Saturday, July 30, 2011

Twenty Years On, Still Sorely Missed

I am blessed to have so many wonderful friends in my life, people who sustain me with laughter and encouragement and love. But, I guess because I am human, it is one who is missing that often occupies my thoughts and my wishes for things to be different.

I first met my friend Sheila in my capacity as a La Leche League leader. It was more than thirty years ago that I received a routine phone call from a mom who had a breastfeeding question. It turned out we had much in common besides being young mothers. We belonged to the same church and we had the same Irish Catholic background, with all its accompanying and frequently hilarious baggage.

It was obvious to me very early on that Sheila was an extraordinary being in the guise of a very ordinary person. On the surface, she was a wife, a mother of three, a daughter, a sister to her many siblings and she had a great sense of humor. Once you got to know her you realized that first of all she had true and deep faith in God. Nothing proselytizing or smarmy, but a quiet and matter-of-fact spirit. She was someone who did good at the most basic level, with no fuss or calling attention to herself. The first one with a phone call, a hug or a meal when you needed it, sometimes even when you didn’t know you needed it.

In 1986 she found out she had a tumor that was supposed to be benign, supposed to be eliminated in a simple surgery. Talking to her the day after the operation, while she was still in the hospital, at one point she said “It wasn’t what they thought it was”. I couldn’t acknowledge the words, I kept blabbing on about other things. Ten minutes after we hung up I called her back. “What do you mean ‘It wasn’t what they thought it was’?” I choked out. “It’s not benign after all” she simply said, “And it came from another site.” Hearing this was like having syrup poured over my brain, the stickiness of the implications inescapable but the thickness just so hard to take in.

It was finally determined that breast cancer had been growing stealthily, insidiously and had spread to her brain. Medicine pulled out all the stops, although in the basest layman’s terms, she was a goner. But she was also stubborn. And so a five year battle began.

Sheila suffered tortures over those five years that most people never knew about, because she never complained. She kept up her life as if there were nothing different, even when she was in agonies of pain. Most of all, she continued to be a devoted, passionate mother to her three children. There were many trips into New York for chemo. Sheila always had someone to go with her. She was so well loved, there were more volunteers than there were opportunities, so she would go out of her way to find a way to include a person and make them feel as though they were helping.

She hung in there, but we often talked about how hard it was to discern the difference between practical hope and unreasonable expectations. We never really came up with any answers. I never believed for a minute it would actually happen. I was so sure we laugh together at our children’s weddings. She finally decided that if nothing else, she wanted to live long enough to see her youngest receive his first Holy Communion.

She did. It was in May of 1991. She grew steadily weaker until by the last week of July she couldn’t get out of bed. I brought dinner over on the evening of the 29th, but by that time all she could eat was Jell-O. Sitting on the bed talking to her, my arm brushed her foot, which was like an ice cube. “Oh, your poor feet!” I cried and I started rubbing them to warm them up. I wasn’t a nurse yet, I would be starting nursing school in a few weeks. So what I didn’t realize was that Sheila’s feet were cold because her heart was failing.

That night she was taken to New York by ambulance. She died in the early morning hours. Ironically, for how loved she was, she was all alone. I’ve often thought that was so like her. Only by being alone did she feel she had the freedom to go.

In twenty years I do not think there is a day I haven’t thought of her. I am such a whiny baby when it comes to my own illness, I ask her to pray for me, that I could have even a fraction of the grace she demonstrated. I remember those days when we had a bunch of little kids running around and we sat at each other’s kitchen tables, drinking endless cups of tea and laughing ourselves sick over anything and everything. I miss you still, Sheila, and look forward to the day we meet again.

Photobucket Did you like what you read? Let others know. Thanks! Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It’s Too Darn Hot, Part II

I received so many lovely compliments on my work. Thank you everyone!! I have to admit even though it is brutal being unemployed, I am grateful that I have the time to do so many creative things. It is such fun and so rewarding. And I never fail to think of my two dear aunts who taught me, at different times, how to sew and how to quilt. My Aunt Dottie was a brilliant seamstress who sewed all the costumes for my cousin’s recitals for years. She taught me how to sew when I was little. She was endlessly patient but had high standards. If I am hurrying I can still hear her voice say “Now that is just a basting stitch. You can do better than that!” She was so, so good to me when I was growing up. What a wonderful woman she was and still is at over 90.

