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My granddaughter turns 10 this month!

Double digits are so amazing! My best friend Pam Mitchell’s grandson Charlie was born the day before my Brianna, so I try to send presents to them both. When Charlie was born, I got a text from Pam saying ‘He was born’ and the time and inches long. I was confused at first because I had been told the baby was to be a girl, then realized the text was from Pam, not my son Patrick or my sister.

My first grandson (Joshua, Sept. 20) and her second (Desi – Aug. 3rd) were born weeks apart as well, two years later. Maybe they will meet someday, mine in Ohio and hers in Wisconsin – so far.

I have been looking through old pictures and spending much more time than I had planned because it is such a joy to see them as they are growing up. I only get to Ohio to visit every few months and usually only for a weekend or a couple days more than that. Visiting is just wonderful, I really wish I lived closer so could come more often.

If only someone in Ohio or Michigan or Wisconsin would hire me as an actor then I would have a reason to live there and the ability to visit more often!

I need to get my new picture printed and uploaded to all the sites, so I can get more acting work.

Joyous Solstice, Happy Hannukah, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

Working at Radio City gives me an excuse to be late with my Christmas letter this year. Not sure what my excuse was in the years I didn’t work for the Christmas spectacular, but so it goes.

If you know me, you know I am late a lot. I used to be on time for everything, and am still on time for work, and even early, but for the things I volunteer to do I am invariably late.

I just got a jury duty notice – having postponed before, I have to serve this time. Starts on January 14, so it should work out. It is grand jury, so we’ll see how it is set up this time. One time I had to serve one day a week for 6 or 8 weeks, I hope they pick a day that is not too full of doctor appointments and other possible conflicts.

This past year was the 50th anniversary of me graduating high school, and I was able to be in Ohio for the celebration. I went to Lumen Cordium, an all girls’ Catholic high school – okay, you probably figured that out by the Latin name. It is now a Senior Citizen’s Home, called Light of Hearts (which is the English translation of the high school name). We usually have an all class reunion at the newly renovated building, in the auditorium, and it is a lot of fun. Our class has the most attendees, usually, mostly because the graduates who live in Ohio have been gathering monthly ever since we graduated, I think. I haven’t made any of those meetings, but do see them on Facebook, and have connected with some classmates and former teachers through Facebook as well. I have been able to come to a few of the all class reunions, reconnecting with the Sisters and former teachers who also attend, and some of the Fall celebrations at the old school, they have great prizes, food and crafts, and all the profits go to keeping the seniors who can’t afford to live there anymore able to continue. One day, that may be me, too!

Had some health adventures this year, having some large polyps at my 5 year colonoscopy last year, had to have another at 3 months in January, then another in March to mark the spot where the biggest polyp had left some growth in January, but it hadn’t this time, so I am okay for another 6 months or a year. Had some more skin cancer and grafts to cover the wounds, but all is healing well again. Got new pictures on October 9th, have picked one resume shot, but need to pick a couple for postcards and maybe a commercial shot, then get them all printed so I can start using them!

Da had some health adventures as well, a leg clot that appeared in July, just as I was heading to Trinita. He had to give himself blood thinner injections daily for a couple months, but is able to do without them for now, though the clot is still there. It hasn’t grown, but it isn’t going away, either. He hopes to be able to do physical therapy so his legs will stop hurting all the time, but they changed our insurance again, so the copays are increased and they reduced his bonus, so life is very frustrating. I was able to go to Trinita, though I felt like a terrible wife to leave him on his own while I enjoyed myself in rural Connecticut! Though our theme was Saints and Superheroes, I felt like neither.

