Entries 475 - 451

ENTRY #475
DATE:  09/12/16 (Monday)
SUBJECT:  "From This Moment On" song lyrics...

     I thought it would be appropriate to post these song lyrics today, since I wrote about this song in the "Dove's Journey" entry.... beautiful words!

From This Moment On

by: Shania Twain

(I do swear that I'll always be there.
I'd give anything, and everything, and I will always care.
Through weakness and strength, happiness and sorrow,
for better, for worse, I will love You with every beat of my heart.)

From this moment, life has begun.
From this moment, You are the one.
Right beside You, is where I belong,
from this moment on.

From this moment, I have been blessed.
I live only for Your happiness.
And for Your love I'd give my last breath,
from this moment on.

I give my hand to You with all my heart.
Can't wait to live my life with You, can't wait to start.
You and I will never be apart.
My dreams came true because of You.

From this moment, as long as I live,
I will love You, I promise You this.
There is nothing I wouldn't give,
from this moment on.

You're the reason I believe in love...
And You're the answer to my prayers
from up above.
All we need is just the two of us.
My dreams came true because of You.

From this moment, as long as I live,
I will love You, I promise You this.
There is nothing I wouldn't give,
from this moment...
I will love You, as long as I live,
from this moment on.

ENTRY #474
DATE:  09/11/16 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  Dove's Journey...

     Many, many years ago, when I was in the second grade at St. Ambrose School, I sang in the choir for a short spell. I was seven years old at the time and the whole "Catholic School" thing was new to me. I had transferred from a public school in New Hampshire in the middle of the school year and instantly found myself in an entirely different world, as far as religion was concerned.
     Religion was never really a topic of discussion in my family when I was a kid. We didn't go to church unless it was a funeral or a wedding... and I have absolutely no memory of even having a Bible in our house. Maybe there was one and I just don't remember it, I have no idea.
     I wasn't even baptized until I was four years old because my mother wanted her brother (my Uncle Walter) to perform the ceremony since he was a Methodist minister. Since he lived in Washington state, we had to wait for him to come from the West coast to do it. That didn't take place in a church either... I was actually baptized in my grandmother's front yard, LOL, with water that - most likely - came from the bird-bath. That may or may not be true, LOL. I have no memory of it so I really have no clue, but it does seem to make sense. Front yard. Bird-bath. Water. "OK, let's do it here!" Splash, splash! "Who's ready for lunch?"
     Technically, I'm Protestant... but I have no idea where that comes from. I guess it's from my mother's side of the family somewhere since my father's side weren't believers in anything at all, and still aren't. I have no memories of my maternal grandparents having anything to do with a church either, other than the fact that their son became a Minister and then moved away [which devastated the family].
     My Mom, nowadays, does attend church and I know she prays... and my Dad, today, still has no beliefs at all. My step-father is a non-practicing Catholic. In fact he's the reason I ended up in Catholic school when my Mom and I moved to Connecticut. His son (from his previous marriage) was already in attendance at St. Ambrose so I was automatically sent there as well. It had nothing to do with the fact that it was Catholic. It was simply a matter of convenience and we just happened to live close by so that's where I went. Period. So, honestly, my knowledge about Jesus was limited to "He's the reason we celebrate Christmas," and that's about it.
     So, yeah, church was never really a part of my life when I was a little kid. Ever... until I landed at St. Ambrose where I was forced to wear a uniform and "go to Mass" with the rest of my class for all the Catholic holidays. As you can probably imagine I was a bit shell-shocked by it all... but I did manage to learn some stuff.
     One day, in Music class, we were all singing along to the music/words of one hymn or another and one of the Nuns kept hovering around my desk. Her name was Sr. Marion and I did not like this woman at all. I don't remember why but - for some reason - she always scared me a little. Maybe it was the outfit, LOL, don't know. As class continued, she eventually singled me out and made me sing all by myself. I was mortified... but being that I was raised to respect my elders I did as she told me. I sang. She then left the room for a few minutes and came back with the Principal, Sr. Mary Jane Ellis. (That woman I did like!) The two of them put me through the wringer that afternoon. After what seemed like an eternity [to a seven-year-old] of some rather intense Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Te-Doing and thousands of La-La-La-La-La-La-La-Las, they informed me that "God has given you a voice," and they asked me if I would like to sing in the choir. LOL, I was seven. I had no idea what a choir was but I liked to sing so I said yes. They sent me home that day with a permission slip. Apparently, since I was under the age of 10, I had to have my parents' consent.
     "God gave me a voice?"
     "God gave me a voice?"
     "God gave me a voice?"
     Really??? Surely this meant something important... so I ran all the way home with that permission slip clasped tightly in my little fist. It was signed and returned to Sr. Mary Jane early the next morning.
     I was an official Choir Member. Singing to God. And Jesus. In church. In front of strangers. It was intimidating but I forced myself to block out the faces and to concentrate only on the words, the music, and breathing properly. I eventually came to enjoy it and actually started to look forward to the next Mass so I could sing again. Something nudged my heart and through the music I felt a connection to something, or someone, but I never really understood it. I only knew, for sure, that the singing made me feel happy!!! And so it went for about three months.
     Towards the end of the [school] year, Sr. Mary Jane decided to sign us up for some choir competitions. Now, this was nothing elaborate -- LOL, the movie "Sister Act II: Back in the Habit" comes to mind -- but, I assure you, it was nothing like that at all. These competitions were limited to the Bridgeport area only, and I think it only involved five or six other grammar schools... so it was really no big deal. However, now that it involved my parents having to drive me all over the place, while they both worked full time, it was no longer convenient, so I was yanked out'a that choir before the first match was even held. I never sang in church again until almost thirty years later.
     I'm an animal lover. Always have been. Always will be. Throughout my life I've had numerous dogs, cats, hamsters, a ferret, fish, snakes, mice, rats... and I was also fortunate enough to grow up around various livestock... cows, pigs, chickens, goats and horses. Especially horses. My mom already had me sitting in a saddle when I was only two months old.
     One of the few things I walked away from St. Ambrose with was an appreciation, and love, for St. Francis. I learned that he was the "Patron Saint of Animals." Now, that particular phrase meant very little to me as a child. What mattered, to me, was that he could "talk" to the animals... and that he would always protect them from harm. That touched a nerve. This guy was special! And, throughout my life, whenever I lost a pet or brought a new pet home, I would always pray to St. Francis, either asking him to keep my lost pets close to him in Heaven, or to bless my new furry friend(s) with a long life.
     Many years later, St. Francis would come to mean much more to me as you have probably guessed by now since I have a friend who is a Franciscan Friar. In order to better understand my friend, and the path he chose - or rather the path God chose for him - I took it upon myself to learn more about St. Francis. I collected a bunch of books about his life, and his teachings, and read them all. Well, LOL, it turned out that St. Francis was a lot more than just the "Patron Saint of Animals." Again, I learned a lot... and this new knowledge also managed to deepen my love, admiration and respect for my friend.
     But I digress...
     Years after the choir was pulled out from under me, I found my life darkening. My relationship with my step-father was never a good thing. And as the years went by, that relationship continued to spiral downhill rapidly. I think he resented me because he was forced to live with me instead of with his own son (who lived with his mother across town), and he treated me as such. He also had a major problem with alcohol which made the situation even worse. It was a volatile, hostile, abusive environment to grow up in.
     I remember many nights going to bed, crying. I was scared, lost, and felt so alone and trapped. I felt dirty and actually hated my own skin and what I looked like to the point where I didn't even want to live anymore. I remember praying, through tears, asking God, that if He was in fact real, to please help me. I would beg Him to please just take me away from all this. Or at the very least to give me some kind of sign that everything would get better. To give me strength... something.
     I don't know if He ever heard me or not... 'cause things only got worse. It got to the point where I couldn't even stand to be in the house with my step-father. After school I'd rush home to get my homework done and then I was out'a there. I'd stay outside with the neighborhood kids until long after dark, only returning home when I heard my Mom's voice screaming my name from our front porch. I'd sulk home, take a shower, and go straight to bed. If I was forced to stay in the house with him, I would lock myself in my bedroom with a book, or with my many record albums, or with our dog, and there I'd stay until bedtime. And even then, locked in my room, I could still smell him. He reeked of stale cigarettes and the sour beer that he'd sweat from his pores. It was a dreadful smell and it terrified me.
     I then tried a different approach. Since God didn't seem to hear me, I thought, maybe the Devil will. My step-father was a fireman for the City of Bridgeport. So, at that time, when I found myself going to bed in tears, I would pray to the Devil.... asking him, begging him, pleading with him to bring down a burning house, or building, with my step-father in it. I wanted him dead. I wanted him burned alive. I wanted him to feel pain and suffering... the same pain and suffering he had forced on me. Those prayers, of course, also went unanswered. Again, I found myself lost. Scared. Alone. And now doubtful as well...
     A few years later I was blessed with the opportunity to be reintroduced to my Uncle Walter... Wally... the man who had baptized me all those years ago. I hadn't seen him since then so I really didn't know him. Thankfully, he was able to spend some time out here on the East coast. I think he was here for about two weeks, visiting the family, and spreading the Word and sharing God's love as best he could. He was staying with my grandparents in New Hampshire and, luckily, I was in New Hampshire as well, spending a portion of my summer vacation with my [biological] Dad. My father forfeited some of his time with me in order for me to spend some quality time with Wally...
     Wally and I spent two days together sharing memories of the family, while walking throughout my grandparents' many flower gardens and fruit trees. We talked a lot about God, and Jesus, and stories from the Bible...
     As he spoke to me, I could see his love for God on his face. I could hear it in his voice. And I could feel it when he hugged me. I wanted that too. I wanted, so desperately, to feel God's love, God's presence, in my life. I needed it. I needed to feel, to believe in, the assurance that God was there, and that He was, indeed, hearing me when I prayed. I was so touched, so moved, by what I saw in Wally, I went home to Connecticut and dove into the Bible. I would read for hours and actually highlight passages that I would later question him about in my letters. I wrote him a lot, for I had many questions.
     [Was this the sign from God that I had prayed for? Was He finally revealing Himself to me as I had begged? Had He heard me after all? I wasn't sure. If so, why did it take years for Him to finally answer me?]
     My mother watched all this unfold and just shook her head at me in vain. She said, "Don't hope too hard. I know my brother. You will never hear back from him." She was wrong though. When Wally returned home to Washington he put my name on his church's mailing list. So, once a month, I'd get a lovely newsletter, complete with one of my Uncle's sermons. Even though he wasn't writing them to me personally I read them, and absorbed them, as if he was. A real, hand-written letter did come eventually, which floored my mother. And I treasured that letter for a long, long time.
     My grandmother died in 1987. I was seventeen. Her passing turned my world upside down. My mother's too. My Mom, to this day, is still guilt-stricken by the fact that she never made it to New Hampshire in time to say goodbye. Again, Walter flew out to the East coast to perform the services for his own mother. While he was writing his sermon, he sat us all down around the kitchen table and proceeded to interview us about her. Other than his memories from childhood, he really knew nothing about her at all. And it was because of his faith, the calling he received from God. His church, this calling, pulled him so far away from the family, from his own mother, he was forced to say to all of us that evening, "Tell me about her." That never sat well with me. It troubled my heart for many years.
     In 1998, on March 1st, my grandfather died. I was 28 years old at that time. This time - for this funeral - my Uncle Walter didn't even show up. That pissed me off. I was hurt. I felt betrayed. And, again, I found myself questioning if God was real. If Walter was so dedicated to God, and the church, why is it that "Honor thy mother and father" seemed to mean nothing to him? How could he break one of God's sacred commandments like this? That thought festered in my heart and mind, and I became angry. I kept asking myself, "What kind of lie is he living? What kind of bullshit was he feeding me," all those years ago when we walked together, side by side.
     Once the service for my grandfather was over and we all gathered at his condo, the phone rang. It was Walter. The phone was passed around the room, allowing him to talk to everyone there. By the time the phone was handed towards me, by my Uncle Johnny, I was furious. I refused to talk to him. But still, Uncle Johnny was insistent. He brought the phone to me and tried to put it in my hand. I wouldn't take it from him... and finally I just spat out, through tightly clenched teeth, in front of the entire family, "I will not talk to him. Do not hand me that phone! His father is dead. Where the fuck is he? Why isn't he here!!!" It was years until I ever spoke to him again. Years.
     We have since come together again, Wally and I. We're not exactly "close" but we do talk once a year on my birthday... and I'm glad. He is my Uncle and I do love him.
     I've also managed to make peace with my step-father. I moved out of that house when I was 19 years old. I had to. I had to get out so I grabbed the first opportunity that came my way. I moved in with a boyfriend, Tony, and never looked back. I pushed the past away and out of my mind.
     About a year after I "left home," my mother told me privately, "Y'know, Dad really misses you. He talks about you all the time." I wasn't really sure what to do with that information. Quite frankly, I was shocked. I think that, after years of witnessing his own son show no interest in him at all, that he finally began to see me as his own child. Even after the hell he put me through all those years, it was always me that he saw visiting regularly. It was always me that he saw staying in touch and making an effort. It was always me they would come to if they needed a favor. I was always the one that remembered his birthday. I was always the one that remembered him on Father's Day. I was always the one to acknowledge him with the respect a parent deserves. Never anything from his own son, though. Ever. Maybe that forced something to click in his mind that convinced him I wasn't all that bad. I don't know what it was, really, that changed him. That changed us.
     Again I wondered if this was a sign from God. Was He finally listening to me? Did He finally give me the gift of strength I had asked for, as a child, which was now allowing me to forgive him? I found myself wanting to believe that... but after so many years of doubt it was difficult to allow that Truth into my heart. I do know, though, for a fact, that whatever it was/is, it's something powerful enough, and pure enough, that - today - all these years later, all that hatred I harbored against him has turned to love. We are close now... closer than I ever thought possible. I love him as my own and I believe he feels the same. Things are good now.
     But throughout all this turmoil, throughout all the drama, and throughout my struggles to believe in God and Christ there remained one unfailing constant in my life (besides my Mom, of course). Just one. My Friar friend, Marcel. From the moment he walked into my life, into my Latin class in 1984, from that exact moment, he changed something in me. My heart changed. My mind changed. But when you're only fourteen you have no idea how to interpret emotions, feelings, that are that strong...
     Now, I've been writing about him a lot lately in this blog. So instead of writing it all again here, I suggest you refer back to entries numbered 459 and 461 to get a sense of how important he became to me. If you don't want to do that, that's fine too. I'll just try to explain some stuff...
     In entry 459, on July 19th of this year, I wrote the following [which refers back to this past April]...

