Friday, November 25, 2005
In '55, I came to be
A GS-12 in OCE.
'Twas a fearful place
In those days of yore,
With Fanflicks, Berges and many more.
A crew of tyrants was what they were
And if you erred, you got what fer.
The work was tough, the days were stressed
But through it all, the days were blessed
With the constant presence of a brassy dame;
Insolent, engaging, precocious and game;
Who finished her work, and others' as well,
And with it all, was as funny as hell.
She brightened our days with comments witty,
Malaprops, jingles and a poetic ditty.
The years have flown by
(Where have they sped??)
But through them all
There runs a thread
Of a bright little lady
So thoughtful and sweet
That to have worked with her
Has sure been a treat.
To you, dear Nora,
Much has been owed
By all of us,
So we sing you this ode.
May God bless you and
Keep you through all of your days.
A happy retirement and
Let nothing you faze.
We love you, will miss you
In the days ahead
Please don't forget us
Wherever you tread.
-- William J. Cronin
September 23, 1983
Reprinted today on what would have been Mom's 80th birthday.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AND HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
On Friday, November 25, Mom would have been 80 years old. And she'd have made one fantastically saucy octogenarian!
We always celebrated Mom's birthday on Thanksgiving, since it fell on or near the day that the Bucklews, like families all across America, gather 'round the kitchen and the dining room to celebrate the simple joys of family, fun, fellowship, food and -- did I say family?
Mom was all about family. Maybe it was because she lost her own Mother when she was just four and her father by the time she was 18. Maybe it was because she was raised by her older sisters and brothers, and had a kinescope of hilarious but bittersweet memories of growing up as one of eight kids in a crazy-quilt depression-era environment. Whatever the root cause, Mom was adamant that holidays (and for that matter, weekends, evenings and lunch hours) were meant to be spent in the company of your Mother!
What each of her four kids wouldn't give today if we could summon the powers of Heaven and once again share Thanksgiving Dinner with Mom!
Since that isn't possible, I will give thanks for the 73 years, seven months and 15 days she spent here on earth, and let anyone who happens upon this cyberjournal see why she was so well loved and is so perpetually missed.
Mom was all things to all people... Mother, grandmother, sister, friend, neighbor, co-worker, and second mother to many of the kids from the old neighborhood. Her passion, generosity and courage spilled over onto everyone she met. And Mom was a woman of many passions. She was passionate about her family, her kids and later her grand children. Growing up, she called us her four little diamonds. Our friends growing up I am sure saw her as a safe haven and a generous spirit.
Working with lawyers all day ignited Mom’s passion for words and language, and she instilled that same passion in her kids. She loved writing outrageously funny letters to family and friends, and she loved crafting her little ditties, as she called them, to mark important milestones for her office colleagues. She took great pride in being a secretary for the Corps of Engineers and she reveled in the lightening speed with which she could take dictation or dress up a letter.
She loved clothes but she was FRUGAL FANNY before it became the rage. She could scout out a designer outfit at Purple Heart and Good Will for a quarter, that she could then pair up with another passion of hers, sexy open-toed Amalfi sling backs.
She had a sweet tooth, and a weakness for Fannie May candy, and later Godiva and Mrs. Sees. And although Mom wasn’t much of a drinker, she loved her afternoon bottle of Miller High Life. In fact, when she retired from the Corps of Engineers in 1983, she listed as her reason for leaving: It’s Miller Time. She knew how to make an exit.
She loved playing bingo and working the daily crossword puzzle, and upon retirement, one of her greatest luxuries was reading the Washington Post every morning from cover to cover with her morning cup of Maxwell House.
She was also a woman who appreciated the seasons. She loved tending her flower beds and vegetable plants in the Spring and early summer. She loved canning tomatoes and freezing peaches despite the effort and time it took, because of the rewards they delivered as summer gave way to fall and winter. And at Christmas and holidays, she loved baking fruitcakes and her world-famous toll house and oatmeal raisin cookies.
