Monday, May 21, 2007

Full Circle

Every day my mother says the rosary for me.

And everyday she prays for the salvation of my soul ~ for my return to the "one true faith."

I did not accidentally stray from the path, but deliberately walked off it to blaze my own spiritual trail. In fact, I blazed different trails until I found the one that felt most comfortable on my feet.

Spirituality is a very important part of my life ~ something that I do not take very lightly. Yet, the questioning and adventurous part of me felt the gnawing need to see what was out there, especially when I had grown dissatisfied with the questions I was asking.

I was born in a very strict Roman Catholic family. We're not just talking about your regular, run-of-the-mill strict Catholics, but your "Old World" Catholics. For some reason, "Old World" Catholics have this natural predilection for taking strictness to the next highest level ~ perhaps even beyond.

For the longest of time, I accepted the religion of my birth, even though as a child often wished that I was a cat so that I would not have to go to church, or school for that matter.

There were even times when I militantly identified with being a Catholic. I remember one time being greatly offended by a TV commercial that advertised Certs Breath Mints "with the miracle drop Retsin."

"Only Jesus does miracles!" I shouted at the TV in great indignation.

However, when I was in high school, I was exposed to a great number of kids who weren't Catholics ~ and to Catholic kids who asked a lot of questions that could not be answered to their satisfaction.

I became one of those kids.

But at home I had to be silent in my rejection of Catholicism. Not that I hadn't tried to break the news to my parents ~ I did, but with quite the cataclysmic results.

That disastrous unfolding of the truth had shown me that insisting upon maintaining honesty and integrity did NOT serve in my best interest while still living at home. I may have been going to hell according to my mother, but I most certainly had no desire to experience a practice run while still on this planet.

So, swallowing back the bitter gall of dishonesty, I "confessed" to my mother that I had made a mistake ~ that I was deeply confused. Whether she truly believed me or not, I cannot say. But it was a statement that she could not argue with.

So, if I rejected Catholicism, what was I?

I couldn't call myself a Christian because the only Christianity I knew was through Catholicism.

I couldn't call myself an atheist because I did not agree with the absolute denial of God. Yet, I did not really feel comfortable with calling myself an agnostic either.

So, for awhile years I was a "nothing" ~ having no spiritual path whatsoever.

Yet this yearning for spiritual expression never left.

I was searching for a spiritual identity; but nothing seemed to fit.

My Sufi friends intrigued me; but what seemed right for them did not feel right to me.

My roommate converted to Judaism and became "more Jewish" then her Jewish husband.

And a Unitarian minister was someone that you went to when you wanted to have a church wedding without getting married in a Catholic church.

Paganism and Wicca were an interesting experiment. The high degree of leading an ethical life and maintaining personal responsibility agreed with my own set of values.

Because I was a Witch at a time when Witches were still in danger of losing their children and jobs because of their religion, the Christian-bashing that was common then fed my still-festering resentment of Christianity.

At the time, Paganism and Witchcraft also seemed to be natural choices that reflected my ancestral and cultural heritage.

Even though the majority of Lithuanians are fiercely devoted Catholics, they are also extremely proud of their Pagan heritage. Even my mother would proudly proclaim that Lithuania was the last European country to accept Christianity (which in those days came only in one flavor).

So my becoming a Witch seemed to be a natural extension of my Lithuanian pride and heritage.

However, a funny thing happened while I was a Witch.

I became very interested in learning about other religions.

No wanting to do to other religions what I saw being done to Witchcraft ~ i.e., having some very vocal Christian groups spread damaging misconceptions about Wicca ~ I made it a point to learn about those different religions.

Thus, a life-long love of comparative religious study was born.

And it was this love of learning about new faiths that gradually led me to explore other spiritual avenues.

Besides, I could never really warm up to Zeus.

Shortly after Ariana was born, I tried Unitarian-Universalism. The sermons were amazing. They appealed to my intellectual side. I actually felt that I was attending a college lecture. But there was something missing ~ something that did not speak to my spiritual side.

When Ariana became three, my mother wanted me to start bringing her to church so that she would know what God was and for her to get a spiritual foundation. While I was all for getting to know God and having a spiritual foundation, I simply could not consider going back to a Catholic church.

At the time, however, I had a friend and co-worker who was a Bahá'í. Even though I wasn't planning on becoming a Bahá'í I felt that a Bahá'í religious education would be appropriate for Ariana.

With the Bahá'ís she would learn to know God and receive a spiritual foundation. Also, because the Baha'is believed that all religions are one, Ariana would also learn about different religions.

