From Start to Finish

Final reflection on our slicing this year

When this season of March writing began, we were about one week into the war in Ukraine.  Here we are one month later and still in the full bloom of war. That song “What a difference a day makes…” keeps  going through my head.  As the song says, “24 little hours…” and so much can happen.  This slice activity is such a wonderful way of disciplining ourselves to observe and record the subtleties of each moment. 

A dear friend gave us a box of fortune cookies this month and one of the fortunes really spoke to me. In our home, we always get the fortune cookie that is pointing at us, letting fate decide our future.  The cookie said, “Life is not so much what you accomplish…as what you overcome.”  Life is a journey and we don’t always get to choose the path we are on.  We do however get to choose if we sing while we walk it.

I hear people singing the Ukranian national anthem on the steps of the statehouse in Kyiv.  I hear a child singing Let it Go, as she stands up in the bomb shelter and proudly belts out the song. “Let the storm rage on, the cold never bothered me anyway. ” This is what resilience looks like!

 May all my fellow slicers have a year filled with joie de vivre and resilience until we meet again next March.

Watch her singJ

Stowaway in the Cupboard

An unwelcome guest

How did you get here?  I go to organize my pantry and what do I find?  Anchovy fillets, a small bottle of what looks like gourmet anchovies packed in pure olive oil and sea salt, and imported from Italy.  This is truly meant to be a delicacy.  Yet, I have no memory of ever having purchased it   Somebody must have given this to my husband, no other explanation.  I don’t even like anchovies.  When we order pizza with someone else and the other person asks, “What do you want on it?” I also say, “Whatever you prefer, we like everything, except anchovies.”

Like anchovies, how many other items in that pantry, my closet, my basement, and my attic fit the unwelcome guest category?  Some items earn the title because they no longer serve a purpose like a sippy cup or a lampshade for a lamp that is broken. Others because they are unfinished projects or somebody else’s memorabilia that I feel compelled to preserve, even if the item was not  a critical part of my nostalgia cache, which is already extensive? 

I gently pick up a green and yellow baby blanket I started knitting for my son over 30 years ago.  The stitches are well done and I admire my work before lamenting the fact that I never finished it and why do I still have this? Then there is my aunt’s painting of a sailboat that she gave me that I don’t really like that much but it’s hanging on my wall so as not to offend her, although she has long since passed away.  Why do I have two shoeboxes of FLOPPY DISCS?  As I prepare to toss them I wonder what pictures are preciously stowed away there, but really with that resolution I am not sure it even matters.

When you live in the same house your entire married life, that house becomes a repository for all the stages of life, you and your family have embedded in the fiber of the home itself.  There is a bank of memories and sentiment that make your home more beautiful with each passing year.  Along with this,  we take in more and more material items that sneak into the fabric of our home, unnoticed at the time, and asking us why they are here years later.  Now that I am spending more time home the urge has hit to come up for air and rid myself of all the excess weight holding the ship of life down, anchored in a sea of nostalgia, confusion, and neglect. I have 3 books on how to declutter and they have, in effect, become part of the clutter.

There are some exceptions to the “it must go” rule.  This includes meaningful  family pictures, personal writing, antiques that have been passed down and connect generations, and Items of exceptional beauty that speak to you, as well as those that are truly useful.  One item I hope my children will keep is a needlepoint lovingly made by my mom and preserved in museum glass.   These items have a spirit of their own that transcends the designation as material. Yet, it is hard to admit that all that we love cannot be preserved under museum glass.  Life is bigger than that.   

Accumulation happens quickly without you even noticing until one day you have to climb out from under it.   Do keep a few things that really have meaning for you and your family, but don’t get sidetracked by the onslaught of life’s souvenirs.  As for the extras, let it go!

Play this in your mind while you do so……..

“Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway”

Chorus of “Let it Go” from Frozen

Luck

That’s a good luck tree!

My grandson now points to all sorts of objects and proclaims that they will bring luck.  This is a remnant of our St. Patrick’s Day celebration.   “Hi Grammie, It’s Patirck’s Day,” said with a big smile and a hug.  Did you make cookies?”  Yes of course, Irish oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookies, just for you.” With another big hug, “Oh, thank you Grammie” 

Then we walk down the stairs to the basement where there are gold coins on the floor.  This is a sure sign that a leprechaun has been there. Shamrocks hang at different levels form the ceiling.  A statue of what is either a very old St. Patrick, or an Irish bishop stands on the table.  In front of it is a welcome sign in wood panels with shamrocks painted on.  A shamrock bear straddles a Green Bay Packers ice bucket that just happens to be the right colors to be part of the scenario.  There is green garland hanging from the wall highlighting a Happy St. Patrick’s Day sign.  There is even a kit on the table with all the materials needed for building a leprechaun trap. The scene was set.

