Archive | February, 2012

Remembering Dad and replenishing the Well.

29 Feb

Marie Joseph Academy on the Mid Maine coast.

Well this was supposed to be just a short little post since I worked til late, enjoyed Date Night and… hold the presses, am working again tomorrow.  All of which requires a fair bit of creativity.  But as sometimes happens it got away from me a bit.  It’s the Eve of  March and it makes me think of my Dad.  His and my birthday’s are but 3 days apart and it got me thinking about the well where creativity comes from and how to make sure it doesn’t run dry.  I’m gonna have to figure out how to get more rest since I thinks that’s part of the replenishing.
One of my High Schools… MJA
This is the place where I started to learn to play the guitar, to write and to figure out the meaning of friendship beyond the bonds of family.  It holds a special meaning in my life.  It’s where I went when we were all still reeling from 9/11.  It’s where I met my wife, one town and one bay over on the Maine coast.  It still rings of destiny to me.  It is still part of the deep well that sustains me and why I return as often as possible.
More than once it was my Dad who drove me back to school, just a few hours up from the Massachusetts coast.  One of those times, he drove me and my new first step-mother up to watch the same beach I had walked countless times.  It was a new relationship for him and he wrote the poem below. He then deemed it not good enough, crumpled it up and tossed it into the back seat.  I immediately snagged it and kept it, astonished at the beauty, romance and poetry of the words.  He never knew I kept it and eventually put a tune to the words.

MJA from a distance

My career Navy dad and I never quite saw eye to eye after my younger sister was born and supplanted me as Daddy’s little girl.  I think I was a puzzle to him as he grew older, more conservative and religious and I more liberal and accepting of different as the years went by.  I know that he loved me and was proud of who I had become considering where I had come from.  One of my cousins let me know this shortly after Dad passed.  Thanks Frank, that meant more than you could ever know!

Me and Zelda hanging on the Maine coast.

I was always sorry that he only met Elizabeth once.  I remain convinced to this day if he could have gotten to know my Elizabeth, he would have understood me and my life choices much better.  He would have adored her.  He had the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever know, and it’s a big part of what I inherited from him.  The poem below reveals another part of what I got from my Dad.

THE WAVE         Words by Robert J McCarty Sr. July 1972   Music by Weez  1975

The grand old wave that hits the shore
To get all you people wet
That have come to adore
It splashes it’s spray to Heaven above
Just to let you know
You have all my love
Some day you will look across the shore
To watch as it comes for
It stayed in a land
From across the way
To leap and bound
till it breaks in spray
To stop and stay and last forever
This wonderful wave that comes to say
I want again to be with you
This wave of mine
dims all of time                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This wave is you
Hey Dad, thanks for the gift of life, poetry and romance.  I miss you and can still hear your voice in my head talking all things Red Sox!  Especially now that Spring Training has arrived!  Ah, Baseball another of my replenishers.

Searching for the Song Gods within

28 Feb

My friend since 1980

I picked up a guitar for the first time Columbus Weekend 1970 when I was 14.  At Thanksgiving my Aunt Pat gave me my first guitar… a Harmony Classic.  She’d done her research and figured it had the most pleasing sound.  She didn’t like the tinny sound of a steel string and she loved the folk songs of Peter, Paul and Mary.  I’ve played a Classical guitar ever since.  My fingers get all crowded on a regular guitar and the sound just isn’t right.
And it was Aunt Pat who gave me one of the best pieces of advice I ever got about music, when she heard me trying to sound like Barbra Streisand.  Stop trying to sound like everyone else and sing with your own voice!
My original guitar got stolen in a Boston bus station on my way back to boarding school a few years later and I played a 3/4 Silvertone Sears guitar for years after that. I never had to polish my own boots in Army Basic Training because my fellow recruits would rather have me sing and play than polish boots.  Ah, the power of music!
And in 1980 a woman I barely knew gave me the beauty I still play today.  As she put it, “My dad bought me this and I’ll never play the guitar like you, so you should have it”.  I don’t remember her name but I think of her often and wish her well every time I pick up my lady.