Of course, as a parent I realized that for religious education to "stick" a child needs to see her parent engaging in that religion. So, in order to facilitate Ariana's spiritual education, I started going to Bahá'í firesides and holy day observations.

I was learning about the Bahá'í Faith and starting to absorb it myself. It wasn't that much longer before I made my declaration as a Bahá'í.

For three or four years, I found deep spiritual meaning as a Bahá'í. I drank in the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and the Báb like an intoxicating perfume.

Yet, there was this niggling feeling in the back of my brain of a hunger that was not quite satisfied.

Not feeling that I could be true to the Bahá'í Faith, I left to become a spiritual free-lancer.

My journey took me to Star of the Sea, a tiny non-denominational and metaphysical Christian church in the next town over from mine. The minister and I became fast friends.

The circle was now starting to close.

While I am still considered to be a member of that tiny little church, I have not been there for a couple of years. Its services were during Sunday afternoons; and with an active teenager in the house, it was getting more and more difficult for me to go to services.

Still, I needed to go somewhere.

Because I have heard wonderful things about Good Shepherd, a small Episcopalian church in the same town as Star of the Sea, I decided to check it out.

I am glad I did.

The very first time I set foot in that church, the people immediately made me feel welcome. Because the Episcopalian liturgy is very similar to that of the Catholic Church, there were many prayers and responses that I already knew by heart ~ despite two decades of disuse.

Maybe it's the baby-boomer in me that seeks comfort in the familiarity of past rituals. And comfort is what I found when going to Good Shepherd.

Good Shepherd is my spiritual family. That is where I belong.

It is at Good Shepherd where I received my desire to serve others. It is there where that desire expressed itself through my serving both as a reader and as a lay Eucharistic minister.

My dear, devoted mother will never be able to be a priest in her church. But I am fortunate that I do have that possibility with my church.

Family History Series ~ The Giant In My Backyard

Seeing that it may take awhile before I can get information about the years my family lived in England before I was born, I will jump ahead to the time after I had arrived.

We lived on 11 Annandale Road, in Corby, Northants, England. I was born in my parents' bed with the assistance of Ilse, a midwife who was already well into the second half of her life.

(In all the years of practicing her profession, Ilse had seen it all. That is until I came along. The sound of my loud wailing before I even exited my mother's womb was a sure sign that an incorrigible and unrepentant chatterbox was being born!)

One of my memories while still living in England was the many times that I spent in our backyard on the wooden swing that my father had made me. Often it was during times when my mother would be hanging up the laundry or working in the garden.

Sometimes it would be by myself.

During the warm months, when my mother and I would be outside, I would hear a loud noise that would get increasingly louder. I had no idea what it could be.

It wasn't something that seemed to concern my mother because she did not even seem to have noticed it, let alone react to it. So, as long as my mother was outside with me, I felt safe.

It was only after she had gone in when the noise would get even louder. I could not see where it was coming from. So I would imagine that it was being created by a giant that was making its way towards my backyard.

The noise would scare me. And I would quickly run inside for protection.

One day, I was determined to make myself stay outside no matter how loud that noise got.

I was outside with my mother while she was hanging up the laundry. Sure as ever, the noise started from what seemed like somewhere far beyond the horizon.

My mother went in; but I sat determinedly in the little wooden seat of my swing set. As expected, the noise grew louder. I was scared; but I was staying put.

The noise had now reached the level of volume that had sent me running for the house. Still I sat.

I could feel the fear and anxiety welling up inside me. But I was doing to see this through.

It got even louder.

Surely that giant was going to come lumbering over the hedges soon! I could easily envision its huge hulking and angry form.

Oh! This was surely far more anxiety than my little 3-year-old heart could take.


Lest the giant see me sitting all alone in my swing, I quickly bolted for the door.


To this day I never knew what made that frightening noise.

Several years ago I thought that it, perhaps, could have been cicadas. After all, they do create a very loud racket without there being a seemingly obvious source. And it was during the warm months, when cicadas are known to be active.

But was it really cicadas?

Before I could claim that it was cicadas that were the giant in my backyard, I needed to find out if, indeed, cicadas were common to England.

Apparently, there is only one species of cicadas in England ~ the New Forest cicada. But is that throughout England, or just in the New Forest region? After all, New Forest is quite the distance from Northants.

If cicadas weren't that noisy and scary giant, what was?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Family History Series ~ After the War

World War II had ended in 1945.

In 1946, Salomėja and Jonas had welcomed their new, five-pound bundle of joy whom they had name Salomėja Romualda, or Roma for short.

After the war, the refugees were put up the confiscated houses that had once belonged to Nazi officers. My parents, sister, and grandparents lived in one of those houses.

