Thursday, June 30, 2016

This Much is True

Still life lunch. Alas, no, none of it grown by me.

I've come out of the shadow of darkness. Everybody keeps telling me. I look better, sound better, talk better, respond better. That's good.

A major part of this was letting go. Of so much I can't begin to tell you. Not just the 3 beloveds who died, but also my past, my missing daughter, and on.

Finding a new purpose(s), taking care of my health which is not terrific, being honest, distancing myself from those who harm me. Taking stock. Feeling pleased with the inventory. Finding some new projects, one over dinner last night with a long time client who's visiting St.John's for a conference and is expanding her core business and wants me on board for a while with this. Fortuitous.

July is heavily booked with my PGs, the anthology just about ready to go to print, a 3-day (free!)vacation planned with a dear friend to visit another friend's newly opened gallery about 250km from here, with side-visits to other places of interest.

And I spent some time designing a new afghan for a beloved niece. And was excited to get it on the needles this morning. Quite a few have said I should make a little industry out of this too, maybe I will.

All in all, I do love this quiet place in bright sunshine I find myself in. I think we only appreciate such contentment when we have wrestled for long stretches in the dark with shadows and hurt and pain.

And a huge bonus is knowing, truly and deeply, who one's soul friends are.

And it can be delightful to discover those who really care.

Along with stopping the cartwheels for those who couldn't give a tosser.

I am so grateful.

I truly feel reborn.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Newfoundland Cop Stop

I can get my knickers in a twist about the sad state of the economy here and then the utter charm of this extraordinary place sets in and I am once more in love with this province. None of this exchange would happen in any other part of the world, I daresay but correct me if I'm wrong. I was heading out to an NQLWDL (Not Quite Ladies Who Do Lunch) meal today at Daughter's house, picking up others on the route. In case you ask - green curry with noodles, this divine lime-avocado spread, sweet potato fries, apple cobbler + mother's fresh soda bread out of the oven. I was running slightly late, I'm one of those annoying people who's always on time, when lard thundering jaysus, there's a cop on my tail with the lights flashing. I pull in to a parking lot and wait. I know I was speeding. A bit. Here's a verbatim transcript of our dialogue.

RCMP cop saunters up to the driver's window. He's 12 years old.

C: Do you know what speed you were at?

M: No, well, I know I was a bit over.

C: Brace yourself, M (didn't call me lady or ma'am but my first name)you were 46 over the limit.

M: What?

C: 46, yes. I need to see your driver's licence

M: It's in the trunk. In my purse. Can I get out of my car?

C: As long as there are no hand grenades or machine guns on your person or in the trunk.

M: (giggle) No. Only the usual stash of street drugs.

C: (solemnly, suppressing a smile)That's OK then.

C: (once he checks licence and ownership)I don't want you to have points or you know a rise in your insurance rates so I'm only going to record this as 10 over the limit. A small fine and no points.

M: You'd do that?

He smiles, goes back to the cop car and then returns with a ticket and my documents. I thank him.

C: I'm really sorry I destroyed your day.

M: No actually, you made my day. 10 points only and I was trying to break the sound barrier!
Thank you so much!

I recounted this story to the gang at lunch. I was anticipating a lecture from Daughter who burst out laughing held out her hand for me to shake and said:
"Well done Mum!"

I probably need a lecture from someone, anyone, on this, but yeah, I'm watching my speed. For now.

I'm the little old lady from Pasadena.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Reflections on a dark economy

I haven't written about the dark days of near-financial collapse in Newfoundland. Mainly because I vent on Facebook and to friends. So here is an encapsulated version.

It's a long story of blundering governmental and political incompetence in a drunker sailor scenario of spending when offshore oil generated unbelievable wealth here. Instead of creating a heritage fund, Dems Wot Rulez initiated a hydro electric project - Muskrat Falls - which is proving to be voracious in its appetite for more and more funds as the project is elayed due to structural collapses and disputes arising with Italian contractors. I won't bore you all with it here. Suffice to say taxpayers here are like taxpayers everywhere, bailing out wealthy banks, except we're bailing out this disastrous project which is already over budget by 100% - 6 billion dollars projected costs at the outset now tipping close to 12 billion dollars. We are a province of just over 1/2 million people to give you some idea of the monetary per capita overload incurred for generations yet to come.

