Hulk Smash.

This morning I woke up and I went on Twitter to read the news for the day. There is,of course, the rumor of this Tuesday, that the former president would be indicted. I thought perhaps that would be the headline that caught my eye first, but either that’s not happening today, or it’s happening later today- either way what caught my eye was Florida.

Now, I hold very little love for Florida. True, I have only been there once, and the extent of my travel there was in a cab from airport to cruise port. But when I did step outside to have a cigarette, I found the palm trees to be pretty, but the air to be 100% unbreathable. The humidity was unbelievable, and I knew I would not be returning for any length of stay by choice. Other things I know about Florida include swamps and alligators, huge mosquitoes, and Boomers from Buffalo who retired there. And then there is the politics! I mean, first of all, that’s where the former has his resort home. But on top of that, you have this DeSantis guy. I don’t give a lot of attention to what is going on so far south of me, but when I saw the headline this morning that they were trying to introduce a bill that would ban girls from talking about getting their period before 6th grade, I almost broke the PlayStation, Hulk-smash style.

First of all, I went to Catholic School, the most conservative of conservative schools back in the 80s and 90s. And we had our Family Life class in 5th grade. The fact that we even had a Family Life class is amazing given the time and circumstance, and the fact that I’m not 100% sure they still do this today is upsetting. Anyway, what happened in Family Life class was that the girls and boys were separated into two groups, and puberty was explained to us. Now, some of us had mothers who told us things about puberty and getting our periods, but some of us did not. I fell into the latter camp, wherein I was aware of such things because my mother made me aware, but it was still treated with a very secretive vibe, and I didn’t really get any true information until that fifth grade class.

For reference, I was 10 years old. And if you think from one moment that I wasn’t fully aware important information was being kept from me by adults, you are sorely mistaken.

10-year-olds are not stupid; they are not the babies people think they are, especially not in today’s world. If a 10-year-old in the ’90 could handle learning about a period, explain to me how kids from the future who have way more access to information then we ever did are supposed to pretend like something doesn’t exist? Especially when so many kids are getting their periods earlier and earlier. I know there were girls in that fifth grade class who’d already gotten theirs, and there were many who didn’t. And I know that now that number has risen, perhaps due to evolution, perhaps due to environmental issues. Either way, there are 10-year-olds out there who need this information. But they don’t get to have it, why?  Because old men in politics are scared of the ick factor?!

I lucked out in life because I have a husband who had sisters that never hid anything from it. I remember the first time I got mine while we were dating, and he ran to Rite Aid and got tampons and ice cream and Midol. I never even used Midol, but he insisted it would help and he was right. He has never considered it to be gross or weird, and he thinks that dudes who are too scared to go by tampons are wusses. I would accept no other behavior from a man, and therefore expect no other behavior as well. The boys in my 5th grade class learned about periods too that day, and I am hopeful they were taught how to appropriately assist their loved one during that time.Grown men aren’t grossed out by bodily functions. That’s little boy business.

I read some more, and I found out that not only are they saying that you cannot talk about your period before 5th grade, they are also saying that you have to report your period start date to the state if you wish to play sports. So while you are not allowed to talk about it, you HAVE to talk about it if you want to play sports before 5th grade. RIDICULOUS.

I just don’t understand, I guess. Maybe it’s because I’ve been in Education for the past 20 years, but I don’t see where our politicians get off trying to dumb down our children. I don’t know why we are letting them. Why? Why are we as parents afraid of our children growing up? Is that not the goal of parenting, to raise a child to adulthood, and prepare them for everything that the future will throw at them? Why are so many parents today trying to preserve their children in a snow globe? And yet, you gave them a phone didn’t you?

That’s the thing. If you tell a kid they can’t talk about it, they are only going to talk about it more with each other, where they will likely get wrong information. And they will certainly be using their phone to access the internet and figure out what the big deal is. I hate to break this to you, parent of middle schooler, but your child has put the word “p**n” into a search database. And they have seen some things. So if you really care about what your child is exposed to, maybe stop worrying about natural body functions and start worrying about the technology you bought them for Christmas. Your child is not stupid; your child is not unaware. They have eyes and ears and brains just like you, and they all work together to form concepts. If you’re not going to assist your child in forming concepts that are healthy and safe and socially acceptable, that is on you as parent- not the state, not the school system, not the teachers. You. 