I wish that I had more information about that time; but for now I will have settle with what I have. (As such, this will be a short blog.)

Shortly after the war, it was common for many of the men folk to travel to other countries to obtain jobs and then return to Germany to bring their families to the new homes that they had established for them.

Jonas went with a group of men to England.

While he was still there, another group had returned for their families. Those happy reunions were just not for the sole benefit of the men's families, but also for the entire Lithuanian refugee community. People were hungry for stories about their loved ones abroad.

It must have been a fairly large community in that not everyone knew everyone else.

So, when a group of men had returned to recount their adventures in the new land and talk about that odd fellow they met there, they did not realize that the odd fellow's wife ~ Salomėja ~ was among the audience of eager ears.

How had I wished that I had known what was it about my father that made these people think he was odd. However, when I pressed for details, I was no better off than when I started.

So suffice it to say, my father was "strange" ~ not surprising since the rest of us are "strange" as well.

When Jonas returned from England, Roma was just about 2 years old. Salomėja said that because Jonas had been gone for such a long time, Roma did not recognize her own father. In fact, she was afraid of him at first. But being the gentle soul that he was, Roma's fears quickly evaporated.

With Jonas's return, it was now time to bundle up the whole family ~ including Antanas and Ieva ~ and head for the new land.

Salomėja said that before they left the Nazi officer's house, she was tempted to take with her the enormous piece of amber that she found. It was easily the size of a man's fist, perhaps even larger.

Jonas would have been able to carve more jewelry and accessories than just the earrings for Ieva and the ring for Antanas.

But Salomėja was afraid of whatever dire consequences she would have incurred had she been caught smuggling out that covetous piece of petrified sap.

So, the amber was left behind.

All I have of the amber that Jonas carved was Antanas's ring.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hippo, Birdie, Two Ewe

Yesterday was my birthday!

I'm 49 years old. Funny, I don't feel it.

I've never understood why many people ~ women usually ~ would be mortified to divulge their true age. What's the big deal? Age is just a number.

We've all heard those cliches:

"You're as young as you feel."

"You're not getting older, you're getting better."

And you know what? They're true.

Sure, I don't shake it like I used to when I was 20. (In fact, last time I tried about 8 years ago, I threw out my hip! Painfully, I may add.) But showing off my chops on the dance floor is no longer a priority either.

However, at this age, I am more mentally sharp and aware than I was some 20 or 30 years ago. My learning agility has increased tremendously. My critical and analytical thinking skills scare me. Well ~ actually ~ they amaze me.

But then again, I have had all these years to mass a vast body of information and skills. And I am continually amazed how my brain can ~ in far less than a split second ~ retrieve diverse, and seemingly unrelated, odd bits of trivia and information and synthesize them into a new and coherent whole.

Let's hear it for brain power!

I don't have a problem with my age. And I don't see why anyone else should.

But unfortunately it still is a vast problem for many.

When the problem with age has to do with one's vanity, that's OK. I can accept that. After all, that is a personal choice, even though it's not one that I would make for myself.

However, when the problem rears its ugly proverbial head in the form of ageism, that's when I take exception.

And believe me, I've had plenty of experience in that department during the past year, after I lost my job as business manager for a no-kill animal shelter.

With all the work experience I have accumulated, I had less problem in getting interviews than I had in the past ~ though it was still tough.

Perspective employers sounded very enthused when they called to schedule interviews. The interviews went very well ~ so well, that I actually had good feelings when I got into my car to go back home.

Yet, when it came to making a hiring decision, it was always the same answer.

Without fail, the first statement has always been about how very impressed my interviewers were with my qualifications. (Well, they should be!) But after that followed one of two statements:

"We found someone who was a better fit for our company."


"We found someone whose qualifications were a closer match to our requirements."

Of course they weren't going to say:

"We really don't want to hire a savvy middle-age bitch who's going to get uppity on us when we're being jerks."


"A college grad is going to be much cheaper ~ and easier to push around."

That would be against the law.

It's really too bad that the working world is littered with so many unenlightened people in charge of making decisions. They are really doing their companies a disservice by passing over the more mature worker in favor of someone who is still unseasoned and untested.

Don't get me wrong. Having an 18-year-old daughter and having been young myself, I am all for giving the new grad a shot at gaining valuable work experience. But please don't pass over the older worker just for the sake of getting a bargain.

I suppose that such discriminatory and unenlightened hiring practices are one of the many reasons why older workers often start their own businesses ~ like I am hoping to with mine.

But anyhow, back to my birthday.