My Lady's Provenance

I taught myself to play by asking friends one chord at a time, buying chord and song books, listening to the folk songs, perseverance and just plain stubbornness!  I played when my fingers were tore up, when friends and family left the room (’cause I’d play the same thing over and over again just to get it set into myself), when I thought I had no friends in the world from moving town to town and school to school and even at night so I could hear the right way to play the chords.  I’d even make up chords ’cause they sounded good.
I’ve taught guitar lessons to a bunch of kids and have seen some of them to go on and make music for a living.   A wonderfully personal, and satisfying example of playing it forward!

Over 30 years together... almost like a married couple

And through it all, I’ve written… sometimes song, sometimes poetry and sometimes just the thoughts that later became song or poetry… what I call saving phrases.  There have been times when I can’t grab guitar and pen fast enough to set down what the muses send me and then times when the connection has been broken and far away.

Human, Wood, Rainbow, Feather and Song

 Over the years I think I’ve begun to figure out the demands of the Song Gods… part of it is giving up personal control and releasing the wildness of the Song Dog within me.  One has no hope of control when words require release… sleep and deadlines be damned!  Luckily, one of my personal touchstones is my old wooden and string friend of more than 30 years.  She’s finally taught me to let my heart dance like a feather  And it’s from that place songs emerge!

Mental note to self…

27 Feb

Let me just think about this for a minute.

Have you ever started to do or say something and then realize what a bad, bad idea it was?  Yeah, me too.  Now, not all of the Uh oh I’m in trouble moments below belong to me.  Although there are enough so that I have my own don’t even think about it stupid “mental note to self” list!  I’m sure many of you do as well.


My tennis ball... not yours!

Stepping on your dogs tennis ball at any time but especially during a middle of the night bathroom trip… can result in a black eye!

Road trip ready.

Leaving your cell phone, iPod or other expensive electronic devices on the top of your car to be subsequently run over with said car!

Ready for some raking.

Mowing over or any other kind of yard work for that matter over a yellow jacket’s ground nest… especially the day before your wedding!

Broken ankle in Red Sox colors.

Running down icy cement steps with your slippers on just to warm up the car… did result in a broken ankle and surgery!

Softball a lifelong love affair.

Throwing yourself down with your arms over your head and yelling “INCOMING!” during a game when a firecracker goes off behind home plate while you’re batting.  I’ll own this one.  I was just back from my 2 weeks of National Guards training at Fort Bragg.  It was a sort of conditioned response.  It took 10 minutes for the game to resume so everyone including the umpires could stop laughing their asses off!  I have to admit even I was laughing once I was over the shock.


Eating your wife’s last piece of chocolate… especially that time of the month… well the consequences are just too terrible to contemplate, aren’t they?

Pretty Blue Jay

Banging a partially frozen bucket of what we euphemistically call “doggie land mines” against the fence in preparation to dumping it out.  NOT PRETTY!  Also, NOT FUNNY!!


Ever picking on a Biker, especially in a Biker bar… never a good idea!

Look, it's a double dog dare.

Of course, I’ve had a few more of those UH OH’s than what’s written and pictured here.  Consider the above to be life lessons to share in case anyone else needs to make their own “Mental note to self” list.    Sort of a public service thingie.  The question here is is there anyone out there who’d care to comment on their own UH OH moments?  I double dog dare you!!

Chasing the heavens

26 Feb

The Westering Moon

The post it note on the back door reminded me in time to sniff… good thing.  The dogs’ll have to wait for morning and daylight for their next trip outdoors.  Luckily, they don’t have opposable thumbs to allow door knob use.  There will be no naked showering of dogs this night.
I went out alone instead and watched the moon chase Venus towards the western horizon.  It’s a perfect view from our back porch through the trees.  Someday I’ll have a good enough camera to see the nightly heavens the way I do.  But until then I will just have to brace myself against a safe and sturdy surface and catch what sights I can.  Sort of like like life I guess!