     Ever since April, when I sent Marcel that first [deleted] email, I have not been able to get this man out of my mind. He is just right there, stuck in my head, all day long, no matter what I'm doing. I'm at work, I'm thinking about him. I'm at home sitting in front of the TV, I'm thinking about him. I'm trying to read a book, I'm thinking about him. I'm sitting here - right now - trying to write this damn blog entry and I'm thinking about him. I don't know how or why this happens to me but it does.
     I've known this man since 1984 and this happens to me every couple of years. Just all of a sudden, out of the blue, he pops into my head and he becomes this permanent "mental fixture" and there he stays for the duration. The tiniest, little detail will trigger a memory of him and then I end up carrying him around with me for days, weeks, sometimes even months at a time.

     The first time this happened to me was back in late 1989. I had graduated from high school the previous year [1988] and I hadn't seen him in almost a year and a half. It was triggered by a nightmare I had about him that was so "real" it actually woke me up out of a sound sleep. I jolted awake. My heart was pounding, I was short of breath, and covered in sweat. It scared the shit out'a me. I couldn't remember any specific details from the dream but I knew it had something to do with his heart, I just didn't know what. For days, after that dream, I couldn't get him out of my head. It eventually got to the point where he became so clear in my mind, so vivid, that I actually started to feel his presence around me. Was it all in my head? I honestly don't know. But this presence became so strong, I would actually catch myself turning to speak to him, as if he was sitting right there in the room with me. That scared me too! Between the nightmare and now this "presence," I thought maybe I was having some kind of premonition that he had passed away from heart complications and his spirit was now visiting me. It wasn't until years later that I came to understand what the heart problem was. I'll get to that eventually...
     LOL, I have dead relatives that have never "come to me" like that. Honestly, I would LOVE to feel my grandparents around me that strongly. I would LOVE to feel my friend Chet around me that strongly. Never have, though. So when this happened to me with him I had no idea what to think other than, "Why him? Out of all my dead relatives, why him?"
     Anyway, this went on for about two weeks until it drove me to call my high school to inquire about his well being. Thankfully, they informed me that he was alive and well. I then explained who I was and that I would like to contact him. They gave me his address and I instantly got into the car and sought him out. And, yes, once I saw him in person, with my own eyes, I felt much better.
     Being that this whole thing seemed to be born out of that nightmare, I figured it would never happen again. Ha, ha, ha. I was wrong. Every couple of years, I feel his presence which then prompts me to go to him. It continues to happen to me to this very day. Though I still don't understand it, I have simply accepted it as a part of my life... and I actually look forward to it now because even the simple thought of him fills my heart with joy. I tried to describe this feeling in entry 461 by writing this on August 6th...

     He means the world to me. He always has and he always will. Ever since I was a child, ever since the day I first met him, he's been special. He's always been in my heart and very, very dear to me. He carries within himself this light, this gift, this incandescent quality that's a combination of warmth, of knowledge and wisdom, of comfort and compassion, of inner peace, goodness, Faith, and of kindness that I identified in him instantly. It was impossible not to. It radiates from him... I felt it. There was no escaping it! And as the years went by, as I grew older, I saw even more in him. I saw generosity and forgiveness. I saw patience and understanding. I saw modesty, humility and grace. I saw intelligence and [uncanny] quick wit. And, most of all, I saw his ability to give and receive love unconditionally. Yup... God, Christ and Francis of Assisi definitely picked a winner when they chose this guy!!! LOL, forgive my gushing. This all probably sounds like I think he's some kind of Saint but I know he's not. I know he's just a human being. That's all -- just human; but he is an absolutely delicious human being to know...

And, later in that same entry, I followed the above with this...

     I have to interject a little "side note" here: Through the years I've often told him that I think he's got one of the most beautiful faces I've ever seen. And, to this very day - even though I haven't seen him in over a decade - I still believe that to be true. I also believe that, deep down, he absolutely hates it when I tell him that. It's always made him squirm a little in his seat and I could see, clearly, that it made him uncomfortable to hear it. But I think it's because he's never truly understood how it's meant. I think he believes that I only mean "skin deep." But, oh, he's so wrong. It's so much more than that. When I look at him I see all those aforementioned qualities. They shine throughout his face. Whenever I've been around him - again, starting when I was just a kid - he's always uplifted me. He has always filled my heart with this feeling of pure, unadulterated, rapturous JOY that I've never encountered in any other person, before or since. So... when I look at him, at that wonderfully expressive face of his... that's what I see; that's what I feel. And that, without a doubt, to me, is a thing of beauty.

     Now... this "rapturous joy" is something I have always been unable to describe. It's such a foreign feeling to me, I've never known what to do with it all. Whether I'm actually with him or just thinking about him, it doesn't seem to make a difference -- it's just as powerful, either way. And when I'm overcome with it, I'm unable to contain it. It just bubbles over and even the people I work with see a drastic difference in me. But at the same time, while it's bubbling over, I also can't express it verbally 'cause it's just "too much." This is a feeling that, I think, the human heart shouldn't even be able to feel, LOL. This is something that should be reserved only for all the angels floating around up in Heaven. That's how overwhelming it is. It's always had a very transcendent feel to it that has, without fail, left me speechless. I have come to accept this, also, as a part of my life. It is what it is...
     I was 32 the last time I saw him in 2002. So for a span of 13 solid years he put up with this. Whenever these moments hit, I'd seek him out. I'd just show up on his door-step, uninvited, unannounced and unexpected. And God bless his heart! He always received me with open arms. Never once did he turn me away. He always welcomed me with hugs... and always seemed genuinely happy to see me. That, of course, endeared him to me even more. During our visits, eventually, he would ask me a question. And it was the same question every single time.... he'd look me straight in the eyes and ask, "Where is God in your life?"
     Wow! How do you answer something like that on the spot? I never could. How could I after all the years of searching for Him, after all the years of doubt, after all the years of thinking I had finally found Him, only to find myself let down. Granted, there were some shining moments when I thought I knew, and accepted, God into my heart. But it was always a constant see-saw between belief and non-belief. There was no explaining all that to him "on the spot" like that. No way. It was impossible. Hell, I was barely able to explain it to myself...
     There are times and there are places where I do feel a definite connection with God on an extremely personal level. One of these places has always been when I'm out to sea on a whale-watching boat. Trust me... when you're able to look directly into the eye of a humpback whale as it spy-hops 10 feet away off the port side of the vessel you're standing on - there is no question whether there is a God or not! He's staring you in the face!
     Another place, for me, has always been on the top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. Whether it's the actual height of the mountain, or whether it's the beautiful vistas you're treated too, I don't know, but it's always had a spiritual feel to it. Being out, walking amongst nature, has always had that effect on me. Maybe it's the cleaner air. Maybe it's the scenery. Maybe it's the quiet tranquility of it all... it's probably a combination of all three. But as I've wandered around out in the woods with my trusty camera in tow, I've always found it to be a good place to pray and give thanks, to commune with God and just offer up everything to Him that's in my heart. All my troubles, all my fears, all my pain. I just surrender it all up to Him, let Him deal with it, and He sweeps it all away. It's like being baptized all over again, where all sin is washed and forgiven, and I can start over with a clean slate. And I always walk away feeling at peace knowing that God is there listening.
     Another place I've found, which some people might find a bit odd, is cemeteries. I've loved cemeteries ever since I was a kid. I love walking around, up and down all the rows, reading the names and admiring the head stones. I've taken thousands of photos in cemeteries all over this area. St. Michael's in the Bridgeport/Stratford area, on Surf and Stratford Avenues, was one of my favorites. I've spent hours in that place with my camera. During one visit, back in 1998, I found out after talking to one of the grounds-keepers, they also had an affiliate cemetery in Trumbull called "The Gate of Heaven." Well, judging by the name alone I was compelled to find the place so I called them, got directions, and off I went.
     Early 1998 was another exceptionally dark period in my life. Between the loss of my grandfather and what followed with my Uncle Walter, my husband also ended our marriage by moving out while I was away for the weekend visiting friends in New Hampshire. I came home and found him, and all his stuff, gone and a nine-page "Dear Dove" letter waiting for me on the kitchen table. Not exactly the "welcome home" I was expecting.
     Anyway... as I pulled into the "Gate of Heaven" cemetery I was immediately accosted with a view I had never seen before. There are no head stones. Not one. Instead, when you drive in, you see nothing but acres of bouquets of flowers sticking up out of the ground, which surround a huge wooden cross that stands in the center of the place. It took my breath away. It soon became one of my favorite places to go to maintain my sanity, to pray, to meditate and sometimes even to write. I'd sit for hours, directly under that cross, on one of the four benches that surround it, pouring my heart out into one of the many journals I used to fill back then. It was wonderful. A beautiful, beautiful place. So rightly named!
     One day, as I was walking among the [flat] grave markers they use (instead of the normal head-stones I had become accustomed), I happened to look down and caught a glimpse of one that said "alski." That's all I could read of it since the ground was trying to reclaim that space as its own. Since I have no family or friends that are buried in the state of Connecticut I didn't pay much attention to it and just continued on down the row. I managed to get about fifty feet away when I was struck with that familiar feeling of a presence surrounding me. Since Fr. Marcel was the only person I ever experienced this with, I automatically whispered, "Hello, my friend, how are you today," with a smile forming on my lips, since I knew that this meant - once again - I'd be seeing him soon. And I waited, while I walked, for that feeling of JOY to enter my heart. But it didn't come, not right away, like I was expecting it too. Instead, I was filled with the sense that I had missed something important... that I had to go back... and whatever, or whoever, this new presence was, it lead me directly back to that "alski" stone.
     I knelt down in front of it, cleared away some grass, weeds and leaves to the point where the last name was exposed in its entirety. That's when the JOY hit me, full force. It usually doesn't reveal itself to me like that. It kind'a creeps up on me, getting stronger as the days go by. This time though, it hit all at once, and it - literally - almost knocked me over. I knew exactly whose stone it was. I didn't need to see the first name. It was Marcel's mother. Balbina. This was obviously a woman I had never met... and I had only heard him refer to her by name, once, many years ago in my old Latin class. But the name was so unusual it stuck in my memory. And sure enough, as I continued to clear away the rest of the stone, from right-to-left, all the letters were revealed one by one. A. N. I. B. L. A. B.
     And, as if all this wasn't enough, I realized what else I was looking at. The year she died. 1989. Once that sunk in, I was immediately transported back to 1989 myself, to that nightmare I had of him when I thought he had passed from a heart attack. No. That wasn't it. It wasn't cardiac pain after all. I'm positive it was the pain of loss. Now, I know, as a Priest, there was a part of him that rejoiced, knowing that his mother had been called home to the Lord. But I also know, after watching my own mother suffer the loss of hers, that the death of a parent has a profound effect on the children left behind, no matter who or what they are...
     With the sun now shining on her stone, I reached out and placed my hand on her name and immediately started to cry. JOY is some pretty powerful stuff, LOL. I honestly don't know, as I sit here writing this, who the presence was I felt that day. Was it Marcel, like usual? Was it his mother, reaching out to me because she knew how important her son was to me? Was it another sign from God, trying to let me know He was there during this dark period in my life? Was it a combination of all three? I don't know... and I don't care. All I knew for certain was that - at that moment - I felt loved. I felt at peace. And I felt yet another connection to my friend, thanks to his Mom.
     I've never shared that with anyone. Not even with Fr. Marcel. I had no idea how he'd react to a story like that. I didn't know if he'd believe it. I didn't know if he would find it offensive or if he would feel like I had invaded his privacy. So I just kept it to myself... until now. Hopefully, if he ever reads this, he'll see it as I have come to see it, as a gift. That was an intensely spiritual moment for me. I've actually tried to convince myself that stumbling across her stone that day was nothing more than a mere coincidence. But, I'm sorry, no matter how hard I try, no matter how long I sit and reexamine that day in my mind, I cannot brush it off as coincidence. Out of the thousands of people who are buried there, how could it be possible that the one stone I was drawn to belonged to her? There's no doubt in my mind that there was some kind of spiritual intervention involved.
     From that day on, until 2010, I'd try to visit her at least once a year. I'd clean the stone off, sometimes I'd leave her flowers, and I'd always thank her for doing such a great job in raising a son that grew into one of the finest human beings I have ever crossed paths with. She had to have been an extraordinary woman. I wish I could have known her.
     Wow... that turned into a much longer story than I had originally anticipated, LOL. What was I talking about? Oh, yeah -- the places I've found God...
     One of the last places was, in fact, a church. Though it wasn't a Roman Catholic church. This church was Gateway Christian Fellowship in West Haven. I heard about it from a co-worker years ago when I was still working in Milford. His name was Gary and he was "Born Again," though - thankfully - he wasn't an extremist and he never tried to force his beliefs upon anyone. He would sit and read the Bible during his lunch hour and if I ever had questions about his faith, or about his "walk with Jesus" lifestyle he was always very forthcoming and generous with his answers. He was really cool and I began to consider him a friend. One day he happened to mention that Saturday night he was going to be at church, working partly as an Usher and partly as the Pastor's assistant.
     Church? On a Saturday evening? I had never heard of such a thing so I asked him about it. He explained that every Saturday night, starting at 6:00pm 'til "whenever," Gateway offered a "Worship Through Music" event where they brought in Christian musicians of all kinds, to help celebrate and spread the Word of God through their musical talent(s). This intrigued me... and it also brought to mind a distant memory from many years ago, when a little girl ran home with a permission slip in her hand to join the choir. Gary must've seen that memory flash across my face, or a spark of interest in my eyes, because he asked if I'd like to come. And I remembered, God gave me a voice! I remembered I used to love to sing and I remembered the happiness it always managed to bring out in me. And, yes, I still loved music - of all kinds - so, "Yeah," I said, "I'd love to check it out."
     That Saturday I showed up right on time and the festivities had already begun. When I walked in and heard the music, then saw the crowd and their interactions with each other, my mind was blown. I never knew church could be like this. Compared to what I was used to, growing up in the Catholic church, the marvel I was now witnessing could only be described as "controlled chaos," and it... was... awesome!!!
     I don't remember exactly how long I attended these services but I went, every week, for months. One night, the music coordinator made the announcement that the following week they weren't able to provide any live musical talent/guests. No one was available for booking. So, instead, they decided to take individual requests for songs from the congregation and it was those songs that they would collect and play during next week's Worship/Celebration. We had to select a song, a contemporary song, that we thought could be interpreted appropriately as prayer.
     I knew exactly what song I'd be submitting. It was Shania Twain's From This Moment On. It was a song originally written as a duet and I think it was meant to be used primarily as a wedding song for Brides and Grooms. I never heard it - in my head - as a wedding song. It was always a form of prayer to me. It's one of those songs I can't play just once. I have to keep hitting "Repeat" - over and over - whether it's playing from my MP3 player or blasting out of the CD player in my car or even playing from the speakers on this computer. Sometimes I'll sit and listen to it for over an hour... or however long it takes me to "cleanse my soul of evil" or to "cast out the enemy" as my newly found friends liked to call it. Fine. Whatever. Call it whatever you want. It worked for me, LOL!
     I gotta tell ya, the music that was played that night was the most eclectic collection of tunes I had ever heard condensed into such a short period of time. It was impressive, for lack of a better word. There was Jazz, and Classical, and Country. There was Broadway show tunes, Hip-Hop, and Rock, and Rap. There was Pop, and Swing, and Opera. There was Heavy Metal, and R&B, and Gospel. It was amazing... and it went on forever. It started at 6:00pm, like usual, and at midnight we were still swinging full force with no glimpse in sight of closing the church up for the evening. A lot of people were dancing... and others actually volunteered to sing the song they had chosen for that evening. When I saw that, again, I heard that little girl, "God gave me a voice?"
     Gary, at some point, came running over to me to let me know my song was coming up and he asked if I wanted to sing it and he proceeded to hand me a head-set to put on. But, I chickened out and just shook my head, "No way, man, I'm not singing," I laughed. He knew the song, and he knew that it meant a great deal to me. He had also heard me sing it before, at work, when it played on the radio. He asked me again, "Are you sure?" He was, like, "Don't be scared. It's OK, no one here is gonna judge you. You've heard some of the people here tonight... they're not that great... and if they can do it, you've gotta do it!" But, nope, I stood my ground. The thought of it horrified me. I hadn't sung in public for almost thirty years. I sing nowadays in the privacy of my shower... or in the privacy of my car. Hell, I've been known to perform full-length concerts in my car, LOL. But, in public again, after all these years? No way!
     As we were standing there, still talking about it, the song started to play. And I heard Shania's voice and then I started to feel that presence surrounding me again. And I thought that Gary had finally given up and walked away from me. So, just to myself, I started to sing along with Shania Twain. But, all of a sudden, I felt the head-set being pushed onto my head from behind me so I whipped around and - obviously - there's Gary standing there with a shit-eating grin on his face, nodding his head, just egging me on. And at the same time, I heard my voice coming through the speakers around that room.... me!... in surround sound! And I didn't sound too bad. And that rapturous JOY took hold and that little girl, that had been given a voice, by God, according to those two Nuns, took over the microphone and she sang!
     In my mind I saw everyone in my life... just rapid-fire images, flashing through my head... I saw my step-father, my Mom, and my Dad. I saw Walter and my grandparents. I saw Adrienne and her entire family. I saw Fr. Marcel and St. Francis. I saw a simple marker with the name Balbina etched in stone, and I saw familiar images of Christ. I saw my friends Jen and Mark and their son Zachary. Just this constant montage of images, faces, flashing through my head. And I sang! I have no idea if the presence around me was the presence of all these people in my mind, or if I was just simply swept up and away by the Spirit that filled the room that night. Whatever it was, I surrendered to it completely and I sang from a depth in my soul I never even knew existed. Other people started to sing with me... and by the time the song came to an end, a lot of people were clapping and cheering, and praising God's name, and giving Thanks, and hugging each other and me. The room simply exploded with all types of sounds from people until the next song began...
     It was one of the most bizarre situations I had ever been involved in. I mean, this was the stuff you saw in movies. This kind of thing didn't happen to people in real life, especially not in mine. LOL, I've never spoken about this either, to anyone. Gary was the only one who knew anything about it at all. Until just now. And, honestly, as I sit here rereading those last couple paragraphs, I am actually embarrassed by the whole thing. It was just so unreal... so ridiculously unreal... I have a hard time accepting it, myself, that it actually happened. But it did. It is what it is... and it's out there now... so whoever's out there reading this, I'll leave it up to you - believe it or not, LOL.
     I attended that church for only a couple more weeks after that evening. Gary suffered through his own spiritual crisis... he ended up getting a divorce, he lost custody of his daughter in that battle. Because of all that he ended up having a falling out with Pastor Brian at Gateway and he left that church. He also ended up quitting his job in Milford and I haven't seen him since. I don't know what ever happened to him but I hope he's OK. I don't even know where he's living now. I know his wife and daughter got the house in the divorce settlement... but where Gary landed after that, I never heard. I miss him. I think of him often... and I hope he managed to pull through that crisis so he can continue walking the Walk!
     As for myself, 2007 was another bad year for me. I plunged, once more, head first into a very deep, dark hole. I was 37 now and it had been five years, already, since my visit to Ellicott City. From there Fr. Marcel had moved to Pennsylvania for a while... and then on to Athol Springs, NY he went. He was moving farther and farther away from me, and as it turned out, that was true in more than one way...
     During those five years we remained in close contact via email but it was mostly through Instant Messaging. We "spoke" almost daily. He would hit me with an IM almost every night before he went to bed, or while he was HTMLing on his web site. And, of course, I just ate it right up!
     Receiving Instant Messages, to me, was usually an annoyance. I would be sitting here, trying to write, and since my Buddy List preferences were set to "Allow ALL" it eventually became intolerable so I reset my "allow" list to a specific group of people only. Of course he was always on the "allow" list, LOL. Because I had come to see IMs as interruptions, I would rarely ever initiate them, with anyone, unless it was my Mom or my Dad - or unless I had a specific point to make or something valid to say. That included Marcel as well. I knew he tinkered on his web site quite often and I never wanted to interrupt that thought process. So I always waited for him to come to me, that way I could be certain that I wasn't interfering with anything or disturbing him...
     Plus... being that I had, basically, forced this friendship on him by showing up on his doorstep unannounced, uninvited, and unexpected, making him deal with me on demand all those years, it was nice to have him seek me out for a change. It became his decision. If he wanted to talk to me, he could. If not, then he didn't have to. He had the freedom to decide, instead of having me show up, in his face, demanding his attention. It was nice to know that he was keeping me in his life because he chose too, not because I was forcing him to remain in mine.
     In entry 458, from June 20th of this year, I wrote this...

