Another Year


The holiday season is sort of officially over (although my son is out of school for the rest of this week). My family suffered through a bout of sickness for much of our time off. My son was officially diagnosed with the flu after being sick on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (yes, he had the shot). My significant other was also sick and seems to finally be recovering. We were supposed to go do family things on Christmas Eve but we couldn’t. We were supposed to go to midnight mass (I’d never been). But all of that fell through as I spent the day surrounding by vomiting and fever. I decided to escape the sick house and went to the 7:30 church service. The church was packed. And it was lovely. It was greened and not only were the candles on the pillars lit, but there were tea lights placed throughout the cathedral.

I sat alone in the last pew. And then, I was asked to bring the communion wafers up to the altar. Let’s just say that after being at home with the sickness all day, I was wearing jeans, slippers and a long sleeved t-shirt featuring Kona Brewing. And I was surrounded by churchgoers who were decked out in their holiday finery. The communion wafers were in this big koa bowl. And I could see in my mind, all the things that could go wrong. I pictured myself tripping up one of the one-two-three steps to the altar. Pictured me falling and all of the communion for the packed cathedral going flying in the air. It is the kind of thing that happens in your mind in slow motion. Thankfully, this did not happen. I performed my job as asked. And I was really glad that I had gone to that service. I felt fortified. I even sang a song or two (mostly because the songs were not only Christmassy but familiar (Joy to the World). And I went home and soldiered through the sickness with my family.

Christmas Day was not great. Yes, there was Chinese food (it’s a thing with us) but there was more vomiting. There was fever that would not seem to go away. But everyone rallied to go to the movies on Wednesday. I really wanted to see The Shape of Water. Not only did I really want to see it. I really wanted to love it. I am a tough critic. I don’t see movies much so when I do, I want it to be good. And this movie had great reviews. But I never love anything.

The theater we were in seemed to have suffered a bit of ceiling collapse due to the heavy rain the day before. My friend and I sat separately from my family. As soon as the movie started, I just knew that I would love it. It’s hard to explain it but this movie is the whole package. And it was like being dipped in wax. Just fully immersed. I worried about the full frontal female nudity. The sex scenes and violence. And how my son was reacting. He was sitting behind me. It turns out that he took the sex and nudity in stride but the violence was a little intense for him. I understood. It was a little intense for me. But it was such a lovely and wonderful romance.

I can report that my family seems to be mostly better. And I can also report that my two holiday respites were really wonderful. So different but both sort of serving the same purpose. And I can honestly say that I recommend both. Highly.

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Holiday Discrepancies

My son is a week before Christmas baby. We try to keep it separate and I am really good at that, I think. He will be turning 13 in a week or so. A big birthday. He has dictated to us that we are watching Christmas movies leading up to the big day. He has definite scheduling opinions this year. We really wanted to start with “It’s a Wonderful Life” but it was unavailable to us for free or otherwise (set to record on the DVR later this week) so we rented the original “Miracle on 34th Street.” I really love this movie. I love when they bring the mail into the court room. I love when they go to the house at the end. I just love it.

My son had a decidedly different review of it. To put it bluntly, he was kind of angry at the end. I was like, what is going on? He told me that he thought that the girl was totally spoiled and did not deserve a house when she had a rich mom and a big apartment. I was kind of taken aback and a little irritated at first. And I tried to change his mind. But he was adamant. He asked why she got to have a house and what about the homeless kids who have nowhere to live. It was hard to argue with him. He said that he did not like the movie and that he was not planning on watching it again.

Now I wonder how he will feel about “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Will he find the storyline offensive in some way? I think about the story and I can’t think of anything that he may not approve of. I do find it amusing, our completely different takes on our first Christmas movie.

Aside from the fake holiday news of the movies, we have had some real life Santa action in our lives this week. Suffice to say that it involved a car that was going to be donated to charity and then the charity ended up being someone in my family. It is hard to express the amount of appreciation and love that I have for the person who did this. It was the biggest and most wonderful gesture of just taking care. Taking care of the people you love. The utmost of kindness in what seems to be an increasingly unkind world.

This and the fact that my people on the ground in NY are actively watching out for my mom. She is going through a rough patch and although I worry about her, I worry less because she is being taken care of. While moving work meetings and taking a long drive up island don’t seem like a big deal, they are actually pretty darn huge.

