Trail Walking


, , , ,

I opened my Google Earth App for the first time in ages this morning and with nostalgia in my heart, began ‘visiting’ all the places I have lived – more than a dozen locations – memories flooding in like last evening’s storms from over 6 decades of life stories…

Neighborhood (photo via Google Earth)

When I reached the home before now, I stopped; my heart overwhelmed with grief as the realities of what once was but is no more came flooding in, my dogs the only witness to the ongoing pain of loss of almost half of my life and all of what I once held as truth.

“The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been before.” -John Green, The Fault in our Stars

I have come a long way since my divorce, but the silent world in which I now exist is still difficult. The lack of a consistent local support network leaves me sorrow-filled at times and life alone at my age is not always a Thoreau experience to be savored. It can feel desperate to be adrift in an area so isolated, so tied to clan and kin, so closed to those outside the immediate circle of life. Making ones way alone in an environment filled with beauty and warmth externally while devoid of genuine relationship internally is not for the faint of heart.

Alone (free stock photo)

My thoughts in these moments of internal grief turn to my Appalachian Granny – a true Mountain Woman who also stood alone – facing the loss of her husband and the upheaval of her entire way of life during WW2. Leaving the life she had built with her Husband in Florida, my suddenly widowed Grandmother moved her family back to our ancestral home, the Mountains of East TN, and somehow found her own way forward again. Her grown children eventually left Tennessee to live their own lives in other states and she spent her elder years alone in a small one bedroom duplex located in low income senior housing. How hard it must have been. I am certain her silent life must have also been as grief filled at times as mine feels today.

Morristown TN, 1950s (photo courtesy of TN Virtual Archives)

I take a deep breath and remember again for the 1000+ time that I come from strong stock, roots that run deep in the heart of the Appalachians. I channel the inner strength of the women who have survived their own hardships in these beautiful mountains I also now call home. Their voices echo in my head; ‘you can do this – you are one of us’. So I pick up my own sack of grief, smiling at them as I do, and walk the trail onward into my own solo future with them at my side.

Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker, Emma ‘Grandma’ Gatewood (public domain photo)

I finally figured it out


, , ,

I finally figured it out. Call me dense or stupid or blindly loyal, but I just kept plodding along in the dark. Until now.

After getting up at my normal 5am time to take the dogs out, I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I went on my personal social media page and discovered PITTIES & BOSTONSthat 6 friends had ‘liked’ a particular heartfelt, heartbroken post of mine.


I scrolled through friends posts and saw dozens upon dozens (hundreds) of likes on all those Happy Easter and Rainbows & Unicorn posts and thought, yep – folks only want to see the ‘happy comments’ – duh.

But that’s not what I finally figured out.

I already knew some social media friends had ‘unfollowed’ me; perhaps because of my political views, maybe my ‘inappropriate humor’ – who knows, really. But as I went through my friends list – some who have been friends for decades – and saw only their public posts, it slowly dawned on me. I finally figured it out.

I’m not talking about work friends or acquaintances or friends that still have profiles but never post anymore. I completely get that as we now live in the world of Covid19 and are not in it together for the thick & thin. I’m actually trimming a lot of those relationships in my own social media world as well, so no offense meant or taken.

Close Friends.

Friends I had cried with and walked with in their own sorrows over the years, broke bread with, stayed in touch with through thick and thin. Friends I would go to jail for, take a bullet for. Friends for whom I have driven literally hundreds, thousands of miles over the years to visit in their own hardship and desolation. Many of them devout FRIENDSChristians who post daily of living their lives by Gospel Values. No Greater Love…

Dear Friends who continued to have open access to my Life and my Mind and my Heart and the very depths of my inner Soul, even as I had not the slightest clue they had not only unfollowed me, but had restricted my access to their own page; privy no more to their worlds or inner thoughts than the checkout person in the grocery store or the garbage man who empties their trash.

I sat there this morning with that thought for a very long while…

I rose from my bed, made my morning coffee, fed the dogs, did the morning chores. And as the sun rose on dayCOFFEE 31 of my own Patmos, I deeply pondered what that meant going forward into the Real & Honest part of what comes next.

Starting over is DAMN hard. I know this from decades of personal devastation; over and over and over again. Bruce Cockburn sings, “I’ve proven who I am so many times, the magnetic strip’s worn thin.” And I have.

Through all of this – the many times I thought I could not even get off the floor – I have tried my best in the very worst of circumstances to be honest, open, vulnerable, real. And most of all to still be there for my Friends.

I finally figured it out. Silly me.

CoronaMusings 101 – I’m Back & I’m OK, not OK                          


, ,

It’s good to be back after a long, long time away. The silence all around me has meant I have time again to put the teapot on & rest my mind from the business of life since I last picked up my pen. I have discovered my heart is ready to write again, some are musings from the past while other thoughts are of the present and that which is perhaps yet to come. Thank you for being part of the Journey Forward from here.