My Aunt Joan taught me how to make drapes and how to quilt. I told her recently I was so grateful for that and she said the most beautiful thing. She told me she taught me the basics but I took it to an artisan level. Compliments are not common in my family (we believe in mind reading, lol) so this was a real gift.

Soundtrack for the Heatwave and Some Broadway Moments

I found this great clip of the Too Darn Hot number from Kiss Me Kate. It is long but worth it for the great Cole Porter lyrics and the amazing dancing:

I took my Elizabeth to see this for her eleventh birthday and we had such a good time. We waited afterwards at the stage door, always fun to do with kids, a teensy bit weird when you are a grown up. So it is always good to go with kids. :) We chatted with Michael Mulheren, whose sister was in my class at Red Bank Catholic, while he was three years behind us. I mentioned RBC and he beamed and was just so enthusiastic and charming. Here he is (the bigger guy on the right) in Brush Up Your Shakespeare:

And last to come out was Brian Stokes Mitchell, looking every inch a Broadway luminary, with an entourage, his coat over his shoulders and, I swear, a white silk scarf. “Ah, you patient people!!” he gushed, as though there was a crowd, although it was just Elizabeth and I. He was gracious and sweet and made a big fuss over her.

This is a really crappy clip (the only one I could find), from the Rosie O’Donnell show, that only gives a hint of his general hunkiness:

He was hilarious in Frasier too, but I couldn’t find any clips of that at all.

It is a little cooler today, but I can’t wait until November!!

Photobucket Did you like what you read? Let others know. Thanks! Bookmark and Share

Monday, July 25, 2011

Too Darn Hot!!

Hope everyone is holding up well in this brutal weather. I have sequestered myself in the AC and have not budged. Otherwise I am like the Wicked Witch of the West when she has water thrown on her.

Yep, that's me alright.

So I've been doing a lot of sewing, very little writing, some fooling around with my blogs.

Here are some of the projects I've been working on:

A new pin cushion. I made it out of an old pot, embroidered some bees onto felt and then glued the felt around the edges.

Finished this quilt:

Back of quilt

The marvelous, hand dyed fabric came from Ruby Mountain Dye Works, an Etsy shop based in Georgia.  Fantastic colors and a warm, personable proprietor make these fabrics irresistible.
Working on a few other quilts, including this one for Madailein, in a double Irish chain pattern:

Madailein is teething something awful and I found these dolls on line that babies can safely chew on.  So, copy cat that I am, I made my own versions:

I made some with fleece and some with flannel.  I made up the pattern, so they are all different shapes and sizes.  I sewed on little hearts but in the picture right now when I looked at it the yellow hearts look horrifyingly like Yellow Stars.  I might have to rethink that little detail.

I made some bags too.  The one I made for myself turned into a much bigger project than I had imagined.  And it is large enough to carry a small child in.

I made a glasses case and cell phone holder to match:

If only I knew where my actual cell phone was.

And here's another, for a friend:

Finally, I have changed my signature because the old one with the pencil was just looking tired.

Stay cool everyone!!


Did you like what you read? Let others know. Thanks! Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Way We Are

My sister and I are very close, even though we are 13 years apart in age (I’m the old one). We totally get each other, understand things before they even have to be spoken. We’ve been through the same family boot camp, just different graduating classes. We know better than anyone we have…issues. Not with each other, but with the world in general. We see peril everywhere and we are both incredibly  sort of  a little neurotic. Or, as we like to put it, we are functional lunatics. That is probably what we are going to call our book. “Life, as Lived by Two Functional Lunatics” Or, “The Idiot’s Guide to Functional Lunacy”. The title possibilities, which usually render us screaming with laughter, are endless. But then, we are easily amused.

Distressingly, my sister had an awful fall this morning, slipping on her steps, landing on her backside and thumping down the rest of the eight or so stairs, scraping one arm in the process and wrenching the other one, which got caught in the spindles of the railing. She is in terrible pain, but nothing seems to be broken and all she can do at this point is rest and take pain medication.

