Wild Grapes

October 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

Wild grapes are the best scent of fall.  Pumpkin is fine, I like pumpkin very much, but nothing says fall to me like clambering through the woods and catching that elusive tang of wild grapes ripening somewhere nearby.  The annual hayride at Zelinkas is coming up soon, so I’ll probably ride the wagon all the way into the woods and then jump out (setting a terrible example for the young children… “Kids, do NOT jump out of the moving hay wagon.”) and tramp around the forest looking for the grapes and all the other ephemeral childhood memories hidden within the Z’s woods.  So many ghosts of my friends and myself, running through the trees, playing Manhunt and Soccer and Orphans, telling secrets in the rowboat on the pond, daring each other to eat a tiny bite of the horses’ molasses-sweetened grain.

Although autumn in Pennsylvania is pretty as a picture and twice as interesting- what with the constant fluctuation between delightfully blue sunny days and “let me snuggle under a blanket with a book” dreary gray rain- I have to keep my mind in summer mode for a little while longer.  Costa Rica beckons, a mere month (and 6 days) away.  Jess has been in NEPA from Costa Rica for the past week or so, and we’ve been talking about our plans for me and Channing’s visit, and how I’m going to build sand castles with little Alana and drink mango margaritas all day long.  And do yoga overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Insta-worthy, indeed.

November is shaping up to be a wonderful month.  My little niece Yeardley will be turning 1, and I’ll probably pop down to Erica & Bryan’s for her birthday party during the first week of the month.  Channing and I leave for Costa Rica on the 14th for five days of sun, sand, and fedora.  And by the time I get back, Thanksgiving will only be a week away.  That means pies, cakes, and whatever slightly more technical desserts I decide to bake this year.  Last year, I made every single dessert my family enjoyed on Thanksgiving, and I am rightly still proud of myself, especially for that chocolate torte.  I also still have the burns to prove it.  “Forever Scarred (From Caramel Sauce)” will now be the name of my autobiography.  Sadly, the Michigan family probably won’t be making an appearance in PA for the holiday this year, because I don’t think Jul will be up for 18 hours in the car when she’s three weeks away from giving birth.  She’s having a little boy in the beginning of December, and I’ve already told her she’s not allowed to name him James. (My favorite boy’s name… after Jamie Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, of course.)  Cathy and I have been having virtual Taylor Swift jam sessions on Facebook.  Mainly we just post lyrics on each other’s wall with a bunch of sobbing emojis.  It’s not nearly as fun as real life.  She needs to come back home.  Who even likes Michigan, anyway?  Dang it, Michigan!

If November looks to be fun, well, September and (so far) October definitely were.  I started September off in the best possible way: by spending Labor Day weekend down at the beach in Longport.  Gin & tonics, sunset bicycle rides, and lots of reading books on the beach.  My aunt and uncle spoil me when I’m down there, and I love them for it.  Later in the month I went to the Breaking Benjamin concert at Montage with Mike and some friends. Breaking Ben played a lot of their older songs, so we were all singing along at the top of our lungs.  It was a great show, except for the $15 beers once you were inside.  A few Sundays ago, (yoga) Erica and I went on a bike ride on the Back Mountain Trail.  Or, to more accurately depict our day, I should say we: ate giant burritos at Chipotle, drove through Starbucks for sugary caffeinated beverages, and then decided it might be a nice thing to ride bikes for two hours.  There is a method to our madness, but I am not quite sure what exactly it is.