So vote like your child depends on you. 

You know the crazy thing? The second article I read this morning was also about Florida. It was about banning books. Something about Florida. Seems like the government really wants to keep the kids stupid, and the sad part is that the parents seem to be letting them.  Although, I do hope that someday I write something good enough to be banned in the state of Florida.


Step One

Sometime before Christmas, I turned off my computer. See, it was too close to the heating vent, and as a result the fan seem to be working overtime. It made far too much noise, and so I turned it off. I adjusted it’s position, figured maybe it just needed a break for a day or two, and I walked away. I already had not used it much since October, when we moved into the new apartment. See, I love my new apartment, but I did sacrifice my office for it. Now I have a small set up in my bedroom, but it is not the same. I have had a lot of trouble sitting there and writing, and also some crazy nonsense happened with my pinky finger, so sometimes it is hard to type. I used the computer sporadically through October and November and a little of December before turning it off for a break, hoping the whirring sound that I heard was simply it overheating due to running too long and being too close to the vent. And then, I did not turn it on again until yesterday.

See, my mother up and died, and while that did not stop me from writing in general, it did hinder my work on my greater projects, all of which exists inside my computer. Everything I have put out since December, be it blog or Patreon essay or poem, has been written on my phone. In fact, much of it has been dictated, due to what I believe maybe the start of some arthritis in my hands. It’s not that I can’t type, but I can’t go as long as I used to or as fast, which gets very frustrating for me. It’s much like how reading is slower for me now given the wear and tear of my eyeballs.

Anyway, yesterday I fired up the computer and she ran beautifully and silently, albeit slow as molasses. She’s an old model, so it takes her a while to get started. I went on a hunt for an essay I wrote back in 2007 about my sister, and when I found it I posted it to my Patreon. It is a little piece that I always imagined I would use as a chapter in an autobiography, but of course I now think it is substandard writing. Also, it is a snapshot of a moment in time- a time when I was still adapting to having a sister, and not being an only child anymore. Now, I have adjusted to the situation, so I believe the story of her birth would look different if I wrote it today. But I digress…

Anyway, the computer was soundless, so I left it on. It’s on right now, even though I am sitting on my couch in my living room using my phone to pen this blog. I don’t know why I am not comfortable using it yet, but I do know that yesterday- I turned it on. So, baby steps.


Here is a link to a poem that I wrote about St Patrick’s Day. It was published a little while back in the Ghost City Press Review. I penned it while at a workshop led by one of my favorite local poets, Justin Karcher, who also edits for Ghost City. I was very pleased he wanted to include my poem in the review. I know I shared the poem on the blog already when I wrote about going to the workshop, but I would like to talk about the poems deeper meaning today, and the current feelings the approaching holiday evokes.

The topic that we were given at the workshop was “home.” I expressed “home” in that poem in three ways. The city I live in, the country my ancestors come from, and the people who made me- my grandparents. Without Pat and Jim Hannon, there would be no Brigid. Sometimes I like to think about the great architecture that brings us as generations forth after so many eons of existence on Earth. Thing is, aside from my great-grandma Ag, I didn’t know anyone past my grandparents. They are the relics of my family, the keepers of the knowledge of our ancestry.

Three years ago this week, my grandfather passed away. It was the worst Saint Patrick’s Day we have had. Obviously, my family has a tradition of passing around major holidays, which is a little annoying because it tarnishes very happy days that my family always celebrated together. One of those very happy days has always been Saint Patrick’s Day, and when I was young we would go downtown to the big parade- apparently second only to New York City. Buffalo has a huge Irish population, so we have a really big celebration- and we have another one that is only slightly smaller, too, called the Old First Ward parade.

When the bulk of the family stopped going to the big one downtown, my mom got the itch to go to the one in the Ward. We started taking the kiddos yearly, and she would make them a big Irish breakfast and give them non-alcoholic Irish coffee and bake shamrock cookies. The kids were always excited- I remember one year when L was only 10 and he shook Byron Brown’s hand. He thought that was pretty cool- I kept my mouth shut, letting him enjoy what he thought was a celebrity encounter. The girls always seem to have the most fun and look forward to it, so it was no surprise to me when both of them said they wanted to attend this year. But then, my heart hurt.

