Flood Aftermath

December 30, 2011 § 2 Comments

Flood debris lines the sidewalks of West Pittson and spills out into the road, a stark reminder of the damage that has occurred here.  It’s a strong statement, made in the silent language of bulging trash bags and ripped-up carpeting: that the effects of the September flood are still very much in evidence.  I snap photos of the detritus of people’s lives as Danny and I make our way through the quiet neighborhood to his old house.  There’s no need to hurry and so I walk slowly, allowing the memories of that weekend to rush over me.  Army trucks on the streets.  Gas fumes rising.  An ache between my shoulder blades.  Danny’s mother crying.  Above all: water, whether gushing or splashing or stagnant or oozing.  Oily water.  Muddy water.  Hose water.  Flood water.   

An odor of decay and mildew hits us when Danny opens the door to his apartment.  I walk in, my hesitant footsteps sounding oddly loud in the empty downstairs.  I’m not even sure I want to be in here, looking around at the desolation of the past three months.  There are too many memories and emotions still waiting inside this house for me.  They creep out from the corners and leave me gulping, with tears in my eyes.  Mold is growing on the side of the walls.  The downstairs is echoing when we talk.  The table against the wall holds vivid reminders of the awful flood weekend: a flashlight, some iced tea bottles, soap, discarded rubber gloves that never made it to the trash heap out front.  An abandoned push broom looks forlornly out at us from the kitchen.  Danny warns me not to step in the mold on the kitchen floor as we cut through there and head out the back door.  The open basement doors gape up at us, a pair of mute mouths giving testimony to the destruction inside.  The fallen autumn leaves curl in on themselves in the backyard.  They don’t even crunch properly because of the mud still caked on them.  Autumn leaves that don’t crunch.  For some reason, the wrongness of that hits me, hard.  I sit down with a thump on the back porch and drop my head into my hands.  The wrongness, the unfairness of all this damage is too much for a minute.  I want everything back the way it was.  I want it, I’d take it all, Abby running around and getting her paws dirty, the kitchen with stacks of dirty dishes, the empty beer bottles in the living room, even that (dirty, stained) old couch.  I just want the house to be lived-in again, with noise and people and pets and television.  I want- I want… I sound like a child.  When I raise my head, my world is still the same: Dead leaves.  Dried mud.  The scent of warped wood and mildewed walls.

Back out front, I turn around and snap a picture of the front porch.  I catch sight of the fence behind Old Mill Pine’s lot, the one Danny and I climbed over to get to the alley by his house when it had a foot of water in it.  Then the long lines of trash arrest me again, with their overflowing mess of possessions.  Bags and piles and stacks of people’s lives are out in the cold on the side of the road.  Can it really be condensed to this?  A garbage heap almost spilling into the street?  There are random spots of color amid the bleak browns and grays of winter.  A muddy bouquet of fake roses sits atop a pile of wooden boards.  I see  children’s brightly colored toys, a pink rug, blue Tupperware, the shimmer of broken glass.  But most of it is just junk: wood, stuffed trash bags, carpeting, peeled wallpaper, bits and pieces of unidentifiable material.  There is no rhyme or reason to the flotsam.  It merely rots there, a silent reminder of the swift river’s rising.       

Danny and I make our way carefully back down the block to his parents’ home and into the backyard.  Once beautiful enough to win the West Pittston landscaping contest, it’s now patches of mud and torn grass.  Bailey isn’t outside, chasing the soccer ball and pretending to be as young a dog as Abby.  The tool shed is still tipped on its side like a capsized raft.  There are gaps all around the old gray wooden fence where the force of the rushing water knocked it down.  Danny tells me that the grill and the smoker were both ruined that weekend.  I stand stock-still in the backyard, thinking again that maybe if I wished hard enough, it would be summertime and this would all be back to normal.  I want a sticky hot July evening with the dogs lazing around, a cold beer in my hand, mouth-watering scents rising from the grill.  Green grass, mosquito bites, Danny arguing about something.  Just then, he comes up and taps me on the shoulder and my all-too vivid daydream shatters.  When we walk around to the front of the house, the water line is still clearly demarcated on the windows.  Danny’s father has been cleaning up the mud and debris, but you can see the thick piles that have solidified into dirt. 

