On this last day of the year, I could focus on the worst parts of 2017, but that’s foolhardy. Who wants to look at life half empty, when it is so full of promise? Not I. For that reason, I’m going to say goodbye to this year with love and admiration for the friends and family who brought me so much joy, so that I could return it. As I look ahead to 2018, I know in my heart and mind there is nowhere to go but up.
My Aunt Karen called me last night. And did we have a gab! I am named after her, a point of pride for me, and at some point in the conversation, we talked about our shared name. I love my name! I love how both Karen and Craven are two syllables and how each start and end with the same consonant sound. Before I even came to appreciate those things, I first loved that I was named after my mom’s younger sister.
I don’t normally have Thursday nights free and I was excited to get out. I’m currently grounded from yoga and walking the dogs and was desperately in need of being around people. I loved listening in on their conversations, watching them react and interact with the art.
We are always told to “Put yourself in their shoes” or “Walk a mile in their shoes” or some other iteration. And I have tried over the years to do just that. I recall sitting in court at 26th and California, listening to the public defender plea with the judge or jury as a death penalty was considered and begging for forgiveness. Those moments almost always made me think about how we choose our paths, and ultimately how our environments contribute to our behavior.
WHEN A MARRIAGE FAILS
Out of the mud the bluest flowers
open in the sun
without anger or regret; neither more or less than what it is,
alive again and free.
I’ve always wondered without journalism where we would be? What if no one photographed Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, or September 11, no one documented the Civil Rights Movement or Women’s March, nothing to intricately connect our shared experiences like fine Irish lace? Outside of our those shared experiences, each family needs its own history keeper. Each family should know its own truths. Who knew that when my mother gave me a Christmas ornament 24-years ago that its meaning was not so much about the trajectory of my career, but more about my role in this family, its history keeper?
Yesterday morning I spoke with my sister and shared my blues about being alone Christmas Day. Bridget will be with her father today, and I am not making Christmas dinner, which we’ve always shared with my parents. I was dreading being alone. In spite of my little pep talk, about subtracting “no” and “can’t” from my vocabulary, I was falling right into the trap I desperately wanted to avoid: Self-pity.
Acknowledging and accepting what we have; isn’t that what this day is about? A savior was born in a manger on Christmas Eve because his parents didn’t say no. Mary and Joseph didn’t cut and run. They didn’t resist, they humbly accepted the scene as God presented it, and what a gift they gave us.
When I was home, I was on my phone, or computer, always occupied with the past and the future happenings of my work, rarely ever savoring the “quicksilver moments”.
My favorite story which makes me believe in fate is from January 1942 at St. Bernard’s Hospital. Patricia Craven and Dorothy Burns shared a room in the maternity ward. Patricia gave birth to Pasty, and Dorothy gave birth to Marie. The mothers would meet again 27 years later when Patricia’s son, Jerry, married Marie.
“One of the greatest discoveries a person makes is to find they can do what they were afraid they couldn’t do.” Henry Ford Last Tuesday, my yoga instructor Jeannine announced…
I picked out a nicely wrapped gift. Once unwrapped my eyes welled up with tears as I discovered the contents. The gift made no sense to me. Just like Bridget and the cream cheese, I didn’t understand why someone would give a second grader an ADULT nail clipper set. Really? A nail clipper set? It’s been nearly four decades and I’m still befuddled and bewildered at the thought of that gift.
Those who know me well, know how much coffee is part of my morning routine. I used to smoke. Just like milk and sugar in my coffee, my cigarettes loved red wine and coffee. I was the justice of the peace, jubilantly joining and blessing the unions of cigarettes and coffee and cigarettes and red wine. Kiss the bride, kiss the bride. I realize now my cigarettes were hardly monogamous, but they were happy couples all right. I remember impatiently sitting at Billy’s Grill, a diner on the South Side on Southwest Highway, and waiting for my coffee just so I could light up. That behavior is evidence that every relationship can get tense.
I visited my surgeon’s office the next day, where I gladly assumed rabbit pose to make the hernia appear. My surgeon felt it. We scheduled surgery. I’m hopeful that tomorrow’s surgery will prevent last Tuesday’s pain from happening ever again.
Instead of starting the day disgruntled by another grey day, I chose to make my own sunshine. My first ray of sunshine came in the form of my coffee cup. Choosing the right cup is critical in setting the tone for the day.
I’d like to think this will shrink, but it won’t.
