February 29, 2012 – A Flying Leap

Questions/thoughts I could turn into more:

Why are the snow geese flying west and have been since the last week of January?  Why one single goose on one side of the V and twenty on the other side.  Does the 20th goose have less wind resistance than the second?

We want to leave a mark, do something meaningful.  What about our creative side?

Driving these kids for what?  So they can grow up and have hectic, chaotic, crazy lives like us?  What’s wrong with 80% and finding some balance in life?

Forget how much is enough.  How much is too much therefore not enough?

How long could I go unplugged for?

What would I bring if only able to carry what was on my back?  Isn’t it more important to be a keeper of stories?

Is there such thing as an original thought? (I’ve seen this one before.)

Are we okay with acquaintances because they are distant to us?  Do we have problems with family and friends because we expect so much of them and expect them to put up with so much from us.  Take advantage, take for granted?

What is the connection between 40 days of Noah and 40 days of Jesus in desert?  Time of trial, testing faith? Breaking down and rebuilding?

Should I give up anger? Bread? How angry will I become if I give up bread?

Which is happier – the feral cat who is free but has no security or safety or the indoor cat who is fed and warm but confined to be an observer of life?  Or are they both just content with what they have?

What am I doing towards sustainibility?

Could we journey with very little and flop at people’s houses depending on others’ generosity?

How do you forgive if the sinner does not ask to be forgiven?

What if Jon Benet had been Amish?









Six miles

Her name was Lisa.  I took her to be about twenty-four but she revealed she had three kids one of whom was thirteen.  When I first saw her, I almost didn’t stop.  Walking along a country road with no shoulder or sidewalk and cars traveling fifty miles per hour just wasn’t safe.   Because I was distracted by the conversation with my mom via blue tooth, I probably wasn’t taking in the whole picture.

“Where are you headed?” I ask, hanging up with my mother.

“Route 9,” came the reply.  I toss my bag in the back seat and subtly move my phone to the left change compartment out of her reach.

“Okay, hop in.” I made her buckle up.  As she gets in she comments on the school emblem on my shirt. “Yeah, I’m a teacher,” I confess.

“Living outside of Camden, where I’m from, you didn’t need a car.  Buses came like every ten minutes…but here….”  she trails off as if to say Can you believe Podunkville?

“I hear ya.  I grew up outsida Philly and it’s definitely different here,” conspiring now, slipping into my native tongue.

“Do you mind?” she asks having rolled down the window part way.  At first I thought she was asking to smoke and I thought, What nerve and I would have said no.

“No, that’s fine,” I say after seeing she only wanted air.

I normally don’t pick up hitchhikers.  I can count on one hand the number of times I have done so – four to be exact.  Two on two different occasions up in Pottsville, one in Cobbs Creek Park (a prostitute I quickly discovered who got out at the other end of the park as soon as she figured out I wasn’t buying.  Although five bucks is a good price I imagine.  What are STDs going for these days?)  The last one was a young girl, early twenties, who had mascara running down her face after having a fight with her boyfriend.  That was the only one at night.   This would make five.  Only women.  I only pick up women.  I figure if something happens, I can take her, whoever she is.

“Where on route 9?”  I inquire.

“Going toward Lewes, do you know the Donut Connection?”

“Sure, sure, I’m going that way.”

I deliberately don’t talk a whole lot.   Don’t want her to think I’m a weirdo or anything.

“You’re …..careful …. with this, right?  This getting into cars, I mean,” I pry.

“On yeah, yeah,” she says.

“I’ve only ever picked up women,” I add hoping it didn’t come out wrong. Or obvious, depending on how you looked at it.

“It’s funny but you’re only second woman who has ever picked me up.  It’s always been men.”

“Do they try anything?”

“Oh, yeah.  Especially the Mexicans.  ‘You in business?  You know you do business with sex for money?’  Pull the fuck over I tell them, “ she says then adds quickly, “Scuse my language.”

