17 November 2010

Religion Again?

Yes that title reflects how I feel.  I am so sick of thinking and talking and writing about religion, but now that I have removed myself from "religious" life, I am bombarded daily with the hypocrisy and hate of it all. 

Disclaimer:  I still believe in God, still pretty sure about Jesus, still reading and exploring and praying and deciding.  So I have not become an atheist.

But  oy vey, I am fed up to my eyeballs with do-gooder, self righteous Christians who think their way is the only way.  

I never considered myself to be an overly intellectual person.  I think I am smart, I think I can figure things out, I have a brain and I know how to use it.   But I didn't go to college and get a fancy degree.  Most of the stuff I know, I know because I sought the knowledge.  So it always makes me curious how so many people can fall hook, line and sinker for half the stuff told to them in church.  I can admit, I did fall hook and line for a while.  But I always held a little doubt (sinker) in my head.  Sometimes things felt fishy, sometimes they felt wrong.  Sometimes they didn't make sense.  So I didn't just close my mind and believe.  Well, sometimes I tried to, but I always had the nagging doubt that something didn't add up.  Which I suppose is why in the end it made it easy to leave church. God gave me a brain, and I use it. 

My eldest daughter recently joined a club at school called The Gay-Straight Alliance.  It's purpose is to foster friendship and understanding between gay and straight students.  It is supposed to be a safe place for the gay students to go and feel like they can be themselves.  It is not a club about sex or a place for gay students to sway their straight peers (as many would like to believe).  It's actually just a social club, a place for the kids to hang out together and organize community service events.  Recently the club helped out at the schools showing of The Laramie Project.  It was during a question and answer after the play that the audience was made aware of the fact that the school will not allow the club to advertise itself in school.  Seems the word "gay" is off limits.  So I wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper. (It's the comments to the letter and some other comments heard by people that have set me off.) 

What is it about gay people that brings such hatred out of Christians?  What makes them so afraid?  Do they think it's contagious?  Do they think gay people eat small children and kittens?  Why can't Christians just live out their own lives and let other people live theirs?

Isn't anyone other than me tired of Christians constantly butting into everyone else's lives?  They are not the only people on this planet.  I know they'd like to be, I know they think they have a mandate from God to make sure they are, but newsflash, there are plenty of other people who believe just as strongly in what their God says, or believe they have no God to tell them what to do and don't they deserve to just live their life in peace?  Believe me, there is no one in America who has never heard of God, so since they have all heard the "good news" isn't it time to leave them the hell alone?  

I am all for freedom of religion, I am all for anyone going to whatever church they like and worshiping however they like and living their life and raising their kids in whatever holy way they'd like.  What I am entirely sick of is people trying force other people to live their way of life. 

We are all here for such a really short time.  We all are just muddling through, trying to find our place, our purpose.  No one knows anyone else's story.  No one else EVER has the right to judge another's path, and certainly no one has the right to get into someones face and tell them their path is wrong.  If all the religious zealots were really following their religions, they would know the greatest commandment is to love.  Come on people, let's just love on each other.  

"The day will come when, after harnessing the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of Love.  And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire." ~ Teilhard de Chardin

14 August 2010

Christians and "Christians"

Man is a Religious Animal.  He is the only Religious Animal.  He is the only animal that has the True Religion - several of them.  He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight.  He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven.  
~Mark Twain~
A little background:  I grew up Catholic.  Born, baptised, reconciled, communed, confirmed, Catholic.  Cradle Catholic as many like to call us.  Back then, Catholics didn't read the bible, they didn't do much other than show up for church on Sunday.  So by the time I was 16 or so, I was done with Catholicism and most religion.  I went through the motions when my girls were born, had them baptised Catholic, to save their souls and all that.  But around 1999, I started hanging with "Christians".  

