Tuesday, December 6, 2011

AAaahhhh chooooooo!

I think I am just recovering from the plague.  I have no idea what bug it was I caught, but the damn thing won't leave!  Today is the first day since Friday night that I can actually move around and get things done without needing to collapse and nap.  Thankfully I had enough sick time to call off this week and have tomorrow off to make sure I'm over this -- whatever it is.

Since Friday I've felt like "death warmed" over as the old adage goes.  My co-worker was just out with the flu, but we had different symptoms.  She had the type you can lose weight from (if you catch my drift) -- whereas I have been achy, weak, congested, coughing and a throat redder than the coals of Hell.  If this was a cold, it was a cold on steroids!!! 

When I woke up to go to Mass Sunday I saw I had an email on my phone from an old friend from my former parish.  She told me my best friend Anne (who is suffering from brain cancer) has had to move into a nursing home after suffering from a small stroke recently.  Despite being sick - I stopped in for a brief visit after Mass (I was able to regain my strength on the car ride from the city to NT).  I didn't get to close to her so as not to share the plague that had claimed me... but wanted to just say hello and let her know I am around.

It bothers me to see such a vital - charismatic - independent lady reduced to a wheel chair in a small nursing home room.  She tries to keep up her sense of humor - which has won her favor with the nurses and aids, but you can see the fire in her eyes has diminished greatly.  Still though, we manage to make each other laugh.

I miss our long talks into the wee hours of the morning over numerous pots of tea.  You know how some people just click and can talk for hours?  That's Anne and me.. and I always valued that time together.  Tea with her was always nice in and of itself aside from the conversation - real china cups and saucers - never a mere MUG.  "My mother would KILL me if she saw me serving guests tea in a mug!".  I always enjoyed the little extras - and she sure knew how to make anyone who walked into her house feel like a king or queen!

Once I've recovered fully, I'll get to baking my Christmas cookies and bring her some next time I visit.  It will be a good motivation to actually get the holiday baking done - I'm always in need of motivation these days!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Better to have loved and lost?

I know a few people who are going through some rough break ups right now.  I can see the pain they carry with them as they mourn the passing of this type of relationship in their lives.  I wish I had some pearls of wisdom to share with them to ease their heartache - but my heartache is caused by never experiencing a relationship at all.

Every Christmas I find myself wanting one thing only: someone to share my life with.  I used to jokingly tell people I'd written to Santa and asked for world peace and a boyfriend.  Neither ever came true.

Holidays are tough for me, I'll be honest.  Each day of the year I feel the loneliness - especially at the end of the day when it's just me... but holidays are the worst.

I've never experienced buying Christmas presents for someone I love (in that way) - or snuggling up together looking at the tree lights.  So many moments, feelings and metaphors expressed in Christmas songs are only known to me through characters in movies.

It's the worst time of year to lose someone you love - it's harder still for those of us who never have loved.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Old Time Radio Shows

Now that I have this amazing Internet radio, I have downloaded some old radio shows and put them on a flash drive which is compatible with the radio.  Have I mentioned how much I love this radio??

Anywho..  the radio series I'm listening to is "Our Miss Brooks" from the late 1940s starring Eve Arden (she played the principal on GREASE) and Gale Gordon (the second Mr. Wilson on the original DENNIS THE MENACE).  Miss. Brooks is a high school English teacher and the series centers around her life and the people in the school.  Makes me nostalgic for working in a classroom again.

I have listened to some episodes before (they air them from time to time on a local radio station), but now I'm trying to listen to as many episodes as I can download off the Internet.

Radio shows can be a lot of fun.  Unlike television or movies, you create the "set" or surroundings in your mind.. even what the characters looks like.  The dialogue is richer since the audience needs more detail to picture exactly what is going on.  You can't see a confused look on a person's face, for example, so the dialogue has to get that point across to the listener.  It's like being read aloud to from a fascinating series of short stories - "theater of the mind" as the local station calls it. 

I'd love to see a revival in radio shows.  I'm not saying it should make television obsolete, but I think people would enjoy a good radio series or two.  With all the electronic devices we have, they would be great to listen to on the go via your smart phone or laptop. 

If anyone would like to start a radio series - let me know.  I have a few ideas... not to mention I have a great voice (and face) for radio.  Ask my co-workers! I can do more voices and impressions than a person with multiple personality disorder.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas Memories

I put up my tree last weekend - a week before I normally would.  I had a hellish schedule to work this Thanksgiving and knew I wouldn't be in the mood to do it this weekend.  - Oh yes, thank you to all of you who support the Black Friday madness - I didn't get to have Thanksgiving dinner with my family because I had to be at work for you. *gets off soap box*

Anyway, decorating the tree is always like a trip down memory lane.  I have a wide range of ornaments from vintage 1930s to plush animals to recent Hallmark ornaments. The serve as reminders of Christmases past - and the people who gave them to me - or the places I visited when I bought them.  That's part of the magic of Christmas.. reliving fond memories of days past and friends and family who may be gone.  All of that wonderful nostalgia gets brought back up during Christmas time.

As I looked at the ornaments I thought it might be neat to share some of my Christmas stories with my readers.. all three of you.  Might make a nice distraction for the chaos that tends to be on the flip side of the Christmas holiday.


--------- The Christmas Angel ------------------

My Grandparent's always had an angel on top of their Christmas tree.  In fact, until recently, I always had an angel on top of my own tree because of the fond memories I have of Christmas at their house - though this year I opted for a 1940's star.  Anywho--- I remember one Christmas Eve when the angel on Grandma's tree became a focal point of the holiday.

It was the late 1980s and the angel on the tree was well over a decade old.  A few days before Christmas, the lights in this angel finally gave out.  These were the days before fuses in the plug could be changed or perhaps it was the type that when one bulb went out, they all did. 

I remember Gramps sitting at the kitchen table trying to get the lights to work, but to no avail.  He finally admitted defeat and simply put the angel back on the tree.  Without it's lights, I remember the top of their Christmas tree looking so dark. 

Gram and Gramps went to a few stores looking for a new angel, but didn't find anything they liked.  So when Christmas Eve rolled around - which back then was when we had the big dinner at their home - the top of their tree remained dark.

I remember very clearly sitting on their living room sofa looking at the angel, wishing it would work for just one more Christmas - just for Grandpa's sake.. he worked so hard on it trying to fix it.  Within a few minutes, the angel's lights suddenly came on!  The angel remained illuminated for the rest of the night, but never worked again after that Christmas.

To this day I remember that moment as a Christmas miracle - a very simple miracle, but one that always comes to mind.  Some times it's the simple things that stay with us... I don't remember a single present I got the Christmas, but I do remember that angel giving us one more Christmas of light!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

New contraptions

I am so up to date with technology - well, up to date if it were 1947 perhaps.  I'm one of the few people left who listens to the radio at home - not just in the car.  I actually have an old Philco 1941 console radio that I'll use to listen to music the news.  I find that I'm multi-tasking so much on the computer I don't pay attention to the television screen - in fact, I rarely turn it on these days. 

Any who... the old Philco doesn't get great reception and depending on the weather, my favorite stations come in rather fuzzy.  People have been telling me for a while to try Internet radio - digital radio stations and providers like Sirius and Pandora.  I've used Pandora on my phone to listen to when I work out, but my computer's speakers are HORRIBLE, so it's not enjoyable... I never gave much though to it.

THEN.. quite accidentally, I stumbled across a retro styled Internet radio.  It was love at first site!!  With the classic styling of the 1940s paired with modern technology and gadgets, what's not to love??? So I snatched up this little beauty and there it was waiting for me after work today.  JOY!

I'm hooked!  The stations are so clear and there are SO many to choose from.  I already have about four Big Band stations programmed into the radio.  I'm amazed at what it can do.  It's not a cheap retro knock off like the Crosley radio products... this is a solid sound system with some awesome features -- or maybe I'm just easy to impress.