To add insult to injury, the poorest and most illiterate amongst us are being penalized financially for this absolute boondoggle of an enterprise. Half of the public libraries are being shut down, taxes are added to insurance (my car insurance increased by 50% even though I am 47 years accident free)glucose strips distribution at pharmacies is being reduced and co-pays for home care for seniors are being increased. It is the most mean spirited budget ever. And we are all appalled and significantly less solvent as a result.

There was no hope offered in this budget. Our politicians are the highest paid in Canada and don't, truly, have an operating brain cell amongst the lot of them.

They bleat austerity whilst living lavish life styles completely out of touch with the rest of us struggling masses. For instance our finance minister owns 8 MacDonald's franchises in the province and refuses to even discuss a fast food tax. H'm. Along with believing herself to be an entrepreneur. Mull that one when every decision at a Micky Doo's is dictated by Head Office.

Protests were launched, one a massive poster demanding the premier resign affixed to every pole for miles around the provincial legislature. These were removed in the dead of night at tax payer expense.

Free speech, guaranteed by our constitution, denied to the peasants by their betters.

Our local MHA (MP)announced publicly that we just didn't understand the complexity of political decisions. This is her first crack at politics.

Fun times out on the Edge of the Atlantic, folks.

And I've just given you the bare bones.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Reflections on African Soup


For those interested, here's the recipe. Roughly. It changes according to my mood and I've adapted it to the most reasonable combinations of ingredients. In season.

An immersible blender helps as it does in most soups. So if you're a serious soup maker go find yourself one. Easy on line shopping. I bought one for Daughter for her birthday. As no kitchen should really be without.

A good stock is essential too. I keep a big glass jar in the freezer part of my fridge and always save my vegetable water, fish stock, et al in it.

List

Stock - any amount top up with regular water if you have to and a veggie or oxo cube. Enough for 4-8 cups of liquid.
Pumpkin - 2 cups I use canned being in the frozen north
Root vegetables, turnip, carrot, yam, sweet potato, parsnip, whathaveyou - about 8 cups after chopping. I love to add chopped kale or turnip greens in season too.
Garlic: chopped fine
1 huge onion, chopped
2 tablespoons of curry - reduce if you don't like it too hot.
Salt, pepper
1 can of coconut milk - I use the powdered kind and add another cup of water.
1/2 cup peanut butter.

Method

Fry the onion and garlic in a little light oil to transparency. Then add the spice, saute for a minute or 2 to mix nicely.
Add the stock and veggies all at once. Then add the pumpkin and everything else. Stir really well.
I usually simmer this for a couple of hours.
Then I use the immersible blender to smooth it all together, leaving a few veggies floating around unsmoothed.
I serve in big bowls with crusty bread or my Irish soda bread or as a meal over rice or with salad. I decorate the top of the bowls with a couple of peanuts, a dash of toasted coconut and a swirl of unsweetened whipped cream if I have them on hand.

Check to make sure the consistency pleases you before blending. I like it thick.

Everyone loves this soup. It evolved from a retreat I was on many, many years ago. And it was an Irish chef who showed me the ingredients which were not as varied as mine.

For instance he used canned milk rather than the coconut and stuck to sweet potatoes and pumpkin only.

I much prefer my version. As do my guests who lap it up.

It freezes beautifully. I often get 10-12 servings for future use.

So there ya go.

You're welcome.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Dis 'N Dat

We finally got some summer here. Seriously. Temperatures were so low I had my fire going up to a few nights ago. Today is sunny but around 11C. A joke really.

Tourist season is busy so far. Good bookings for June. Many bookings for July and August. Earning my crusts for the winter. Guests who Airbnb are very interesting. My observation so far (which I've shared with a few) is that only very contented couples go for the Airbnb experience as their relationships can be under intimate scrutiny by other guests and by the hosts. Just my thoughts. I mean if one is civil and respectful to one's partner over an early breakfast the happy couples exam is passed with flying colours. And I read human beings well. I can detect the false exteriors, the phony smiles and the passive aggressive underpinnings quite easily.