On one of the more humid September days, Ron and I went to a swimming hole near Laflin. It was a pretty little spot, tucked into the woods after a fifteen minute drive down a rutted and winding dirt road.  Luckily his Jeep is a beast.  The hole is made by a creek that slides down some rocks into a large, almost perfectly circular pool, then spills over another bank of rocks at the end.  When I sat on the rocks at the edge of the water and looked up, all I could see was a round little cup of blue sky, encircled by the tall green pines.  It was deep too; neither Ron nor I could touch the bottom in the center.  I asked him if he thought there’d be any water snakes, and he said, “No, of course not, the water’s too cold for them.”  So we swam around for a while and got out when the sky started turning gray with coming rain.  As we were standing on the rocks, discussing the odd conversational style of his ex-girlfriend, I noticed small ripples on the surface of the water.  “Ron,” I said calmly, “what is that?”  “Probably a…fish?”  He peered at the water.  And then we both saw it.  A water snake, gliding sinuously through the pool, heading in our general direction.  I shrieked like a steam engine (a girly move on my part…the snake was literally nowhere close to us) and ran up on top of a giant boulder where I could see it coming if it decided to eat me.  Ron gave me eighteen heart attacks by going down to the water and saying he was going to try to pick it up.  Apparently he has handled water snakes before.  I told him I considered him a great friend, and I enjoyed his life advice and our long, rambling theological discussions, but if he came near me with that snake, I would murder him, and the 5th Commandment be darned.

He did not pick up the snake.

Near the end of September was the long awaited PAPAL VISIT.  I went down on the bus with Kevin, Rich, Paul, Pete, my mother, and a few dozen other people from our church.  We didn’t even make it through security.  We got stuck in a huge line of people for three hours and then ended up watching the Mass on television at the Comcast building. But it was strangely moving, being in a completely secular place, surrounded by thousands of people who are all saying the same prayers, participating in the same Mass with you.  We went out to the parkway to receive Communion.  So I’ve received Communion that was consecrated by the Pope.  How many people can say that? (Also I got interviewed for the Citizens Voice because of it, and now I’m a local celeb.)

To start October off right, Channing, Jess, Missy, and I had dinner at Thai Thai.  The red curry was as delicious as ever.  We’ve done brunch at River Grille a couple Sundays in a row as well.  Sunday afternoon football on the television at the bars is always the best part of September.  I don’t follow it as much as hockey, but every time it starts back up, I’m reminded of how much I really do enjoy it.  Football around here is a BIG deal.  And if I still feel a little stab of pain every time I hear someone mention Eli Manning and the Giants, well, that too shall pass.  Fly, Eagles, fly.  Another nice thing about September was spending more time with my older brother.  Dan is recently single, and we’ve been hanging out a lot more than we used to when he was visiting Christina every other weekend.  Although I miss her, I have to admit it’s been hilarious good times to go out again with Dan and see old friends, be goofy in the Babetski way, talk about life and love and being grown-ups in this wide, wide world.

I guess if there’s a point to this rambling post, it’s this: my family and friends are an incredible gift to me.  I have felt such spiritual silence in the past few months, such a weight on my soul.  I just keep going back to the basics of my life, saying to myself in the words of St. Pio: Pray, hope, and don’t worry.  Use this time to stay close with your family, to build your friendships and shine your nerdy little light out into the world.  I am happy here in Wilkes-Barre; I want to spread a little of that happiness and peace to the people I love.  And if that sounds cheesy, well, I’ve always been a romantic at heart.

Here’s to fall in the Northeast.  Let’s go run around in the woods and find some wild grapes.


September 18, 2015 § Leave a comment

On my bad days, I think about all the strong things I’ve done in my life lately, all the things I thought I would never, ever be strong enough to do.  I think of them and remember how much I dreaded them, how the thought of doing them made me sick with fear, but they’re done now.  They’re in my past.  I survived.  I am okay with where I am in my life right now.  I got myself to this place, no one else but me.  Obviously I had help but the decisions and the carrying out of them were mine. So I think to myself: I am strong.  And that is a wondrous thing.

I had an old poster from when The Fellowship of the Ring was first released as a movie, and Frodo was on the front, holding the ring in his palm and staring down at it. It said “Power can be held in the smallest of things.”  I think of that poster, and I look down at my skinny little chicken arms, no biceps to speak of, and I laugh out loud in delight at the odd turnings of the world and the keenness of minds who find wonder in paradox.