I decided to stay up late tonight in the hopes I'll sleep in later tomorrow (Thursday) since I have to work the horrible 12 hour shift at work starting at 5 and continuing to "black Friday" morning.  So what have I been doing most of the night?  Drinking tea and listening to the radio!  Good God I have no life.  Maybe this is why I'm single??? Nahhh.....

Any who - after a night of tapping my toes and wishing I could jitterbug, I guess it's off to dream land for this fellow. 

Good night to all of you in radio land.. I mean... cyber space!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is just over a week away.  Where is the time going??

When I was in school November took forever - especially for Thanksgiving to arrive.  I used to love this time of year - the first snowfall, the anticipation for the upcoming Christmas season (stations didn't start playing Christmas music the week after Halloween!) the amazing dinner Grams would cook, enjoying a turkey coma sleep the next day and putting up the Christmas tree that weekend. That's all changed now - I have to work on Thanksgiving... an overnight 12 hour shift.  So much for that holiday... damn you adulthood!!!

I'm trying to remind myself that Thanksgiving isn't just about the dinner, it's about counting your blessings and being thankful for what you have.  That's not easy for me to do.  As time goes by, the dark cloud hovering above me seems to be growing ever larger - like my waist line.  Not getting to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with my family and friends was the final nail in the coffin.  While my family is enjoying a wonderful meal, drinks and laughs, I'll be working retail Hell so obsessed shoppers can stand in line forever and maul each other over a sale item.  *gets off soap box*

There's been a trend on Facebook to post in your status things you are thankful for.  Not a bad idea.  Since I need a real pick me up, maybe a list of blessings is indeed in order.

I am thankful for:

1. my friend Anne being in my life for another year
2. my health
3. my parents
4. my new niece, Brittany
5. new job at work (even though it's still in the realm of retail)
6. co-workers who make life at work so much better! Especially: Jen, Tracey, Mallory, Christine, Renita, Holly, Maria, Angie and Dan (to name a few!)
7. developing a closer friendship with David and Anthony who have become amazing friends - as well as participating in their wedding.  Their relationship keeps the small spark of hope alive in my heart that true love is indeed possible.
8. meeting and becoming friends with Rob and Greg - and watching them start a family together.  I can't think of better parents!
9. paying off my car! (though it is time for a new one lol)
10.  winning the lottery.

Ok, that one isn't true.  Just wanted to see if you were still paying attention. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Skulls, Skeletons and Halloween

I haven't blogged much in recent weeks but I would feel bad if I didn't make my usual entry about some historical facet of the upcoming Halloween holiday.  Since Halloween is such a conglomeration of traditions and observances - many of which have long been forgotten to modern man - it's important to know where symbols and traditions came from.

You can't go to a Halloween store, party or Haunted House without seeing skulls and skeletons.  In fact, death in general plays a large part in Halloween decor and costumes.  Why this morbid fascination with death?

First we have to remember the meaning behind the term "Halloween".  It comes from the old English All Hallow's Eve.. meaning the evening before All Hallow's Day - which we now call All Saints Day (Hallow being a word for something sacred or holy - holy people - Saints. Get it?).  This memorial of all the Saints of Heaven is still observed within the Catholic and Anglican Churches.  The following day, (November 2nd) is All Soul's Day.. a time to remember our departed friends and family - and most especially those who have died who have no one left to pray for their souls, or even carry on their memory.

All Hallow's Day (November 1st) and by extension All Hallow's Eve mark the traditional month of remembering the faith and works of our ancestors, and a time to remember our own temporal state - the sobering fact that we too shall die.

It is not uncommon to hear of ancient theologians, saints and popes who kept skulls on their desks all year round.  No, they weren't into heavy metal - the skull served as a reminder of our own mortality, and that one day - death too would come to them (us).  Death is the great equalizer, and no matter our stations and status in life, we too shall die.

While society and cinema have glamorized, commercialized and secularized All Hallow's Eve - the use of these traditional symbols of death still remain.  We are reminded that death - whether we see it as frightening or not - is a part of life.  Even Jesus faced death.. and was crucified on "the place of the skull" (Golgotha) - which is why some crucifixes have a skull and cross bones beneath them.

I have always found the study of death - burial - mourning customs - etc to be extremely fascinating and have never had a problem with the skulls and skeletons of Halloween.  I don't really fear death per se.. but rather the means in which I will die.

It saddens me to hear Christian extremists condemn Halloween as satanic and pagan (though there is certainly intermingling between old pagan cultures and Christian cultures when the two came together) because of what they perceive as evil.  If they would dig below the surface of their local costume shops and horror flicks on the Sci-fi channel, I think they would see a lot more value in some of the observances of Halloween.  Sadly though, many Christians today are so focused on seeing evil lurking around every corner that they can't see the good in things.. the hope -- hope that comes even in death... the hope of eternal life.

Any way, that's my Halloween history lesson for the year.  Next time you put out your fake tombstones and skeletons, note the old saying: Momento mori - remember, you will die.

Happy Halloween!! :)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Wedding Day

I was thrilled to be invited to the wedding of my good friends, David and Anthony.  They were married on September 3rd at the Buffalo Historical Society here in Western New York.  I had the honor of being their official program passer-outer... aka: people greeter!  Working where I do, I happen to have some background in people greeting :)

I must confess that normally I do not look forward to going to weddings or enjoy them much when I'm there.  I have always gone by myself, and they usually serve as painful reminders of my perpetual bachelorhood -- not to mention the feeling of being excluded from such ceremonies because (up until recently) gay couples could not get married.  I knew this wedding day was going to be different.. and in a very positive way!

For once I was not going to go to a wedding stag, or bringing my sister as a date.  My friend Joe, whom I went to grad school with (where I also met one of the grooms, David) agreed to be my date for the evening.  Though he is straight (which I try not to hold against him)... he was very good company and very attentive.  He even permitted me to dance with him for the opening dance -- My first guy-guy dance at age 29!  No, I wasn't starring lovingly into his eyes.. I was more concerned with watching David and Anthony glide across the dance floor in each other's arms.

I couldn't have picked a better atmosphere for a "small"-intimate wedding than the Buffalo Historical Society.  It's marble steps and portico served as classy back drop to the wedding ceremony followed by a night of fun and dancing amongst the art deco ambiance of the interior.  Add to that almost non-stop Big Band music and I was in Heaven!!

Even the guests added to the enjoyment of the evening.  People seemed more sociable than at most gatherings.  Random guests would come up to me and start conversations - making for a very interesting and enjoyable evening!  It's always fun getting to meet and greet with new folks. 

I made one new friend in particular - one of the ring bearers.  He sat down next to me as I was having dinner outside on one of the marble steps, and we just started talking.  You could tell that at the age of 6, he's very much and old soul... just like I was (am).  He was such a sweet kid and became my other "date" for the night as he would often join me in watching folks dance the night away while making small talk.

What really made the evening special for me was not the art deco building and big band music.. or even the fact I had a male date (though the latter did make a positive difference).. it was seeing my two friends finally be able to publicly solidify their relationship in this time honored institution of marriage - an institution from which we have been excluded from for so long simply because we love a person of the same gender.  I finally saw the feelings I have inside reflected in a ceremony and celebration that often left me feeling like an outsider... now, I felt.. well, normal! -- Though - define "normal".  haha!

Contrary to the sky falling in response to a "gay wedding" - there were actually fireworks in the sky that night!  No, they weren't purchased by the grooms -- there just happened to be a fireworks display across the grounds from the museum.  As we all gathered on the portico to watch the bursts of color in the sky one couldn't help but marvel at how well things had fallen into place, and how beautiful the celebration of love can be - for anyone!

This wedding certainly left a joyous imprint on my heart and mind, and was an evening I will never forget.  Maybe.. just maybe.. I'll find the type of love David and Anthony have for each other which they so beautifully celebrated this month. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New job

I have been in my new position as Training Coordinator (Personnel) for about three weeks (full time) now.  My training has been rather sketchy as our store scrambles to take on a couple hundred new employees to work in our new super center that is due to open in late October.