See, I celebrated Easter with my mom last year, but we only did a small breakfast. Plus, I have the unfortunate side effect of PTSD that makes you black out the time surrounding traumatic events. For instance, I do not remember third grade because my grandmother had just died. And, I do not remember Easter last year, because within the week my mother was in a coma. I do remember last Saint Patrick’s day though, and it occurs to me that this holiday will be harder than the other have been. It is both my first St Patrick’s day without my mother, and the heralding of the end of a year without her.

Yes, Momma died on Christmas, but she left just after Easter- our last conversation was in April, and that is quick approaching. In many ways, we are closing in on a year without her, and that is painful. But then I look to the good. Because she would want me to, you know? The good is that the girls still want to go to that parade. They want to keep my mother’s favorite tradition alive somehow, and for that I am forever grateful to them.

So, Saturday I will bundle up and face whatever crazy weather comes here in Buffalo in March, and I will go watch people walk through the street, cheering and singing. And I will be with my family, whom I love so dearly. And hopefully, my mom will be watching from above, finally having the best seat in the house.

My Last Photo of Us-Old First Ward Parade, 2022

Nobody’s Fault

Some people celebrate their dating anniversary. Some people celebrate their wedding anniversary. My husband and I do neither, though that is not to say we let the days go unnoticed. They’re both in September, which is convenient because then we just really have to remember the month. But in March, we have the Usiversary. That was when we truly made a commitment, instead of just screwing around like our 20-something selves. I am pretty sure I have written about it before, so if this sentence is highlighted, that is true. Really, it is just an anniversary for us and no one else, and that has always made it more special.

Anyway, this year we were going to go to the movies and see Cocaine Bear. I had tickets and I had a gift certificate- it would have cost me nothing for an evening at the movies, and I had been saving these items for this special occasion. So, of course, when I went to get them from the drawer yesterday, they were not there. Immediately, I accused Mark of moving them, and he replied that he did not touch them. So then, I considered it was the hoodlum children, but I have no evidence. I looked everywhere, to no avail. I was pissed.  Suffice it to say, we did not go to the movies last night. Not that I could have if I wanted to.

Around 1:00 p.m. I got home and it had started to snow. I texted my boss to see what weather conditions were near school, and she said the north was clearer, so I decided to give myself 10 extra minutes and headed out at about 1:45. I slid down the street, was unable to break at the corner, and slid around it. I thought “okay, side streets are no good-” but I kept driving, because that’s how I am. We know how to drive in the snow here in Buffalo, and a little slip at the corner only means I need to pump the brakes. However, by the time I got to the stop sign at the next corner, the visibility had become worse. And when I pumped the brakes to stop…I did not. I almost got t-boned by pickup truck instead, and my life flashed before my eyes. Instead of turning right to go to work, I turned left, and drove 15 miles an hour around the block to get back to my driveway. I texted my boss and told her I would not be in, which really made me mad. Everything kind of came to a head then, and I started bitching and yelling at myself.

See, I felt like a failure somehow, like I had screwed everything up. Fortunately, I have been steadily taking my meds so Sane Brain was able to make an appearance and tell me that I was being ridiculous. It’s not like it was my fault that I couldn’t go to work- it wasn’t my stomach or anything, it was nature. And it wasn’t my fault we weren’t going on a date, because I know *I* did not misplace those tickets, and also it ended up snowing so how would we even have gotten there? None of the things that were making me mad were anybody’s fault, really, so I realized I was really being mad at no one-not even myself.

I went and took a nap. When I woke up, I didn’t feel crappy anymore- well, correction, I felt sort of crappy because I always do after a nap, it’s why I don’t nap. But I just needed to reset yesterday, and I think it did me good. When I woke up, I felt better. I got a good night’s sleep, I woke up in a decent hour today, and I am feeling fairly positive at the moment. It is my day off, and the house is unexpectedly quiet because unfortunately the kiddos are not here- they’ve got the ‘vid at their house. Which is terrible, but I know I will at least see the girls next weekend for the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. So today, I will welcome the peace, because the only thing I really need to do today is some light housekeeping. My Usiversary did not turn out great this year, but this morning Mark and I took a drive and talked and laughed and enjoyed each other’s company. And that’s what matters about that day- 12 years, and we’re still talking, and laughing, and enjoying each other’s company. Nothing else matters.