Mom sorely regretted her lack of a college degree, so she made sure her four kids all went to college. She had a life-long passion for learning new things, and she was brilliant at teaching us through memorable if slightly unorthodox methods! Growing up as we did before the age of computers, I remember spending evenings with Mom grilling us on vocabulary words from Readers' Digest, making us memorize and recite the 50 states, state capitals, the U.S. presidents -- any arcane factoid that would serve to sharpen our young eager minds.
She was up to her old tricks 25 years later when her three grand children came along, with a slightly diff spin... they usually earned a buck or two in the bargain. She really delighted in spending time alone with Matt, Ben and Chelsea. Mom would sit patiently for hours as Chelsea the toddler gave her a complete make-over -- curled and fixed Mom's hair, applied make-up, filed her nails ... not sure who enjoyed that more, Mom or Chelsea!
Mom also was a frequent customer of "Ben’s Best Back Massages." He would take his strong little hands and knead her back and neck muscles, with Mother cooing and ahhhing with every twinge.
With Matt, who was the oldest of the three, she played word games and sparred with him over the card table, teaching him card games and reveling in his quick mind and precocious demeanor.
She treated neighborhood kids no different from her brood of four or her grandkids, and well into retirement, she could be found holding court with a gaggle of little ones swarming her porch and doing little odd jobs to earn cookies, fruit and homemade treats. What I wouldn't give to turn back the clock and sit quietly on that porch step, watching her in action!
Tomorrow, when my family gathers at my younger sister Lynn's house to celebrate Thanksgiving, we will honor Mom by doing what she would have insisted we do, were she here: eat too much, laugh often, share funny family stories, speak by phone with any family members who couldn't be with us, and give thanks that Mom's traditions are alive and well!
HAPPY 80TH BIRTHDAY AND
HAPPY THANKSGIVING, MOM!
Friday, November 18, 2005
A cliche' that happens to be true right now in my yard as well as my life.
After months of playing novice gardener and nurturing the myriad flowers, trees and shrubs that decorate and enrich my outdoor landscape, I turned my attention this Fall to my yard -- an ugly abundance of weeds, crabgrass, wiregrass, dandelions and chickweed set against a backdrop of patchy barren brown dirt. Fescue is definitely not my middle name!
The lawn service guys finally arrived on Halloween, dutifully core aerated the ground and then sent bag upon bag of grass seed spewing in every direction, and then disappeared, cautioning me to "water every day, Ma'am, if you want it to grow."
Of course, since "Murphy" is never far from most of my endeavors, we settled into a long dry spell here in Lower Slower Delaware, so I was once again busy every day with sprinklers, hoses and wet feet. The water meter spun like a top as I kept the ground bog-like in hopes of reversing the effects of five years of benign neglect, thanks to the previous owners of 9 Gracelyn.
Jera is the ancient rune of Harvest. It suggests beneficial outcomes but cautions that no quick outcomes can be expected. Plant, cultivate, tend... and be patient. So I watered and waited, despite the fact that PATIENCE has never been one of my virtues.
After three weeks that seems more like three years, brown masses of crab and wire grass still greatly outnumber the small verdant patches of new grass. And I am still clueless why some seeds that showed such promise and hope for new life, nevertheless were choked out by the encroaching weeds. Lessons learned...?
In love as well as lawn maintenance, either because of or despite my clumsy but well-intentioned efforts, some seeds fall on stones and blow away, some seeds initially take shaky root but eventually wither and die, and some seeds, thankfully, find fertile soil and fight their way upwards toward the sun.
This morning, in the bright sunlight, new growth is evident all across the yard, and even as the days grow shorter and the lengthening darkness heralds a time of hibernation, my heart is a little lighter as I reflect and await the natural cycle of rebirth.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
THE PLAYGROUND OF LIFE (an excerpt)
One hour devoted to the pursuit of Beauty
And Love is worth a full century of glory
Given by the frightened weak to the strong.
From that hour comes man's Truth; and
During that century Truth sleeps between
The restless arms of disturbing dreams.
In that hour the soul sees for herself
The Natural Law, and for that century she
Imprisons herself behind the law of man;
And she is shackled with irons of oppression.
