Archive for September, 2015

Home is where the heart is

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

What does it mean: “Home is where the heart is?” The heart is just a big muscle that contracts at will, and we are only aware of it when it loses rhythm …. We ignore the heart most of the time until it flops around, or slows, or quickens. The heart must be carefully and consistently worked in order to function efficiently for 90 or more years. If we work the heart, it remains supple, healthy, and rhythmic. If we let fat grow on an unworked heart, it becomes sluggish, inefficient, sick. Saint James wrote (in his letter chapter 5) to the rich and priveleged, “you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.” Yikes… Like pigs or bulls, fattened for the slaughter, hardly able to move. I don’t want that. So what does that have to do with “home?” When I visited many of you, I spoke of “home” and how I was ready to go home. I moved from the Keys which was not “home” and I wanted to return to Miami which is almost a foreign city! I went to the post office the other day and as I stood in line for about 15 minutes, I realized that for that 15 minutes, I did not understand a single word that was spoken by the 20 or so people in line. Same with the Winn Dixie and the Home Depot. I find myself saying, “Whaaaat?” when people speak to me? Even at my church, announcements after Mass are not all that legible. So why want to be in this place? I was brought up here, educated here, married here, my roots are here, the lake is so lovely, and I put my heart down on this lake. I want to serve here on a regular basis. I want to exercise my heart muscle here. When we stayed with Chuck’s cousins in Connecticut, they talked of their church and serving at the food kitchen, and other activities, and I thought, by committing to a place, and being available and able to attend meetings and events; to work in our “home” community, we exercise our serving heart. We exercise love which is refreshed and strengthened. Chuck hasn’t settled yet. He wants to travel, but I pray he will come around, to love this lake home, and to serve in some small way like he used to do with Florida Highway Patrol. I am still cleaning up “piles!” I balanced 2 out of 3 neglected check books, I organized all the credit card files (will be changing addresses and then filing them away), I have been organizing the art room, and today we are getting cable so we can watch the Miami Hurricanes play Thursday night. Chuck and I have been out working in the back yard. We put up a swing (with the help of our friend Dave), and I have been pulling weeds and making the garden borders pretty again. I will plant two new hibiscus bushes which I bought yesterday. Indeed one has bloomed in its pot this morning with a huge single dark orange/coral bloom. Perfect. I will keep that one close by the art room window. One pile at a time! All this place is of Chuck’s and my design. Home is indeed where the heart is. May you find the peace of a place where you can relax and enjoy the beauty of this world. May that place be where you find your happily beating heart. God bless you!

Beautiful arrival

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

The Pope’s arrival was beautiful! I liked the pageantry of a shining white plane with American and Vatican flags poking out the windows! Beautiful! I have been watching the Pope’s arrival and I pray we exuberant Americans only exercise love this week. We can return to our “normal” contentious behavior next week, but maybe the graces poured out on America this week will lighten and make more gracious our dialogue and actions. Today is Yom Kippur, a day of reparation, sorrow for sin, and promise to do better. Perhaps those of us who have been making unfriendly and downiight mean statements about anything (be it political or personal) could reconsider and try to do better to make our country a more peaceful place. I for one, am trying to do better. Chuck and I have been unpacking, cleaning house, moving furniture around, filling Goodwill bins, and generally focusing on “making a home in Miami”. Chuck traveled down to Big Pine Key while I worked on filling bags with stuff that I have stored in file cabinets in my art room for way too long. Chuck returned with 5 months worth of mail that was delivered to us in Big Pine Key so I will be inundated for a while and paying a few neglected bills. … God bless you!