It was a pretty low-key day. I didn't expect much; so I really wasn't disappointed.

The highlight of my celebration was ~ well ~ getting highlights.

I spent the morning at the hairdresser's getting the cut and color that I had been anticipating all week. And with the severely faded color and more than one inch of roots, it certainly was about time.

Apparently, I never did receive my copy of the Old Fart Manual; so I really did not know what was on the "approved hair color list."

Instead, I selected one of my favorite color combinations ~ a rich eggplant purple with broad streaks of bright fuchsia.

It's my "happy color." It cheers me up. Not only that, it brings me an amazing amount of unsolicited compliments from strangers ~ even long after it's faded and grown out. And that cheers me up some more.

I didn't have any birthday cake. But I did eat all the left-over brownies that Neil brought home from his mother's house on Mother's Day.

Ariana painted a nice picture for me that was meant to be both a Mother's Day and birthday gift. She definitely had the right idea when she painted a fine bottle of wine of appropriate vintage. However, she still needs to finish her chef d'oeuvre.

In the evening, both Neil and Ariana presented me with a brand new DVD player. That was really great, considering that the old one crapped the bed months ago.

Invoking my birthday girl prerogative, I had the three of sit down as a family to watch a movie of my choice. In this case, it was "What the Bleep Do We Know?"

I like I mentioned earlier, because I did not expect much for my birthday, I was not disappointed. Actually, I was quite satisfied with my very quiet and low-key birthday celebration.

However next year, when I turn 50, I will be expecting a big bash!

Friday, May 11, 2007

...The Great Puerto Rican Pig Roast

There are some days that are so amazing that there is no way they cannot be permanently etched into memory.

The Great Puerto Rican Pig Roast is one such day.

Even though we went to the pig roast two summers ago, Ariana and I still talk about it as having been one of the best days we ever had.

The Great Puerto Rican Pig roast took place on the 3rd weekend of August at Fort Taber in New Bedford. I remember it was that particular time because that was the same time that the Civil War Weekend took place.

(Ft. Taber is quite the sparkling gem in New Bedford's treasure chest!)

We were invited to the pig roast by Jane, who was a co-worker and friend of José, our host. Jane was the mother of Liz, Ariana's friend.

José had been at the park since 6 that morning, roasting the pig on a spit inside this big barrel-type arrangement.

We could already smell the pig roasting when we arrived at 9 AM.

Because the morning started foggy and overcast ~ which is very common in seaside communities such as ours, I had taken the weather into consideration as I got dressed before we left. All too many times, an entire day would pass without the fog burning off.

Too bad I did not take that into consideration ~ although my bright daughter, Ariana did.

Surely, about an hour or two after we got there, the fog did indeed burn off, leaving us with a bright and glorious summer day. How I had wished that I had thought to wear a pair of shorts instead of long pants!

As the morning progressed, more people started arriving ~ each one bringing more food or drink for the party.

Soon, our little picnic spot was packed with people.

Latin music played was young girls danced to the beat. It was beautiful watching them dance and sway to the music.

And when a very young girl exclaimed, "Oh! That's my favorite song!" I was taken away by the fact that someone at that tender age could be excited by her cultural music, especially when most kids her age subsisted on a diet solely consisting of rap music.

It was a pleasantly slow and languorous day where we alternated between sitting on the lawn, checking on the progress of the pig, wading or swimming in the water (Watch out for the jelly fish!), and eating.

When it finally came time to serve the pig, everyone was more than ready to partake.

Ariana and I are not all that big fans of pork. But the Puerto Rican roasted pig was food for the gods! The skin was so crispy ~ seasoned delightfully with adobo and garlic. We have never tasted anything SO good.

Ariana grabbed the tail; and enjoyed it immensely.

All the food was good. And it was so great to eat real Latin food ~ Spanish rich, plantains, cucumber salad.

We were so stuffed to the gills that it was really hard to make room for dessert. But we had to!

It appears that the pig roast was also a birthday celebration. Two girls were celebrating their birthdays. So there was plenty of delicious birthday dessert.

For the life of me, I cannot remember what the birthday dessert was, because we were so overwhelmed by the pig. But I do remember that it was something that I had not seen before. And I remember that it was really good!

While the awesome food was the highlight of the pig roast, I really enjoyed being part of a cultural celebration that I would have not normally been privy too.

It did not escape my notice that Jane, Liz, Ariana, and I were the only white people there and that many of the people did not speak English.

While some may have been uncomfortable with that, it made the experience all the more real and all the more memorable.

I felt it to be an honor to be included in such a celebration. Color and language was not an issue. We were all here to celebrate!

