Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Last Autumn, I was messing around with Latin. The language. Not a person.

There is an on-line site called “Duolingo.” Believe me, it’s not like I didn’t have anything else going on at the time. But I forged ahead because that is what I do. Many irons in the fire. Or none.

I am interested in word origins. And I do a lot of genealogy. Mostly with Irish-Catholic records so I frequently stumble upon Latin words and names. It was a natural path to that particular site.

But, like many of us, I know my limitations. Many other things needed my attention. So “Duolingo” fell by the wayside.

Then one day I received an email.


In the header of the email. “You made Duo sad.”

That irked me. Yes, it caught my attention (kudos to the hip kids crafting the correspondence) but it annoyed me.

Designed to touch upon a person’s feelings.

Guilt. Inferiority.

Then trying for the hook, line and sinker of fierce competition.

Wait, what?? You ditched Duo and he had to go on without you? Duo learned that much Latin AND made his own sourdough?

So much unpacking to do with that brief email. Here is their message.

Duo and I began at the same time. Then I abandoned him because I am a horrible person. A flat-leaver. But HE kept with it because persistence is key. Totally blew by me in the learning process. Accomplished so much in a month. Then, if that wasn’t enough? Duo was able to manage a sourdough starter. So there!

A fabulous reminder.

You really want to feel guilty? Experience feelings of “less than” or competitiveness?

I do not recommend it. But if you must? That’s on you. Own it. And examine the source.

But do not. Do not. Do not allow anyone else the power to elicit those feelings.

No matter the language.

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Not long ago, my friend Penny and I visited a former workmate who was in Hospice.

Her name was Mary. Meg, her sister, sent me a message on a Sunday morning letting me know that Mary was very ill. So, the next afternoon, Penny and I went to sit with her for a little while. The transition had already begun and she passed away the next day.

Too young. Too soon.

I hadn’t seen Mary in years. Her job led to travels in Asia. I had invited her to make a pit stop with me when I lived overseas but our schedules never meshed.

That’s not why I am posting.

A week later I was clearing out some of Mom’s books at my childhood home. Not because I have OCD or anything but I check EVERY single book before putting it in a pile. I can find significance in the least little thing. Like the funeral card of my cousin Terese used as a bookmark in a story with the title “Family” in it.

Anyway, I grabbed a book by Anna Quindlen (who I love) and cracked it open. This was her first novel called, “Object Lessons” and it’s a coming of age story. Young Maggie Scanlan trying to navigate object lessons from her grandfather.

And on the inside cover, in cursive, was Mary’s mother’s name. How did I know it belonged to Mary’s mother? Because Mary’s surname was unique. Not a “Smith” or “Jones.” Unique as in Lithuanian unique.

I just found it interesting. My Mom did not know her Mom. But this book is in my Mom’s cellar and I find it a week after Mary died?

I texted Meg with a photo of her mother’s handwriting and asked if she wanted the book to find its way back to her. I thought it was a sign.

Her response:

“I love that it’s out there floating around and definitely a sign. I’m so glad you shared with me! I have many of my moms books so pass this one along too. Who knows where it will pop up next? But, we know my sister is watching over us. 

I replied, “It’s like a message in a bottle.”

So, I took the book, filled with yellowed pages and object lessons, and read it.

And now I am passing it along.

The definition of an object lesson is using a physical object as a discussion piece for a lesson. Or a practical example of what you should or should not do in a particular situation.

I’ll use both.

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Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend.

You probably think, when you see a few postings from me, that I have some time on my hands. Couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s how I operate. Do eighty things at once or nothing. Feast or famine.

I’ll keep this one brief.

Recently we have had to make decisions regarding family matters. I worry, in advance, like most of us. Pure waste of emotional head space.

I am awful when it comes to decisions. Mostly, I blame it on things out of my control. Like equal parts Libra and personality.

But when I do receive some guidance it can clear a pathway. Then I am able to go forward with my punch list. I transform into a methodical and efficient being.

The brick wall that needs to be knocked down is actually asking for help. Talking to others and utilizing outside resources-sometimes even from the spiritual realm!

We did this. And I was okay. But I was second guessing myself. Was I doing the right thing?

