patio doors.

Sweet snow drifts

 

Signs of spring?

The six-foot mountain at the corner of our street

 

Our lawn and home, frosted and smooth

A roof collapse on our swingset

Half of our flag pokes out of the snow