My main role right now is leading the new hire orientations... a task I really enjoy.  It's very much like being in the classroom again.. only I'm not a substitute... it's my class.  :)  I have a lengthy guide (lesson plan) to follow, and I am slowly making it my own as I get more comfortable and familiar with the material contained within.  Though I am still learning how to process all the paperwork that goes along with these orientations, I very much enjoy working and interacting with our new hires.. each group brings something new to the table.

I've also been helping schedule interviews as well as inputting data into our antiquated computer systems.  Sadly, my numerous other job functions and training have taken a back seat to our mass hiring project.. but this is teaching me at least one aspect of my job in great detail.

Unfortunately, with mass hiring comes mass chaos.  Paperwork is every where.. people just plopping things on my desk... asking random questions as if personnel knows everything about everything all the time... and of course, we always end up with too many cooks in the kitchen as they say.  Everyone wants to be the boss, but not many want to roll up their sleeves and get the job done.  I have been impressed and inspired by a core group of co-workers who have been diligently working to make this process work and are ALWAYS there to lend me a hand and help answer my questions.

It's now beginning to sink in that this is my new job (rather than just a temporary thing) - especially as I begin to forge a new routine to follow.  For me routine is very important as I'm a creature of habit. 

Despite still working in a retail setting, I no longer feel like a store employee.. I feel more like an office worker, and it's a very positive transition.  Though it certainly has it's share of stresses.. especially now.. I find the work more rewarding and have a greater sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.  Not dealing with the customers is also a great blessing and a welcomed change.. though I am quickly learning that working closely with management is not always an "easier" alternative. hahaha!

Though this is not my dream job, I am thankful for a positive step forward (especially now being full time permanently) and for the chance to use my skills as a teacher on a regular basis.  The skills I am now learning from this experience will also transfer very well into the classroom should I ever be fortunate enough to land that ever illusive full time teaching position. 

Even baby steps forward are steps in the right direction.  Now if you'll excuse me, I need to crash from utter paperwork exhaustion.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Catching Up

It's been quite a while since my last posting.  I wish I could say I've been off on wonderful adventures or on an amazing vacation, but that's sooooo not the truth.  Dare to dream though!

I recently transferred from my job in the Photo Center at my store to a position as Training Coordinator in personnel.  It was a very slight pay increase, but it promised me full time hours.  I would love to tell you what my new job functions are, but to be honest, after a little over two weeks of working in the office (though some of that time I was covering in my old department) I don't feel much closer to knowing my position.

Our store is in the process of moving as well as taking on over 200 new employees over the next two months.  Naturally, personnel is right in the middle of all this.  Talk about trial by fire!  Some times I get so overwhelmed by people walking into the office and telling me what they need done that I feel like my head is going to explode.  Not exactly the best time to learn whole new job functions - computer systems (which are archaic... one program is DOS based.. DOS BASED!! Who uses DOS anymore???) - and routine.  My "training" has consisted of learning on the go and trying to take massive amounts of notes to try and get me by.

So far, I've been helping input information into the computer for new hires, calling applicants and setting up appointments for interviews.  That's what my day to day job has consisted of - that and being a personal secretary to a new manager with the company who seems to think I work only for them.  So basically when our personnel director (who is AMAZING) goes out of town soon for a week and I go to take over for her.. I'll know how to make phone calls.

It tickles me when managers ask me a question about how to do something and I have to tell them "I don't know".  They look at me like I'm nuts.. like when my job code changed, I magically absorbed all the knowledge of a person doing this job for years.  Granted, I'm learning from asking my NUMEROUS questions and attempting to learn the tasks asked of me... but it's not a practical or comfortable learning process.

I'm extremely thankful for many of my knowledgeable co-workers who have been helping me out, and taking time from their chaotic work loads to help show me the ropes and answer my questions.  It's so un-nerving not to know my routine and have all the answers.  I went from a job I could do in my sleep to finding myself asking for help every five minutes.  Thank God I have friends there!!  They've been wonderful and supportive!

Another job duty that I HAVE actually done is conducting new hire orientations.  These typically last about 7 hours per orientation.  It's set up very similar to following a classroom lesson plan.. something my teaching background has helped prepare me for - and is a job function that I'm hoping will look much better on my resume.

While doing the same lesson over and over again can get tedious, I do look forward to meeting and working with our new hires.  I know how intimidating it can be starting a new job (and I'm getting a dose of that again with this position) in a new place.. so I want to make their first day on the job as pleasant as possible.  What happens to them after orientation... that I'm a little concerned about.  I'm nervous they are going to get lost in the craziness of the move and hiring focus.

I've also been trying to keep in touch with my friend Anne who is suffering from brain cancer.  I went to see her for a brief visit last week and she looked horrible.  I can't believe all the weight she's lost... and her energy is all but gone.  It's so hard for me to watch her fade away like this - and know how much it hurts her to not be able to keep going.  She's a person who has always needed to be busy.. needed to be "doing", and now that's all gone.

As we were talking, she told me how worried she is about leaving her husband (who suffers from Alzheimer's) behind.  Through the 14 years I've known Anne.. and all the tragedy we've been through, I've never seen/heard her cry until now.  Her wish is not to miraculously get better and live forever, but to simply be able to care for her husband so he won't have to be alone - and live in a nursing home.  Even now, her main concern is the well being of those she loves.

Anne has always been a person who had such an enormous light inside her.. an incredible force of good in the world.  While she never went to college or had a profession as we know it today, she made a remarkable impact on the lives of everyone she has come into contact with.  There are often times I have wished I could give the energy and years I have left to people like that.. people who make a difference and have a light to share with others.  It almost seems wasted on me.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Celebration and Pain

There has been much celebration among my friends - and the gay community in general - about the recent passage of the same-sex marriage bill here in my home state of New York.  Amongst the celebrations and tears of joy, I found myself (either directly or indirectly) bombarded with slander from my spiritual "family".

I knew the Catholic Bishops in America were going to have a field day condemning the passage of the same-sex marriage bill, but I don't think anyone can fully prepare themselves for rejection from people they love.  For years I have struggled to adhere to a faith that I very much believe in and support, but one which sees me as a degenerate and sinner - in mortal sin and not worthy of Heaven unless I renounce the way in which God created me.

The first Sunday after the passage of the bill, I had to sit at Mass and listen to Father refute the senators for being so immoral... for further driving our country into greater sin.  A large part of me wanted to get up and walk out - while the other part of me couldn't leave Christ at the altar and walk away from Him.

My heart always went out to those gay and lesbian brothers and sisters whose family - especially their parents - turned their backs on them when they came out.  To have those whom you love so much see you as wrong or immoral is a painful blow to one's heart and soul.  This pain is echoed in my own heart and soul as my own spiritual mother - Mother Church - has now revitalized its campaign against people like me... people who through no fault of their own or personal choice have been created attracted to members of the same gender.

Every Catholic news station or program I listen to is calling for Catholics to vote out of office those public officials who made the bold decision to support this positive step forward in human rights.  While I rejoice at the legal recognition of "my" love... they cry out at what they see as an injustice against the "natural law" and against "God's law".

Two good friends of mine... two men... who have been in a committed relationship for years.. are in the process of adopting a child.  I am so excited for them and find myself eager to share in their joy on "the side lines".. as a friend.  I cannot think of two more caring and loving parents, and I know in my heart they will give a wonderful home to a child that has been neglected by his own biological parents.  Then I think of what it would be like to raise my own children... and my inability to fully share with them my most precious possession: my faith.  No child of a same sex couple would be able to be baptized in a Catholic Church and make the sacraments.  It knocked the wind out of me when that realization entered my mind recently. -- For as much a part of me as my faith is, I could not hope to FULLY pass it on to any children I would have... even though at this point children are purely hypothetical. 

It is not an easy time for me.. in fact, it's been a very painful and lonely time.  I will always love the Church, but I also have to accept the great reality that according to official teaching, I am not accepted.

Where will I go from here? Only God knows.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Way to go New York!!!