Well, I stopped for a quick visit to see my Dad last week. He is resting eternally in a Catholic Cemetery in my hometown. I don’t generally stick around-I am not one to pull up a chair and spend a maudlin afternoon with him-but I do stop by on a regular basis. Usually I say, “Hey, Dad” and give him an update. Let him know I miss him. Quick prayer and I am out of there.

Funny thing is when I ask him for a sign sometimes he delivers. In a big way. I’ve written about a couple of the other “signs”. Snow out of nowhere. Turkeys popping up behind a grave. Crazy.

All I’m usually looking for is, “Are you still with us?”or “Is there something more than this?”

So, I drove into the cemetery. No one around on this day. I am asking, “Dad, am I/are we doing the right things?”

Just as I am rounding the bend, a lone turkey appears, out of nowhere, on Dad’s block. Usually there is a flock of five. Today it was just the one bird.

The messenger.

I was able to grab a photo of this fella.

When leaving, heart a little lighter, I circled the block to see if I could find the turkey. I looked down all the rows. Twice.

Nowhere to be found.

But the message was not lost.

“Yeah, kid, you’re doing the right thing.”

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I am sometimes enthusiastic when meeting new folks. Just have to hear their story. And usually share bits of mine.

Was in Narragansett some time ago and visited a kayaking place.

While talking to the guy I detected an accent. Not the Rhode Island or New England local parlance.

I patiently waited the recommended obligatory time before plunging in with that cringe-worthy, tired old phrase, “You’re not from around these parts.”

Not even in the form of a question. Just a “putting it out there cuz it’s true” statement. Not said, though, in any mean-spirited “you don’t belong here” vein.

I know it totally sounds like something you would hear in the South. “Son, you ain’t from around these parts, are ya?”

He said, “No, I am not.”

I ask, “Texas?”

He replies, “Close.”


Anyway, we began chatting. I was accompanied by my friend, Karla  (who I met when I lived in Dallas) and my youngest daughter.

Karla says, “I’m not from Rhode Island but I live here now. Mary’s a native.”

I exuberantly exclaim, “But we first met each other in Texas!”

And proceeded to tell him our “it’s a small world” story.

Later, I texted her and said, “Oh my gosh, I just realized. The way I described our meeting that fellow must have thought we were a lesbian couple with an adopted daughter!”

Not because Karla was sporting a short, new haircut but because of my enthusiasm for the relationship.

She immediately texted back, “The ones who thought “lesbians” were the authors at the book signing last week. When we asked them to autograph the book beginning, “To Karla and Mary.”

I literally laughed out loud.

Who does that?

It’s true though.

In this particular scenario, it was simply a case of us being cheap, avid readers. Not lesbianism. I can certainly understand the confusion. Lesbian couples would totally share a book.

If it looks like a duck. If it quacks like a duck. And all that.

But it might not always be a duck.

Surround yourselves with friends who truly make you laugh and enjoy the rest of your week!

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My Dear Aunt

This year is not manifesting itself according to my vision. My, oh so powerful, vision!

My Auntie Pat died at the end of January after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. I was fortunate that I was able to catch a flight to Florida and whisper my thanks and my love in her ear before her transition a few hours later.

She was my Mom’s youngest sibling and so incredibly dear to me.

Her service was a simple affair. Non-denominational. Weird for a former nun, but hey, not my decision. All the same, it was nice. A gathering of family and a sharing of our memories.

I needed to verbalize (in front of God and everybody) who she was to me. What she meant to me and my brothers. So, I was approaching it from the viewpoint of a niece.

But, like all of us, we are not just one thing. If we are lucky, we are many things during this lifetime.

As one of my brothers said, “Everyone is sharing their relationship with her. And all those stories are like pieces of cloth that make a quilt.”

I was not the only one who spoke. A handful of us did.

Maria, a dear friend of hers, got up to the podium (I am paraphrasing here) and said, “Pat was my elementary school teacher. She was so kind to me. My parents were getting a divorce and she knew how upset I was. She comforted me when I cried. Pat gave me a book called, “It’s Not The End Of The World” and wrote a note in the book to me. You know, she was right. It wasn’t the end of the world.”

From that day forward, Maria became a part of my Aunt’s family. Maid of honor for my cousin. My aunt was there when Maria took her son home from the hospital and first bathed him.