I am glad that the real life Christmas story in our lives is so much better than any that we could watch. Inarguably so.

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Everyone Likes Strawberries


It is the end of the year. It is December. Close to Christmas and my son’s 13th birthday. There are so many things to be done and I continue to mostly not do any of them. I find my self preoccupied with my own internal musings. My own gloom and doom outlook. All of the things that could go wrong.

I am trying not to but sometimes it is hard. In a world of undoing healthcare and taking away public lands and restricting access to contraception and awarding tax breaks to those least in need of it. I am sometimes questioning many things. What am I doing? What have I been doing? What should I be doing? Is it just too late? Have I let my own fear prevent me from doing what I should have, could have done? It all seems to feed into my ever continuing existential crisis. And I don’t know how to get that out of my head.

I know that I need to let things go. I know that I am lucky. That I am blessed. I know these things. But it is still difficult. A friend was recently diagnosed with a serious disease (thankfully her prognosis is very good). I think of that and know that I should just let it all go.

I am trying. I keep going to church. I can honestly say that I love just being there. There is something about its physical structure that just speaks to my soul. The Musical Director spoke during a service recently and he compared the Cathedral to a “thin place” which he explained is a term used to describe a place in time and space “between heaven and earth that has grown thin. A place where the sacred and the secular meet….a porthole into the spiritual world” (to paraphrase a bit). This appeals to me. Deep inside. And I do believe this because I feel it. I feel it when I am there.

I try to take that feeling with me. When I am not physically at the Cathedral. I suppose that is what Father Moki would call, keeping Jesus in your heart. Perhaps that is what it is. For sure, I hear Fr. Moki’s voice sometimes. And this happened to me this weekend. I was approached by a homeless man asking for money in the parking lot of Safeway. I initially turned him away but then I remembered that Fr. Moki had told us that he does not give money to people but will ask if they want food. After putting the groceries in the car, I found this man and asked him if he wanted a sandwich or something. I was expecting a request for, I don’t know what but he asked me for fruit and I ended up buying him a container of strawberries. And I tell this story, because it makes me feel badly. And it makes me feel badly because of how surprised I was that this man wanted to have strawberries. But then, he is just like me, except homeless (and apparently a Marine veteran) and I like strawberries. So why shouldn’t he want strawberries. But I hate that this choice surprised me.

But I continue trying. Trying to not be surprised. To not think that someone else, maybe not as blessed as I am, would like strawberries. Because I know that that could be me. Could have been me. That the decisions made could have been completely different. That nothing is guaranteed. And that is what I am trying to keep in my heart. To keep in my head. That everyone likes strawberries.

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I have embarked on this sort of odd endeavor. You know how the only mail that you ever get is junk. Or bills. And never anything real. From anyone. Ever? Well, I’ve taken it upon myself to single handedly fix that. If you are in my contacts in my phone that is.

I started doing this a while ago. And it definitely raises questions. Sometimes the question is, who exactly is this person? How did I know them? Sometimes I am really not sure of the answer. This happened to me today in the “E” section of my contacts. I had a vague recollection of this person but that was all. I googled around for him. I figured out that he was the friend of a couple that I was friends with who are no longer a couple. And I am no longer coupled with the person that I was with at the time. The internet is a useful tool when trying to ID people. He is a FB friend with the woman from that long-ago couple and I was able to track him down. I have to decide if sending him this random card from completely out of the blue is more stalking than doing something nice. I’m unsure. I have addressed the envelope and will have to consider it.

There are so many random individuals in my contact list. Some are people that I know from work. Some are people that I have known for years. One of my closest friend’s entire family is in there. Her husband and daughter will be receiving mail from me. They are all in the “D” section.

I sent a card to a retired co-worker who is on a mission in Mexico. To current co-workers who I see frequently. And some I see rarely. Sometimes I get responses from people who receive cards. Sometimes I don’t.

One co-worker provided me with a bunch of notecards. She gave me some she had kicking around her place and extras of a set that employees had been offered where I work. I am using them all. I have taken to buying interesting stamps. Right now, I have sharks and Disney villains.

I started out explaining why I was sending these people mail when I sent it. But then I stopped. I decided that it sounded like an excuse. And sort of insincere. So I don’t do that anymore. I have no idea what the people who receive these cards and I never hear from think about them. I do know that when I do hear from people, they are happily surprised and tend to like it.