I just want to publicly thank (in this meager forum) ALL those who worked to get the same-sex marriage bill passed in New York State.  From the courageous Senators who said "YES!" to equality, to those making calls and getting involved in peaceful demonstrations. -- THANK YOU!!

I cannot begin to tell you how I felt when the vote was passed.  I'm not sure what was more exciting, the Governor stating he would sign the bill immediately or the MANY positive Facebook comments, posts and even text messages going back and forth all night.

Though I have been very blessed with a wonderful and supportive family and groups of friends who love me for who I am.. this is the first time in my life I feel like a truly equal citizen under the law.

Let me point out however, the passage of the bill may have been the easy part.  Finding myself a husband... now THAT will be difficult!!  :-P

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Fight for Marriage Equality in NY State

When my younger sister was a senior in High School, she had to do a project for her Government class on some sort of current event.  She chose the topic of gay marriage.  When asked by her teacher why she chose that topic she replied: "Because my brother is gay and I want to see him get married."  -- I'll always remember her telling me that for as long as I live.

My sister Kristy is six years younger than me and we went to the same local public High School.  When I was a senior, there was a big debate about two boys going to the prom together.  It was a big debate in our rather boring suburban High School.  In the end, each boy went with a girl to the prom.  The year Kristy graduated, I got a phone call from her one day with her on the other end of the line all excited.  "Guess what???  They voted a gay couple for the 'cutest couple' category in this year's yearbook!!!".  I couldn't believe how much had changed in just six short years.

Now, 11 years after I have graduated High School, we face another chance for positive change.  The New York State Senate will soon be voting on whether or not same sex couples can legally marry in this state.

For those who regularly read my blog, it will be of no surprise to you that I am still single.. moving ever closer to impending spinsterhood.  Despite my sister's desire to see me get married one day, my pessimistic sensibilities tend to get the better of me and convince me that's not "in the cards".  My chance to marry however, should be decided by whether or not I find a life partner, not whether or not I have the legal right to marry at all.

As children, we have a keen ability to latch onto certain people fairly easily.  Little kids will often taunt each other with the old rhyme: "Sarah and Joseph sitting in a tree... k-i-s-s-i-n-g.  First comes love.. then comes marriage.. then comes Sarah in the baby carriage.."  My personal favorite saying was usually used if you ever said you loved someone, like a best friend or a close relative: "If ya love him so much.. why don't ya marry him???" -- Even in the minds of little children, love and marriage go together.  "First comes love.. then comes marriage.."  But this is not the scenario for all of us.

Some people who are fortunate enough to find true love are forced to do without the legal recognition of that love and partnership and all the benefits it implies.  Inheritance, parental rights and hospital visitation eligibility are only a few. 

Gay and lesbian couples also lack the social benefits of a legally recognized marriage.  When two men or two women have a ceremony or wear weddings rings, they are "flaunting" their sexuality.  As long as they do it in the privacy of their own homes, people don't fuss.. but should they want to publicly celebrate their love and commitment to one another.. they have gone too far.  What kind of message does that convey?  Two men who love each other with their whole hearts and souls are "faulting" it if they want a public ceremony, but a man and a woman can have HUGE, elaborate weddings??  Hey -- I've seen "Say YES to the Dress" -- I know how much these shindigs cost!!  Talk about flaunting it! - And don't get me started on Anniversaries!

At a day and age when marriage seemed to be going the way of the dinosaurs, gays and lesbians have been serving as witnesses to the importance of marriage.. whether performed in a Church or by a Justice of the Peace.  That "little piece of paper" does make a difference for many people... and it should be available to ALL consenting adults. 

What I have found to be most frustrating when debating this topic with opponents of same-sex marriage is that it's a debate over feeling.  One of the hardest things to get another person to do is feel what you are feeling.  Heterosexual opponents of Gay marriage don't have the attraction and feelings we homosexuals do and therefor have a hard time understanding where we come from.  How do you prove feelings? How do you prove love?

I grew up admiring the close bond and intense love my maternal Grandparents had with and for each other.  Sure, they had their share of differences, but no matter what, that intense love and connection was always there.  I grew up wanting the kind of love they had for each other, and a similar life they had built together.... only no one told me way back then that I was to be excluded from sharing my life with someone in that way... through no fault of my own.  Different always equals bad, right?

Though I am easily angered by the politicians and Church officials who speak out so vehemently against same sex marriage (and yes.. I said Church officials!!), I can't help but feel sorry for them.  They don't realize that the very sanctity of marriage they are spending so much time and money  to "protect" is the same marriage we believe to be sacred too. 

I find that all I can do is pray.. pray to remove hatred from everyone's heart.. and pray that one day, those that spend so much time, money and effort to prevent people from getting married will one day invest that energy and those resources into promoting LOVE... which is what this topic is all about.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Shaping up!

I did decide to go to this year's pride parade after all.  My good friend Collin managed to convince me to make an appearance - and it's always nice to see so many of my friends out and about at the same time.  I never know who I am going to run into!

The parade's after party gave me the chance to mingle with some facebook friends that I rarely get to see because of our conflicting schedules.  It was also a great pleasure to see my friends Greg and Rob... my personal vote for one of the cutest couples in Buffalo.

-----

I've been fighting the "battle of the bulge" all my life... the bulge being my ever expanding mid section... and I have been gradually losing this battle for the past three year.  Each summer I have steadily had to go up in waist size to fit into shorts.  This year, I would need to squeeze my derrière into a 40 waist pair of pants.  Oh hell no!

I promised myself I would never again leave the 30's range waste size and I'm not about to break a promise.  I REFUSE to buy a pair of pants over a 38 waist!!!

Actually, a picture taken of me at pride drove home the point that something needs to be done.  There I was, in a pair of jeans (because I refuse to wear shorts) looking frumpier than a worn out bean bag chair.  This just will not do!!

Long ago I accepted the fact that I will always have a larger body size.. and even embraced the "bear-cub" image popular in gay culture.. but I don't like frumpy.  Grrrr....

For the past month or so I have been stepping up my exercise routine, but now I'm really focused.  For the past three weeks, I have been working out about 6 days a week.  Now I am focusing on changing my diet as well.  It has to be a gradual change so I don't lose control and binge eat... little steps towards a big goal!

I've done this once before and I can do it again.  I once managed to lose 125 pounds... I think I can make it to my goal of losing 30. 

Feel the burn! Boo-ya!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Pride?

June is the month designated as "Gay Pride Month".  I have often heard people comment that they didn't think it was fair to have a Gay Pride month when there is no Straight Pride month... so what's the big deal??

I shall tell you *gets on soapbox* -- For gays and lesbians, whether individuals accept us or not, we are still seen as an exception to the rule.  In most states we still don't have the right to marry the partner of our choice, some fear prejudice from their families or within their workplaces which could lead to the loss of a job (or at the very least a very uncomfortable work environment).

I can't imagine heterosexuals can fully grasp what it is like for a gay individual to live in a world of heterosexism -- assuming that everyone is straight until proven otherwise -- accepting that heterosexual is the standard while homosexual is at best simply tolerated.

97% (my own estimate) of the ads you see on tv - books you see on the shelves - and even movies are geared towards heterosexuals and their lifestyle.  I am invited to numerous weddings a year, see women showing off their engagement rings, giving shower gifts, baby gifts, anniversary presents - all geared towards straight couples.  When was the last time you went to a store and saw two men or two women holding hands on the advertisement for a wedding registry?  When was the last time you saw an Anniversary card at your local Target for a husband to give to his... husband?  Perhaps these concepts do indeed exist, but in specialty shops and websites.  We are certainly not proportionately included in the mainstream market.

It seems to be since the attitudes in the country assume people are straight until proven otherwise, then every day is straight pride day.  "You" (heterosexuals) have it all -- so "we" use one month out of the year to get together as a sign of support and unity - to stand up and be counted - and to show we are not ashamed for how God created us... nor are we ashamed of the way we feel and love.