I seem to be on the go much more than I'd like. Today is my first day for ME in over a week. I took naps, from exhaustion, a few times in the morning after the PGs left. I've never done that before. Could be my energy is not as good as it was due to health issues or age. I did mention this to my doctor but I get the raised eyebrow of "what do you expect?" which is not helpful.

Friends from Ontario have bought a gorgeous house here and held a little dinner party Friday night and served Lobster Newburg.


A friend has been experimenting with woodpiles and built me two of these. They are in the German tradition and called Holzhaufen. Huge advantage is they dry very quickly with the wind running through them.


I met an old blog friend and her husband for dinner this past week. The previous time we'd arranged it in Ontario she had health issues, but this time they were touring Newfoundland and we met up. Absolutely delightful in the flesh, so to speak, it is extraordinary how the internet has changed the way of forming friendships. I can honestly say, having met quite a few bloggers, that the friendships in real life "meets" are warm and always feel as if we've known each other a long time. Thank you Tessa and Martin!

My wonderful grief counsellor is giving a workshop in our town community centre tomorrow. Looking forward.

Looking forward is what it's all about. Truly. And that was my father's secret in life. Always looking forward. Happy Da's Day, old man.

Wherever you are.



Friday, June 10, 2016

Lunch

Two friends came for lunch today. Odd that in I met each of them individually and then discovered a few years later that they were best friends.

It was a four and half hour lunch. I love these extended meals, they are far too rare. I made my African soup which is a meal unto itself. And my home made Irish bread, ham salad, potato salad, egg salad. One of them had been on sick leave suffering from major depression but she brought her guitar with her. And said to us if there is anywhere to start playing again, it is here. And I was so touched.

What I took note of in myself, because these friends are so dear, was that I was able to talk about my losses in the present, the impact each had on my life and cry a little but not in that deep anguish of the past. We all conferred about how unprepared we were for loss. The only way to transform it is to do one good thing to compensate when the grief hits.

And K sang this:



There's such comfort in shared memories and recognizing as well that we have each other in the present and can be open and loving to each other. Like a rebirth. And talk of rainbows and kids.

My friend is a magnificent singer. Truly awesome. She sang Gordon Lightfoot's "Bitter Green", another Kristofferson and then this with her own folky heartbreak alto spin on it:



She was completely restored when she left.

As were we all.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Encouragement

-------------------------------------my mantra------------------------------------

I get encouragement from unexpected sources.

I'm not a person who's greatly disciplined.

I have routines that give me pleasure. The slog work I tend to avoid.

I envy others who can pack the slog and pleasure into a smooth run. I watch them wipe counters and brush up as they accomplish other tasks. Like a a ballet.

I'm a reactive housekeeper. I'll clean up like a mad thing if you're coming over. I've been known to pile up dishes because I don't have time to unload the dishwasher as I'm too busy binding a handcrafted afghan or immersed in an unputdownable book or writing a chapter or prepping a workshop.

I get private emails from those who read my blog. And sometimes it's a lash with a wet noodle.

One of them recently had me mulling - in a good way. (S)he questioned why I salivated over others' words in books when I should be working more on my own creative words.

Another, who lives in France, wrote me directly having lurked on my blog for years, and asked me why I'd never finished my thoughts on emigration from Ireland as she could relate. So yes, I need to concentrate more on writing.

I did write a piece on emigration but it was brutal, savage, blunt and harsh. And I hesitated with it, filed it away. But honesty can be brutal. Honesty can be harsh. But as Granny said: hesitation buys no tea.

Maybe I do need to back away for a while from distractions. And salt myself away in the Tigeen and write.