That hour was the inspiration of the Songs
Of Solomon, and that century was the blind
Power which destroyed the temple of Baalbek.
That hour was the birth of the Sermon on the
Mount, and that century wrecked the castles of
Palmyra and the tower of Babylon.
One hour devoted to mourning and lamenting the
Stolen equality of the weak is nobler than a
Century filled with greed and usurpation ...
Best known in the West for THE PROPHET, the Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) began writing in Boston at the age of 12, considered the U.S. his "adopted country," and is known throughout the world for the beauty and precision of his Arabic and English poetry and prose. His prints have been compared to William Blake's. "The Playground of Life" is excerpted from Gibran's book, TEARS AND LAUGHTER.
Friday, June 24, 2005
Sometimes the simplest activities bring the most joy. Lately I view chores around the yard and house as quiet meditations -- joyful work. It wasn't always so.
When I worked in an office everyday, housework and yard work were obligations on my busy schedule that crowded out or threatened more pleasurable activities, like shopping or sitting at the laptop surfing the web. Even playing with the dogs seemed to try my ever short supply of patience, because I was focused entirely on decompressing from the stress of working.
Like many of my friends, I fed off the adrenalin created by believing that my work was so remarkably essential that it absolutely positively should take precedence over every other aspect of life. I bought into the corporate myth that every insane assignment borne of the crisis du jour or the latest palace intrigue was a life or death responsibility upon which the success or failure of the Washington region hinged.
The truth is that everyone is expendable, bar none, and that is a natural law of business. It is healthy to understand that, because otherwise you make lousy, ridiculous choices for yourself and your family. And the best companies understand that and do not require fealty at the expense of family.
I've been my own master now for nearly 60 days, and I think I've worked harder and longer than I have in years, and enjoyed it more. The secret for me is that the rewards are tangible and immediate, and as a result, my priorities have shifted back into a more normal biological balance. I have also come to realize that tomorrow was created for anything that couldn't get done today.
Today's priorities include activities I rarely if ever considered before a year or so ago...
- watching after and praying for friends and family who are troubled or aged or just in need of a little care;
- giving thanks to God early and often for the many blessings He has bestowed on me and my family;
- paying attention to the natural world around me, and doing my part to improve or safeguard it;
- taking time to notice and truly enjoy the many wonders that are all around me, like a luscious full moon nestled brilliantly among a Universe of stars twinkling and flickering into eternity;
- surrendering to the urge to feel sand and surf between my toes, whenever I am in need of spiritual counsel, solace, wisdom, relief or cleansing;
- writing. writing. writing. writing. writing.
- pulling weeds and planting flowers and watering the sparce lawn while patiently (NOT) waiting for grass seeds to take hold;
- checking in via email or phone with friends who keep me abreast of life in the BIG CITY and update me on what's important that day in their life so that I can enjoy vicariously the joys and accomplishments of my friends and family and also console them in their worries or sorrows;
- developing a sustaining faith that will comfort me when the clouds roll in and sun seems gone for good, because I know that life turns on a dime and dimes pop up when least expected;
- thanking Jesus for continuing to watch over me and bring Angels to my rescue whenever I ask (or they sense) I am in need of guidance or friendship or generosity or assistance or fellowship or counsel.
Perhaps the biggest weed I have pulled lately is the one that entangled my heart.
I feel like I am finally emerging after more than 12 years of emotional pain and loss from a place that too often was riddled with loneliness and the fear of being permanently alone and lonely. "HeartSleeve" rose from the mists created by the slings and arrows of hearts broken and loves lost, and a wall was subconsciously erected after the heart-numbing agony of losing my dear, wonderful, irrascible Mother to a horrible and too early death. These deep psychic wounds paralyzed me emotionally and left me with a deep-seated feeling of emotional and spiritual malaise. I do not hold myself apart here... each of us has known breathtaking heartache and gut-wrenching disappointment.
I needed assistance in that bit of spiritual yard work and I am relieved and overjoyed to admit I got the help I needed and life seems sunnier, even on dark days.