I was on another social media site yesterday posting about my younger brother who is ill and fighting hard to live in a facility in PA, including a part about myself and how I was doing. I pulled it because that post was about my brother, but also because it sounded so damn sad. In honest retrospect, I am.

And I also am not.

I am healthy still and that is no little thing to say as I fall into the high risk category in a world facing the literal plague of our Century. I was very sick the first week of March and presented all the classic symptoms of Covid19, but testing was non-existent where I live at that time and my little slice of East TN here in the heart of Appalachia still largely in denial. Like many,MERRY GO ROUND I recovered and despite some lingering effects unique to my health concerns, I found myself over the CoronaHump and moving cautiously forward just things here in TN finally came to a slow (sort of) stop; like a Merry Go Round when the music ends but the ride keeps turning even as the motion of the galloping horses pause as it all slowly grinds to a halt. 

Also like many Americans, I did some shopping for fresh produce (and even a little toilet paper), but most of my own shopping had occurred in January as things were revving up in China. As a Science Teacher and Biologist, I clearly saw this coming our way. I told my High School Students as such; we discussed what was likely to come and I answered their many questions even as my own concerns began to mount at the seeming casual attitude America was taking as the ‘Chinese Virus Epidemic’ became a Pandemic.

But that is a blog for another day.

When our School District closed (naively at first for two weeks only and one of those weeks Spring Break), I knew it was time and carefully made my final preparations to ensure that my little Hermitage, my Hilltop Hideaway as I have named her, was ready to go for the weeks and possible months to come. And so, my 3 dogs faithfully at my side, we hunkered down for the long Spring, following the horror in other parts of the World and our Country, with both sadness and anger…  DOGS

It has been 3 weeks now (and still counting) since I have felt the touch of another Human Being.

A loner by nature, it has both been not as hard as I imagined and also much harder than imagined. I have not been in a store or any other physical place or spoken to another Human face to face during this time other than a brief 2ce weekly encounter dropping my youngest dog off at the Kennel that I frequent so I can get school work done. The drop off/pick up is curbside and moments in duration, the staff gloved & masked and the exchanges done without the usual chat and wellbeing conversations of the past. Now that TN is in the true Surge, it is likely that those days may end for me as well, but I find myself loathe to lose that one last thread to actual ‘contact’ however fleeting.

No one I know locally (other than myself) is alone.

I live in an area of the Country that greatly values both Kin and Hearth, making East TN both a very friendly place on the surface, but underneath a place of self-sufficiency and  a built in cautiousness of ‘outsiders’ that runs as deep as its Scots-Irish roots.

ST COLUMBAThough my family helped settle this land over 200 years ago, my lack of local Clan-ties means I am facing this time of isolation truly alone; cut off from the physical world as surely as St. John on Patmos, St. Anthony of the Dessert or my own Patron Saint, Columba of Iona faced in their own time and place. 

I am mindful of these Men & Women of God on a day like today. Palm Sunday.

I think many people of faith used to experiencing the Community of Believers on special days like today are perhaps feeling especially isolated. But today, despite my own very real isolation, I am actually feeling freer than yesterday when I was most definitely ‘Not OK’.

Today I am reminded that triumphant journey into Jerusalem was in fact the prelude of an Isolation that few of us have ever truly endured or can entirely fathom.


Today I am walking in the company of the Saints whose feet trod this Road ages before me.

Today those Saints are whispering my name; reminding me that those ancient words written are still for me as well if I will simply pick up my own bed and walk.

And, for Today at least, ‘I am OK’.

Old Marley was as dead as a doornail…


, , , ,

“I have always thought of Christmastime, when it has come round…as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”  Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol 

We all know the tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge based on Charles Dickens famous book, A Christmas Carol & written by that genius among authors in 1843.

The 1951 movie starring Alistair Sims as Scrooge remains my favorite version. Though later colorized, the original black & white remains firmly imprinted on my brain; bold, stark and frightening in places, open and flowing with light and warmth in others – each scene carefully crafted to expose the different layers of Scrooge’s life past, present and future.


The movie begins with the ghostly visitation of recently deceased Jacob Marley, Ebeneezer’s business partner and last remaining friend in life. Marley offers Scrooge a chance to examine the chains he has forged in his own life by spending one night with three Spirits who will examine his probable future based on the past & present paths he has trod.

You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”  “I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” 

And so Scrooge agrees; the tick of time is suspended and the visitations commence. A frightening prospect to most, myself included, but also a chance to see ones life as it truly is? I would have agreed as well…


Spirit of Christmas Past

The first visitation by the Spirit of Christmas Past; a kind and gentle soul. Warm memories of love and hopeful dreams. Yet here we also see among the glad tidings the seeds that create Ebeneezer’s Present. Choices are made; the delay of love, the focus on advancement. All things that are, of themselves, not ‘bad’.