Drag Queen Storytime

I have seen a lot of talk in the media and on the socials about all the laws people are trying to pass regarding drag queens. I will admit that I didn’t pay much attention at first, mostly because I thought it was pretty f**king stupid. Because, at the end of the day, this is: stupid. Utterly, unbelievably stupid.

Now, I’m not going to go into Trans rights. That is another stupid thing because I think that if you are a human being you deserve the exact same rights as every other human being. End of GD discussion. But the drag queen thing I will address, because frankly it’s ridiculousness catches my attention.

The first time that I saw a drag queen, she was on stage performing Girls Just Want to Have Fun at Club Marcella in 1998. Sounds a little cliche, given the tune, but I very much adored her Cyndi Lauper rendition that made me smile and laugh and feel less awkward in the situation I was in. I was 16, and back then you could get into the club with a special card that said you were 16 to 18. We would go sometimes, my group of girlfriends and I, and that first night I felt very out of place. For instance, I didn’t know very many LGBTQ people. The ones I did were adults, none of my friends had come out yet, and few were even suspected to be anything but straight and cis. At that time, for me, I was aware that I liked boys and always had, but for some reason a lot of people thought that I was gay. So I thought maybe they were right, and went through a little bit of anxiety the night we went to Marcella’s for the first time. (I should note that this is when it was a gay club on Main Street under the Tralf. Not whatever mess they made at the new location with the new setup. That place is a tragedy and should be closed.)

Anyway, I watched Cyndi perform, and I danced and sang along, and I thought it was great. My friends and I had a good time, and started going back there every other week or so. Over the years, we went to Marchella’s a lot, and eventually even got the boys to come along. We had good times there, always enjoying the drag performers. They were the highlight.

When I was 19, I decided I was going to go to the Pride Parade. This is when it was held in the Elmwood Village, and was a much smaller affair than the massive celebration we have every June at Canalside now. But I went, and I wore my Straight Ally pin on my shirt, and I thought of my dear friend Mike, who was still kind of in the closet, but if he hadn’t been, would have definitely been my side. I went for him, really. And while I was there, my lighter fell out of my pocket.

I was holding my cigarette and fumbling around, putting my purse on the ground and looking through it, when a pair of red leather stiletto boots suddenly appeared beside my bag. “You okay, honey?” I heard from above, and looked up to see the most beautiful creature attached to those beautiful boots. I got a little flustered. “I lost my lighter,” I told her, packing my items back into my bag. I stood up and looked at her outfit, nothing but red leather and sequins. Her hair was long and blonde and pulled into a high ponytail. She had lashes that girls today would be envious of and she had makeup on that we didn’t figure out how to do until late 2010s.  The point is, she was perfection, and when she pulled out a lighter and lit my cigarette for me, she became my sister.

I’ve never forgotten that moment, because it was the first time that a drag queen interacted with me one-on-one. And I am here to tell you, I survived! I was spoken to by a person in drag, and I lived to tell the tale!

Now yes, I was an adult when this encounter occurred, and of course we must protect children, right? Tell that to myself watching Bosom Buddies when I was like five. Get out of here with that. I’ve seen a man in a dress. In fact, I’ve seen a great many men in dresses both on screen and in real life, and they do not scare me half as much as a man in jeans and a flannel with a trucker hat.

Listen, if you are afraid of a drag queen, you are afraid of something within yourself. For instance, I was afraid my first night at Club Marcella- what I was afraid of, now that I’m an adult who knows things, was typical teenage sexuality coming out for the first time. Totally normal crap that every single one of my friends was going through at the same time, but back then, we didn’t talk about it. I find it interesting that older Generations think the current youth is being brainwashed by “woke” culture, when in actuality, they are just more open to talking about things. Probably because they have parents from my generation, who hate how our parents kept us in the dark. Also, way more Millennials go to therapy. Like, almost all of us. We learned to talk about our feelings, and we taught that to our children- don’t be mad just because the kids aren’t stupid and silent anymore.