The human condition is such that I will always have days plagued with self-doubt and nights when my monkey-mind runs amok in my hot brain, but I have the tools to deal, now, where I didn't before.
I can usually make those moments pass by asking for God's intercession followed by several concerted deep breaths and some focus on what's going right in my life.
It isn't hubris that brings me to the page these days, but a willingness to share the good and the bad, the awful and the awesome, with anyone who is willing to join me here. Truly, you help me in my daily weed pulling exercises and sustain me when storms might otherwise buffet and blow me to the ground.
A tip of my gardener's cap to you all, and may we enjoy a summer ripe with bounty -- weed-free!
Sunday, June 19, 2005
I was revelling in being retired, spending my days and nights doing anything that caught my fancy and starting one project after another to fill my leisure time. I felt like I was in summer camp.
But I'm not totally unaware of life outside my little Universe: I am still very concerned for and supportive of friends who are dealing with their own demons, whether it is disease, heart-ache, depression or frustration, but basically, my little corner of the planet was spinning along fairly trouble-free.
But then -- SHAZAMMMMM!
An off-hand and woefully uninformed posting I made on a BB earlier in the week caught my family by the throat and still threatens to cause an irreparable rift, and I am scared and worried that I have brought us to this uncertain brink. I am also terribly saddened that my motives or intentions were so bizarrely misunderstood.
A fairly minor health issue suddenly on Friday became "an adnexal mass" that needs an MRI to determine its size and scope. A beautiful Friday wrecked suddenly by disaster and uncertainty and misunderstanding, and it has left my head spinning and my heart very heavy.
And while my mind is reeling, my body continues it new-found daily routines and tasks, keeping my hands and arms and legs busy with yard work so my soul is not tempted into a dark corner that would ultimately make all matters worse.
I tried to find some solace today at Mass, and the homilies and gospels seemed to be talking right at me.
But Psalm 69 went straight to the heart of the matter...
Thursday, June 16, 2005
I still do not yet know the extent of the hurt or the damage I may have caused. My apologies are falling on deaf ears and I can understand why my anguish and regret over the incident have no currency at the moment.
I can only fall back on my truth as I know it in my heart, and hope that in time, my family will remember this truth as well: that I would never knowingly hurt any one of them, all of whom have supported and loved and helped me all my life. That would be more than just biting the hand that feeds me... it is would be like cutting out my own heart.
Sunday, June 12, 2005
Friday, June 10, 2005
Earlier in the week, without paying close attention, I got the backs of my legs and the tops of my feet badly sunburned just watering my trees and shrubs for about an hour, and with my track record with skin cancer, that's not a practice I want to continue.
And since doing yard work has become my new employment, and one that totally lights me up, I want to make sure I get maximum enjoyment but minimum risk for skin damage.
The flagstone I am laying was an after-thought once the landscapers had come and gone, leaving me with a nicely sculpted perimeter of flower beds around 3/4 of the house. The beds are mulched with pine needles, which provide a wonderful almost Christmas-sy scent, but leave a bushy, unfinished look to the beds.
And since the beds are quite generous in size and there's ample space between plantings, they cried out for a finished edge. Flagstone is my favorite natural element in a walkway or garden, so I stopped by the local rock-meister and picked out a pallet of "Green River" which suits perfectly because green in my color and the house has lots of dark green trim!
This morning, I set about early hoisting flagstones out of the wire pallet and placing them just inside the sculpted edge of the beds atop the mulch, hoping that my $250 investment in rock wouldn't give my newly landscaped gardens a cheesy "Coney Island" look (with apologies to any New Yorkers who might take offense). I hoisted and placed and hoisted and placed and spaced and placed for about an hour, getting about a third of the way done before the heat, humidity and my lack of fitness overtook me. But what I saw, I liked. So did my neighbors Beverly and Byron, who have the prettiest yard in the neighborhood, so I'm feeling pretty good about the early fruits of my labor.