Catholics like to call themselves Christians, but over time I have come to see that there are Christians and there are "Christians" and never the twain shall meet.  They are just two different animals.  I have decided that Christians are the normal, everyday folk, who believe in God, believe in Jesus, go to church on Sunday, but live in and with the rest of the world.  "Christians" on the other hand, are those who go to church as many days during the weeks as possible, go to every church retreat, every church event, and try to mingle with "others" as little as possible.  People outside the church are "scary", threatening, not like them.     

When I started hanging out with "Christians" I got sucked into all things "Christian".  I decided to homeschool my girls to save them from the evil public schoolers (actually, homeschooling become unschooling which became a "good thing" but I digress).  I became obsessed with shielding my children from all the "worldly" things that might harm them.  TV, music, who their friends were all had to be carefully evaluated to make sure it was what God would want for my children.   I even made them skip Halloween for a few years.  Something my children never let me forget. 

In recent years we've been involved in a Christian homeschooling cooperative.   The hypocrisy I have seen there has been amazing.  These people, who profess love in their hearts for all, have really shown themselves to be the most judgmental people I have even known.  I never saw judgment much until I became a "Christian".  It's one thing as a Christian to believe Christianity is the way, quite another to think your own version of "Christianity" is the only way.  Who knew there was so much division just among "Christians"?  It isn't enough to be a believer, one must believe a certain way.  Every denomination seems to think they have the lock on the "truth". They also believe they get to judge how our children dress, how much make-up they wear and whether or not they should be allowed to date or (gasp) have a boyfriend!   

I've grown tired of it.  I've grown tired of trying to see where I fit into the puzzle that is Christianity.  When we as a family were actually going to church, a "Christian" church, we didn't necessarily believe everything being taught.  When we spoke to some other members about this dilemma, we were told that most people don't believe everything taught in a specific church, one was supposed to take the good and discard the bad.  We were told we'd never find a "perfect" church.  HUH?  At the time I didn't think much about that statement, but looking back, I think why go somewhere if you don't agree with what is being taught? 

Since leaving our former church, I have considered going back to the Catholic church.  But I can't.  The patriarchal attitude is more than I can take, and I don't want my girls growing up under patriarchy.  And the more I research other churches, the more I realize I just don't think I will fit in anywhere.  I just have too many disagreements with what they believe, and I don't want to go to a church and have to pick and choose, again, what I believe in. 

Anne Rice, the author, recently announced she was quitting Christianity.  She just can't reconcile what she believes (and she believes in God, Jesus and the Bible) and what the churches teach.  So she's given up on church.  I think I need to give up on church too.  I haven't given up on God, or Jesus.  But I am giving up on church.  There is too much falsehood, too much hypocrisy, too much judgement, too many cliques, too much prying into my life at church.  I have been happier since leaving church, surprisingly enough.  Since I stopped my quest of feeling like I "have" to go to church, that I "have" to be in community, blah, blah, blah, I feel less stressed, more free to be me.  And I think God is ok with it too.  

Not all religion is to be found in the church, any more than all knowledge is found in the classroom.  
~Author Unknown~
Everyday people are straying away from the church and going back to God.  
~Lennie Bruce~

09 August 2010

A New Look

 If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies.  
~Author Unknown~

Regular readers, don't be alarmed! You have come to the right blog : ) I decided to change things up a bit.

I am not much of a computer geek. I need specific, easy instructions when I want to do anything on the computer. So my blog has looked the same for the last few years, because I have no skills when it comes to customizing things on the internet.

But recently blogger added some new, easy to make templates for blogs. After a little playing around I decided to go with a calming, water theme. I still consider myself a fiery woman, and believe me, lots of things can get me fired up. But I have decided I need some calm in my life, and nothing calms me like water. I love to stare at water, listen to water and be in water. And since I live in northern IL, and there isn't an ocean anywhere near me, my blog will have to do.

So let me know what you think.  Do you like the changes?  Does it make it easier or harder to read?  I know I have been a bit negligent of my blog lately, but I always have some good thoughts swirling in my head, I just need to schedule the time to get my thoughts down on "paper".  

