Thursday, November 29, 2007

"O" Bound!

The Southern Region Oireachtas 2007 (oar-rock-tus, roughly), is THIS weekend in Atlanta, Georgia.   The Southern Region includes Mexico and Texas, down through Florida, and up to Maryland, also including West Virginia and Oklahoma, etc.  It's pretty large.  Theoretically, the very best Irish stepdancers in the region will come and compete there.  We'll be traveling, obviously, this year.

Last year, the SRO 2006 was held in Arlington, Virginia.  We live closer to Arlington than we do to the dance studio, ha.  My mother got herself and M a converted into a room-room one night, though, and hence they further shared the experience, including breakfast and vendor shopping early morning:)  I drove back and forth, "to walk the dog."  Mom "Grandma" sends her "O" sweatshirt request and well wishes for SRO 2007.

This year, M is in two competitions -- the U-15 mixed 4-hand team (meaning mixed genders, 2 boys and 2 girls), and a (U-15?) choreography piece with several dancers, that tells a story about fairies and trees (I think).  They started practice in the spring, less so over the summer (M's 8-hand team got cut as they could not meet over the summer, and Figures Teacher really didn't have time to focus on them as well as the others), and at least weekly since school started this fall.  They've worked really hard, grown into true teams.  I'm liking all of the dances being done this year:)  They are looking good.

The dancers and parents, and some siblings, are getting excited.  All but one dancer from M's Irish (step) Dance school bought the optional "Oireachtas team" sweatshirt.  These arrived last night during a surprise party for TCRG, who recently got engaged to be married.  (YEAH YEAH!!!)  The dancers have a "baby picture" ad in the O program this year that I can't wait to see.  It's a surprise for the dancers themselves.   Even the solo dancers, those competing as individuals, are part of the overall team.  (Some are also on 4 or 8-hand teams and/or choreography.)  They have looked over the stage schedules to see who they can watch dance when, including a few dance friends from other schools (while I'll also look for a couple adult dance friends of mine from my ceili/set dance groups).  They have high hopes, and not only for the potential accolades. 

While M soaks up the experience of the Oireachtas, competitions themselves, vendors and solo dresses for sale and the new styles from other states, and etc. with everything Irish dance related, she'll certainly have social time, too.  Many of those from M's school are staying in the same hotel we are, others nearby.  M's two competitions are on Sunday afternoon -- one just before Sunday's awards.  (Awards are held both nights, for that specific days competitions, which is great, really.  Awards can run quite late.)  Many will come a bit early for awards to watch the dance dramas and choreography, so M's team could have a good-sized audience.  I think I won't move from my seat once her first competition starts! 

This leaves her free a lot of the weekend, except for practice time.  There's a big Atlanta Christmas parade Saturday morning right along the street of the "O" hotel.  I hope we catch a good bit of it, and watch the two boy dancers from M's ID school.  I wonder if it's a bit like the Macy's New York City Thanksgiving Parade, or?  It'd be great to visit the aquarium, also, yet I don't think we'll have time, nor for much other touring.  That's okay.  We'll get the flavor of Atlanta with a few meals and walking about, and enjoy the Oireachtas and the warmer temperatures.  Perhaps she'll get in some pool time, too.  I'm told that there's a nice outdoor ice skating rink in historical Centennial Park.  With temperatures near 60F or so degrees, I suspect M will chose the indoor pool over sloshy ice skating rink ice. :)

M should feel good and relaxed, into the spirit of dancing and pumped, by Sunday afternoon. 

A few weeks ago, at the Coyle Feis, Si was "we thought she was feeling better," still a bit sick.  M caught this.  I wasn't going to have M attend rehearsals to be sure she didn't pass it on, but thankfully, she got better.  I caught it from M.  I was so sick last week, sleeping a LOT (M mostly better, didn't mind sleeping, also).  Mine turned into something sinus related (and, hopefully that means, not contagious).

M enjoyed last week -- Rockette's and American Girl lunch with Si and Si's mom, Sh (not a day M would have gone with C and them, but what the heck), Thanksgiving baking and such with my mother then "the" meal and day, sleeping MORE, a big charity festival performance which was fun on a glittery stage, more sleep, decorating thetree and "the girls" (American Girl dolls) at Grandma's (Mom's),  more homework, more sleep, and we went to a ceili just to be reminded of the fun of live Irish music and dancing.  It'll be both a contrast and just another side to Irish music and dancing, this weekend at the high-level competition.

Monday night after an Oireachtas rehearsal, my vehicle died.  Well, more like struggling not to go comatose.  Ugh.  (Bless a dance friend's hubby who followed us as far home as seemed safe to have the car drive, waited for the tow, and drove us home a good half hour from his place.)  It needed a new battery earlier this month.  THIS time, something rusted and popped off (I think from the water pump), ultimately requiring a new radiator, water pump, and thermostat.  They threw in a free L,O, F (lube, oil change, filter).  Something still isn't right -- and they told me this and think it's possibly overheated spark plug(s).  Really not recommended to be driven 11 hours to and back, not until they flush MORE gelled coolant out (I think), and check just what IS wrong there that was not wrong previously. 

Being that the SRO is this weekend means we leave TOMORROW.  I'd checked airline prices previously, sure, I've been watching them.  But money is tight.   Luckily, somehow, one airline isn't triple-charging their rates now last minute, and I got us reasonable flights for a reasonable price.  With the price of gas now, and the cost of parking a car there IN Atlanta this weekend (with an SEC conference football game going on and a big Christmas parade), it may end up being about the same cost as driving.  And, while I like having my vehicle with me, it won't take us 11 hours each way to travel.

I'm really tired, printing off more info on high school magnet school programs and trying to manuever the massive amount of info on the website last night, had me up late.  Then I forgot to give it to M ha, we of course talked about it but she needs to see it, understand it more, get past the trees that are in the way of her grasping the idea of the forest. 

