Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 – Vikings vs. Panthers!

Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 – Vikings vs. Panthers!

Ok, Let’s get it out in the open….VIKINGS LOST!! The only Vikings game I have ever gone to, and they lost. However, it was so  much fun!!!

Vinnie and I had never seen where Vincent lives in Greensboro, NC, so we took the opportunity to go see him and catch the game in Charlotte. At one point they tied it up, but lost at the end. It was very exciting…and there was a ton of purple in the crowd!

I have to say, though, if I had to switch teams, I could be convinced to be a Panther fan. The crowd was fun, the music was non-stop, the beer was cold, and we had a great tailgate time at the DOG HOUSE bar across the street from the stadium before the game.

After the game, we caught up with a Norwalk guy, Tommy, who is friends with Steph and Anthony and had a beer with him before heading back to Greensboro. It seemed almost surreal to be standing in a bar in Charlotte after a Vikings game  with Vinnie and Vincent with a guy from Norwalk who we didn’t expect to see. A lot of fun!

This town clearly has a special energy when their hometown team plays!

As we walked back to our rental car in the parking lot just beyond the stadium, the sun was setting. The skyline was a soft orange glow with darker clouds just above the horizon. The lights around the Bank of America Stadium lit up with Red, White and Blue colors. The local neon signs brought in greens, oranges, and yellows on every corner. The air had a left over smell of the snow that had fallen the day before. And I counted my blessings.

  1. I was with Vinnie and Vincent.
  2. Together, we experienced my first Vikings game (they had been before).
  3. My youngest son, who we prayed so hard at birth that he would stay alive on this planet, walked beside me chatting with Vinnie about the game. He had grown into a fine and good young man who has made his way into this grown up world, hundreds of miles away from me.
  4. The three of us talked about our bucket list item of making a full family trip with everyone to the Viking Stadium in Minnesota in the near future! Maybe a future Christmas gift to all!!
  5. Yes, the Vikings lost the Vikings/Panthers game….but I have truly won with so many blessings in this game of life!
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Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 – Lourdes in Litchfield!

Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 – Lourdes in Litchfield!

The Immaculate Conception has a whole new meaning for me. Of course, I knew Mary was born without sin…part of the big plan for our Faith Journey!  HOWEVER, it also means that it is a day off of school when you work in a Catholic School!

Only twenty minutes from my new home is Lourdes in Litchfield! I have been past it probabably fifty times and every time I go by, I say, “I am going to go there someday”. It is a beautiful grotto-style shrine in honor of Mary! There seemed to be no better day to go to the SHRINE in Litchfield, CT than Dec. 8, 2017.

So, after an open invitation to several folks, 3 friends took me up on the offer and joined me for Mass at the shrine. Mass is said in the grotto at 10:30 every morning, but this morning was cold so Mass was said in a cute little chapel next to the grotto. Before Mass, Barb and I took a quick walk up the hill to see the Stations of the Cross while Lisa and Liz waited below. We all agreed we will have to come back in the Spring for Mass outside in the middle of the gorgeous hills of Litchfield County!

After Mass, we did a little Christmas shopping in the gift store. It was fabulous!! Next year, I might do most of my shopping there!! VERY SWEET!!

Feel free to check out the website….it is such a pretty little corner of this great world! http://www.shrinect.org.

Barb had to leave right after our little shopping spree, but Lisa, Liz and I had the whole day free…so why not stop at the Hawk Ridge Winery? We thought it was a perfect idea…after all that’s what Jesus would have done on a day off, after Mass, with his friends!!

 

Saturday, Nov. 24, 2017 – Harlem Valley Rail Trail

Saturday, Nov. 24, 2017 – Harlem Valley Rail Trail

WOW!! What a gorgeous day! November 24th in Connecticut and almost 60 degrees!

Now that we live in Litchfield County, I take a new route to Aunt Ann’s in the Catskills. Up through Torrington and into Middleton, NY and to route 199 to Route 145 and then route 23 is my new, windy road to Ann’s!