I mention this because the compassion, love and friendship demonstrated by my aunt had ripple effects in so many ways. The power of a teacher. A person. A genuine human being.

We would all do well to remember this.

Here are my words shared at the funeral. Wished I never had to say them.

Auntie Pat held many different positions during her wonderful lifetime. 

She was a daughter and a friend. She was a sister. A sister in her blood family as well as within a spiritual community. 

Auntie Pat would later go on to add the titles of wife and mother to her repertoire. 

But before that happened she was ours. The first and most important thing to my brothers and me, selfishly, was her role as our Aunt. 

She could have written the book on what it takes to be an amazing aunt. That tome would have been filled with pages of fun, care, compassion, good humor, generosity and love. 

Our cherished memories of her are why the three of us are here in Florida today. 

An aunt has a distinct advantage over one’s mom. She could be the cool and fun one while the mom is just the mom. But this person would still protect you and only ever want what is best for you. 

And yes, we have a photo of Auntie Pat with a lampshade on her head. 

I truly don’t know where to start as so many memories are buzzing through my head. 

Like the time she arrived at our house (with my grandparents) with a little brown puppy for us. Who does that? Auntie Pats do that. We don’t have any photos of that moment but it’s all up here. In my head. 

I remember, as a little girl, going to our grandparents’ house and being allowed to paint my nails. Auntie Pat’s collection of nail polish resided in the back closet of the living area on Randall Street. Totally awesome for a little girl. 

Then Auntie Pat got serious about a man and he was going to be brought around to us. Okay, it could have gone either way but that first time she brought Uncle Bill to Burgess Avenue to meet us went really well. He was helping us kids roast chestnuts in our oven. He was kind and gentle with the Lennon kids. 

So then she went and married him. I suppose she would have married him whether we liked him or not. Honestly, we will never know. LOL 

But our relationship with our aunt never changed and Bill became our Uncle. He liked us and appeared quite content to be absorbed into Auntie Pat’s family. 

It seemed she was just always there. Sitting at the kitchen table with my mom and grandmother-all drinking their coffees and smoking cigarettes. Really settling in to chat, laugh and solve the world’s problems. Or, at least, their own. And they talked on the phone all the time. I had my aunt and grandmother’s Pawtucket telephone numbers memorized at an early age. What they possibly could have had left to share I’ll never know. I honestly think they were the original inventors of the Phone Tree. Because if something happened to you (good or bad) it was over the phone lines in seconds flat. And the other Nana would say, “A little birdie told her.” Yeah, birdies named Pat and Eileen. 

My Mom happily handed me over to my Aunt many a weekend. At my begging and Auntie Pat’s welcome. She would help me with math. I can still see the flashcards in her kitchen on Greene Street. You can all thank Auntie Pat for getting correct change back from me. Any errors, unintended or not, are mine. All mine. She really tried.

Auntie Pat and Uncle Bill added two little ones to the mix. The babies were a fun and welcome addition to the family. I was soon of the age when I could babysit them. Auntie Pat trusted me with her children and I loved spending time with them. I remember one time Charisa was crying and wouldn’t stop. I didn’t know what to do so I called my mom. She spoke to Charisa and calmed her. Only because Charisa thought it was her own mother’s voice 🙂 

She was at every family occasion. Taking me shopping in Fall River for a raincoat (before I was going to Ireland) because my mom was working. Listening to me in my teenage angst. Always caring and compassionate.

I married at her house. Then some years later I moved to Texas (my going away party was at her house) and she moved to Florida but there was always the bond. 

I could go on and on. But I won’t. We don’t have the time. Auntie Pat knew she was special to me. And I knew I was special to her. That’s all I ever knew and that is all I need to know now. 

Everyone in this room was special to her. And many, many who are not here. She was special to so many.

I will share one more thing. My grandfather Thomas Kelly died in 1984. As usual, my mom, Auntie Pat and the other Nana were gathered around our kitchen table the day after his death. Well, they were laughing hysterically at some of their shared “Poppy” stories and his colorful character friends like Eddie Fairfield. 

A friend of ours, an Italian-American Ralph Quattrucci came walking up to the side door at 159 Burgess with a gift basket to pay his solemn respects for our loss. All he heard was the laughter. He couldn’t believe it. When there was this very recent death in our family. 