I need to do more laundry.  Clean up some more that I just didn't get to last week while SO sick (and, oy, dance friends hubby saw it at it's very worst ever great not, stuff from Dad's apartment, laundry hanging to dry, water bowl fallen and etc.).  Verify who is watching Daisy (she could have stayed in our hotel with us! but I'm NOT flying her).  All the "to-do's" that I hate about preparing for a trip.  We've been checking off the costume needs, and yeah, instead of the borrowed school dress that still doesn't quite work, M can use TCRG Ma's for the weekend!  It looks much nicer.  And, at least I got the travel plans switched and worked out.  There is a monetary worry -- yet we can't NOT go.  M's committed to her teammates on two teams, for most of the year.  I committed to M, and her school, that I'd get her there.  She's not injured, nor sick, thankfully.  L's grandfather is, sadly, having more serious surgery, and my heart and prayers go out to them, but M doesn't have this worry.  I get paid next week and I have arrangements for the car work. 

We'll go, and it'll be so good to just BE there:)  It will be really nice.

A few websites of note: 

The official welcoming peach-themed Southern Region Oireachtas 2007 in Atlanta website:  Untitled Page

The "unofficial" blog -- which doesn't have much so far but promises to provide results (primarily recalls), and photos as the big event goes on (and, if I'm correct, is hosted by a few teens):  Southern Region Oireachtas 2007

Note -- solo dancers dance two rounds, one hard shoe and one soft shoe.  Then three judges combine their scores, all done by "Irish points," and the top x amount (there is a formula for this), get recalled, and dance a third round to determine final placing. 

I'd be remiss not to include the Southern Region message board:  VoyForums: Irish Dance Message Board - Southern Region  It includes some of the southern hospitality, without having to decipher all the accents:) 

Speaking of southern hospitality, be sure to bring your Moonpie coupon from Z&B: - Houston we have a MoonPie! (6654327) - Read article: Ballet, Jazz, Modern, Hip Hop, Tap, Irish, Disco, Twirling, ...

Okay, I whined.  I'm done.  This is our vacation, really, and M and I?  We'll both have fun.  I hate packing.  I really hate packing.  Ah, well. I will love it there:)

SRO  and Atlanta -- HERE WE COME!!!!! 
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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Call for Support

I'll borrow Guido's idea of highlighting a fellow journaler who could use some support.  Sharon, of "this momma's drama" renamed to "I'm a survivor," was able to text us a message to her public journal:  "This is my first attempt at this. Never wrote an entry this way before. i really case for this. it is not much fun and takes forever and a day to write this. i case you havent heard i an in thehospital. going on eleven days now. to much to type on here. i had stomach surgery. a tumor and"

And, that's it (that we know of thus far).

Anyone who knows her in J-land, knows she has struggled with "Intrathoracic Meningocele" for years, sometimes excruciatingly so, and has had some other pains and medical issues recently.  Sharon is also a single mother of four children.

Please stop by her journal and send her your thoughtful comments and support!

UPDATE:  Sharon's home after 14 days in the hospital, still not feeling well and not actually able to eat. 


even at war, wishes of peace for holiday and beyond

Peace.  Paz.  Shalom.  Many other ways to express that feeling and hope, for relationships, for the world.  It's a greeting and wish I often share, sincerely, at this time of year (and sometimes other times).

Before Thanksgiving, while not really yet able to deal with the concept of Thanksgiving without Dad [alive], I started picking up things to send to my coworker/friend also in the Navy Reserves, who was recently redeployed to Iraq.  Thanksgiving ended up fine, with M and I joining in with my mother and stepfather, mom nicely recuperating great after gallbladder surgery, Doug invited but didn't come (perhaps next year, at least he was invited), good traditional meal M helped make.  (Mom didn't say a negative word!) Just weird to not even talk with Dad, never mind also visiting him, just separately.  Anyway, I window shopped for Christmas instead of dealing with Thanksgiving, forcing myself a holiday in advance to get together this package. 

M and I looked at a few stores, Michael's and CVS primarily, and this day, I was in World Market with the stockers putting up all the new sparkling, beautiful, whimsical delights.  I have yet to find a small enough, non-tacky Christmas tree, but there I did find a Christmas tree lollipop.  And a lovely 3-D silver star ornament (which also came in gold), and a tiny teddy bear-like moose, with moveable limbs and a santa hat to fit in the small stocking I had.  Peanuts-brand hot chocolate mixes, and lots of candy.  I also picked up an Advent calendar for us, well, for M, really, and English crackers as my Dad loved them, and I just can't see having Christmas morning without him and M and I, popping our crackers, and opening our stockings.  At least we'll be home and not in a tent with our own very lives at risk.  I overheard M joking with our beagle, Daisy, this morning, who was likely inspecting the box, "Did you want to be put in the box, too, go over to Iraq as a special friend?  I don't think so, there would be loud noises and only people food, well, not that you'd mind that, and he may not have any time to play with you."

Christmas cards.  Oh, how I love Christmas cards.  Not that I tend to ever get them sent out, a major ordeal I'd love to accomplish but don't guilt myself about any longer.  But, I LOVE the cards:)  Dad and I painted some one year, not sure any of those got sent:)  (Mom and I would make decorated Christmas cookies.)  M and I are both visual, the artwork has to, well, "work" for us, along with the message.  We found a gorgeous Chanukkah card last night, a traditional artwork done with a dove and purple and browns.  Here, they had cut-out cards of white on red, funny ones with pets, religious ones, beautiful angels or snow scenes, romantic ones (ah, nix that,while I wouldn't mind checking out the possibility of more than friends with him :) , we are NOT more than friends now), or Santa in the wrong skin color.  I never realized how hard it'd be to find one with a message that'd work to send to a friend off at war in Iraq.  Cards that imply one is home enjoying the day, are, well, weird. 

