Hell Week and a Quart of Oil

Back in my early theater days, the concept of Hell Week was introduced to me. Hell Week, otherwise known as Tech Week, was the time before the opening night of a show, where all finishing touches would have to take place and the show would have to get on its feet completely before Dress rehearsal. It was a grueling week that usually started on a Friday night and ran through the weekend and every night leading up to the Dress. Then there was the premiere, and you hoped that everything went as smoothly as you had planned for the last 567 hours.

I went through my first real Hell Week with Sahar by my side, and I have gone through many, many more since. So when I told her previously about my plans for my past week, she immediately dubbed it Hell Week and remained my cheerleader throughout.

The week was a combination of two things: me working both my jobs and me battling illness when I wasn’t at either of my jobs. Also, throw a kiddos weekend in there. It was not an easy one is my point, but somehow I have made it to today- Tuesday- and I am alive and I am awake and I am not at work and no one is here. And it is glorious.

Did this show go off without a hitch? Certainly not. There were many bumps and bruises along the way, even in the literal sense. Customer service work made me cry for the first time, so I guess I’m in the club now. My job with kids made me cry for the eleventy-thousandth time, and that’s a club I’ve been in for a while. And I cried a hell of a lot last night, when I got weirdly sick. See, I know when it’s gastroparesis that’s got me, and my immediate response is to go to the hospital so they can give me the shot to make it stop. Do I wish they had some sort of pill of this medication then I could just take or a shot I could administer myself? Of course I do, but that’s not an option yet; technology hasn’t arrived. But this time I felt weird. So weird in fact, that I asked my father to stay with me at the hospital. Sometimes he will take me into admissions but he always goes home and leaves me there afterwards especially since the Covid years. But last night I was a little scared because the sickness did not feel the same in a way, so he stayed with me. They came and they gave me the shot, with some Ativan for good measure, and then I went to sleep and when I woke up my dad was sitting next to me watching TV. It made me sad- that man has spent way too many nights sitting in a hospital room watching TV.

When I got home, I went to bed, and when I woke up, I felt better. All signs pointing towards a healthy day but then again- I was fine yesterday. It didn’t hit me until night time, another reason I found the whole thing weird. When I get sick, I get sick first thing in the morning. That is the way the gastroparesis works for me. This seemed like some bug or virus that knocked me down last night. Either way, I am tired. I am tired because I worked for 2 weeks straight and the only day I had off I spent in the ER. I am tired because while my kids were here I was not able to cook them dinner or spend time with them. And I am tired of my car being my car.

But today, I will take a little time for me. I have a nice little morning to myself, and I feel pretty good (fingers crossed,) so maybe I will take myself on a little adventure…to Autozone. Where I need to buy more oil for my stupid car. It’s the little things that keep you going.  Like a quart of oil.


Potato Pictures

We spent 30 minutes looking for the right tree. It was one of the last of the cherry blossoms at the Historical Museum. There was a girl taking her graduation photos at the tree next to us and I was hopeful we stayed out of her way, but who knows? Perhaps years from now she will look back on her Senior album and think “who are those people over by the tree in the background?” Anyway…

I have never considered myself photogenic, although I have been told by others that I am. I have been told I take a lovely picture. Sometimes, this magical planetary alignment occurs, and I think I actually look good in a selfie or something. Usually on days when my hair and makeup are on point, But occasionally I catch a snap of myself as I am on the daily, and that’s not too bad either. But mostly, I delete 95% of the pictures I take of myself. One of my favorite photos is my first author pic, which graces the back cover of my chapbook. You can also find it on my About the Author page here in the blog.. It was a selfie I took at my parents’ house, where I was giving my notorious side eye.

My second author photo, was taken by E while she was experimenting with photography. We went on an adventure to a park and she took some shots, one of which I selected and used for several years. However, I felt that it was getting outdated, especially since I don’t even wear glasses anymore.
So, I went online and I offered free poetry for a photograph, but nobody was in the mood for that, so instead I started looking for other photographers that I would have to pay acual money for. I found a really good one for a really good price, but I remained hesitant.

