Category Archives: memories

Welcomed Home

When he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him,
and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.

Luke 15:20

Every morning while we toured Israel, I checked our itinerary before we set out for the day. This helped me to retrieve what I knew about each site. In addition to historical and geographical tidbits regarding these places, events related to Jesus of Nazareth came to mind. As a result, I arrived at each destination with a heart open to the gifts of the new day.

It was midweek the day I discovered we were headed toward the Mount of the Beatitudes, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee and Magdala. A sense of homecoming quickly enveloped me as I considered scripture passages regarding these places. The events I recalled made me feel as though I was returning to revive ancient memories. Oddly, I felt expectantly anxious to get to the heart of what had occurred at each one.

Though I’ll supply details later, today, it is enough to say that I was never disappointed. I may not have stood on the precise patch of ground where Jesus spoke the beatitudes or multiplied loaves and fishes. I may not have stepped in Mary Magdalene’s footprints. I may not have sailed Jesus’ course on the Sea of Galilee. Still, I felt that I walked where I was meant to walk in order to rekindle important relationships from long ago. I wouldn’t have felt more at home if I had been the prodigal son whose father kissed him and embraced him to welcome him home after a far too long absence.

Loving God, thank you for being present to me whenever the time is right.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

55 Non-fiction~ Kitchen Nostalgia

“Pay close attention! You’ll need it someday.” she said, exasperatedly. “Why? You are making it for me!” I retorted and waived it off. Forlornly, today I missed the familiar sight and aroma of Mom making my favourite pickle. Armed with memories and an expert’s lineage, I created my version. Did I do it right, Mom? … Continue reading 55 Non-fiction~ Kitchen Nostalgia

Momentarily Misplaced

I can’t tell you the last time a commercial on TV, or an advertisement on the internet, left me saying to myself, “Wow, I need what they’re selling.” I don’t know if I’ve ever thought that.

Sure, maybe the food commercials have me licking my lips, while the steamy and succulent images of cheesy pizza, or hamburgers with perfect posture, infiltrate my subconscious, but I’d like to think that I don’t need a food commercial to order these items.

With fries.

I see commercials with people in generic clothing, laughing and smiling at the products they’re using, and I know it’s supposed to trick me into buying what they’re selling. I know they want me to believe I will be as happy as the people in the commercial.

I don’t buy it. Literally and figuratively.

The other night, I was watching a hockey game and the commentator said, “This game is available in Virtual Reality.” And I found myself asking, “Why?” Why am I going to buy one of those Virtual Reality headsets to watch a hockey game that I can see just fine without?

It didn’t make sense to me.

Sell, sell, sell -> Material items, material items, material items -> Happy, happy, happy.

That is the world today. I understand it. But I also think it’s sad.

University changed my life in so many ways, and I’m not sorry for continuously mentioning it in my blog posts.

My post-secondary experience taught me that life is, truly, just about time and people. Everything else is a result of those two things. How we spend our time, and who we spend it with, is all that matters.

I didn’t realize that until my fourth year. That year, I vowed that I would say “yes” to my friends as much as I could, whenever they suggested we hang out, or go to McDonald’s at 2AM the night before an exam.

Again, with fries.

And even then, when I realized how important it was to me to maximize my minutes with people who meant so much to me, it wasn’t enough time. There were still things I never did. Time ran out.

They say, “Time flies when you’re having fun.”

I never knew what that meant, exactly. I thought the saying should’ve been changed to, “Time flies when you forget to blink, while playing video games.”

Nowadays, I’d argue that time flies even when you’re not having fun.

There are some moments where I find myself wishing that I could just press a pause button because things always end before I’m ready for them to end. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt that way.

But I can’t just press a button.

The moments I want to remain in forever are anchored by memories.

The best days of my life – I don’t know what they are, but I know they all include other people, and laughs, and smiles.

They don’t include me getting a sports jersey for Christmas, or playing a video game for three hours after school, on a random Tuesday, in 2001. The best days involve shared happiness.

This is why, I think, commercials don’t have an affect on me. They try to convince me that their product is something I need, but really all I need is time and people.

