Thursday, March 17, 2016

In the Palm of His hand.

Delete, I do, after writing long posts about woes that are so temporary and silly... empty.  
Bob Dylan is singing to me:  "Don't think Twice it's Alright...  It ain't no use turnin' on your light babe/I'm on the dark the dark side of the road/But I wish there was something you could do or say/to try and make me change my mind and stay/but we never did much talkin' anyway.  Don't think think twice it's alright."

It's 3:34 am, not a Thursday... Oh, Saint Patrick's Day!  I'm 42% Irish.  I think that's what my mom said.  42 and 1/2 %... Irish...  Sam isn't Irish.  He's almost completely English.  He had two or three ancestors on the Mayflower.  I had one descendant on Miggie Lisai's side.  I don't even know her maiden name...  Thayer.  I think it was Thayer.  The Lisai's are 100% Russian.  My dad is 100% Ukrainian.  I'm the most Irish one in the house, although Michael looks just like his 100% Irish great-grandfather.  

Stella was named after Stella May (Frenette) O'Connor.  She was French.  Grampy Jim, (James O'Connor) was 100% Irish.  He had twin siblings: Reggie and Madeline.  And guess what his mother's name was?!  Johanna!  It's strange that the only other people to have twins so far was me, yeah? Grampy Jim's father's name was Michael.  Johanna and Michael O'Connor.  

I have kept track of my family history.  I know the stories, and want my children to know them.  They do know them.  I don't want them to forget that they knew Nanny Tops and Grampy John.  Nanny is still here.  They need to see her.  I was so lucky to see my grandparents, and great-grandparents for a significant part of my life.  My happiest memories are in their house:       
 May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back. 
May the sun shine warm upon your face; 
the rains fall soft upon your fields 
and until we meet again, 
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Sam and my babies are mostly English.  We'll eat corned beef and cabbage tomorrow, even though that wasn't a celebratory dinner for Irish people.  They would truly celebrate with something special to them, like chicken.  We have silly American traditions about other cultures and even our own country's past.  That's okay.  Stella asked if it was okay if she didn't eat any cabbage. I told her, she didn't have to eat the cabbage.  She ate the carrots.  That's a big deal for that little lady.  

Every day, at some point, my heart breaks a little bit:
When my daughter eats carrots because she knows I want her to.
My son draws intricate WWII battle scenes and that he never to shows me. I find them under couch. 
And watching my daughter through our  front windows as she dances and belts out songs in the yard.  (Grampy loved to watch her dance.  She started dancing at 11 months. 
It breaks that my grampy is not here. 
I can't handle the knowing that I will lose more people I love. 
It breaks that my babies are growing up so fast. 
It breaks my heart that I have PMDD, and it disables me.  
It breaks my heart that I'm not a teacher...  

PMDD, luteal phase, when I'm wide awake all night, I think about my grandfather a lot.  I miss him very much.  On early mornings like those, when it's almost 4:00 am, and I can't sleep, I am waiting for daylight to come.  I think the past is present and intertwined.  I am lost in halfway-sleep-dream-delusions. 

I am waiting.  I want give my nanny and grampy time to wake up, you see...  I want to get in my car and drive to their house, and walk through their old wooden door, and see grampy sitting in his chair, and smell the muffins my nanny is baking in the oven, and nanny is siting there next to my grandfather--love of her life--and they smile at me, and Grampy says, "My Joanna!"  (They were always so happy to see me. I hug him I can smell his aftershave, and mint tea, and shaving cream.   
Understand,  I can't sleep when I'm believing that is all actually something I can still do... I believe it is true and tangible and not gone forever.  Sleep can bring nightmares... reality, instead of what I want to be real.  I just can't go to sleep when I believe if I just stay awake, and I wait, wait, wait for morning, (a reasonable hour of course, when my grandparents are both awake), I can finally run up to their porch, open their door, and see that everything is just as it should be.  

But, I'm not delusional.  I just can't sleep, you see?  It makes sense, if you put yourself inside me.  It all makes perfect, beautiful, sense.

Oh, I need to try to rest, so I can cook that American Irish dinner for Saint Patrick's Day.  We'll eat corned beef and cabbage tomorrow.  
I'll stop crying and try to sleep a bit.  
I'll try to remember as I close my eyes, and maybe they will be there.   I'll walk up the front porch steps to the old wooden door, and open it to smells and warmth of my childhood. My memories are alive.  

I'll try to think about that as I fall asleep.  

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there... I do not sleep.
I am the thousand winds that blow...
I am the diamond glints on snow...
I am the sunlight on ripened grain...
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you waken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of gentle birds in circling flight...
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry—
I am not there... I did not die...

Sunday, March 13, 2016


The twins get their First Holy Communion this May.  They have been attending classes every Tuesday after school, since September, but lately we have been very conscious of getting them to Mass.