The first fire causes me to reflect

Friday, September 18th, 2015

Home at last, I have plugged in my PC and it works! thanks to my friend Mike who shares his service with me. Thanks Mike!!! Today was very busy. I woke up about 5:30am and waited until 6 to very quietly begin to unpack the car. Chuck drove all the entire trip, so I let him sleep whenever I could. After unpacking, I went to church (St Timothy has 8am Mass every day!), went to the Xfinity place to order cable and wifi (service guy asked if my husband’s name was Perry. “No…. OH he owned the house before us!” The last time this house had cable was 2003! So I am sure some recabling is in order. Leaving the Xfinity store, I shopped at the Winn Dixie in the same shopping center. WOW shopping for food. That was interesting. We have been gone, eating in restaurants, cruise ships and other people’s kitchens (thank you friends) for 5 months! I bought only fresh veggies and milk as I think I have a freezer full and our larder is full of canned goods. I wonder if ever we had a catastrophe and we needed to provide our own food how long we could eat out of our larder (pantry). A long time if one doesn’t mind a constant diet of garbanzo beans. I came home to empty a lot of suitcases and bags, eat and… then I collapsed. 4 hours later I wondered if this is depression? Am I hiding out in a cool dark bedroom? Covers pulled up? Better get up, shower, put clothes on, curl my too long hair and get back in the main stream. So then I thought what did I learn on the 5 month holiday? No more 5 month holidays! Oh well yes. But also I learned that I/we all need to take quiet time and stare at a fire we just built. Stare into the flame and wonder what it is doing, what it looks like, think about what Moses saw. That kind of thing. I told Mark and Karla I tried to paint a camp fire once. It is very difficult as it is constantly moving and changing, but that is what the artist does: The artist, like the bird, sits out on a branch, singing his heart out! The bird sings not because he has a message, but because he has a song. The artist paints not to depict, but because he has a song. So all of us. Gaze into the fire, the sun rise, the sunset. Look at the amazing wonder of creation and then turn and tell what you saw! (thank you Chuck for building the fire; thanks Mark for the bird image!) God bless you.

things to thank God for

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Driving homeward on interstate 75 at a safe high speed the tire indicator let out a loud beeping and a yellow light flashed on the dash. We were just short of Alligator Alley. Just shy of 5pm. 3 miles at 40 miles per hour in the right hand lane takes a century. We turned right at the exit. 50 50 chance. But I had seen a Mobile sign to the right. What do I see? A tire choice and total car care station. One tire coming apart in 3 places 2 other tires bad. They have tires to fit. Do it. Chuck asked me if I want to stop. No. I want to go home if he thinks he can do it. Home is 2 hours away. The guy just came in…. “Folks you are all set” magic words. Take out the credit card and we are on our way again. Thank God for indicator light that works. God bless you. Homeward bound.

Winter is a comin’ in!

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Good morning! We woke up in Brunswick, Georgia to turn on the TV: lots of rain (finally) in Florida where all summer has been drought (problem is we are about to drive home…), snow in Oregon! and talk on the debate last night. Suddenly the 15 Republican candidates are all before us in a debate where Donald Trump did not talk all through it. He was quiet at times, but he did speak out in some ways that make us wonder if he is presidential… He and Bush really got into it… I saw Carly Fiorina shine and I want to look up the Hewlett Packard/Tom Perkins history on Carly and look harder at the Christie bridge controversy in New Jersey…. There were a lot of Ronald Reagan references… Lindsey was good in the pre-debate and Carley seemed to rise to the occasion. They raised some good issues about the Federal government staying out of state law making… This is a constitutional issue. Please look at the candidates speak and do some research. Who has character? Who might be able to lead us away from the brink of terrorism and war in mid east? We will be on the road today, picking up 3 bags at cousins Laura and Dennis and heading home. I’m making lists of things to focus on… All in it’s own time will be accomplished. God bless you.