Journal 9.3.15

September 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

September 3rd, 2015:

My prayer right now is for contrition, to understand more deeply how my sin wounds the heart of Jesus and to take strength from that, in order to not commit certain sins again. It seems to me that I get stuck in a loop, very easy to do when you’ve been born and raised with your faith like I have, and there’s really not a lot of major stuff going on in my life.  Loop: get frustrated, distracted, angry, sorrowful, commit sins, feel remorse, manage to make it to Confession on a Saturday morning, remember for a few days how good forgiveness feels, get distracted, frustrated, repeat.  But it shouldn’t be like that. I shouldn’t take it so lightly.  I think I’m struggling with futility right now as well. Just that horrible feeling that no matter how hard I try, I’m going to be stuck in this spot in my life forever.  Which is, in itself, a turning away from trust in God, from relinquishing control of my future to His care.  So, contrition and trust.

A few things I’m especially grateful for today: my good friend Matt, who opened his own insurance agency and got me a better deal on car insurance!  What a grown-up thing to be grateful for.  Also, it’s my turn for a weekend at the beach!  I’m going to Longport to spend Labor Day weekend with my relatives there. Counting down the hours!

Today, I am not going to worry about tomorrow.

Mother Mary, comfort me.

Heart of Jesus, help me.

Journal 8.27.15

August 27, 2015 § 1 Comment

August 27th, 2015

My prayer right now is to come to a better understanding of my day-to-day vocation from God.  To find my balance between being in society, being a part of this crazy mixed-up world, and keeping my interior thoughts and heart focused on Jesus and the things not of this world.  Balance has been on my mind so much lately, as such a necessary part of life.  I know I feel better in every way when I spend time in solitude and quiet prayer with God,, but I also know I’m an extrovert and it energizes me to be around people, laughing and talking and staying up late.  The struggle to find the balance between these two ways of life is what I’ve been working on for a while now.

A few things I’m especially grateful for today: a few days of quiet at the house for me and my dad… while the rest of the family is on vacation down in Longport!  I’m so grateful for my relatives who share their blessings with us, like the beach house.  My mom texted me that she’s saying her morning prayers on the porch of the beach house, with the early morning breeze and the sound of crashing waves for company.

Today, I am not going to worry about: money.  Ha.

Mother Mary, comfort me.

Heart of Jesus, help me.

Journal 8.26.15

August 26, 2015 § 1 Comment

August 26th, 2015:

My prayer right now is to take things one day at a time, to remember that Jesus’ love is stronger and greater than any human love, to be quieter, to focus more on my daily prayers.  To reach out to a sister more and be a better friend to her. To be more patient with people.  If I truly feel that God’s vocation for me right now is to be out among so many people, to be “all things to all men” (as Elisabeth Leseur said so many times in her wonderful book!), then I need to live up to that with everyone, not just the company it is easy to enjoy.  To not let my emotions sway my spiritual life so much. This has been one of the hardest lessons of heartbreak: realizing how focused on a human being’s love I have been. I always used to quote that one book (Not A Sparrow Falls) “the arms of flesh will fail you” and be so sure I wouldn’t ever be so focused on a person’s love that it would shake my faith in Jesus, but as usual pride goes before the fall, and that’s exactly what happened.  I know Jesus’ love is better. I know all the right things, I just need to figure out how to put them into practice.  Reading 2nd Corinthians right now, a chapter every other night, to give me time to think on the words.  (So grateful for the wonders of modern technology sometimes: the USCCB’s online Bible is handy to have around, because if I forget what I read the night before, I can pop on it and refresh my memory.)  Stab of pain in my heart when I read 2 Corinthians Chapter 3, because it has the verse about us being Paul’s “living epistles”… that we are the letter from God to be read by the world, and that verse has always reminded me of children, of raising children to love God and the Church, all the saints and angels and the beauty of Catholicism.  So I decided to offer up the pain at not having children yet for all the mothers considering abortion.  It made me feel a little bit better but I’m no saint yet.

A few things I’m especially grateful for today: Getting to see friends from out of town… Veronica, when she came in for the wedding…. Callie visited for a few days and we all went to Knoebels… I hung out at Ron’s apartment last night and had a great heart-to-heart with him and Erica.  (It’s so funny to think that a year ago today, I didn’t know either of them, or Harry or any of his friends.  They have brought so much joy into my life.)  Ang is at the PNA Convention right now and was named assistant secretary of the convention!!  Hahaha I shouldn’t even be surprised.  Henry Rat appears to be the healthiest old man rat in the world.