A snow scattered Saturday afternoon

25 Feb

A Snow Scattered Afternoon

Last weekend Elizabeth and I attended a beer making workshop.  So of course a beer making kit was ordered in short order.  It arrived at the house today.  It seems making beer means following certain rules regarding sanitation and no mixing of atmospheric yeast so that the beer comes out right.  Which means Elizabeth takes charge since I’m not terribly good at rule following.
Now that doesn’t mean I can’t follow general rules… I did manage 6 years in the Guards and 5 years of Catholic boarding school without getting kicked out and I’ve never been fired from a job or come close to being arrested!  However following EXACT rules is more of a challenge for me than my wife.  Hence I’m very good at cooking, photography and song writing.  And that’s why when my wife offered to teach me to knit a few years ago after I broke my ankle I politely declined… several times.
She just couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t be thrilled with 3 months of knitting.  I was just as happy to read 3 science fiction trilogies and find an online site that tracked the movement of European tribes over the past 2000 years.  They say opposites attract and honestly I can’t argue with that.  It’s part of what makes us so perfect for each other.
So she spent the day making beer, watching beer making video’s on the computer and bottling the Dandelion Wine that’s been aging since early last summer.  And I whiled away a windy, snow scattered Berkshire afternoon obsessively catching up on the Red Sox spring training news, re-reading a favorite science fiction novel and watching yet another of the Star Trek saga… the Enterprise version.  I ventured out in time to help Elizabeth clean up from her fruitful labors and sample the Dandelion Wine.  She’d been convinced it wouldn’t be very good.  She’s a bit of a pessimist.  I on the other hand tend to be an optimist.  This time I was right.  Damn fine Dandelion Wine and we’re grateful for a damn fine afternoon!

When I grow up…

24 Feb

Maggie and Elizabeth

I’ve worked in hospitals and nursing homes for a lot of years.  First as a CNA (certified nursing assistant) in the late 70’s and early 80’s and then as a PTA (physical therapy assistant) since 1996.  As a PTA I love the challenge of getting my patients to do physical therapy.  As anyone who’s ever had PT can tell you it’s hard work.  And not everyone is interested in working hard.
At lunch time a few months ago, I mentioned to my co-workers that my wife thinks I’m the sneakiest and most manipulative person she knows, but luckily I use my powers for good and not evil.  “That’s what makes us good therapists,” they all said through snorts of laughter as they started to relay their own sneaky and manipulative tricks.  I learned a few new tricks that day.  I love it when I get to collaborate with other Rehab professionals!
I’ve worked with veterans from World War I  to Vietnam and from all branches of the service including the Women’s Army Corp from World War II.  I’ve treated waitresses, physical therapists, mechanics, policemen and even an honest to God rocket scientist.  I think because my profession is so hands on and the patients and therapist have to work so closely together to get the desired results it can create an intense bond.  Some of the stories I’ve heard over the years have been remarkable.
Maybe it’s because I grew up in my Grandparents’ house or maybe because I’m such a history buff but I like hanging out with the elderly.  The older and feistier the better.  I figure feisty is how they got there!  And the over 90 crowd are my absolute favorites.  To some of them, I’m just this young whippersnapper of a woman (I’m 55 for crying out loud) trying to boss them around.
Besides as one old man said, “I’m 96 you know, I don’t need any of this foolishness.”  A few minutes later I had him standing up working on his standing tolerance and balance.  Six minutes after that he said to my dog Frankie “just a few more tosses, young fella,” as he let go of his walker to take the ball and throw it again.  Like I said–sneaky and manipulative!
Recently, I got to work with a 99 year old woman who I had treated over a month before.  When I’d last seen her she could only toss the ball to Zelda a few times from her wheelchair before tiring.  She’d had hip surgery a few weeks earlier and was restricted to putting weight on one leg while standing.  Now she was walking and getting ready to go home later in the week.  The first thing she said to me was “How are your dogs”?  I let her know both of us had had our haircut the week before and pulled out my very small iPod nano and showed her the  picture of Frankie.  Both of us just kind of shook our heads at that tiny piece of technology sitting in the palm of my hand.  Me because I remembered listening to a reel to reel tape recorder as a youth.  And her because she was a teenager when the Great Depression started and who had money for anything?  Even most pocket watches weren’t that small!
Most people in the US are afraid of growing old.  Our society is obsessed with youth and so many dye their hair, use botox or have plastic surgery to “keep their looks” and equate that with staying young.  But staying young really is in the heart and mind… as so many of my “old” patients remind me.  The link I’m putting here is for a TV commercial but that’s not why I’m linking to it.  It’s a song by Michelle Shocked called “When I grow up I want to be an old woman” .  Ignore the fact that it’s an advertisement and LOOK at the beautiful faces of these old women.  ‘Cause I don’t know about any one else… but that’s what I wanna be when I grow up!