Encouragement.
It wakes me up.
I need that.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Fun

I didn't think I could have fun again, so much loss my dears. So much I didn't write about the half of it, it sounded like so much fiction. Like a fantastical situation, my gawd, you'd say, the woman has to be exaggerating. So I didn't. I just carried it. Sometimes not so bravely. Under covers. Not functioning too well. Performing life, one might say. Knowing life will never be the same again is a huge adjustment. Knowing that those who purportedly love you absolutely do not.

And then this little one walks into my life in a hell of a mess. I've written about her here and here.

And the fun starts to happen. She is dyslexic but has a photographic memory so if she's seen something once, her memory stores it. Very handy in a store where I was looking for a small fan for a bedroom and she whizzed off and came back with one small white convertible one and I said "perfect". And we laughed. And she got her hair streaked foiled today for the first time in her life and she looks amazing. And she bought stuff for her kids and a big rosebush for her mother and a special halogen light bulb for her father ("how do you know which one?" - "my photographic memory!"). And she was so full of joy and gratitude and just plain into life that I realized that for the last week or so, some huge black heavy object has been lifted from my heart. And it's all due to her pushing me out of my own misery and she wouldn't even be aware of that. She connected me with fun again.

I see the world through her eyes and she's funny and talky even though her life story would make you cry for her. She doesn't cry for herself.

I hope she makes it. I truly do. And so far so good at 2 weeks and 2 days.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

By the Lake/That They May Face the Rising Sun


I'm just about winding up reading "By the Lake" a novel by John McGahern. Like some other readers of this book I am putting off reading the last few pages as I just want to savour, more slowly, the language. The unspoken words lying underneath.

Like this - from the loss of a tiny newborn lamb on the small holding of the main protagonist and his wife, Ruttledge and Kate:

P283 "It was as if the black lamb reached back to other feelings of love and disappointment and gathered them into an ache that was out of all proportion to the small loss."

P234".....ran the sense, like an underground river, that there would come a time where these days would be looked back on as happiness, all that life could give of contentment and peace."

P141 "But how can time be gathered in and kissed? There is only flesh."

As I read his scrumptiously detailed writing about the ordinary local doings and the comings and goings of characters and seasonal changes, I find memories resurface, my words more fine tuned as I explore some poetry I'm writing, richer ideas for stories. For there are no plotlines to many of his works, it's all in his observations, of the lake, of candlelight, of sun and shadow and rain and most of all the complexity beneath the surface of his characters.

This book was John McGahern's swan song. He was dying of cancer at the time he wrote it. His other books and short stories are dark, with threads of anger and hopelessness until the characters escape from the savagery of rural Ireland, unsuccessful in the hiding of their scars.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

She says


She says to me once we finished dinner together in a restaurant:

"I've never eaten at a restaurant with a friend in my whole life. I like this. There's no pressure."

She insists on paying.

As she gets into my car, she says, "I know you're supposed to tip. I didn't know what to tip. Was $50 OK for her? The bill was $36.00."

She says: "I've nowhere to hide my pills. My mother steals every pill from everyone. Even her own mother's and my father's. And I need my liver pills. What do I tell the doctor?" (the truth)

She says: "You're like a therapist. I never knew how to talk to people without yelling or blaming until I met you."

She says:" I'll miss my kids' first haircuts." And starts to cry. I let her.

Her mother calls.

I hear the mother yelling about pills. She doesn't care how her daughter procures them. Get her pills now. She doesn't want me to hear. She's embarrassed.

Then she says: "I hate going home. She'll attack me for pills once I walk through the door. She'll go on and on about how she gave birth to me in pain and I owe her. I never want to speak to my daughter that way. Never."

And she doesn't cry this time but holds herself a little more stiffly in the car.

And I think: We are so privileged. We have absolutely no idea what hell others face on an hourly basis.

I love this wee woman as if she were my own.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Life Lessons from Knitting


Knitting has taught me so much about life. I'm currently working on an afghan (sofa blanket) for a dear friend who has been so good to me.

The other day I discovered an error in it and I'm a little OCD when it comes to knitting so I immediately ripped down the four stitches to the error, corrected the problem and moved on. Not so fast. For I soon discovered that two stitches had gone AWOL.