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
It's always our self we find in the sea.
~e.e. cummings

21 July 2010

Parenting 101

  A good friend of mine wrote a speech for a class she took while getting her psychology degree (she just graduated with her Bachelor's degree, congrats Jody).  I had lunch with her today to discuss the "joys" of raising teenagers.  She thought I might find her speech enlightening, and has given me permission to share it here, so that I may enlighten others.  (May you all feel enlightened ; )

Parenting 101 

This speech is intended for parents and future parents of all ages.  Those of you who have decided not to have children, you are very wise and should be revered by all.  I suggest complete abstinence from sex for the rest of your lives (don't take any chances.)  

1.  For those of you who are not yet parents - DON'T DO IT!
2.  For parent's of young children - enjoy it while you can.  You have no idea what you're in for (you fools!)
3.  For parents of teenagers - God help you.  You have my sympathies.
4.  For parents of adults - HOW THE HELL DID YOU SURVIVE?

I feel it is my duty to bring to light some common misconceptions about proper parenting (pun intended). 

(1.)  The first 5 years of a child's life are the most critical years in personality development.  If you are an attentive and conscientious parents during this period of time, you will produce well adjusted, happy teenagers.  

TRUTH - It doesn't really matter what you do because all teenagers will have their heads up their asses and will drive you to drink, so you might as well start drinking now and enjoy the ride.  

(2.)  Teach your children responsibility by requiring them to go to school, do their homework and do simple chores around the house.  This will teach them a good work ethic and to be proud of a job well done.  

TRUTH - You are just wasting your time bitching and nagging at them.  They will turn on you like dogs when they are teenagers, and there is nothing on earth you can do to make them do their homework, including pleading, bribery, water torture and beating the crap out of them.  Go have a drink instead.  

(3.)  Give your children something to believe in.  Teach them your faith and bring them to church or temple or whatever you believe in, regularly.  Being part of a religious community gives children a sense of belonging and teaches them good morals and values.  

TRUTH - They won't hear a single word of any sermons at church in all the years you bring them there.   When they are 6 they will think Jesus is Santa Claus.  When they are 10 they will tell the Sunday School teacher, "My mom yells at my dad all the time."  When they are 14 they will get caught smoking in the church parking lot, and when they are 17 they will tell you that God is a figment of your imagination anyway, and you will believe them.  Screw it.  Go out drinking on Saturday nights and stay in bed nursing your hangover on Sunday mornings instead of dragging those unwilling brats to church every frigging week. 

(4.)  Set a good example for your children.  Children learn by observing those around them.  If you want your children to grow up and be responsible citizens, then you must act responsibly.  

TRUTH - Your teenagers don't want to be like you!  They want to be ANYTHING but you!  They will walk through fire to get AWAY from you.   If you want them to be respectful, responsible human beings, then you should do the OPPOSITE!  Go ahead.....be a big loser!  You will be doing your children a favor in the long run.  Here are some suggestions:  

1.  Get arrested
2.  Lose your job
3.  Be promiscuous
4.  Do drugs
5.  Lie.  Chest.  Steal.
6.  And most importantly - drink heavily.

Thank you for listening.  I feel I have performed a great service to society by dispelling these myths and I urge you to do the same, saving thousands of unsuspecting, would-be parents from lives of disillusionment.  

For those with young children:  I am aware of your superior attitude because I used to have it.  I looked with disdain at my neighbor's children running around outside in their underwear and cowboy boots, while their mother sipped a margarita on her back deck.  I was SURE that my children would NEVER act like that.  I WAS WRONG!  Now I'm downing tequila straight from the bottle while my children are running around on college campuses doing God Knows What, wearing God Knows What, only calling home when they need money.  I should have started drinking long ago.   