We all walk the same skies.

23 Feb

Dawn Moon from the Kitchen Window

Like most of you (unless you’re agoraphobic or a hermit) I’ve met a great many people during my life’s journey.  I’ve attended 8 different schools, spent time in the army and lived in many places.  At one point my step-mother had two whole pages in her phone and address book just for me and my wanderings.  It seems strange to have been at one abode for almost 15 years.

Illinois Sunset

And over the years I’ve wondered about some of those people I’ve lost contact with.  What manner of joys and sorrows, loves and losses did I miss as they went on to live out their own life journeys.

New Mexico Blue

To those who were once so important to me but are no longer part of my present life, rest assured I think of you often.  And in the words of that famous Vulcan, Mr. Spock… Live long and Prosper!

Finnish Dusk

I wrote and sing the song below in your memories.


Pink paints the same sky
birds fly the same sky
that you and I stand beneath
who makes you laugh
and what makes you cry
do you still feed your dreams
or have you sold your soul

Clouds frame the same sky
sun flames the same sky
where you and I lie apart
have you any children
do they look like you
and do they play and dance
like we used to do

Winds sweep the same sky
rain weeps the same sky
that you and I hide beneath
what does your heart want to say
and who do you teach
where do you sleep at night
and who holds you tight

Trees grace the same sky
earth binds the same sky
where you and I step apart
do you still walk mountain paths
or is it city streets
where you live your life
and is your heart at peace

Ocean meets the same sky
stars greet the same sky
that you and I love apart
how I miss you
old friends of mine
do you still think of me
from time to time
like I do you sometimes

‘Cause love paints the same sky
oh, love paints the same sky
yes, love paints the same sky
that you and I
where you and I love
and live a part
we live apart

Night Rising at MJA

Wednesday Date Night

22 Feb

So tonight was date night. We usually go out on most Wednesday nights  It’s to a small local place a half mile or so from home.  Nothing very special, except that it is.  It’s kind of like Cheers (the fictional bar in Boston from TV) where everyone knows your name.  We order a bite to eat and a drink or two.  We’re usually home by 7:30 or so.  Just a little something we do weekly that keeps us grounded to each other and the community that surrounds us.  And lets us–a married lesbian couple–be a part of our neighborhood in a very unique way. 

It is 2012 so it’s not all that shocking any more that 2 women are married, especially in Massachusetts.  But what I think is really astounding to some people is how how happy and well suited we are with each other.  Wow, in some ways our relationship is more “normal” than normal folks.  After all the divorce rate in the US is 50% and although the unhappiness rate in “regular” marriages is not calculated, I’m thinking it’s probably higher than 50%.

Where we live is mostly small towns and rural areas. This is not exactly cosmopolitan like the bigger cities of the Northeast–say Boston or NYC.  But I believe it’s very much like most of America beyond those big cosmopolitan cities.  In spite of the political, economic, and educational differences among us we take pride in being able to discuss and debate those differences without rancor. 