There was nothing for it but to rip down all the rows and then reknit the entire problematic row again. And the two missing stitches magically reappeared with innocent faces on them.

Which put me in mind of relationships, how some are irreparable – they can't be patched up and oftentimes they have to be taken right down to the foundation and assessed to see if they can be rebuilt. Challenging.

Sometimes a design on paper can be beautiful but in practical application can be a disaster. All the kinks have to be ironed out, often with a practice run. It's far better to find out early in the game if something's not going to work than to invest time, effort and dreams into a project that is destined to fail.

It is best to concentrate on the project at hand. At times, my mind drifts off to the next project which is always more exciting than the one in my hands and that's where I make mistakes, cabling (twisting) the pattern the wrong way, forgetting plain rows and purling like a mad thing, forgetting to insert a key element like a heart or a piece of lacework.

Before, I would tell you that knitting is nothing, anybody can do it. Today I recognise, like all creative endeavours, it is something that comes from my heart, my soul, my spirit. It nurtures me, slows me down.

As I knit, I think, with love, of the people I am knitting for. A gift of time and memories as I run the needles back and forth. Most of the projects I complete and gift take well over 100 hours of my time around the rest of the busy-ness of my life. I weave in the sounds of birds, the ocean, the blue sky, the fire, people who bide with me a while and stroke the knitting and yes, always, my hopes and dreams for the giftee.

For I've only ever knitted for people I love.



Sunday, May 15, 2016

Nota Bene


I'm a meticulous note-taker. Throw me into a meeting and I've got the "stuff" - note pad, a few varied coloured pens (partial to purple and green am I), a highlighter or two. What throws me off and brings out my inner kindergartner is when those who are not as organized ask for pages out of my notebook and borrow my pens or scratch words, with my highlighters on pages ripped from my notebook.

My note-taking all falls down in the execution of course. Because I have this ongoing fantasy that I can remember every icky bicky thing and what I'm supposed to do before the next meeting. What truly galls me are those who scribble one word notes to themselves with my gear and at the next meeting and with their to do list completed, will remind me what I had agreed to do for this one. What happened, did I forget? Of course not. Just deferred. Ahem.

You have no idea how often I'm caught unawares by this false assumption that my memory is remarkable. Well it is if you want me to recall the day I rode my first bike or the mornings I went rabbit hunting at the age of 4 with my grandfather. But last month?

There really is no further space for new files in the recesses of my brain.

I have to break down and haul out the notes and fumble over them and tick when completed.

I hope I remember to do that.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Nice Ran Away

It always takes me unawares. I'm cruising along, calendar a little too full as it nearly always is - Type A personality what can I say? - and I come to a complete halt. Almost paralyzed. It happened yesterday. I had a full day scheduled for today where I had to speak at a small annual retreat, prepare a pot luck dinner (orange-coconut-curry chicken over rice, my usual go-to potlucky thingie)gather a few items for a raffle, pack a lunch, select something half decent to wear and Bobbie's your aunt. Nothing to it.

So I get home around 7 yesterday. I forgot to mention there's a visiting book club plus guests coming on Monday for a lunch and discussion and about 26 already booked. So I had agreed to do the crab wraps for that (another go-to, cream cheese, seafood cocktail sauce, green onions, shredded lettuce, crab)AND bake a couple of my orange cranberry loaves. AND I agreed to take my new friend on a small trip on Sunday, I could work the food prep in around that, forgetting about the exhausting Saturday that would have wrung me out by then.

As I said, I got home about 7 and just the thought of all this activity made me collapse on my bed, feeling like a complete and absolute failure at life. And I slept. For about 2 hours. Refreshed when I got up? Hell, no. Distraught is a good word. I started in on what I had to do (there was an early start of 7.30am on Saturday's packed day which would run late - the after dinner candle lit discussion runs to 9 pm - and it was then I realized I'd misplaced my Nice. Nice ran away on Friday sometime. It was an overwhelming week for Nice. Committee meetings, newsletter, agenda planning, more event planning, editing (that never seems to end)and oh lawd yes, PGs staying for 2 days until this past Thursday where my output of Nice (and breakfasts!) had to be cubed if I wanted a pay-packet.