I recently reunited with a great friend who I hadn’t seen in a really long time. We had drifted apart during a time when we were both pushing people away. Text messages became awkward. It just wasn’t the same.

Yet in the back of my mind I had all these great memories, and I knew that the friendship was still there, somewhere.

And as soon as we saw each other and started talking, it felt like no time had passed. We were right back in our rhythm, our ways, and our jokes about the stupidest things.

Example of a “stupid thing”: I created a new yoga position called “sleeping dog”. It was hilarious. Don’t ask questions.

It just felt so good, and it was something I had missed.

Our friendship was momentarily misplaced and I regret letting that happen.

It always feels like there is all the time in the world, but there isn’t. And it always feels like there are billions of people in the world – and there are – but there are only a handful of people who you can be so comfortable around.

You can’t replace people and you can’t replace time.

The best pizza wasn’t made in five minutes. And neither are friendships.

The world can’t just be about money, fancy clothes, trends, jobs, material items, hashtags, the latest gossip, or using our thumb to scroll on a screen.

Sure, all of those things may bring us joy and put a smile on our face.

But that being said, when I die – hopefully after I reach 100 – none of those things I just listed will matter. What will matter is the people who were in my life and the time I spent making memories with them.

Tell me I’m wrong.

Happiness is greater when we get to share it with others. That’s what I think, anyway.

We will always have time. We will always have people. Don’t let them get misplaced.

Not even momentarily.


unfocused ~

As of late, my mother has been sharing stories. Some I’ve heard, but others, I haven’t. It seems almost impossible that this much time could pass without me knowing that my mother lied about her age when she married my daddy. Of course, on the other hand, it seems unlikely they would have married had she not. My assumption that the laws were different then had never really been tested so I was surprised to find numbers written on the edge of their license. When pressed, she confirmed she had lied.  I suppose the justice wanted the ‘last word’, noting their ‘supposed’ ages to the official proof.

There’s another tale about her leaving the basketball team when my grandmother gave her the choice to either quit the team or stop seeing my dad. My mother actually fretted for a while over that until I reminded her that they only dated for a couple of months before marrying, at which point she quit school. I wonder how much of the last 62 years have been filled with angst, when in reality she might have missed two or three games.FB_IMG_1488552217459

But we do that, don’t we? The things that shouldn’t be given any weight at all are made bigger by our insecurity, anger, frustration, jealousy and need. And yet, the things that should be viewed as ‘big’ most often aren’t. We lose sight of the first kiss, choosing instead to focus on the first broken heart.

The attention given to my sweet Aunt Lyda* isn’t near the amount given to those whose lives were defined by bad luck and worse choices.

Mom wants me to write a book filled with her stories. I’m all for it, though periodically, I put down my pen and exclaim, ‘that’s not making the cut’ or ‘sorry, but that story’s going with you’.

It’s not the burden that breaks us, but the way we carry it.

tell me now
again
I will you
speak of times before
split the veil
wherein my name
is sewn
listen this reminder
lest I should pass
the night
burdened with
the memory
of every love
I’ve known

*My great aunt Lyda (my granny’s sister) was a beautiful soul. She married a man whose first wife was lost to illness. She helped to raise his three children, though she never bore any herself. They were hard times, and his wife had been buried in an unmarked grave. When he passed, Lyda had a stone made, bearing his family name. The first wife was moved, and for more than 40 years, they’ve lain next to one another, Ruthie and Lyda, with the man they shared between. It’s a story I love to carry.

mccoy


Treasured thoughts

 

blogIMG_9493

You know that old saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” Truth be told, huh? Items I consider valuable might be something you would toss into the garbage bin with no hesitation.

Treasure is Day 8’s theme in the Developing Your Eye photography workshop, which I’m determined to complete. That word – treasure – stirs up some recollections which swirl to the surface of my memory pond.  

The photography directive to zoom in with your camera on something you consider a treasure prompted me to hone in on my grandma’s glasses sitting atop my well-worn Bible – both items treasures to me. While doing so, my thoughts zoomed in right along with these remembrances.

