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The Bath

thaw

Days end. I descend into soothing heat, carefully, slowly, aching muscles anticipating relief. Water musically jingles as my toes re-emerge, tempering the effects of steaming water that so warmly encircles me.

I sprawl, extending my limbs, pointing, flexing, internally grateful that my appendages still oblige without too much grief. I breathe in and breathe out, long and satisfied. Eyes close. Legs wedged within the basin walls harness me. My head tilts back, cradled by a bundled up towel, soft and worn by much use. It does a fine job. I sigh deeply.

With every slight move, water laps gently against the bath walls. I’m reminded of quiet nights on the lake. Water black, almost still but for the waters gentle swish and tap against a dock beneath my dangling limbs.

The heat becomes a bit much, my face flushed pink. I reach out. With one, then two cranks a window is opened yet no cool reprieve? Patience is called upon. A few seconds more and the scent of fallen snow enters. I inhale fully. This fragrance of snow makes me smile. A soft cooling breeze now streams over my repose. Joy.

What’s this now? My bustling chimney has sent a reminder. Burning timbers mingle with wintery air and a smoky aroma fills my nostrils. A hearth-side fire awaits me.

I slide a bit deeper into the warm water, content. The air outside shifts and speaks, swirling around drooping snow laden branches, a subdued whisper in my ears, poetry.

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mom

There’s no place like home.

In the summer of 2011 Victor was planning a 57th anniversary extravaganza for his bride. Vic’s rather intense focus on this event gave his family pause. Did he know something that they did not?

In his retirement Vic spent the hours of his day weaving together better lives for his children, grandchildren and his wife Joan. Whether the focus was a particular job market, insurance policy or recently enacted labor law, Vic stayed versed to ensure his best advice was shared. He was an intellectual jack of all trades and a rock for his family.

In the summer of 2011 Joan spent her days selling real estate along the Jersey Shore. When not showing a property, possibly to the son or granddaughter of a long ago client, Joan could be found perched on her back deck. Calling over the railings to one of her beloved neighbors, or dropping a crab line with visiting family, in these moments Joan’s life was content.

The following April, Vic would be taken from Joan. His diligence in all things, including his health had enabled Vic to reach his 80th year, but not beyond. Joan, a strong and independent woman, was left to find her new norm. Her large pool of family and friends bolstered her on.

October 2012 rolled around. The flood of family and seasonal neighbors tapered off as summer fun turned to school and commitments. Though still grieving, Joan rallied. In the six months since her husband passed she joined clubs, made some new friends and did her best to engage life. Though the effects of a degenerated back limited her physicality, Joan’s hardworking mindset and headstrong spirit, would yield not to the morose.

Hurricane Sandy hit and entire lives were washed away. Whether a 1950’s bungalow on Long Beach Island to a 1920’s multi-family in Staten Island, as is the case with mass devastation, neither class nor structure had the upper hand.

When Joan returned home it was determined her entire 1st floor would need to be gutted. Into the dumpster went sheet rock and wood floors, wedding albums and furniture. Even the special couch she and Vic had recently picked out together, held hands on in his final months, was gone.

Lagoon muck layered the deck and exterior walls of Joan’s home. Other homes were overtaken by sand. Evergreens and carefully tended gardens would later succumb to the salt water that had penetrated their roots.

Within a week black mold began its ascent on closet walls within Joan’s home. Stagnant water, caught in venting and crawl spaces, was quickly becoming a hazard. Communities scrambled to find contractors to remediate, to rebuild. Residents followed directives best possible as they searched through damp paperwork and for places to live. The weather turned cold and slowly, as winter pressed forward and holiday celebrations were impossibilities, yellow marks denoting demolition began appearing on house after house. Permanent and secondary residents scrambled to determine coverage, if any. Food trucks and shelters provided a meal or roof for those dazed by life altering conditions and who had no other doors open to them.

Joan began her life as a gypsy. Living a combination of thankfulness for her blessings and fury for her loss, she adopted the mantra that this ‘too’ shall soon pass. She was required to sign a contract in the mist of chaos that locked her in with a construction firm. They promised fast remediation and a rebuild by March. Chin up Joan reasoned, ‘March, I can do that.’