But choices nonetheless…

The second Spirit looks familiar to us on the surface; portly and jolly and filled with Holiday Cheer. scrooge-2But as he shows Ebeneezer his life in the Present, Scrooge begins to realize that joy, hope and the true meaning of Christmas remain only as memories in his distant past.

Instead, Scrooge is shown his Present through the looking glass of others; his nephew, business associates and especially his poor employee Bob Cratchit and his crippled son, Tiny Tim. Scrooge is not only faced with his Present reality, but that the  underpinnings of his current life come at great cost to others and that true Poverty of Spirit – ignorance and want – lurk under the robes of that seemingly jolly Spirit.scrooge-7

Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons?… If they would rather die they had better do it and decrease the surplus population. 

The Spirit of Christmas Future arrives last and is a frightening Specter, filled with dread and darkness and death. Scrooge faces not only his own future mortality but Tiny Tim’s empty chair, caused in part by his own avarice and greed. It is indeed a turning point in Ebeneezer’s life. scrooge-3

What about the turning points in our own lives and in what directions do those turning points take us?

I ask myself this question more frequently as the the years fly by. What choices am I making with the time I have left?  Is my guiding star self love or am I willing to sacrifice some of my own tangible comforts for the sake of others? Do I really need that new toy or does my neighbor need food more? Can I get by without that new car this year? Do I really need to go to Disney World every year?

What chains am I forging in my own life? Is there still time to knock off (or build) a few more links?  Its an important question.

At least I think it is…

So as Christmas approaches and another New Year is about to begin, I am taking some time to make a fresh inventory of my own life; looking more deeply at the Spirits of my own Christmases, both past and present. Some of those memories are wonderful and others are very hard to revisit; but all of it is a valuable ‘teaching tool’ for the Christmases of my life yet to come.

I am not sure how far I will get into the New Year before my own greed and poor choices make themselves known; likely not very far at all. But I am going to do my best to follow the North Star and allow the Eternal Light which shone on both Dickens and the Magi to lead me into a future where I can truly say those immortal words…


May God Bless Us, Everyone

Christmas Blessings to You & Yours


Knockin’ at the Door


, ,

I am two years in.

Well, maybe not ‘officially’, but two years in since the I knew in my heart of hearts that the wheels had truly fallen off the wagon of my life and this time there was no putting them back on again. knockin1

For the past two years I have done my share (and then some) of crying, grieving, cussing, fist shaking and ‘why me, God’ over and over again. I have fallen down, gotten back up and dusted myself off more times than I can count. I have put every spin, spiritual and otherwise, I could put on the situation. I have gone through self-denial, self-pity, self-righteousness, self-help and every other type of self this or that out there.

I have studied the Bible, listened to tapes and sermons, read a dozen or more books and blog sites on ‘surviving divorce’ as well as received counsel from pastors who have been gracious enough to overlook my potty mouth as I tried desperately to find the right words to express my outrage and sorrow in my quest for ‘why did this happen to ME?’

I have screamed, stomped, yelled at the top of my lungs and spent many evenings in a ‘wanna burn down the world’ state of furious. I have lit candles, said countless novenas, prayed a million prayers; Mother Mary and I continue to have ‘girl talks’ in the middle of the night several times a week. knock2

I have also spent more than my share of solo evenings nursing the creature and reminding myself that I could really use a good local pub because drinking alone is never the greatest of ideas, even if you are enjoying the ten year old version of the nectar of the gods.

And two years in, it still sucks.

So as the official two year ‘anniversary’ of slogging my way through approaches (just after Easter, but it’s Lent, so indulge me), I decided to make a short list of things I’ve learned (so far) about life as a human who never believed in divorce or that divorce would ever happen to me.

Being married for TWENTY FIVE YEARS was a LONG time and a LOT of ‘muscle memory’. I go to work every day and interact with multiple teachers who were not even ALIVE when I walked down the aisle! 25 years is a long time and the memories of over two decades of life with a spouse are not easily undone, nor do those memories simply ‘go away’ – not in your mind, your body or especially your heart. Sorry, Mick, but time is not always on your side…

Rolling Stones – Time Is On My Side 

Waiting for the doorbell to ring is not a good plan. People have good intentions. They really do. But they also have their own lives and those lives typically do not include divorced women over the age of 40+ who are not part of their already established rule of life or family unit. I do not currently belong to any Red Hat Societies and the few that exist around here are well established, not ‘friendly to newcomers’ and way too tame for my tastes and sense of adventure – more along the line of sweet tea at Golden Corral types of gatherings, which is fine but not my personal version of a ‘girls night out’. I have discovered that the doorbell does not ring nor does the knock on the door come and, despite Burt Parks’ masterful Miss America 1976 performance, the supper invitations (or any invitations, truth be told) rarely happen unless they come from me.