I had the Pax Christi Metro New York retreat, met for a Pentecost one day retreat in Stirling in June, which went very well, thanks to (Carmen Banegas, my assistant, who translated into Spanish for all) Sr. Sara Butler, MSBT, Rosa Tirado, BTMI, Regina Arias, MCA and Fr. Ralph Frisch, ST, who were the panel to talk about what Pentecost means to them and their branch of the Missionary Cenacle Family – the spiritual family to which I belong. In August I went to the Women’s Retreat in San Alfonso, the Redemptorist retreat center in NJ – next year it is August 25-27 – and planned to have the MCA retreat in October in Philly, but noone but one signed up for it, so Angel and I went on retreat by ourselves, and met with Sr. Terry Ahern to go over the plan for next year, got new dates which hopefully will work better for everyone – Oct. 16-18, save them!!! Please! In November, Terry Panzera and I were to give the retreat we gave last year in Philly in Stirling, NJ – again, noone but one signed up for it, so Terry and I went on retreat with each other, and it was terrific, sorry you all missed it. December 7, Followers of the Spirit Cenacle from Wareham, MA, planned a terrific one day retreat on the Eucharist at Trinita, I hope they or our new spiritual guide, Fr. Gustavo Baloco, ST, will plan one for Christ the King or whatever day works for next year!

In between, I worked at Radio City for whatever concerts or graduations I could, in addition to the Christmas show – still going on through January 5, 2020! I continue working for WorldStrides, as an OSC and a Field Specialist, at NYU – now as an employee, not full time, but on the payroll, which involves way too much paperwork and online computer stuff – still playing patients for student doctors to interview, very interesting work, but at the same pay rate since I started over 15 years ago. Not to mention Ellis Island Stories, still going strong. This past January I bought a mustache and have done several shows as William Patrick Drain – if Irish – and looking very much like my brother Matthew or my real grandfather William John Flanagan. I also continue visiting homebound friends and working the elections and various other jobs I get.

Da continues working at the company that treats him horribly since 2001, for less money than he earned in previous years, as they seem to deduct his insurance that they pay for from his salary, and you know insurance premiums go up each year.

Many good friends passed away this year, including my sister’s husband, +Dr. Raymond R. Land at 83, but still a shock, as he was always so active. Daver’s favorite aunt also passed away, +Jo Shafer, the last of his father’s siblings still alive.

We love hearing from you all, and keep you in our daily prayers, as I hope you do the same for us!

Juggling all my jobs

I am an actor, but I need to make a living as well, so I usher at Radio City Music Hall, play a patient for student doctors to interview at Bellevue, work the elections and whatever acting work I can get. Trying to get all my schedules to mesh is a struggle, and lately, with health issues raring their ugly basal cell head, not so easy to manage.

I had to call in sick today because I had basal cell Mohs surgery yesterday and the reconstructive surgery was more extensive than I had hoped, so I am laying low today and tomorrow.

I got new pictures before the latest Mohs surgery, so will finally have current pictures – once I get the energy to pick which one to use! Once I heal from this surgery, the pictures will be appropriate – right now, unless they want to hire an actor with active scars, I am not able to get work. I had one surgery on my nose, then another on my eyelid the following week (yesterday), so it will be a month before I am able to send things out with any likelihood of getting work. I would post pictures, but you don’t need to see scars, it’s after Halloween!

Luckily, working the elections or playing a patient with bandages on my face is not a problem. When playing a patient, if they comment on the bandages, I can just say “This is the actor, not the patient” and they dismiss my bandages as not having anything to do with the character I am playing that day. Wednesday, I played a 75 and 80 year old who had had a fall, and then was dealing with what might be dementia in the morning, and in the afternoon a 64 year old diagnosed with breast cancer that had metastasized, dealing with pain and not understanding the pain medication regimen. Though a long day, it was not as tiring as I had anticipated, so that was wonderful.

I am also giving a retreat with the help of Theresa Panzera, BTMI, November 15-17, and trying to get the weekend off in order to do it is proving more difficult than I had hoped. I need the retreat, which is on Teresa of Avila, Growth in Prayer, given at Trinity House down the road from St. Joseph Shrine in Stirling NJ, because it helps me in my spiritual growth. The time away from regular routine gives me the energy to do all I can do to be a better person each day. Let me know if you want to join us, there is still room and all are welcome! Check out my Facebook page for more information.