But now that I have poked my finger at the chest of heterosexism, I now turn my sight towards my "own people".  When I first started attending the annual pride parade here in Buffalo back in 2003, I was overwhelmed by all the people who were there.  I saw same-sex couples openly holding hands with one another, gay and lesbian parents with their happy/healthy children playing together as a family in the park.  It wasn't until I started getting older and mingled more in the "gay sphere" that I realized that the happy couples and families were not goals easily achieved.

The luster of pride has begun to tarnish in my heart over the years as I have experienced the harshness and cruelty that can go on in the local gay community.  I have often said that gay men (not being a lesbian I don't feel it appropriate to comment on them) have the worst character flaws of both genders -- while women will often laugh and joke about the "fabulousness" of their gay best friends.. and discuss the love and support they find among gays, I don't think gay men can say the same of each other.  Gay men can be real bitches to one another.  Plain and simple.

Even when considering all the taunts and name calling I endured in school, I never really felt as insecure about myself as I do when I'm around groups of gay men.  Visitors to the Buffalo bars have commented on how cliquish Buffalo people can be... staring down new comers, but never going over to talk to them or include them.  Guys size each other up based on looks and tend to ignore those who aren't members of their gym or who don't fit the "jock" or "twink" categories.

Meeting people from online isn't much easier.  Profiles are very blunt about the high physical standards many men (many.. not all) have.  Here are a few quotes from random local profiles I have copied and pasted:

* if i don't get back at you, either you're old, fat, sissy or ugly.
* Absolutely NO ONE over 30.  Message me and you'll be blocked. (this person is 25 years old)
* I go to the gym and so should you. Don't bother me otherwise.
* Mainly here just looking at the hot guys, I might be interested in hanging out if you fit my criteria.

Certainly I believe there needs to be a physical attraction in a potential boyfriend/girlfriend.  I know we don't go 100% on personality, but come on!  Profiles like this are so easy to come by that it took me less than five minutes to come across the examples above.  So I'm thinking that I've been perpetually single and that's the way it's going to stay.

I don't fit well into any of the neat little sub categories of the gay "culture" and while I am grateful for my share of friends, I find myself hoping for something more (that damn hope!).  There are many nights when I feel very much isolated and alone... and sometimes being in a large crowd like the pride parade drives that loneliness home even more.

So while I do support the idea of Gay Pride month and the equality it stands for (in theory), I find that I personally do not feel I have much to be proud of.  So if any of you out there feel being gay is a choice, I have to ask you in all seriousness.. would you choose this?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Life Lessons

I've mentioned before on this blog and also on my Facebook account about my dear friend, Anne, who is suffering from brain cancer.

She underwent major brain surgery a few weeks ago, and although she is home now and under the excellent care of Roswell Park Cancer Institute, her doctors give her a time frame of around two years.

Despite our age difference (I'll be 29 and Anne will be 83), I never had a closer friend and confidant than I have had these 13 or so years with Anne.  I'm naturally an old soul (some would say an old fart) and she is very much a perpetual young soul.. so the age difference balanced out well. 

She has always been an example to me to not let life's obstacles beat you.. but to keep charging full speed ahead.. a life lesson I still have yet to learn.  Despite being slowed by the cancer, the radiation and the chemo... she may have slown down, but she is still charging ahead. I admire her for her courage and her strength - not only in dealing with her own illness, but in caring for her husband who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. 

I spoke briefly with her this evening before her next chemo treatment and she told me that she is now looking into assisted living apartments.  "Did you ever think you would hear ME talking about assisted living?"  No.. it's true, I never imagined this outcome for a woman so full of life and vitality, but I told her this decision proves her intelligence and bravery... to which she replied, "you calling me intelligent is something I never thought I would hear YOU talking about!"

It's so easy for us (and I certainly lump myself into this category) to wallow in self pity.. asking "why me?".  While it's healthy to feel the emotions we have while we receive them.. to grieve and feel the pain or despair.. it's too easy to stay in that despair and let it consume us.  Anne is accepting the inevitable.. as she always has.. and looking to see how she can keep moving forward.. even if it means big changes.

She has taught me a great many things about life during our friendship... sometimes just by being a sounding board for me to work out problems on my own.  I'd like to think I taught her a thing or two as well over the years... and even she admits I have corrupted her a bit (she was such a nice "old" lady when I met her!).  Now I have come to realize the very brutal reality that now she is teaching me to die.  We don't discuss things like "life expectancy" or "how long she has"... we just talk about what needs to be done in life now.. and how to best accomplish those tasks.

She keeps telling me the punch line of an old joke.. that she doesn't want to go to her grave in pristine condition, but sliding into the grave bruised and worn out exclaiming: "Damn! What a ride!"

I ask all of you out there to continue to keep Anne in your thoughts and prayers. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bring flowers of the rarest - bring blossoms the fairest...

The month of May is traditionally dedicated to the Holy Mother.  When I was a kid in Catholic school, I fondly remember the May Crowning processions in which a chosen student would place a crown of flowers upon the head of the Church's statue of Mary... and other students would place flowers near the statue in her honor.  When I would come home from school, I'd make my own "May altar" which consisted of a bust of Mary that I had - which I would crown with a paper crown - and two or three carnation flowers I'd buy from the local 7-11.

Every May I think of my yearly trek to the 7-11.. which is now a used car dealership.  I would be so proud to ride my bike and purchase flowers for Mary with my own money.  Where I got the money I don't recall.. since I always did this in secret.  Some how, I can't imagine Mom giving me the okay to spend money on flowers.

It is for this reason that I think carnations have always been my favorite flower.  I love them - their very scent brings such happy memories. 

This year, as I have done since I was a kid, I went and bought Mary some carnations.  I went to Wegman's on the way home from work and picked up a small bouquet.  When I do this, I not only like to honor my heavenly mother, but I try to remember and recapture some of the simple faith I had as a child.  Too often as an adult I am obsessed with over thinking everything. 

Once while dating my first boyfriend.. we got in a big fight.  He was wrong (naturally hahaha!) and thought he could win me over with flowers (something he knew I loved but never once bought for me).  He came home one day with a single carnation.  I remember thinking, "who buys ONE carnation?".  They are the cheapest flowers at the flower shop.  While I liked the flower, it didn't get him out of hot water.

As I placed the flowers next to my statue of Mary I asked: "Since I'm giving YOU flowers, would you send me a guy who will bring ME flowers?"  We'll see what her response is.  :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Achy Breaky Heart

I had a very creepy start to the day.  There I was, minding my own business with my ass in a chair, waiting for the water in the kettle to boil so I could have a jumbo cup of tea before work.  Out of no where, it felt as if someone was squeezing my heart... a pain that radiated to my back.

I am no stranger to back pain.. having had bad flair-ups of "sciatica" (a term I feel doctors use when they have no idea the exact problem with your lower back).  This was similar, only it now involved my heart.

"Am I having a heart attack or did I simply pull something??" -- I made my way to the phone and called my Dad.  I knew he was probably out on his walk, but figured I could get his opinion over the phone.  He at least has had some emergency response training and has also lived through a heart attack.  No answer.  Ugh.. so much for the convenience of cell phones!

The tightening in my chest was so bad I couldn't make the stairs on my own.  I grabbed a near by walking stick (aka my pimp cane) to help me up the stairs.  I don't know how I made it to the top, but I did.  I stood there, leaning on my walking stick, unable to move.  In the loudest voice I could muster, I got my Mom's attention and managed to sit in a chair.

It was a scary feeling to say the least.  The pain is one thing, but the thought of a heart attack is quite another.  Mom wanted to call the ambulance.. I said no.  I hadn't even showered yet.  I wasn't going any where!  There was no pain in my jaw or in my arm -- I took two aspirin to be on the safe side.

Still not being able to get a hold of Dad, Mom made me promise to stay put while she took a quick shower in case I did decide to go to the hospital.  Never being one to follow sound advice, I seriously debated making my way back downstairs to shower and get dressed while Mom wasn't around.  If I wasn't going to the hospital, I had to leave for work in a half hour!  Decisions - decisions.