Burt Parks

There are only so many places you can have a ‘good time’ alone. I live in the rural South. That is likely ’nuff said’ for many, but for the uninitiated this means there are no museums, no art galleries, no boutiques, no friendly pubs, no cultural life except for the neighborhood Applebees, Taco Bell, Walmart or Waffle House. Knockin5

I live where a person has to drive at least 30 miles one way to go anywhere with ‘culture’ and then 30 miles (or more like 60 for someplace really decent) back home again at the end of the evening. Alone. Not too terribly likely… Of course, many (including my own son) have suggested that moving is a solution to this dilemma. I do not disagree and I do look around, wistfully hoping that the miracle job will appear on my radar at any time. But finding the right job as an older adult, especially an older woman who needs stability, living on a single salary, having decent benefits and being able to maintain the cost of living is not the simple task that others much younger or just starting out believe it to be.

Widows and Orphans do not often get checked on, despite what the Bible says (and a person only has so many Church Suppers in them). I wont preach a sermon but trust me; it’s tough when you hear more from your mechanic than the folks you go to church with every week (Pastors included). I used to attend the countless church suppers that pass as the only form of fellowship around here (at least for a chaste person who does not want bar stool companions), but honestly; who can do this regularly when alone and in pain, facing the same questions, the awkward ‘I hope someone will sit with me this week’ anxieties? I even avoid the receiving line at church anymore – one can only say ‘I’m fine’ so many times, after all…

“If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men’s cottages princes’ palaces. It is a good divine that follows his own instructions: I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching.” – William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Life DOES go on. It really does! I set my alarm, get up, fix my screaming cat her breakfast, go to work, come home, do schoolwork, fix the screaming cat her supper. I pay bills, read books, watch movies. I go for walks, exercise, and catch an occasional school-based event (mostly for my students; 25 years of Friday Night Lights is a helluva lotta HS football). knockin3

When I was young and single, this type of life was new and exciting; I loved the freedom to do as I pleased, have my own place to myself, leave dishes in the sink and dirty clothes on the floor if I wanted. But 25 years is a long time to live with another person. A long time of sharing your way of living, your hopes, your dreams, your joys and your sorrows with another human being. Twenty five years is a long time to simply or easily pick up and move on.

After two years for trying hard to move on, trying hard to do the right thing, trying to be brave, trying to believe that something good will actually come out of this dark night of the soul, it is increasingly difficult to believe there is anything resembling a phoenix left in me still waiting to rise from the pile of ashes that has become my life. Knockin4

Several have mentioned the story of Job to me as I have wandered through these two years of darkness. I’ll admit it – this story has crossed my mind more than once..

JOB 2 (NIV): “On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him.And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity,though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”

A whole lot of hefty sermons have come out of that passage as well as the entire Book of Job – it is chock full of life lessons and contains its fair share of pain, suffering and drama. In the end, Job has all restored to him, though in my current state of weakness, ongoing pain and doubt, I am still pondering how that could possibly be the case; especially after losing absolutely everything he counted as dear to him including the lives of his children. But what often gets missed, what I have – after years and years of hearing sermons about Job NEVER heard preached by any pastor in any church or at any conference – is the passage that follows in the very same chapter:




11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhiteand Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”

It is hard, this Gospel of Life. It is hard to walk it, live it, and especially to BE it to others in need. But at the end of the day our Brothers and Sisters NEED us in their lives. Especially the Widows, the Orphans and the countless Others in distress, burdened by loneliness and despair and searching for hope amidst the ashes of their life.

To hold on to HOPE. THAT is the biggest lesson I have learned (so far) and two years in.

Eleanor Rigby

Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there
What does he care?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?




I’m Back! (And I’m fasting from Valentines Day…)


, ,

Every year we try to out do ourselves.

We buy flowers & candy, we make restaurant reservations months in advance and some even propose in the hopes of proclaiming our undying love for our beloved. All of that is excellent; be it for me to put ex-lax in anyone’s chocolate!

val day 2

But are we, like the REAL St. Valentine (despite some sketchy history), willing to go to jail for our undying belief that love is worth it? To die by beheading; not in defense of unrequited love or even passion, but in defense of the Sanctity of the Marriage and the Church’s role in the blessing of this Union before God? Seems a bit extreme, doesn’t it…

History of St Valentine

In today’s throw-away world, St. Valentine is so Old School that he doesn’t even get a nod; his reason for dying lost in a sea of candy hearts, paper lace & fat little cherubs who don’t at all look like the cupid of Greek Mythology (who at least seemed to be worth the trouble).

Valentines post 1

But every year there are those who suffer on Valentines Day as well. The loss of a loved one to time or disease or brokenness – Valentines Day is a rough holiday for those who mourn a lover, a spouse, a life companion or friend.