Peace.  That first card I saw this year wishing, primarily, peace, stopped me.  I still wish for peace, for the world, for him and others to come home safely.  Yet, well, would that imply that I don't believe in their mission, or would it otherwise come across politically?  What would he think?  Peace.  I can't stand war or conflict at ALL.  I abhor it.  I am much more a peace-keeper than a peace-maker, (while I do believe in peace-making, I just have more of a keep the peace personality to always be able to function adequately to move it forward to peace-making, tho I try).  I am learning that many serving in war zones right now believe themselves to be peace-makers.  I appreciate that perspective.  (This blog here has brought me new insight -- not a lot of politics just saying how it is for him -- great guy away from his kids -- This War and Me .)  (And others who dislike or even hate being part of "this" war, but do their job as required, their duty.)  It doesn't matter ones politics, however, not really -- the soldiers, pilots, medical staff, whomever -- are people.  They are our friends, parents, cousins, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, coworkers, lovers, whomever, way far away, with a Christmas or Chanukkah in a completely other region of the world.  The least we can do is send a greeting, a reminder that we care about them.  My uncle died in "the forgotten war."  Pray that they all make it home.

I finally found a Christmas card I liked for sending my friend, in a red and green "painted" holly design I liked, with a sincereand simple greeting.  We also found a lovely tree-like card for him last night, I'll have Boss and some otherssign and I'll mail out.  "The" party store last night had some New Year's Eve items out, also.  What the heck, fast-forward through holidays, by the time this package gets to him, it'll be close enough to New Year's!  I got a party hat thingy, and some small noisemakers to add.  Happy new year:)

It's not too late to thank those who have been wounded, simply say you care, and are thinking of those who are serving our country -- Kathi has compiled many sources in a recent blog entry -- suitable for individuals or scout troops or whomever -- a lot of information here:  Operation Santa-Now THREE Ways to Send Christmas Cards to Wounded Warriors

Some day, perhaps there will be peace on all the earth, and all those brave (or scared) souls out aiming to be peacemakers, can be home:)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Comparing 3 Egg Nogs

I've located three corn-syrup free egg nogs so far this year, all with special qualities. The three include the returning Lactaid EggNog, and returning Horizon Organic Lowfat Egg Nog, and a new one, Silk Soymilk Nog.

At first, the Lactaid EggNog was the only one findable. Yum:) We've had a few quarts of that already. Last night, I picked up the Horizon Organic lowfat Egg Nog, and what the heck and it's 30 cents cheaper, let's compare, Silk Soymilk Nog.

I gave M a taste test this morning, oops, we finished up the Lactaid EggNog last night, thick, rich enough taste. So, instead, I poured the Horizon and the Silk in matching glasses, to the same level, and sprinkled on nutmeg. Adding nutmeg is just a requirement for us. M was hesitant. She was not thrilled to try any soy milk egg nog, but mixed up which one she thought it was. I didn't correct her as I didn't want it spoiling her opinion / the results.

M still chose the Horizon Organic lowfat EggNog over the Silk Soymilk Nog, "Ewwww." She even had this nog after the Horizon one she thought was soymilk and was surprised to find it good. The soymilk nog is thinner, in a way that those used to drinking soymilk would likely not be bothered by.

(Note:  I do drink some soy milk, just prefer Westsoy Vanilla Shake which is more flavored / sugared up and perhaps thicker, and usually in with my chai tea for the latte.  We also drink cows milk in a low / nonfat version.)

Apparently, M's never again having anything to do with soymilk nog. I'll drink it, but I'm disappointed. I figured out what I felt was missing -- where's the egg? They do not call it egg nog. There is no egg in the ingredients. As a vegetarian, I was looking for the cholin and B vitamins and such found in eggs. This particular version of soy milk doesn't even contain the calcium percentages found in other soy milks (mimicking cows milk). There are other benefits for many people in drinking soy milk over cows milk, and this version of nog will be acceptable for those requiring or desiring this alternative.  For me, for us, I'll pass next time.

I did rinse out the Lactaid Eggnog carton for reading.. It is not lowfat, and includes all those good things that makes "regular" egg nog taste so good, such as milk, sugar, cream, and egg yolks.  It contains calcium and vitamin A, and like all three, protein.  It also contains 26% of ones saturated fat for the day, and 21% of ones cholesterol. Fine for M to have for and with breakfast seasonally, but something I'd need to use as a treat. I DO like that it's easily digestible (but don't require that like some do who are lactose-intolerant).

I don't recall the cost of the Lactaid Eggnog -- so far this year, I've only seen this one at Giant Food. I got the others (Silk and Horizon) at Shopper's Food Warehouse. Normally, Shopper's carries the Lactaid Eggnog but it hasn't arrived there yet. 

Last year, I did not see a corn-syrup free Egg Nog at "my" Trader Joe's (not sure if it was sold out or they didn't carry it).

I've yet to see Horizon Organic lowfat EggNog at Giant Food any year (even if Giant carries the "regular" Horizon Organic cows milk, which my father would grab as he just knew that the cow graphic was the milk he liked).

The Horizon Organic lowfat EggNog is good. It contains only 10% of ones saturated fats, and 13% of ones cholesterol. It also contains calcium, vitam A, vitamin D, and some other things like B12 (as it also includes egg yolks, organic even). This is likely the best nutritional corn-syrup free egg nog for M and I, that we'll actually like enough to drink:)

Next, we'll have to compare the Horizon Organic Lowfat EggNog with the Lactaic EggNog in a taste test. All three only come in quart sizes, and I know by New Year's Day, finding ANY of these in stock will be a treasured find, or, at lest Horizon or Lactaid brand eggnogs.

Both M and I CAN consume corn syrup, but neither of us like it very much, certainly not drinking it in our egg nog where it adds a slimy texture.  I suppose for the masses out there just using it as a mixer with their rum (is it rum?), that's not a big concern.  M uses it as a sometimes replacement for cows milk, seasonally, and it means she may drink it with (or for) breakfast. This means corn syrup in our egg nog doesn't fly. Thankfully, there are options. Pricier, so a treat, but worth it.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veteran's Day 2007

Veteran's Day 2007.
White frost trimmed the edges of fallen leaves this morning, as if embroidery. White frost covered the roofs of our buildings, and the windows of cars. Yet, the air didn't feel raw like it did yesterday. Yesterday, Kasee267 and I were MAYBE going to meet up at the parade and reading of names at "the" wall (Vietnam War Memorial) downtown. It was cold, not out of the 30's until almost 11 or 12, and very wet. Neither of us went.  For Veteran's Day

Today should be the wreath laying at the WWII Memorial, if I recall the schedule correctly. Grandad was on active duty during that war, my Irish immigrant grandfather so very proud of his new country. My father got an enjoyable tour of duty in Alaska, while my maternal uncle was in Korea itself during the Korean war. Uncle Billy didn't make it home, dying I believe from dysentry (sp) while a POW. He never made it out of his teenager years.
I remember Grandma showing me a photo of my cousin, smiling in a rice patty in Vietnam. He's back home in New Jersey; we're all grateful.