     My third email-attempt to Marcel was "Deleted." I'm getting a little discouraged. I really miss him and would love to touch base with him... it's been way too long. I think the last time I saw him was, like, 14 years ago. And, according to the CD I just pulled out and looked at, the last email I sent to him was in 2007! Either I stopped saving stuff (which I highly doubt) or he's simply fallen off the face of the earth. Whichever it is, I am not happy about it. I mean, let's face it, neither one of us is getting any younger!

     The part I've underlined wasn't exactly true... It was just something I didn't want to face again [about myself] so I decided to simply avoid the truth. However, I have received two emails (one from a friend, and one from a family member) asking me if we were supposedly so close, how is it that the two of us hadn't communicated since 2007? LOL, since I've been sitting here for approximately seventeen hours straight - baring all - I might as well put this out there too...
     I can't answer for him. I have no idea what happened, if anything, on his end. But I will say that I've never understood how he went from IMing me almost every night to nothing at all, ever again...
     On my end, though, there was a definite reason why I stopped emailing him. There was an oddly coincidental sequence of events that happened that lead me to believe that it would be better for him if I just stepped away and left him alone...
     In my last email to him, dated February 17th, 2007, we were discussing the possibility of me coming to Athol Springs for a visit the following June! He said he would love to have me but it was still a little too early to make plans that far in advance. I replied to that with...

     Allllrighty then! Let's plan on this -- whenever those mountainous heaps of snow diminish to mere mole hills (and judging by the size of them right now, that should be about June, LOL), keep me in mind, and give the ol' calendar a look-see. And, by all means, please don't feel obligated... it doesn't have to be an entire weekend like Ellicott City. A day? An afternoon? Dinner? I'm open to all possibilities. Whatever is most convenient for you, will work for me.

     Now, the very next day, February 18th, I called my Aunt Jean to wish her a happy birthday. It was this phone call that caused all hell to break loose. We were only on the phone for about 15 minutes... and during this conversation she eventually asked me if I still spoke to, or saw, that Priest. When she said that Priest I didn't notice the tone in her voice as quickly as I should have, I guess, so I proceeded to answer her by explaining that - yes, just yesterday, in fact - we've started to make plans to get together in the next couple of months. Well... holy shit!!! She then fired off a barrage of comments I never saw coming...
     And I finally interrupted her with, "What the hell are you talking about!?!?!"
     And she went on, and on, and on... until I finally said, "Um, I'm sorry, Jean, but I have to go now," and, in shock, I slowly put the phone down, hanging up on her.
     This was my favorite Aunt saying these awful things to me. And I had never heard such disgust, such malice in her voice, ever in my life. And it was directed at me. I was devastated.
     But what really shattered my world, what shook me to the core, was the fact that - once I reflected on what she said - I realized she had made some very valid points. She... was.... right.....
    I snapped and completely fell apart. I went to bed and cried for the rest of the day... and the next day, and the next day... and by the time I showed up for work on Wednesday things weren't much better.
     My god... I had been so blind. I had been so selfish. She was right. Aunt Jean was absolutely right. All I ever cared about was how much I missed him. About how much I wanted to see him. About how I had to find him and about how I had to spend time with him. I never once thought of how it made him feel, about how awkward it could have been for him, or about how the situation could have looked to others around him. My god, what had I done? For all those years! I never stopped to consider anything else other than what I wanted.
     And, for weeks, all I could see in my head were all the times I had stopped in unannounced... I kept trying to figure out how many times I had subjected him to that. And in today's society??? Where people are so quick to point fingers, to blame, to cast judgement??? My god, what had I done? I couldn't even count how many times I had visited him in Bridgeport. And I remembered how I found him somewhere in Fairfield, too -- St. Anthony's(?), I think it was. And there was a time I tracked him down somewhere up in the Kensington/New Britain area... then back to Bridgeport... then to Brooklyn... and, my god, Ellicott City. I actually spent the night at the friary in Ellicott City. What the fuck was I thinking??? But then that's the problem, isn't it? I wasn't thinking! At least not about anyone other than my damned self, that's for sure!
     Then the "ripple effect" started in my mind... not only was I thinking about how many Brothers/Friars/Priests he had lived with that witnessed me coming around, but then I also started obsessing about all the times we were out in public, in restaurants, and how someone could've recognized him -- out to dinner, with a woman -- and how easily that could've been misconstrued and how that could've snowballed into god-only-knows-what....
     Shit! This was bad. This was really bad. I beat myself up about this stuff for weeks. I was so ashamed. I was so embarrassed. I was completely horrified at myself, so much so, that all I wanted to do was stay in bed. If I wasn't at work, I was at home in bed. I was so depressed, at times, I actually found it difficult to breathe...
     The only thing that saved me was the fact that I kept telling myself, over and over, "Look, if this had ever been a problem, he would've said something to me. If he was ever uncomfortable with it, he would've mentioned it, right?" But... I don't know... would he have said something? In order to spare my feelings, would he go without telling me? My mind became so conflicted... I didn't know what to think.
     So... right then, I decided, NEVER AGAIN. I would never again put him in any kind of scenario that could cause him harm or any kind of grief...
     And, anyway, we were good, right? We were talking almost every day online. Why was I so worried? After all, he was coming to me now in the IMs so, surely, that meant everything was cool, right? And then it hit me. "Hey, wait a minute. Where's he been? We haven't chatted in weeks?" And I went back, into my "Old Mail" folder... and found that last email. The one where we were discussing the possibility of me coming to visit him in Athol Springs the following June. And then nothing after that. No emails. No Instant Messages. He was -- *POOF* -- gone. Just like that...
     Like I said before, I have no idea what happened on his end. It could have been any number of things. Like.... maybe he was away on vacation? Maybe he wasn't feeling well and just wasn't up to sitting at the computer? Maybe his computer crashed and he lost all his contact info? Perhaps...
     After I was forced to face my Aunt Jean's onslaught, I tend to think that he vanished because maybe he did, indeed, feel the same way about it as she did. Maybe, since he had already been five years free of me, that he just didn't want to be bothered any longer. Maybe that last email made him think, "Oh no, not this shit again." Maybe he thought, at that point, it would just be best to sever all ties. The only thing I know, for sure, is that he would never do anything [intentionally] to hurt me. I have no doubt about that at all.
     I was hurt though. He was a friend for a long, long time. He was always there. Always. We did get close for a while. Maybe, in his eyes, it was too close. I never saw it that way though. I always treasured it. I mean, there were times - years ago - when I would visit him and, occasionally, I'd catch him looking at me... and it always warmed my heart... because it was in such a way that made me feel as if he saw me almost like the daughter he could never have. After Aunt Jean's assault, and after he disappeared, it became obvious that it was my own selfishness that led me to believe that. In reality, it was just my mind playing tricks on me, seeing what it wanted to see, and nothing more. In entry 461 I wrote this...