There are some national and religious figures who would have you believe otherwise.  That it’s the big liberal cities that are driving these movements of otherness.   That it is where we who are different are most accepted.  That we who are different, be it because of nationality, religion, sexuality or whatever is different from the norm are a threat to Marriage and Religious values and the American way.  But I beg to differ.

 I think most Americans accept folks they live among and get to know and it really doesn’t matter the differences.

Date night down the street in a small neighborhood place says it in the most fundamental way.  They are always happy to see us and they actually miss us if we don’t make date night!


21 Feb

Now to those to whom I’ve complained–OK whined–about not having a cold winter or snow this year,  it’s not just ’cause I can’t go snowshoeing.  Though I still think Mother Nature is taunting me with these half inch snowfalls!  More than a few of you have said how great it hasn’t been cold (saves on heating costs) or snowy (saves on shoveling or plowing) but PEOPLE, there are consequences to not having a normal winter.  While I am as concerned about Global Warming as any sensible person should be, that’s not what I’m getting at here.

You’ve heard the expression “Here be Dragons”?  Apparently it comes from very old maps when no one knew what lay out in unexplored territory and Latin was the official scientific language.  Hic svnt dragones is what was written on the margins of those old maps.  It basically meant Beware of Monsters!  And no, I’m not worried about dragons or monsters.  What I am worried about it is the SKUNKS are out and about waaay too early.

It seems skunks are usually pretty dormant during this time of year, not hibernating per se, but certainly not out and threatening.  I don’t have anything personal against skunks, after all they eat insects that are mostly pests to us humans but I have dogs.  And I have too many stories about my dogs regarding skunks.

Kaya was my first dog as an adult.  It was also my first personal encounter with the eau de skunk!  We were working nights at a home for dual-diagnosis adolescent boys (still got the scars to prove it).  It was in one of the old “cottages” left over from the wealthy of the Gilded Age so it was kind of out in the woods.  I let him in and immediately noticed the smell.  There wasn’t any ketchup, supposedly the remedy for skunk emergencies, so I grabbed a #10 can of tomato paste… I mean how much of a  difference could it make?  Me and a friend took him into the bathroom, plopped him into a tub and proceeded to give him a tomato bath. It was going OK until he shook.  Let’s just say it took all night to clean up what looked like a murder scene!  At least Kaya never bothered another skunk as long as he lived.

And then there was Apricot Sara, my soul dog.  She deserves a post of her own and will get one.  Suffice to say she never did learn about the cats with the large white stripe down their backs!  Her last encounter was a doozy!

Elizabeth and I had been out and about all day, arriving home sometime after 7pm on a Sunday evening.  We let Sara and Zelda out back and Nisha, one of the cats slipped out as well.  When Nisha came to the door we of course let her in.  She was in extreme distress and started to roll and rub herself on the dining room rug.  It was soon apparent why.  Somehow she’d been caught in the crossfire between dogs and skunk!  Have you ever tried to shower 2 skunky dogs naked?  Like I was gonna make any of my clothes smell like that!  Fortunately Elizabeth took on Nisha.  It was a long and terrible evening!  When I bathed Sara it became clear who the ring leader of this escapade had been.  I actually had to wash her tongue… that’s how close she’d been to the weapon end of the skunk!  Not that I’m a big Amway fan (public service announcement here) but their LOC is the best I’ve ever used to deal with a skunking.  We keep some on hand at all times.  Way, way better than ketchup or tomato paste.  Take that advice from someone who’s had more than her fair share of encounters.

So back to the not having a proper winter and the “Here there be Dragons” stuff from before, we put a warning post it up on the back door, much, much earlier than in years past.  Ne hic svnt mephites… Let there not be skunks here!


Please don't let it happen again!

Thanks Debs for the Latin!

The Garden St mini farm

20 Feb

The other inhabitants, non-homo sapien division… so far

Maeve the Mysterious

Nisha the Mischievous

Zelda the Impervious

Tanner the Unflappable

Franklin the illegal

Each has their story of how they came to live here.  As do Elizabeth and I.  All will be revealed…