Dad always put out a flag on Veteran's Day, and Memorial Day. Then in later years, I'd help straighten it and such. I forgot that he's also a Vet. Nice tour, comparitively, which is good as he was more of a gentle soul. Then again, perhaps everyone is inside. Eh, maybe not. Whichever, it feels weird today to not have a way to display the flag *I* have. I also have hanging plaques, though. One has a flag on it. I should change it from my Thanksgiving theme to the flag. For Dad. For Uncle Billy, and Grandad, and cousin Danny, and my stepfather Bob and stepbrother Craig who served in the Air Force. For my coworker friend in "the" Reserves, a Navy Seebee, redeployed last month to Iraq. Yeah, I did a search on Seebee's:)   For my other coworker's son, who is to arrive home December 3rd, counting down the days, so excited.  It still doesn't feel right that Billy didn't make it home. (I wrote more about him in these two previous entries Uncle Billy, et al, pieces of my mother's life and A Wreath From Home .)

And today at church, a guy I grew up with in the church, a friend, a guy I dated one summer, is preaching today. He'll become one of our new pastor's tomorrow, bringing along his wife and three kids. It's all good; I went to their local wedding reception and all. I can't imagine myself going to him for pastoral care per se, but otherwise, I'm happy for him and them. It'll be good to see them. I just can't today. (Besides, his sermon is going to be about nurturing the church, huh, on Veteran's Day, while we're at war?)

I'll call church, though. Find out some more information on the arrangements for my friends mother. I've been church friends and then personal friends for years with her, coleader in Girl Scouts. She brought me meals when Dad passed. Okay, one meal. She was signed up for four and, well, that freaked me some (having VISITORS?! NOW?), but seems she over booked herself, anyway. I did NOT call to remind her. I know how rough things have been for her with her mother this past year, especially these past months. Yeah, so seems it's the time when several I know are losing their parents. Perhaps it's so we can support each other, I don't know. This woman, hers was anticipated sometime. Fought off pneumonia I think 3 times this year. Sad, and weak. Not that one wanted her dead, mind, but if she is, I just pray her soul is in peace and no pain now.

No, I can't go visit church, or downtown (Washington, D.C.) today.  M's in a feis:) I'm the one to first tell her lol. I was messing about Irish dance message boards and stumbled upon more info about this feis. Curious, I checked out the competitor list (only some post them in advance). Wow, M's listed. I asked her later if she knew if she was going. "No, I don't know. I think Si is, but Sh hasn't said anything to me about it." She was also signed up to perform at a really great festival last night.  Others in her school were, also, some doing both the show and the feis. When Sh realized the conflict, though, she did pull M from the show (in sufficient time for TCRG to plan the set list and choreography properly). It'd make for too late a night for Si to do the show and then drive to the hotel. Yes, others would have been happy to have driven M up, but it wasn't for me to arrange. It WOULD have been too late a night for Si, and M prefers the feis this weekend if chosing, anyway.

I almost went to the festival and show, anyway. It's invigorating, good bands, good people. An hour or so away with gas prices expensive, and well. I would NOT have missed it if M was in it, of course. But with her not in it? I took a nap instead:) Daisy girl, Billy, Indie, and I.  Cat Billy has his birthday TODAY! the Sunday of Memorial weekend, 3? years old.  He's named after my late Uncle Billy (obviously).  I sometimes wonder if their personalities match at ALL ha, perhaps just with a sense of humour.  I don't know for certain; I know my uncle only through stories, snippets let out here and there over time as if his story is still just too painful to relay.

Another parent assumed I'd still go today to see M at her competition (feis). Well, I do WANT to. That doesn't seem weird? It's almost as if a few parents assuming I'd be there, anyway, made me feel as if yeah, it IS okay, isn't it, 2-3 hours away, but why not? It's not 5-6 hours away. M dances last. Sh got M registered in all four of the "correct" dances this time! Boom, boom, boom, boom, all four straight in a row, same stage. Ma (TCRG / teacher ) says it means it's the same judge. Just really do well that first dance. "If the judge likes you, she'll mark you as first for everything. If she just thinks you're okay, (pause), she'll mark you as second for everything." lol "What's your first dance?" "Reel." "Pffttt, you'll do great then. Or, your first hard shoe?" Ah, Ma, they're always in this order...... "Treble Jig." The one M needs. I'm glad Ma is encouraging:) AND, even if someone doesn't do well. She's actually going today, knows people up that way and this is the last feis before the Oireachtas. Not sure if Ma will stay until the end, i.e., when M dances. But, that's alright.

I know people like Seebee don't get a chance for this options. To stay inside warm and napping if desired. Stay up late watching shows on Ecuador and the Galapagos Island (fascinating! yeah I'm a geek so what). To go to shows, and competitions. He's at war. But, I've thought of him this weekend. And Dad. And I realize that if I write Seebee this weekend, he may not even get it too much before Christmas.

So here's to all the vets, past and present, and their families and loved ones. And, here's to the freedoms that they provide for us and to others in need. Even if I hate wars themselves and don't tend to agree with many of them, I'm behind the soldiers. Us as a nation, need to be.

Off to the feis! Well, soon.  A shower would be nice.  Checking on neighbors cats first, three loving cats whose young parents are on their honeymoon in the Caribbean:)  Directions, dag, I left them at the office.  Gas up the car. Can't wait to see my M. She's hoping to get this last 1st place (in Treble Jig), to move to preliminary championship level, before Si moves up to Prizewinner. Eh, both of them will in time. I'm not risking NOT seeing her, and it, though. Toodles.