In no way did I feel that I was not able to communicate with my fellow party goers. If anything, it gave me the opportunity to use the high school Spanish that I remembered from many, many moons ago.

Yes, I would like some cervesa (beer), but muy poquito, pro favor (very little, please) because I had to drive. And when that cool beer went down my throat on that day that wound up turning out to be hot, I gladly proclaimed that it was muy fresca (very cool and freshing) to the smiling faces who poured me my beer!

Long after the pig had been served, we saw another party arrive to the picnic area next to us. It was another Hispanic party.

Ariana and I watched someone bring a very gorgeous floral arrangement to the party. However, upon closer look, we realized that it was not flowers, but fruit!

Of course we had to go to the next party to compliment them on the fruit bouquet. Apparently such an item is a common thing to Hispanic celebrations.

Stuffed beyond belief with pig and dessert, Jane and I rested to let our meal digest as the girls continued to dance to the Latin music.

Ariana and Liz took took off to explore the park. They later returned with free ice cream that they got while flirting with the young man at the ice cream truck.

We had already been at the Great Puerto Rican Pig Roast for 9 hours!

It was time to go home.

But not before getting plates of leftovers to bring home with us!

It's Green

Each day is taking me farther away from Winter's cold grip.

Winter was fun when I was much younger, when a heavy snowfall meant "No School!"

It didn't mean having to shovel out a long driveway to get to a job that was totally oblivious to all the area's snow cancellations.

Nor did it mean wearing ~ inside the house ~ 2 pairs of PJ bottoms on top of a pair of long johns, 3 sweat shirts (2 with hoods), shearing-lined boots, and a pair of fingerless gloves when the heat was turned off after the pipes burst on a Sunday in January.

Unlike the two winters before, where we needed a front-end loader to dig us out ~ we have been blessed with a mild winter this year.

It may have snowed twice. And even then, I had been able to get away without doing any shovelling.

Most of the time it rained ~ a raw and cold, yucky New England rain.

Still, I didn't have to shovel it.

That was the one good thing about the rain ~ especially when it came down in such heavy amounts that had it been snow, we would have been buried for a week.

Those days are now past.

And even though the threat of frost is not gone until Memorial Day, it's green!

The trees and shrubs are a green explosion!

Not only that, flowers are blooming everywhere.

The bleeding heart that I planted last summer is now over three times the height it was last year. And it's still growing! Not only that, it is already covered in tons of pendulous blossoms.

The tulips are out. So is the over-abundance of grape hyacinths, azaleas, flowering cherries, daffodils, and the ever-present dandelions.

Soon the lilacs and wisteria will follow.

Then the air will be heavy with rich fragrance.

Soon I'll be able to open the windows and breathe in the fresh scent of the outdoors instead of the stale smell of cat boxes that are not cleaned as often as they should be.

Already I hear the sound of spring peepers at night.

Already the starlings have returned to nest in the no-longer-used dryer vent above our first floor bathroom.

Songbirds have been returning as well, each morning lending their new voices to the choir that greets the new day.

Soon the robins, chickadees, cardinals, and blue jays will be accompanied by yellow finches and Baltimore orioles.

Soon the mockingbird will sing his song in the middle of the night.


The time of year that I have been awaiting will very soon be upon us!

Soon I'll be sitting on the front ~ wisteria-covered ~ porch in shorts and a tank top with a cold brew by my side.

I'll be listening to the loud music from passing cars and smelling the mouth-watering aromas from the neighbors' grills.

Those tempting and seducing smells!

They're making me remember...

Monday, May 7, 2007

Whiplash and Culture Shock

In one of the on-line groups that I belong to, there was a discussion about artists and other weirdos.

While responding to the post, I thought about the time I had moved to New Bedford in 1981.

All my life, I had to deal with people thinking I was a little bit weird. That was OK.

If being "weird" meant having a greater understanding and appreciation of the world around you by enriching your life with new experiences and learning new things ~ then that was fine by me. And if people chose to be afraid to venture past the self-limiting mindsets that have been ingrained in them since birth ~ well I could respect their choice to do so.

For the most part, I had no problems with being the oddball. After all, my quirky perspective and subsequent commentary have easily made people laugh ~ even when I wasn't trying.

Because life can be funny and laughter a great thing, my "weirdness" was easily channeled into my own particular brand of off-beat humor.

After all, how many people can say that nerds and geeks are sexy ~ and honestly mean it?

But that's besides the point.

For most of my life, I've had no problem in finding an appreciative audience.

When we moved to this country, my family was lucky enough to have settled into Providence, Rhode Island.