~Jody Powers

18 July 2010

Parenting Teens

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.”  
~Anne Frank~

I used to judge parents.  I used to be the one, when my girls were little, who would sit on the park bench while my darling little daughters played, as sweet little girls do, and look at other people's children and marvel at how well behaved my mine were in comparison.  I used to wonder what was wrong with those parents, how come they had such awful kids.  I used to see friends or acquaintances who had messed up teens.  Granted I didn't have teens yet, but oh how I stood in judgment of those parents.  The things they must have done wrong in raising their kids, those terrible teens, rebellious, outcasts, always in trouble. Those terrible parents, they did such an awful job of parenting. 

Now that I have teens:  Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!  The joke is now on me! 

I have now repented of my past thoughts.  Oh how easy it is to stand in judgment until you have walked in another's shoes.  

Sure I still think how we parent affects our kids.  But I no longer think I have complete control over how my kids will turn out. They are individuals, each one completely different.  They have their own way of viewing the world and how they see themselves in it.  It is amazing when you have more than one child to see how different they are.  Usually you have parented them both the same.  Sure birth order affects some of how we parent, but for the most part, unless you blatantly favor one child over another, they were raised in the same house, shouldn't they be similar?  Not always. 

I never thought I'd have teen issues.  (I know, am I completely naive/stupid/ignorant/arrogant or what?)  I thought because I was raising my kids in a home of mutual respect, where I tried to always hear my kids side of things, where I often changed my mind on things after hearing their opinion, where I thought we had complete and total communication, that I wouldn't have teen issues.  Teens only acted out when they weren't heard/understood/cared for.  I did/do all of those things for my kids.  Surely they wouldn't go through any teen angst stuff.  Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.  I'm laughing so hard to keep from crying. 

This parenting thing is hard.  I never really thought it would be easy.  I remember when I had my eldest daughter.  She was about 3 weeks old.  I was tired/overwhelmed/feeling a bit post-partum and my mother came to visit.  I was crying to my mom that I didn't know what I was doing, how hard this baby thing was, and that maybe I should have stuck with cats (I am serious cat person : )  Sometimes I still feel that way.

Of course I love my daughters dearly and wouldn't trade them for cats any day.  But in my naivety I thought each stage would get easier.  Hahahahahahahahahhaha (there I go laughing to keep from crying again).  It was physically hard on me when they were young.  I got very little sleep, always felt like I needed to "do" for them, be it feeding, bathing, changing, etc.  It would get emotionally hard when I was exhausted, especially when I felt like I had no support or because I had to do everything myself.  But it wasn't emotionally hard in that I had to deal with their emotions.  It wasn't emotionally hard because they were breaking my heart. Now that I am parenting teens, it is no longer physically hard, but it is emotionally hard.  Teenagers rip your heart from your chest. 

I remember being a teen.  I am not one of those parents who has completely forgotten her childhood/teen years and parent from a place of "do as I say not as I do".  I was a horrible teen.  I remember it vividly.  Granted my parents were no "parents of the year" and they had big issues of their own which didn't translate into parenting well, but looking back I know they did the best they could.  I suffered from terrible angst, although I only really showed it at home.  I was bitchy and moody.  All the time.  I was rebellious and all that entails.  I remember once my mother telling me she couldn't wait until I had teenagers of my own.  Well mom, I know you aren't here to see it, but you must be smirking in heaven, because it seems you have gotten your wish, I have teenagers! 

I love my girls, I really do.  I wouldn't trade this life for anything.  I'd lay down my life for them.  And some days are wonderful, we are good friends and able to hang out and have fun and talk.  Just what I dreamed my life with my daughters would be like.  Then other days, {shudder}, it's like they were abducted by aliens overnight and are no longer my children.  Those days are hard.  They make me question everything I have ever done since they were born.  Those days make me long for when they were toddlers, oblivious to the influences of the world.  Just warm little bundles of joy, who just wanted to curl up in mama's lap.  I know I can't go back in time and I really don't want to.  I look forward to watching them grow up and become young women who have lots to offer this world.  And I know they have lots to offer.  I know they can make a difference in this world.  If they can only survive these teen years.  Terrible two's?   Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!  They ain't got nothing on the terrible teens!  