I'm not sure what amazes me more: the fact that - in retirement - I am relishing my new role as manual laborer, after 30 years of being a desk jockey married to a computer keyboard - or that I seem to have a good eye or a good feel for the design elements of landscaping. Probably doesn't matter.
What matters is that these new morning rituals are like morning meditations, done joyfully in service to nature. One good hour to get centered and ready to greet the day!
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Having read many years ago AML's BIG little tome, Gift from the Sea, I ached to have a place of my own some day where I could truly let go and drink in the tonic dispensed at the ocean's edge. As a Pisces, water is my 'element,' and I am never more calm, cleansed, comforted or healed than when I am can hear the pounding surf, taste and smell the salt and sea scents of the ocean, feel the coolness of the wet sand between my toes and the warmth of sunbleached wood on my bare feet.
The ocean has also been my teacher, my confessor, my therapist and my direct line to God. Many times have I have prostrated myself face down and cried an ocean of tears into the sand when heartbroken, gazed upward and puzzled over life's mysteries, and let the fierce sound of the waves erase the monkey-mind of worries in my hot brain.
So I am embarrassed to admit that although I have been living now two weeks here at the shore, it took the invite of a friend who also has a place on the beach to actually get me to water's edge! If you lead this horse to water, I will drink! That was gift number ONE this week!
What has stolen my time thusfar from my rendezvous with the sea, you might ask? Hey, I been busy settling in and unpacking and managing a major lawn landscaping and deck laying operation. What a load of crappo! As my friend Alice might have said, "Get thee to the beach, CrazyLady!"
Speaking of Alice, she is directly responsible for the second gift I received this week. ALice is a BIGTRAINDC specialty beverage Queen, managing outfits all over the eastern seaboard and midatlantic region who sell and distribute their line of upscale chai and cocoa and coffee and other yuppy frothy caffeine drinks. And they are all scrumptious. I know this because yesterday, she gifted me WITH A HUGE PERSONAL ASSORTMENT gift basket teeming with tempting tea-like tasty tantalizing tummy warmers. And I've never laid eyes (or anything else!) on Alice! She's a dame of the highest ilk!
Gift #3 came with a knock on my back door yesterday, when Bev, my neighbor and new friend, surprised me with a quart of 'just picked' local strawberries, still warm from the sun and smelling like a tiny slice of Heaven! Bev and her delightful husband Byron have pretty much adopted me since I arrived for good here in Hunters Run, my new 'hood! They have extended every act of kindness and generosity and warm friendship imaginable, which reinforces my firm belief that I am truly living in a state of grace these days.
And the gifts just kept on coming. Craig, the hunky local handyman good looking enough to be a regular on 'Desperate Housewives,' arrived yesterday to install the walkway off my back deck that will allow me to proceed from the house, even on the wettest days, without submerging my feet or the dogs' into soggy wet grass and mud to take our daily constitutionals. Terry Hatcher I'm not, but oh, if I were!
I also traded emails and phone calls with many new friends and old friends and angels yesterday whose very existence enriches my life every day.
The lessons I learned this week that I would invite anyone to share, are these:
- take at least an hour today or tomorrow and do something for yourself that inspires, enriches, comforts and fills you.
- take at least an hour today or tomorrow and do a kindness or service UNASKED for someone who needs a lift.
- spread the wealth by asking someone in your circle to join you in these joyous works.
- take a moment today and give thanks that you can do these things effortlessly.
These are gifts we can share.
Saturday, June 04, 2005
And I am amazed at how quickly "normal" felt so wonderful, because usually, I operate on the edge... always pushing higher, longer, farther, bigger, better; stretching and straining for the impossible... I lose sight of how comfy and cozy normal can be, until it abruptly departs and something nastier or more depressing appears.
I am counting my blessings today, because my life generally percolates along fairly predictably, largely along lines I define, except for those periods of true grace when something quite marvelous or unexpected occurs.
I read somewhere yesterday that
JUSTICE is getting what we deserve...
MERCY is not getting what we deserve... and
GRACE is getting what we don't deserve.
By that definition, I think I spend alot of time in a state of grace. And I'm not alone.