When our children were very young and we lived in the Midwest, our family dentist had a treasure chest in his office.  Each time my little ones visited him for a check-up, they got to open that cardboard box resembling a treasure chest and choose a little trinket from it.

Oh, the excitement of it all! Well, that and a trip to the nearby TCBY frozen yogurt store with the coupons he always gave us made it going to the dentist fun for them.

For our oldest daughter’s birthday one year, we had a treasure hunt at our house for her and her friends. Clues led those little girls from place to place until, with squeals of delight, they finally found the treasure chest and opened it to find birthday party goody bags full of fun stuff and candies.

That treasure chest was actually a large, beautiful tin box that military friends of ours had sent us from Germany one year chock full of goodies and chocolate candies for Christmas. Getting packages delivered to your doorstep always seems like a treasure, at least to me.   

Adults aren’t much different than children when it comes to our treasures – the things that make us squeal with delight. They might include material things like an accumulation of wealth or expensive jewelry studded with the finest gems. Or you may think your fancy car is your treasure or your lovely home.

Or possibly, you consider items that just can’t be replaced as your treasures. We have a few of those caches here around Mama’s Empty Nest.  Personal possessions that once belonged to our parents and grandparents, while of no great monetary worth, are treasured keepsakes because of their sentimental value.

I need to sit down someday and make a list of all of those mementos so that my children know who they once belonged to.  Of course, they may not consider those items to be treasures because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or so folks say.

Many years ago when we lived in the Pacific Northwest, one of my friends and I decided to start attending estate sales.  As we walked through homes of dearly departed folks perusing their former possessions in hopes of finding our own treasure, I often had a sense of sadness.  Not because I knew the deceased but because I imagined that the person had once treasured some of those items marked for sale and now those revered things were on the liquidate quickly list.

Treasures no more.

One of my estate sale finds was a lovely, well-aged, pale green porcelain teapot with a music box inside its base that played “Tea for Two.”  It still sits among my teapot collection and when I take it off the shelf to clean it, I sometimes wonder about its previous owner, what kind of person she was, and whether the teapot was a special gift from someone she once loved.

That’s the thing about treasures.  They have stories to tell, but far too often those stories are lost or not remembered by the next generation. (Which again is why I do need to record some of those stories about my family treasures in written word.) 

So many of the “treasures” in my home that I cherish would be inconsequential to you. You might even shake your head and wonder why I consider such things as treasures. If my children or grandchildren don’t desire to keep them, these items will most likely be purchased by a sale seeker, donated to a charity organization’s thrift store, or discarded to a dumpster someday.

Treasures no more. I accept that fact because, as I said, my idea of a treasure may not be the same as yours.

But when I think of treasures, I also reflect on things I cherish that aren’t necessarily concrete. Memories of loved ones now gone, time spent with my family and especially my adorable grandchildren, heart happy conversations with dear friends, meaningful and thought-provoking moments in worship. Those are treasures as well.

The Bible tells me, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  (Luke 12:34)

That truth causes me to place what I consider treasures in perspective. Where should my heart’s focus be placed? On material wealth, possessions, my time-honored family heirlooms, myself? Absolutely not.

Earthly treasures never satisfy that longing in our heart for something more. Something to fulfill our deepest need. Something that fills our cup until it runs over. Possessions only make us happy for a moment then lose their appeal.

What I treasure most is something eternal. Something that is even hard to explain sometimes. Something magnificent and more loving than I can even imagine yet powerful and majestic to inspire awe to the maximum. Something that fills empty holes in my heart like no earthly treasures can ever fill.

His name is Jesus.