So awful as I felt, I canned out on today's relentless demands on Nice. Guilt? You don't know the half of it.

I need to plan the calendar a little better. Schedule some recuperation times. My health needs to be respected as frankly, it hasn't been that great for a while now. But I hate talking about that.

When you're greedy for life, as I am, how do you plan downtimes when all forward events collide and you want to be everywhere at once?

Monday, May 09, 2016

Canada. Our Hearts Burst with Pride.


I woke up this morning feeling the most incredible sense of pride for my country and it's people.

As a portion of it burns and it's people run for their lives with only the clothes on their back. Like refugees in their own province.

As people lose everything and have to drive by their burning lives. Confused, scared and desperate to escape.

They do the unthinkable....

They stop...to help others.

They throw their own belongings to the ground to make room for those stranded on the side of the road.

They open their homes and businesses for strangers in need.

They walk for miles down a highway with a gas can while people are stuck in traffic asking 'who needs gas.'

They fight a monster for hours on end, all the while knowing they have no home to go home to.

Almost 90 000 incredible people were evacuated from ‪‎Fort McMurray‬ in less than 24 hours. With NOT one story of violence, looting or price gouging against their fellow man.

Instead they shared what little they had, made sure everyone had a safe place to sleep or a shoulder to cry on.

As a country we have won many medals, trophies and honors the world over and it always gives us a sense of pride.

But this...this situation...there is no prize here. No medals coming for these people. The real heroes don't wear capes.

To the incredible people of Alberta and the entire country coast to coast, I Thank You. For reminding us all what it means to be an amazing and a true Canadian.

Dee Brun Gow

And - so many animals on this flight out of Fort Mac, they shared cabin space with humans.


Photo courtesy CBC

Saturday, May 07, 2016

The Festering Village

Village by the Sea - Maurice Prendergast

I wrote about Annie before. Here. Mr. Stan took off on us. Village life became too much and he now lives with his daughter about 60k from here. I miss him. Annie's had a few bouts of bad health. Enough to get her a home care worker every morning. Annie lived in a hoarder's paradise which you can read about in the Mr. Stan link. That's all gone by the wayside now as the homecare worker won't allow it. Her daughter comes by and takes pictures of Annie sitting in her uncluttered hell, idly passing the time away watching teevee with nothing to keep her hands busy. She would litter every surface and table and counter with junk. Her food was put in bags on the floor. Her basement was a fire hazard. Now everything sparkles nakedly and people visit and can sit down and have a cuppa.

This new Annie has to find other ways to entertain herself. And she has.

Her son is in a hell hole of a marriage. You'd have to meet his wife, Pammie, to understand it as she could be certified. For example, she's leery of me (that's another story)but she does call me periodically. A few days ago, for example, she called and without salutation said: "What are you going to do about my 9 kittens?" It turns out there are 9 kittens in her shed and she's already got 4 adult cats in her house. Around here in the FV, very few get their animals neutered. If I wouldn't take one or two or three, she threatened, she was going to drown them. The older I get the more firm I am. Not my circus and certainly not my monkeys kittens. Sorry as I am, pained as I am, I tell her to keep phoning others after she responds to my question about the SPCA. They couldn't give a damn, she says. Cats are overrunning the island, thanks in no small part to her and her ilk. Our town dump alone has about 40 feral cats running around.

So recently Annie's son, Jude, husband of Pammie, hooks up with his high school sweetheart and they are madly in love. So where do they hang out when together? In Annie's house. Overnighters. They even have parties with accordions and dancing with everyone invited. And Pammie? she hates her mother-in-law so she'd never go near the place.

But she complains around the whole village that Jude spends far too much time taking care of his mother now.

While the whole village knows the truth.

And this is just one slice of a story out of hundreds.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

I remember

Her name was Mrs. Hoare. She looked about 90 and she taught First Class (Grade 1). Now who'd forget a name like that?

I was six. Fresh out of the country and into a suburban school in Cork. An old national school once part of a village until urban sprawl had incorporated it. A smelly old school. Thick walls, uncertain heating system, we were always cold. Even in the spring.