Anyway, like I said, I had no problems with drag when I was a kid. I understood that it was a man in a dress for performance purpose- there was no confusion. And then I became a teenager, and I started to explore other things, and that led me to learn that it was a lifestyle for some people. Which is cool, because they are excellent performers, and as a performer myself I really appreciated their gusto. And then as an adult, I started to pay attention to real problems in the world, and never in my life did I think drag queens was going to register as something I had to write a blog about in an effort to convince people to shut up.

See, every time I see some news item with some Republican senator complaining about someone in drag reading a children’s book in the middle of a library, the headline I hear is: Volunteer Takes Time Out of Day to Assist Small Children’s Education at Local Library. And if you are against such things, pretty much sounds like you’re against education and libraries and volunteerism and kids, in which case maybe you should just lock yourself inside your house where none of the big scary drag queens can hurt you.  I mean, wow. Get over yourself.
That’s enough rant for today.  Happy Tuesday,  my friends.

Losses, Big and Small

Some stories, particularly ones related to the theater, I save for myself. Perhaps for a memoir, perhaps a compilation of sorts- essays or something. Maybe even for a play I will write somewhere down the road. Anyway, these are not the tales that end up in the blog. If I were to share one, it would have started with: let me tell you about the worst job I ever had…

I was 20, and my mother told me to go look through the Yellow Pages to find a job. I thought this was a nonsense way to do things, given that most recruiters had started using email, but I gave it a go anyway and called up a costume store downtown and asked if they were hiring. Strangely, miraculously, they were. I had a pretty good interview and started right away, though in retrospect I don’t believe myself to have been the right fit. For instance, while I had a theatrical background which benefited the overall theme of the store and company, I didn’t have much in a retail background or any kind of customer service. But that wasn’t even the problem there- there were tasks involved in the job that were not brought up in the interview, such as ironing. I can tell you with great shame that I did not learn to iron until I was 20 years old, in the basement of this old store on Main St. They had special ironing boards, where you would  press a pedal and the fabric was sucked down to the board, making it much easier to iron the wrinkles out. Another thing that I was not prepared for were the bunny rabbits. When I started working there in February, they were taking returns for Cupid costumes and such. I was told that soon would be the time for the bunny rabbits, as my boss gestured to the ceiling. The store has three racks stacked upon each other, costumes from floor to ceiling and wall to wall, and in the utmost back corner were dozens of bunny rabbit suits.

I spent the next two months with those bastards, renting them in and out in a way that is similar to my current job, and then washing them and preparing them for the next renter. If you ever wondered what was harder, renting automobiles or renting bunny rabbit costumes, I am here to tell you the rabbits win. I would rather wash the clunkiest Jeep driven through the dirtiest field filled with the hungriest kids who left the crunchiest crackers behind, than have to wash another bunny rabbit costume in my lifetime. I don’t know what it was about it, I just know it was miserable. They came back smelling terrible, and so into the washer it went, and you could only do one at a time. While it washed, I would Febreze and brush the head and wipe down any surfaces inside. You couldn’t put them in the dryer, so instead you used a hook on a stick to lift them from the washer and hang them to dry from the ceiling.  It was a feat requiring strength that I did not have, as they swayed and bobbed up towards the roof and I clumsly hung them a bit of pipe.

I like the retail aspect of the job, when people would come in for makeup or costume accessories, and I would help them find what they were looking for. But a lot of it I didn’t understand, and a lot of it had to do with where my head was at the time. I left after only a few months, because I knew I wasn’t doing a good job, not to mention the fact that I was on the dreaded 14 pill cocktail at the time. I couldn’t hack it anymore, so one day I quit. I felt bad, but I am sure my employers knew it was for the best. Anyway, it gave me a fun little anecdote about bunny rabbit costumes that I tell at parties sometimes. 

Then Wednesday last week I was on the way home from the hospital when my dad told me that the store was gone. I thought “gone” as in liquidated, so I didn’t think much of it, really. And then he said a firefighter was missing. I was woozy from morphine and Ativan, so it took me a minute to ask him if these two things were related and sure enough, they were. There was a massive fire at the store, and the structure fell on one of the firefighters, who ultimately lost his life. I have a lot of feelings. I don’t like that these people I once knew lost their livelihood. And more so, now an emergency responder has lost his everything. A Buffalo firefighter, like my grandfather.