My husband thinks he does nothing for me, but when I got home from the surgery at 5:20pm yesterday (9:30am to 12:30pm for the Mohs, then take a bus down to the other doctor’s office and find out they had been overbooked and I had to wait 2 and a half hours to be seen, by 4:30pm I was done and had to get home either by cab or subway – I chose subway and got good connections miraculously) he let me lay in the recliner while he heated up soup for me and helped me get it and did the dishes as well. Not to mention making sure I took some Tylenol and had fresh water all night and before he left for work at 5am. And I had planned to go to Philadelphia for a meeting last night, and then to Trinita for their Christmas Fair this weekend, so now he has to cook for me all weekend when I was supposed to be away! I wish he could appreciate himself as much as I do!

Looking at my schedule for the week, he was horrified by how much I had planned to do in one week, especially since I had to have Mohs surgery and there is no telling how extensive it will be beforehand. “You get sick when you schedule things too tightly” he reminded me, and encouraged me to call in sick today when I found out about the surgery last week. I didn’t have my schedule for Saturday and through the end of the month until Thursday morning very early, so didn’t realize I had been scheduled on Saturday as well until then. I had requested not to work, as I was planning to go to Trinita, and figured I could just stay home if I didn’t feel up to it. The people who plan the schedule don’t always honor the unavailable requests, so I am figuring out how to do this in future. Argh!

I love it when I get acting work, but can’t really send out too many requests for work during November and December, when Radio City is in full swing. I didn’t come to New York to be an usher, but it is a fun job so I don’t want to jeopardize it – although if I got a Broadway show or a role in a movie or TV show, I will be happy to let ushering go!!!

I can’t wait for 2020, when my jury duty comes up again – I have postponed it twice, so will have to do it next time it comes. All you saints, please make it come when I don’t have acting work lined up! And while you are at it, please get me some good roles!!! Thank you! Be seeing you.


Hectic Holy Season

This time of year we celebrate Holy Week in the Catholic tradition and Passover in the Jewish tradition, so it is a busy time of year. Many are preparing to be received into the church tonight at the Easter Vigil ceremony, and the community welcomes them with stories of our history and lots of symbols of new life.

My many jobs to pay the rent are all busy at this time of year, too, so I miss some of the celebrations, but I happen to be off tonight, so hope to be there. I had to work on Holy Thursday, so missed that one, but on Good Friday I participated in the Good Friday Way of the Cross presented by Pax Christi Metro New York, which was its 37th consecutive year and every year the themes and presentations seem to get more powerful. I have been part of the Witness Committee who plans this event, with the help of local groups for each station, since about 1995, and it helps me throughout the whole year. I have to get up early and meet and load the truck from which we launch each station, stopping at various locations across 42nd Street, guiding those who volunteer to carry the cross, helping present one of the stations with a friend whose parishioner had to miss it at the last moment, and unloading the truck back at the PCMNY office around 1pm. I often am so wiped out I miss the Communion service at my local parish, where the Passion is read, but this year I was assigned to be one of the readers, so had to be there. I am so glad, because my fellow readers, Christine Clark and Fr. Sean McGillicuddy, C.Ss.R., were terrific and it is one of my favorite services all year. The choir leader Beth Stone and Nick the musician did a great job as usual and the whole service was beautiful.

I love to be reminded that our roots are Jewish, the Eucharist we celebrate each day is taken mostly from the Passover Seder celebration, with only slight changes that Jesus made on Holy Thursday. We are all guided to find the God who loves us, and Jesus encouraged us to find a way that uses active nonviolence. That led to his horrible death by crucifixion, a witness to the dangers of resistance, but the resurrection promises us that violence and death never have the last word.

I hope that you find time this weekend to reflect on how much God loves you, and let yourself be aware of how much violence each of us uses, and allow the time to be filled with peace and justice, not only to others but to ourselves. Peace begins with how we treat each other.

Blessed Passover and Happy Easter!

