Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thou Shall Not Kill: Standing Against Murder

On September 21, a day of prayer for World Peace, a man named Troy Davis became the thirty fifth human being to be murdered by the United States government in 2011. Whether or not he was guilty is irrelevant, although the possibility of his innocence makes his death that much more horrifying.

Killing is wrong. Legally sanctioned killing does not make it right. Guilt does not make it right. The death of the killer does not change the status of their victim.  Every human being has a value that we have no right to destroy.  Not upholding the dignity of human life cheapens and diminishes us.

Arguments for deterrence are refuted by scholarly research every year.  There are more murders in states with the death penalty than in states without it (1). There are a disproportionate number of people of color and mentally ill on Death Row (2). One hundred and thirty eight individuals who were scheduled to die at the government's hands have been exonerated in the past 38 years (2).  That is 138 innocent people who would have been put to death.  Religious, civil rights, political leaders, even victim's families, constantly plead for rational and merciful justice (3). The entire civilized world opposes the barbarity of the death penalty, except for the United States. In our bloodthirsty nation, over 63 percent of the population supports capital punishment.

Mahatma Gandhi said “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”  May God have mercy on us for our inhumanity.






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Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Look at this, Sir Paul knew it was my birthday today!!

He's amazing.

Unfortunately, he is marrying the wrong woman again, as he hasn't realized I am the one who would make him truly happy. Sigh. What can you do?

I know I will have a stupendous birthday anyway!

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fond Memories

I was my parent’s first born and my brother is two years younger. It was just the two of us until I was nine, when my other brother Tom was born. So there I was with two younger brothers instead of the one thing I wanted more than anything – an older brother. I was a contrary little thing.

I did have the next best thing in my two older cousins. Michael was my mother’s brother’s oldest, rough and tumble and tough as nails. When spending anytime with Michael, who would eventually be the eldest of six boys, I was always guaranteed to have my long curls pulled, be pummeled, chased and bruised. Michael never sat still for one second and managed to do every Bad Thing a little boy can get into, but he had a grin and sparkling eyes that would melt an ice berg. He grew up to be Marine with a super sensitive side and was a great dancer. How I loved to dance with him!! He died in 1997 and I will never stop missing him. Every time we talked he would say over and over “I love you Marie Lynn.” I will always have that, I can still hear his voice in my mind.

Then there was my cousin Steve, who I have written about before. Steve was the youngest in his family and had two older sisters. His mother was my grandfather’s sister. Steve was Practically Perfect (I would say he is completely perfect but his wife might be able to come up with a flaw or two). As a child I loved Michael but I adored Steve. He never pulled my hair or hit me or quarreled with me. He let me win every game we ever played. He shared his toys. He pushed me on the swings, without me having to beg. How irresistible is that?!? He still is absolutely the best cousin I could ask for, supportive, encouraging and raises money every year for MS research through One Lap of America, an annual race event that he photographs. (It is described as “Nearly twenty-four hours a day driving with competition taking place as time trials on race tracks throughout the country.” I know nothing about cars and because my brain cells are diminishing at an alarming rate I find the whole event pretty confusing, but it is hugely popular.)

My great aunt, Steve’s mother, is an amazing 96 years old. I adore her as well, a woman who was a model of elegance and love for me as I was growing up. Every summer for years when Steve went away to camp, she would have me come up and stay with them. There are not too many parents who, having gotten rid of one kid, will import another. But her generosity, and patience, was endless. They lived in Yonkers and their house was built on a hilly plot with a super steep driveway. One day I got it in my head that it would be fun to ride a bike down the driveway into the garage. So I talked my older cousin Nancy into spotting for me. I went to the top of the driveway and I careened down, crashing directly into Nancy with a velocity I can still feel 45 years later. She managed to stop me, mostly by absorbing the impact, and thereby probably prevented me from bursting through the rear garage wall and dropping 30 feet to the ground below. It’s a miracle I didn’t kill her, yet both she and my aunt still speak to me. Just gives you some idea of their tolerance level.