Joan was living on a fixed income. Sporadic sales from real estate, in such a depressed market, were little help. However, her Vic had crafted solid home owners and flood insurance policies years prior to his death. When he weighed financial implications, should one of them grow ill or pass, after months of research he signed a reverse mortgage. The insurance coverage was a Godsen for Joan. Too many permanent residents, elderly retirees, low-moderate income families and other, have nothing tangible to rebuild their lives.

As neighborhoods and memories were leveled, properties were reassessed and nest eggs cracked. Those whose retirement was supported through the years of hard work and equity built into their homes, were and are, in dire straits. A depressed housing market compounded by the crushing effects of Sandy knocked years of eligibility off reverse mortgages. In all of the fine print banks do not have an allowance for ‘Acts of God’ that might impact their elderly client base.

March turned into summer. It became apparent that processing the necessary permits and hustling for permanent residents was not the priority. This was partly due to the chaos but no doubt impacted by money and individual aggression. Companies hired inexperienced laborers to keep up with the volume while people like Joan waited in their temporary housing, waited to restart their lives.

Joan’s experience was riddled with one mistake after another. Out of state insurance adjusters, temporary hires that have since moved on, instructed remediation companies on how to proceed; what to rip out and how high to go. Seven months later these many costly directives never made it to files and subsequent insurance payout. Companies like Comcast, whose services were wiped out for months, created SOPs for customer’s post Sandy. Many people, like Joan, who were dealing with matters far greater than cable and internet, did not know to follow these directives. Though her home was uninhabitable and her suffering enormous, when recently asked to waive, mitigate or credit the 8 months of bills Joan paid out for unused services, she was declined. She did not follow the ‘SOP’ as explanation…but ‘let me save you some money on your triple play package moving forward!’

Joan moved back in the last week of June. She would reside on her second floor, step over the exposed wood stairwell and bare the heat, as her air conditioning was not yet replaced. She would use a mini fridge in a spare bedroom since the electrical was not completed on her main floor and because of insurance mishaps and the dragged feet of her contractor, her kitchen would not arrive for perhaps another 6 weeks.

Upon returning home she learned the electrician was fired. Shortly thereafter the general contractor was fired. All of electricians work would need to be reviewed or redone. Workers erroneously covered over electrical boxes and vents with sheetrock, and these issues would need to be addressed as well. Joan was exhausted, but elated to be in her home finally. To look out over her still messy post Sandy yard and see the smiles from her neighbors alongside and across the lagoon, was heaven to her. She would have her new norm back, soon.

The day after she returned home, a health issue sent Joan into the hospital. Four days later she was back in her house and now in addition to the debacle of an unfinished home, she had significant health concerns to tackle.

Joan’s family, seven children and their many spouses and children, have stayed by her side throughout this ordeal but maybe no one has been on watch more than her husband Vic. A day following her ‘second’ return home, with temperatures in the 90’s, workers shuffled around her upper attic. That evening Joan and two of her daughters, following some card games and laughter, headed to bed after midnight. Joan fell asleep in minutes but her daughter Pat, lying in bed beside her, noticed something was not right. The ceiling above them was open. An entire seam, extending wall to wall was bowed and the darkness of the attic above exposed.

Pat jostled Joan awake and they headed to the first floor. Early in the morning the ceiling fell down directly on the bed, where Joan would have slept. Though this event may not be the fault of current laborers but rather poor construction choices by the original builder, compounded by heat, Joan has yet another issue to address.

The one place not impacted by Sandy was Joan and Vic’s bedroom. Surrounded by their ‘things’ she felt a peace sleeping in this space, a sense of comfort she had not felt in too many months. Through the watchful eye of one of his children, it’s believed Vic was looking out for his Joan.

Recently, two friends were discussing the new ‘Stronger than the Storm’ slogan. They felt, with people still homeless and struggling on so many levels, it was too early to promote tourism and depict a rebuilt shoreline in advertisements being played along the east coast. I see their point but do not agree. Tourism, for these shoreline communities is imperative. For many who will visit these locations and see Sandy’s devastation for the first time, their awareness may help to aid the job still very much at hand. ‘Stronger than the Storm,’ depicts the people, like Joan, who love their communities and who remain strong and optomistic these many months later.