Oliver goes down the stairs and the spotlight is on the floor aimed at the little truck filled with building blocks and a small stuffed toy leprechaun sits astride the truck at the end of the trail of gold coins.  Oliver says “Look, what’s that?”  “I guess the leprechauns have been here.”  He goes over to the truck and starts playing after laughing, with that wonderful giggle of happiness.

Green flowers adorn the table and the shamrock plates are placed on the shamrock table cloth and references to luck abound.  When it’s time to eat,. Oliver says, “Wait” He makes sure everyone has closed his or her eyes, and then he begins, “Bless us oh Lord for these thy gifts we are about to receive, from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, amen!”

Part of life is being lucky, but the best part is being blessed

Saltenas

Did Somebody Kidnap Her?

My daughter-in-law wanted some saltenas to take home and put in the freezer because they are a big favorite and hard to come by where she lives  Not every town is blessed with a vibrant Bolivian community and an ample supply of saltenas.

My daughter and I venture out to get her saltenas.  We pull into the parking lot and see a couple cars ahead of us pull in and head for the saltena shop   I have been here many times before.  Usually when I arrive they have just sold out and I wait for 20-30 minutes in my car while they make another batch.

“Where is that lady going?”  “Looks like she is headed to the bakery for saltenas.”  “There is another person who looks like she might be serious about saltenas.” My daughter gets out of the car and heads for the door to get in line and hopefully get some saltenas.  I fidget around in the back seat of the car looking for my mask.  Finally I find it and walk into the bakery, where I expect to meet my daughter in line. She is nowhere in sight.  I think to myself, “Where is she, she walked over here ahead of me.  This is a very small shop.  Where did she go?” I am next in line and l place my order for a dozen chicken saltenas . Then I check the restroom.  She must be there, but no.  I step outside and look around the parking lot.  I see an empty car and a small strip of stores   There is a second hand store, that would never appeal to my minimalist daughter,  and a vacuum repair shop.  She isn’t in either of those stores for sure.  Besides, I saw her walk in this direction.  So where is she? 

Then I spot it.  There is only one place she could be.  There is a white van in the parking lot.  It is the only place big enough and enclosed enough to hide someone.  I mean she didn’t disappear into thin air, right?  She is young and pretty.  No, that’s ridiculous.  This is a perfectly safe area.  I come here all the time. But, where did she go?

This is the story so far from my perspective. I go back inside to pay and collect my box of saltenas. I am signing the credit card form when my phone rings… “Mom, where are you? “  “Hold on a minute I can’t talk right now.” I finish signing the receipt. “What do you mean hold on, are you in danger?”  “No, I’m getting a dozen saltenas.  What happened to you, I ‘ve been worried about you..” Then my daughter says,   “Wait, I’m getting a dozen  saltenas.”  I  respond, “ How could you be?” I don’t see you anywhere.

Me:  “I’m in the bakery right now I thought you would be here ahead of me.”

Her:  “Well, I’m in the restaurant. I couldn’t understand why you didn’t follow me in.”

It turns out that the saltena place has two entrances, one to the bakery and one to the sit down restaurant.  Saltenas to go are ordered through the bakery.  I didn’t even know you could order them through the restaurant.  I guess they were doing her a favor. It never occurred to me to look there.  

And then I hear the story from her perspective.  You were right behind me.  What happened?  I followed that lady who looked “serious about saltenas” into the restaurant.  I didn’t see you anywhere.  “Where’s my mom?   She was right behind me.  Is she waiting in the car? After looking there, “no, not there” Then she checked the restroom.  “She must have slipped in behind me”  But no, not there either  “Where is she?”  She orders her dozen saltenas and leaves them on the counter.  “ I lost my mom I’ll be right back.”  She wouldn’t be in the vacuum store.  The thrift store, maybe?  She checks.  “Then I see  it, the white van.  She is old and could be seen as vulnerable.  I mean I checked everywhere else, except for that white van”  As she thinks this to herself, a woman opens the rear door to the van and pulls out cleaning supplies.  She looks pretty legit, not shady at all.  I must be wrong but poof it’s like my mom went up in a blast of blue smoke.   Then she remembers the era we live in.  She pulls out her cell phone and calls.  And the rest is history.