I think sometimes it's hard for us to accept that we are truly blessed. We cogitate on what ails us, individually and collectively, and not on the incredible blessings that grace our everyday lives. The parking space that opens up just as we drive in, the breeze that refreshes us after a little outdoor manual labor, the absolute blessing of being healthy that most of us take for granted because it is as effortless as air or breathing.
I watched my Mom struggle for every breath she took, as emphysema was destroying her lungs and ultimately her life, but I didnt truly "get it" until I came down with pneumonia a few years after she was gone, and I struggled to breathe with the help of the same breathalizers that gave her momentary peace. So today, I try not to take for granted "the air that we breathe" just because it comes easy.
Many of my friends right now are suffering - breast cancer, depression, anxiety, addiction - and I marvel at how well they cope with just doing the everyday things, nevermind the new regimens and routines they endure on the road to recovery. I call on God through the infinite power of prayer to aid and comfort them, and I am not ashamed to ask for the prayers of others on their behalf, because I have seen how quickly or unmistakably God intervenes when we ask. And I am very grateful for that faith.
Having just retired with what I hope is a good - and I mean GOOD - 30 years ahead of me, I am grateful to Metro for having given me a good job that did much more than just pay the bills for more than 20 years and provide the ability to retire at a still young 55.
Working at Metro gave me the opportunity to meet so many good people who work tirelessly to provide, support and promote very meaningful public transit service. While my days were not always punctuated with exclamation points, I marvel and give grateful thanks when I recall those occasions where the impact of my words provided absolute clarity of purpose as to our collective mission and direction. And those moments are both points of gratitude and pride. So my heart goes out to those who feel mangled and misunderstood in their jobs, or who struggle to keep jobs for whatever reason. Or those who do their job well, even though their heart or passion is elsewhere.
Mostly, I am grateful for a network of friends, some known by face and many known only by their screen names or online monikers. I sense a crazy quilt of personalities, interests, talents, fears, dreams, quirks and eccentricities and I embrace that cornucopeia with relish. I rely on finding a friendly greeting when I drop in, and I am rarely disappointed.
And for all of this, and the great state of normalcy, I am so very grateful today.
Monday, May 30, 2005
A dear friend has just been diagnosed with breast cancer, had surgery last week, and is looking at chemo and radiation as soon as she has healed from the surgery. Here's the rub... she has little to no support network and is in a bad way. To make matters worse, I have just recently moved out of state, so I'm not as local as I would need to be.
I have another legion of angels praying for her, and you can do that as well if you like, but I am calling on you to send her cards and little acts of kindness in the mail.
Her name is Helen, and we go way back to grade school. She doesnt have email, so postal mail would be a real treat and would help lift her spirits and keep her focused on getting well.
Here's her name and address:
588 Valleywood Rd
Millersville, MD 21108
She doesnt know I am asking, but I am sure she would appreciate any little act of kindness or consideration you might extend to her. I know I would be very grateful if you would keep her on your radar screen as she goes along this scary, lonely journey.
Friday, May 27, 2005
My last days in Bowie were spent boxing up those items that no longer fit into the more simple life I hope to begin. In the end, I free-cycled most of it to family, friends and neighbors who could find some use or enjoyment from what I was leaving behind.
And to make this last week in Bowie just as complicated as I possibly could, I bought a new car -- a brand-spanking new '06 HONDA Ridgeline, the first p/up truck I've ever owned. It's a beaut, steel blue with a hint of teal... and rugged in a girlie kinda way, same as its new owner.
And although I've been retired now for nearly a month, I don't feel retired (whatever that may come to mean) because my life and days have been jam-packed finalizing my move, and in helping a dear friend deal with the news she has breast cancer. Everything I am experiencing right now, either in my own life or vicariously through the lives of close friends and family, reminds me that we do not own this life, and we are largely powerless to fend off CHANGE when it arrives, oftentimes unannounced at our door.
I have come to realize, however, that when we surrender control of the steering wheel, we usually end up in a far better place than we might have under our own white-knuckled control.
I am ready for that journey to begin.