“You must keep all earthy treasures out of your heart, and let Christ be your treasure, and let Him have your heart.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com


Criminal

criminal-2 Vampire Owl: I am suffering from a thriller overdose. Vampire Bat: And also the science fiction overdose. This movie is both, just like many other flicks which we have been watching in the recent days. Vampire Owl: Why is it that there are not enough of such movies made here, and we have to keep depending on the Hollywood all the time? Vampire Bat: We are specialised in drama, aren’t we? Vampire Owl: And the romance. You see the latest one, the sequel to Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania. Vampire Bat: You mean Badrinath Ki Dulhania. Who makes sequels to a dumb movie? Vampire Owl: A sequel to a super-hit dumb movie. Vampire Bat: Which is the dumb movie which is not a super-hit in Bollywood? Vampire Owl: I can only remember Besharam and Tamasha. Vampire Bat: I am not letting them doing a science fiction thriller. It would mean the beginning of the end. [Gets three cups of masala tea with biriyani rice and gravy]. What is the movie about? :: Xavier Heimdahl (Jordi Molla) is a newly turned anarchist, a former businessman looking forward to bringing the downfall of all world government and initiate a reign of chaos. For the same, a hacker known by the code name “the Dutchman”, Jan Strook (Michael Pitt) is forced to create a computer program that would be able to bypass all security features, and get to the nuclear defense codes of as many nations as possible. But fearing for what will happen afterwards, Jan panics and contacts Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) who is a CIA agent based in London. Even though Bill manages to get the money and also make the deal with Jan, he is unable to get the money to him, and also safely transport the hacker from the safehouse, as he is captured by the group of terrorists and murdered while trying to extract information. So, what happens next? :: Now, the situation is that nobody knows where Jan is, and very much desperate to get to the hacker, the senior CIA agen Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman) contacts Dr. Micah Franks (Tommy Lee Jones) who has been running a number of experiments related to implanting memories on human brain. Micah agrees that theoretically speaking, he could transplant the memories of a dead man into the brain of a living person who volunteers for the experiment, but it has never been tested before, and nobody can figure out how it turns out to be for the receiver of these memories. A criminal Jerico Stewart (Kevin Costner) seems like the best option for the same for Micah, even though Quaker wants an agent to do the same. But an early childhood brain trauma makes Jerico the best choice according to Micah, and so they go forward with the same. And what follows the transfer :: They bring a reluctant Jerico to the laboratory and conduct the experiment. In the beginning, it seems unsuccessful, and Jerico doesn’t respond to the questions asked related to Bill. But Jerico escapes the captivity, and memories of Bill begins to flash through his mind. As the memories keep coming to his mind, he keeps experiencing different emotions as well. Meanwhile, Jan decides to sell his program to the Russians believing that CIA is not ready to pay him, and has decided to back out of the deal. At the same time, Xavier and his henchwoman Elsa Mueller (Antje Traue) are looking forward to capture Jerico and find out where Jan is hiding, but it is the CIA who gets to him first. But the question remains if Jerico can remember the significant things, and even if he does, will he tell the CIA or the terrorists the truth? The defence of Criminal :: There is a wonderful premise in store with Criminal, and it also finishes off well with a nice twist, and a fine ending which is going to appeal to most of the people. The pace is good, and we get into all the action very early, which makes sure that we are interested in what is to happen at the next moment, as things keep going out of control for the protagonists and the world almost ready to descend into chaos. Kevin Costner comes in a role which we are sure to remember more than any other in the recent past, as this one seems to suit him so well at all points. Gal Gadot has a nice emotional role to perform as we see her after all the action in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Antje Traue whom we had seen in Man of Steel and Pandorum gets another tough role to perform, and she might be the strongest of them all. There is also the strength of having Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones in two major roles. The claws of flaw :: With its tale, Criminal could have surely achieved much more – it is something that we can all be sure about without doubt. The story could have been further developed into something bigger, dealing with brain and memories as Hollywood find it fit. This is an idea which has survived enough to be capable of bringing more, and that could have been something under focus. This is the kind of idea which could even be rather scary when we look at it. To add to the same, most characters are not dealt with well enough either, and there the focus goes limited. It was also strange to see Ryan Reynolds who has been two Marvel superheroes, Deadpool and the Green Lantern being being used so less, with his character dying so early. Alice Eve whom we last saw in a big movie in Star Trek Into Darkness, also gets much less here. How it finishes :: For some reason, Criminal is a lesser known science fiction thriller around here, but it could have given many other movies a fight at the box-office if it had gained some hype here. Yes, Criminal is a lot better than some of those movies which gained too many positive reviews than they should have. Most of these faults which seem to have been found are not really that much of a problem if you take a deeper look at it and feel what you are really looking for from this movie within its genre. At the same time, Criminal also asks some very interesting questions about what makes a person – is it his memories, his emotions, or what he or others think that he is? Well, maybe all of them along with the situations – but there is a chance that none of them well. Go and see how it is made with the main character in this movie. Release date: 15th April 2016
Running time: 113 minutes
Directed by: Ariel Vromen
Starring: Kevin Costner, Gal Gadot, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Alice Eve, Michael Pitt, Jordi Molla, Antje Traue, Scott Adkins, Amaury Nolasco, Ryan Reynolds, Colin Salmon, Tommy Hatto, Robert Davi, Richard Reid, Natalie Burn, Lara Decaro criminal @ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Memories Never Fade…