Just as I thought the pain was going away, it flared up again and I decided not to risk moving.  After about 20 minutes the pain subsided enough that I could shower and get ready for work.

I am now convinced it was all just some sort of muscle spasm caused from the exercising I have been doing lately.  I felt fine all through work, just have a slight soreness in my chest.. like if you've ever had a bruise after hitting something -- not painful per say.. but enough to remind you it's there.

After all this drama, I was only 5 minutes late to work.  I rock!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Beatifcation of John Paul II

The Church has just beatified the late Pope John Paul II of blessed memory... taking him one step closer along the official path to sainthood.  So what do we see in the media?  Constant news reports of sex abuse scandals -- just like we saw during Holy Week.  The media is always looking to trash Catholics.. and always seems to do so during our most solemn occasions.

Whether you are Catholic or not, one cannot deny the positive impact that John Paul II had upon the world - his support of life and his tireless effort to end communism in Europe.  Though we may disagree with some things he did (show me a person you agree with 100% on all issues!), we cannot disagree on his unending devotion to Christ and His Church... his personal holiness and conviction.

Though he is not yet a saint.. he is one step closer in the tedious examination process that makes one a saint.  Part of the reason for the quickness of this process so far is that many of the people in charge of examining the life of John Paul II in the Vatican offices knew the man well and can attest first hand to his holiness.

What is a Saint anyway?  Why are saints important?  My unofficial and personal answer is that a saint is someone who is still used to do Christ's will even after their deaths.  Our Lord has always used others as vehicles to deliver His messages and graces to man kind (such as the angels in scripture) - and still makes use of individuals whom He uses as example to others of holiness and Christian charity/love.

"We love you, John Paul II!"

Thursday, April 28, 2011

This & That

This week, Buffalo has jumped not into Spring.. but into summer.  At least that is what it has felt like the past two days.  Last week we had some flurries and this week the temps reached the low 70s!  Our "springtime" seems to have gotten the short end of the stick this year.. either being cold and wet or unseasonably warm.

Tonight I slept with the windows open.  Even after the sun had gone down the temps were still in the mid 60s and humid from the rain we have been getting off and on.  It wasn't until this morning that I noticed a stark difference in the world around me... BIRDS!  I have become so used to the isolation of being locked up in the house for the colder months that I have forgotten the beautiful background songs of our native feathered friends.

Just as I get excited at the first signs of a new season like the first leaves changing or the first snowfall, the first appearance of the robin is a sure sign that spring has arrived.  Although the robins have been back for some time now - and we even have a nest of them just outside my bedroom - it's the song of the birds that is telling me summer can't be far off.

I always think of my Grandfather (Gramps) when I see robins.  He had a very simple sense of humor and a simple way of joking with us kids.  He loved to tell us non-sense stories that to any adult would seem just plain stupid.. but when he told them in that voice that he ONLY used when speaking to children under 7, it made a lasting imprint of simpler times and simpler joys.  Often he'd make up stories along the lines of The Three Bears, substituting anything he could think of for the bears.  His favorite story would be: "Once upon a time there were three robins sitting on the fence..... and they all flew away."  That was it... end of story.  But coming from a man who was otherwise so straight laced, it was funny to us kids.

I've been trying to get up to the rehab center to visit my friend Anne as much as possible.  I had a nice visit with her and some of her family Easter Sunday.  Two weeks ago doctors found a large brain tumor during an MRI... and three days later she had major surgery to remove it.  Sadly, the tumor was found to be cancerous, which is never a good thing... but even worse when those cancer cells are right in the brain.

She seems to be recovering well.. and at 82 is doing much better than I would be after major surgery.  Anne always did have a wonderful disposition and positive outlook, always trying to accept the things life throws at her.  She seems to have a permanent smile on her face which can still light up a room.  We tease her about her shaved head (and she makes jokes too) and laugh at the many "hole in the head" cliches.  It would be so easy for someone in her place to wallow in self pity and despair, but she just keeps puttering along... an example to people of all ages that attitude is everything!

She had her first visit to Roswell, our local cancer research hospital (and one of the best in the country!) to see about the extent of the brain cancer and what can be done.  I've been hesitant to call her - knowing she probably has visitors - but I've been on pins and needles wondering how her first appointment went.  I'm hoping to go and see her tomorrow. 

I tell her that the one good thing in all this is that it is infinitely easier to visit her now that she is a captive audience.  That woman has always been on the go - doing for others with a passion only Mother Teresa could relate to - so pinning her down for a visit was sometimes difficult. 

I'm trying to follow Anne's example and keep a positive outlook... despite my hardcore pessimistic tendencies.  If any octogenarian can kick cancer's ass.. it would be Anne!!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sacred Triduum and Easter Sunday

I was hoping to blog each day of the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday) explaining the complex traditions and observances of the days -- in my characteristic Catholic-History-Geek way, but as has been the case lately.. time seemed to escape me.  So I'll make up for it now! (in an abbreviated version anyway) :-P

Holy Week (Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday) has always been a time of great spiritual renewal for me.  I love our rich traditions and observances.  Sadly though, working in retail I don't often get to fully participate in the liturgical celebrations.

Holy Thursday is the time when Catholics celebrate Christ's instituting of the Mass and the Eucharist -- done at the Last Supper.  After the Mass, the altar is stripped bare in preparation for the solemn remembrance of the passion of Christ on Good Friday.  The blessed sacrament is removed from the main tabernacle and placed in a side chapel adorned with flowers and candles where the faithful can stay and pray before our Lord present in the sacrament for the remainder of the night.

I had to miss the Mass, but stopped in for prayer and meditation after work.  It's nice to be there when the Church has quieted down, and there are only a few of us there - coming and going all night - to visit the blessed sacrament.  I always think of Christ's admonishment to His apostles who fell asleep during his agony in the garden: "Could you not stay awake for one hour?"  -- I often hear Him saying: "could you not visit me for one moment?"

This Liturgy also includes the washing of the feet of 12 men.. in imitation of Christ washing the feet of his 12 apostles before the Last Supper.  This part always made me uncomfortable and I was always glad I was not one who had to have his feet washed.  I could totally sympathize with Peter who felt embarrassed to have Christ wash his feet.  It is a good practice in humility though.. both for the priest and those whose feet he is washing. For the rest of us, it is also a public reminder of the humility we should all strive for as well as the charity we should show to one another.

Good Friday is the day we remember Christ's passion and death on the cross.  Traditionally, the priest wore black - the traditional color of mourning.  Symbolic of the sadness of Christ in His suffering and His brutal death upon the cross.  Sadly, in an effort to be a bit more acceptable to "modern tastes", the Church has since adopted the use of red - which they claim is not symbolic of blood, but the symbol of royalty.. for Christ the King.  I always thought the color for royalty was purple.. but I digress. 

In this Liturgy (there is no Mass or consecration on Good Friday), the priest holds up the crucifix exclaiming: "This is the wood of the cross, on which has hung the savior of the world".  Kneeling, we respond: "Come let us adore!"  After the cross processes through the Church, the faithful then have the opportunity to come up and venerate the cross - symbol of Christ's suffering - by kissing the cross.  



It is always humbling and moving to be attending the Good Friday Liturgy or meditating on the Stations of the Cross at 3pm - which is said to be the hour when Christ died.  It's just such an awe inspiring moment to think of everything that happened at that moment in history.  If you read the account in the Gospels: the sky growing dark, the earthquakes, the veil in the temple ripping in two.  I can't imagine what it must have felt like to see and experience all of that!


Sadly, I did not make it to the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.  This Mass is not for those who only go to Mass out of guilt and want to "get it over with" as quickly as possible.  I love the richness of this Liturgy - though I rarely get to attend it any more.  It begins with the blessing of the Easter fire - symbol that Christ is the light of the world - the light in the darkness of our sinfulness.  The priest blesses the paschal candle (that big candle used at baptisms).. and lights the candle from the newly lit Easter fire.