Thanks to Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the many other colleges and universities that fair city, Providence was quite the cosmopolitan community. A family of foreigners such as my own hardly stood out. And for folks who valued education, Providence was fertile grounds for further enrichment.

Even though we lived in a small working-class neighborhood, it was not uncommon to find ourselves neighbors with college professors.

However, when I moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1981 ~ right after I graduated college ~ I was in for quite the culture shock.

After being spoiled by Providence, where you could find just about anything and where you could get to anywhere thanks to the city buses that ran until midnight, it was quite a shock to discover that the mass transit system in New Beige raked in the sidewalks right after 5 o'clock.

What's more, where in New Bedford could I find a decent tin of imported tea?

Still, New Bedford was a charming city, even though ~ after living in Providence ~ this Number One fishing port felt more like a large town trying to pretend it was a small city.

The historic waterfront, with its cobblestone streets, was a short walk from my apartment. The opulent sea captains' mansions were another short walk in a different direction.

However, the daily walk to my job in downtown was like running a gauntlet. In one week I would experience more incidents of sexual harassment than in the 20 years I've lived in Providence.

This was all the part of the beginning of my realization that New Bedford was a very different place from good ol' Providence.

For one thing, the style of clothing that I preferred at the time would have not even caused anybody to bat a eye in Providence. In New Bedford, it caused major whiplash.

Of course I did not know to what great extent this was so ~ not until long after a certain incident.

That occurred just months after I moved to New Bedford.

A roommate had worked as a short order cook at a local downtown greasy spoon that was a favorite fisherman hang-out. She was kind enough to get me a job there, too.

It certainly was not a job worthy of my college degree in physics. But it did help pay the rent, which I shared with 3 other people. When people would ask me what I did, I would joke and say that I was studying the laws of thermodynamics by observing the rate of heat exchange from a hot grill to a cold piece of meat.

On my day off, which was also payday, I called my roomie at the greasy spoon and asked her if she wanted to do some downtown shopping after I picked up my pay.

(In those days, the weekly "pay check" was actually an envelope filled with small bills and coins.)

Anyhow, I was feeling in a really playful mood that day. So much so that I was going to wear my favorite clothes.

I first started off with my favorite jeans from college ~ the ones covered w/tons of leather patches and a random braided cord hanging from one of the belt loops. Next came my embroidered denim jacket with the large blue and green lizard that curled in a crescent on the back.

The look was completed with a pair of Frye boots that a friend had worn to the anti-war demonstration in DC in 1969 , a "Dr. Who" scarf that was actually a weaving sampler that I made in my fiber class, and a green floppy felt hat.

Boy! I looked SO cool it was scary!

When I got there, Karla had just finished cooking the last meal, and asked me to bring the plate out to the bar as she cleaned the grill. Being the good roomie, I was glad to oblige.

That done, and having collected our pay envelopes, we left.

When I returned to work the following week, I was in for the surprise of my life.

Up to this time, the diner's owner treated me like a daughter. However, now she did a complete 180 and became Cinderella's evil step-mother. And I had not the slightest clue why.

After a few more weeks of all of a sudden finding the tiniest fault in whatever I said or did, I was unceremoniously let go. Basically, I was told not to come back.

It wasn't until much later that I discovered the reason for this abrupt change of heart on the part of the owner.

Now that I reflect back on that time, I can see that it's actually comical.

You see, shortly after I brought the food out to the bar and Karla and I left, all of the patrons cleared out of the bar to have a look at the "real hippy" that just left the greasy spoon with the cook!

And apparently, the owner was NOT amused. Not in the least!

That was just the first of many lessons on not the best ways to "get noticed" in New Bedford.

Fortunately, since my first calamitous years in New Beige, the city's cultural and arts community started emerging ~ and growing. Many artists have been flocking to NB because of the availability and cheapness of studio space.

And during those years, I have grown and changed as well.

No, New Bedford is not Providence. Nor should it.

With its being home to sea captains and Moby Dick, slavery abolitionists and the Underground Railroad, New Bedford is a historical gem.

Not only that, New Bedford seafood is the best!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Sister Fun Talk

Somebody please pass the Depends!

I am laughing so hard that I am afraid that I am going to wet my knickers. So is my sister Roma.

So, what set us off this time?

Both Roma and I belong to EphemeralNotions a Yahoo mixed-media arts group. And Roma has been honored by being chosen to be this month's ENAiR ~ EphemeralNotions Artist in Residence.

Terri, our gracious and most patient moderator, had posted a series of 20 statements about Roma, of which only some were true. Members had to guess which ones were false.