Now, for the record, the Irish are just as human as the Italians. We all grieve. We all feel the ache in our heart that will never go away. But, in my humble opinion, sometimes the best way to honor someone is to revel in their stories, laugh hysterically (if they were funny) and always, always smile when you think of them. There will be plenty of time for tears-maybe when you least expect it. But one thing I know for sure is that Auntie Pat had no problems laughing in her lifetime. And neither should you. Enjoy the laughter and don’t drown in the tears.

I can still hear her say, “Hey, Mare.” 

Now I will reply, “Hey, Auntie Pat. Rest peacefully. You will be forever missed and forever loved. Thank you for everything. Thank you for it all.”

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Oh, my. I have not written since December. The first quarter of the new year has already passed by me!

Lately, I have been thinking of my youth. The strange thing is it focuses on the nature which surrounded me.

It is Spring time here. Truly amazing how everything is brown or gray and then, literally overnight, trees are budding, deer no longer camouflaged and flower bulbs pushing their way from the earth like newborns out of a birthing canal. Just like that.

I was sitting on my back patio at 5:30am this Saturday morning. All I can hear are the birds beginning their busy day.

Spring time is remarkable. I am making a conscious effort to appreciate the rows of daffodils in town. And everything else that demonstrates the imminent arrival of the season.

But what I remember from decades ago is my own backyard and neighborhood. It’s all I knew. You’ve heard the phrase, “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.” For me, everything I really needed to know was in my own backyard and neighborhood block.

There were forsythia bushes in the back of our house. I thought they were “For Cynthia” bushes. That’s me. Always putting a random consonant in where it just doesn’t belong. Started that nonsense at a very young age.

These bright yellow shrubs were one of the first signs of revival. Along with the delicate purple crocuses. It was the starting gun of more daylight. Warmth. Extraordinary play.

I’d grab the Hosta flower heads before they bloomed. Sort of like going crazy with bubble wrap. Play under the white flowering bush that seemed to be snowing when the small petals hit the ground. Feeling the soft down of the Pussy Willow branches. The scent of the Lilac bushes permeating the area. The neighbor’s Weeping Willow tree that turned into a sheltering fort. And sometimes its branches used as a lashing weapon for protection.

Lessons learned from my childhood backyard?

The importance of touching. Smelling. Seeing. Feeling. Hearing. Everything has a season. Fresh air is a wonderful gift. Playing outside and contorting yourself-the likes of which no gym will ever provide-does your body good. Being physical can work wonders for the mind. We can shed the clothes of the past season. Playing nicely with others is always a positive thing. There is a life cycle. A well tended garden can bring abundant joy. Natural surroundings are magical. Appreciation for new life. Utter sadness during fallow periods. And most importantly, the awareness that we have absolutely NO control over any season.

Today I am going to do my best to enjoy each day this Spring season is offering me. This is something I can actually control.

I wish you the same.

Do it for Cynthia.

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I have been visiting a nursing home each day in a nearby town. Just before Thanksgiving, in support of the residents, there were tables lined with many theme-styled gift baskets/hampers. Sports, pets, wines, spas, games and lottery were some of the themes. A person could buy tickets and then put their stubs in a tin can associated with the basket. The staff would pull the winning tickets on December 16th.

So, I thought I’d show my support. Bought a string of tickets and plunked them down in the various tins. Baskets that appealed to me.

Well, December 16th rolls around and I am making my daily visit. The receptionist sees me and exclaims, “Mary, you won!”

“TWO baskets!”

Funny, it just happened to be one of those days. God must have thought I needed a little pick-me-up.

One was a “Pot of Gold.”It had fifty scratch-off lottery tickets.

The other was a “Family Games” hamper.

I brought them home and under the Christmas tree they went. Thought it would be fun to have my adult children open them on December 25th.

Christmas morning arrives. After exchanging gifts, we all furiously scratched the fifty tickets. Some small winnings here and there. No big jackpots.

No one seemed interested in the “Family Games” basket so I opened it later in the day.

Table tennis, whiffle balls and more!

Wait, one box contained a juggling kit. Something new to learn! To hell with the on-line Latin course!

Donum cape! Seize the gift!

But what’s wrong with the following photo?

I cannot lie. The word “video” on the box didn’t capture my attention. Too intent on the contents.