Interestingly enough, in church the other day, our pastor gave a sermon talking about how, he is so appreciative when he receives anything that his handwritten. He said that there was something spiritual about putting pen to paper and writing down the things that come out of your head. I don’t know if I feel the same way about it but I do know that this small exercise has been interesting for me. To revisit my, sometimes, very distant past. To reconnect. To reach out. And to take some time to do something that is screenless. And maybe spiritual, depending on who you ask.

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Sometimes it’s better to not look up

There was a bit too much drama at my building this afternoon. I was in the kitchen cooking asparagus from Costco that I had bought last week and had left in the fridge. I had just finished and joined my son in his room when I heard yelling. From outside. My son went to go look outside the kitchen window. We are on the ground floor. I joined him.

He said he saw the yelling guy and that he was in the front part of our building where the pool is. He described him to me, shirt color, man bun. I could not see him. My son got all worked up. Told me not to do anything. Not to go outside. Not to tell his dad. I told him that the yelling guy had nothing to do with him or with us. Soon a policewoman showed up. She was talking into her radio and looking up at the building. Many more police cars showed up. An ambulance. It soon became apparent that there was someone on the outside of our building on an upper floor. And it also became apparent that it was not the guy with the bun, since they had taken him to the ambulance. But there were still people gesturing up. At our building. The face of which I could not see.

Everyone who was outside just stopped. All the people on the sidewalks stopped. And looked up at my building. There was a woman diagonally across the street from my window under a tree. The  policewoman asked someone I could not see what his name was and was told it. Another woman came out from the building, looked up at the face of it, called the man’s name and then physically shrank back. As if the situation had become more precarious. The woman under the tree had not moved at all.

A man showed up in the pool area of the building looking up and talking to the person up there. He was trying to get him to go back inside. That everything would be all right. It seemed like an eternity. The yelling guy was called back from the ambulance. He stood there looking up. They all stood there looking up. From my window, I could only see the reactions of the bystanders, the police and the people trying to save this person. And finally, he climbed back inside. He was told to swing his leg over so I can only imagine that he may have been sitting on the railing that the upper levels have outside of their sliding glass window. There is not a lanai but a small ledge, big enough for a potted plant, although all of these areas are supposed to be clear.

Then, applause. From the bystanders. And it was all over. I took my son to tutoring and when I came back the ambulance was parked in the back of our building, in front of my door. I chatted briefly with the guy who was with the ambulance. He said that it was a good outcome. And he was right.

I did not want to go outside when it was happening because I did not want to see. I did not want to see this person jump or even slip off (it started raining just as it all began). I did not want to see him dangling from the building. There was enough anxiety just watching the reactions of the bystanders and his loved ones. And I was not involved in any way.

We had been talking yesterday about our building’s façade. About how it is this weird anomaly of windows. I love it. At night, if tenants have not closed their curtains or blinds, the entire building becomes this microcosm of life. Small squares with different scenes playing out. My son said to me, when I took him to tutoring, that he was surprised that someone like that would be in our building. I told him that where you live tells nothing about who you are and we are all just people with the things we have in our lives going on. But I know that when I look at our building, with its views into everyone’s lives that I will not forget what happened today. Even though I did not see it. I will remember that the squares are not always filled with happiness. And it does not matter where you live. And I will be glad that today’s ending was not tragic.

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Churched Up

These days I go to church. I am a church goer. It is an unexpected thing that happened to me. It was something that I would have scoffed at. But turning fifty, it is not for the weak and I was looking for more. And I still wonder at it all, the church, the teachings, the believing and I don’t know where I stand on it. Despite that, I continue to go. And I like to go. And I want to go. The priest at my church is an interesting guy. He is young (at least to fifty year old me – although he is a few years older than I am). He is from Hawaii and many of his sermons weave in his past, growing up on Guam, his family on the Big Island and native Hawaiian culture and history. And his sermons inevitably touch me in some way. Make me think about my life. The choices I have made. The choices that I make daily.

Part of last week’s sermon was that we, as parishioners, as members of our church, are the ones responsible for bringing in more people. For increasing the numbers of the congregation. We were told that this could come about as others see us as being contributing members to our community. Being examples. Not necessarily proselytizing (as an aside, I spelled that correctly on the first try). I was not sure how I felt about that. I am still new to this whole church thing. I feel like I am still feeling my way around the organized religion thing. It seems like a good fit but I’m still not sure. So for me, I don’t know how I feel about asking anyone to join me at church.