We went home with two dozen saltenas and a good story.

A St. Patrick’s Day Gift

When a student touches your heart to the point of breaking…

Just before going to bed on St. Patrick’s Day, my daughter-in-law says, “Have you seen this?” She directs  me to a picture I was tagged in on my FB page.

 All day I have been receiving happy St. Patrick’s Day messages from former students and colleagues, as well as friends and family.  When we celebrated at school it was way over the top.  I often decorated for 3 or 4 hours the day before, prior to leaving school to create a magical green paradise.  My walls were totally covered in abundant green fabric and shamrocks, with every kind of Irish kitsch you could possibly imagine thrown in for good measure.  On the actual day, we played games, read stories about leprechauns and even had a leprechaun visit our class.  Recruiting a leprechaun every year became a fun past time. I also brought in students who took Irish dance to teach my students a few basic steps.  With jigs and reels  a plenty we filled the air with dancers, green donuts, and golden chocolate coins that proved an actual leprechaun had been there.  And then the piece de resistance  (can’t figure out how to get the accents there for the main attraction) was always my fiber optic leprechaun who lit up a dark corner of the room which was like a magnet pulling  students in to its orbit,  washed in Celtic wonder.

All of this to say, St. Patrick’s Day was a memorable day in my room , so much so that it has remained a bond connecting me with students and staff who passed through our alternative green world for the day.  It always makes me smile with the warmth of memory and the joy of the present  when messages and cards reconnect me to that world of wonder. 

But the message and image I found that night on FB was more powerful that I could have imagined and went straight to my soul..  It was the most beautiful St. Patrick’s Day gift imaginable.

Here I am with my good friend and colleague whose class I invited to join us celebrating every year.  So my cherished former student, battling bone cancer, enduring a full week of chemotherapy  treatment, is still remembering all that Irish experience and she is surrounding herself in sporadic shamrocks that I pray will bring her Irish luck, or Latina luck or any kind of luck available. 

She sent this to both of us, her former teachers, and present cheerleaders. And I feel my heartstrings being pulled apart like a warped fiddle trying to play a happy jig, but the bow will only play a reel.

The battle is real, the goalpost is real and the positive energy this Irish/Latina angel emits if also real, very real.  Thank you for this beautiful gift. 

Green

An entry to begin the month of March

(I wrote this at the beginning of the month, but was unable to go back to the day 1 entries to record it, so it has sat published but not linked to any day, so I am posting from it today.) It’s the day after St. Patrick’s Day after all and I need some recovery time:)

March is the beginning of green!  Look at the trees.  They are beginning to sprout promises of spring. The grass is celebrating its favorite color.  The sky stretches a canvas of blue above to welcome the carpet of green, emerging from snow, mud and the general “dull” of winter.

March madness takes place in the sports world and people gamble with money they do not have, hoping for that magic touch of green.

But the most important purveyor of green this month is the underlying spirit of Irish culture and spiritual renewal.  You never know when some part of that subtle, but ever present Irish combustible unknown may charm you.

In the month of March I wear green every day, to be ready for that Irish moment, which could occur at any time, and in any manner. When I was still teaching it was part of my trademark to wear green all of March.  Students would appear in the morning before going to other classes to see if I was wearing my green.   “Yeah, she’s wearing green again. “  Even though I am now retired, I dare not leave the house in anything but green during this month.  You never know who you will run  into and I have a reputation to uphold.  And, no, I don’t cheat; I wear green at home too.   Since I buy green whenever I have a color choice, I can make it through most of the month with few total outfit repeats.

The leprechauns are coming soon.  The veil between their world and ours will soon be lifted and I am seeing GREEN.

St. Patrick’s Day

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

It’s St. Patrick’ Day.  My family is here.

I am hearing from family and friends, far and near.

My leprechaun grandson brightens the day

It’s nearly midnight and I have so much to say

Some cards I read brought me to tears.

It’s a tradition of celebration that spans the years

Bringing warmth and joy, even when times are sad

All in all, one of the best days I have had

But now I must go to enjoy every last moment

Of my grown children laughing by the fire

This day has been all I could desire.

T’was the night before St. Patrick’s Day

(I have a lot to do getting ready for tomorrow, so here is my off the cuff adapted rendition of a more famous poem to fulfill my writing commitment for the day.)

A very special time….

T’was the night before St. Patrick’s Day

And all through my home

Not a creature was stirring

Yet, I knew I wasn’t alone.

