Stealth birthday party

Does someone have an upcoming birthday at work? Do something different and fun! It only takes a little bit of effort: a card, a happy birthday balloon, a quick graze-your-way-through-the afternoon potluck can make their (and your!) day.
Don’t tell the designated person in advance. This adds a layer of stealth that makes it all that much more fun. ūüėĄ


Pi(e) Day

sheriNational Pie Day was January 23rd this year. I missed it. The “other” pie day is March 14. This Pi Day, the math Pi Day, is the second chance for those people who missed the first one. You know, like me. Like I do every year.

Every year for the past several years in the weeks leading up to January, my friend and colleague Sheri and I have talked for days about how we should make pies for Pie Day, how we should bring them in to work and share them with everyone. How we should get everyone else to make pies and bring them in too. How we could make both savory and sweet pies and have it be a potluck meal. How much fun it would be!

And then we didn’t do it.

So we’d start talking about the March Pi Day, the do-over chance, and why don’t we do it that day instead?

And then we didn’t do it.

Things get in the way. We’re too busy. We’re too tired. We don’t have all the ingredients. Yada yada.

This year I have been thinking about Pie Day alone, because my friend Sheri died last August. I toyed with the idea of making pies myself this year in January.

And then I didn’t do it.

As March 14th approaches, I decided that my heart wasn’t in it and I was going to let the day pass unobserved, just as I usually did. Except then my daughter came home from school and announced, “Mom, we’re going to make pies for Pi Day.”

From the mouths of babes, right?

The story of Mary

20140301-220000.jpgMy mother: Mary Agnes Burke Maffeo. She died at 55 years old-much too soon.

I’m reading Life After Life by Jill McCorkle, and in it, a hospice volunteer writes stories about people who have died. This got me thinking about my mother, who died at home with hospice. Of course, my mother had her obituary. ¬†I don’t remember much of what it said, other than the obligatory series of ‘survived by’s’. Anyway, it was hardly a story about her life.

So here, in no particular order, are some random thoughts about my mother:

When she was in her thirties, she began reading books by Edgar Cayce. I thought they were kind of hokey, but I surreptitiously¬†read some of them when she wasn’t looking. I didn’t want her to know I was interested in them for some reason. She also liked Bernie Seigel, and gave me her book, Love, Medicine, and Miracles. I lent it to a fellow student nurse who never returned it.

She kept a bowl of Tootsie Roll midgets on her fridge and whenever my son was visiting her, she gave him some. After she died, he inherited the candy bowl. I don’t know what ¬†happened to it. Probably got lost in a move.

She worked the evening shift at her job and I could never understand why she liked that shift so much. Me? I was in my 20′s then. I liked to get up, go to work, and get it over with. “Wouldn’t you rather do that?” I asked her. “No. I like to get up and go slow. Drink my tea, pick up the house, and then go to work,” she told me. Now that I am in my 50′s, I have realized that I am like her in this way.

She always set her hair. With rollers. Always. She used a lot of hairspray. She almost never wore makeup. She was Irish and liked the Irish Rovers. Saint Patrick’s Day was one of her favorite holidays. She almost never drank alcohol. The first time I remember seeing her cry (and drink alcohol, too, come to think of it) was the night her father died. She was 29 years old; ¬†I was 7 years old. She loved animals. At one time we had 13 cats and 3 dogs. She took in any stray, whether animal or human, without a second thought. She was one of the kindest people I have ever known. My daughter is like her in this way.

She was a Nana. She loved my child (I only had one then; my daughter was born three years after she died) as much as I did. She always felt like she didn’t see me, us, often enough.

Once when I went shopping with her, she bought me a pair of jelly sandals that I still have.

She liked Dean Martin and Engelbert Humperdinck. She was an excellent cook, from whom I had no interest in learning, to my everlasting sorrow. She listened to me complain about what she was making for supper many a night, even if it was something I liked, much as I listen to my own daughter complain now about meals that I make which she proceeds to eat and then to ask for seconds.

My mother didn’t want to die. She left us kicking and screaming.


A Writing Challenge

Day 1 writeyourheartopenA writing challenge on the Buddha Doodles Facebook page caught my eye: the #WriteYourHeartOpen Challenge. Basically, you get your writing materials out the night before and have them ready to go when you wake up in the morning. Then, when you get up, you can go grab your coffee/tea/cocoa, then come back to your writing, before you do anything else. There are just three steps:

  1. Write for five minutes. About anything. Just write. After five minutes, stop.
  2. Write down three things for which you are grateful.
  3. Set an intention for the day.