"can't you see that you're smothering me
holding too tightly, afraid to lose control
cause everything that you thought i would be
has fallen apart right in front of you"

~Linkin Park -  

21 June 2010

Stop Being Mean to Your Kids!!!!!!!

So I was in Kohl's last week.  Casually browsing through the men's Hawaiian shirts, trying to find the perfect shirt for Father's Day.  It was early, 10:30 am, and the store was not yet crowded, so I was alone in the menswear dept.  And then I heard it, a small child, crying/whining "But I'm tired!"  And then I heard the mom say in her meanest voice ever "THERE ARE NO CARTS WITH SEATS! YOU HAVE TO WALK!!!!!!!". 

The voices got louder, I knew they were heading my way, but still could not see this little family amongst all the racks of clothing.  The girl kept crying "Mama, I'm tired!"  The mom kept bitching "You are 3 years old!  You have legs and can WALK!"  

Finally they walked past where I was perusing my shirts.  All single file.  First the mom, mid 30's probably, looking very stern.  Then the 3 year old, just a tiny thing, all hunched over, dragging her feet, rubbing her eyes.  Crying.  Then a third person, another girl, probably 7 or 8, walking along not saying a peep, just looking sad. 

I wanted to pick up the 3 year old and give her a little squeeze and tell her "I know you are tired, I'm sorry your mom dragged you to this store".  But I just kept looking at my shirts, and cringing every time this mom yelled at her 3 year old for being tired.  I wanted to tell this mom that her time with her 3 year old will be over in a flash, and that her daughter was the most precious thing right now, not shopping, and that she should pick her up and give her a squeeze, and then maybe she'd more happily walk along.  Or if she was really tired (I know my toddlers often woke up at 5-6am!), how hard would it be to carry her along, this was a tiny 3 year old, not a big hulking one. 

But I said nothing.  I don't think if I had it would have been well received.  The older girl seemed sad, either the mom had been bitching at her kids all morning, or she just wasn't an overall nice mom.  Seems the older daughter had already learned the drill, keep your emotions hidden, don't voice your concerns.  Just follow along and tow the line.  Sad really.

I see this too often.  Parent's dragging their kids here and there, the kids are tired, the parent's are yelling at them.  Why does a child deserve to be yelled at for being tired and sharing their feelings?  This is why kids shut down and learn not to feel.  They have been raised by people who don't honor them, or their feelings or care about what they think.  This is why people eat too much and smoke and drink and do drugs and shop, etc.  They were taught to shut off their emotions as kids, to stay out of trouble or to avoid being yelled at.  If you have lost touch with your emotions, you don't know who you are or what you are feeling.  If you don't know those things, you look for outside things to make you feel better. 

I'm no shrink, but I have been there.  I was often told as a child what to feel.  If I cried I was told not to cry.  If I was slapped and cried I was told it didn't hurt.  If something happened I was told it wasn't as bad as I was making it out to be. 

No one knows what someone else is feeling and no one else has the right to tell someone else how to feel.  EVER!  

Even a 3 year old knows what they feel.  Until someone bigger and stronger tells them, over and over, that they aren't feeling what they think they are.  Then they begin to question themselves, until they no longer feel. 

Wake up parents!  

"Feelings are everywhere - be gentle."

14 June 2010

Rebel, rebellious, rebellion

There are many definitions of "rebel" on the web. The two that most fit my take on the word are:

  • break with established customs
  • maverick: someone who exhibits great independence in thought and action

Then we can move onto "rebellious":

  • resisting control or authority;
  • disaffected: discontented as toward authority
And lastly we have "rebellion":

  • refusal to accept some authority or code or convention; "each generation must have its own rebellion";
  • organized opposition to authority;

I bring up these words because I have always been a rebellious sort. Maybe I get it from my Irish side (paternal grandfather, he was in the IRA), or the bit of Scottish in me (maternal grandfather) but it seems I have rebellion in my blood. I have never been one to go with the flow or follow "normal" societal conventions.