We'd practise hymns. We were all getting ready for our First Communion and the RC church ran the schools, the hospitals, the orphanages, the old age homes and us.

Six. And we sang of hell fire and redemption and saints who died for Jesus.

And one of the girls, in a class of about 40, vomited all over the floor as we stood there singing.

And Mrs. Hoare?

Well, she flew into a rage. The priest was expected shortly to examine us all and make sure we were fit to confess our dreadful sins and be accepted, in our bridal dresses and veils, into the kingdom of the parish and thereafter heaven, if we did what we were told. You may laugh at the Taliban but Ireland is, was, and always will be a trendsetter in that regard.

And Geraldine Barry had the gall, the brazen brass of her, to throw up all over the wooden floor.

And Mrs. Hoare said we were all going to make up for this unforgiveable sin in the eyes of Jesus. We would all suffer along with Geraldine and stare at that filthy floor all day and learn of our mistakes, our evil natures. With the priest coming.

And he did. And the smell in that room was appalling. And little Geraldine, her freckles stood out like raindrops on her little white face. She hung on to the desk with her eyes downcast, tears trickling off her chin and on to her shoes. I can still see her page-bob hair, she had lovely bangs, we called it a fringe back then. None of the rest of us had fringes, they were too expensive to maintain. Good haircuts cost money and fathers made you look like a boy if you let them loose on your head with your brothers' hair trimming equipment.

When the priest saw the mess on the floor, he left the room, the smell was pretty bad then, permeating everything. I remember using all my energy to battle the rising bile in my stomach, biting my lower lip down so hard my teeth left marks.

He came back with a bucket of sawdust and threw it all over the mess. We were all still standing there shaking, as our mothers had bought our First Communion dresses. My mother had made mine. She got a gift of cream silk damask from a priest who still loved her but now lived in Egypt. I didn't know that story until I was old enough to talk unrequited love with her but he sent me a pendant in the post too, a non-Catholic one with a little hinged door on the front of it where I put my Granny's sixpence.

So what would happen if Father Sheehan now punished us by cancelling our big First Communion Day? Our mothers would be raging.

He chatted briefly with Mrs. Hoare and muttered something about her good job in teaching us all a valuable lesson in respect for property.

He fired off a couple of solid questions at us along the lines of: Who made the world? And we all chanted back at him: God made the world, fadder. And then he left us all to our vomit and sawdust.

And one month later little Geraldine of the perfect fringe and freckles was dead. Of meningitis.

The first funeral I was ever at.

She wore her gorgeous First Communion Dress as she lay in her white casket.



Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hangin' with my new friend.


Through a variety of circumstances which I won't get into here I'm spending a huge quantity of time with a 28 year old young woman. To my astonishment, we never run out of conversation and she has invested quite a degree of trust in me which warms my heart. I'd never met her before. And from an initial standoffishness I see how her face lights up when she sees me now and she introduced me to her 4 year old on the phone tonight. (She's lost custody of her babies)

She asks me intelligent questions about my life, how I came to this point, did I like being a mother, my job, my relationships.

She mentioned that she was going to a big birthday party for her grandmother in a few weeks' time and it was the first birthday she would ever attend for a really old person.

I asked her how old her grandmother was.

"Oh," she said, thinking for a minute,"70 or 80 I guess."

I guess we all look the same to the young'uns when we cross that old 40-50-60 mark.

But the sweetest thing, when I dropped her off at her parents' home tonight she says:

"Now you be sure to text me when you're safely in your door, k?"

I seriously can't remember when that was said to me last.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Blog Jam

(1) I don't know about you but I get invigorated when I go out with a placard and protest. Which I did today. And we had massive media coverage. There was a great big pile of us protesting the appalling conditions of our roads. Unfit. Unsafe. Hazardous to people and vehicles. Don't get me started on what I've already spent on tires and rims shredded by the potholes craters. We'll see if we're heard. Maybe we need to throw ourselves across the road the next time if nothing is done. I thought those days were behind me. But I'm delighted to report: No, they never will be. We amused ourselves by planting trees, fairly large ones, in the potholes. Great for TV camera optics.