Season of Joy and Sorrow

Every Christmas I write a letter to family and friends and try to get it out before the end of the season, which for the church is January 13th this year, so I think I will make it.

I had bought some Halloween and pumpkin stationery a few years back, thinking ‘I can write letters at other times of the year’ but then I never did. I did start this blog, so hopefully can reach those I don’t get to write to all that often. But I used the stationery this year for my letter, and am still sending it out – hopefully by the end of next week I will get it to those I intend to send it!

I love to receive snail mail and so I write to my friends and family fairly often, in hopes they will write back. I miss Papa, he wrote regularly, and Mama would write, too, when he was alive, in competition I suspect. Hers were brief and full of details, but not too interesting to me.

After my father died, Mama cleared the house with our help and sold it to move to assisted living, so Mike, my eldest brother, also a writer, took Papa’s writing that he had saved over the years, and some other things. When Mike died, his daughter returned some of the writing Mike had saved, in which we found some letters Mama had written Papa when he was confined to a mental hospital for two months. Her letters were a revelation, so sad that we found them only after they had died, we never got to talk to them about them. But she wrote daily, two or three pages each day, full of details of life and questions about how to rearrange furniture for the newly arriving baby (me!). Evidence that she loved him so much, that she needed him and missed him and couldn’t wait for him to come home. There was one he wrote to her, too, empty of his usual self, sign of his unsureness of his welcome with her. Heartbreaking.

Every time I visit my sister, I want to reread those letters. I want to publish them, they are so wonderful! Reading them, it dawned on me that Timbo, my artist/cartoonist brother, inherited his drawing skills from Mama. I knew she had gotten hired as a draftsman before she got pregnant, earning $25 an hour, but never before realized how talented she was – in one letter, she drew different outlines of the storeroom they were thinking about turning into a bedroom, asking Papa which one looked best to him – so clear!

I love to write, but never feel my letters are as good as Papa’s, and wonder if they are more a nuisance to the folk who receive them. Some friends do comment that they look forward to them, but I don’t know how much reading they do, so discount their complements. I love reading everyone’s letters, even though much of what they are writing about has nothing to do with me. The love expressed is so precious, I am delighted to be able to share it with them. One friend, a Carmelite Friar, writes a newsy letter and a reflection on the Gospels of the season – this year’s is so wonderful I want to turn it into a skit to do at Easter!

This time of year promotes retrospection, and that always involves remembering good and bad times of the previous year. Because Mama’s parents died 10 years apart on the same date, Nov. 26th, the end of the year has always been a mixed blessing. Her mother’s birthday was Dec. 16, on which Regina, our baby sister with Down’s Syndrome, died in 1962 when she was 5 years old. Papa’s mother died on Dec. 26, 1957 (or 6), and my parents got married on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Dec. 28th, so we always knew that joys and sorrows come together, to cherish the joys and share the sorrows, so they would be manageable.

May your New Year be filled with joy, and don’t forget to share with all your friends, so the sorrows will not overwhelm you.

What They Never Warned You About in Aging

I am reading a book by Joan Chittister called The Gift of Years which is delightful, but she won’t be touching on these topics.

All right, we have heard the wonderful Bette Davis quote “Aging is not for sissies.” and she is not kidding, but if you don’t remember the poop jokes when you were a child with a smile, read no further.

There are digestive problems which no amount of ‘correct’ diet will fix. You get used to getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, but when you step on something gooey and realize it is poop, there are no words. Thank God it was me stepping on it and not my husband, because it was my poop. Small mercies. Sometimes you have very sticky poop that no amount of cleaning can remove. Then, as you are returning to bed, you drop a little piece. I think that is how it happened, I certainly didn’t feel anything. Next time you get up to go, you step on it. I ended up on my hands and knees, making sure I got it all. Wearing glasses as I do, I couldn’t see anything, but had to feel my way. Argh!