When asked about her most recent encounter, Joan’s reply was, ‘at least I’m alive.’ Joan is not a complainer. She’s the strongest woman I know, my mom.

Do you need help post Sandy?
http://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/sandyrecovery – up to usd10,000 available for non construction costs incurred by Sandy impacted (cost of living/ incidentals etc). Pass the word.

How you can help:
http://www.strongerthanthestorm.com
contact@sandyrelieffund.org or visitwww.sandyrelieffund.org

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trent in box
Hello all,

Been a few weeks since I’ve posted – the paying job is trumping my writing endeavors and that’s partly due to such minor things like college tuition! Speaking of colleges, my oldest son Ryan and his fellow University of Maryland Terps, are raising money for The Children’s Miracle Network http://childrensmiraclenetworkhospitals.org/.

His goal is to raise usd100.00 by this Saturday but I’m hoping, after reading about The Children’s Miracle Network’s efforts, that these social and business networking tools will result in a much larger sum. $1.00, $5.00, $50.00 – every little bit counts so if you can spare a minute and a couple of bucks, please consider helping the Terp community raise money for this worthwhile cause. The following recap is taken from the CMNH website;

‘In 30 years, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals has raised $4.7 billion, most of it $1 at a time. But the need is ever-present. Right now there’s a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital working to save the lives of kids in your community. In fact, 62 children enter a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital for treatment every minute — that’s one child every second. Some are battling cancer. Some are suffering from a traumatic injury. Others require constant care because they were born too early, or with a genetic disease.

Regardless of why the kids are there, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals always have their doors open. Our Network includes 170 hospitals that provide world-class care for every patient. In fact, our U.S. member hospitals provide $3.4 billion in charity care each year.’

This Saturday, March 9th, Ryan & other Terp’s, will be dancing on Cole Field at the University of Maryland College Park campus, for 12 hours straight. With a vow not to sit down once they want to mirror the strength and determination shown by these amazing children fighting disease and injury.

TO DONATE: Ryan’s direct link is as follows;
http://www.helpmakemiracles.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=181634

Thank you -please pass on and share-
A very proud and blessed Mom
Kathleen

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Jersey Fresh Shoppes

JFS pic
The road to success is wherever people need another road. ~Robert Brault

The road, in this case, happens to travel through New Jersey, the Garden State. However, it is not a road designed by civil engineers or formed through layers of asphalt, though these modes of transit will help the Jersey Fresh Shoppe concept succeed.

The roads I speak about are a collection of ideas routed toward solutions and financial profits for the state of NJ and our agricultural community; farmers through fisheries, artists through scholars.

The Jersey Fresh Shoppes concept was reviewed by Lieutenant Governor Guadagno and forwarded to the Secretary of Agriculture. Douglas Fischer saw the possibilities and a meeting followed. Last September, pre Hurricane Sandy, I met with the DOA and talked through the concept’s options, potential hurdles as well as the many benefits this endeavor could bring to our state and agri community. Separately, I met with the largest retailer owned cooperative in the United States, Wakefern Corporation. Their input was invaluable. The attributes of JF Shoppe’s multi-faceted concept were validated through these meetings.

Though originally intended as a state initiative, after thoughtful review, the man-power and start-up capital needed to implement the Jersey Fresh Shoppes’ brand was deemed unmanageable by the State of New Jersey. This determination, though understood, was regrettable as the long term benefits are expansive.

Post Sandy, putting initiatives into motion that have the ability to secure revenue for NJ and our agricultural communities, by expanding the Jersey Fresh brand into greater markets, is even more important.

I am now seeking help from the private sector, parties who will take a look at the various aspects of my idea to see if my vision can be ‘our’ vision. I do not have the financial resources, nor the full scope of business knowledge needed to execute this concept alone, but, what I do have is the belief in an idea and an affinity for my New Jersey. In the right hands the Jersey Fresh Shoppes could be a successful business venture, and simultaneously, a helpful hand extended to New Jersey.