A Cheap Joe’s visit

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Artists who get catalogs get a Cheap Joe’s catalog full of neat artsy stuff and deals and sales. Cheap Joe’s is the Mecca of some artists. Joe owned a chain of about 8 pharmacies here in Boone and because he was an artist who couldn’t get art supplies in the area, he kept a pretty large selection of art materials in the pharmacy.  He soon saw the light, sold the drug store chain, and turned his business into full time art supplies. He is up on a hill here in Boone. He fills the summer with summer art classes and he does a lot of philanthropic activities like taking art supplies to New Orleans after hurricane Katrina.  Mark and I will be visiting Cheap Joe’s even though neither of us needs A Thing! but there is always something on sale at the store. He generally sells things he has little bits of that he removes from the catalog. One year I got two large canvasses at a ridiculously cheap price, and other years I have picked up paints and brushes on sale. Today with our homage to Cheap Joe we will also eat at “Bella’s,” an Italian restaurant that the dog can go to! It’s chilly on the mountain here in Boone; I feel that autumn is a comin’ in! God bless you.

Heading home

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

We are on the road headed south. Drove from Pittsburgh to Wytheville, Virginia. I think we have been here before. It is a crossroads between I77 north south and I83 east west. We are on I77 south and might get home as early as Thursday after picking up 3 bags we left at cousin’s house in North Port Fla. We are going to go to Log cabin restaurant which if I am correct, has shops and a big garden out back. For the moment we are sipping wine and watching an NCIS rerun. Watch a movie tonight and onto the road tomorrow morning. Most restaurants closed for Sunday. Did manage to get barbeque ribs and prime rib…. Yum. Going to stop in Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina for a run at Cheap Joe’s for art supplies. As if I needed them! God bless you.

Remember

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

With all the remembering and paying tribute we have done on this trip, and whenever we are with the men of the armed forces, I think more and more about our role as United States in the conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. I’ve read op ends that we can’t do anything in the middle east with arms and amunition, bombs and violence (it just makes them hate us more), and we only anger and separate more when we march into foreign countries to try to help. Except when we marched into Europe, but then we were asked. Last night at our banquet table we had a spirited discussion of the wisdom of admitting even 10,000 Syrian refugees as we can’t really identify them… The conversation was spirited and laden with questions of our role in the world and who is going to “pay for it.” I’m homeward bound to my own little homestead on the lake. Homeward bound and praying for peace. Last night at the banquet as we always have, a table was set for one… no one sits there as the table represents the missing in action and prisoners of war. The table is small as the soldier is alone in a small place somewhere. A single candle is lighted as the only light he may see… representing the light we keep burning in memory. During the table setting ceremony, the word remember is repeated. We drink a silent toast with water as the missing cannot respond to us, and they have no wine. We drink and remember. What are we remembering? Christian values of “care for my brother” buck up against how are we going to be able to continue “caring for my brother”… Just what is it exactly that we are remembering? That war is hell and we don’t want to go there? At the end of the ceremony, turning from the silent little table in our midst, we pray for the meal we are about to eat, for those in service, and for those who have fallen or are lost. For our entertainment a troup of children called “the North Star Kids” (ranging in age from ages 8 to 15) perform for us a Broadway medley and patriotic songs. They are brilliant and beautiful. They sing: “Come young citizens of the world; we have one dream of peace, prosperity, and love for all mankind.” They sing the Grand Old Flag and God bless America. God bless the kids and grant them the peace and prosperity we have fought for all our lives. God bless us travelers today as we head “home.” God bless you.

We remember

Friday, September 11th, 2015

One of the patches on a submariner’s vest reads, 48,000 lives lost in Viet Nam. We Remember. I’m sitting in the chairs set up to watch the memorial service at the USS Requin, SS 481. The time marked today is in airplanes and souls lost September 11, 2001, but also today we will remember boats and souls lost from the inception of submarine service in the United States. The men are trying to get the Hunley added to the list as she is truely the first… Even though she was a Confederate States boat. We were brothers. I’m surrounded by hundreds of old sailors this morning, many WWII and many, like Chuck who can’t claim a “named war” but wear badges remembering the cold war. The flag is coming in… After the presentation of colors and the National Anthem, our speaker, a submarine captain who was in the Pacific on September 11,2001, said that day our lives changed and we are in a war longer than any war we have ever fought. Submarines are a small force, but are accountable for great enemy losses, and, as I have cited in previous blogs, have the highest % of losses of all services. As the Silent Service, we remember our losses with the tolling of a ship’s bell. We remember the lost beginning in 1915, and ending with SS593 April 10, 1963 the Thresher and SS589 May 27, 1968 the Scorpion. Cold War losses. Before closing with prayer, a poem was read: “Sailor on your final dive, do you wonder, ‘Am I dead?’ No. You made your stand at the bottom of the sea, and you are locked in the hearts of all sailors. Sailor rest your oars.” The memorial ended with a 21 gun salute, Taps, and a prayer: ” We pray for protection for all service members who are in harm’s way. We ask our Lord to let the healing begin.” God bless you.