We never really move away from an old life, we just suppress it to entertain and make space for the new one. Sometimes, the new becomes so comfortable that we begin to forget what the old life looks and feels like; we suppress it into oblivion. But the truly interesting part is that, we never truly forget because we never really moved on in the first place. Why? It was a part of us, and because of that, it has been created and can not be destroyed, hence it is still a part of us as it will continue to be… So we can move on in life to a far better and happier place and ‘seem’ to forget about the past, but in reality, it’s not lost. I guess what I’m trying to say is never to forget where you come from – don’t even bother trying because, like a Yoruba proverb says, ‘a river that forgets its source will dry up.’ It is important to note that there is a difference between ‘living in the past’ and ‘not forgetting’: one shapes you into something better while the other keeps you down and stagnant. So while memories never truly fade, it is more beneficial to take those memories and let them make us into something better than trying to suppress them or wallowing in the sadness some might bring.

The Power of Habit

I came to love her for who she isn’t
To love her for who she is. She took a piece of me
I’m proud to say
Nothing insignificant
I hope. I pushed her away
Then further
Until she no longer saw me
In the distance. I will feel again soon. The tameable fire that unleashes me
Unburdening my mouth, my mind. A legitimate love
For my colder heart.

Houston Super Bowl LI: One for the History Books

Happy Monday!  A week ago today, I woke up thinking “did yesterday’s game seriously happen?”  While I’m not the biggest football fanatic, watching history unfold in my city was pretty special. I have shared bits of my journey becoming a volunteer with the Super Bowl Host Committee, and it is only a week later that … Continue reading Houston Super Bowl LI: One for the History Books

letting go: the right time to die

kat-mcdonald-aged-2

i remember, as a child, everything being so tall… perhaps it’s my earliest memory.  i remember everything being above me… the dining room table… what was there?  the kitchen work surfaces… the bathroom sink, where i would struggle on tip-toes to wash my hands… the book case… the ceiling…  the shelves in my bedroom, stacked with toys, all just beyond my reach… and the sky… the Heavens… seemed so far away in both distance and time.

i remember walking through a forest of legs.  i remember my mother’s legs.  i remember holding onto them in places familiar and places new.  i would cling to them when i was scared, unsure or feeling lost amid the voices and conversations i was not yet old enough to comprehend…  lost, amid the cigarette smoke and the laughter and the music;  lost, in another world, an adult world,  a world i couldn’t fully feel at home in, but home it was.  i remember that with one stroke of my mother’s hand upon my head everything would feel better.  and i loved it when she sang to me.

i remember looking up at my mother, admiring her… how pretty i thought she looked with her hair curled and shining; her face smiling down at me with so much love in her eyes. love, tinged with sadness.

oh, i knew that she loved me. i knew that she cherished me because she told me that i was precious.  precious because 10 weeks before i was born, my mother lost a son.  a son called William, he was 18 years old.  he was just a boy. a beautiful young boy.  a boy that my mother said i looked like.

i remember looking up at a particular photograph.  i remember wondering why the boy in the photo made my mother cry and wondered if the reason she often cried when she held me was because of him, or me.  i remember, one day, taking that photograph and stuffing it face-down in a drawer.  i didn’t want my mother to be unhappy any more, and the boy in the photograph seemed to make her unhappy.  all of the time.