REM – The One I Love

Like many who will face this day alone, I will do my best to stay busy. To refrain from making depressing posts on facebook may be a bit of a challenge, but I will put my happy face on & do my best to allow the posts of others not so unfortunate to wash over me like waves of mercy. Bless their Heart… (really)!

I will also spend the day remembering that for some, the Sanctity of Marriage still matters as does our desire to celebrate our bonds before God in places of Faith – til death do us part.

It is hard, moving on.

Anne Lamott is one of my favorite modern authors. She tells it like it is and I love her for it. She makes me laugh and cry; sometimes both at once. “She said to go ahead and feel the feelings. I did. They feel like shit.” – Anne Lamott

I am ‘two years in’ tomorrow – two years of living hell on many levels, two years of tears and gut wrenching pain so hard at times I was not sure I could draw another breath let alone stand in the storm that had become my life…


Once upon a time I believed
Storms could be weathered.
Winds of change could blow.
Drifting you would find your way home,
Tattooed from the journey and bearing trinkets of thorny crowns.

Like a widow on her watchman’s peak I waited
For each inbound ship to carry you back.
Dreams shared and promises made;
Pearls of great price inlaid with gold and frankincense and myrrh.

But those winds blew a different course and sirens
Knowing your names from voyages past cried loudly;
Offering promises of ancient berths to new horizons
And ports not traveled by worn & dusty laborers
In the vineyard.

And still hoping in the tick of kairos
I cast off in stormy seas to find you;
Anchors pulled and sails unfurled in billowed winds.
Wave battered, tipping windmills and drowning
In the dust of lands end.

Wounds not self-inflicted, but bravely fought, until finally.
Eyes closed.
Lifeblood spilled forever upon the decks and ramparts.
Shrouded dead in the canvas of fate’s needle.

My heart stops beating.

And with Destiny set firmly adrift
I raise my sails towards uncharted waters
And launch into solitary horizons yet unknown.

(LHL, 2015 – all rights reserved)

I cannot say that I am firmly standing just yet on the deck of Valentines Day 2016. My sea legs are still quite wobbly and I fully admit that I keep gazing backwards, looking for the safety of dry land long gone from sight. But I am on the boat, sea sick and all. And someday as I learn to be a better sailor, perhaps I will stop seeing only blackness and maybe, just maybe, learn to navigate by the brilliance of the star lit sky. I do not know what port of call I will come to or if I will be destined to keep on sailing & searching. But I do know that I will somehow learn to carry on, lay my weary head to rest & cry no more.

And I pray he will too…

Kansas – Carry On Wayward Son



From the Tomb


, ,

I did not grow up Catholic.

In fact, I did not grow up much of anything at all. My parents were Baptists; my Mother an American Baptist (yes, that really is a denomination), my Father a ‘good old boy’ Southern Baptist. In fact, as it turns out, dear old Dad came from a line of Baptist Preachers in both Virginia and later North Carolina. Both of my parents were basically non-practicing by the time I was old enough to notice, so I grew up un-churched except for the occasional Wedding, mostly of Catholic friends – mystical and strange affairs with lots of standing and sitting down and prayers and more sitting, standing… you get the picture. tomb 1

But the High Holy Days of Christmas and Easter would have me looking for meaning every year and I eventually found my way into the Catholic Church after decades of trying this and that, squeaking in as JP II closed the Doors of Jubilee in 2001.

I first experienced the Triduum while already on the Road to Rome, a Confirmand in RCIA, the culmination of a several year journey and thousands of questions. I admittedly drove my long suffering Priest, Fr Allan McDonald, Diocese of Savannah, crazy with my non-ending struggles. Olan Mills, Inc

Go ahead and ask him if you think I am exaggerating; he has a wonderful blog, Southern Orders, and would be more than happy to fill you in on all of the ‘pain and suffering’ I caused him on my journey (nice plug for you, Fr Allan – you owe me)!

But in I came, Lumen Gentium in hand, at the Easter Vigil in the oldest Catholic Church in Georgia, the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, celebrating that ancient mystery centuries old; the culmination of our Faith in Christ as Catholics.

tomb 3

Angels rejoiced, Fr Allan heaved huge sighs of relief. St Peter welcomed a fellow sinner and my Patron Saints, Patrick & Columba, held me up while shaking to the very core of my being I spoke the words of Faith; “I believe in the one, holy catholic and apostolic church…”

And my life was forever changed.  tomb 4

tomb 6I cannot describe fully what it means to be Catholic with its Rites thousands of years old still carried on into the present. A Family Reunion where Traditions that matter have been protected and preserved for the future, like that special potato salad recipe, handed on throughout the generations despite many who would love to say ‘out with the old and in with the new’. For the first time in my life I understood why going to Church mattered, that true fellowship in Christ was corporate and not individual for a reason and that understanding where I came from was as important as where I was going.

tomb 8

I was home. Finally.