First I heard a whisper

Then a small shoe dropped

To the polished wooden floor

What was it?

Who was that?

With the veil to their world open

I wondered if he

Had hidden his pot of gold

And was now attempting to flee.

So I rose to my feet, green socks and all

And I chased that sound down the hall

Rounding the corner, what did I see?

A pair of emerald eyes looking up at me

From way down below where a little man stood

What are you doing in my neighborhood?

I thought you all lived on the other side

Of the mighty rainbow

Why yes, that’s where I’m trying to go

So if you’ll just clear the path and let me pass

I’ll meet you down the road a piece if you fancy

And then you can tell them you met the wee Clancy

For leprechauns roam the face of this earth

And on March  17, we slip into view

We are  the next generation of shoemakers and dream weavers

Don’t try to trick us out of our gold

For you cannot outwit us, young or old

We adhere to the leprechaun creed

We bring laughter and luck to those in need.

So Keep dancing to jigs and reels

When you’re blue, remember how green feels

Fill the air with surprise and get on your way

For tomorrow the veil to the other side will lift

It is St. Patrick’s Day

When your friend turns out to be a leprechaun

A story of Discovery

Who knew?  She was always a very dear friend, from almost our very first meeting.  I could sense the old soul within. The connection, I did not make at that time, is that there was a reason for her to have an old soul.  Her soul may date back as far as the fourth century when St. Patrick was born.  The hidden secret about my friend only became clear to me this month. She is not only such a cherished friend, she is also a leprechaunian.. 

Little is known about this clan of leprechauns.  They are taller than your average leprechaun and have varied professions.  Their ancestors were all shoe makers, but they stood on the shoulders of the past and spread their talents into a wide array of professions. Unlike the Gaelic variety of leprechauns, with which we are most familiar, they do not hide.  They live their lives out in plain sight.  Because they are taller and through genetic adaptation over the years have lost their pointy ears, they blend in.  Hence, they have no reason to hide. You might say, they hide in plain sight, like so much in life.

This particular clan is referred to as leprechaunians.  They act as leprechaun connectors because they live in and understand the ways of the modern world.  At the same time they maintain  a strong sense of self, their deep leprechaun roots,  and  their cultural identity.  They act as a bridge between those Celtic leprechauns, who remain a mystery to the world, and their modern manifestation. These leprechaunians are very much a part of the fabric of our diverse society.  In the interest of protecting their leprechaun brethren, they keep their relationships and communication with traditional leprechaun society out of the public view and guard its sanctity and its secrecy.

So, how did I come to discover my friend’s true identity?  It started when at the end of February she showed up at my house with a cardboard box with a rainbow on the front   “I am bringing this over for you since it’s almost March.  There are some fun activities inside”  Here are some signs I have since learned,  that indicate a person really is a leprechaun connector, or leprechaunian.

  • They give you books about leprechauns
  • They start celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in February
  • They deliver mysterious rainbow covered boxes
  • They give you what you need to play the leprechaun games they play, like pin the green moustache on the leprechaun.
  • They wear very small green hats that have been passed down through the generations from their smaller leprechaun ancestors.
  • If they really like you, they give you what you need to make a leprechaun trap, since they know what leprechauns like.
  • They advise you about how to have fun on St. Patrick’s Day (Be careful here, leprechauns like to play tricks on us!)

My friend checked all these boxes.  And the final and most important ingredient is her leprechaun charm and ability to spread leprechaun luck.  Sssshhhhh!   Don’t tell anybody, let’s keep it a secret!

If Only, If Only

The world were a figurative poem

And tomorrow I could strip away all the violent metaphors

And replace them with baskets of sunflowers

That would be singing the Ukranian national anthem

In downtown Kyiv with an orchestra playing

As they stood  strong,  with their green stems

Softly genuflecting in the wind, twisting westward

And  triumphantly  righting themselves, growing tall and proud

If only allowed, if only allowed

With so many gifts to give

To grow, to thrive, to live, to live

And as we watch a storm ravish the sunflower field

We have to ask ourselves, could we be a shield?

If so, how, and then when?

We may not have this opportunity again.

To save the field from the plague of despair

To nurture the blossoms and show that we care

Standing by just doesn’t feel right

As the storm ravages on night after night

Praying to God with hope for  salvation and light

To nurture the sunflowers and protect them all

As the might of an evil wind grows, don’t let them fall.

For they shine for us all, as with dignity, they continue to stand tall.

If only….