So, Wednesday, when Mark and I were sitting around the house and wishing that we had a reason to be out of it, I asked him how he would feel about taking a photograph of me for my author portrait. I was looking at a picture he took of me once, when we were at the Japanese Gardens. Not author-photo material, and it’s pretty old, but it was a good shot of me. He said he would love to give it a go, so we drove to find a cherry blossom tree. I wanted a pop of color this time around, and I knew that there were trees in bloom by the history museum, so we took a drive, found a tree, and he took my photo.

I didn’t feel pretty when the photo was being taken- I had forgotten my lipstick at home and thought it left my face looking washed out without it. I didn’t like the wind blowing my hair around, or the top I had chosen to wear. Mark kept telling me to smile, and I kept telling him I already was, and he took several shots that I figured would all be crappy. It wasn’t until we got home that I took a look at them. He took a bunch of pictures, but two stood out to me the most. One was not author-photo material, as you can only see the side of my face and mostly it is trees and history museum and sky – I made that my personal profile picture. The other shot I really liked was of me standing sideways but turning my head toward the camera. I love the pop of pink in the background from the cherry blossom tree, but something about my face seemed off. It was not until I put the photo in black-and-white that I realized how much I really liked it. In black-and-white, you see, you can’t tell that I’m not wearing my lipstick. The photo took on a whole new persona- it reminded me of the photographs that we took when we were in Salem. I said then that if I wrote fantasy I would be using those photos from our WitchPix shoot. Mark managed to capture the same essence that I had in that photo shoot, and I ended up with a great author picture. I told Mark that I think he has a secret skill in photography. While I don’t love the way I look in photos, the pictures he took were beautiful. His eye is wonderful; every angle was precise. I just think I look like a potato sometimes.

Anyway, here are the photos Mark took. Very un-potato like, in my opinion.

The Fatal Faux Pas

Somewhere between South Buffalo and North Tonawanda, my phone gave up the ghost.   I don’t know what happened.  It was fine at home; it was not fine at Carey’s house.  For two days I tried, but nothing, until dad reminded me that we had insurance on the family plan.  So, I headed over to T-Mobile, where they told me they couldn’t do much, but they would look up my plan and see what was possible.  Then, this exchange:

“Oh, I see Maureen is the account holder. She would have to come in with you, with photo ID.”
“Oh, ok, but what if she’s dead?”

I am SORRY, T-Mobile employee whose jaw I dropped. They were simply aghast.  I remembered then that there is a certain decorum folks expect surrounding the dead.  I forgot to put up that mask.  I seemed cavalier, and I’m not. I mean, of course my mother’s death was a huge thing for me.  Alas, I am notoriously not good with death in general.  I don’t have excellent coping skills in this area.  I have been told by a therapist that they are “okay, but not great.”  Some of these include sending the dead “on vacation,” in which I act as though they are simply out of town.  For reference, my aunt Ka has been in the Philippines for 16 years doing missionary work, and I sure hope my mother has been enjoying her first few months in Ireland.  I also use humor in uncomfortable situations, so when death is around, I sure can get inappropriate.  You do not want to take me to funeral.  So coping skills as they are, I was wondering if my blunt attitude was a symptom of something.  Or, perhaps…perhaps people just hate the word “dead.” 

Whenever I say my mom is dead, people get all cringy.  They would generally much prefer that I say “passed,” or “moved on,” or even “died.”  But “dead” freaks people the hell out.  I think I know why, too…it’s because of the fear. 

See, I have a theory on fear. FDR said that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Nope, sorry, I don’t buy it.  I fear only one true thing, and it is the root of all fears the very heartbeat: myself.  The only thing we have to fear is ourselves.  If you are scared of something, look within and figure out what it is about yourself that is making you scared, and you will always find the answer…even if you don’t want to think about it.  In this case, we all fear being “dead.”  Not necessarily “dying;” we all have a hope of how that will happen.  I myself would love to go peacefully in the night, in a hospital on a cloud of medication. I want no pain and I want a professional to find my body.  Some people hope to die at home in their beds.  Some even hope to die tragically or famously.  “Dying” has hope in it…however small a shred. 

And death holds hope.  We all hope of an afterlife, from the atheist who expects to turn to compost to the Christian enroute to heaven.  Me, I think there’s options out there, and I’m open to many possibilities. I’m just here for the ride, baby.  Death does not scare me, because I hope for something coming after this.  I hope this isn’t the end…and therefore…another small shred.