Last night the Triduum began with the Institution of the Lords Supper and the washing of the disciples feet; a reminder to us all that Christ took upon himself the form of a servant, bending down on His knees to honor and invite those to the Feast of His Body and all that was still to come.

tomb 9

After Mass, the Altar is traditionally stripped of its linen, the burial cloth of Christ. Adornments are covered, the Blessed Sacrament is reposed and the Tabernacle door left open – a reminder that Jesus will be going to the Garden soon and then into the very gates of Hell; the unblemished lamb, blood and wine mingled as the Angel of Death passes by the doorways of our lives. On Good Friday, the Way of the Cross is observed throughout the world – that Via Dolorosa of the Soul – “Behold, I make all things new” tomb 10

We keep Vigil with Him, however poorly. Peter denies, John weeps. Mary is there until the bitter end – she does not leave her Son throughout it all. Finally, “I thirst”.  The veil is rent, the ground quakes, people fall to their knees and the words of salvation are spoken for us all – “It is Finished”…

Easter has become all about Bunnies and Egg Hunts and the flowers of Spring. In fact, if one Googles ‘Easter’ images, you have to scroll quite far down until anything ‘religious’ even appears.

tomb 11As a person who spent decades looking for truth amidst baskets of candy, I sometimes wonder why those of us who call ourselves Christians would allow such frivolity to take primacy in our lives this week of all weeks. People who for decades told me I needed to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior prancing about in bunny outfits and painting eggs – pagan customs, all. I know that sounds harsh and I don’t mean it to be, I really don’t. But I cant help thinking – as a person who searched and searched for meaning in life and who is still on a life journey – how these Traditions build our Faith in Christ when our children know more about the ‘Easter Bunny’ than they do about the Road to Calvary.

Tomorrow evening an amazing Basketball Game will be played – the Battle of the Trees. It will be an epic game; maybe not as epic as ND vs UK, but..! tomb 12

The game begins shortly after 8pm. Just as the Easter Fires of the Great Easter Vigil will be lit…

I admit that I struggled about this; after all I AM Catholic and there are many Masses I could go to and still watch that game! Easter Sunday Mass is certainly an option and I am sure my cousins in Kentucky will be in attendance then – no blame, no shame!

But the Easter Vigil is not just ‘another Mass’ for me. It is also the Anniversary of my Birth in Christ, the night I put on the Garments of Salvation, the night I lit the Candle of my Baptism in Christ, the night I renounced the devil and all of his evil works, the night I was Confirmed as a Child of God, the night I received Jesus in the Eucharist.

The Easter Vigil is the night I returned home from the prodigal journey of my life, never wishing again for the ‘good old days’ of chaos, the night I rose from the tomb of death into life, through the eternal sacrifice of Christ on my behalf. tomb 14

On this night, I am the sinner both on His right and His left. I am Peter in the public square and also in the garden, sword drawn. I am Mary, watching her bloodied and battered son die a sinners death on a criminal’s cross.

Tomorrow night will find me at the Easter Vigil. The most Holy Night of the Year for Christians world over, the anniversary of my death of self and the defining moment of my life in Christ. I will wait with Him for the sun to rise upon the empty tomb and in doing so, renew my vows to Him.

“To whom shall I go? You have the words of Eternal Life”…

tomb 13“Oh truly blessed night, worthy alone to know the time and hour when Christ rose from the Underworld! The sanctifying power of this night dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners”

Blessed Triduum, Blessed Easter! ALLELUIA!

And she called his name Samuel

Twenty One Years is a long time. And it is also a moment…

Like Hannah, I had more than a few issues bringing my own son into the world. But after years of wondering ‘if’ and the pain of the loss of our first child, here he was – our miracle baby! E22

“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life…” I Samuel 1:10-11

Months before, I had awoken in the middle of the night – a dream still strongly in my mind, heart pounding and certain that I had been visited by God. Waking Wes, I pronounced “We are going to have a son and his name is Ethan Samuel!” “Go back to sleep and we will make sure it isn’t indigestion in the morning” was the reply.

It wasn’t.

“So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the LORD for him.” I Samuel 1:20

E21Our Ides of March baby, Ethan Samuel, came into the world shortly before 3:30am on the 15th of the month, 1994 in that beautiful city of San Francisco.

And my life was changed for ever…

Ethan Samuel’s entrance into the world was not without drama and there were some touch and go moments that first year for us both. E16


I cannot describe the feeling of watching your child go into major neurosurgery at age six months; the helplessness you feel as a parent, standing at the surgery door and handing your only child – the only child you will ever have – over to people who will literally have his life in their hands. “Don’t worry” said the Anesthesiologist as he gently took my son from my arms. “I will take good care of him. I have children of my own at home.”

“When her husband went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the LORD and to fulfill his vow, Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the LORD, and he will live there always.” I Samuel 1:21-22


E29 E3

E2 E25 E28

The years spent with this precious gift from God have gone by quickly, filled with love and laughter and so many memories. Others have journeyed with us, bringing joy into our lives and enriching us all the more – it truly takes a village…

E13 E19 E11 E14 E9 E17 E18 E30E35“After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” And he worshiped the Lord there.”