If you would like to learn more, please contact me at NJFShoppes@yahoo.com. Feel free to forward this to other persons you believe may have an interest.

I thank you for your time-
Kathleen

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The Market Experiment

FM1 FM4 FM3 FM2

 

I’m a sucker for farmers markets and was happy to learn that a winter operation exists nearby. http://stocktonfarmmarket.com/. My husband suggested we take the kids and check it out. Perusing my dormant garden from the kitchen window, all ash grey and crunchy with just a hint of green lettuce and kale poking through the soil, I was elated. Oh, to walk amongst fresh and locally sourced products and not in a mass market setting. Joy.

We entered the building and were each engaged. The kids went right to the chocolatier counter where superior quality dark chocolate was blended with milk and offered in samples. We visited the local meats and cheese counters, were intrigued by the mushrooms and tasted and sniffed our way through an herb and spice section. Samples of freshly made tortillas and salsa were tried and I salivated over the healthy focaccia, eggplant and other delectable concoctions baked up by two talented ladies.

Without overwhelming the space with tables and wares, there were just enough local artisans selling a myriad of products to keep it interesting; hand knitted clothing, jewelry, truly beautiful wood work and letterpress services, to name a few. After some walking around, my youngest, ever hungry and relentless when he wants something to eat, pushed us toward the café section. We agreed to a hot chocolate and a scone for the boys, while we grabbed a coffee. When rounding the bend my husband and older son were met with a surprise. Their favorite show is a new Travel Channel series called, Dangerous Grounds. Wouldn’t you know the coffee was from http://www.lacolombe.com/. It tasted pretty darn good and resulted in our watching the two most recent episodes when we arrived home.

However, before that happened, I had an idea. Everyone seemed excited about the foods available though I knew many of these items would not typically make it to our table. I for one was eyeing up the mushroom display and longed to work some into a future dinner. I suggested we pick out a little bit of our favorite items within the marketplace and I would create a meal the next night from our selections. My husband and older son jumped earnestly on board. My youngest pointed at the mushroom display, said flatly, ‘I am NOT eating that,’and headed toward the chocolate counter.

We selected fresh smoked bacon, a nicely aged asiago cheese and two types of mushrooms. Wonderful mushroom lady informed me of the medicinal benefits of mushrooms which was fungilicious news to me. My older son’s favorite detail was in learning that the maitaki was pulled off an oak tree, ‘That’s cool’.

We traveled through the spices and I settled on dry cilantro. The family picked out ricciarelle pasta, though I didn’t realize until we arrived home that it was an import from Italy. I could live with that as well as the Tunisian extra virgin olive oil I sampled. The creamy flavor it left in my mouth was truly notable. With the help of some ingredients I had at home; tomatoes, sea salt and cracked pepper, my dinner project was ready for take off.

The next night I cooked up the bacon and dropped the smoky crumple into a pan with olive oil and mushrooms. After sautéing for a bit I threw in chopped tomato, a few pinches of dried cilantro, sea salt and black pepper. I spooned this on top of the pasta, shaved the asiago overtop, and with another pinch of cilantro and ground pepper, fingers crossed I served the experiment.

My youngest received his portion, less the mushrooms, finished his plate and had seconds of the pasta. My middle son tried the mushrooms, thoughtfully stated they weren’t for him, and ate the remainder of his meal. Still, an attempt was made and with that kind of open mind I’m sure he’ll grow into new tastes. However, should you believe ‘project eat new foods’ didn’t go well, think again. My husband, who has turned up his nose to mushrooms since he was a wee little boy, loved his meal. We discussed the consistency of two different mushrooms. Between mouthfuls we agreed that the smoky flavor intermingled with the tomato’s sweetness and creamy bite from the cheese were great combinations. My culinary future had hope thanks to this little experiment.

Next weekend we plan to head back to the Stockton Market and select options for another meal. Dinner could end up being pasta with dark chocolate sauce…but for the sake of the market experiment, even mommies have to keep an open mind.