Today, I am not going to worry about meeting up with Danny.  I am not going to look back at all the mistakes I’ve made in the past year and a half and wish that I hadn’t. I’m going to pray and focus on the daily good things.

Mother Mary, comfort me.

Heart of Jesus, help me.


Ghosts, Gold, and Yoga

August 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

No one ever told me living with a ghost would be so easy.  I used to be terrified of ghosts, until I realized the true source of their power lies not in their unearthliness, but in the way they drag the past with them like rattling chains.  Ghost on my shoulder, ghost in my ear.  There is nothing scary in the whisper-thin memories that elude my desperate attempts to grab them midair and squeeze the life out of them.  They are simply my past.  I want to tell the ghost boy: give me my memories back.  Make it so I can stop hoping you return to life, full formed, like Athena springing from the forehead of Zeus. Let me rest, let me sleep in peace and not wake up with a ghost in my head and a fist around my heart.

There should be a statute of limitations on heartbreak.  After a certain amount of time, you are no longer able to be pierced by sorrow at a moment’s notice.  You wait it out and then your time has expired, you can go free, there is no hold on you now.  “Yes, the defense rests.”

I rest.  No longer on defense against memories, I rest, and I get up, and I walk away. I am free. My statute of limitations has come into play and these feelings are gone. You have no claim on me now, prosecutor.

Life has no statute of limitations on memories though. You just have to work through them, every single day.

Even when it’s hard, I keep being strong. I feel like heart-strength is a habit, just like doing yoga each week has given me the muscles I never had for push-ups. Yoga has taught me so much about myself.  Like: you have to keep trying, even when everything inside is crying for a break. When your core is hurting, you have to push through it.  Or, when you want to cry over what was, pick your head up instead. Hold that High Plank pose a little longer. Don’t send that heartsore email.

Feel the burn? It means you’re getting stronger. High push-up to low push-up, inhale to upward facing dog, exhale to downward facing dog. Move through it, just go. Don’t pause for a drink, just keep going. Don’t cry over a boy, don’t be jealous when you see wedding pictures, don’t hate yourself for being so small and petty and weak, just go, just move through it. Breathe. Pray. One pose to the next. One more day. Move. Breathe.

I think one of the reasons I have fallen so deeply in love with yoga is because it is relatively new to my life.  I started this class with my friend back in January, and so it holds no memories, no ghostly reminders.  In the hard work (and it is hard, it leaves me sweating and spent every week), there is only a sense of getting stronger.  Of becoming better, pushing myself forward.  And so it reflects into my day-to-day life.  I try to do all the right things: going on a date instead of sitting at home watching Netflix, reading my book about Elisabeth Leseur and her love for Christ and her husband, being the World’s Best Aunt to my adorable niece and nephew, going to morning Mass at least twice a week.  Through all of it, I’ve learned healing from a relationship is best done through other relationships, because we are human and are made for each other.  Healing is found in loving all the other people in my life with all that extra love I have now because he walked away from it.  It’s in the road trips to far-away friends that I have time to take now. It’s in the late night coffee-and-dessert talks with my mother and the bright sailboat afternoons in Toronto and the goofy dance parties with my sisters in Michigan.  Healing is in my yawning efforts to wake up early for 7AM Mass, because even though all my private prayers are tears and anger, at least being at Mass is saying “I’m here, Jesus, and I know you are too.”

I am slowly (oh, so slowly) coming to the understanding that I can glean wisdom and strength from my struggle -indeed, that it may even be my duty to do so- and that to be refined into gold means passing through fire.  This understanding, I think, is what will banish the ghost in the end.