But, I will say this. My church, the Cathedral of St. Andrew is beautiful. I spent part of Sunday afternoon there and the way that the sun shines in through the stained glass is standrewsamazing. I was there mostly alone with the occasional tourist coming through. It was peaceful and lovely. If you are looking for a peaceful and lovely space, I would recommend my church. If that sounds vaguely creepy, I would understand.

I also understand that mass can be, well, intimidating. Sometimes taking communion feels like an exercise in peer pressure. So I could see why it might be hard to take the step to go to mass. I’ve gone to other churches and I get kind of worked up if I’m not sure what is going to happen. Like if I’m not sure that I should be kneeling or standing. Once I passed out in church in Florida when I was young because I was so worked up. I strive to not have that happen again.

So, the church experience that I am offering up is Evensong. It is this coming Sunday, October 22nd at 5:30 at the Cathedral at St. Andrew. It is basically a sung mass. There is a choir. Have I mentioned that the cathedral is beautiful? And that the cathedral is practically dripping with history? You can feel it when you are there. There is no communion which is a plus if you do not think that you are ready to take that step. I was not ready for some time. There is also no sermon, which to me, is a minus because, well, Father Moki’s sermons rock. But if you are looking for a sense of peace in your life, come to the cathedral. If you are looking to start your week off with singing and serenity, come to the cathedral. I will be there. I will be there because I love the cathedral. I will be there because I always feel a sense of peace when I am there. And if you want to be there, I will sit with you. If you want to be there but haven’t set foot in a church in many years and fear you may spontaneously combust upon entry, I will walk in with you (if this did not happen to me, it won’t happen to you). If you want to be there but don’t have anyone to go with, I will wait for you outside. If you want to go but don’t want anyone to know, I won’t tell anyone. If you don’t want to go, I won’t tell anyone. But I will be there. Somewhere. Soaking it in. And maybe I’ll see you there.

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Driving Confidence


Last week I went on a trip by myself. I turned 50 this year and there were no giant celebrations. I had grand visions of throwing myself a huge party but I just didn’t do it. But then I saw that the Counting Crows were touring this summer. And I thought that I would get myself a ticket. I tried to see if the dates coincided with the time I would be in NY but that was not to be. Then I decided that I would buy a ticket to see them someplace that I had never been before. And that I would buy a ridiculously expensive ticket that had me sitting really close and get me into a meet and greet with the band prior to the show. This all made sense to me. And then I bought the ticket. And it was in Texas, Irving to be exact. I bought the ticket around my birthday in April. I told next to no one that I had done this. Because I was not sure that I was going to go.

I could not remember the last time that I traveled anywhere alone (if ever). And I was afraid. I was uncertain if I could do it. Go to a place that I’ve never been to. By myself. So I did not tell. I did not tell because I was unsure. But life has a way of reminding you that there are so many more scary things than taking a plane alone and driving in super giant states. So the month before, I decided that I would actually go. Then I told. I told my family. They were a little irked but were able to roll with it.

I almost did not rent a car in Texas. That would have been a mistake. I put Waze on my phone after Google Maps took me to a road that was closed. And aside from that little snafu, I managed to always get to where I was going. I managed to not get lost. When I got back and people asked me what the best part of the trip was, I said that it was not getting lost. It was kind of a huge confidence boost for me.

One of my co-workers and a friend said things to me like, they did not think that they could travel solo like I had. I told them both that I did not think that I could do it either. But then I did. And it was good for me. It reminded me that I am able to do things on my own. That although the world is a scary place, I don’t want to live in fear. I don’t want the what-ifs to dictate my life and choices.

The other great thing about this trip is that it shattered any and all preconceived red state Texas notions that I had. No, I did not get into a discussion about politics with anyone. But Texas did not come close to living up to my high level stereotypes. This makes me as bad as the guy in the south who is brushing all the folks on the east coast with a broad blue brush. I think that maybe if more people were less afraid, less afraid to get out of their comfort zones and travel a bit, we really would see that there are more similarities than differences. And learn that there are places where everyone will call you ma’am but not because you are of a certain age but because it is polite. And I think that it’s a good thing that I know that.

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