     ...He was much more than a teacher to me though. He became my friend. I've always wondered if he thought of me on that same level, as a friend. Back then, I was young. And, of course, female. Nowadays, I'm not so young anymore but, obviously, I'm still female. And because he's a Franciscan Friar, that in itself presents a barrier. Not for me, obviously, but for him. There's rules. There are vows that need to be maintained and these vows have drawn some rather prominent lines in the sand. Now, do not misunderstand me -- I know where the obvious lines are, I'm not stupid. The thing is, though, I've never really been certain where that line is (or even if there is one) when it comes to friendship. Within a [platonic] friendship is there still a point where "close" is considered too close in the eyes of the Church? I've never been sure. Because of that, I don't know if he was able, or "allowed," to accept me into his heart as I accepted him into mine. I guess my "gray area" is this -- can he care for me (out of his own free will) as someone who is special to him [as a man], or is he only allowed to care for me, generally, because it's his job [as a Priest]? Am I nothing more than a wayward sheep that he, as a Priest, feels the need to rescue, to return to his flock of many, through spiritual enlightenment to ensure my soul is delivered out of eternal damnation? Or does he see me and accept me, simply, as his friend? To this day, after all these years, at times, I still find myself wondering...

     That passage refers back, of course, to my "Friarless" years. From 2007 to 2010 it was really hard coming to terms with the fact that he was, most likely, gone from my life forever. And he took that JOY right along with him. It broke my heart. I did whatever I could to avoid even the memory of him which, in this house, was hard to do. I actually packed up everything I could find that I thought might trigger a memory. All the St. Francis stuff I had accumulated, photos, the CD I had saved our conversations on, and stupid stuff, too, like my yearbooks from high school and even my class ring, LOL. Seems a little childish, I know, but hey, the healing process had to begin somewhere right? And, for me, the easiest first step was, "out'a sight, out'a mind." Not that it ever really helped all that much... but, I'm sure, it didn't hurt either.
     Sunday, January 10th, 2010 was my last visit to the "Gate of Heaven" cemetery as well. I only remember the date because of the awful weather that day... well, that and the fact that it was the Sunday before my birthday, I guess. I honestly don't know why I went. As soon as I woke up that morning I just felt the urge to go. I guess I felt the need to say goodbye to his Mom too. I brought a single yellow rose with me and, once I cleared away some snow and ice, I placed it on her stone. I said a short prayer and wished her well. As I walked back to my car I realized how alone I was. No "joyful presence" accompanied me during this trip.
     In May of 2011, Aunt Jean passed away. Her funeral services were held on Saturday, May 14th. I drove to Massachusetts, early that morning, to my Mom's place in the Berkshires... and we then traveled together to the service(s) and also stayed for the dinner gathering with the entire family that evening. I don't know if Aunt Jean ever told my Mom about that horrible day on the phone. I know I never mentioned it to her, that's for sure. So... when my Mom asked me in the truck on the way back to her house if I ever heard anything from Friar I don't know if it was just a coincidence or not. After choking down the knot that had formed in my throat I just shook my head and whispered, "No, never. Not for a long time." I don't know if it was my tone or maybe the look on my face but she dropped the subject and turned up the radio. I was grateful for that.
     I stayed with my Mom and step-dad the rest of that weekend. Sunday evening, after dinner, I loaded up my car for the trip home. When I was outside, my Mom came out and said, "It was never a secret how you felt about him, y'know. I know how important he was to you. You should find him. Talk to him. Don't wait until it's too late." When I heard the crack in her voice, I knew she was remembering a time when she had waited too long to say things to my grandmother, her mom. I just shook my head and said, "Ayuh, I've thought about that too. But I don't imagine there's much point to it. I'm sure if he wanted anything to do with me, I would've heard something from him by now." We hugged. I climbed into the car and headed South down over the mountain to come home.
     As the years went by, I would still find myself thinking about him at times. I wondered how he was doing, how he was feeling. I wondered if he ever thought about me at all. Other times I would wonder if he even remembered me at all. I wondered if he was ever curious about what happened to me. After all, he vanished from my life... did he ever wonder why I had vanished from his? Then, during some of my darkest moments, I would wonder if he had even noticed that I had vanished... or worse still, if he was glad. But I refused to dwell on that stuff. When I would realize how dark my thoughts were becoming, I'd push them away immediately. I refused to think of him that way. Instead, I'd remember all the hugs. I'd remember that beautiful face. I'd remember how he always welcomed me with open arms. And I've always prayed for him. I continue to ask God, and St. Francis, to watch over him closely... to keep him safe, to keep him healthy, to keep him happy.
     Earlier this year, back in March, I was out making some deliveries for the company I work for. I'm basically a "Jill of all trades." I do it all and, yes, that includes deliveries too. Not my favorite thing to do but it does give me some time alone in the truck to think, to meditate, to relax a little, just listening to the radio as I make the rounds. The particular route I had to take that day brought me down to Weston High School. On the way back I passed the sign for a restaurant called Cobbs Mill Inn. I've eaten at that place twice. The first time was for a company Christmas party. The second time was with Marcel right before he moved to Brooklyn.
     After a quick glance at the clock on the dashboard I figured, what the hell, I've got some time to kill, so I turned around and drove into the Cobbs' parking lot. I just sat there for a few minutes, reminiscing about the last time I had been there with my friend. I couldn't recall what I ate that night... but one memory did come to mind about how, after dinner, when we got back into my car, he - thankfully - noticed that his wallet was missing before we drove away. We went running back into the restaurant and, sure enough, there it was on the seat of the chair he had sat in...
     I sat in the truck, just grinning from ear to ear, as I thought about that evening. It was nice. Then my Mom's voice came to me in a whisper... "Find him. Don't wait until it's too late," she said. God, I prayed, why has he forsaken me? Would he welcome me again, into his life, like he always had? I could really use some help with this. Are You still there listening? If You're too busy, that's OK, maybe St. Francis could help instead? I'm not all that picky, Guys! Should I find him again? Do You think that's OK? Anything? Anything at all? Helloooo? Can You hear me now?
     Still grinning about the missing wallet, I got out of the truck and walked around for a bit. As I headed toward the restaurant, I started to feel that familiar presence [that I thought was lost forever] begin to surround me. I didn't recognize it at first, it had been so long. I actually turned around to see if someone was following me, LOL. As I approached the front entrance I noticed a rather large sign tacked to the front door so I went over to read it. Cobbs Mill Inn is temporarily closed because the owner passed away on February 27th, just a couple weeks before I found myself standing there. There was also a short obituary included from the Westport News. I didn't read the entire thing, I just kind'a scanned it, but when my eyes landed on the last line, I started to laugh out loud. There had been a public Memorial Service in the town of Weston on March 3rd... and it was held at St. Francis of Assisi Church! As I walked back towards the truck, I cast my eyes up towards the sky, still laughing.... Thanks, Guys! I'll take that as a yes!
     When I got home from work that evening, I signed on, clicked on my Address Book and scrolled down to his name. Still I hesitated, my cursor hovering over him for about twenty minutes.
     WHY CAN'T YOU JUST LEAVE THAT MAN ALONE? ARE YOU REALLY THAT SELFISH? my Aunt's voice echoed from the past...
     Was my mind still playing tricks on me when I saw St. Francis of Assisi Church in that obituary? Was it seeing only what it wanted to see? Was I, again, acting out of my own selfishness? I couldn't bring myself to click on his name. I signed off.
     For about a week my Mom and my Aunt Jean had a battle in my head. Both their arguments making strong points. My Mom saying don't wait until it's too late and my Aunt saying stay away. And during it all, that nagging presence wouldn't leave me alone and I couldn't get Fr. Marcel out of my heart and mind.
     Oh my god, this is ridiculous, I thought. I wrote him an email on April 2nd. I figured, hey, he's already been absent from my life for almost a decade. If he rejects me, fine, it's not like I've really lost anything at this point, right? He's already been gone for years. But, oh, I thought, think of how much I could gain by having my friend back in my life..... So, whether I was acting out of pure selfishness or not, I clicked on SEND NOW and off my email went to him. It took three more attempts before I finally made contact.
     During the next couple of months I found myself compelled to write about him, to explain, to share, to remember my past, to vent... so I took to this blog and poured out some of it, not knowing if he would ever read it or not. There's one thing I believe in when it comes to writing.... Y'know that old expression, "Dance like no one's watching?" Well, I believe that when you write, you should write as if no one is reading. I think that if you write with intentions of someone actually reading it, you tend to hold back, or censor yourself a bit, because you're consciously aware of how your words will be interpreted by the reader. But if you write under the assumption that no one is reading it, the TRUTH tends to surface much more freely, more openly, more honestly. I keep that in mind - always - when I write.
     LOL, about a month ago I shared a story here about Fr. Marcel and I in Latin class back in high school involving words that contain two UU's consecutively... (scroll back to entry 465, if interested). I then sent that story to him, directly, in an email instead of sending a link pointing to it on this blog. He replied to me that same day by telling me he had just uploaded that story to his own web site. Now, the man is sharp as a tack, he doesn't miss much, if anything at all.... three days later I received another email from him containing only one line -- "How can I get to your blog?"
     Ohhhhhh shit, I thought, Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit! This meant that - not only would he be reading the stuff I had recently written about him - but he'd also be subjected to almost ten years of, let's call it, um, questionable material, LOL. Oh boy!!! Did I really want him reading some of that stuff? LOL. Oh hell... I put it out there for people to read so why should that exclude him? I sent him the link. Again, a day or two went by and I received another one-lined email from him saying, simply, "Some of these entries are hilarious!" Phew! Good. At least he found them entertaining. I have no idea which ones he read and I really don't want to know. I can only imagine and, LOL, that's plenty good!!!
     Anyway... it seems my story has come full circle. Marcel, though it's only through email, is back in my life. That's definitely a blessing [that I've given thanks for every day since]. My St. Francis Tau cross was dug out of the closet and hung - once again - on my kitchen wall right above the microwave. Every morning, when I'm nuking the water for my coffee, I stand there talking to my "Brother Frank," and I continue to ask him to watch over my friend [and, of course, my cats!].
     In wrapping this up, there's one more rather poignant encounter with God I'd like to share. This just happened to me on Friday, September 2nd...
     I was out, as always, making some deliveries Friday afternoon. It was a beautiful day, bright blue sky, white puffy clouds and it wasn't too hot. I had the windows rolled down and was blasting the radio. As I was admiring the sky, driving down Route 25 in Trumbull, I was thinking about how thankful I was that our two paths, Fr. Marcel's and mine, had managed to cross those many, many years ago... and about how instrumental he had always been when it came to assuring me that God was there. All of a sudden I realized that Shania Twain's song From This Moment On had started to play on the radio; the song I had always thought of, and used, as a form of prayer. As soon as I heard her voice, I was overcome with a staggering moment of clarity...
     "Oh, my God," I thought, "that's it. That's exactly it. Instrumental. He... was... instrumental...
     At that moment, a flood of images entered my mind... I saw that little girl in choir practice; I saw myself praying to St. Francis through the years while suffering through the death of one of my animals; I saw my Uncle Walter as we walked side by side in the gardens; I saw my step-father and how miraculously our relationship had changed; I saw Fr. Marcel, dressed in his brown habit, as he walked into class that first day and how I was immediately awestruck; I remembered the feeling of the presence and how I always thought it was him; I saw Balbina's grave and how I was drawn to it one day in the cemetery; I remembered the feeling of that rapturous JOY and how I always thought of it as being something from out-of-this-world; I saw myself singing this very song [now playing on the radio] at Gateway; I saw myself standing in front of the sign at Cobbs Mill Inn reading the poster and how I prayed to God and St. Francis that day; I saw myself sitting at my computer, feeling driven to write about him, to remember; I heard Marcel's voice asking me, "Where is God in your life?" And I thought, again, of that word -- instrumental...
     My God. Oh, my God...
     Lord, make me an INSTRUMENT of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy...
     The Prayer of St. Francis.... St. Francis, who I had always felt a connection. My friend, a Franciscan Friar, who I had always felt a connection. Both of which are connected to Christ and God.... Oh my God...
     As I sat on the side of Route 25, now in the break-down lane, my mind reeling from this epiphany, all I could think was, "Could it be that when he prayed those words, offering them up to God and Christ and St. Francis THEY connected the dots from his prayers to mine? My God.... How could it be anything else?"
     And then another vision came to me, almost like a dream... I saw Christ and St. Francis having a conversation. Granted, I obviously don't know exactly what happened that day, up in Heaven, but I'm almost positive it went a little something like this...