The house’s back door is swollen and sticks on the floor when Danny pushes it open.  Inside, the rooms have been stripped down to the original brick and beam supports.  It’d be much more interesting to explore the foundations of the house if I didn’t have the image of them covered in four inches of oderous flood mud stamped into my mind.  When I begin to snap pictures, I feel like I’m being distasteful or intrusive.  It’s like taking a picture of someone in the midst of a private grief, like I’m capturing emotions that were never meant to be witnessed, the bare bones of sorrow.  Cold air crawls under my skin as we wander through the rooms.  They echo the same way as the rooms at Danny’s apartment.  After one last photo, we head upstairs to the heat and comfort of the second floor.  I want so badly to know that someday warmth and sun will spill across these empty rooms again.  They will be filled with laughter and chatter, and the smell of food and wine.                                   

What do I want?  I want to believe that West Pittston can revive itself, that the town can be made beautiful and welcoming again.  After all, a town is nothing more than the people living within it, and it’s been very evident to me that the people of West Pittston have both the heart and the courage needed to rebuild their town.

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New Year’s Eve, Christmas Carols, and The Hobbit!

December 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Thursday’s Rambling Thoughts:

This is the first time in 5 years that I won’t have to work at the restaurant on New Year’s Eve.  I will never, ever, ever go out to dinner on New Year’s Eve.  Not after working them.  Not after knowing the frustration of a hostess who can’t seat people because she can’t flip tables because the seated people aren’t done eating yet because the food is backed up because there’s already too many people because everyone thinks it’s a bright idea to go out to eat on New Year’s Eve. 

Never, never, never. 

This year for New Year’s Eve, all I want to do is go to Eucharistic Adoration at St. Faustina’s Church and experience midnight Benediction.  After Benediction, I will have a martini.  (I mean, once I’m home.  Not there in the church.  Although that’d be cool too.)   Can’t think of a better way to welcome a brand new year!  I’ve never made resolutions.  I don’t know why, maybe it’s like how I never believed in Santa.  I just never have.  I always knew that my mom wrapped the presents and they were hidden in the attic and on Christmas morning, we’d go to Mass and then open them.  My younger siblings don’t believe in Santa, either.  I don’t think there’s a right or wrong parenting method as far as Santa goes, but I have to admit, I like our family’s way.  Mom brings down all the presents in bags, and we each pick out wrapping paper that we like.  She’ll pull something out and tell Pete or Gen or whoever’s present it is to leave the room.  Then we wrap it in the recipient’s chosen paper, put a tag and bow on it, and cart it back up to the attic.  It’s all very secretive and there are many random cries of “Gen, stop looking!”  and “Pete, you’re supposed to be in the other room!”  All very good fun.

I think “Good King Wenceslas is my favorite Christmas carol.  What other song has lines like “Bring me flesh and bring me wine!”?  I love it.   Lyrics here.  Reminds me of The Return of the King scene where the Nazgul tells his beast to “feeeasssst on hisssss fleshhhh”.  And I think that if a Christmas song reminds me of that scene, that automatically makes it the best Christmas song, ever.  Or maybe I’m just on a Lord of the Rings kick because of the premiere of The Hobbit trailer.  If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and watch it.  Then read the book and then watch it again.  I’m so excited for this movie!  I know The Hobbit isn’t on such an epic scale of the LOTR trilogy, but it stands on its own quite well.  I’m just so happy to get back into that world, through the screen.  I’ve read those books to pieces and it’ll be nice to have some new eye candy to digest.  And hooray for more Howard Shore!

Other things I want to blog about, but might forget:

1.  The Father’s Tale, by Michael D. O’Brien.  I finished it a little while ago and it was wonderful.  I really loved it.  Highly recommend.  I want to write a little review of it, but may forget with all the hustle & bustle occurring.  At any rate, read it!!

2.  Other really inspiring Christmas carol lyrics.

3.  All the things I want to bake for Christmas dinner!

4.  Pope Benedict and his amazing Christmas homilies.

PS- do you like the falling snow on the blog?  😉

“Late Have I Loved You”

December 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

“Late have I loved you,
beauty so old and so new,
late have I loved you.

And see, you were within,
and I was in the external world and sought you there,
and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely things
which you made.

You were with me, and I was not with you.
The lovely things kept me far from you,
though if they did not have their existence in you
they had no existence at all.

You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness.
You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness.
You were fragrant,
and I drew my breath and now pant after you.
I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you.
You touched me,
and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.”

– St. Augustine, Confessions

Sweet 16 Surprise

December 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I decided to have a surprise party for Cathy’s birthday, little did I know what lay ahead of me.  There are many decisions that go into the party-planning stage, but in the end, all you can do is take a step back and enjoy the results.  Even if those results are some broken furniture, guests stranded in the cold, and social media almost ruining the surprise.  Well, you only turn 16 once.   