Our Fearless Leader had no idea what can of worms she opened! (Or was it a can of Whoop Ass?!)

The both of us hit the keyboards right away, launching a repartee of sisterly barbs and taunts. You know, the usual. Then we would be on the phone, asking each other if we've seen the most recent post, and then laugh ourselves silly when we discussed our responses.

It would often get hard to talk because we would be gripped so hard with convulsive laughter. Even if no one else was having that much fun, we were having a blast!

There really is something to say about sister-sister relationships.

I am truly blessed to have Roma as my sister.

Roma is 12 years older than I am.

When I was growing up, she practically raised me, getting me registered in kindergarten because our mother did not speak English all that well. Roma also fought my battles for me, going to speak to my teachers when bullies would harass me.

At night, I would go to her room and climb in her bed for what we called "Sister Fun Talk."

Roma would tell stories ~ some of them scary. (Which must be why I still enjoy a good scary story.)

And we would play a game called "Wilfred Pickle" (named after the stink pot turtle that Roma got for me as a pet from one of the students at her first teaching job), where one of us would open her mouth, and the other, with eyes closed, would try to navigate her finger into "Wilfred's" mouth.

Silly little game, wasn't it?

As I grew older and went off to college, I drifted apart from Roma. At that point, I felt that she was being too much of a mother. My adolescent rebellion was not directed towards my mother but towards my sister.

After Ariana was born, and several tense years between us passed, our bond renewed itself and emerged stronger than ever.

Sister Fun Talk now resumed at Women's Wilderness Weekend of Rhode Island where Roma presided as Mother Superior over the Sisters of the Mercy Buckets (from one of Roma's student's fractured French for "merci beaucoup") ~ a small group consisting of the two of us and a few of Roma's former teaching colleagues.

Having been raised speaking Lithuanian, Roma and I had a sort of secret language where we would pepper our dialogues with Lithuanian words and phrases ~ sometimes with hilarious results.

Ariana had mentioned that when Roma and I get together we're "scary." Taunts, teasing, and barbs would fly out unabated at an alarming rate. We were a comedy tag team that entertained many an innocent by-stander. And we were masters at our game!

Roma's best friend, Lynne, was also a master of this game. When the three of us would get together ~ WATCH OUT!

Shopkeepers would remember us long after Roma and Lynne returned to their homes in Rhode Island, leaving me with another set of fond memories to cherish and get me through until the next visit.

All in all, this has been a great day of Sister Fun Talk!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

A New Kind of Pyramid

In one of the on-line groups that I belong to, one of the members posted that she:
  • refuses to watch the news on TV
  • does not read newspapers
  • does not listen to the news on the radio
  • refuses to watch movies about war, crime or thrillers
  • chooses to watch TV programs on things that only make her "feel good"
Following these guidelines had a HUGE impact on taking a lot of fear out of her life.

For the most part, I pretty much follow the same guidelines. Please note that I said, "for the MOST part."

Take the issue about TV.

I really don't watch all that much of it.

There was a time when I would willingly allow myself to be possessed by the one-eyed monster. But nowadays, I can take it or leave it. (That and the radio.)

In fact, I once went nearly 20 years without watching TV. The only exception I made was when I had one of my college dorm mates (who had the only TV in the dorm) put on the TV so that I could watch my favorite cartoon, "Jonny Quest."

Oh yeah, that and watch the first space shuttle return to Earth and do a perfect 3-point landing.

I prefer to get my news (and inspiration for this blog) from the paper or news magazines because I think it is important to be up-to-date and informed on current affairs.

However, I also religiously read the funnies, as well as "Angels on Earth"magazine, some "eye-candy" art journals, and Neil's issue of "Mental Floss."

One cannot totally avoid being exposed to news about the conflict in this world and our own communities; but one need not ceaselessly focus on it either.

Just like there is a food pyramid, where all the stuff that's no-so-good for your body is way up at the tippity top, perhaps we should also have a news/media pyramid as well.

And what would that media pyramid look like?

I suppose all those violent crime movies, thrillers, and horror flicks can go up in the very top.

That way I can still watch Hannibal Lecter or a good Stephen King without any guilt, just so long I don't over do it ~ just like I don't over do it on the ice cream. (I'll take a good scary movie over a chick flick any day!)

Below that we can have the news. Not all the new that is fit to print. Just the stuff about current affairs like the war in Iraq, the Virginia Tech massacre, and your local crooked polititian.

Underneath that we'll have the human-interest stories ~ the "soft news."

And on the bottom, supporting it all, will be the stuff that really makes us feel good ~ like the funnies, inspirational stuff, etc.