I don't believe there is one "correct" way to do something, and I don't believe there is anything wrong with questioning "authority". I am who I am, I am who God made me to be. I may rub people the wrong way, I may seem "too big for my britches" at times. Some have called me loud, some have called me obnoxious. Some would like to "put me in my place" I am sure. But sometimes someone has to speak up and challenge conventions. I guess sometimes I think that someone is me.

Has it gotten me into trouble? Certainly. Has it changed my position, no.

I could list all the rebellious things I have done in my life, but that really isn't the point of this post. I found a quote by Steve Jobs that kind of sums it all up for me:

05 June 2010

Losing Myself

I started thinking the other day about who I am. I know all the labels people can put on me: I was a daughter (both of my parents are now dead, so I am a parent-less daughter now), a sister, an aunt, a mother, a wife etc. Those are words that describe me, but they don't define me. I don't want to be defined by labels or categories or boxes that others can put me in.

I started thinking back to my youth and what I wanted to "be". When I was growing up, kids were always striving to "be" something. It wasn't enough to just be a kid or a teen, it was all about what you were going to "be" when you grew up. I remember wanting to be a model. What girl didn't want to be a model in the early 80's, the heyday of supermodel-ism? Although I have (had) a pretty face, I knew my Irish "potato pickers" legs would never get me a cover shoot, so I moved on to wanting to be an actress. I was in some school plays, and I was pretty interested in the acting thing for while, but reality set in (and lack of encouragement from my parents) brought me back to reality. By junior year of high school I was thinking about being a photographer. (I am sensing a theme here; I think I wanted a career with excitement and adventure.) My grades weren't great, I hated school, so my parents weren't willing to help me pay for photography school. (I wanted to go to Columbia, in Chicago, I could have lived at home and commuted to cut costs, but that's a whole other story). Suffice it to say, none of those dreams ever panned out. I considered becoming a paralegal at one point, but again, no money for school, and with my grades, no scholarships were forthcoming.

So I went to work. I had been working since age 14, various jobs, fast food, a laundromat, cleaning offices, finally retail. But after I graduated high school, I needed full time employment as I wanted to get of my parents house. (Another long story for another time).

So working full time, paying for an apartment and car, finally meeting a man, moving in with him and getting pregnant, then married, then I wake up one day at 42 and realize I lost myself.

I'm not unhappy with how my life turned out, I love my husband, I love my daughters. I have been happy being a mom, and I have learned a lot about myself, what my strengths (and weaknesses) are through being a wife and mother. But now that my girls are getting a little older, and I too am getting older, I have been thinking about the rest of my life. Is it too late to re-visit those old dreams? Do I even want to do those things anymore? Who am I outside of the wife and mother role? I still wonder what I want to be when I grow up.

Some days I am content to putter around the house and just continue on with the status quo, other days I feel like I was meant for so much more, that I should be contributing to the world in a more meaningful way. I just don't know what that is yet. I wish I could sit on a mountain for a while, and maybe the gods would speak to me and point me in the right direction. (Although in reality, I'd much prefer to sit under a palm tree and stare at the ocean for a while).

I think I may be going through a mid-life crisis. Although crisis isn't really the right word. It's soul searching. Searching for meaning in my life and in this crazy world we live in. If I find it I'll let you know.

There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
~Anaïs Nin

15 March 2010

More Irishness, in honor of the Holiday!