what? more food

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

I cannot find words to say how awesome corned beef from a restaurant named Sammy’s is. Yum. I ate corned beef sandwich washed down with red wine and followed by a raspberry sweet that just leaves me rubbing my tummy… Yum. Tomorrow we have plans to return to the Strip for seafood at Rolands. I forgot to mention we stopped into a beautiful church today called “old St Patrick”. Beautiful. How I’ll be able to sleep on this belly is a mystery. We have biscotti from the Strip district to dip in our coffee in the morning. Yum. Sleep well with sweet dreams. Sweet. God bless you.

Pittsburgh Strip District Food Tour

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

What I missed not being brought up in Pittsburgh? Aunts, Mom and Grandmothers in the kitchen cooking. When my mother rushed us out of Pittsburgh before I even turned 3, I lost a great experience. I remember hot streets and beaches in Miami, but not FOOD. Today as I walked around I shared a few photos on text messages (I think my sisters think I am crazy) and now I’m offering some day to share photos with anyone who asks (as soon as we get home and I print them). Thanks for walking with me if I texted you today as I sniffed and ate my way along Penn Avenue from near the Point of the 3 rivers, down to 25th street in “the Strip District.” Back in the day, food used to come in to food warehouses and distribution points (like it does to Seattle’s Pike Market, or New York’s markets), and restaurants grew up right there. So today we ate pirogis, mele, Italian sausage and pepperoni rolls with home made sauce, cinnamon bread, biscotti, and Chuck bought salami and parma ham…. WHAT is my blood work going to look like? Perhaps I better just give in and let the doctor call me a fatty and take the pills he keeps threatening me with. And, burp, I am thinking about a nap! Well it was hot out there. God bless you.