I see a lot of posts on Facebook about this brave man, and I ache for his family. I also ache, perhaps strangely, because I know it is nothing in comparison, for the history that went up in flames. I believe this would be considered a great tragedy whether or not there was a loss of life. And now here we are with a man who cannot return home to his family – and while I feel bad for those beautiful handmade costumes, as well as the people that made them, I can’t help but feel broken for that family- that is so much worse. And yet, all I can think of is dozens of burned bunny rabbits heads. 

It is an image in my mind, created simply by facts, and it brings forth a great many feelings. I poured them into a poem over on Patreon, because that is how I deal when I have a lot of feelings. And then I wrote this blog, about loss in many ways. Even the tiniest ways – for instance, I don’t think I will be telling the story of my worst job at dinner parties anymore.

Try, Try Again.

I read a quote a long time ago, that said “so long as you’re trying, I’m staying.” I have often said this to my husband, who has gone through some battles that are not mine to share, but have caused him to have to try very hard at many emotional aspects of life. This, of course, includes our relationship, and I must say it is not a one-way street- I, too, have much baggage, and we have agreed that’s so long as we’re trying to heal and fix our issues, we will support one another 100%.

This blog is about trying.

I am a little sad as I write this, because I am always a little sad since Momma’s passing. I, of course, think of her many times a day, and when I think about the word “trying,” she is who comes to mind. She is the one who always encouraged me to keep trying, even if I felt like I was up against insurmountable odds. She had unlimited faith in me, and she gave that faith to me, instilling it in my brain. Maybe that’s why I have such ridiculous self confidence, but I would be lying if I told you my mother ever told me to give up.

I have been trying very hard as of late to live what I consider to be a “normal” life. I have not had much experience with this, because as soon as things started to fall into place for me, I became sick. That seems to be the trend over the past few years. For instance, yesterday: I woke very sick. I vomited several times, and I tried to chalk it up to stress. And perhaps it was in that moment, because I had a busy day ahead. I had to be at Avis at 8:00 a.m. and I knew that there was a lot of work waiting for me there, and we are back from school now as well, so I had to be there by 2:30. Somehow, miraculously, I managed to get myself to Avis and work my full shift, only running to the bathroom to throw up once. By the time I left however, I was in extreme pain. On the drive home, I had to pull over to the side of the road it got so bad. When I got home, the vomiting had started, and then 2 hours later I find found myself in the emergency room. It got to the point this time where I was coughing up blood, which usually means damage to my esophagus. Wonderful. They gave me some medicine that did nothing, and then a nurse looked at my chart and realized they didn’t give me the medicine they were supposed to. Lifesaver nurse goes and gets it immediately, and I drift off into a 2-hour sleep. When I wake up they are giving me water, and sending me home.

I still felt like death, and woke up periodically through the night to get sick again. I was certain I would be sick this morning. Alas, here we are. I obviously did not make it to school in the afternoon, and when I awoke this morning to a group text from my boss about attendance, I won’t lie that I felt called out. Not that I don’t understand, especially given the educational field’s need for ratios. And it’s not like we have unlimited staff. The problem is that I have been in this situation before- I had a job that I loved and then I lost because of my stupid uncooperative stomach.

See, I thought I could try- I could try again with something a little less demanding, and I can see how it went. I’ve been there for a year, and it’s been a good year, but still my stomach- she prevents it from being a great one. Same with Avis, I thought I could try and have an almost normal work schedule. But then I got really sick earlier this month, and now I am scared I will be sick again and miss more time there- no, there are no ratios to contend with, but it is just me and boss-Mark. That’s two people for what I would consider to be a five person business.  And still, I want to try, likely because of the old saying that the grass is greener on the other side. Sure, I bet there are plenty of people working a nine to five who would be happy to be free of that schedule, but oh, what would I not give for it. To be able to rely on such things, what a wonderful world that would be.

Anyway, I think I need to try something else. I’m not saying I’m quitting my jobs, those are just examples, but I have to try to make a living in a way that my stomach cannot interfere with- and so far as close as I have gotten is the writing. I just need to make more money at it somehow.

What would my mom tell me to do? Keep hunting, keep trying, do whatever you need to do to get to where you want to go. So that is what I will do, wake up each day and try harder. And if I can’t try harder, I will try a little. Either way, I will, in the immortal words of my aunt Ka, my mother’s sister, I shall keep on keeping on.  I will try.