     Christ stood, amongst the clouds, looking down at His flock, at one little lost sheep in particular. His attention was pulled away momentarily as He saw motion out of the corner of His eye.
     "Francis! My Brother! Come to Me, will you," He called out. "Have you got a moment?"
     Francis approached. The misty clouds swirled around them as they embraced.
     "Of course, my Lord, all my moments are for You," smiled Francis.
     "You see that young one? Down there?"
     Francis' eyes found the one He was referring too. "Yes, my Lord. I know this one. A good child. She calls me 'Frank' sometimes," he grinned, "I like her." Francis looked back to meet his Master's eyes. "You seem pensive, my Lord. Is there something troubling You? Something about her?"
     "Ah, my Brother, you've come to know Me so well. Indeed, it is about her. My Father has heard her cries. I've been trying to reach out to her, to talk to her, but she doesn't seem to hear Me," Christ explained.
     "I see," said Francis, casting his eyes downward once again to look upon the young girl. "What can I do? How can I help You?" he asked willingly, seeking another chance - once again - to serve his Lord.
     "Yes, perhaps there is something you can do. I was thinking that you could send her one of your many friars to help her hear Me. What do you think? A wise idea?"
     "Yes, my Lord, most definitely a wise idea. Do You have one in mind?" Francis asked.
     "I do, but I shall leave that decision up to you. Know this. He should be of kind heart, and must possess much patience and understanding. He should have the ability to teach, but also to listen. Let him love her, care for her, and let him provide the gentle hands she needs to guide her heart to Me."
     Francis nodded his understanding. They locked eyes, sharing the same vision, as they clasped hands. "My Lord, I seek only to please You. Is my choice to Your liking?"
     "Yes, my Brother. You've pleased Me, as always. You've chosen well," Christ reassured him.
     Offering a slight bow, Francis said, "And so it shall be!" The clouds swirled as they parted.
     Christ, alone again, looked down at the little sheep. "Yes. A very fine choice indeed!" As He watched the young one sitting behind her desk in school, the door swung open and in walked St. Francis' chosen one.
     "Hello, class. My name is Fr. Marcel..."
     Christ smiled.

     Not only had my prayers been heard all those years ago - and apparently every day since - They actually delivered a person to me, who They planted firmly in my life to help me see, to help me feel, to help me learn, and to help me believe. They sent me Marcel. That's why our paths crossed when I was fourteen and that's why I've never been able to let him go. They wouldn't let me. They knew I needed him. He was a direct link, for me, to Them. Because of my doubts, and my inability to hear Them trying to answer me, They used him instead to guide me in the right direction, toward Them.
     My entire body was trembling by the time I pulled back on to Route 25. All I could think of was how I wanted to see him; how I wanted to tell him all this; how I wanted to hear his voice; how I wanted to share this with my friend... and since I no longer have that option, I knew there was only one place I could go; there was only one other person I could share this with, right now, at that particular moment, especially given my current location. I pulled off Route 25 at exit 9 and flew all the way up Daniels Farm Road to Gate of Heaven cemetery. By the time I pulled in and parked the truck I was sobbing...
     I dropped to my knees in front of the stone etched with "Beloved Mother" and placed both my palms on it. I showed her everything in my heart and all the images I had seen in my mind. Once I finally managed to calm down and catch my breath, I said a prayer of thanks.... to God, to Christ, and to St. Francis. And I thanked her, again, too... for if she had never delivered him, They never could have delivered him to me!
     So... this twenty minute delivery ended up lasting about ninety minutes. Once I got back to work everyone looked at me with the same puzzled expression, "Where the hell have you been?" I just kind'a laughed and said, "Long weekend, traffic's a bitch out there!" and went back to work. I don't think any of them bought it but - after seeing the look on my face - none of them dared to challenge it either, LOL.
     In entry 459, on July 19th, I wrote this -- [it refers to the many conversations we've had over dinner about how/why he became so important to me]...

     It's hard to delve into things this deep when someone asks you, point blank, right at that moment. There's so much involved, there are so many elements, that when the question is posed, my mind goes into overdrive and kind'a shuts down so I've never been able to explain it to him. One of these days I'm gonna sit down and write the whole story. And I mean really write it, not just blog it. There's a big difference. If I take the time and really think about everything at my own pace I'm sure I can finally articulate why he's always meant so much to me.

     As soon as I got home from work that Friday evening, I started writing this. I never got up from this computer until Sunday morning. I sat here for approximately 34 hours straight. Once I started I just couldn't stop. For the last five days I've been proof-reading it and doing some editing on it here and there, trying to make it flow coherently, instead of the jumbled, gnarled knot of thoughts it had originally turned out to be. I hope I've succeeded in doing so...
     Regardless, that's the whole story... that's the how/why I've come to love him the way I do and always will. And, I'm hoping, that through all of this I've also managed to answer that infamous question of his, "Where is God in your life?" Turns out He's been with me during every step of this journey of mine. Luckily, even when I found myself not believing in Him, He always believed in me!!!
     Anyway... after all these years, the story's been told. And it's about time, too! After all...
     God gave me a voice!
     God gave me a voice!!
     God gave me a voice!!!

ENTRY #473
DATE:  09/07/16 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT:  Statue of Liberty photos...

     Oy! I don't think the "New York City" photo-album is gonna happen. There are just too many pictures to choose from and I can't decide which ones to share here. So, instead, I decided to do this...

The Statue of Liberty!!!

ENTRY #472
DATE:  09/02/16 (Friday)
SUBJECT:  St. Lawrence Cemetery photo page...

     Just added another small collection of photos for your viewing pleasure. This one is a few shots I took in St. Lawrence Cemetery located in West Haven, CT. That makes SIX new pages in a month!
     I don't know what's come over me lately. I haven't sat in front of this computer this much in years. There might be another coming soon of my clicking in New York City but I'm not sure yet. That'll be a huge collection of photos, if so. I will somehow have to try to limit the number to perhaps 50, LOL. It'll take a while to get them all resized. We'll see.
     Anyway, here's a link to the St. Lawrence Cemetery shots... Enjoy!!!

St. Lawrence Cemetery in West Haven, CT

ENTRY #471
DATE:  09/01/16 (Thursday)
SUBJECT:  Happy Birthday, Dad...

     I just came across this poem written by Vicky Frye. She lost her father back in 2008 and she wrote this poem in his honor. Since my Dad, thankfully, is alive and well, all I've done here is change the tense from past to present... (Thanks, Vicky, for sharing your sentiments!)

If I could write a story,
It would be the greatest ever told
I'd write about my daddy,
For he has a heart of gold.
My dad, he is no hero
Known around the world,
He is everything to me,
For I am his baby girl.
I'd write about the lessons
He taught me right from wrong
He instilled in me the values
That one day I'd be strong.
He taught me to face my fears,
Take each day as it comes,
For there are things that we can't change
He would say what's done is done.
He would say hold your head up high,
Carry yourself with pride,
Thanks to him, I am somebody
I will never run and hide.
If I could write a story,
It would be the greatest ever told.
I'd write about my daddy,
For he has a heart of gold.

Happy 76th Birthday, Dad!!!

ENTRY #470
DATE:  08/31/16 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT:  Baby Pictures have been uploaded...

Just a quick note to let y'all know that a new photo album has been created! See Dove as a hatchling!!!

Dove: Newly Hatched...

ENTRY #469
DATE:  08/30/16 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT:  A Seed Has Been Sowed...

     So a seed has definitely been planted in my mind about making the trip to Athol Springs, NY. It's just a seed at this point though... it hasn't germinated yet into a fully developed thought. I've got a ton of stuff to figure out on my end before I can even approach him with this idea...
  1.  The first thing is can I take time off from work? Well, that answer is definitely yes 'cause my boss is awesome and I know it won't be a problem as long as I give him enough notice to plan accordingly. [check]
  2.  The second thing is how long do I want to be away? Considering the round-trip drive is going to be approximately fourteen to sixteen hours... that's two days right there of just travel time -- a day to get out there and a day to get back. Fine. I don't have a problem with that. Since two days are already eaten up with the drive, though, that means it'll definitely have to be a long weekend (at the very least), but since Lake Erie is also going to be involved, I'd love to stay a full week.
     Let's see... if I travel out that way on a Saturday and come home the following Saturday I'd have all of Sunday to recuperate before going back to work on Monday. That's cool. That leaves six days in between. I could visit with him for three days (or however long he'll allow), then I could spend the other three days exploring Lake Erie's shoreline (since I've never really been there before; except for a 3-hour visit to the Lake Erie Fair 4 or 5 years ago. Refer back to "entry #338/Item 12" for that story). That works for me... [check]
     I just have to figure out what to do with my cats if I'm going to be away that long. I'm sure Adrienne wouldn't mind popping in every day to feed/water them. In fact, she could even stay here all week long if she wanted too, I wouldn't mind that at all. That just means I'd have to clean this apartment (LOL!) and stock the 'frig for her... which I'm sure would be much cheaper than boarding them somewhere. Fine. No problem. Once I figure out some other stuff I'll approach her about this... [check]
  3.  For years I've thought about surprising him by just "dropping in" but that really isn't an option being that he's so far away. Like I mentioned in a previous entry, it would be just my luck to show up and he's either on vacation elsewhere or too busy or not feeling well... this will definitely have to be a planned visit. So I guess I'll worry about that part of it once I get everything else figured out. [Check, for now.] Moving on...
  4.  I have to decide if I want to take my car on this trip or get a rental. At this point, I'm kind'a leaning towards a rental since I know whatever car they give me will be much newer than my now seven-year-old Kia. Plus I'd rather put the 1000+ miles on someone else's vehicle instead of on my own. The only concern there is the cost of the rental... but Enterprise's prices are usually pretty good so that's really not a huge concern. [check]
  5.  Where am I gonna stay? Well, the last time I saw him was in Maryland... and, at his suggestion, I ended up staying right there at the friary for the weekend. I loved that because it gave me that much more time with him... but, at the same time, I was a little uncomfortable with it 'cause of the, um, whole "woman staying at a friary" concept... which, to me, was kind'a weird, for lack of a better word. Yeah, let's just leave it at that... weird. And that was only for one night. Now that I'm considering a much longer stay, a hotel is definitely the best option. That's not a problem either. I've already checked out Mapquest and, according to them, there's a Comfort Inn, a Red Roof Inn and a couple others right on Camp Road that are only 2.5 miles away. Perfect!!! [check]
  6.  Which route do I wanna take?

     The route that's shown would probably be the most scenic route... but those are roads I'm not familiar with. I have no idea how "off the beaten path" I'd actually be. If I swing up north and take I-90 West all the way there's probably gonna be a lot more traffic (and numerous toll booths along the way)and it won't be as "scenic" but - at least - I already know I-90 as far as Utica since I used to live there back in the early '90s. There are plenty of Rest Areas on that route as well so I wouldn't have to worry about gassing up and bathroom breaks. That's definitely a plus.
     I've also considered heading due West from here and traveling the length of Pennsylvania via Route 80. That, I'm sure, would be a gorgeous route to take... but it would probably add 2 to 4 hours of driving time to an already 7 or 8-hour excursion...LOL... so I've got some thinking to do about this. No check mark here. Not yet. I gotta study some maps a little closer before I decide on this one.
     Although, now that I'm thinking about it, if I do take the I-80 route through PA, I could take it straight into Fremont, Ohio to visit my friend Micki. I haven't seen her in years! That would be awesome!!! Then, from there, I could take Route 5(?) all the way up Lake Erie's shoreline to Athol Springs. I'd see a bunch of the lake that way, that's for sure! Hmmmmm, I'm really liking the sound of this! I'll have to talk to her soon, see if we can make some plans. Again, no check mark here yet!
  7.  I need to get a new digital camera. I'm not going anywhere near him or that lake without a camera! That, I know, for certain. I gotta get that taken care of before anything else, I guess...
  8.  Long trip! Must have plenty of music to keep me entertained! That's an easy one, LOL. I already have my MP3 player loaded with 33 or 34 albums of some of my favorite tunes so... [check]
  9.  What time of year do I want to go? Winter is out of the question for obvious reasons, LOL. The rest of the year is up for grabs. I don't care. Whenever it's the best time for him, I'm there. Spring is fine... nice cool weather! Fall is fine... nice cool weather! Summer is fine... hot weather (which I'm not all that crazy about) but his gardens will be in full swing and I'd love to see that! As long as I get to spend some time with him, I don't care when I go... so... [check]
     This Spring would be awesome... 'cause if I have to wait any longer than that I think I'll bust!!! But, whenever... as long as I see him, I honestly don't care. Hell, theoretically, if he was to ask me right now (not that he ever would) what I'm doing this weekend for Labor Day, LOL, please, I'd be in the car in twenty minutes heading in his direction! I wouldn't even bother packing; I'd just buy all new shit once I got there!!!
  10.  Last but not least... this is the hardest one for me.... asking him if it's OK for me to come and visit for a couple days. I'm already getting teary-eyed just thinking about this one. Let's face it... he is considerably older than he was when I saw him the last time (he was 70 then). He's gonna be 84 in September. He might, quite frankly, not be interested in - or even up to - having company at all. I have no idea. And I know that if he says no this time, that'll probably mean I'll never get to see him again. That kills me... (And, yup, now I am crying.) The thought of never seeing him again, ever, just breaks my heart. Oh my God.... Must change the subject now. Happy thoughts! Happy thoughts...
     IF I make this trip - and as of right now it's a big "if" - I only want three things while I'm there -- a little bit of his time, photos of us together ('cause I have none), and many, many hugs! That's all I want. I don't care what we do. I don't care where we go. I don't care where or what we eat. None of that matters. I just want to see my friend again...

ENTRY #468
DATE:  08/27/16 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  This Man Makes Me Laugh Until I Cry!!!