My aunt just sent me a few pictures from when we were little that I am so grateful for:

I apparently was not wild about having my picture taken, but Steve looks adorable. 

Oh look, another dismal picture of me but Steve looks, yep, adorable again. That is my grandmother next to me. Gosh I miss her. 

Me, finally looking  a little more cheerful, my brother (how cute is he?!) and Steve on Cape Cod.

My father and my brother on the swing set in Yonkers. In this picture my father is only 29 years old. Incredible. 

I have been so lucky to have my two special cousins in my life. Many thanks to my aunt for sending me these pictures and reminding me of how fortunate I have been.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

If Only

(Dedicated to the memory of my Aunt Joan and Uncle Tom Moroney and their son Dennis. Dennis, a husband, a father of two and one of seven brothers, was murdered in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Aunt Joan and Uncle Tom suffered grievously but with dignity and now both are with him in eternal peace.)

I have a terrible habit of thinking in terms of ‘If only…” I think it about the little things. If only I had left earlier, I would not have gotten stuck in traffic. If only I had remembered milk I would have some for my tea. I think it about the big things. If only I had known I was going to develop MS, I could have saved more money. If only I had known my husband had a heart condition, I could have intervened and he might still be here today, enjoying his children and grandchildren instead of dying at 40.

And I think it about the huge things. If only human beings did not have such an enormous capacity for hatred and intolerance.

Most of the time thinking “if only” is futile. You didn’t, so get over it. Move on. You can’t change the past. On the other hand, “if only” can be a lesson. Be more organized, write things down, pay closer attention to the people around you. Oh yeah, and don’t hate and kill people because of their beliefs, skin color, gender preferences, or any other reason.

It is easy to be angry with someone who is not nice to you or is deliberately hurtful. But most of the time, you will not be moved to then murder them. So to take it the next step and hate a stranger, someone who has never uttered a word to you, to hate them because of who they worship or where they live, seems to me the least human of behavior. But I am clearly wrong, because centuries of history show that it is the most human of behavior.

I see two sides to the September 11 coin. One side is the horrific loss of vibrant, treasured, innocent people. The other side is the continued legacy of mistrust and bitterness that continues to pervade our world. The United States, and by extension, Americans, are despised for their perceived arrogance and ignorance. Muslims are held in fear and contempt, perceived as savage murderers. And those are only two groups I could cite. There are infinite sub-groups continually busy hating and killing each other all over the world.

The thing that most amazes me about this continued behavior is that NO ONE EVER WINS. No one. Hatred is never effective, never achieves the desired end, is never ultimately successful. And yet it thrives. I am clearly naïve and lack insight, because part of me just doesn’t get it. Why perpetuate actions that are doomed to failure? Then I think of our government, where partisanship and flat out antagonism continually undermines the good of our nation. I think of the animosity that arose this week in my family alone, a relatively tiny but bitter war where everyone was a loser. Then I realize, it all goes back to being human. And humans are infinitely flawed. So logic and facts do not count for much when one is blinded by hatred and a quest for vengeance.

I don’t know what the answer could possibly be. When faced with a dilemma, my first approach is usually prayer. There is a World Pray for Peace Day (September 21, my birthday ironically). There are many other Days of Prayer (National: First Thursday in May; Global: 5/27/12; World Peace & Prayer: usually in June; Women’s World Day of Prayer: this year was March 4; Unity World Day of Prayer: second Thursday of September), but these obviously haven’t worked yet. Of course almost all of them exclude non-Christian religions, so there might be a problem there. One wonders what exactly is being prayed for.

Armed hostility hasn’t worked. Negotiation hasn’t worked. What else is there? Communication? Education? Persuasion? None have worked. And we never learn. We are still hating and killing each other.

If only things were different. If only people were different. If only each and every child born in the world was taught human life is precious and we must cherish one another. If only...