But “dead?”  Nobody likes dead.  Dead is final.  Dead makes people uncomfortable.  There is no hope in “dead.”  So, I understand the poor T-Mobile girl’s fallen face when I said what I said, and I am sorry; it’s just the process.

I don’t know if I mentioned before but I have been receiving mailers about grief from a church whose youth group I attended once upon a time.  This month’s newsletter came with an illustration that said “Missing my mom comes in waves. Todays, I’m drowning.” Missing my mom does come in waves, but the hardest part of every day is early morning when the tide rolls in for me.  Which is why today I am enjoying my coffee while typing this blog at 7am while wearing her bathrobe.

I know I have been writing about mom a lot, but it really is helping me process to write out my feelings and share my journey with you.  I appreciate that you are along for my ride, as well.  Even when I get all emo and wax poetic about the concept of death and dying.   On these days, your support means all the more to me. 

Anyway…happy Tuesday.

Early Morning Coffee

I didn’t get to tell her that my eyes healed all the way, and that I only need glasses to read, and that it’s easier to drive at night. I didn’t get to tell her that I got a new job, something completely outside of my comfort zone that I ended up really loving. I did not get to tell her about the trip to Salem I took with my girlfriends, even though she knew every step of the planning stage. I did not get to tell her about the new apartment that we found, smaller than our last but better suited to our needs. I didn’t get to tell her that some of the issues with the kiddos ended up resolving for the better, and her grandchildren are thriving in new ways. I didn’t get to tell her about the poetry reading I did in October, where my husband and my father and sister and best friend all came to hear me read, but none of it mattered because she wasn’t there. I didn’t get to tell her about the deadliest snowstorm since ’77, because she died in the middle of it. But for the 8 months before that, I still couldn’t tell her anything.

On Friday, May 28th, the calendar punched me in the face. See, my sister went on a cruise to Mexico. Because her phone has not been working as of late, she took my mother’s phone with her for communication. I went ahead and changed my contact information from “Momma” to “Mexican Bernie.” I even took a picture of Bernadette and replaced mom’s photo. All was fine, until my phone went off with the first text from Bernadette, and I saw, for the first time in a year, my last text from Mom: Sitting out early. Please make coffee for me.

This sent me into an emotional spiral, complicated further the next day when my phone decided to revert to its previous contacts, so when my sister texted me in the morning it said text from “Momma-” her photo and everything was back! I don’t know why, but it was not when I needed first thing in the morning. Then I went to work. I have a tiny paper calendar that I keep under the monitor of my computer so that I know what day it is and what the week ahead looks like for renters. I glanced at this when I got there and saw it was the 28th, and then my brain instantly pulled the text message I had seen a few days earlier out of the ether and reminded me that it was sent on April 28th of last year. Meaning, that Friday was the one year anniversary of the last time I had a conversation with my mother. Meaning, on Saturday it was one year that we have lived without her.

It is a weird thing when someone passes after an illness such as mother’s. While I have no doubt that the one year anniversary of her death will be difficult, in many ways I feel that time to be now.  I don’t know how much I wrote about the events of the day at the time, or even if I did, but I will tell you a small bit.  Perhaps you are a concert reader who already knows, but my grandmother died when I was small, and it was me who found her as she took her last breath. And it was me who found my mom, in much the same position that my grandmother had been, almost exactly- but Mom didn’t die then. Mom fought like hell for 8 months first, then died one day before the anniversary of her sister’s passing. The eerie coincidence of both circumstances stays with me. She went at the same time as my aunt, and in the same manner as my grandmother.

Yes, my mother was with us for 8 months, but in that 8 months, she did not leave a hospital bed. She did not eat, she did not speak, she occasionally would smile at me and I would wonder if it was reflex. But then, I would put my face close to her face and she would pucker her lips on my cheek and I knew she was in there. For 8 months she gave me these sad kisses, and I would paint her nails, and brush her hair, and play music for her. I don’t like remembering this time however, because it wasn’t my REAL mom. My real mom spoke. My real mom wouldn’t shut up, in fact. My real mom was ready every morning on her back porch, waiting for me to come over at the crack of dawn and have coffee. That woman died on April 29th, 2022.