What It Means To Be Irish:

1) You will never play professional basketball.
2) You swear very well.
3) At least one of your cousins is a fireman, cop, bar owner, funeral home owner or holds political office.
4) You think you sing very well.
5) You have no idea how to make a long story short!
6) There isn't a big difference between you losing your temper or killing someone...
7) Much of your childhood meals were boiled.
8) You have never hit your head on a ceiling.
9) You spent a good portion of your childhood kneeling in prayer (ya know ya were thinkin' about being badwhether ya did it or not).
10) You're strangely poetic after a few beers.
11) You are, therefore, poetic a lot.
12) You will be punched for no good reason...a lot.
13) Some punches directed at you are from legacies of past generations.
14) Many of your sisters and/or cousins are named Mary, Catherine or Eileen...and there is at least one member of
your family with the full name of Mary Catherine Eileen.
15) Someone in your family is incredibly cheap. It is more than likely you.
16) You may not know the words, but that doesn't stop you from singing.
17) You can't wait for the other guy to stop talking before you start talking.
18) You're not nearly as funny as you think you are...but what you lack in talent, you make up for in frequency.
19) There wasn't a huge difference between your last Wake and your last keg party.
20) You are, or know someone, named Murph.
21) If you don't know Murph then you know Mac. If you don't know Murph or Mac then you know Sully.
Then you probably know Sully MacMurphy.
22) You are genetically incapable of keeping a secret.
23) You have Irish Alzheimer's.
.. your forget everything but the grudges!
24) "Irish Stew" is a euphemism for "boiled leftovers."
25) All of your losses are alcohol related (loss of virginity, loss of drivers license, loss of money, loss of job,loss of significant other, loss of teeth from punch...) but it never stops you from drinking.

I didn't write this, but I can admit, some of these fit me!

14 March 2010

Sunday Funny

A man walked into the lingerie department of Dunnes in Dublin and said to the woman behind the counter, "I'd like to buy a Baptist bra for my wife, size 36B."

What type of bra? asked the clerk. "Baptist" said the man. She said get a Baptist bra, and that you'd know what she meant."

"Ah yes, now I remember" said the saleslady. "We don't sell many of those. Mostly our customers want the Catholic type, the Salvation Army type, or the Presbyterian type.

"Confused the man asked, "What's the difference between them?"

The lady responded, "It is all really quite simple; the Catholic type supports the masses, the Salvation Army type lifts up the fallen, and the Presbyterian type keeps them staunch and upright. Then there's the Baptist type."

"What does that do?" asked the man.

She replied, "It makes mountains out of molehills."

09 March 2010

Family Tree

In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage - to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness.
~Alex Haley~

I hope to write a series of blog posts about my family tree, at least what I know so far. I think it'll be good to get the information and stories out of my head and on "paper" for future generations. Today I am starting with my dad's side:

I was born in NYC, Manhattan to be exact. Same as my father. We lived in an apartment, I talked about it here. My dad's parents (my grandparents) lived in the apartment building next door. (Not where my dad grew up, but he still was born and raised in Manhattan). My grandmother Frances Clarke (Nanny) was Irish, but was born and had grown up in England, my grandfather, Thomas Cox (Pa) had grown up in Ireland, so they both had accents. I didn't think much of their accents, as living in NYC many people had accents.

The story, as I had always heard it growing up, was that Pa was coming from Ireland to America and Nanny was coming from England. They met on the boat and by the time they got to America, they were in love. The real story, which came out after both grandparents had died, was that Nanny got pregnant while they were on the boat, (guess there wasn't much to do on boats back then, especially if you were in steerage), so they had to get married. That baby ended up dying a few months after birth, he would've been my Uncle John, my dad was born 13 years later.

My dad didn't talk to much of his childhood. I know it was hard. I know they were poor, but most Irish were back then, especially in the big cities. The neighborhood my parents grew up in was mostly Irish and Italian, and poor, so everyone was in the same boat.