The Easter Water... symbol of our Baptism and washing away of sins - is also blessed, and the holy water fonts of the Church are again filled after having been empty since Holy Thursday (or Palm Sunday). 

Easter Sunday is the culmination of all the anticipation of the season of Lent... our penance and waiting is now over and it is time to rejoice!  I love how the Churches are decorated.. and the wonderful scent of Easter flowers fill the air.  Everyone was in their Easter best... one thing I love about my parish.. people still dress to go to Mass!

Going to the "older" traditional form of the Mass, our celebration begins with the singing of the "Vidi Aquam" - "I saw water coming forth from the temple
on the right side, alleluia:
and all those to whom this water came
were saved, and shall say, alleluia, alleluia." (of course we chant it in Latin).

For me, hearing this and seeing the priest bless the congregation with the Easter water from last night's vigil is the official start of Easter!!  Reminder that we have been washed clean by the sacrifice of Christ.

After Mass I headed over to my Aunt Joan's house to have brunch with my Dad's side of the family.  I swear someone in our family needs to move into a hall or something because we always manage to cram a big group of people into the smallest houses! haha! 

My Aunt Joan always puts out a nice spread for brunch while we all laugh and catch up with one another.. as the younger kids hunt for their Easter baskets.

I was treated to another lovely meal at my brother and sister in law's home tonight where Katie out did herself yet again.  Katie has an appreciation for elegance and class, and it shows in how she sets and table and serves a meal!!!   As always the food was out of this world - and it's nice to watch my little nephew enjoy his Easter in the same home my brother and I did when my Grandparent's lived there. - Religious traditions aren't the only ones I like to see preserved!

I'm very fortunate to have the family and friends that I do... who make holidays like this so wonderful!

I hope all of you have a wonderful Easter season!!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Eulogy for a Parakeet

This past Wednesday I lost my feathered companion of nearly 10 years.  After miraculously recovering from a near fatal respiratory infection at Christmas, my beloved "killer"-parakeet, Tiki, finally gave up the ghost.

I know there are so many people out there who don't understand a person's attachment to animals.  I ofter struggle with whether or not we even have the right to keep animals in our homes, rather than letting them remain in the wild.  But for those of us who do welcome an animal into our lives, they have a way of touching our hearts forever.

Almost 10 years ago my younger sister insisted on getting a parakeet.  A friend of hers was working for a woman who bred birds and hand raised them... allowing them to be much more social than a bird who has spent it's youth only with other birds.  My mother was absolutely opposed to the idea... I on the other hand fought the case for my sister.  After all, when I was in middle school I had pets of my own (a mouse and later a hamster).  I thought it would be good for my sister, and naturally I wouldn't mind helping out where I could.

After wearing down Mom's resistance, we finally went and picked out a bird.  Kristy settled on a beautiful blue parakeet - and we gave it the name "Tiki" after the Disney World attraction, "The Enchanted Tiki Room"... the place where loads of animatronic birds sing and dance.

Initially we thought Tiki was a male.  It was actually suggested to us that we get her (thinking she was a male) because male parakeets can learn to talk and also tend to have a more mild demeanor.  For years, Tiki fooled us.... though we should have guessed her true gender when she would boldly bite our late golden retriever's nose any time he stuck it in her cage, and would ride fearlessly on his back throughout the house --- and drew blood from my father on numerous occasions -- learning that once you teach a bird something (he taught her to bite) it's hard to UN-TEACH it.

It wasn't until we started bird-sitting for a neighbor's parakeet that we discovered Tiki's true nature.  When put in the same room as a male, Tiki's biological alarm clock went off and she became an egg laying factory for years to come.  "Tiki-man" as we had called the bird became "Tiki-woman".  I thought her first egg was hysterical.. my sister thought it was disgusting.

As my mother had envisioned, the novelty of having a bird quickly wore off for my sister, so Tiki became my sole responsibility -- though she remained in my sister's bedroom for most of her life.  Not being afraid of the little blue powder puff's temper tantrums, I had no qualms about her being out of her cage.  We quickly bonded - a type of bond I didn't know birds were capable of.  She knew the sound of my footsteps - even the sound of my car.  She would be mostly silent for the majority of the day, and then hear my car pull up or my footsteps coming through the front door and she would start chirping up a storm.

In the early years when she could fly, her and I loved to play tag.  She'd sit on the roof of her cage and I'd take off down the hall way -- and she'd come zooming after me.  Of course we couldn't do this when Mom was around... as the very sight of Tiki outside the confines of her cage caused my mother to go into cardiac arrest.

Tiki's fierceness and bold nature earned her the nickname of "killer parakeet".  Though she did have a very sweet and gentle side, I learned on a few occasions not to cross her.  Once, while she was sitting on her cage roof gazing at herself in the mirror, I tried to give her a kiss on the back.  When I held her, she was fine with getting kissed and pet.. but once she was perched on her house.. she wanted to be left alone.  As I would lean in, she'd turn around and peck at me -- I'd try again.. and again, she'd whip around and peck.  Finally, with a slight laugh, I leaned in and kissed her... she whipped around like a shot.. and grabbed my nose with her beak... just enough to make it bleed on and off all night.  She taught me that when a bird says "no", she means it!

There are so many stories I could share about her, but there isn't enough memory on my hard-drive to contain them all.  She kept me laughing on a constant basis... especially on days when nothing else in the world seemed to make me smile.  Some of my fondest memories are just the two of us laying down, her nuzzled against my cheek... cooing her little heart out.

Her last day or so seemed to be rough on her.  We're not quite sure what happened -- perhaps it was a burst of energy that people say we get before we die -- perhaps it was something else... but she was going crazy the day before she passed away.  She would climb all over her cage trying to get out, and would keep falling from her perches, but would spring right back up and try again.  We knew something was wrong.  I'd take her out periodically and sit with her, and that would calm her down for a bit.

I couldn't sleep that night thinking of her, and around 12:30am I decided to check on her.  I lifted the towel over her cage and saw her sleeping on the floor.. when she saw me she darted up and again attempted to climb the walls of the cage, signaling she wanted out.  I took her out and over to the couch where we lay together for a while.  She was restless, but eventually settled near my cheek.. pulling gently on the whiskers of my goatee every now and then when I would move my head to glance in her direction.  I gave her a kiss on the back and returned her to her cage for her to sleep.

I dreaded waking up in the morning.  I knew that if she had survived the night I would have to contact the vet to have her put to sleep.  Her increased weakened state and inability to keep herself on a perch was a clear sign the tumor she had developed was finally taking it's toll... or her heart was simply too weak to carry on. 

I finally got out of bed around 11:30am.. thinking that if something had happened, my parents would have surely woken me up sooner.  As I went up the stairs, I noticed no one was home: Dad was on his walk and mom had gone to a doctor appointment.  As I turned to go into the kitchen, I noticed the towel was taken off her cage, and expected to see her napping on the bottom.  Sadly, I found she had passed... her little heart finally gave up after both my parents had left the house.

After taking a few minutes to compose myself I quietly laid her to rest in the garden in our back yard.  The rain that was falling seemed to echo the tears that were welling up in my eyes as I laid my "baby bird" in the ground.  The gift that God had graced me with for so long had now been returned to Him.

Theologians have argued for centuries whether or not animals have souls - and thus go to Heaven.  I'm not God.. nor a theologian, but after having the companionship of a dog for 13 years and a bird for nearly 10, I have come to the conclusion that they certainly do.  The way they bond with people, the insight into our souls that they seem to have tells me that there is more to them than just what we see on the outside.  It is my belief that God gives us these companions to remind man how to love unconditionally.. something we seem to forget often. 

The house is a very different place without Tiki... no chirps or squeaks... or squawks... radiating through the house.  That simple yet beautiful presence is now gone, and we all feel it.  I am consoled by a saying a friend told me when my dog passed away, and it can be modified for any animal who has touched our hearts: "Heaven would not heaven be, without my bird to welcome me."