(2) Conversation with Leo, my sorta handyman, wood bearer and scavenger.
L: Do you know anything about Chuck Connors?
M: Rifleman!
L(delighted with me):Ya you!
M: Why did you ask?
L: I'd like to know more about him. So I can have a conversation with people. He was born in Newfoundland.
M: I can google him on my device, look!
L: No, it can't tell you everything, like who his parents were and stuff.
M: Yes, it does, look. Parents were Marcella Lundrigan and Allan Connors both from this area of Newfoundland. And get this: Chuck's real name was Kevin! He was born in Brooklyn, New York.
L: Can you repeat all that so I can remember it forever.
And I do.
L: I must get one of those googly machines.
M: Anytime Leo, I can do the asking for you.
L: It's magic.

(3)Daughter won a small cash prize and she's treating me to a replica of a Titanic Meal this Saturday night. Here, take a gander at the menu, click to enbiggen:
We're going to scramble around in our closets and find some old fashioned clobber to wear to match the event. I don't even own a dress anymore. Seriously. I'm a jeans woman. And black dress pants. So I may have to buy a long skirt and some pearls.

(4) My grief counsellor asked me to write about a traumatic event that took place in January 2015. I haven't been able to write about it, I would go into a state similar to of PTSD, shaking, crying, wanting to hurt myself physically. And then it all flowed out of me yesterday afternoon. And I finally realized what had happened to me. I was a victim of gaslighting. More later on that. But a mighty load was lifted. Mighty.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Getting Excited


We have an anthology coming out. We are in the final stages before the print/e -run. I can't believe it. My writing workshop series' harvest. The work, the work m'dears. Agony. Words become meaningless after stroking and stroking the sentences and paragraphs. Especially when in the depths of grief and despair as I have been. I never want to edit others' work again. Intense. Unless it's just one author or one book or one story. Not this enormous compendium of multiple and varied writing styles.

Many local authors including Daughter and I are featured. Many interesting memoirs and stories of times past around this gorgeous bay of ours. Some contemporary - one of Daughter's is about Brooklyn, NY. One of mine is a Cork city story.

I'm very proud of the bunch of them, so much talent previously unexplored. We're having fun planning multiple launches. We thought: background live music, samples of readings, food. We figure if all our families bought 50 each we'd have a best-seller. *Snort*. One family of one writer has ordered over 100 and will probably want more. I can't even imagine that kind of family love!

I'm into the last week of stroking here with a final pre-publishing meeting next week.

It's amazing. I'm amazed.

And thrilled beyond belief to see this baby take flight.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hospitality

hos·pi·tal·i·ty


/ˌhäspəˈtalədē/


noun

noun: hospitality

1.
the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

synonyms: friendliness, hospitableness, warm reception, welcome, helpfulness, neighborliness, warmth, kindness, congeniality, geniality, cordiality, courtesy, amenability, generosity, entertainment, catering, food
"we found nothing but hospitality among the local inhabitants"

adjective

modifier noun: hospitality

1.
relating to or denoting the business of housing or entertaining visitors.
"the hospitality industry"

I just hosted a young teacher from Boston. She booked for one night and then booked another. We talked solid for both nights. She was in her early thirties and had travelled the world. It is extraordinary in this hospitality industry the deep connections that are possible. I think it's the opportunity to reinvent oneself. To present this temporary self: a shiny version of what one would like to project all the time to the world. Fresh, clean, no hang-ups, positive, tidy, organized and optimistic. A scintillating raconteur. A story teller par excellence. A few days of mutual discovery are just about right. Though I have hosted singles for nearly 2 weeks. Twice.

It shows me also I am not too reclusive, I love good conversation but not all the time. These interactions sharpen my skills and also extend me a little as I include breakfast so thus have to be a little creative in the culinary arts. But not too much.

The gregarious part of my "gregarious loner" status comes out to play and interact. And that is all good. And to get paid for what I love to do is pretty damn amazing.