40 Days

One of the Catholic Church’s favorite things to play is the waiting game…we have Advent, the four weeks prior to Christmas, and then we have Lent, the 6 weeks before Easter.

We.  I still, automatically, type the word “we.” I mentioned to Mark this morning that Catholicism is very much still a part of me even though I have shirked the religious aspect. I suppose I am still a cultural Catholic in many ways, all due to my indoctrination into the church at a very young age. For instance, during Lent one is supposed to observe abstinence from meat on Friday’s. Even now, more than a decade after leaving the church, I feel guilty eating a pepperoni pizza on a Friday in March. The whole shebang starts with Ash Wednesday, which was yesterday, wherein the faithful get a cross made of ashes upon their forehead. From dust you come, to dust you shall return. It is a symbol of repentance and belief as well as mortality. It is to symbolize beginning of the 40 days Jesus spent wandering the desert.
The ashes are made from burnt Palms from the previous years Palm Sunday, and you are not supposed to wipe them away. So it was completely normal, you see, for me to be in a school full of children with dirt on their foreheads one day a year.

And oh! Then there’s the activity of Lent, and not just of the food variety. During Lent, one is asked to give up a pleasure or a vice as a sacrifice and act of repentance. So, every year we all had to give something up. I remember one year when a schoolmate of mine’s mother moved their television set out to garage for the entire 40 days, forcing her kids to give up TV. I routinely gave up candy, which was simple because I wasn’t allowed candy in the first place. I don’t think my mother ever took this into consideration, she was always just happy that I was “working on my weight.” When I was in high school, there was a girl who gave up Lent for Lent, as she was Pentecostal and attending a Catholic School. I recall her getting some heat for this comment, which I found to be brave and bold and intriguing. When I left school though, I stopped giving things up. I stopped eating fish on Friday’s, and I stopped getting ashes on my forehead.

Obviously, if you are a regular reader, you know that I am a bit of a pagan nowadays. So, it probably surprises you none at all that I am going to tell you that the Christian’s stole Easter from the pagan’s Spring Equinox festival. Much like the feast of Saint Brigid, which I recently wrote about, Easter was appropriated from the pagans.  Shocking turn of events, am I right?

This morning Carey asked me about Ash Wednesday. She thinks she noticed more crosses on people’s foreheads this year than ever before. Myself, I didn’t see a single one. But that’s probably a good thing because I was still triggered all damn day.

As soon as I realize it was Ash Wednesday, I thought of years of arguments with my mother, starting from when I was 16 and taking confirmation class. Her and I were so close, finally, to seeing eye to eye spiritually, but I knew I would never truly take her away from her home, which was the Church. When we had her funeral, it was a great big Catholic Mass at a great big Catholic Church, attended by girls who went to Catholic School with her, and many Catholic nuns who knew her well.  When Father Bill, a former priest at my elementary school, invited everyone up for communion, my father rose and accepted it. I looked behind me and I realized no one else got up. Not me or my sister; certainly not my husband or kids, none of whom were eligible to receive it anyway. I don’t even think I saw any of my friends move, and it reminded me of an article I read once about a spiritual awakening supposed to occur on planet Earth in the early to mid 2000s. I made a note in my phone to write a blog about this observation, but of course that was in between the funeral Mass and breakfast, so the note kind of got lost in the shuffle. But the article expressly said that we would throw off the shackles of religion. We would learn to live spiritually and harmoniously without it. Future generations would be taught that it was a general mistake, which only brought about greater division, and kept us as humans from reaching our greatest potential. Geez,  do I wish I could cite this article for you, but I got it off MySpace in 2004. Anyway, I think that’s happening now.

This blog is kind of all over the place today, huh? It’s because I’m all messed up in the brain over the Catholicism, and while I quit the church in my twenties, it has taken until my late 30s to really start my deconstruction. And honestly, with my mother’s passing, I feel very little guilt regarding my spiritual path. All of that washed away when I stepped out of that church, knowing that I would never have to set foot in one again if I didn’t want to. Of course, I will attend a wedding or funeral, but no one is ever going to force me to go to church again. This brings us to a bittersweet silver lining, but I truly feel in my gut that when mom died, her soul looked around and said “oh, Brig was right,” because I have more freedom spiritually since her passing then I have ever felt, and I do believe she gave that to me.