God bless September 11 dead

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

I choose to use the word dead in my title rather than victims, because we are talking about heroes. Many people fought to live and fought against evil on September 11. So today at the submarine convention we remembered heroes. In case the Twin Towers and the Pentagon dominate our memory, a post script to the day is that a United Airlines flight 93 left Newark airport with 33 passengers, one unborn baby, 4 hijackers and 7 flight crew crashed at Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The plane was delayed in take off from Newark 25 minutes. That was enough time for people on that plane to hear from friends and relatives that airplanes had attacked at 3 sites. Headed for San Francisco, the plane was overtaken by 4 hijackers at 9:28am and she banked and turned over Cleveland to head on a SE course headed presumably for the White House or Camp David which is 85 miles SE of the crash site. No one knows exactly what the planned final destination was. I tried to imagine how I would have acted that day. 13 people placed 37 phone calls to report what was happening onboard. When it became clear that their plane was to be used as a weapon, the 33 passengers and crew took a vote and decided to counter attack. Probably locked into shock, fear, and grief, they prayed the Our Father (this was heard on cell phones) and then, presumably led by Todd Beamer, they rushed the cockpit using a flight attendant food cart and boiling water prepared for burning the highjackers by the flight attendants. At 9:57am the cock pit voice recorder recorded shouts, thumps, crashes, breaking glass and plates. Investigators speculate that the hijackers remained in control of the aircraft, but the plane pitched onto its back and at 10:03am drove into the ground at 563 miles per hour exploding with a huge fireball. First responders arrived within 15 minutes but there was nothing but a crater and a large debris field that today has been thoroughly investigated and covered with wild flowers and grasses. This debris field is surrounded by a black low wall. The plane was 18 minutes from Washington DC when it crashed coming to ground from the NW. The descent path is marked by a visitor center / museum on a hill, and a long white wall with the passenger and crew names carved on it. Not yet completed is a walk way out to the point of impact that today is a temporary walkway and a large boulder. We went first to the Memorial Plaza which is a slab of concrete that borders the debris field. From there you can view the descent path and a giant boulder that was the point of impact. We placed a wreath on the Memorial Plaza. When I read the names of the dead, one name Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas was followed by and unborn child. What a loss. We then went to a small chapel that was originally a Lutheran church sold and turned into a feed and seed barn and purchased by Father Al Mascherino to be a permanent memorial chapel for the tragedy. The tiny chapel stands in Shanksville, on the flight path of the doomed airliner, on a holy mountain, as our host suggested today, and is a beautiful testament to the faith of a people who saw the need for a place of refuge and prayer for peace. Father Al, passed away, wrote “Tread gently on our hills. Welcome visitor, tread gently.” You are on ground hallowed by people who, in the final moments of their lives, demonstrated courage, strength, purpose and commitment. In the sanctuary is a lamp that is shaped like the crater, yet a perpetual light shines. Above it flies an airplane. There are beautiful stained glass windows in this little chapel. One is a gift from Congregation Emanu-El Israel signifying the grace and wisdom of God. There is a mural with rolling thunder clouds and 40 stars called “How Great Thou Art.” As we left the church, Father asked each submariner to toll the giant steel bell built in 1860. One toll for each soul. 40 tolls. It is called thunder bell because the people of this peaceful place heard thunder one day and it changed our lives. We ate lunch and were entertained by a wonderful trio of actors who sang patriotic songs and celebrated American heroes starting with Patrick Henry’s speech. It was a wonderful 45 minute celebration of America with all the heroic songs including God Bless America and the National Anthem. The ride back to Pittsburgh was a long one but the host put in a John Wayne biography so we watched John Wayne for 2 hours from his first film to his last (the Shootist). Wayne died after receiving a medal from the White House “John Wayne American.” Pray for America and for the world as refugees leave home in numbers that remind us of the Irish exodus and the Exodus of Jews to Israel. We still have the opening of the convention tonight with a Welcome Aboard Party. God bless you.

Pittsburgh family!

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Last evening after we unpacked at the convention hotel, we were picked up by Marion and Bob who took us up to the top of Mount Washington to a lovely seafood restaurant with a “to die for” view of 3 rivers, all of Pittsburgh, and most of Pennsylvania if you have an active imagination! We looked down on the submarine we will visit this week and on the baseball and football stadiums. My cousin Bob joined us with his friend Maureen so we had a table of 6 to share old stories about my Uncle Bob and my dad and their family growing up. This morning we started Labor Day with a 2 1/2 hour parade that was key noted by Joe Biden. When we realized the parade was going right by our window, we watched from the 17th floor. The sub vets walked in the parade with a car trailing a little submarine that is carried to all the conventions. Marion picked us up at 12:30 and we went to the church (St John the Baptist) where our grandparents (Michael and Sarah) were married July 1, 1908. But the church has been sold and purchased by a company that turned it into a brew pub. Oh dear. I took photos of the aisle and where the altar would have been (it is now the brew kegs)… we sat in pews and ate and drank brewery beer. Then Marion took us through the old neighborhood where my father and uncles and aunts grew up, but the houses are gone, razed and a hospital was built on the land. We drove on Winebiddle Avenue where Sarah went to Ursuline Academy which has been purchased but it looks like it is still used as a school. Drove then to the Calvary Cemetary where, under a Celtic cross with the name Mccarthy on it, our grandparents, my dad, and my sister Annette among other family members are buried. We dug the grass and dirt off Annette’s little stone and I have to call and ask the cemetary folks to put some base under it. That was a teary time… Marion’s parents are buried there too. We parted promising to find some more time this week to see some amazing place that Pittsburgh has to offer. Tomorrow we begin the convention with a trip to the flight 93 memorial site. God bless the people who died in the September 11 horror that will be memorialized this week. God bless you.