Update:  I liked, unintentionally -- (cat) Billy's birthday is the weekend of Memorial Day, not Veteran's Day.  Oy. 

Friday, November 9, 2007

flower-scented air and lemon trees (my father)

Some words and bits of memories about my father.

It was great to see so many friends there at Dad's memorial service.  (I even teased E, "So, I got you into a church, eh?" ).   I didn't like one aspect the pastor went on about, a guy she'd read about in that morning's newspaper (ah, this is about Dad's life, right?), and mentioning overcoming and staying trying day by day after a childhood trauma.  Childhood trauma?  What childhood trauma?  Oy.  That was rather embarrassing, in front of coworkers (yep, Boss came), and friends.  Eh, whatever.  I hadn't planned to say a daggone thing.  I couldn't get my mind to wrap around the words I wanted.  I still haven't. 

It didn't occur to me to get in touch with local family and colleagues, work colleagues and with his various clubs.  Other than three neighbors, two who are also church members and watched Doug and I grow up, his 3rd grade teacher and my piano teacher, no one was there for DAD, except me, really.  Somewhat Doug.  Somewhat M.  Someone gently pointed out to me that I'm the eldest, so it's up to me to lead on this.  Oh, right.  And Doug, well, he delineates our roles, and has me in charge of anything remotely emotionally or spiritually oriented.  I read Beth's beautiful words (I had to capture them in here, see my previous entry please).Then said a few words myself.  Something about dementia from his mini strokes stealing his memories, and stealing his ability to have M have memories of Dad's good times.  Or something.

At home, I took the flowers Beth, her husband and son / daughter-in-law, had sent.  Including Irish bells:)    Her husband quite ill, she couldn't come flying out thousands of miles, and she'd have been here for Dad, and for us.  Their scent perfumed the air in our home.  Our white cats walked about with orange and yellow pollen stains on their sides, which was rather amusing once I figured out what the heck that was!

I got word that a reader, one with a lovely soul, had remembered that Dad liked citrus fruits.  Ah, yes, he certainly did.  I ventured into Giant Foods again today, "his" store, and saw a lot of fruit on sale that he'd have enjoyed.  This journal reader had planned to plant and dedicate a lemon tree in memory of my father.  Someone who he'd never met, caring enough about DAD, to do this.  So, I wrote.  And, then M and I traveled down to Virginia Beach to a feis, where she dedicated her dancing to his memory, and in his legacy.  I got some closure.

This is still a rough first draft.  However, if I don't get it posted soon, I never will:)  In theory, I'll get some photos scanned to put up, also.

It's been just over a month, the paperwork is [insert a lot of foul language here], word of a suicide in another county (being it'd been discussed in M's class at school), had me thinking of my dearly loved cousin like a brother, Dougie, and his death, plus Dad's.  Mostly?  I am okay.


My father, Alan [middle name, last name], was born in Chicago, Illinois, in [early 1930's].  His mother, Elizabeth "Betty" [last name], was from the south, primarily Georgia and Tennessee, an aide to an Ohio Congressman on Capitol Hill at one time, daughter to a widowed, college-educated teacher mother, and a doctor father who traveled on horseback and died of rocky-mountain spotted fever (and knew it but the serum wouldn't arrive in time).   Dad's father, Daniel [middle name, last name], was an immigrant from Ireland via Venezuela and Ellis Island, New York, who became a U.S. citizen and an Army man and a man of many educational degrees.   They met at Antioch College, Ohio.

Dad was their third child, their first was Daniel [middle name, last name] III, and their second child, Patricia "Patsy" [last name].  He was given the middle name, Park, after an ancestor Civil War doctor on a train who saved many lives.  They moved about with their military father, including to Texas which my father disliked as he didn't fit in well with their accents and style of clothing, and eventually to Arlington, Virginia.  Along the way, 12 years after my father's birth, he was no long the baby of the family, but had a baby sister, Elizabeth (Beth).  [Side note -- no middle names for the girls, as my grandmother believed they'd use their maiden name as a middle name when they married.]

Dad graduated from Washington and Lee High School in [early 50's].  He told me he'd go with others to watch the "submarine races" along Hains Point.  This was actually just a hang out for high school students, and he was not a racy, dare-devil kind of guy like his older brother.  He did spend many days at Glen Echo,which wasan amusement park back then.  He loved telling me of riding the roller coaster again and again, just staying in his favorite car and handing the ticket collector another ticket for the next ride.  Once he covered the door to the Glen Echo pool for a friend, letting various people in.  Oops.  Dad had integrated the Glen Echo pool by allowing in, gasp, black people.  This was not yet allowed there; Glen Echo pool was segregated by race still at that time.  In retrospect, I think Dad rather liked that he had allowed those kids in.  While my dad was well aware of racial and religious differences, he grew up learning that all were created equal and he truly aimed to be inclusive in his own way.  The ancient carousel is being renovated now, and Dad would take his granddaughter, M, and I there.  He collected carousel horse Christmas decorations.

After high school, Dad entered the Army during the Korean War as he figured he'd be drafted, anyway.  He was stationed in Alaska, which he loved.  He loved the northern lights, the mountains, learning to ski, and the comaraderie (sp).  I know that he spent at least one tour of duty there, but it seems as if his military records were destroyed in a fire, so receiving his flag waits until the Army and I can recreate his records.

Dad entered George Washington University partially on the GI Bill, as an "older student," regalling me years later of the tower building he shared with his fraternity brothers, and the snake in their toilet.  He was an officer there at his fraternity.   He earned his accounting degree and later became a Certified Public Accountant in both Washington, D.C., and in Maryland.  I believe he also became a CPA in the Commonwealth of Virginia, however I didn't find that particular license.   My dad also started law school, however, I'm not positive if that was also at GW or not.  His father, my grandfather, eventually taught law at GW, yet I believe it was likely after my father had left.