“It’s cool,” I say laughing.

“I got three kids, am I ‘in business,’” she adds shaking her head.

She spoke like a person sort of drunk or on something or maybe a lifetime of being drunk or on something so often her mind was addled.  I learned she was originally from Camden, New Jersey, her other two children were ten and two and that she had lost her parents.  Her mother had been her rock.

“You in a hurry?” she says.  Here we go, I thought and every memory of having been a chump plays back to me.

“Yeah, I’m supposed to meet people for dinner at 4:30 and I still have to go home and change.  I can’t exactly wear this or I’ll look like the camp counselor,” I lie.  Who goes to dinner at 4:30 I think to myself.

“Do you have any bills I can get for change?  I need to exchange about $8 dollars in coins.”

“No, I don’t really carry any cash on me,” I admit and that’s the truth.

“It’s cool.  You can just drop me at the Harbeson Deli then,” she says.

“Okay,“ I agree.

As we approached the deli I told her I’d wait for her to get change and then take her farther down the road to the donut place.

“Okay, I’ll be fast, but if I’m not back in two minutes, go on without me,” she says as she leaves her purse in the car.

As she tumbles out of the car I get my first good look at her.  She had one of those sort of bent-over walks like she was in a rush.  I try to make some type of an assessment as she disappeared into the deli.  Black fuzzy sweatpants and a purple fuzzy North Face pullover.  Her hair was long and kinky with some type of highlighting not disguising her Italian roots in the least.

I grabbed my bag and took out the knife, the one I had carried for twenty years, and put it in my pocket.  I started to get nervous.  What if there were drugs in her bag?  What if the cops pulled up right now and arrested me with possession or even as an accomplice?  What kind of dumb ass picks up a stranger?  What would I say?

Before I can react to my wave of semi-hysteria she comes spilling back out of the store.

She was out of work, had cleaned houses but the one company had slowed down and the other went out of business.  She was looking for a job.   I shared that I cleaned toilets in the summer.  She told me I’m probably the coolest person she’s met since she’s been here.  Funny.

These experiences always make me wonder about people.  What makes me different than her?  I am judging even though I don’t mean to.  Am I stupid or was that Jesus I just picked up?

We don’t drive much farther when she indicates where to let her out   Her friend has a trailer just around the corner.  I trust her judgment and decide not to get too close to her final destination.

“Hey, be careful.” I say to the slamming car door.

“Take care,” she says over her shoulder.

February 25, 2012 – Lessons taught by cats

I want them to stay little forever.  I want to control them. “Whose the mommy?” I say as I pick them up by the scruff of the neck. They just hang there helpless.  At three months old I’m sure they’re thinking What the fuck? 

Sometimes they try to get away from me.  I can hear them saying I’m a big kitten now Mommy, let me go.   

Cathy always says they are full of piss and vinegar.  This was the best when Lulu was really little.  She was such a baby and would cuddle with us and cry when she couldn’t see us even if we were in the same room. We’d have to reassure her, It’s alright, mommy’s right here.”  But when she got up in the morning she was all piss and vinegar.  She would strut around with this cocky little attitude acting all tough, ready to take on the world.

The funniest thing happened last week.  I was in the bathroom and Lulu was in there trying to get into the shower.  Before I could turn around to flush the toilet, splash into the toilet and crash into the trashcan and there she goes running through the house freshly dipped in piss.

When I tell Cathy she says, “That’s your fault.”

“How could it be my fault?” I ask dumbfounded.

“Who lets a cat in the bathroom while they are in there?”

“Good point,” I concede.  Piss and vinegar is right.

“I’m never going to let you go, go, go, I’m never going to let you go,” my mom would always sing to me when I was little, I mean very little like three years old.  It’s one of my earliest memories.  She would hold me on her lap and I would try to wriggle away and she would keep pulling me back singing that song and I remember it scared me a little.  I remember how desperately I wanted to get away.  Not like I was really frightened or anything but I just felt trapped, thinking What if she really never lets me go?  It’s kind of ironic they way I cling to my mom now.