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Friday, September 9, 2011

Family Rules and How Kay Went Away

Family Rules

In my family of origin, being right is all. And everyone is right. It is everyone else who is wrong. Unless you agree with who is right. But you can’t, of course, because you are right, not them.

So be right, but also don’t talk about it. Ok, maybe gloat a little. After all, you are right. But otherwise, mum’s the word.

Got all that?  

How Kay Went Away

After several years of failing health and resources, after more than half a dozen consecutive hospitalizations and crises, my brother and sister arranged last year for my mother to reside in a long term care facility. They had invested time and energy and planning in caring for my parents 24/7 and were frantic about their safety. So this was determined to be best for everyone. The home was brand new, absolutely beautiful and the staff was incredibly caring. My mother despised it. From the second she set foot inside its doors, she campaigned to get out, despite the fact she was receiving impeccable care and was healthier, and safer, than she had been in years. So was my father, who visited her there every single day and was even given his meals there.

Suddenly, down swoops two of her Sisters, my aunts, joining the crusade of a mentally and physically ill woman they each lived more than 200 miles away from and saw maybe twice a year. Let her out, they said. There is nothing wrong with her or your father, they said. They deserve to be together after all these years, they said. The Sisters knew nothing. They knew nothing of the ER visits, the confusion, the middle of the night wanderings, my father’s growing dementia. They knew none of this even though they were told, over and over. They knew nothing of this because they refused to believe it. They declined to believe four competent, cognizant adults who saw my parents nearly every day. My parents were fine, The Sisters KNEW it. We didn’t know what we were talking about.

Thus my mother was discharged home, with The Sisters rabid encouragement, to the care of a man with documented Alzheimer’s Disease. And it was all downhill from there, because my parents were failing and ill-equipped to manage on their own. Did my aunts see how bad things were going? La la la, no no no, I can’t hear you. It took nine long nightmarish months, full of more crises and emergencies and close calls, all handled by my siblings, before my father ended up in a long term care facility himself, desperately ill with congestive heart failure. One Sister then packed up my mother and moved her from New Jersey to Delaware, leaving my father behind. My mother moved hundreds of miles away to her younger sister’s, where she was cosseted and catered to. Which certainly was nice to an extent, but effectively eliminated myself, my siblings, my father and their friends from her life. And my mother was ok with that. After decades of her dramas and illnesses, real and imagined, we were weary. So the general consensus was “You want her? You are welcome to her.” She was in her glory. But she would have a price to pay.

Because of The Sisters’ fantasy world, she wasn’t getting the health care she needed. Weeks went by and she did not see a physician. As she got sicker, The Sisters’ denial kept pace. “She’s fine!” declared my aunt. “Doing great!” Until she ended up in the hospital, also with congestive heart failure. They had finally been dragged onto the See I Told You She Was Sick Express and would not be getting off until she died.

Last month, my mother agreed to an ill-advised surgery. It went poorly. Her condition deteriorated. But it apparently did not occur to The Sisters she should be moved back with her husband. According to them, we, The Miserable Wretches, had thrown in the towel. They had put in their weeks of care and now they, The Heroes, were in charge.

There were times when we not only had no idea what my mother’s condition was but even what hospital she was in. She was like a walnut in a shell game. Finally, with this last discharge, she was sent out with hospice. Not home to my father, but rather back to my aunt’s home in Delaware, which is how she came to die far away from her husband and children. And now a new sideshow to the circus begins, with bitter recriminations – Neglectful Children (their version) vs. Hi-jacking Sisters (our version). And, naturally, we all believe we are right. We all KNOW we are right.