Pa held a variety of jobs over his lifetime. He was a milkman for a while (drove a milk truck) and was a member of the Teamsters. In his later years he worked for the Port Authority in NYC. It's what he did before coming to America that he was most proud of. He was a member of the IRA, the Irish Republican Army. He told us that he was one of the first members of the IRA. He was the youngest of 12 children, and there wasn't much to do in Ireland if you weren't the first born son (and inherit the land and farm) or a daughter who would be married off, so for a teenage boy, the IRA was it. I don't know what he did as an IRA member or what happened to him other than one story he used to tell us: After he had been with the organization for a while, and had done whatever they told them him to do, the Black and Tans came for him one night. He was asleep in his bed, and they dragged him away from his home. He said they tortured him for information, of which he said he had none. He thought they were going to kill him, but they didn't. After a very long night they let him go. He had nightmares for most of the rest of his life after that. He never told my dad any details, and he never told us kids any. It's kind of a shame really, so much history, such much information, lost forever. My grandfather wasn't a very nice man, he wasn't good to my father and he was very stern with us, his grand kids. I often wondered if he was always that way or if he was a product of his circumstances, the things that had been done to him.

In recent years I have begun exploring my family tree. I have limited information, I know who my great grandparents were, but barring a trip back to Ireland, I'm not sure how to get more information. Yes the Internet is a wonderful thing, but unless someone, somewhere, put that information on the Internet, it isn't there for my grabbing. My grandfather told us the birth records were kept in the Catholic churches, and many of those churches were burned to the ground during all the years of trouble with the British. So our record might not be there at all. I do know my grandfather had a sister who came to the states when he was a baby, and she died before he ever came here, so he never knew her. I never had first cousins, both of my parents were only children, but I do remember a 2nd cousin, who was my age, that I knew when we lived in NYC. My parents never fostered an interest in us keeping up with our relatives. After we moved to the Midwest when I was 8, we lost most contact with those relatives. I find it sad, and now it makes it that much harder to find these people who share my gene pool, my heritage.

This is what I know about my paternal grandparents: My grandfather was born Thomas Francis Cox, June 15th, 1902. His fathers name was John Cox and his mothers name was Bridget Devine. My paternal grandmother was born Frances Clarke, June 13th 1908. Her parents were Francis Clarke and Margaret LaVelle.

I plan to write more of their stories and delve into my mothers side in upcoming posts. More to come............

When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious.
~Edna O'Brien~

To live in hearts we leave behind, Is not to die.
~Thomas Campbell~

02 March 2010


"A light exists in Spring
Not present in the year
at any other period
When March is scarcely here."
~ Emily Dickinson

How can it be so, March is here. I feel like it has taken forever coming, and yet so long. My last quick stop here was on Christmas Day. I have fallen into the horrible winter doldrums ever since. Moping around the house, dreading winters snow and chill. Becoming more and more slug like as the days dragged on.

But alas, it is March! Spring, right around the corner. And with that head knowledge, somehow my body also knows it. I have a bit more energy, look a little more forward to the morning and the coming day. Relish in the sun streaming in my windows, and melting the snow outside them.

Spring, spring, I am so happy to see you. Sunlight and longer days where have you been? My mental and physical health depend on the warmth and sunshine. I am but a shriveled weed without them.

I am committing myself today to embrace the coming months, to get outside and appreciate the sun and fresh, warm air when it is here. And to my blog, that I have neglected for too many cold, dreary months. Whereas most people might be inspired to write while cooped up inside, for me it is the opposite, I need happiness and joy, brought by the sun, to release my inner thoughts.

Spring and summer, those are the months I thrive in. I am happy that they are almost here!

"Winds of March, we welcome you,
There is work for you to do.
Work and play and blow all day,
Blow the Winter wind away."

March bustles in on windy feet
And sweeps my doorstep and my street.
She washes and cleans with pounding rains,
Scrubbing the earth of winter stains.
She shakes the grime from carpet green
Till naught but fresh new blades are seen.
Then, house in order, all neat as a pin,
She ushers gentle springtime in."

~Susan Reiner, Spring Cleaning~