Cathy started bugging me to have a surprise birthday party for her back in October.  Her birthday is December 29th.  Of course I did what any normal big sister would do.  I rolled my eyes and carried on and pretended I was way too overworked and busy and tired to even contemplate the idea of planning a surprise party.  As soon as I thought I had her pretty well fooled, I sent out the invitations via Facebook and text.  It would be a party to remember.  Mom helped by constantly reminding Cathy that we didn’t have a big enough house for a party.  Cathy’s incessant whining about how we didn’t love her and were ruining her life was rather hard to handle, but Mom and I endured.  The days flew by as I made my secretive preparations.  Her friends joined in the subtle teasing, making it known to her that they wouldn’t be around the week of her birthday.  December 9th quickly approached.  I chose an earlier date so that I could surprise her better, and because birthdays right after Christmas are kind of hard to schedule.

Finally, the day arrived.  I came home from work and discovered that Julie, who was supposed to lure Cathy out of the house, was stuck in traffic on her way here from New Jersey!  Horrors!!  Mom invited Cathy to come Christmas shopping with her.  The ignorant child declined.  I texted our friends, begging for help with an excuse.  Patrick came to the rescue (unsurprisingly, because he is just that awesome) and took Cathy out to McDonalds for their final chance to eat a McRib (better them than me, I said).  However, there was a problem: he was also bringing Cathy’s friend Mary to the party.  We devised a plan where Pat would drop Mary off a few houses up and she would wait there until they had left. 

The second Cathy stepped out the door, I flew into action.  We hung up decorations and arranged the food.  I waited a few minutes for Mary to walk in the door but she didn’t appear.  I checked my phone and noticed that I didn’t have service for some completely random reason.  I pulled the battery and rebooted.  While it was rebooting, Cathy’s friend yelled in that Mary had called him.  She was waiting on the corner of College and Church.  “Oh no!!”  I cried in dismay.  She’d been outside in the cold for at least ten minutes.  I threw on my coat and tore up the block to bring her to our house.  Luckily, she’s a sweet girl and understood that my blasted cell phone had been why she couldn’t contact me to see if Cathy and Pat had left yet.  

After that small snafu, things went smoothly for some time.  Guests arrived, Danny and I went for the pizza, cameras were readied for the big moment.    My phone beeped and I read the text from Pat: “We’re coming in”.   It as time!  We turned off the lights in the front room (this turned out to be a bad idea) and waited.  A minute later, the door opened and Cathy walked in. 

“SURPRISE!!!!!!!!!!!”

It was a complete success.  She almost cried but laughed instead.  After a few minutes to compose herself, she proved herself a true Babetski female by turning to me and saying, “Why didn’t you warn me!?  I’d have worn something better!”  I was so proud.

Over the next few hours, the party carried on.  Dance music blasted as we ate pizza and stromboli, cupcakes and chocolate.  Cathy announced that she was fine with being smashed in the face with a cupcake and less than a minute later, Shannon did it.  That set off a whole wave of cupcake/face smashing, which I avoided like the plague.  Some of the boys attempted to fit themselves all into a chair, at which point said chair retaliated by collapsing and dumping them all on the floor.  So much for that chair.  Danny decided he wanted beer, so he went to the pizza place and came back with a 40 of Miller Lite.  I was NOT amused.  Richard and I drank wine.  Cathy got many gifts, most of them Taylor Swift-themed, some jewelry, and a Wii, which caused much rejoicing in the younger members of our household.  My father hid upstairs the whole time.

The night finally started to wind down.  Before Danny left, he and I took some cupcake bits and fed them to the ratties, who were quite pleased.  As I waved goodbye to guests, I had the pleasant feeling of knowing I had successfully organized a wonderful surprise party.  Cathy hugged me and then I collapsed on my bed and slept in really late the next morning.

Thank goodness Pete won’t turn 16 for another 3 years. 

Here is the video of Cathy being surprised.  It’s dark in the beginning because we turned out the lights so she wouldn’t see us all through the window.  Give it a few seconds and I turn the light on.

Christmas Songs, and A Little Bit of Everything Else

December 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

There are times when you just have to throw your hands up in the air and admit you’re a terrible blogger.  I am doing that now.  Not literally.  My hands are busy typing.  But I will admit I’m a terrible blogger.  It’s been awhile since I posted and I apologize.  Sometimes the words, they just aren’t there. 