Our father coincidentally called her right after she fell. He subsequently called our mother and told her. Our mother then immediately called her eleven hours later to see how she was.

Kay: Oh, you poor thing. I am so sorry this happened to you. This is horrible. This is terrible. Oh my God. How are you feeling? (this is her standard There’s Been a Catastrophe Even if it is Only in My Own Mind speech; see my bout with shingles).
Cathy: I’m ok, just very achy.
Kay: What did you hurt?
Cathy: I hurt my arms and I fell on my tailbone.
Kay: Oh, that is terrible. They will probably have to wire it shut.

Now, Cathy reports, there is dead silence, as she contemplates this last statement. Wire my backside shut?!? They do that?!? Why would they do that?!? Because I talk out my ass?!? (made herself laugh there, heh heh) I never heard of wiring someone’s…then the light bulb went on.

Cathy: MA! I said my TAILBONE, not my JAWBONE.
Kay: Oh.

Say no more.

 It is good to have a sister.
"Insanity runs in our family.  It practically gallops."
Photobucket Did you like what you read? Let others know. Thanks! Bookmark and Share

Friday, July 8, 2011

Being a Grandma

Being a grandma means singing Abba Dabba Honeymoon 20 times before breakfast alone, just to see that smile.

Debbie Reynolds, singing it almost as well as I do:


Photobucket Did you like what you read? Let others know. Thanks! Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Heartbreaking, But Justice Worked

If Casey Anthony had been on trial for having a personality disorder, she would have been found guilty in an hour. There was a mountain of evidence to support that charge. But her jury bravely and rightly came to a just conclusion – while her behavior was despicable, it was not proof that she murdered her little girl. This verdict was especially symbolic in a week that started by celebrating the basis of our Democratic processes.

The case was over prosecuted and sensationalized. There was no data even to prove that the child was murdered. My guess is that Casey routinely medicated Caylee to get her to sleep so Casey could party. And one day Caylee didn’t wake up. I believe it was an accident, albeit still a criminal act. I think if the prosecution had gone for a scenario similar to this they might have prevailed. But they were greedy and it blew up on them.

The trial certainly opened a window on some real ugliness in America. We saw a mother with a myriad of problems, yet no responsible person intervened in any meaningful way. We saw a daughter and sister willing to throw her entire family under the bus to defend herself. We saw complete strangers taking this so utterly and inappropriately personally that it is almost like a mob mental illness, with weeping and screaming and wishing Casey Anthony to hell and Nancy Grace declaring “the devil was dancing” at the verdict. Worst of all, we saw a doomed toddler and could do nothing to save her.

Another sad and ugly fact is there are hundreds of Caylee’s out there. Children we will never hear of and no one will do anything to help, especially if the child is poor or a minority. While our justice system works to a certain extent, I think there would have been a far different outcome if Caylee and her family had been black or Hispanic.

People are in an uproar that Casey Anthony has ‘gotten off’. But there is no future for her. There wouldn’t have been one even if this ghastly tragedy hadn’t occurred. Limited insight, impulsive behavior, unstable relationships, serial sexual partners, inability to hold a job or take responsibility for poor choices, this girl was a train racing towards a wreck. Justice according to our laws was done. Casey will eventually meet another kind of justice at her own hand.

Photobucket Did you like what you read? Let others know. Thanks! Bookmark and Share

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July

This is a fun clip of Kate Smith singing God Bless America, from "This is the Army", 1943. It starred George Murphy, Ronald Reagan, Joan Leslie and Irving Berlin, who wrote all the songs.

Hard to imagine this was a brand new song at the time, it had only been introduced in 1938, written by a man who spent his first five years in Russia. Berlin once said his clearest memory of that five years was watching his house burn to the ground, courtesy of the Cossacks. His earliest years in the United States, where his family immigrated, were horrible and deprived. Originally Berlin's greatest ambition was to be a singing waiter. But his songs were so great he was a huge success by his early 20's.

God Bless America indeed.

Patriotic matchbook covers from WWII

Kate Smith for my e-mail readers:

Photobucket Did you like what you read? Let others know. Thanks! Bookmark and Share