she went crazy, tearing open cupboards and drawers… then she found it.  she asked me why i put it ‘there‘…  i told her.  and, again, she cried.  it was then she told me the story of William: the brother i never knew.  the brother who she would, understandably, pine for for all her days.

time, forever the paradox, hushes that memory and that day seems so far away – in both time and distance.

today i went to visit her in hospital.  she is 90.  she is frail.  she is small.

today her eyes are still tinged with sadness, but they still teem with love when i walk in the room.

she is a shadow of her former self.  she is not eating and is barely drinking.  she is not well, neither physically nor mentally.  i wonder if she is just biding her time here with us. i wonder if she is simply tired of the struggle… tired of the pain… the loss and the hopelessness.  has she given in?  has she lost the will to continue on, in this cracked and useless mortal coil?

she tells me she’s done, yet she asks me if i’m happy.

“yes!!” i say… with resounding cheer in my voice.  “i am very happy.  the happiest i have ever been”

… and yet upon hearing the resignation in her voice, i am the saddest girl on Earth.

as i fold my arms around her bony frame, i am reminded of my own mortality and the cruelty of death and loss.  i feel like i am losing her and if i hold her too tightly, she may just disappear from me altogether and leave me in a blind panic.

a panic.  just like a time when i was a little girl, shopping with my mother and father, and losing her amid a strange, deep and dark forest of strangers’ legs and loud voices, and hideously patterned floor.  i remember looking… searching… frantic for my her, for her legs to cling to… for her hands to stroke my head… for her voice… that song in her voice.

i was lost.

at a loss, and lost – as i feel right now.

but today, i am taller.  my mind, still curious, is now awakened to the weird fairtytales that were once adult conversations.  the smoke has cleared and i’ve learned to dance to the music. i have found my voice and i have travelled to the other side of the world.  i no longer search for her legs to cling to and hide behind… oh… but what i wouldn’t give to be able to be a child again… for one day… to be, once again, with my able mother and have her hold me and tell me everything is going to be alright.

because it’s not…

… she isn’t going to get better.  her body is failing and her mind is permanently on vacation; it has a one-way ticket out of here.

i wish I could keep her here, now… or in that memory… but maybe i am not enough… maybe my brothers… her grandchildren… maybe a visit from her other daughter…?  or  maybe… maybe our family is not enough to keep her here.  i mean… how could it be? it’s incomplete.  someone is missing… someone vital… someone who could have sealed the cracks.

tonight, i stood tall and gazed up at the ceiling… there are cracks in the ceiling… some big, some small… many irreparable.  just like those memories of childhood, when i would gaze up in wonder.  the mystery is no longer a mystery.  the cracks no longer hold mystery;  she is no longer a mystery, but yet i marvel at how she managed to go on after such loss.  i know what she wants.  the cracks are beginning to show. they are deepening stress fractures from bearing such a load.  life. loss. death.  death of a son.  death of her parents.  death of her sisters and brother.  death of her husband and my father.  death of friends.  death of her able body.  death of hope.

but her mind is, strangely, liberated.  i take comfort in that.

sitting side by side on her hospital bed, haplessly covered with a stained blue blanket, we talk.  she tells me she’s done.  she tells me she is tired.  she tells me things that only her eyes can convey.

as a grown-up, i now understand. i get it. but oh it is hard to bear.  hard to hear.  hard to accept. but not hard to comprehend.

she is trapped inside ‘this useless body’ – she is imprisoned. imprisoned in ward 3.  imprisoned in her dementia and silent world.  it is no wonder she prefers to escape with sleep.  sleep ‘to pass the time until…’

‘until what, Mum?  elevenses? visiting hours?’ i ask, choking on my own throat.

[the big sle..?]

but her mind is on holiday, she changes direction, and once again i am that little girl lost.

so… should i patch up the ceiling… could i patch it up?  could i patch her up?  if only i could, yet i wonder…  if i should?  i feel as though i am losing her, little by little, crack by crack and splinter.

maybe i should let her go…  or have i lost her already?

 

(c) Kat McDonald 2017

 

 

 

 


Filed under: life Tagged: age, death, diary, emotion, fear, health, life, memories, mental, musing, philosophy, psychology, writing