I felt fine today.  I was helping Sam drag brush and logs off of the bank, near the "little house," and I was not tired.   I was not depressed.

At Church, this evening, the Gospel was about the adulteress, and "he who has no sin, shall cast the first stone."  Earlier that day, was a Mass of reconciliation.  Left on a pugh was the guide for that Mass.  As the Priest began his sermon, he read a list of questions to ask ourselves, a "self-check," in relation to our own sins.  He abbreviated the list, yet I had it in front of me: the full list of questions.  Masturbation?  Impure thoughts?  Contraception?  Sterilization?  Homesexuality?  Those were all on there.  He didn't mention the masturbation or homosexuality questions during his sermon.  I saw them.  I would never teach my children some of the things on that list were "sins."

The Priest was making a point about people not casting judgement on others, and humbling ourselves...

But I just saw a list of questions that I could answer "Yes" to... many of them... So many of them...  I'm a sinner.  I'm a mortal sinner?  I judge myself.  I think my greatest sin has been casting judgement upon myself, and therefore slipping into a darker place than my hormones and genetics already push me into.  When one judges his or herself, that person often exacts their own forms of self-punishment.

Dr. A. once told me I had to stop being so self-punitive.  I didn't realize I was... punishing myself... and in the process, giving up a little bit on living.  Part of me felt like my soul was already dead.  My heart was broken.  I was broken.  I was not thinking about living at all...  I'm wrecking myself.

I don't believe God wants to punish me.  I believe God sees every part of me... all the complicated, twisted up, confused, scared, parts of me and maybe understands I'm doing my best.  I'm trying.  I'm trying.  And I believe God knew when I wasn't trying.  I was giving up.  Yet, I was giving up, (and I do give up), because I'm scared.  I'm depressed. I'm empty, sometimes.

But I don't want to be.  The week before the Priest ended his sermon saying that we must "Trust Jesus."  He said we must trust him in our darkest times, in our suffering, and not give up.  "Trust Jesus."  I am going to do that.  That before anything else.

Thursday, March 3, 2016


My first memories of Kurn Hattin Homes were visiting with my Grampy John.   Sometimes I would go into the classrooms with my grampy.  He would bring treats for the students.  (My mother taught there, for one year, right after her divorce.  I was 5.  She taught pre-K). I didn't really know what the difference was between Kurn Hattin and any other school.  I just loved visiting with my grampy.  Everyone knew him and everyone loved him.

I remember one time, instead of going into the school, grampy let me sit outside on the grass and wait for him because a little boy, my age, was playing out there too.  It was a grassy bank, sloping down from the main building, a long hill.  Trees interspersed on the hill.

The little boy was swinging on the low branch of a tree.  He told me that he lived there, at the school.  I must have asked him why, not really understanding it wasn't just a school, and he said because he had set a fire in his house.  I asked him why he did that, and he told me it wasn't on purpose, but his parents didn't want him to live there anymore.  We held onto the branch and kicked out legs out forward, then tucked them under us, so we could swing back and forth until the momentum stopped and we had to push off again.  

I told him I was sorry he couldn't go home.  He told me he like being there better.  He liked being at Kurn Hattin better.  He wanted to live at Kurn Hattin.  I couldn't imagine not being with my mother.  

Even though my parents were recently divorced, I didn't really understand anything about "broken" homes, or abuse, or children who needed to be somewhere other than their own houses with their own families.  I didn't know about that.  I didn't really have any memories of my biological father being home, so I didn't know any difference when he was gone.  I was loved so deeply and lavishly by my grandparents, my mother, my aunts and uncles... I didn't know anything but love.  

I also remember being a little jealous, sharing my grampy with the kids there, when he spoke to them in the hallways, or in the classrooms.  He acted like he loved them too.  And they seemed to love him.  But the little boy, swinging on the tree branch by his arms, made me understand that the children there needed love, and my grampy was so full of love, I should not be selfish.  I felt proud that he was my grampy.  And I knew I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.

Stella at Kurn Hattin
And throughout my years, growing up, I thought about Kurn Hattin, and teaching. Luckily my mother married Mike Janiszyn, when I was 7, who was also a teacher, and just like my grampy.  Mike Janiszyn became my father, instantly:  I knew he wanted me. The little boy playing on the back with me that day knew he wasn't wanted... not by his family...

That was 32 years ago.  I still remember what the boy looked like, and the feeling of the bark on my hands--how it kind of hurt to let it twist the skin--when we kept swinging like that, but I didn't want to stop.  I wanted him to keep talking to me.  I wanted him to tell me what he wanted to tell me.  I was so young, to understand that he needed to talk to me and tell me his story.

When my grampy called to me, telling me it was time to go, the little boy looked up at the tall man, smiling down at us.  "He's your grandpa?  You are lucky."

And I knew I was.