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dad belly 2

I retreated to my bedroom. I was not up to the task of processing the noise and conversation around me. Entering my room I stood there. I could not lie in bed, I would not sleep. I could not call anyone on the phone, I would only cry and if those suffering through the same emotions as me were having a happier moment, I did not want to bring them down.

It was early evening. The sun was just beginning to set. The purple, gold and grey hues of twilight were softly streaming through my window. I walked over, knelt down at my sill and placed my head upon my hands that had come together in prayer.

I had just left my father’s side after a week of caring for him. Loving him in a way I had never done before. My funny, steadfast father was ascending, his body slowly succumbing to cancer. Each day as he was cleaned and wounds were nursed, we held his hand and participated in ways we never felt possible. I was dismayed that my dear father was enduring so much pain and loss of privacy but my feelings were insignificant compared to his own. In these moments I whispered in his ear how much I loved him, placing a thousand kisses on his cheek, as he bore through excruciating and demoralizing tending.

The morning I left, the reigns of care being ever transferred between my mother and an endless stream of family, I was dejected beyond the prognosis. Dad’s every want and need had become my own over the last week. It felt as if I was leaving my helpless child, a child who might not be there when I returned.

Bag packed, I sat at my father’s bedside forcing a smile into my eyes and frivolity into my goodbye. I took his hand and leaned in to say something along the lines of, ‘I can’t tell you how happy I have been to be here with you. I can’t remember the last time we spent so much time together. Now I have to go home to all that laundry? I just love you so much Dad. I want to stay here with you.’ My dear sweet dad looked into my eyes, cupped my hand between both of his and said, ‘So why go?’ At that moment I could have crumbled into a thousand pieces of revered yesterdays but I held it together, for him, and just laid my head on his chest.

Now kneeling at my window I prayed. I could not detach myself from his bedside, the loss and hollow feeling inside was just too much. I asked God to allow me to touch my father from my home far away, place my hands on his cheek and allow him to know in his heart that I was present. I prayed to God to lift the pain from this man who had given his family so much, was part of our core. I petitioned to God that if he must take him now, I would understand, but still I asked for a little time. One more chance to visit in the flesh the man who cast away neighborhood bullies, taught me to ride a bicycle and through the big and littles in life, had been my go-to.

It was at this moment when I felt a physical change within my room. There was stillness and a quiet that were tangible. The filtered colors of a day leaving, the subtle sway from the budded tree tops had a lulling effect. My sadness was temporarily lifted and I felt at peace. I sensed my dad knew at this moment I was thinking of him and knew I always would. I was amid a prayer being answered and I had never felt anything so beautiful in my life. I knelt unmoving, suspended in a warm caress.

My husband called up to me, seconds or maybe minutes later and though I felt this miraculous moment recede, it had left its mark. I felt peace and comfort.

… There are moments in our life, spiritual moments, that cannot be explained. I have had a few and when the passage of time and the question of doubt begin to dull their impact, I resurface my experiences. These gifts I do not want to forget. I am not the most fervent of believers. I question the color of red paint even as I view it on a wall before me. Still, I would like nothing more than to be in possession of unwavering faith. The comfort it must bring to those who possess it is unfathomable. So I revisit my walks with the glorious and hope for a stronger faith.

Mother Mary was prevalent in the next leg of my journey, when I said goodbye to my father. She was one of dad’s favorites. I will share this soon.

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bridge 1

The other night, after an unsettling visit to one of my family’s happy places, my mind was churning and I shared my thoughts. I saw an influx of views on my related blog post in the two days that followed. I felt more than a little guilty to have my post reviewed at the expense of the story it told. If it was one of my silly recaps on life with kids, or bad teeth, I would have felt great. I checked myself more than once to make sure my rambling blog, after drafted and posted to the world, was not some breech of ethics. My introspection cleared me of any wrong doing, thankfully.

Still, as I lie in bed last night, after reading an update on the search for Sarah and seeing a picture of her crossing a bridge I’ve walked over a hundred times, I thought I should do something on her behalf. Small and ineffective as the gesture might be, people might read the attached link and have something to offer. God willing it will be a lead to her safe location.