Thanks for 10 years of companionship and love, Tiki-woman!  Fly free!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lent

"Remember Man that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return."

Ash Wednesday marks the start of the Lenten season... a time of penance, fasting and atonement for our sins.  We make small sacrifices throughout these 40 days to remind ourselves of the ultimate sacrifice Our Lord made of Himself on the cross.


I shall refrain from my usual rambling about the history of various Lenten practices.  If you miss these tidbits of information, you are welcome to view last year's Ash Wednesday post.

I'm always grumbling about how lazy Catholics have become.  Many only do what they feel they "have" to... just going through the motions and not putting any real effort or thought into what they are doing.  We've become obsessed with ourselves and concern only on what we "get out of it".  Faith isn't like that.  Our practices, customs and Mass are supposed to be about worshiping and glorifying God -- not making it "all about me".  If you're not "getting anything out of it", maybe you're not putting anything into it!

I did over hear a conversation recently that really made me laugh, and perfectly summed up the whole idea behind Lent. This conversation was between two women: "Ugh, Lent is almost here isn't it?" - "Yea, Ash Wednesday is this week."  - "I hate Lent.  What a pain in the ass." - "Oh yea... Jesus fasted and wandered the desert, stayed up all night alone in the garden, was beaten up and crucified for you.  And you have to give up meat on Friday, fast a little and maybe give up something extra for a few weeks.  Yea.. you poor baby."

That woman made my day! :-)


I found this above image while browsing the internet.  The author wanted to remind people that Lent isn't just about giving something up for 40 days (ie: chocolate), but it's for giving ourselves up to God everyday, and remembering all His human body had to endure.. giving our frail bodies the inspiration to keep going!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Letter to New York State

Dear New York State,

For over 10 years now I have had to work hard, pay my taxes and abide by the laws of the state.  I continue to work hard at a poor paying retail job while living with my parents all so I do not have to bother you for welfare and financial assistance.

When I was in school I was told to work hard, go to college and apply myself.  I was promised a world of opportunity would be opened to me.  I did just that.  I went to work out of High School to help pay for books and college tuition.  I started at a local Community College and eventually transferred to a University in the SUNY school system where I successfully earned a BA in History and a Master's in Education.

I still have yet to see the world of opportunity I was promised.  Instead, I still find myself making below the poverty line with no possibility for jobs in the field of education.  I read in the newspaper regularly about more budget cuts, teacher layoffs, school closings and district restructuring.  I along with many other competent and NYS certified teachers sit on the side lines while the doors of employment stay closed to us.

Like many of my classmates, I sought work as a substitute teacher looking to get my foot in the door.  What I have found is that the only door I can manage to get my foot into is the "exit".  Should I be fortunate enough to stumble across a district that may have a potential opening in my field, I become one of thousands of applicants for that one opening... usually to find that the job was eliminated all together for lack of funding.

As I work my retail job day after day, contemplating the vast amount of money I paid to attend New York State schools, and become New York State certified, and all the hoops I jumped through to meet the high teaching standards of New York State, I also get to work with the products of your school system.  The same school system that you are constantly making budget cuts to and from which you are eliminating staffing.

The educational budget cuts being made in this state and across the country have indeed trickled down to my job... where all day I have to take customers by the hand to help them do simple tasks in a store which they cannot seem to figure out on their own.  Young people can no longer follow directions, speak or write proper English or adequately comprehend what they read.

I can't help but wonder: if so many people like myself, who worked hard for an education and to be as independent as possible (resisting public assistance) can not find work, then what will become of this new "breed" of adult that our public school systems are producing?  Without the qualified staff, small classrooms, extracurricular programs and support staff in place in our schools, you are creating a new generation of adults who have been used to getting "pushed through" the system, lacking many of the basic tools it takes to survive in the world, and expect them to become contributing members of society?

You may be saving money in the short term, but I hate to think of the money you will be paying out in the very near future when these countless students walk out into the world as adults unable to stand on their own two feet.  I wonder how many of them will even be able to spell, "unemployment".

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Salmagundi!

Few things in life make me feel happier than a new hat.  Every season I think I have all the hats I possibly need... but then... I see it... another hat I simply cannot live without!!!  My porkpies are after all my signature piece!  I can't ever say no to one!

I wonder if there is a Betty Ford type clinic for people like me?

Maybe I am somehow related to Lucy Ricardo who could never pass up that new hat in the hat store window.

Speaking of hat stores.. I stumbled across a store in Boston last summer when I was tracking down a Panama straw diamond porkpie from Bigalli hats.  The company gave me a list of their American distributors to try and find the particular hat style I was looking for.

The last store on the list was Salmagundi.  They didn't have an online store (though, much to my great excitement, they appear to be creating one!), but I figured I had nothing to lose... so I sent my message off to cyber space oblivion and hoped for the best.

Literally within minutes, I got a reply from one of the shop owners, Jessen.  Do you know how often I have contacted companies and stores and don't get a response for days???  This was a good omen.

Sure enough, Salmagundi had the illusive hat in stock!  Jessen even did his best to find me a hat that would best compliment the shape of my head (long oval for those of you hat freaks who are "in the know" for hat termonology).  Granted, these hats come in sizes S - M - L - XL, but sometimes the shape does have a tendency to differ from hat to hat.

I gladly placed the order and in record timing, found the hip little Salmagundi hat box on my front porch containing my amazing new summer hat -- which was indeed a perfect fit!

Part of me wants to open up a hat store here in Buffalo, but knowing little about business... and also knowing there would probably be little demand in this area for one, it will remain a pipe dream.  But honestly, part of me wants to ditch the effort to look for the even more illusive teaching job, move to Boston, and work for Jessen and his crew!

Feel free to check out their blog that I have linked above.  You'll see they have much more than just hats.. though the hats are reason enough for me to love them!  If you're in Boston, stop by and see them in person -- or, if you're like me, you can wait eagerly for their online website to open.  :)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Things that go for walks in the night.

I will never ever join a gym.  Ever.  My form of exercise has always been going for walks.  It helped me years ago drop from 305 pounds and a 52 waist down to 180.  Now that my weight has ballooned back up, I have decided to get walking again.

I'm not a fan of walking during the day.  I'm a night owl by nature and sunburn passing a window... so I generally get the urge to wander about after dark.  This is ironic since I was afraid of the dark as a kid.  Now, it's common for me to be strolling around my neighborhood at 10 or 11pm.

Tonight, I ventured out into the cold night air around 10... I love winter walks provided the ice isn't bad.  I do so much better in the colder temps, and can walk longer.  The only problem I seem to have is that my back (I have lower back problems) tenses up more in the winter temperatures.. causing me to rely on my walking stick a bit more than I do in the warmer months.

I got a few blocks from my house.. lost in thought.. minding my own business, when I see a strange black figure walking towards me on the opposite side of the street... carrying a lantern of sorts... and a walking a little dog.  It scared the hell out of me..  at first, it looked like the Grim Reaper was taking Toto for a walk!  Gripping my walking stick tighter.. ready to beat the be-jebus out "death" should "it" decide to cross the street.. I kept staring at this thing walking parallel to me.

As I got closer... from my side of the street mind you... I noticed it was a person (a woman from the sound of the voice talking to the dog), wearing the most bizarre long coat I have ever seen.  Even the cuffs of the sleeves hung down in a flowing manner.. just like you'd expect to see on a Grim Reaper costume... it even looked like the coat had a hood!  The "lantern" it looked like she was holding turned out to be an LED head-band flashlight that hikers use so they can free their hands for climbing.  What an odd outfit to be wearing to walk one's dog!  And here I thought wearing pajama pants and slippers to go shopping was messed up.

I live in a rather quiet and safe suburb north of Buffalo... had I been in the city proper I would not have been all that surprised...but not in my area.  Here, the only thing I generally come across are people in those annoying matching velour track suits... with the matching headband of course.  But death?  Nope.. never expected to run into him... err... her out for a stroll.