In the quest for Rightness, my mother’s funeral became a battlefield. My father asked me to write her obituary – but it turned out they had already submitted one without even consulting him (and it was inaccurate). Relatives and friends wanted to know what the plans were – The Sisters scheduled the funeral for less than 30 hours after she died, leaving little time for people to adjust schedules. We pleaded with them to postpone it by at least one day, but they (along with my brother, who had apparently decided he now wanted to be a Hero too) wouldn’t budge. Many people were subsequently unable to attend. A brief viewing was planned before the hastily arranged Funeral Mass. My mother had stated over and over through her life she abhorred open caskets and wanted ONLY a closed one. Her casket was open, despite telling The Sisters this. My sister ordered food and told The Sisters she would provide a luncheon at her house afterwards, acting as hostess for my father. The Funeral Director announced to the mourners all were invited back to my sister’s house as my father’s guests. But at the cemetery, without a word, my brother and The Sisters turned their back to her, put my father in a car and drove him away to a restaurant. They had planned that from the beginning, but never told my sister, even when she had graciously invited them back to her home.

Can anyone say “Kay who?”, because honoring my mother became lost in the hostilities.  

After the battle.  No one wins.

Back to the Rules

I have broken the most cardinal of Family Rules by stating these things out loud and, worst of all, telling them to strangers. However, I decided a long time ago that I was living by different rules. And very few of them. Rule number one is be fair and kind as indicated and/or deserved. Rule number two is laugh at myself when needed. Rule number three is don’t worry about any other rules.

On the Relationship Balance Sheet where you would determine People Who Cause Me to Feel Great About Myself and People Who Diminish Me and Cause Me Heartache, I am choosing the first group. I am choosing people who model health and serenity and compassion. I am cheerfully eliminating malice, control and pain.

The punishment for breaking our Family Rules is dire. Rejection and judgment are the consequences when we do not conform. Dissenters are exiled.

The ironic thing is, exile suits me just fine. It’s safer here. And it is, mysteriously, filled with decent and dear friends who are good and kind to me. Go figure.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Motherless Child

My mother passed away yesterday afternoon, far from where I live, in her sister’s home in Delaware.  Two of her sisters were with her, but none of her children.  Nor her husband.  The reasons are a long story, as complicated and sad as my mother herself.

To say we had a fractious relationship would be an understatement.  Although I have never been a sparrer, just a sponge for wounds and hurt.  My mother, young, beautiful and smart when I was born, had an impossibly deep capacity for both being sad and inflicting sadness.  She was unutterably miserable for most of the time I was growing up, languishing in her bed with crippling depression.  In and out of hospitals during my childhood, her homecomings always meant the same thing – blame, not recovery.  And I was the scapegoat.  

She was first hospitalized when I was about six years old.  When she came home, I was overjoyed.  Until the volley started.  It was, it seemed, my fault she had fallen in the first place.  If I hadn’t been such a bad child, she firmly screamed in my face, she never would have gotten sick.  It was my badness, apparently inherent, that was the source of all her ills.  Her doctor’s were the ones who had told her this.  Get rid of me and her problems would be solved.  Get rid of me or, at a minimum, make me into a good girl.

Of course, not only did her doctor’s never tell her any such thing, but I was a good girl.  Probably the goodest girl on the whole of our city street.  I was a paragon.  And the more she told me how bad I was, the better I strived to be, all the while pleading with her to not be mad at me, promising I would be as good as she needed me to be.

But I was never good enough and she told me so, over and over and over.  For decades.

The Family Tragedy behind all of this actually did involve me.  One June morning when I was four years old, I wandered out of our apartment.  I do not know where she was, but an educated guess is she was in bed, under the covers.  And I, a gregarious child, was beckoned by the other kids playing outside.  In a flash, a piece of glass was thrown and altered the trajectory of my life.  It cost me my right eye.  I vividly remember being comforted by the other children while people went looking for my mother.  Her version of the story was that she was standing right next to me and watched helplessly as the accident unfolded.  Because we Never Talked About the Accident (a Family Rule), I only found out about her fabrication recently.  But I am old enough to realize now, what else was she to do?  Admit to her family, her husband, that she had neglected her child to the point of maiming?  It was an impossible position and she was impossibly tormented by it for the rest of her life.  Unfortunately, I was swept away as well in her river of guilt and shame.  As I grew, there were times I had to stay away from her because of the toxicity, sometimes for years.  It was the only way I could survive.