I’m the same way with the kittens.  I want to hold them and cuddle them and I want them cuddling back, damn it.  I don’t want them giving me the straight arm as they try to escape my crazed embrace.  It’s like I’m saying Love me as much as I love you.  No seriously, I mean it.  And they try to run away and I pull them back.  This upsets Tessa much more than Lulu.  I think Lulu feels sorry for me.  She’s the one who will take care of us when we are old.  Percy and Tessa will just send money.  If they feel guilty enough.

There’s no doubt I got these cats for me.  It’s selfish.  I know it.  Rescue kittens.  Who’s being rescued from the ennui of their middle age?  Who enjoys simply watching other creatures that still find pleasure in the simplest of activities?  Who looks forward to coming home each day in part just to be with them?  Who is running around taking pictures of everything?  Yesterday I had poo on my sweatshirt after holding one of them.  I kept wondering why I smelled poo.  I just plucked it off with a napkin and washed my hands.  Me, who is an anal-retentive neat freak.  The house is a mess, at least by our standards.

We are trying to get better in relaxing a little.  Our friend, Mike, planted a seed in my head shortly after we got Lulu.  We were yelling at Lulu about something and he said something along the lines of she’s just a cat and are we going to make her as crazy as we made Percy and Cecil.  (Cecil was our other cat we had to put down five years ago due to kidney failure.)  Truth be told, Percy is as crazy as a bed bug but Cecil wasn’t or so I explained to Mike.  “Oh sure, she didn’t commit suicide because she just couldn’t stand it anymore,” he jabs.

“We don’t want to be a cat-on-the-counter family, like Sandy and Marybeth,” I retort.  This was sort of low as they were the trash of the world.  Cats ate lunchmeat off of trays they were offering to guests and they would just push the cats down and still expect you to make a sandwich with the cat-slobber ham.  Mike is pretty gentle with the discipline of his cats.  He will gently push them down from tables with food but his “No, no” if he gives one is not so convincing.  I imagine it’s normally okay for the cats to be on the tables, just not if there are guests and food.

In any case, despite my criticism, it’s funny he says this because I noticed at Christmas how relaxed and at ease his cats were in their house.  They slept on the backs of chairs and walked behind the Christmas tree without knocking it over or scaling up in it.  The tree was about fifteen feet tall, too.  Cathy always shrieks at Percy when she even goes near the tree.  I always say, “She’s just a cat.”

She comes back with, “Well when the tree goes over, you’re picking it up,” or “Do you want her to get electrocuted?”

But we both are more relaxed about the kittens in many ways.  For one, we let them on the bed with us.  Percy is rarely allowed on the bed.  It’s not right to tell them one minute no and then if she hasn’t seen us in a couple of days we feel bad and allow it.  She must be really pissed off since the kittens are allowed almost everywhere.  They have taken over everything.  We allow them on the red sofa, the one we are giving to Mr. Norman once we get new furniture.  This won’t happen until they are declawed.  We agree that we don’t want them on counters and tables, any hard surface where we have food.  Although we have completely relinquished the cube table.

“I want them to stay little forever,” I find myself saying to anyone who will listen.  It’s the love and kisses and snuggling and I guess that they need us for everything.  At the same time we don’t want to be “those lesbians” who ejaculate all of their maternal instincts into their pets since because they themselves are childless.  Or those people who say the animals are people and buy them tickets for seats on a plane or that woman who I swear was sleeping with, and I mean sleeping with that chimpanzee.

My mom always said that about us, that she wanted us to stay little forever.  I get it.  Kids are more pure, closer to goodness.  “Child is father to man.”  I get it, Wordsworth.