At some point in there, Dad met Mom (Dorna [middle name, last name] in a choir for a church in D.C.  They married in June of [early 1960's], and their first child, Robin Elizabeth, was born in November of [early 1960's yep, I just had a birthday, I'm OLD lol but it beats the alternative, eh?].  By the time their second child, Douglas Alan, was born in [mid 1960's], they'd movedinto the suburbs of Maryland.  (Ourparents split and reunited, divorcing for good in 1976 or so.)

While Dad grew up in a home literally filled with blooks ceiling to floor, in many rooms of their home, only the girls were given piano lessons as children.  Dad loved music and art, and took piano lessons as an adult before us children were born,   I remember piano sounds filling our house every night while I lay in bed falling to sleep.  He loved Bach the most, also Scot Joplin, various others.  One of my cousins Michelle (I have two named Michelle), said that she remembers Dad playing piano with a glass of Scotch.  My brother Doug says that was in Dad's gregarious days.  Ah, yes.  As adults, he treated Beth and himself to a trip to Madeira, to enjoy an International Bach Festival, of which he held fond memories of.

Dad loved the stars, and put the constellations upon my ceiling in glow in the dark stars, and would show Doug and I other-worldly delights through Dad's telescope.  I put glow-in-the dark stars on M's ceiling and walls, also, albeit not in constellation patterns.

We once sat in the backyard, looking back at the field, and the silhouette of the big mulberry tree.  "Some people can't appreciate the beauty in a tree," he told me.  It was the soundbite to our conversation.  It still makes a lot of sense to me.

Dad loved the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, aka, the C&O Canal.  He loved the history, sure, but mostly being outside in it, hiking it and ice skating upon it more so near the city (DC).  He walked SO fast, I had to learn to keep up.  To this day, I prefer to walk FAST.  We'd camp along it, and one of his favorite spots was Harper's Ferry.  It's also full of Civil War history, which is a topic both Doug and he enjoyed.  Dad would take Doug, and sometimes me, to various Civil War sites, most memorably for me was Gettysburg.

One year, Dad had the two of us painting Christmas cards.  I don't know how many were sent out, and I know that two were saved somewhere.  Doug says that Dad was always creative and thoughtful with his Christmas gifts.  Sometimes, we'd go to the Sugarloaf Arts and Crafts Festival where Dad had his favorite artisans, and we'd buy our Christmas gifts.  In his grandfather years, Dad still looked forward to Christmas stockings on Christmas morning (or whenever M's visitation scheduled allowed, but usually itwas Christmas morning).  I was the one filling them during those later years and putting up his wreaths and tree, but stocking surprises, Christmas crackers to pull and pop open,  and a breakfast was how he enjoyed celebrating Christmas with family. 
Dad loved his breakfasts the most, as do I.  He did enjoy eggs (with ketchup), and sausage at times.  He mostly loved his fruit, and especially citrus fruits.  He'd have his iced tea with lemon, and his Diet Coke with lime, and enjoyed fresh fruit all by itself.  I believe it's the one thing he looked forward to the most about being out of the physical rehabilitation center (after his pneumonia this summer) and in a small place for himself again, was as much fresh fruit as he wanted with breakfast and throughout the day.  He'd have bananas all cut up when I'd stop by, or oranges.  He liked the tart tastes of citrus the best, even grapefruit.  Lemon candies and desserts were his favorites.  I'm not sure if Dad was ever in [state where lemon tree was planted], but I know he'd be touched and pleased to have a lemon tree planted in his honor. 

He'd likely want a photograph of it.  He liked visual arts, and was an amateur photographer.  Years before scrapbooks were popular, Dad made himself scrapbooks from the photos of his tour in Alaska, and of his trip with Beth to Portugal.  He also liked to paint, and he liked to draw; he collected stamps like his father had, and of course enjoyed reading.  Dad's favorite playwrights were William Shakespeare, and Gilbert and Sullivan.  He'd take me as his escort to quite a few G&S plays, and later, we'd take M along with us at times.  The last one, he just couldn't make and a friend of M's joined us instead.  Many of our events with Dad faded off in similar manners.

Dad helped with Boy Scouts as an adult, with Doug and with others who would come by for mentoring help on a badge.  I don't know if he was one as a youth, likely so but I don't know.

Dad was involved in many professional groups, and after being in a partnership for years, ventured out on his own as a self-employed CPA.  He told me many stories about his clients.  His favorites weren't always the big ones, such as [well known client name here], or the [important institute name here], but also the woman who had a horse farm andwas being audited.  It gave him great pleasure to prove to the IRS that this woman didn't have any hobby horses.  (For the non-accountant types out there, this is a play on words joke.)

He'd take Doug to the Kemper Open at Congressional Country Club when he could get tickets.  He enjoyed golfing; his favorite golfer was Jack Nicklaus.   Dad was a member of the Canal Street Bums, which were CB radio users who commuted in similar paths to work in and near DC.  This became  a social group for him, along with his bowling league, Skirts and Flirts (until he couldn't keep up with it).

When his dementia began (due to a mini-stroke), and computer programs were thee way to go with accounting, he decided to retire.  Unfortunately, others he shared office space with offered him a pitiful buy out for his clients.  Dad ended up in retirement primarily surviving on only social security payments.  Granted, they were larger per month than the average person gets, but not by that much more.  While an accountant by profession and excellent with numbers, even to his dying day he'd remember numbers, he was laid-back and giving, and an alcoholic, and he was not so great at his own finances even previous to his mini-strokes and dementia.  Sometimes, he'd drink too much, and sometimes, he'd smoke too much, but he cared.  (His stroke rehabilitation doctor said that Dad's dementia, which improved greatly after more physical rehabiltation and other work this summer, and getting his blood sugars under control, was due to his strokes.)