I made it through the day okay. It was actually a little better than I thought it would be, mostly because I picked up a shift at work to keep my mind occupied. Of course when I got home I started to get a little sad, I think. Kevin came over, and then I went to Carey’s, and I talked to Bernie and dad, and I remembered all the friends and all the family that love me and that I still have by my side. So no, I didn’t get to tell her about so many things that happened in the past year, but I did get to tell all of them- and that is just as important.

Now, on a related note, I would like to talk for a quick minute about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness walk. If you click the link in the previous sentence, you will be directed to the homepage for Team Sunflower. Team Sunflower will be walking this year in honor of my mother’s contributions to the mental health community. She believed in the AFSP, and participated for several years. When it started to grow and they started having health and community services offered, mom even got her organization to start attending. She would walk with me every year, despite being an arthritic woman with a bad foot. My mother was a mental health and addiction nurse, and worked tirelessly to help those in need. We are trying to get a big group together for the walk this year, so if any friends or family would like to join us on the day, please let me know! And of course, if you cannot walk with us but would like to make a donation, that is acceptable as well. But it is important to me to memorialize Mom in this way come September, because while I know she has helped many people in our community, I can say for certain that there is at least one life she has saved over and over again, and that is mine. So, this year we walk for her.

Okay. It is 5:00 a.m. now on Sunday morning, and I was going to save this blog for Tuesday’s update but…the birds are chirping outside. I am drinking my coffee. I quit cigarettes, and I didn’t get to tell her that either, although I am vaping a little. Oh, but what I would not give for one more morning- just one more morning where I could go over to her house right now and put on the coffee pot and sit on the back porch and have a cigarette with my mom.

Twenty Years of Teaching

I was in eighth grade the first time someone asked me to teach. It was my first grade teacher Ms. Schewe, and she was in need of a tutor for her students that were behind in Reading. This was in the days before remedial classes and special ed, and looking back I know now that the kids I assisted probably had ADHD or learning disabilities. I gave up my study hall at the end of every day to go down to the first grade classroom and help the littles learn their sight words. It made me feel special that my old teacher chose me out of everybody, and it made me feel special that I could help others learn something I loved doing so much: reading!! Around that time, I also started helping my mom teach her Religious Education class on Thursday nights. I was just an assistant, passing out papers and reminding kids to concentrate, but I liked helping them learn. I liked reading them the Bible stories, and I loved when they would give innocent little philosophical answers. Sometime around 16, I got my own class that I kept for about 5 years or so. I also decided at that time to pursue education in college.

However, after a year of schooling, I was unable to continue my classes for health reasons. I then took a job as a substitute Teacher Aide for a special needs school. It was not my favorite job, and honestly there were moments that almost scared me away from special educational altogether. Now, special ed was not my area of expertise- and only became an issue for me when I took that job out of convenience and the need for money. Yet, somehow, my early twenties found me working at Baker Victory Services, a large organization for children with behavioral disability. For a while I worked in the Day Treatment Center, as a one-on-one Aide for various students, but one in particular who I shall call Sunshine.

Sunshine had a lot going on up in her brain, and I am sure that if she were in school now she would have gotten even more assistance than she received when I was with her. But at the heart of it, despite everything she had been through and everything she has seen, she was just a 15 year old girl. It became very important to me that this 15-year-old grew into a functioning adult. We worked together for almost 2 years before she left the school, and I have never forgot her. I don’t think I ever will- because when I think about it, every school I have worked at has a child or two that has never fully left my mind.

Sometimes a kid makes an impression on you, and you think about them as the years go on, wondering what they turned into. After Baker Victory, I moved along to a few daycares for a few years, and then went into nannying. Then early last year I started working in After School Care Program virtually, and a few months into that we finally moved back into the school. I got to actually meet the kids I had been watching on the screen, and so many more…I have dozens now that greet me each day with a smile and a “hi, Ms. Brigid!” I wonder how many of them I will remember years from now- I know us teachers are not supposed to play favorites, but that’s nonsense. The funny thing is, while I do remember my favorites over the years, I also remember others that made an impression somehow. I wonder who I will remember 10 years from now.

See, I follow a couple of mothers from the daycares and nanny gigs that I worked at on Facebook, and I have watched their kiddos grow over the internet. I think right now the youngest of the lot is 14. However, I have seen other children I taught or took care of graduate high school, join the army, buy their first car, make the dean’s list, etc. And then I think of Sunshine.