E41 E43

And so, dearest Ethan Samuel, on this special day of full emancipation, my hand is stretched across the miles and my heart and prayers and vows to God are with you: “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord shine His face upon you and be gracious to you. May He turn his face toward you and give you peace.” -Numbers 6:24-26

You are my Navy Bean, my Lima Bean, my String Bean, my only Bean. You are all that I could ever hope for or want in a son. You are the sunshine of my life and I love you to the moon and back. E37

Happy 21st Birthday, Ethan Samuel. Now – go out and change the world…

E40Unceasing Prayers and all the Love I have to give, Mama

Goodbye, Father Ted – A Man with Hope to Bring



In the spring of 1968 a man gave his life for a cause he believed in – the dignity of all humans, regardless of creed, color or faith. And on that fateful day at a small motel in an obscure part of Memphis, TN my life was changed forever. MLK death

I was living in Trenton, NJ at the time and my family owned a business; a white owned business in the ‘black part of town’. The riots all over were bad and Trenton was no exception. The NJ National Guard was called in, receiving orders to allow the rioting and looting to continue and to not intervene unless loss of life was threatened. And a casualty of the riots was my family’s business which was looted, burned, gutted. Quite a lot for a not quite ten year old to take in…

MLK Riots

But growing up in the 60s and 70s was like that and all of us who were young then were profoundly affected by Dr. King’s death, and later by Bobby’s and by the events of the time like Vietnam and Watergate. It is hard to explain to others who came along before or have come after. We are a generation of people who experienced these things when we were young and were forever changed. We went on to become social activists and spawned the Environmental Movement, the first Earth Day, the Women’s Liberation Movement and Walk Outs on college and high school campuses around the country.

MLK hippiesYes, we were radicals and hippies and ‘One Way’ Jesus Freaks too. We believed we could change the world we lived in if we believed enough, were passionate enough, cared enough.

And we did.

In the midst of all of this turmoil, drop in, turn on, tune out, peace, love and rage, I discovered a man who was going to change my life forever despite never meeting him, or ever seeing him in person. His name was Father Theodore Hesburgh of the Congregation of Holy Cross. A Catholic. A Priest. Father Ted. MLK - Hesburgh

All my friends who lived in the Trenton/Philly area where I grew up were Penn State fans, but I loved Notre Dame. I don’t know why. I did not grow up Catholic – I wasn’t even a Christian; just a fan of all things Notre Dame. It was perplexing, even to me. But I bled green even as I watched Saturday football games on an old behemoth of a black and white TV, marveling then and later as the color TV arrived, changing my world both inside and out. I lived for the Notre Dame football teams of the 70s – those smash mouth defense days of Ara Parseghian and Dan Devine and Rudy of course! MLK rudy

But more than Notre Dame Football, more than the movie Rudy, more than my love for all things IRISH, Father Ted was calling my name.

Father Ted was, first and foremost, a Priest; a man who had dedicated his life to God. And though I was not Catholic and really did not understand what any of that meant, Father Ted represented hope in things that mattered – things that mattered very much to those of us who grew up in those tumultuous decades. Things that matter to my generation still. MLK quoteThings that mattered to me.

I didn’t realize it then, but on the day my family’s business was destroyed, my own life truly did began to matter and the world around me began to matter very much as well. I was drawn in first by disbelief and then by anger and later by a recognition that these riots were an outpouring of a grief too deep to contain: a sorrow and an overwhelming rage  that needed physical expression. Finally, much later, I also came to realize that only love could truly give Hope to a world in despair.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. – MLK

My own father – a southerner – understood this somehow. And from this white man, born in North Carolina and raised in the bigotry of the south, came words I will never forget: constant and unfailing words of support for the black community, words of shared grief over the death of a great leader, words of hope in my small world gone seemingly mad. We rebuilt and reopened our business and continued to serve the black community of Trenton as one of the few white businesses to return after the riots gutted downtown. But Trenton never recovered from those days and the streets surrounding the world I grew up in and the bridge that I drove by on my way to our business became mean and ugly and what might have been was instead replaced by despair giving way eventually to hopelessness, anger and hate. MLK Trenton

There were men who understood that these horrors could eventually stand as reminders that we still had an opportunity to ‘do the right thing’, to ‘see justice served’.

Men like Father Ted. Men with Hope to bring. MLK jfk

Years passed and I protested and carried on and had my moments in the sun. Our Lady stood quietly by, silently watching over me in my foolish and determined attempts to find meaning in life. I eventually discovered that Pearl of Great Price, hidden in my heart all along, though it took many years and much gentleness on God’s part to remind me that I too still believed in things that mattered.