     BILL BRYSON!!! This guy has moved to the "Top 10" of my FAVORITE AUTHORs list! Good Lord!!! He. Is. A. Riot!!!
     I first discovered him back in 1998/99, I think it was, when I was just wandering around aimlessly in Barnes & Noble. A fantastic cover jumped out at me and I just had to pick it up to investigate it further. It was Bryson's A Walk in the Woods... y'know the one? With the bear on the cover? I'm sure y'all have seen it by now since the publishing company uses that same cover to this day. Anyway, once I read the back of it, I bought a copy. It's a recount about his adventures, along with his buddy Stephen Katz, as they hike the Appalachian Trail. And it is hilarious! There is a laugh, literally, on every page! Now, I don't usually "laugh out loud" as I'm reading a book. A chuckle here and there, though, yeah, sure... but really laugh? Hardly ever. This book had me in stitches!
     My next trip to B&N, with Bryson in mind, I picked up copies of two other titles of his... In a Sunburned Country and A Short History of Nearly Everything. I still haven't read Short History but I tackled Sunburned Country the same night I bought it. Read it from cover-to-cover in one sitting. Just couldn't put it down! That one's about his travels through Australia and it's just as funny as Walk was. For me to read two books in a row that actually made me laugh out loud I was, like, "Oh, yeah, this guy's got somethin'! He's good!!!"
     Last year, as I was sitting on my couch channel surfing, I happened to catch a preview for a new movie coming out. A Walk in the Woods, starring Robert Redford (as Bryson) and Nick Nolte (as Katz)!!! I knew this was a movie I couldn't miss! In preparing for it, I pulled the book off my shelf and read it again, thoroughly enjoying it as much as the first time! I never did catch the movie in the theater but the day it was released on DVD I brought it home. The movie only covers about half the book and it ended, quite clearly, with a sequel in mind [which I truly hope they commit to making]. The movie was great... not quite as funny as the book but it was still outstanding!!!
     In Connecticut, every summer, one of the largest book sales throughout all of New England is held at the Pequot Public Library, down in Southport. I've attended this event for the last five or six years in a row. Last year I came home with almost twenty books for a measly thirty dollars! So when it came time for this year's book sale I was prepared, once again, with a list of titles as long as my arm and two tote-bags to carry home the haul. However... it was astronomically hot and humid that day... and the older I get I have less and less tolerance for that kind of weather. Even though I showed up at 9:00am I just couldn't take the heat and had to get the hell out'a there. I was there for about 45 minutes and only managed to find three books on my list before I was forced to retreat to the air-conditioning of my car. While I was standing in the check-out line, melting, I happened to look down and, right beside me, I found a copy of Bryon's The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid," so - naturally - I scooped it right up...
     I gotta tell ya, Thunderbolt Kid made that "45-minute-sweltering-in-hell" morning worth every drop of sweat I shed! By the time I finished this book I was roaring with laughter to the point where I was wiping away tears. It's a simple, honest, heart-felt autobiographical account of his childhood spent in Des Moines, Iowa in the 1950/60s... and it's hysterically funny! This is a first for me. Never have I come across a book that made me laugh so hard I cried!!! I am now on the hunt for every word this man has put down on paper!!!

ENTRY #467
DATE:  08/27/16 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  A Vodka Pilgrimage...

     So back in January, while at work, somehow we got to talking about booze and what our favorite drinks are. We named off various beer brands, mixed drinks, shots and - eventually - Debby (our graphic designer) mentioned a flavored Vodka I had never heard of. It's called "PB&J" by Van Gogh... and after hearing her describe how much she liked the stuff, I figured that would be the perfect gift I could get for her birthday (on Feb. 2nd). Since she had surprised me with a gift earlier that month for my birthday I thought I'd return the gesture...
     After work that day, I hopped in the car and headed to the closest liquor store [right up the street from where I work] to find this peanut-butter and jelly Vodka. No luck there so I headed to another one. No luck at that store either. At store #4 I finally found it but they only had one bottle on the shelf. At this point I had already decided that I wanted a bottle of my own so I purchased the one they had and continued on to find another for myself. I ended up driving from Shelton to Westport, then all the way out to the Milford/Orange area on a rather obsessive-compulsive pilgrimage for this evasive bottle of booze! Holy shit... after THREE HOURS and eight more package stores I was, like, the hell with it! and gave up.
     The next morning, having exhausted the list of liquor stores in the immediate area that I knew of, I got online and wrote down a list of phone numbers and addresses. Since I had already wasted half a tank of gas driving all over the place the night before I decided to take the lazy way out and just hunt one down by phone instead. Good grief! After calling seven stores someone finally said, "Yeah, we got that stuff, one bottle left." Turns out the place is ten minutes away from my house, LOL. Figures, right?
     After purchasing the bottle, I stood and chatted with the owner for a few minutes. He informed me that PB&J is pretty popular... but they constantly have problems getting it from the distributor. He mentioned that he thinks they're going to discontinue it from their line for some reason which makes no sense to me at all. If it's so popular, why stop making it? I don't get it. *shrug* Whatever...
     Anyway, Debby was thrilled with the bottle and actually opened it that night to celebrate her birthday after dinner plans with her husband. Cool!!! I'm glad it made her happy. My bottle, to this day, remains sealed up tight. Now that I know the stuff is damn near impossible to find I don't want to open it. I fear that if I like it as much as I think I will, I'm only gonna want another bottle... and there's no way I'm gonna try to track it down again. LOL, life is just too short.
     However, during all my liquor store hopping that evening, I did come across another Vodka that caught my eye. It's a brand called Pinnacle and they have an amazing selection of flavors to choose from. I was curious about a couple of them so I grabbed one of each off the shelf and brought them home. One is "Pumpkin Pie" and the other one is "Whipped Cream." I haven't tried the pumpkin pie one yet but the whipped cream one is delightful!!! It's yummy all by itself but it's even better in cranberry juice! And - WOW!!! - then I tried it in orange juice and now I'm totally hooked! Goooooooooooood stuff...

     Through the lips, over the tongue, look out stomach, here it comes! Cheers!!!

ENTRY #466
DATE:  08/26/16 (Friday)
SUBJECT:  Four New Photo-Album Pages have been Created...

     Hey, y'all...
     Just a quick shout-out to let you guys know that I've just put up four new pages under the "Dove's Photos" link. Oooooor, you can just check out the links listed below...

Some Special Animal Friends

Finely Feathered Friendly Fowl

The Promontory in Old Saybrook, CT

Fort Hale Park in New Haven, CT

ENTRY #465
DATE:  08/21/16 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  Words in the English Language with "UU"...

     That last entry brought to mind a "happening" back in my freshman-year Latin class. The teacher, obviously, was Fr. Marcel (since I'm still carrying him around in my head). I can't remember, precisely, what the day's lesson was but it must've been something to do with comparing Latin vocabulary to English vocabulary... or perhaps it was a lesson on spelling... I honestly can't remember. However, I do remember - quite vividly - what happened in class that day since I basically hung on every word that fell from that man's lips all year long.
     I was diggin' around in my book-bag for something while he was talking and, all of a sudden, I heard him say, "There are no words in the English language that use two U's consecutively." Well, in the blink of an eye, my head snapped up and out of my book-bag and there I sat - at my desk - in shock with one eyebrow raised in utter amazement. After a quick glance around the room to see if anyone else had something to say and seeing nothing - nothing at all - my hand automatically flew into the air!
     He then followed that statement with, "I'll give fifty cents to anyone in this room who can think of one." Aha! That explains it, I thought to myself, this must be a trick just to see if anyone's paying attention. Again, I glanced around the room. Nothing. They're all just sitting there with that deer-caught-in-the-headlights expression on their faces [as Freshman tend to do]. Now both my hands are up in the air waving frantically trying to get called on! The voice in my head is screaming, "MeMeMeIknowIknowIknowMeMeMe!!!"
     And he just stood there, totally ignoring the girl in the seat over there who's, apparently, trying to land aircraft in his classroom. I guess he was waiting to see if anyone else was willing to participate and when he got no takers he finally nodded in my direction with his famous Friar's grin and said, "Yes?"
     Finally. "What about vacuum?" I asked with a cocky little tilt of my head...
     LOL, the man didn't say a word. He just reached down deep into his front pants-pocket, pulled out two quarters, walked seven or eight paces over to my desk, plunked them down in front of me, turned around, walked the same seven or eight paces right back to where he was standing before and just continued on with the day's lesson-plan like nothing ever happened. He didn't say ONE word... but he grinned the entire time!!! That. Made. My. Day.
     That was thirty-two years ago. Now, as I sit here, I can only think of one other word that has two U's in it and that's "continuum." So, out of curiosity, I looked it up. This, taken directly from the Oxford Dictionary site, is what I just learned...

There are several English words containing two consecutive u's. Most of them came into English from Latin:

     vacuum = a space

     continuum = a continuous sequence

     residuum = a chemical residue

     menstruum = the matter discharged during menstruation

     triduum = a three-day period of religious observance in the Catholic Church

     duumvir = each of a pair of magistrates holding joint office in ancient Rome

     duumvirate = a coalition of two people having joint authority

All but the first two words on this list are quite rare, though, or are only likely to be encountered in specialist contexts. There are also a couple of other words containing two u's in a row that have come into English from other languages:

     muumuu = a loose dress of a kind traditionally worn in Hawaii (from Hawaiian)

     Weltanschauung = the world view of a particular individual or group (from German)

Nice! Even after all these years he's still teaching me. Gotta love that!!!

ENTRY #464
DATE:  08/19/16 (Friday)
SUBJECT:  "A Time to Laugh"

     For the last couple of months I've been reading the weekly bulletin from the St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church. Last night I got an email telling me that the one for this Sunday (August 21st) was ready to be downloaded so I went to grab it. The last page of this issue was kind'a cute so I thought I'd share it. Here it is.... Enjoy!

A Time to Laugh...

    “Lexophilia” is a fancy word to describe a love of words. Some people love words so much they are constantly searching for phrases that show just how playful the English language can be. If you like phrases such as “You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish” or “To write with a broken pencil is pointless,” you might enjoy these competition-winning samples from the Internet...

A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

When the smog lifts in Los Angeles U.C.L.A.

The batteries were given out free of charge.

A dentist and a manicurist married, then fought tooth and nail.

A will is a dead giveaway.

With her marriage she got a new name and a dress.

A boiled egg is hard to beat.

When you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall.

Police were summoned to a daycare center where a 3-year-old was resisting a rest.

A bicycle can’t stand alone; it’s just two tired.

When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine is now fully recovered.

He had a photographic memory, but it was never developed.

When she saw her first strands of grey hair, she thought she’d just dye.

Acupuncture is a jab well done.

ENTRY #463
DATE:  08/13/16 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  Collieflower...

     LOL, I love stuff like this...


ENTRY #462
DATE:  08/11/16 (Thursday)
SUBJECT:  A Tribute to Robin...

Shown above: Robin Williams as Patch Adams.   Shown below: The poem Patch read, graveside, at Carin's funeral.

Love Sonnet XVII

by Pablo Neruda

I do not love you as if you were a salt rose, or topaz
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
So I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

ENTRY #461
DATE:  08/06/16 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  A Special Gift Came in the Mail Today!