One day out of nowhere, my friend Jen tells me that her friend, Jimmy, brought his friend along for a car ride somewhere. They get to talking, and it is discovered that this friend of Jimmy’s is Sunshine. I am elated to hear she is alive and well, and when she texts me out of the blue one day, my heart soared. Is her life perfect? No, it is not. But it was HER life, and she worked hard for it, and she fought battles and overcame obstacles for it, and I was proud of her.

I haven’t heard from her in years. I send her a text on her birthday every year, but I don’t get a reply. Sometimes, I worry. Sometimes, I hope she’s out there living her life and is too busy for the likes of me. The thing with Sunshine is that I know for certain, perhaps due to the fact she was already a teenager at the time, that she remembers me as clearly as I remember her. With the little kids I work with, you wonder what kind of impact you have and what kind of impression you are making and what will stay with them as they get older.

I have a little boy in my second grade who is always helpful and kind, in a genuine way as opposed to those who do it for candy or line-leader privileges. He always chooses goodness when he can, and tries to keep things fair and safe, even for peers. I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he said either an engineer or a teacher. He would be spectacular at both things, so I told him so and his face lit up like a Christmas tree. He asked me why I’m not there in the mornings, because he wants me to be his teacher during the day, too. My heart swelled at this, because even though I gave up the traditional teaching path back when I left college, I love that I have been able to help and encourage kids who need it, ever since I was a kid myself.

I am debating whether to return to school in the fall. I love my job there, but there are logistical issues that come into play. For instance, my car is on his way out and while I live in South Buffalo, I work in North Buffalo, and it’s a big city. I spend half of what I make in gas and car maintenance. It also prevents me from picking up afternoon hours at Avis, which pays slightly better. But the logistical issues mean very little when confronted with the issues of the heart- do I want to give up teaching? Do I want to give up working with children, something I have literally been doing for 25 years? I do not know. I don’t think I’m going to know by the end of the year, and I’m not even sure how I’m going to feel at the end of the summer when I have to make the decision to send in my rehire application or not. Either way, I just want it on the record that for over 25 years I have been teaching children. I have taught everything from good manners to New Math, from reading skills to coping mechanisms, from potty training to bicycle riding, and I have done it all while loving a child that isn’t mine as though it was in that moment.

That’s my secret. This is why I worry about school shootings- because I will throw myself in front of your child, as though they are my own. When a kid is in my charge, they are MY kid. They are MY responsibility. And I will treat them therefore as though they are my own. This may be why it is so hard for me to say goodbye to teaching. Because I am saying goodbye to a hundred children that were never mine, but whom I loved fiercely for a moment in time.

Oh well, we shall see.  Happy Thursday.

Easter Egg

As I have written in the past, I have PTSD. I developed this first when my grandmother died and I was 8 years old. I had the unfortunate experience of finding her body as it took its last breath, and it wrecked my little brain something fierce. One of the PTSD symptoms that I experience is that when a traumatic event happens, I completely block out the time surrounding the event. For instance, I do not remember the entirety of third grade. One of my first memories of that time would be spring of third grade, one year after my grandmother passed, and I was walking around the block with my school therapist who was telling me what great work I had done. Do I remember seeing a school therapist before then? Nope, but I did for a year. Anyway, let’s fast forward to now.

I don’t remember Easter last year. The thing is, two Friday’s after Easter, my mother fell into a coma. I was the one that found her, and it was eerily similar to finding my dying grandmother. In many ways, it was different however- because this time I knew what to do. I did not panic, I woke dad and we did our best to rouse her, and we called the paramedics. And that’s the one thing I remember from the three weeks surrounding the incident. When I celebrated St Patrick’s Day not long ago, that felt to me like the last holiday I celebrated with my mother. But in actuality, it was Easter.

I looked through some photos in an effort to pinpoint certain memories regarding Easter and my mother. I found the photo that I included here, of her on Easter in 2020. I remember her being very sad that she could not hold the family brunch she had been doing for decades, but we had a nice little brunch just the five of us, and it was lovely. We maintained this throughout the Covid years, and last year she swore she was bringing back Easter with a vengeance for 2023. Of course, that didn’t get to happen, and it’s not like I was trying to host this year. However, I am considering doing something next year, in celebration of her.