Dad always liked to see me, whether or not I had M with me.  He thought her name a good [descriptive] name, and was pleased.  (snipping out info about M's name)  Dad would take M and I to a small circus when it came to town every year.  He preferred the intimacy of the smaller ones, I think reminding him of one he'd seen as a child.  We'd go to the Palisades community of DC annually for their Independence Day parades.  Megan was too little, and remembers the tall staircases but not so much her Grandad.  He tried to show her piano at times.  He was so proud of her taking piano lessons, he bought her a small keyboard for Christmas that year.  He was so proud of her dancing, anything she'd do, really, but as she enjoys her dancing so, Irish step dancing, he was especially proud of her carrying along his heritage, being a legacy for him, his father, his family.  Dementia robs people of a lot.

Dad survived the "beautiful, peaceful" drowning at 5 years old, making sure that both Doug and I knew how to swim; he survived colon cancer, and he survived his pneumonia this summer which even had him cease to breath at one point.  His blood sugars more even, new medicines, he grew stronger and stronger.  M was starting to maybe get to know HIM again.  He proved to everyone that he could do it, and was doing really great.  He was actually happy to have all of his nurses and therapists done with, I suppose a goal for himself that he succeeded with. 

A brain aneurysm was his final demise.  Dad refused to go to the hospital when I called 911.  He had a very minimal chance of survival, anyway.  He didn't wish to die in a nursing facility, or in a hospital.  Heck, he had preferred to live independently and I tried to help honor that wish of his and help him with that.  It was God's time for Alan [middle name, last name].  To join his mother, father, and older brother in Heaven.

Dad had a sense of humour, a sarcastic one not everyone always appreciated.  One time he was in the grocery line with a large bag of bird seed, as he always kept the birds fed and the birdbath full.  The woman behind him kept talking.  She got out of him that he was single, and had a cat, and apparently asked him if he was going to buy some cat food, also.  He responded, "Lady, this IS the cat food."  He was joking, of course, but she didn't quite realize that.  It took her a moment to realize he was saying that he'd attract the birds with the bird seed, and then the cat would eat the birds as the cat food.  She shut up (which was his goal).

One of dad's many books had humorous quotes inside.  I suspect he'd like this one, "Old accountants never die; they just lose their balance." 

An old Irish proverb may have hung in his kitchen, or perhaps only in mine, "May you get to Heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead."

May God rest his soul.


What the heck, may as well add it ("in lieu of flowers" charity):

C&O Canal Trust

1850 Dual Highway, Suite 100

Hagerstown, MD  21740



My brother (by Beth)

I am sorry I can't be present for my brother Alan's memorial service, but I am with you all in spirit. I want to give you my view of Alan, born 12 years before me and thus at some remove. You may or may not recognize the person I describe! but perhaps my experience of him will round out your own.

Our father, Daniel [middle name, last name], was an Irishman who emigrated to the US at age 20. His subsequent academic honors, achieved on the basis of a 6th grade education in Ireland, had almost mythic status within our family.  I believe that neither of his sons ever felt they could be the heroes of their own stories in the way he was of inadvertent burden he passed on to them. Also, being a man of the Old Country, he only learned as a grandfather how to share his tenderness with children. His sons, in
particular, did not experience an engaged father.

But--the brother I remember became a man of music and art.  Playing everything from Scott Joplin to Bach, he once told me he had to drop out of law school because its demands interfered with his piano lessons!  When my progressive deafness was diagnosed in the 1980's, he treated the 2 of us to a trip to the International Bach Festival on the island of Madeira, "so we can listen to Bach together before it's
too late." Around that same time he sent me a letter, accompanied by a tape recorder and speakers, in which he mentioned how happy this gesture made him and said, "I am finding it truly is more blessed to give than to receive."

The brother I remember chose beautiful and stylish jewelry, purses, scarves and pottery for the women in the family, seeking out artisans at local craft fairs and making a personal connection with them to add to the meaning of his gifts.

The brother I remember was a calligrapher, sketcher and watercolorist. He especially enjoyed drawing lighthouses. His favorite color was blue.

The brother I remember had a wicked sense of humor and, like his Irish ancestors, a love of the spoken and written word. An avid reader, one of his favorite authors was Thoreau. I have a letter from his brief time in Maine where he says he is aspiring to be the "family Thoreau of the North." One way he lived out his 'Thoreau nature' was through hiking, especially along the C&O Canal.

The brother I remember loved all things Irish, even though he never traveled to Ireland in his lifetime. He chose photographs, books,music and memorabilia that were Irish to enrich his life.

The images I hold in my heart of my brother span the gamut of a human life--expansive images of humor, generosity, artistry...and also images of roads not taken, or taken wrongly. He was not a 'perfect' man, but he was a beloved one.

Hold him gently in your hearts this day. Perhaps if he could he would say these words from the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh:

"O commemorate me where there is water,
canal water preferably, so stilly
greeny at the heart of summer. Brother
commemorate me thus beautifully,
where by a lock Niagarously roars
the falls for those who sit in the tremendous silence
of mid-July. 
A swan goes by head low with many apologies,
fantastic light looks through the eyes of bridges--
and look! a barge comes bringing
from far-flung towns mythologies.
O commemorate me with no hero-courageous
tomb--just a canal-bank seat for the passer-by."

Elizabeth [middle and last name], Seattle


Blessedly, I did have these words to read at the official service.  Beth is a skilled writer who knows how to paint the picture and express herself.  My dad and her were the more gentle of the four children.  I'm happy she had input, yeah, I needed it, anyway, yet also thankful for it.  Then while I'd rather just observe and support, as the eldest and only one present with any potential words to say, I blundered through some not yet organized thoughts.  Ah, well, tis done.  I even pronounced "Niagariously" decently:)

Monday, November 5, 2007

to Cathy (when a parent dies)

My friend Cathy's mother passed away this week, after struggling to fight cancer.  She and I talked often before, during, and, well, after.  Mostly, I've not included her responses unless they were generic enough and could apply to others.  This isn't by any means an exhaustive list of tips, but perhaps what I felt would be useful for Cathy, will be useful to someone. 

The service for her mother is this Saturday, 5 pm my time, 2 pm her time.  Yeah, it does suck.  She is in pain, loved and supported, knew this would happen, but naturally still in pain.