     Awwwwwwwwww, I got the sweetest little package today in the mail from Fr. Marcel. It was such a nice surprise. He put together a little slide-show video of all the pictures he took during my visit to Ellicott City, Maryland all those years ago. It was just so sweet, so thoughtful, of him to do that. I mean, not only did he take the time to burn the CD, but the CD is also fully adorned with a collage of photos of me on the front cover as well as a photo of me on the CD's label... and, of course, he even made a back cover for the case too!
     He means the world to me. He always has and he always will. Ever since I was a child, ever since the day I first met him, he's been special. He's always been in my heart and very, very dear to me. He carries within himself this light, this gift, this incandescent quality that's a combination of warmth, of knowledge and wisdom, of comfort and compassion, of inner peace, goodness, Faith, and of kindness that I identified in him instantly. It was impossible not to. It radiates from him... I felt it. There was no escaping it! And as the years went by, as I grew older, I saw even more in him. I saw generosity and forgiveness. I saw patience and understanding. I saw modesty, humility and grace. I saw intelligence and [uncanny] quick wit. And, most of all, I saw his ability to give and receive love unconditionally. Yup... God, Christ and Francis of Assisi definitely picked a winner when they chose this guy!!! LOL, forgive my gushing. This all probably sounds like I think he's some kind of Saint but I know he's not. I know he's just a human being. That's all -- just human; but he is an absolutely delicious human being to know...
     Y'know, as you travel through life you come across all types of people. Some types are the equivalent of a chocolate chip cookie. They're yummy enough to keep around as a constant. You can grab a couple, gobble them down, and your cravings are satisfied... to a point. After all, it's just a cookie. But then, if you're lucky enough, you come across those other types that are rare, those fine delicacies that, at first taste, you know it's something that's meant to be savored. Marcel has never been just a cookie. He's TOP SHELF! And in continuing this metaphor, throughout the menu of my life, he's always been that special treat that's dished out once, maybe twice, a year for special occasions only, like family reunions or at Christmastime. He's... he's Ambrosia!
     To know him is to love him. You can't help it. At least I couldn't. I know I was only fourteen, sixteen, eighteen at the time... and I know those are very impressionable ages. But the truth of the matter is -- first impressions are what first impressions are. And that was mine. And once this light of his enveloped me I knew, I just knew immediately, that this was a person I would never be willing to let go of...
     I have to interject a little "side note" here:  Through the years I've often told him that I think he's got one of the most beautiful faces I've ever seen. And, to this very day - even though I haven't seen him in over a decade - I still believe that to be true. I also believe that, deep down, he absolutely hates it when I tell him that. It's always made him squirm a little in his seat and I could see, clearly, that it made him uncomfortable to hear it. But I think it's because he's never truly understood how it's meant. I think he believes that I only mean "skin deep." But, oh, he's so wrong. It's so much more than that. When I look at him I see all those aforementioned qualities. They shine throughout his face. Whenever I've been around him - again, starting when I was just a kid - he's always uplifted me. He has always filled my heart with this feeling of pure, unadulterated, rapturous JOY that I've never encountered in any other person, before or since. So... when I look at him, at that wonderfully expressive face of his... that's what I see; that's what I feel. And that, without a doubt, to me, is a thing of beauty. And after being exposed to him [and all those gifts he holds within] every day - for four years - throughout highschool, the thought of graduating and having to let go of this person who had become so precious was simply unacceptable. There was no letting go...
     But through the years I've wondered, occasionally, if I mattered to him too. It's easy for a teacher to make an impact on a student's life... because there's only the one teacher in that relationship. It's not so easy, however, for one student to make an impact on a teacher, for that one teacher has thousands of students. So I've always wondered if I mattered to him, on a personal level, or if I was just a face in a crowd of thousands. I know I stood out as a "good student" in that one particular class we shared... of that I have no doubt. He was much more than a teacher to me though. He became my friend. I've always wondered if he thought of me on that same level, as a friend. Back then, I was young. And, of course, female. Nowadays, I'm not so young anymore but, obviously, I'm still female. And because he's a Franciscan Friar, that in itself presents a barrier. Not for me, obviously, but for him. There's rules. There are vows that need to be maintained and these vows have drawn some rather prominent lines in the sand. Now, do not misunderstand me -- I know where the obvious lines are, I'm not stupid. The thing is, though, I've never really been certain where that line is (or even if there is one) when it comes to friendship. Within a [platonic] friendship is there still a point where "close" is considered too close in the eyes of the Church? I've never been sure. Because of that, I don't know if he was able, or "allowed," to accept me into his heart as I accepted him into mine. I guess my "gray area" is this -- can he care for me (out of his own free will) as someone who is special to him [as a man], or is he only allowed to care for me, generally, because it's his job [as a Priest]? Am I nothing more than a wayward sheep that he, as a Priest, feels the need to rescue, to return to his flock of many, through spiritual enlightenment to ensure my soul is delivered out of eternal damnation? Or does he see me and accept me, simply, as his friend? To this day, after all these years, at times, I still find myself wondering...
     But then today, out of the blue, he does something extraordinary like this. That little CD! As soon as I opened the package and saw what it was, all wonder and doubt was erased. And don't get me wrong here... it's not the CD itself. It's not even the photos on the CD that matter. It's the thought process behind the CD that means something. I mean, if you were to see this thing, it's obvious this took some time. It's not something he threw together in two or three minutes, LOL. This took time. He made a conscious decision to take the time out of his day to sit down and create this little gift for me. He didn't have to do that. He wanted to. That's the special gift that came in the mail today... 'cause I don't think he'd do that for just a random sheep.

ENTRY #460
DATE:  07/24/16 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  Four Movies (in a MONTH)!!!

     Let's see... I think the last movie I saw in the theater was Social Network and that was in 2010. The movie I saw before that was Orphan in 2009... and the one before that was Ratatouille in 2007. So, clearly, I don't go to the movie theater all that often. Seriously, count'em. That's only three movies in nine years.
     Adrienne and I have - apparently - broken that mold, LOL. We've seen FOUR movies in the past month, LOL. We saw The Legend of Tarzan (on July 2nd), The Secret Life of Pets (on July 8th), Ghostbusters (on July 16th) and, last night, we saw Finding Dory. And we might be going to see Jason Bourne on opening night (July 29th), not sure yet though.
     I don't know what's inspired this sudden interest in going to the movies. I'm usually quite content with waiting for them to be released on DVD. It's been fun. Expensive as hell, but fun. Anyway, they were all pretty good... but I'd have to say that, out of those four, The Legend of Tarzan reigned supreme. Finding Dory came in second place. Ellen DeGeneres' performance of "Dory" was outstanding! She really brought that little fish to life in a big way!
     I'm on the fence about seeing Jason Bourne in the theater. The only reason I want to see it, really, is because Tommy Lee Jones is in it. Since Tommy Lee is one of the actors I collect (along with Morgan Freeman, Tom Hanks, Robin Williams and Jimmy Stewart), I know I'll be buying it on DVD as soon as it's released anyway. I can't decide if I wanna bother seeing it on the big screen too. We'll see...

ENTRY #459
DATE:  07/19/16 (Tuesday)

     Oh. My. Goodness. I am, literally, on Cloud 9 right now. No, y'know what? That's not right... I think I'm actually on Cloud 12 or 13 right about now!!! I finally got a response from Fr. Marcel today!!! OMG, OMG, OMG! It was so great to hear from him. It all started yesterday...
     I didn't go to work yesterday. Unfortunately, I had to "call out" sick because I had another EMS (esophageal muscle spasm) attack. It woke me up out of a sound sleep at 4:13am. By 6:30am I was practically crippled from the pain so I sent my boss a text message that simply said, "Pain again, can't make it, see'ya tomorrow, txt/call if you need something." Everyone at work is familiar with this problem since I've had two of these attacks during the middle of the week while at work. In fact, when the first one happened my boss was ready to call an ambulance. Anyway, I spent the entire morning, 'til around 11:30am, curled up in the fetal position, rocking back and forth in agony until I was finally able to doze off. When I woke up a couple hours later I felt much better so I popped some Aleve tablets, made a cup of coffee and settled down in front of this computer.
     Ever since April, when I sent Marcel that first [deleted] email, I have not been able to get this man out of my mind. He is just right there, stuck in my head, all day long, no matter what I'm doing. I'm at work, I'm thinking about him. I'm at home sitting in front of the TV, I'm thinking about him. I'm trying to read a book, I'm thinking about him. I'm sitting here - right now - trying to write this damn blog entry and I'm thinking about him. I don't know how or why this happens to me but it does.
     I've known this man since 1984 and this happens to me every couple of years. Just all of a sudden, out of the blue, he pops into my head and he becomes this permanent "mental fixture" and there he stays for the duration. The tiniest, little detail will trigger a memory of him and then I end up carrying him around with me for days, weeks, sometimes even months at a time. Now, years ago, when he lived locally, it was an easy fix. In fact, that's what I actually started calling it, a fix. I would just jump in the car and go see him. We'd visit for an hour or two, or go out to dinner, and then I'd be fine after that... 'cause I had my "Friar Fix." Well... since this whole mind "take over" thing has been going on for more than four months now, that's, pretty much, where I'm at right now. I'm jonesing hard. I need a "Friar Fix" desperately...
     So anyway, when I sat down at this computer yesterday I went straight to his website and there I stayed... for hours. I scoured every nook and cranny of that site, taking it all in, trying to force a fix upon myself. It actually worked for a while. Um... but then... amongst all the clicking of links, looking at photos, watching his slide-shows and reading his little autobiographical stories, I eventually came across a few videos. I downloaded the three I found but only one worked. The other two wouldn't play for me. The one that did work, it's brief, it's very short, only about 15 seconds long. He's the one shooting the video so he's not in it... but he narrated it! The moment I heard his voice, after all these years, it brought back such a flood of memories... I was caught completely off guard and the damn volume on this computer was set a little too high, so to suddenly hear his voice reverberating around this room, I was so overwhelmed I almost started to cry. I've listened to it two or three times since I downloaded it and I'm fine with it now. It was just that initial "shock & awe" effect that hit me kind'a hard. I mean, seriously, it shook my soul!
     Once I recovered from the shock I continued browsing around the site and eventually stumbled upon an alternate email address. Well, let me tell ya, it only took about seven seconds for me to fire off a short note as soon as I found it. And it worked!!! He emailed me this morning around 9:00am so his note was waiting for me when I got home from work this evening. OMG, I can't even describe how I feel right now. I am over the moon! Totally elated! I know it's only an email... but it's so much better than nothing at all. Already, I can feel the "Friar Fix" starting to do it's thing. I can already feel the calming waves of peace and contentment settling over me...
     LOL, good grief, I know that a lot of this doesn't make sense to whoever's reading it, and that you're not "getting" it. Hell, I know Marcel, himself, doesn't get it either, 'cause he's never gotten it. If he is ever to read this, I'm sure he'll just sit there shaking his head wondering why?. We've talked about it... or, at least, we've tried to talk about it. Face to face, he's asked me, "How can this be? Why?" and I've never been able to express it correctly. I believe, to this day, he thinks it all goes back to a childhood, school-girl crush. As I sit here writing this I don't think this was ever really a "crush." I think that, when I was younger, while he made me feel so much, I just didn't know what else to call it. Hell, I'm 46 now -- that school-girl has long been dead - but the feeling is still there and I still don't know what to call it. I honestly don't even know if there's a real word for it, LOL. It's hard to delve into things this deep when someone asks you, point blank, right at that moment. There's so much involved, there are so many elements, that when the question is posed, my mind goes into overdrive and kind'a shuts down so I've never been able to explain it. One of these days I'm gonna sit down and write the whole story. And I mean really write it, not just blog it. There's a big difference. If I take the time and really think about everything at my own pace I'm sure I can finally articulate why he's always meant so much to me.
     Anyway, until then, I'm just going to bask in the fact that I have him back in my life after all these years. I'm gonna do my little Happy Dance now, find something for dinner, then I think I'm going to bed. Maybe, just maybe, that jonesing little voice in my head is satiated enough to actually let me get some sleep... :-)
     Peace and all good. Indeed...

ENTRY #458
DATE:  06/20/16 (Monday)
SUBJECT:  Getting Caught Up (again)...

1.  So it's been a month since I had the teeth pulled. I never did need anything stronger than the Motrin... and there was minimal swelling due to my incessant dedication to keeping an ice-pack adhered to the side of my face for hours at a time. The only problem is that the holes are taking forever to heal. I still can't chew anything on that side of my mouth or they fill completely with food. Especially the one on the bottom. That's the one where the wisdom tooth and the molar used to reside, side-by-side, so it's huge. It's one thing to look at it in the mirror but, trust me, when my tongue starts rooting around in it, trying to fish out the unwanted food particles, it feels like a gigantic, cavernous abyss in which - I truly believe - an average sized mouse could use for spelunking.
2.  My third email-attempt to Marcel was "Deleted." I'm getting a little discouraged. I really miss him and would love to touch base with him... it's been way too long. I think the last time I saw him was, like, 14 years ago. And, according to the CD I just pulled out and looked at, the last email I sent to him was in 2007! Either I stopped saving stuff (which I highly doubt) or he's simply fallen off the face of the earth. Whichever it is, I am not happy about it. I mean, lets face it, neither one of us is getting any younger! I guess I'm gonna have to send him an actual snail-mail note. I need to hunt around here to find his address. I have no idea where he's living now. Last I heard, he was in Athol Springs, NY. I don't even know where the hell that is. It's up around Buffalo somewhere, I think. I've only been out that twice in my life -- once was to Niagara Falls back in '90 or '91; and the second time was to the Lake Erie Fair with my friend Macy four or five years ago -- so all I know about that area is that it's Snow Country. Between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario those folks get hammered in the winter. They'll get 3 or 4 feet all at once and insist on calling it "just flurries." Anyway, I know he's way too far away for me to just jump in the car and pop in on him, that's for sure, LOL. It would be just my luck to drive nine hours to get there only to be told that he's on vacation on the other side of the world, gallivanting with, I dunno, Kimono Dragons or something... or off photographing Stonehen----
     Oh! Wait!! I just had a thought!!! I'll be right back...
     Damn. I'm back. So much for that idea. It just dawned on me to check his website. Duh!!! He used to have a guestbook... I thought I could reach out to him that way but the guestbook is gone now. At least his site is still up and running and it appears to be pretty current so at least I know he's OK. The email address on the site is the one I've been using so (???)... and I checked out his "Where Am I?" link and he still lists the Athol Springs address. That's cool. At least I don't have to tear this place apart looking for it now.
3.  I just spent the weekend at my Dad's in Greenland, NH, for Father's Day. I got home last night (this morning?) around 12:30am. We listened to a lot of Jazz, did a lot of yakking and also managed to squeeze in three movies between the two. I brought three DVDs with me-- Parkland (about Kennedy's assassination), The Alamo (with Dennis Quaid) and The Homesman (with Tommy Lee Jones). He liked them all! It was a good trip... very little traffic, up and back, and we had beautiful weather too!
4.  I've managed to get in a lot of reading lately also. Yes, I have temporarily put the coloring books aside, LOL! I'm all caught up with Stuart Woods' books. I just love those "Stone Barrington" novels of his!!! And I'm beginning to believe that getting "caught up" with James Patterson's stuff is an impossible feat. Between the Alex Cross stuff, the Women's Murder Club stuff, the Michael Bennett stuff, the Private stuff and the NYPD Red stuff it's tuff to keep up. Considering he publishes a new book every twenty minutes or so I guess I'm doing OK. Right now I think I'm only four books behind... but that's not including these new "mini" books he's pumping out like crazy. What's the deal with these "Bookshots" books of his? Holy smokes! He's cranked out, like, SIX of them in the last month!!!
     And on that note, I'm out'a here. I'm gonna read for awhile...

ENTRY #457
DATE:  05/21/16 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  A Visit to the Oral Surgeon...