They aren’t really here right now.  But I wanted to post SOMETHING and so here are some random musings of mine:

Christmas songs!  I love them.  “Do You Hear What I Hear” is one of my favorites.  I really love Carrie Underwood’s version:

Also, the traditional French carol “Noel Nouvelet” is gorgeous.  I heard it for the first time on my SiriusXM Holiday Pops channel, which is the classical music channel.  Each rendition I hear of it is slightly different, but still beautiful.

Other favorites are “I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In” and “Ding Dong!  Merrily On High“.  I just love the old English words in that one!!

However, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is the creepiest Christmas song I’ve ever heard.  Seriously with these lyrics?  It’s like something Danny would mutter to me really quietly in my ear just to freak me out, while leering and attempting to wiggle his eyebrows.  It’s just NOT GOOD.  Check out these lines:

“Say, what’s in this drink?”  (Oh you know, dear girl, the usual: splash of eggnog, dash of Rophenol, on the rocks just the way you like it!)
“What’s the sense in hurting my pride?”  (What kind of a romantic overture is that!?)
Worst: “Get over that hold-out”.   (Wow.  This guy’s a true gent.  Charm personified.  Honeyed tongue.) 

Baby, It’s Cold Outside = Worst.  Christmas song.  Ever.

Okay, quick unplanned aside:  Can any other WordPress user explain to me why THIS is the example WordPress uses when you enter a video link:

I mean, since we were on the subject of creepy things…

Moving on now.  Another random musing:  Did you ever do something that accidentally hurt someone’s feelings?  And you don’t know how to fix it, because they don’t know you know they’re hurt?  And fixing it wouldn’t be easy, and it’d be a real hassle and bother?  But you feel like you HAVE to fix it because you feel realllllly badly that you hurt someone, even without meaning to at all.  Yeah.  How can you decide if it’s a situation where you definitely need to fix matters, or if it’s (in Ma Ingalls’ words) “least said, soonest mended”?

We put up our Christmas tree the other day.  It’s my job to hang the lights.  I think I did a marvelous job.  See for yourself:

I love giving gifts.  Honestly, I know this sounds totally cheesy and Christmas-y, but whatever, it’s true.  It really is way better to give than to receive.  I get such a kick out of knowing I found a present for one of my siblings, or my mother, or a friend, that they will just love.  Or something that fits their personality perfectly.  It’s such a great feeling.  The whole seasons of Advent and Christmas are wonderful. 

Here is Mervy discovering a Christmas tree for the first time!!

Pete and I went to open skate at the Arena the other night.  It was a Toys for Tots benefit.  It’s the only night of the year when the ice is open to the public, and I couldn’t resist the lure of that glassy-smooth surface.  I love to ice skate.  It’s so therapeutic.  Here is a picture of us with Tux, the Penguins mascot.  (I look hunched.)

Before Cathy reads my blog and gets all annoyed that I didn’t mention her, I am planning on writing a post about her surprise party.  It went VERY well!

Pope Benedict on preparing for Christmas: “I know that people have many commitments, but getting ready for Christmas does not only mean shopping and making preparations, it means being in contact with the Lord, going out to meet him. I feel it is important not to forget this dimension. … This is not an additional burden, but the power that enables us to do all we need to do. I hope you maintain permanent contact with Jesus, that his joy and strength might help you to live in this world.”

Off the topic of Christmas for a bit now and about to get a little political (well, you can’t say I don’t warn you): 

Here is an article in the WSJ with which I actually agreed:  The Church of Kathleen Sebelius.   “…the great untold story remains the intolerance so beloved of self-styled progressives. In this Mrs. Sebelius has proved herself one of the administration’s most faithful practitioners: here watering down conscience protections for nurses and doctors who don’t want to participate in abortions; there yanking funding for a top-rated program for victims of sexual trafficking run by the Catholic bishops, because they will not sign on to the NARAL agenda; soon to impose a new HHS mandate that will require health-insurance plans to cover contraception, sterilization and drugs known to induce abortion.”

“As government expands, religious liberty is reduced to a special “exemption” and concerns about government coercion are dismissed, in the memorable words of Nancy Pelosi, as “this conscience thing.” ” 

Lately, I’ve really been trying to keep in mind the enlightening statement of Servant of God, Dorothy Day: “You only love God as much as you love the person you love the least.”  It’s a good reminder when I get angry, as I so often do, at women who dismiss and publicly disdain my faith, even as they claim to be members of the same faith. 

We celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Monday, Dec. 12.  Here is a wonderful article about a Sister of Life in NYC who reflects on Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Also in the article, this prayer by Blessed John Paul II, said at the Basilica of Guadalupe in 1979: 

O Mother, strengthen the faith of our brothers and sisters in the laity, so that in every field of social, professional, cultural and political life they may act in accordance with the truth and the law brought by your Son to mankind, in order to lead everyone to eternal salvation and, at the same time, to make life on earth more human, more worthy of man.”

And the quote from Our Lady to St. Juan Diego: “Listen, my son, to what I tell you now: do not be troubled nor disturbed by anything; do not fear illness nor any other distressing occurrence, nor pain. Am I not your mother? Am I not life and health? Have I not placed you on my lap and made you my responsibility? Do you need anything else?”

There are plenty of other things I’m pondering, but I’ll try to save those words for Cathy’s party post instead.  I hope everyone is having a wonderful Advent season, preparing for the birth of Jesus!!

Guest Post: The Wonders of My Two Cats

December 5, 2011 § 2 Comments

Genevieve is back again with her second post, because I am seriously in a writing funk.  Thank goodness for siblings.  (Pete has now taken to writing posts for me as well.  I’ll get one of his up here in the next few days.)  Enjoy!

The Wonders of My Two Cats

Everyone knows cats are cute and affectionate. Well, maybe the people who don’t have cats think that. Pia and Fluff are my two cats; Pia is lazy and can’t catch a bird if it waited for him. Pia spends his day lounging on Mom’s bed, then with much effort, gets up to get to his food-bowl, it takes more effort to get up the stairs and curl up again. We adopted Pia thinking he would be playful like a little kitten (which at the time he was a half-grown kitten). But we were wrong, he is the opposite.

Fluff is somewhat alike, but she doesn’t lounge all day, and she could catch a bird if it tried hopping away. Fluff is a fluffy gray cat, and oh I forgot, Pia is unexplainable, maybe my picture can help you, back to Fluff. She and Pia do not get along, when Pia isn’t lounging or lazy, he decides to use his special hunting techniques-hiding behind a pillow when Fluff is two feet above him-to attack Fluff. Fluff always out-smarts him-sees him behind the pillow-and Pia walks away disappointed. Fluff is a playful cat, wants to love when she wants to love, she and Pia have claws, they’re not afraid to use them, yet I never bleed terribly.

These cats are the opposite of each other, but we love them most dearly. Well I must go get more food for Pia.    

Pia the lazy Cat

 

Fluff being lazy too

A Dessert is More Than a Trifle

December 2, 2011 § 2 Comments

Even when it is a trifle.  A cranberry trifle, to be specific.  Here are some pictures of the cranberry trifle that Mom cooked and I assembled for our Thanksgiving.  I was doing this at 8 in the morning on Thanksgiving day, so there really was no witty dialogue or events occurring as I made it.  I was mostly just sipping coffee and delighting over the trifle’s deliciousness.  I leave it to your imagination.

The cranberry compote:  a perfect blend of sweet and tart flavors.

 

Is there anything more yummy than a huge bowl of freshly whipped cream?  I am not ashamed to admit that Mom and I sampled this liberally. 

Here, I begin to place the first layer of pound cake at the bottom of the bowl.  We didn’t have a proper trifle bowl, so we just used a glass mixing bowl.  We’ve since purchased a correct trifle-displaying showcase.

The layers begin to grow.  The red of the cranberries sparkles against the creamy gold of the pound cake.

A few steps later, the layers have begun to meld together.  Cream, pound cake, cranberry compote combine to create a burst of sweet, tart flavors.  And it looks pretty too!

The layers are completed!  The trifle rests triumphant, a dessert worth exclaiming over!  Which Mom and I did, several times.  We were quite jolly with our (more than trifling) success. 

In our enthusiasm, we decide a garnish is necessary!  Our dessert is not to be trifled with. 

A mint leaf on top adds the perfect touch. 

This was a really delicious dessert.  I highly recommend it.  If you’d like the recipe, let me know!  (Same for the tiramisu.)

Also, sorry for the lack of wordy descriptions.  Lots going on in my mind.  Talking in terse sentences.  Absence of personal pronouns emphasizes distraction.  Probably going to have another guest post by Gen soon, or Pete.  Hopefully writing voice returns soon. 

Say a prayer for me!

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