When my own son was born, my life was forever changed. Hope was defined in this precious life I now held in my arms. Little did I know that his birth would lead me back to the days of my youth. Back to Father Ted. Back to Notre Dame. Back to the school I had never visited, back to the man I had never met. MLK dome

Decades later and now (miraculously) Catholic, my only child expressed a desire to discern Priesthood with the Congregation of Holy Cross. And for the first time in over 50 years, I stepped onto the hallowed campus of Knute Rockne, the Gipper, the Four Horsemen: to see for the first time that holy grail of stadiums, to walk the campus, every step thick with traditions, to soak in the history of all things Notre Dame.

And MLK rudy 2 the moment I stepped on the sacred ground of that amazing place that is Notre Dame, I remembered Father Ted was also here – and my dreams of changing the world for good all came rushing back to me like a tidal wave of faith.

Father Ted is gone now; one of the last icons of the world I grew up in, a world that experienced so many hardships and yet still held on to Hope. Dignitaries came from all over to say goodbye to Father Ted. People who had met him, spent time with him, knew him. Famous people. Rich people. Important people. People I will never meet, or walk with or eat with. MLK holtz

MLK - funeral 1My own son, now a Seminarian with the Congregation of Holy Cross, was not there for Fr Teds’ passing as he is studying abroad this semester. It was frustrating that neither of us got to say goodbye in person. Thousands lined the streets to bid their final farewells – a fitting tribute to a life well lived…

I discovered the Holy Cross Cemetery on my first visit to Notre Dame and have returned to it every time I have been on campus. I go on my own when I visit and walk among the graves and pray. IMG_2666

For many, the famous Grotto is their pilgrimage place, but for me it has always been the CSC cemetery. When I am anxious about the future, I go there and light a candle in my mind and praying over the things that concern me, ask the men who are buried there, Men with Hope to Bring, for their prayers for me and for my son. It gives me great peace to walk among the simple gravestones of so many who gave themselves completely for the world they lived in, these men who believed as do I that there is still good to be done, still faith to be lived and that even in death, Hope abounds.

MLK - csc cemetaryAnd this week as the world took a moment to remember a great man of faith, I realized I would finally get a chance to meet Father Ted in person the next time I visit that little cemetery – its simple crosses a powerful reminder that Hope still exists.

AVE CRUX SPES UNICA, Father Ted Hesburgh, CSC – your life changed mine forever.

MLK - hesburgh 2

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Dusty Shadows

imageAs you are now aware, I am a fan of classic movies, Broadway musicals (at least the old ones) and, perish the thought, family-based TV specials. All of the Peanuts specials hold a place of honor as does Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and of course the Wizard of Oz (which hits all THREE of my categories)!

Not to be outdone are the 1960s television versions of Cinderella and Peter Pan. I watched all of these made-for-TV events over and over again as a child growing up. I can still sing many of the songs and quote whole sections of dialogue. No matter that Prince Charming went on to become a soap opera star (only true die-hards know to whom I am referring) or that Peter Pan was actually played by a woman. I loved those shows and would watch them again if they came on the television tomorrow (many still do)!DUSTY SHADOWS 1

A reoccurring theme in all of the Peter Pan versions – from James Barrie’s book to Mary Martin’s TV rendition – is Peter & his shadow. imageAs a young child I was mesmerized by the thought of losing one’s shadow and then re-attaching it after a successful chase. Did the shadow have feelings? Did it really want to escape from Peter, or was it only seeking a taste of freedom? Was the reconnection to the personage of Pan an imprisonment of inner self or a rejoining necessary for completeness? And just WHAT was that shadow THINKING when it escaped to begin with?!

Shadows are revisited themes for most of us. The dark edges of our lives collect them like dust bolls under the bed; seen but examined infrequently. Hiding in those shadows are much bigger things, but we tell ourselves we can wait for the annual spring-cleaning; that dreaded but necessary time of year when bucket and mop in hand we steel ourselves to face the unpleasant task of exposing the true extent of the accumulated grime in our lives.

Even when we are determineBed Cleand to clean, shadows have a mind of their own – shifting in the light like a game of ‘hide and seek’. We often only halfheartedly stab at the hidden debris because exposing the dirt to the light of day may require time and effort we are not willing to spend. Or perhaps we are actually content to clean in low light in our hurry to move on to items more appealing on the check list of our lives.


Unlike many of us, Peter Pan, despite being known as the ‘boy who never grew up’ does a very brave and ‘grown up’ thing. He doggedly pursues his shadow and upon catching it firmly sews it back on – with help from Wendy – who tells him to “be brave because it will hurt just a little”. Peter has no intention of allowing his shadow to run freely again, bringing that unruly part of himself under control while also clearly seeing that Pan’s Shadow, left to its own devise, can bring disaster to both Peter and his beloved Neverland.

Me and my Shadow – who has the lead in your dance of life..?