That’s my memory of the steps, anyway. If you check out the Buddha Doodles Facebook page, scroll down to the February 1, 2014 post for the original post to read the instructions as written by the author. ¬†For Day One, participants were invited to post and tag pictures of their writing space on the Buddha Doodles Facebook page, which I did.

I thought the challenge was for the entire month of February, but after I reread the rules for this blog post, I see something about seven days…what? I have been doing it all month and will continue, since that was my original commitment.

What I have noticed:

  1. My writing thrives when I have structure, self-imposed, or otherwise. A definite schedule works for me.
  2. If writing is the first thing I do every day, then I do it. There is no time to let other pursuits take precedence.
  3. You can write a lot more than  you think you can in only five minutes a day. A. Lot. More.

One bonus: The intention that I set for my day every day is powerful. Whatever I write down, I do it. . . which reminds me of a book I read years ago:  Write it Down, Make it Happen by Henriette Klausen.

Yes. What she said.

Faith, Hope, and Charity

20140215-203534.jpgMy grandmother Emily, my mother’s mother, was the only girl in her family of five. Yep; she had four, count ‘em, four brothers. At least, that was what I thought when I was a girl. When I got older, she told me that she actually had three sisters. Triplets. They were named Faith, Hope, and Charity. Whether it was because they were so little when they were born, or that the family lacked enough cradles to accommodate three infants at the same time, they were bedded in three bureau drawers.

Unfortunately, their lives were short. They only lived about three months, I believe, when they succumbed to pneumonia. When she told me the story, I thought: Oh! that is so sad! Oh! There were really four boys and four girls in her family!

I also thought: Oh! I would have so many more cousins if they had lived!

Anyway, I thought a lot about those three short lives. I loved their names. I loved the story about the bureau drawers. I wanted to honor them in some way. Here’s what I do: Every time I knit something, I knit “Faith, Hope, and Charity” into the piece by repeating their names as I knit or purl, so that many times over I have wished these thoughts for the recipient of whatever I am knitting. I hope it makes them feel amazing when they wear it. I hope my triplet grand-aunts in heaven know that even though their lives were brief, all these years later, I am thinking of them and they are making a difference in my life, as well as (this is my hope) in the lives of the people who wear the FHC articles.

The kindness of strangers

My daughter was working in a project for her history class that required her to do a Jackie Chan impersonation. This required her to wear a gi ( full disclosure: until I googled it I was spelling it ‘gee’-my bad). Izzy did take karate years ago…for about 5 minutes. Needless to say, we did not own a gi.

So first, I put the word out to the Wells Women Facebook page but got no responses.
Next, I called my brother, who took judo and/or karate for years. “Sure, I have one,” he told me, “but I have no idea where it is,” he finished. “I know I didn’t throw it away,” he added, helpfully. No good. We needed it right away.
Then I had a sudden impulse to ask my friend Teresa. I don’t know why. I just did. And although Teresa didn’t have one, she knew someone who did.
Angela was willing to let my daughter borrow her gi, no questions asked. Because of the kindness of one friend and one stranger, my daughter’s Jackie Chan rocked!
Thank you Teresa. Thank you Angela.



cardinalI recently spent a few minutes (okay, hours) trolling the Facebook news feed and something caught my eye. Someone (sorry, I have no idea who or what or when exactly) posted that every time you see a red cardinal, that is a sign that a loved one that has died is saying hello to you, or something to that effect.

That’s nice, I thought.

Then a funny thing happened. I started noticing red cardinals.

  1. My friend Christine at work has a tapestry hung up in  her cube that depicts multiple red cardinals.
  2. I went to the movies to see The Nut Job¬†(skip this one-see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty instead) and the bad guy’s side kick was a red cardinal. A squat, mean, nasty caricature of a cardinal, but still a cardinal.
  3. Today, I went to brunch at The Good Table in Cape Elizabeth and there in the foyer was a fake tree with cardinals all over the branches.

So, maybe this is just that phenomenon that happens to you when you are pregnant and you suddenly start seeing pregnant women everywhere you go.

On the other hand, this is the time of year that my mother and father died (mom 2/29/96 and dad 3/15/98) and so I am already thinking about them.

Maybe they are thinking about me, too.

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