Middle of the Road

Over the past few months, I have been shouting out a lot of birthday’s on Facebook. Usually, I will post on a friend’s timeline or I will send a private message, but this year most of my people are hitting a milestone. We are staring down the barrel of the big four-oh. Now, I suppose this could be the time we call midlife, although I don’t think it feels for any of us the way we thought it would. Just last night, I was telling a 29-year-old to not worry about what’s ahead, because the 30s were way better than the 20s. I’m going to go on a limb and assume that the 40s are even better. Maybe because it’s true, maybe because it’s what I need to tell myself to get myself through the day.

My birthday is in 4 months. 4 months until 40, which would make a good poem title. I remember being 29 and scared of turning 30, having just come off the quarter-life crisis. Now here I am at my midlife crisis, and I am faring much better than I thought I would. I am not having some torrid affair, neither have I made some obnoxious purchase, and I haven’t even gone so far as to change my hairstyle, really. I have had a spiritual transformation over the past few months, so perhaps that is how my crisis is presenting itself. And I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t constantly thinking about the way the world works- in my place within it. And oh! Let us not forget the bones and the muscles and the organs that start to weaken! This morning I awoke with an incredible pain in my right shoulder, caused by literally nothing but unwittingly sleeping in an uncomfortable position. It is 7 hours later, and my shoulders still hurts. Welcome to 40.

I wrote a blog or two ago about how I am concerned regarding my birthday this year, seeing as how my mother made plans for it that will not come to fruition. But I am also looking forward to it, because I am kind of done with my 30s. I think it is time to move on to the next decade of life- level up, so to speak. This is nothing like 29, when I wanted to stay young forever. Being young is stupid- I can’t wait until I grow older. The older I get, the stronger and wiser I get, so why on Earth would I still want youth when I could have that?
Anyway. Happy 40. You know, if it applies.

Never Again

Probably the most annoying bit of being a new member to the Dead Parent Club is the “never again’s.”  The first was me getting sick and realizing that never again woud my mother take care of me, holding back my hair or bringing me a cool cloth for my forehead. That was a “big” thing, which sent me spiraling to tears.  Another big one is cups of coffee. I almost always think of her when I have my morning coffee.  One thing I am deeply grateful for is that I spent the last year of her active life drinking coffee with her every morning.  Still, the “never again” hurts.

And the little things, like never again going to Home Goods or Clothes Mentor with her. Or even just not being able to call when I’m feeling icky in the brain. Yeah, I can call my dad, but it’s almost like switching to a new therapist…sure, he’s familiar with my file, but he doesn’t have the details of daily sessions. 

Valentine’s Day was a little rough.  Mom always made a thing if it, and when I asked Mark what he wanted to do this year, it was he who reminded me of my father’s first VDay as a widower. So, I went and made the dinner mom would have, a surf and turf situation with hot fudge sundaes provided by Bernie. It was a yummy dinner…but I started the day in tears, because no one was buying me Valentine’s Day cupcakes this year. Mom wasn’t there to call me first thing and wish me a happy day.

One interesting thing about our situation is that come late May…we will have already done a year, in a way.  Mom was here…but she also wasn’t. She peaced out around Easter last year, so I already had my first birthday without her, in a way.  But this one is going to hurt…she was planning a big party for my 40th. I am asking now that all my friends and family bear with me during my birthday week this year…I will be missing her. 

We also had many plans for this summer, you see. We didn’t plan anything for last year because we knew she would still be in recovery, followed by ankle surgery, as was the plan. So all our morning conversations were in regard to plans for 2023. We were going to go back to Stonybrook and go hiking.  We were going to renew her fishing license. We were going to go to the beach, and Lilydale, and there was even talk of finally attending the Country Living Fair. But it’s never happening…and that sucks.
Never again will we go estate sale hunting or eat bagels in the park at 6am or discuss 90s hip-hop superstars, a subject she knew a weird amount about.  We won’t sing along to Ellis Paul, or even argue about Catholicism and calories-two topics that drove us both crazy.

Damn, I miss my mom. Everyday IS a little bit easier, just a tiny shred, but right now at 6am as I sip my coffee?  These moments are the worst.