My mother loved Easter, to an irrational degree, in my mind. As a child, it was a three-day affair. It began on Good Friday, where we would go to her high school best friend  Patty’s house. Our families would attend Stations of the Cross together, and return to Patty’s for tuna fish sandwiches and tomato soup. From noon until 3:00pm, we would quietly relax around the house, mostly listening to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack, and- as my child-self would say- wait for Jesus to die. Then we would dye Easter eggs. On Holy Saturday, me and Mom and Dad would trek to the Broadway Market to buy Butter Lambs and Redlinski sausage. Then she would go home and begin the cooking and housework- my mother prided herself on her homemaking and hostess skills. And I will not lie to you, she was a pro! She always said that in another life she would have been in designer, and she would have been great at that. Then on Sunday, once Jesus was risen, we would go to church, which was usually standing room only. Then back to the house, where the family would meet for a brunch of epic proportion. It was an important three days for her.

So no, I don’t remember last Easter. I don’t remember the last holiday I spent with my mother, at least in her full capacity. But I do remember every Easter beforehand, from the little Covid brunches to our big family parties that spilled out into the backyard. I can say however, that while I am not sad as I expected to be, I am missing her a lot right now. I never really cared for Easter, what with the ex-Catholic of me and all, but it was so special to her, that made it special to all of us.

This Sunday we ate our sausage and we had our butter lamb, and Dad invited his best bud over for some drinks and food. It was fine. Nobody cried. Alas, it did not have the feel of Easter’s past. Both Bernie and Mark commented that it just wasn’t the same, that it just did not feel like Easter. Oh well. I guess we can try again next year.

Momma, Easter 2020

Spring Sweep

I didn’t write last week. I was sick, with what was either a major gastro flare-up, or the Norovirus. Either way, I spent most of my time on a hospital gurney or on my sofa. I didn’t update the blog, I didn’t do anything for Patreon, and at one point I had an idea for a poem that I couldn’t even hold on to long enough to write down. So, I made last week my spring break, even though it was a miserable time.

Now, I am on spring break from work until the 11th, which is nice but also makes my days seem longer. I wish I could say I was getting some sort of project done during this time, but I’m not. Mostly, my big plans involve a little bit of cleaning and spending time with Mark. It is finally springtime, and the weather is starting to reflect that with warmer temperatures and lots of rain. Sadly, today is supposed to be our warmest one yet, but it will be thunderstorming all day. It’s a shame, because I could really go for a fishing trip or a hike, but I will have to wait for rainy season to pass. Instead, I will spring clean my house. Then, I will use the smudging stick that my sister gave me to cleanse the energy in my abode. I will open up the windows and let the fresh air in and the bad air out.

I might venture forth if the rain isn’t too bad to go see Kevin, but I’m pretty much just looking forward to a day inside the house. And I’m looking forward to cleaning, because the spring clean is the one I really like. Although, there isn’t as much to do as usual since we have only been here since October. It has been a very fast 6 months here, but it has been a good 6 months. I really like the home I have made, and the only thing that kind of makes me sad about it is that Mom didn’t see it first. I think she would really like this place, too, and I think about her when I do my spring cleaning- the woman was a cleaning machine. In fact, it was very hard for me when we moved in here and she couldn’t come and clean the place first. That was always her job. I did it instead, and now I will deep clean it again this we use all the tricks that she taught me against my will.

See, none of this ever interested me. Mom hated that. However, she knew that I would always take care of things on my own schedule. Some of the things she taught me, like how to set a table or make a bed, have almost literally never come in handy as an adult. I don’t have a dining room table. I don’t have a dining room! And I never make my bed, something that was a point of contention between us until the day she died. Why, why would I straighten something that only gets disheveled every single night and no one ever sees?? Needless, mindless, busy work for the 50s housewife, in my mind. Once, I even read an article saying that it was healthier to not make your bed because it did not trap bacterias under the blankets and give them room to grow. I don’t know how true that is, but I like to believe it.  Anyway, this is what my day is shaping up to look like: cleaning. Chores. Nothing fun under the sun, because there is no sun, only rain and thunder and lightning.

If my anxiety is cooperative, and I don’t mind driving in the rain later, I might go to poetry at the coffee house tonight. It was fun two weeks ago, and I think I would like to go again- maybe my anxiety will even let me socialize a little! I mean, come on, let’s not get crazy, but a girl can dream, huh?  Happy Wednesday.


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.

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.