"BTW, let's get to some important questions here -- how are you holding up?  I know you have [husband] and family, some more helpful than others.  Not sure how your siblings are?

Are you sleeping?  You need to sleep.  Even if you just lay (lie?) down for a while and not sleep, you're at least resting.  Please at least try to.

"Sleeping? What's that? lol It's getting better though. Those beds they give you in the hospital (cots) are the WORST!!! I am thinking of donating some of Moms money to get a few better beds of some kind for them."
Are you eating?  Seriously, you have to eat enough of something.  Try to have it be healthy, even if only a few bites at a time.
partial: I am shocked at  how the body reacts in this situation. I have lost people before, but a parent is a whole different thing.
Give yourself permission to just do or not do whatever.
Sometimes, getting to where you get up, shower, dress in clean clothes, and start the day, is a big deal.
When I stayed the 2 weeks with my Mom, in the hospital...I made sure I came home every night and showered, got clean clothes, saw my kids for an hour, then would head back. My first night back here was mixed. It felt good to be with my family, but I knew it also meant Mom was no longer with us, so that was hard.
Adding here:  Yeah, that was weird.  Someone mentioned to me that things may help when I'm back on a routine.  A new routine meaning NOT seeing Dad all the time, and talking with him, AT ALL, but it does mean less stretching of my time to be there for my daughter, M, AND my father.  I still did pretty well by M, but it is a lot easier again, time-wise, to be there with and for her now.  I could take her to the "away" feis and not worry about care for Dad (and Daisy, "only" Daisy). Yet, gosh, that means NO Dad.....
"I regret that I didn't get in touch with Dad's former colleagues and friends.  Somehow I figured putting the notice in the paper would suffice, but most didn't see / notice that.  If you think you'd want them knowing of the funeral / services, see if someone can contact these people for you.  (It was beyond me to do it myself at the time, but I also didn't have anyone else to do it.)

If people are bringing you food over, you do NOT have to bring them inside and entertain them!  (Adding:  I'm not thrilled to have visitors, anyway, nor feel I must visit others.  I guess I got that from both of my parents, ha, Dad always asked when he could be done with having people coming by.  But, this was about my worst time, all of his things from his small "apartment," my laundry not done, etc., when we most can use a helping hand with things, and I recognized that my friends from church who are also friends needed a way to feel that they helpedand it was great to not cook, is whenwe are most in need of NOT entertaining visitors, IMHO.)
It all doesn't have to be perfect.  It's a bit like a wedding ceremony in some senses, in that it'll still happen as it happens, and then it's over.  Less happy, obviously, but done with as it does.  I did get a book so that people could sign it if they wished to, and then I added the names of those who didn't sign.  I keep the cards with it.  I don't know how you wish to handle it, and it's not as if it truly matters, just mentioning it.  (Adding:  The one for Dad mostly sucked.  It was really touching to see how many people came out in support of M and me, however, and for my brother as well albeit neither NotWife (his not wife) nor his business partner/friend even came; these people were primarily my friends and colleagues.  Also adding:  I didn't wish to host people at my home, and I know my brother didn't.  It doesn't have to be at your own place!  A friend or relative may be fine with that.  OR, I simply asked my church what is done, and it was as if I snapped my fingers and it happened, THERE.  They did call to ask me how many people I anticipated, but I didn't get it until something like the night beforehand.)

It's okay to get a haircut or new outfit for it if you wish, and it's okay to just look through your closet and throw something on. 

All the various emotions are okay, valid.  Even some relief, she's not in pain for example, or laughing at some memory, or being upset forsomething else, or just that dull ache.  It's all real.  I know, it's all too damn real.  It sucks. 
(Adding:  Cathy's still more raw with this all and I'm a few weeks further along, but she and I both find that the littliest things will set us off.  Saw pipers playing "Amazing Grace" yesterday afternoon, and a dancing friend who just lost her mother was there and we had to hug and try not to cry (her dad's visiting for a bit), and then we both enjoyed other music and some dancing.  Or, initially, the pop song, "I'm coming home" by Chris Daughtery oh that'd set me off, thinking of Dad just wanting to come HOME, and yet now at home in Heaven.  For a while there, I was caught up in going over photos with M, with Dad's "good days" having been more when M was young and can't recall as well, or hadn't yet been born.  Memories, and lack thereof, when talking of dementia.  Doug wanted photos for the service, yet like the younger sibling who has relagated anything emotional and spiritual to ME, he asked a couple days in advance if any of the photos that included him looked too stupid.  So, M helped me a lot going through those and gathering them.  I don't know yet what Cathy's input will be for the service.  Even going, oh right, I'll need to wear something, I considered briefly in advance, but that morning I"m trying to find clean black clothes and lingerie.  lol.  Dad wouldn't care, and he'd have loved the scarf one friend wore there.  I've had a lot of numb moments, I've had moments of trying to just deal with some logistics, or just talking about him as if yeah he's on my mind but I'm okay, or not wanting anyone to bring it up let me forget for a moment.  Or enjoy the fall day and smile to think of Dad enjoying it, also.  I'm digressing from Cathy's loss right now, sorry.....)
 Cathy, I'm so sorry. 
You don't have to answer any of this.  Or, write and ball your eyes out or laugh or vent that your brother is being an asshole (if he is), or whatever.  (Adding:  her brother's been fine.)

We're here for you.  Love ya -- Robin
Love ya back. :)

p.s. to my beloved readers:

Please know, a card or e-mail not sent that day, or the call not made, isn't late.  The person is still dead.  The survivors still wish to know that you care and are concerned, especially if you knew the deceased.  They are as helpful a week later, or whenever you find out.  Also, sometimes at work, I really was not feeling capable of talking about "my loss" and yet, later, I may be.  Don't feel turned off if the initial timing doesn't have me open up, i.e., can just ask another day how the person is holding up, and, at this point in regards to my father, we have logistical bs crap we're going through (read paperwork and such).   And, if offering to help out, be sincere about it and even offer specific things if you can think of something.  Etc.