Though it’s highly improbable that someone reading my post will be able to help solve this mystery via tangible evidence –they/you can minimally offer up prayers and positive thoughts on behalf of Sarah Majoras as well as those who know and love this woman best, that they soon find closure and peace.

Praying for a happy ending Sarah.

http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2013/01/camera_images_from_lambertvill.html#incart_river

……………………………………………………..
I enjoy walking along the streets of New Hope, PA. The crowds of people, truly a melting pot of cultures and penchants, intrigue me. I make stories up in my head, imagine who they are, how they got where they are and contemplate lives that in many cases look so different from my own. My scenarios, no doubt, are marked by many misconceptions. You truly cannot know a person’s soul by the clothes they wear, type of Harley they ride or the sex of the hand they hold.

I have a soft spot for this eclectic town where my husband and I first dated, where I found my favorite plate of Thai. Connected to Lambertville NJ, by a bridge and spirit, it’s an artsy place dripping with talent and antiques but happily lacks the pretentious dealer. Or perhaps I’ve been lucky enough not to enter their establishment. New Hope is a locale portraying the unique and weather beaten history of life along the Delaware. The dilapidated buildings remain beautiful by their architectural style, by the past contained within peeling paint and weathered stone walls. It’s a place with much character and I appreciate all it has to offer.

Though it may sound as if I’m writing a promotional for New Hope that was not my intent. I’ve just painted a picture of the adored location behind my post. This afternoon we took the kids to our anniversary restaurant. The story behind Wildflowers, and a happier portrayal of New Hope, is contained in the following; https://littletwits.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/withering-wildflowers-a-culinary-reflection-2/ . Though we typically enjoy our treks to New Hope, today we had a very different experience.

When we arrived we went straight to Wildflowers for dinner. We called and checked the recording, peeked down the side entrance and hoped someone would pop out to say, ‘We’re here!’ Regretfully, it appeared to be closed. Looking through the front window I noted a missing person’s poster. Immediately I said a prayer that the woman had been found in good health and that this was old news. I tried to ignore the sad feeling that seeped into my gut.

As we walked the streets in search of an alternate restaurant I noticed signs posted on store fronts and telephone poles. They were everywhere. It occurred to me that this unnerving search was current. As I traipsed along with my hungry family, lamenting over a closed restaurant, a community was searching for one of its own.

We found a place to eat but neither the food, nor setting, resulted in an enjoyable experience. My older son, looking outside, commented that it felt eerie. ‘What do you mean eerie, the weather or the restaurant,’ I asked? He responded that it was the day, everything, that seemed strange. It was an odd comment coming from a 12 year old, over a plate of hot wings.

I glanced through the window and assessed a dismal winter day cloaking cars and boutiques. My eyes fell on the nearest missing persons poster. I wondered if my son was picking up on an underlying sadness, an uncertain tragedy.

We left the restaurant and I walked with a quicker pace than usual. I felt the need to leave these streets. Today I would find no joy here. On our way to the car two news vans drove by. We passed a crying woman and as I hastened toward the parking lot a helicopter was heard. Looking toward the direction of the sound I spotted a swirl of blades hovering above the Delaware. The frigid temperatures and a recent dusting of snow froze sections of the water. This fragmented spectacle of ice and nature would typically beckon me to capture it on film. Though my camera swung from my shoulder, I had no interest. The river seemed ominous, like it contained a secret hidden under its mass and greyness. I wanted no part of the Delaware today and hoped my sensitivity was off. The unsettling site of a news crew, walking along a sidewalk recently inhabited by a missing woman, had me imaging scenarios. I wanted to disprove my hypotheticals and come up with a logical explanation that put a missing stranger in a warm safe place.

We drove from New Hope, over the bridge into Lambertville. I read on my phone that this would have been the same route taken by the missing woman, just two nights earlier. I glanced to my right, took in the wide frosty mouth of an incredible river, and felt very depressed. This is one of those times, the most important of times, when you hope your gut instinct is wrong.

Regardless how strange or improbable the facts end up being; I pray the story unfolds to reveal a life was not lost.

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