     Oy! For the last two/three months I've been experiencing on & off again tooth aches. It has not been fun... at all. So I finally went to the dentist for "emergency" x-rays and, goody, goody, one of my remaining wisdom teeth was the root (pun intended) of the problem. Instead of fixing the tooth, I opted to just have it pulled. Well... after a consultation with the oral surgeon, at his suggestion, I decided to have BOTH the remaining wisdom teeth pulled. However, once he studied the x-rays a little closer, he suspected the pain I was feeling wasn't actually the wisdom tooth itself. When that tooth originally grew in, it came in at an angel and was starting to crush the molar next to it...
     To make a long story short, I just had THREE teeth pulled yesterday and what a fiasco it turned out to be. Good grief!!! First of all, I had to take a day off from work. Second of all, I had to have my friend Steve escort me to, and from, the office (since I was going to be put under with an anesthetic) so it tied up HIS day too. And I also had to fast for 12 hours the night before so I wouldn't choke on my own vomit while unconscious... ain't that a happy thought?
     Once I got settled into the dreaded chair, they proceeded to get the IV hooked up. In doing so, the surgeon popped a vein in my arm (which has left me with an absolutely hideous red/purple/black hematoma). Once that was all connected, they also stuck electrodes all over me to monitor my heart AND put me on oxygen. Good grief! I was only there to have teeth pulled, not bypass surgery... what the hell???
     Anyway, the extractions went fine... but they gave me so much Novocaine (on top of the anesthetic) I STILL can't feel half my face. I 'spose that's good but, on the other hand, it would be nice to eat something without the use of a bib since I can't feel my lips!
    Oh, and speaking of eating, the day before my appointment I also had to go grocery shopping to make sure I had plenty of food that wouldn't require much chewing. I ended up spending $180.00 on a cart full of mush... yogurt, Jello, apple sauce, cottage cheese, ice cream, soup, chowder, pasta. You name it, if it's soft and mushy, chances are, it came home with me. And, of course, after the grocery store, I also had to stop at the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions for pain meds. I got Oxycodone from the dentist and Vicodin from the oral surgeon. Although, I'm gonna try getting by on Motrin first before I start popping the heavy duty stuff.
     So... 180 bucks for food. 150 bucks for the x-rays. 125 bucks for the consultation fee. 10 bucks for pills... and a whopping 1500 bucks for the surgeon's bill. Hmph! That doesn't seem fair. I just spent almost TWO GRAND for them to take teeth AWAY from me. It's not like they gave me new teeth. They took teeth away. I spent all that to walk away with nothing. That ain't right!
     I'm gonna go eat some more cottage cheese and sulk about this. Let the swelling begin!!! Ciao for now...

ENTRY #456
DATE:  04/17/16 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  "Deleted" again...

     A couple weeks ago I mentioned that I sent my friend, Fr. Marcel, an email that, apparently, he never received. I was going to resend it but ended up totally forgetting all about it. Last night I found my original email to him still sitting in my "Sent Mail" folder so I resent it to him with "Do not delete, Please read" in the subject line....
     I woke up this morning, made a cup of coffee, then signed on to check my mail. Nothing from him at all. So, once again, I checked the "status" of my [second] email to him and this one was "Deleted" too. Not sure what to think now. I know it's been a long time since we've communicated via email but I find it highly unlikely that he wouldn't recognize my email address. I'm guessing his spam filter might be the culprit.... dunno.
     I just sent it again, this time with my full name in the subject line. That, I know, he'll recognize. If this one gets deleted too, I guess I'll have to go "old school" and send him an actual note via the USPS. We'll see...

ENTRY #455
DATE:  04/05/16 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT:  Finally Got It...

     In my last entry (in note #6), I wrote about the possibility of the beginnings of menopause. I'm still thinking that might be my situation. My, um, "monthly visitor" (who's not exactly monthly any longer) finally made an appearance today, along with multiple hot flashes. Wonderful. Ayuh, gettin' older...

ENTRY #454
DATE:  04/02/16 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  Getting Caught Up...

     Just a bunch of things I want to mention to get caught up here...
1.  First of all, I haven't been here lately 'cause I've been too busy coloring, LOL!!! I've been SOOO busy coloring, in fact, I hardly even read anymore. Good grief. Seriously, these coloring books are totally addicting.
2.  I bought 4 new scratching posts for the cats back in January 'cause they managed to destroy the two they had. And, since it was so hard finding the same ones they were using before, when I finally did come across them I bought two for them to use now and two to keep in "storage" (in the closet) for the future. Yeah, sure, my cats aren't spoiled. LOL, not at all.
3.  Adrienne's mom, Virginia, has been in and out of the hospital/rehab numerous times since the beginning of the year (still recovering from the original problems that began back in July). She came home from the rehab place right before Thanksgiving so that was nice. Then, a day or two later, she was back in the hospital where she stayed through Christmas and beyond. Shortly after she came home from that stay, she went back to the hospital with pneumonia. She stayed almost two weeks (?) that time. And, again, a few days after arriving home, she went back to the hospital with the flu. She was there for another two weeks (?) and came home again right before Easter. She's currently still at home, hopefully for good this time. I'm praying there will be no more trips to the hospital for her!!!
4.  Had my taxes done back in February. Got a little more than two grand back so that's cool. I'm hoping to put it all towards a new vehicle once I [try to] save up more for a down payment.
5.  Speaking of getting a new vehicle, I totally can't decide what I want to buy. I'd like a small SUV (which I guess they now call CUVs), something all-wheel drive... and the list of makes and models in my notebook has grown considerably. I like both the CrossTrek XV and the Forester made by Subaru. I like the Escape by Ford. I like the Tucson by Hyundai. I like the new H-RV by Honda. I like the new Trax by Chevy. I like the RAV-4 by Toyota. I like the Rogue by Nissan. I like the CX-5 by Mazda. I like the Renegade by Jeep. Shit... the list goes on and on. It's impossible to decide. The cheapest one, so far, on that list is the Jeep Renegade. I've seen one advertised on TV starting at $17,995.00 for the base model. Which means I have to automatically tack on another thousand for an automatic transmission. I really, really like the Renegade TRAIL HAWK 4x4 model but, LOL, that one is, like, thirty grand so I'll NEVER own one of those. It sucks trying to shop for a new vehicle when you don't have money. If money wasn't a problem, I'd love to get one of the BMWs... I really like the x3 and the x5 they make. They're just so damn cute... but the x3 starts at $36,000.00 so, um, nope. Oh God, I'd love to own the Evoque by Range Rover but the one I looked at was $56,000 bucks. Bummer. I need to start playing PowerBall. All I know, for sure, is that I don't want another Kia. I've been driving Kias for the past 15 years and it's just not what I want. The first two I owned totally sucked. The one I have now (the Spectra sedan) is OK, meaning that - so far - there hasn't been any mechanical issues with it... but I know the day is coming when the damn thing will die on me for some reason. Plus, the Kia dealership in Milford (where I bought the damn thing) doesn't have service hours on Saturdays anymore which totally bites. I shouldn't have to take a day off from work to get an oil change, dammit. That's ridiculous. And I've checked around. Kia is the only dealership in Milford that doesn't have hours on Saturdays. All the other brands are open on Saturdays for their customers. Kia blows!!!
6.  On an extremely personal note, I think I'm in the early stages of menopause. Up until December my cycle was perfectly normal (and always has been). Then nothing at all until February. And when that period finally came I bled for twelve days straight. And I'm not talking about normal bleeding either. I'm talking about "Carrie-on-Prom-Night" bleeding. It was awful. And, again, since then, nothing. So now I'm forced to wear a pad every day of my existence because I never know when it's gonna show up. Great.
7.  I'm pretty sure now that I don't have GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease). I'm certain, at this point, it's EMS (esophageal muscle spasms) instead. I have come to this conclusion simply based on the fact that Aleve is the only thing that helps. If it was GERD, I highly doubt a pain-reliever would do anything. I still have the attacks but they are not as often and they are also not as severe (as long as I take a couple Aleve tablets soon enough).
8.  "I Am Cait" season two started a couple weeks ago. I am still a faithful watcher of the show but, this season, I'm not going to blog about each episode. I just don't have the time (since I'm too busy coloring nowadays, LOL).
9.  Michael Weatherly is leaving NCIS (another favorite show of mine) at the end of this season. He plays "Tony DiNozzo" on the show.... and, honestly, without him I'm not sure if I'm going to continue watching it or not.
10.  Shemar Moore just left Criminal Minds (another favorite) two episodes ago... now I'm up in the air about that show as well.
11.  I'm still watching The Big Bang Theory but... now that Howard and Bernadette are "pregnant" I have a feeling this is the beginning of the end of that show. Usually, once the babies come, the show is over. We'll see...
12.  I haven't seen my parents in months. The last time I saw my Dad was back in October over the Halloween weekend. And I haven't seen my Mom and Step-Dad since Thanksgiving. Now that Spring is here I'm looking forward to visiting all of them.
13.  Speaking of Spring.... the first day of Spring was March 21.... and, here in Connecticut, we got three inches of snow that day, LOL. I love New England! Ya just never know what's gonna happen with the weather.
14.  Kentucky Fried Chicken is now dead to me! Popeye's Chicken is WAAAAAAY better than KFC!!! I've transformed into an "Alice the [chicken eating] Goon" creature, chanting the same mantra over and over.... I love Popeye's... I love Popeye's...
15.  Last night I realized that it's been ages since I've "talked" to my Friar Friend, Marcel, so I sent him a short message just to say hello and to let him know he's still in my thoughts and heart. However, when I signed on earlier this afternoon, I checked the "status" of the email I sent to him and it said "Deleted." Hmmm. That's unusual. He must've just deleted it by accident. I'll try resending it later, I guess...
16.  And, last but not least, just a quick shout-out to Kimmy (Adrienne's sister)...She just turned 50 today so.... Happy Birthday, Kim!!!

ENTRY #453
DATE:  01/09/16 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  Coloring Books for Adults!!!

     OMG, OMG, OMG, I am totally hooked on these damn coloring books for adults. Good grief. I have more markers, crayons and colored pencils NOW than I've ever had in my entire life combined. I have piles of them in the living room and a whole other pile of duplicate markers I've purchased just in case the first ones dry up. This is crazy...
     Adrienne and her sister, Kimmy, got me into it. They've been coloring for awhile and I just didn't "get it." I was like, "Yeah, I don't think so, no thanks." And then, one night, they talked me into coloring ONE picture with them.... and I was hooked. It's so soothing... relaxing.... and it totally relieved all the stress I had experienced earlier in the day at work.
     It. Is. Awesome. I have a pile of coloring books now that I can choose from and when I get home from work that's all I wanna do. I get comfy on the couch, pick a book and a stack of markers, pencils and gel pens and I color the evening away 'til it's time to go to bed.
     Wow... what an exciting life I lead, huh? LOL!

ENTRY #452
DATE:  12/24/15 (Thursday)
SUBJECT:  Happy Holidays!

     Just a quick note to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

ENTRY #451
DATE:  10/10/15 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  "Rigby, what are you doing now???"

     OK... so you all know I have two cats. One of them, Rigby, is always busy doing stuff... and I find myself constantly asking her, "What are you doing now?" If she could talk, the following list would be some of her answers...

Rigby, what are you doing now???

...licking my butt.
...sniffing your toes.
...hiding under the bed.
...snuggling under the covers.
...looking out the window.
...sleeping on the couch.
...chasing Sabrina around the apartment.
...beating up Sabrina because she touched one of my toys.
...digging in the litter.
...burying my poop.
...drinking out of the kitchen faucet.
...eating some kibble.
...laying on top of the refrigerator.
...watching the ceiling-fan spin.
...trying to catch that darn fly.
...eating a moth.
...trying to fit myself into this box.
...trying to get into the closet.
...staying cool laying in front of the fan.
...trying to turn on the AC.
...hiding behind the desk.
...chewing on this banana's stem.
...scratching my ear.
...licking my foot.
...cleaning my face.
...eating another moth.
...begging for a taste of your dinner.
...eating a treat.
...playing with this ball of lint.
...eating this ball of lint.
...throwing up this ball of lint.
...playing with this piece of string.
...playing with this piece of balled-up paper.
...watching the birds fluttering around the tree branches.
...trying to eat this stink-bug.
...getting sprayed in the face by this stink-bug.
...chasing another moth.
...chewing on your book mark.
...chewing on your book.
...rubbing on your book as you're trying to read.
...wagging my tail.
...eating a Nilla Wafer.
...licking the condensation off your water bottle.
...rolling around on the carpet.
...sharpening my nails on the scratching post.
...eating a french fry from McDonald's.
...trying to catch the cursor as it moves across the monitor.
...;lkag098732lkO&@)HSLH;LADadol*&^$$. (translation: ...walking across the keyboard.)
...looking at myself in the mirror.
...looking at YOU in the mirror.
...prying open the cabinet doors in the kitchen.
...trying to open the refrigerator door.
...sitting on the scale in the bathroom watching you pee.
...shredding the roll of paper towels in the kitchen.
...watching the leaves fall off the trees.
...watching the snowflakes swirling 'round and 'round.
...watching the bubbles in your bottle of Sprite.
...lapping up the dollop of mayo that fell from your sandwich.
...tasting the coffee in your mug on the table.
...begging for another french fry from McDonald's.
...stalking this pen cap.
...stalking this piece of fuzz.
...stalking this post-it note.
...stalking Sabrina.
...pouncing on Sabrina.
...pinning Sabrina to the floor.
...listening to Sabrina's cry for mercy.
...taking a nap.
...eating breakfast.
...sniffing at the ABC'd piece of gum you left in the ashtray.
...watching you brush your teeth.
...playing peek-a-boo from behind the TV.
...begging for a piece of dark meat from the KFC bucket.
...licking the chicken grease from your fingers.
...trying to eat the plastic bag the KFC bucket came home in.
...hiding in the plastic bag the KFC bucket came home in....
     LOL, I could sit here for three solid hours typing this list and I'd barely scratch the surface, but I think - by now - you catch my drift, right? She's a busy, busy girl!!!

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