And now she is gone.


My mother was such a force of nature, I am simply shocked that she has actually ceased to be.

I am commanding myself to acknowledge how wounded she was.    Our shared, often grievous, history cannot be erased, but it can be understood and forgiven.  I must remember that she was a complex, anguished woman who also was shrewd, funny, smart and quick-witted.  She had been breathtakingly beautiful in her youth.  She was frequently manipulative and selfish but just as often, I think, her heart was in the right place.  She was a brilliant and proud cook.  She was a devoted daughter to my beloved grandparents.  In her later years, she was a model grandma, taking the kids apple picking, playing with them, engaging with them.  Apple picking!  My sister and I still find our jaws dropping when we contemplate it.

In my belief system, she is now healed and whole with God.  She is 
suffering no more, neither physically nor emotionally.  “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 21:4

I love the idea that she is happy.  It makes me so happy for her.

Mom, may God hold you until the day we meet, happily, again.

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Up On the Roof

After seven years, as many roofers and as many ‘repairs’, the mystery of my leaking roof and subsequent collapsing ceilings has finally been solved.  (An addendum to those who are not familiar with the story: my 'new' roof started leaking within six months of installation.  By that time the roofer had closed up shop AND declared bankruptcy.  No recourse there.  :( ) 

This last roof repair person was just the nicest man, sympathetic and on the ball and thorough. As I said, he took it all in and quickly: peeling plaster, wheelchairs, walkers, canes, me with an IV in my arm. This was, finally, one smart guy. He saw from the get go this was ugly and he knew it was going to get uglier.

The pictures he took told the story. Under the lovely textured Timberline shingles that I paid extra for all those years ago when I was healthy and working and had nowhere to go but up, were thousands of nails. As it should be. Something has to hold those lovely shingles in place. The problem is apparently the person who installed the roof on the entire front of the house and back of the sunroom had his nail gun on the wrong setting. Not only did that person nail down the shingle, but in each and every case, because his gun was set too high, he blew a partial little hole in the shingle as well. That is right. What I have on the front of my house is not so much a roof as swiss cheese. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of teeny tiny holes, just like a colander. A colander that has let every drop of rain in for the last seven years. And caused three collapsed ceilings.

But smart and sympathetic doesn’t mean free, does it? I got the estimate in the mail yesterday. Three thousand two hundred dollars. Not counting wood. The entire thing needs to be redone, as there is no practicality in caulking thousands of teeny tiny holes. That would be, actually, impossible.

Even though I knew it was going to be bad, this was still a shock. And moot, as I do not have $3200. Or anything close to it.

So here I am:
• I cannot maintain or afford my home any more.
• I must sell it.
• I cannot sell it with a leaky roof and falling down ceilings.
• I do not have the money to repair the roof.

I have had my back against the wall before and I have either figured out a solution or one has presented itself. I have learned that while things may not work out the way you want, they always do have a way of working out. So now I just have to come up with…something.

In the meantime…

When the Going Gets Tough the Tough Get Quilting 

In my steroid mania and roof distress, I got it into my head that it was past time I learned how to do a log cabin square.  That is the pattern that has log-like strips surrounding a tiny red square, which represents the hearth and fire at the center of a home.  I had always been a little intimidated by the idea of all the pieces and it seemed too complicated, but complicated and distracting fit the bill this week, so I dove in.

Baby steps:

This is the first one I did and I found it wasn’t that hard. I don’t know what I will do with this piece. Maybe make a little pillow?

Then it became an obsession.

I made this wall hanging as a thank you for Christine putting me up during the storm:

I made this bag with hand dyed leftovers from the quilt I made for my new coming grandbaby:

I decided to make a throw for my own bed, doing a quilt-as-you-go method, quilting each square and then sewing them together. I’ll end up with a pre-quilted top and will just have to add a backing and bind it. I already have a whole row done. It seems too easy, I feel as though there is going to be a pitfall somewhere.

I think I have the log cabin thing down.

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