August Already

August 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

“You have made us for Yourself, oh Lord
And our hearts are restless until they rest in You”
– Saint Augustine

-I’ve been a little morose lately, and despite my best efforts, I can’t find the right words to write a deep, insightful blog post, so I will just say this quick summary: John and I broke up, not because of anything wrong or terrible, but just because we are, in our faith and beliefs, very different people.  It was not easy, even though we’d only been together for one month. It was hard and sad, and I’m really getting sick of the ‘right thing to do’ always being the hardest thing to do, but it was right.  He is a wonderful guy and honestly I have so much respect for him, even more so since he called me a few days ago to make sure I knew he didn’t hate me for ending things, and to tell me he wanted us to still be friendly and on good terms.  I was so sad and guilt-stricken for breaking up with him, and I cried a lot, even though I knew it had to happen.  So when he called me, it was such a sweet moment of grace and forgiveness, it made up for the whole past week of feeling like utter garbage for hurting someone’s heart. He’s a good man.  I feel like I can go out to Michigan this weekend with a lighter heart now.

-Yes, that’s right, I’m visiting my favorite flatland this week!  Friday through Tuesday, I’ll be in the Mitten.  They’re having a memorial Mass and ceremony for baby Cecilia on Sunday, so I wanted to get out there for that, of course.  Also, Catherine and Matthew have made it clear we are going to make a day trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park, and it’s going to be epic.  Those crazy kids.

-Yesterday night was Wednesday- okay, all day was Wednesday- which means hot yoga!! It really astonishes me sometimes, to see how much I enjoy this crazy killer workout every week.  Just once a week, though.  I’m still lazy as heck.  People don’t think of yoga as a workout, but the hot yoga class I take is intense.  You move from pose to pose within a few seconds, which means you’re constantly stretching your muscles to their limit.  I can do almost ten push-ups now.  (Generally I collapse after 7 or 8.)  If I ever need evidence that God puts things in our life just when we realllly need them, all I have to do is look at hot yoga, and my friend Erica, who introduced it to me.

-I splurged a little bit on myself a few weeks ago and bought a Kindle Fire 6.  My laptop was old and decrepit, but I didn’t feel like I needed to invest in another laptop.  I stare at a computer all day at the office, so the last thing I want to do when I leave work is stare at another screen.  But I wanted something, just for those times when I watch Netflix in my bed (hi, Firefly!) and write blog posts.  After a little research, I got the Kindle Fire 6 and I really like it!  It’s a perfect size for watching shows, and my brother has a wireless keyboard I can sync to it for writing.  You can also set up multiple profiles, which means I’m going to set one up for my mother so she can listen to the Toronto Maple Leafs games online no matter where she is in the house!  (Although one wonders why she willingly subjects herself to the agony and angst of being a Leafs fan….one truly wonders.)  It’s at odd moments like this when I’ll suddenly miss Danny: when I opened the Kindle Fire and started playing around with it, when I was browsing Amazon’s site to see which tablet would fit what I needed… he was so into stuff like that and it was always fun to hear him discourse on the pros and cons of a dozen different electronic items.  (I was just thinking… is it wrong of me to say I miss Danny still?  I’ve healed, I know that.  But I *did* miss him; I couldn’t help it.  It wasn’t a heartbreaking feeling, just a “man I wish I could ask Danny his opinion on this”.  A holdover remnant of 6 years of reluctant Best Buy visits and technology talk.  I think it isn’t wrong, because I didn’t miss him in a romantic way.  I missed him in a best friend way, which is totally understandable because he *was* my best friend, for many years.  All right, I feel better now.)

-Speaking of splurging on myself, have I mentioned me and Channing are going to Costa Rica in November!?!?  Yes, that sentence deserves all that punctuation.  Our friend Jess lives in a little town on the west coast of Costa Rica, and we’re visiting her for 5 days.  I found us a great deal out of Newark airport- non-stop both ways!- and into San Jose.  I think we’ll probably spend our last night in the city.  You can see the ocean from Jess’ apartment.  I cannot wait to just be lazy in the sun and sand all week long.  Okay, maybe I’ll do a little snorkeling or some ocean activity, too.  Please keep an eye out for all our pictures, which will be flooding Instagram and Facebook under the hashtags #tammytanlines and #sallysunburn.  (You all know which one I am.)

Well, I’m not really in the mood to wax all philosophical, but I wanted to post something.  I felt like I needed to write.  So this post is a bit more diary-like than I usually want my blog to be, but *shrug*.  They can’t all be Pulitzer winners.

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