Remembering my Grandma’s smile
Remembering my Dad chasing us around the house tickling us as kids
Remembering my Dad’s beard in the morning when he came home from a shift at the firehouse
Remembering my Dad rubbing his scratchy beard and cold face on our cheeks as we ate our breakfast
Goodnight Moon was not titled, Goodbye Moon. The book is about the end of the day, and how its end brings with it the promise of a new day. So, how can you start the day absent a sunrise?
I’ve never heard a crime scene technician being called to a cleanup evidence of too much laughter. Instead, quite the opposite, real laughter can’t be contained in a steel shell, it’s explosive all right but it’s hardly selfish. Laughter is contagious and when shared eventually becomes joy. And that my friends, is the beauty of laughter. A laugh can generate a smile, that generates the feeling of happiness, that whether consciously or unconsciously is shared and enjoyed by others.
The threshold is God’s waiting room: Have you ever read something so lovely? I see the world through God’s eyes on walks with the dogs when I hear every bird, when I stop to appreciate the Hawk – in sheer awe of its wingspan – hunting for prey, when I awake and stand at the window counting the different colors of the morning sunrise, when I take the dogs out for their last visit before bedtime and bask in the moonlight, when I kiss my daughter goodnight and tell her that I love her, and when I place my head on my pillow each night and thank God for every moment when he made his presence that day. This is the best waiting room ever.
If I run, I can’t hide because everywhere I turn the word “journey” is there. I don’t know what’s happening in the universe, but I do know what’s happening with me here on this planet. Every day this week every acquaintance, every call, every meeting, every appointment, every class, every event, and every errand is another step in this journey.
Loss is manifested in an array of endings. I compared the end of my marriage in my 20s to death. In fact, I believed my reality was worse than death. Instead of asking God in the event of death, “Why did you take him from me,” I asked, “Why couldn’t he love me, and why wasn’t I enough?”
“The nation doesn’t seek nor expect perfect presidents, and some have certainly been deeply flawed. But a president who shows such disrespect for the truth, for ethics, for the basic duties of the job and for decency toward others fails at the very essence of what has always made America great.”
USA Today Editorial, Will Trump’s lows ever hit rock bottom?, December 12, 2017
Journey. How many inspirational quotes have you read about the word journey? I equate journey to the word life, excluding when I have blinders tightly fastened for fear I will…
“Life truly lived is a risky business, and if one puts up too many fences against risk one ends shutting out life itself.”
Kenneth S. Davis, Courage to Change, December 12
Some 28 years later, I was working as the Obituary Editor at the Chicago Tribune when Pat Carroll died. That morning I was not faced with my own mortality, but my own existence. What if my mom never became a nun and never met Pat? Well, like death, life is certain, too. I wouldn’t have been born, let alone working at the Tribune.
Sin was a big deal when I grew up. There were cardinal sins and venial sins. Committing a cardinal sin would land you in hell. My father had little tolerance for liars. He was adamant that liars are the worst sinners of all. If you are not truthful, you can’t be trusted. And if you aren’t trustworthy, well your life will be very lonely.
Much like Maya Angelou, I never met a day like today. The day had not begun when I walked to the garage. I entered a yard of darkness. The sky above was so clear and black with its stars so sharp and plentiful that it appeared to be randomly pierced by a dart that invited narrow streams of light to emerge, all of which were superseded by the size and splendor of the sensational half-moon, whose white light just bathed me as I walked out to the garage. I stood in awe of its beauty. I stood grateful for the moment and the presence of mind to welcome yesterday’s ending and today’s beginning.
I welcome you to join me as I continue to get comfortable in my own skin, accepting who I am for my own strengths and weaknesses, embracing my current place in this universe and how I can pay it forward, and celebrating this gift of life with my daughter, friends, family, and community.
There are these moments in our lives when a person comes into it, presented like a perfectly wrapped present, with a tag reading, “Enjoy this gift. Love, God.” And that is what Maggie was, and remains. A constant source of laughter, love, and friendship.
My mother nor I had finished reading the collection. That afternoon we read poetry aloud to one another. It was intoxicating. Short of her sharing in my daughter’s birth, that afternoon will stand as one of the best, most intimate, loveliest moments with my mom. Later that evening, she did it again, reading the poetry to a group of women, who were strangers not an hour before. I was reminded of the first time she took the pulpit and read from the Old Testament at St. Thomas More. Her grace, presence, and ability to project every nuance of those readings had me wanting to tell the whole church. “Hey, that’s my mom.” I felt the same way that night. And like many experiences this past year, I believed that book, and every poem bathed in Gluck’s own pain derived from her own divorce, was meant for me to read and to listen to.