Pittsburgh. Home again.

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

How odd it felt to see the first image of the Pittsburgh skyline from the Interstate 376 which dropped us into “down town” and when we reached our final destination at the Westin Convention hotel on Penn Avenue. All my life, I’ve heard of St Francis Hospital, Milvale Avenue, Calvary Cemetary and other places that this week will become familiar. I’ve actually been here twice with my Mom and one more time with Chuck but that was to drive in and visit Aunt Jean and cousins Henry and Lois, now gone to heaven. All my family comes from Pittsburgh, Mom and Dad’s parents came here from Ireland and Italy… And so I settle in to a hotel room and look out the window and try to imagine what my cousins Marion and Bob will be like “after all these years”. I actually met them at a family reunion in California about 15 years ago… but that was hurried and, I hardly remember. On top of this exciting reunion is the submarine convention. The hotel is already hosting some submariners and the hospitality suite is open. So. Onward, into the week. This is what we left Miami May 1 to do. This is the final stop in a long journey that took us “while we are at it” all the way to St Petersburg, Russia, to England for a month, to the Queen Mary 2 special anniversary crossing. This is the final destination after dumping our car on willing cousins Laura and Dennis, the wedding in Atlanta, the visits to Al and Shannon, Karla and Mark, Katie and John, Andy and his brother, Moira and Dave, Linda and Joe, all the Larson cousins. On this vacation I celebrated my 68th birthday and Chuck and I celebrated 45 years of marriage. Time to go home! To hang laundry on the line, to sleep on my own sheets and pillows, cook in our kitchen, clean the oven, ride around in the pontoon boat. You name it. Home. I will write about what happens here, but sufficient to say. Thank God for a successful journey. No scares (beyond the big one in Talinn, Estonia where Chuck was pick pocketed and got his wallet back…) and no illnesses (except for the unholy nose blowing due to spring in England…). Thank God for a great journey and now dear Lord bless the rest of our journey and our meetings with more cousins and many submariners. God bless America, and God bless us all.

Cousins on parade!

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

We arrived in Hartford to be celebrated at an old mill turned restaurant. Ate Sunday brunch with 10 cousins! Took photos and sent off to the cousins who aren’t here. We celebrate family this week as we remember “Old Uncle Horace” whose mustache tickled and who had a great old car. We sat in the back yard of the house in Waterford Uncle Horace built that has come down to Chuck’s sister Thelma and we remembered and told stories. We are spending a lot of time with cousins Bill and Barbara Keish/Poirot whose Mom Chuck’s Aunt Georgie was a beautiful happy woman who went to heaven too early. I never met Georgie but I’ve heard she sang and danced and loved life! Cousins Kenneth and Barbara have children Charles (who lives in Virginia) and Roberta and her husband Mark and 3 very accomplished children whom we are visiting. The grand parents (Barbara and Kenneth) have a downstairs wing of the house and the kids are at one end of upstairs with Mom and Dad on the other end of upstairs. We have a lovely corner bedroom of one son who has gone “off” to college. We have attended a soccer scrimmage and Chuck went to (a very boring) soccer game that finished after 2 overtimes a 0 tie. He is talking about going to a UConn football game. Today we drove out to visit cousin Barbara Poirot who just had surgery and she is doing fine. Thank God. Tomorrow we will go to Mark Twain home in Hartford. Busy busy. We cook large and varied meals as there are about 8 people at any given meal! I’m off to wash lettuce to use with the farm raised tomatoes and cucumbers that abound this time of year. It’s hot in CT, but the trees are already showing orange… God bless you!