I have had several colonoscopies, as my father died from colon cancer that had metastasized before they found it. He didn’t like doctors, had dealt with pain for years. He was dead less than a month after they found it, at the age of 62. My mother’s siblings had had colon cancer too, so when my primary care found all that out before I was 50, she had me get a colonoscopy. Every time my husband’s work changed insurance plans, we had to get a new primary care that took that insurance. I had to remember to tell them all the right background. Sometimes they didn’t ask any questions. Working as a patient for student doctors to interview, I learned what they were supposed to be asking me.

Anyhow, they found one polyp, benign, so I was scheduled for another, 5 years later. The most recent was my 3rd or 4th, the intervening ones having found no polyps. This time they found 4, two of them large, both of them not cancer, but not benign. Now I have to have another one in 3 months, if those results are good, another in 6 months . . .we’ll see.

You may have heard about the horrors of colonoscopies before, though it is the preparation that is the worst part. Jim Gaffigan is pretty funny. You have to clean out your colon so they can see if there are any problems in there. This means you have to get rid of any waste in your system. The new doctor I went to this time, my old gastroenterologist having retired, is a lovely woman named Dr. Lu, who charmed me with her dialogue about my eating habits and exercising habits, so I was happy to get to know her. She told me there are several methods, but the one she gave me was not so horrible. Don’t get me wrong, they are all nasty, you have to eat nothing the day before the procedure, clear liquids are ok, and the night before it, you drink something that will help you get rid of all the waste in your system, which is as delightful as it sounds. Be ready to spend a lot of time in the bathroom, and you will probably not feel like reading. She recommended drinking a lot of water, even more than they recommend, and it really did help. She also recommended eating less to none of the things that are hard to digest in the week before the procedure. This makes such good sense I wonder that the other doctors didn’t do that.

When you are all done with the procedure, and wake up in the recovery room, to be told you have no polyps, you start to think, maybe I will wait longer for the next one. This time, although the procedure was done in the same location as 5 years earlier, I was told there were 4 polyps, two large, one the size of her thumb!, and she would get the results by the following Thursday. The following Thursday I got a call saying she wanted me to come in to get the results, they wouldn’t give it over the phone, though it was not an emergency to get an appointment immediately. This did not fill me with joy.

Good news! It is NOT cancer. Dr. Lu then proceeded to explain that there are 3 kinds of polyps, one that doesn’t turn into cancer, two different ones that do turn into cancer, one with a 10% likelihood, the other with a 40% likelihood of becoming cancerous. Mine are a combination of the two likely to become cancer, so we have to watch closely. Luckily, colon cancer is usually a cancer that grows slowly, but the size of the polyps is making her nervous. There is also evidence of diriticulosis, an outpouching of the colon, which happens in people over 55. Dietary restrictions include no dairy, lots of vegetables, nuts and seeds only if you chew very carefully and drink lots of water with them. Eating NO red meat or cured meat or FRIED food is also recommended. Sugar, is, of course, poison for all of us and needs to be eliminated from everyone’s diet.

This is the diet I have been trying to stick to for about the last 10 years, (except for the nuts part, I love nuts) but recently I have been getting more and more lax. Red meat once a week, dairy once a week. Ok, so it was more than once a week, and sometimes it was together – lasagna and ziti are so good! Didn’t realize pork and lamb are also red meats. Have not been as strict as I claimed I was being. My husband says, “What can we eat?” Turkey, chicken, fish and lots of vegetables. He likes all the meats, not so fond of the vegetables or fish. Fish once a week, especially if fried. Oh, well, baked is good too. He also gets bored with chicken every day, hasn’t been able to stop eating dairy or even cutting down. But he is willing to try if I commit to doing different vegetables – not that he will eat them, but he realizes if I eat the same vegetables all the time that won’t work either. I eat a lot of romaine lettuce. Oh, lovely, now all the romaine is suspect, have to find other kinds of lettuce. Thank you, 45, for making the regulations lax!

My sister is 4 years older than me, and has had digestive issues so severe that she doesn’t like to go out to eat, for fear that she will have an accident. I used to think it was because she has to take medications for her mental wellness, but as I age, I am wondering how true that is. Our brother is in between us in age, and has other problems with balance from they are not sure what cause. And we are relatively healthy! Can you imagine what it is like for those with heart problems, etc.?