My students asked me a few months ago, before the arrival of Lulu and Tessa, how exactly it is that I manage to keep a cat off of furniture.  “Well, we have an agreement,” I would explain.  “She doesn’t go on the furniture on countertops in front of us, even though we see fur on the sofa or bedspread or paw prints on the island in the kitchen. I figure if she is respectful enough to not do it in front of me, that’s good enough.  It’s a begrudging compromise on both sides, but it works.”   I don’t reveal that it took months of screaming at her and that’s why we also never worry about her running out the door, even if the house was on fire as we have conditioned her not to even go near an open door.  More “Skinner box” than Pavlov but it worked.  I don’t want the little ones to turn out to be such nervous fucking messes.

We are also contacting a feline behavioralist due to the growling and hissing still, eight weeks later, by Percy at the kittens even through closed doors.  I know it’s instinct but I want it changed.  I want them to be what I want them to be and that’s probably not fair.  Then I think about my sister and how I want her to be what I want her to be and at church pastor Jonathan said we have to accept people for who they are.  But then what about us improving as human beings?   Aren’t we supposed to want to be better?  Our nature may be one way but we can change our behavior, can’t we?  Isn’t that what separates us from animals?

I’ll need to return to this later.



February 22, 2012 – Ash Wednesday

I love Lent.  I love the emptiness of Ash Wednesday.  How you take everything and just let it all go:  people you have issues with, ok our enemies, but it seems so harsh to call anyone my enemy.  The mantra I’ve adopted  for the next 40 days is “Soon we’ll all dead.”  A girl needs something to look forward to.  Nothing else really matters, right?  Ashes to ashes and all that.

Three years ago I was alone on Ash Wednesday at a church in Wilmington and feeling very low.  It was before the bankruptcy and I was worried we would lose everything.  I kept praying God don’t take everything, please not everything.  I kept praying for faith and realizing that if I had real faith it wouldn’t matter what else He took.  I kept trying to convince myself that if I told God I would still be okay if we lost everything then he wouldn’t take absolutely everything.  But you can’t play mind games with God.  One Holy Week when I was in my twenties I walked to church with my mom and Father Dugan told the story of Job.  God took it all just to test him.  Even his family.  I remember at the time thinking, okay take the stuff but not my family.  I don’t think I could bear it.  Then I became afraid – What if God takes my family to prove to me all I need is Him?

Where is all this going?   That I guess most important is faith, love and health and all the other stuff is just fluff.  Maybe I was a monk in my last life, I’m such a minimalist.  I often wonder how little I could get by with.  It probably stems from my childhood, wondering what I’d take if we had to leave and start over.  I’d make lists wondering what was most important and see how much I could stuff into a backpack or a duffle bag.  I still think like that sometimes.  What would I take if I could only keep what I could carry?  What if I could fill my car?  What if I got that VW hippie camper?  What would I bring then? Gandhi only had a pair of sandals and his eyeglasses, I think.  Jesus just his sandals.    When I taught Catholic school we shared the story of St. Francis of Assisi,  – how when he died he had candy in his pockets because he so loved the children.  The accompanying article went on to suggest what you carry with you shows what you are.  At the time I had on this denim jacket (with a skirt believe it or not, I was more stylish then) and in the pockets I had a lipstick, a tube of Vaseline (lip balm) and a knife.  I had carried a knife on me since college. I showed the items to Dan and asked what the items said about me.  “It means you’re a whore!” he choked and laughed simultaneously.

I bet Mary Magdalene loved Lent, too.









February 15, 2012 – Blessed

She slid the maple side table out into the living room, covered it with a red tablecloth and set the table.  The table was arranged beautifully and deliberately like a flower arrangement.  Small clear votives embraced tiny tea lights and the ornately cracked glasses containing the blood-colored wine stood proudly boasting in the firelight.  Steak cooked perfectly, salad, potatoes.   Appetizers were served with wine before the meal and champagne with homemade chocolate-dipped strawberries for dessert.  Music floated through the room adding to the mood.   And a card that made me cry, sob actually. Why?  Because every day is like this with her.  Every day is Valentine’s Day.