I opened the box and noticed a few things not quite right. The leathery balls in bright, primary colors seemed to almost flake in my hands. I quickly put them back in the box before they disintegrated. There are already too many messes to clean in the house.

The other thing was that there was a musty smell coming from the box.

There was also a video. A video??? It’s been ages since we have had a VCR in this home.

So, yes, this particular box in the basket was quite dated.

Was I disappointed? No. I thought it was funny.

I totally understand how this happened. These were all gift baskets donated by friends and families of nursing home residents. While some folks went out and purchased items I am quite certain a few donors looked around their houses, attics and garages to happily contribute/compile a theme basket.

There are some lessons here.

If you are hanging on to something?

Let it go! Let it go! Let it go!

It does not even have to be a material, physical thing.

Give your gifts while they are fresh. Current. Useful. While you are fresh. Current. Useful.

Do not save your gift giving for a rainy day. Or a rainy year. Or a rainy decade.

It might not serve any purpose.

There is no time like the present. A purpose driven present.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year! A purpose driven 2023!

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Hello, there! It’s been awhile since I’ve written. My apologies. Started many times-so much to say! But, oh, that pesky side-tracking business.

Today I must! I will keep it short and simple.

This season and day can be difficult for folks. I know, not exactly a news flash.

Many families are experiencing the loss of a loved one. Some have plans that will not materialize.

Due to finances. Or a sudden bout with Covid. Foul weather. Illnesses. A host of other reasons.

Sometimes things do not work out as planned. And it can be utterly disappointing.

Instead of wishing away the day (because, in fact, by doing this you are wishing a day of YOUR life away) take the time to reflect or begin a new tradition.

Or just peacefully be.

Each and every day is truly a blessing. The older I become the more I realize it.

Don’t squander the gift.

Today, I wish you all a peaceful day.

Catch my hug.

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So, I recently began my fifty-ninth year on the planet. As my birthday approached I pondered on how to auspiciously mark the occasion.

What I did was this. I donated fifty-eight items. Things that I already had in my possession. I know it sounds big but it’s not. For me, anyway. And, going out on a limb here, probably not for you.

I have a lot going on at the moment, so probably putting more pressure on myself via lofty goals/challenges has a tinge of masochism to it. But that is how I roll. Remember when I did the 100 book a year challenge? Yeah, that was sick. That had me reading the last book on New Year’s Eve!!

Routinely, I cull the inventory in the home. I’m pretty good about it. But there is always more. When different charitable organizations (who pick up at your door!) ask for donations, I usually say, “Yes.” Because then I am totally committed. So, when they contacted me just before my birthday, it was a well-timed call.

I like giving. And I don’t like clutter. I also don’t want to leave messes for folks to clean up in my absence.

For my birthday, I gathered books already read, games not being played, supplies not utilized, clothes not being worn, vases, dishes, kitchen items and more. All things that someone else can use and enjoy.

Totally met my number of fifty-eight. Surpassed it actually. Easier than one would think.

Enjoy your weekend. Keep safe and healthy.

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Well, tomorrow is my birthday. And although tomorrow is not promised to any of us, if I wake up to greet another day then I will be fifty-eight years old. I did the math. It’s true. It feels strange to write that. The fifty-eight part.

I actually took a minute thinking about what I want for the special day.

I do not want cake. And I do not need candles to make wishes.

My preferred method of making wishes is blowing on dandelions that have gone to seed.

A month or so ago, I was chatting with the groundskeeper on the front lawn of a local church where I volunteer. Small world. His late Uncle was my English teacher in high school.

In the midst of the conversation I crouched down, plucked a dandelion and made my wishes. And in the process, most likely made this guy’s future work a bit more difficult by spreading more weeds.

He laughed and said, “I just knew you were going to do that.”

Now, I didn’t even know I was going to do that.

But I do it often.

When I visit my father’s grave there is always an errant dandelion.

I could look at it like, “Mary, you need to do a better job of tending this area.”

Or like I actually do, “This is a moment of solitude, conversation with my Dad and a time for wishes.”

Common folklore that has been attached to dandelions. In addition to granting wishes, many people believe that dandelion seeds will carry your thoughts and dreams to loved ones when you blow them into the air.

So, my birthday wish is to send my thoughts and dreams to my loved ones. Wishing only good health and time that is worry free.

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