As we baby boomers age, we need to be aware of things that help and let all of us know. And, of course, don’t take yourself too seriously, be willing to laugh, as laughter is still the best medicine!


October Thoughts

My eldest brother Mike was born and died in October, the day before his birthday when he would have been 56. He served in Vietnam 40 years earlier, and had been exposed to Agent Orange during those few years he was there. When he was diagnosed with chemically treatable leukemia, followed closely by lymphoma, we found out those diseases were on the top 10 list of diseases caused by exposure to Agent Orange. The good news is he was eligible for coverage because he served in Vietnam. The bad news is he died shortly thereafter. If his wife hadn’t  known to ask for coverage for her daughters, she wouldn’t have gotten it. She was trying to find out where he served, in case that was needed, and my brother Brian, who had been in the Navy around the same time, let her know that serving anywhere in Vietnam constitutes being exposed to Agent Orange.

His younger daughter, Meredith, 16 when her daddy died, decided to get married in October, in order to have good memories for that month. Now, every year October rolls around, we have good reasons to celebrate. How brilliant is Meredith!

This year I am planning a retreat for my spiritual family, the Missionary Cenacle Family. Every year we have a retreat for the MCA (the lay branch of the family, to which I belong) and anyone interested in joining us. Our dates are Oct. 19-21 and I have spent months trying to get someone bilingual to run the retreat, as we have both English and Spanish speaking members, and my Spanish is not good enough. In August, I was on another retreat and found a book on Teresa of Avila from the series 30 Days With a Great Spiritual Teacher from Ave Maria Press. It is called Let Nothing Disturb You, and I quickly was inspired to do the retreat myself, if I can get someone bilingual to help. Luckily, my assistant Custodian is bilingual and was excited by the idea as well. Then I found out two others in the Cenacle Family, both named after Teresa of Avila, though they spell it Theresa, have many resources about Teresa and are willing to assist, one with prayer services and the other will do one of the talks. Since her feast day is the 15th, it is very timely.

Teresa has always been a favorite of mine, the first woman to be declared a doctor of the church, in 1970, loved by Dorothy Day, another of my favorites. There was another series, now out of print, called Companions for the Journey, by St. Mary’s Press, and Praying with Teresa of Avila by Rosemary Broughton was another I cherished. Using these two resources, I am getting excited about the possibilities of this retreat.

My parents had both passed away years before my brother, and I like to think of them all looking down from heaven, watching over all of us and helping us to grow in our relationships with God, and living lives that help share the love that God gives us. During these difficult times in the church right now, we are praying the prayer of Michael the Archangel, my brother’s patron saint. I can feel the support, as clearly as we did while Mike lay dying in the ER in DC, 18 years ago.

I am looking forward to this retreat. Being on retreat right after Mike’s birthday and anniversary of his death feels like the right thing to do. One of my favorite quotes of hers was also quoted by Dorothy Day: ‘Once when she was travelling from one part of Spain to another with some other nuns and a priest to start a convent, and their way took them over a stream, she was thrown from her donkey. The story goes that our Lord said to her, “That is how I treat my friends.” And she replied, “And that is why you have so few of them.”‘ It sounds like something Mike would say.

The reason I go on retreats is to enable me to live a life that makes the world a better place. “Mystical experiences and intimacy with the Divine do not translate into lives of ease. Rather, they produce people of truth, strength and courage.” – – -Caroline Myss, author of the forward to Let Nothing Disturb You

We like to think we trust in God, but some days it is easier than others. Going on retreat, I have this time of being directed by the Holy Spirit, strengthened to work for peace and justice, to stand up for those who have no power, to use active nonviolence in my daily life. Using Teresa’s words: “It is true that I might stumble for trying to do too much too soon, but it is also certain that I will never succeed if I hope for too little, or out of fear of failing start not at all.”—Let Nothing Disturb You, day twenty.