That way, we can assure that we maintain a balanced media intake.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Universe Is Now Taking Orders

Sometime last year I had experienced a bit of a rough patch. I was overcome by a depression ~ the likes of which I had not experienced before.

I lost interest in the things I liked to do.

Two months easily flew by without me even wanting to check my email, or chat with friends on an Internet group that I belonged to. I did not even want to go near a phone. (I never really liked the phone all that much anyway.)

Well, my on-line friends took notice.

And before long, they had gathered a bunch of "cheer-me-up" goodies and shipped them off to me.

One of the things in that box of cheer was an altered art journal, created by Took, this blog's number one fan and commentator.

Because this was a lovely journal, a thoughtful gift, AND a Took original, I wanted this book to serve a special purpose.

Months later this "special purpose" revealed itself to me.

This book was going to serve as a repository for my visions ~ the dreams I wish to manifest in my life ~ and as an aid to help me maintain my focus on these dreams.

The first several pages had images of the things I wish to manifest ~ wealth, a best seller, a successful business, and the transformation of my house into a fantasy dream home.

(Somehow, when I up-loaded this image, the blues and the yellows got switched. That's supposed to be a blue sky and yellow sunflowers. Go figure.)

This was going to be fun, because it meant that I was going to play around with editing and altering images on the computer.

So, gracing page one was a $1,000,000 check made out to me from the Bank of the Universe.

The next page had me practically buried in a pile of Benjamins.

Page 3 showed my N.Y. Times best seller, Wealth Happens.

On the next page was the entrance for my proposed business, Pixelektra Studio.

And the 5th page featured my fantasy dream home.

Yes, this is my actual home. And with a little bit of digital magic, I turned it into a place of my dreams. (Hey! I even "fixed" the roof!)

Accompanying these images were my words, gushing with gratitude, and thanking God for these many blessings.

Not one to stop there, I began making a list of all the other things for which I am grateful, such as my family ~ the two-legged, the four-legged, and even the no-legged, my strength and intelligence, my creativity, Winter's passing and Spring's arrival, etc.

Waiting to be started is a section devoted to things that can shift my mood from a negative to a positive state.

I still haven't worked on that section because I had not had the time.

But that is just as well; for while waiting for an occasion to work on that section, I had the insight and inspiration to include images in that section.

Scanner and computer, here I come!

I am a visually-oriented person. And what better way to focus my thinking and shift my mood than through images?

Focusing on the positive and on the pleasure my dreams bring me is a much better thing than to focus on the negative appearances that are presently in my line of sight.

Life is supposed to be fun.

The Chips Are Never Down

My biggest venture into the gambling has been merely the occasional purchase of a lottery or scratch ticket. I am not all that interested in gambling. I have never been in a casino; nor have I the desire to set foot in one.

However, there was a story in this past Sunday's paper that caught my attention and piqued my curiosity.

At age 21, Isaac Haxton is a professional poker player. Not only that, this Brown University drop-out is a millionaire. The professional gaming world has its eyes trained on this young up-and-coming poker pro.

It's always amazing to read about somebody that young earning an amount of money that many people will not see in their lifetime.

However, what is more amazing is Isaac's attitude towards money and gambling in general.

The kid isn't playing poker for the money.

Money is nothing more than numbers ~ even though it may be hard for some people to grasp Isaac's cavalier attitude about instantly losing $27,000 in a single hand or his paying a $12,000 entrance fee to a competition on the West Coast.

Poker is nothing more than a game that allows Isaac to mentally calculate and beat the odds. Basically, he is a mathematics and statistics whiz kid who derives pleasure from exercising his mental faculties. The fact that this kid's earning a whopping $1.2 million is just a by-product of the pursuit of his intellectual entertainment.

Perhaps one of the fascinating things about this story is that Isaac has remained untouched and unscathed by the very game and behavior that has ruined countless of lives. Isaac is not a gambler. He's just a kid having fun ~ and making a killing while he's at it.

What an awesome and inspiring thing! This kid doing what countless people merely dream of doing.

Can you imagine swimming in all those Benjamins just by playing?

How many people spend countless years ~ perhaps most of their lives ~ at jobs where they are miserable and do not even have a chance to see that kind of money?

And how many of those people have had their lives destroyed by trying to get a taste of what Isaac does naturally and does for fun.

Am I going to rethink my position on gambling and take it up so that I could solve our financial woes.

I don't think so. After all, casinos and gambling hold no attraction for me.

In fact, I don't even think that I am even going to buy the new $20 lottery ticket with the $20 million prize and ten $1 million prizes.

Not unless I get a clear and unmistakable sign that I should.