After a lovely Thanksgiving Day, I took her home and then headed back on that Saturday. It was probably the 5th or 6th time I have driven past the little sign that says “Harlem Valley Rail Trail” in the cute little town of Middleton, NY.  It is located just over the Connecticut border near Canaan, CT.  When I got home, I asked Vinnie to drive back an hour so we could walk the Rail Trail. Of course, he said yes…it was too beautiful to do nothing. The day was a gift!

The trail was beautiful; exactly what I expected and wanted! Sixteen miles (or so) of paved-over rail road tracks with another 10 miles of unfinished plans to go according to their website! The rail trail wandered past houses and fields and meandered over streams and alongside country roads. People walked, rode bikes and roller bladed past us. The trees stretched over us and we walked through stretches of pavement that cut through solid rock. The railroad track path was laid straight over streams and roads without a hint of an incline. It was the perfect day for a walk. I wondered how many people had traveled over so many years on this route from Hillsdale to Amenia, NY.

We walked for an hour and a half towards Amenia and then back again. Our final destination was the diner in the center of town. My BLT and Vinnie’s burger was the perfect ending to the day.

This walk was like an exclamation point for the feeling of Thanksgiving on a weekend full of family and love. So much to be grateful and thankful for. And extra thankful for finding this perfect place to walk on a perfect Saturday with Vinnie.

Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017 – Homeless and Hungry

Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017 – Homeless and Hungry

I am not sure what intervened today to make me say YES and hand my three clementines and a banana out my car window. I have never done this before!

I don’t know if it was because I was feeling so blessed to have just been able to take an amazing trip with friends and family in Ireland. Or maybe because Thanksgiving was just around the corner? Or maybe it was because I was on my way to a Principals’ Meeting at the Catholic Center so my Irish Catholic guilt meter was set pretty high? Or maybe because he looked like he could have been my own son wearing a knitted cap and carrying the sign “Homeless and Hungry”? Or maybe it was the Holy Spirit that nudged me? Or maybe it was a reflection of a line in a song called “Jesus in Disguise”? I really don’t know what triggered my response of rolling down the window and handing him out my lunch, but I am glad I did it.

I had never come off of exit 5  of Route 8 before and I had certainly never seen him before (I think!). But in this year of living more intentionally, the young man has stayed in my mind.

In the past, I have gone on numerous trips to feed the hungry in NYC through our church’s Midnight Run with Kali. Prior to going, we always have prayed to not judge and simply serve. That seemed respectful and right, but in my car alone, I have never seemed to have that same attitude.

I wonder now how many hungry men (or women) I have pulled up alongside at the end of an exit ramp and made no eye contact with. Perhaps I fiddled with my radio at that moment or maybe I double checked my calendar on the passenger seat. I probably have a whole list of ways I “didn’t look at him”. In my mind, I probably rattled through a list of judgement statements as well in the past…..He must be a drug addict! He will probably spend any money I give him on alcohol! Why doesn’t he just go get a job? How did he find a marker and cardboard if he is homeless? I can never find a working marker in my house!!

Today, no judging statement came to my mind, just the clear thought of “give him your lunch”.

I will never be sure that he didn’t “resell the food for money for alcohol and drugs”, or that he was ever truly physically hungry. But I do know, for that split second, I did look him in the eye and reach out my window with an open hand to him, and a human connection was made. I did what I know felt right. I do know that because of my tiny intentional act, someone’s 25 or 26 year old son had something to eat for lunch that day regardless of whether or not he was truly hungry and maybe he would have preferred drugs and/or alcohol for lunch. That didn’t matter. I knew that he had at least three clementines and a banana for lunch if he wanted them. And as I pulled away, I had a momentary thought.  God knows that if it were my son,  I prayed that someone would reach out their window, connect for a red-light second and feed my own son.

I was reminded in that small moment, that we are always the hands and feet of Christ here on earth for each other and that we are our brothers’ keepers.

Friday, November 10, 2017 – If you are going to try to golf….It might as well be in Ireland!

Friday, November 10, 2017 – If you are going to try to golf….It might as well be in Ireland!

Back in April 2017, my friend, Liz, invited about 30 friends and family to go to Ireland for her 50th birthday! What a blessing that I was one of them. She had been talking about it for about a year or so, and had been working with a few people in Ireland to put together a fantasy vacation for all of us. Of course, Vinnie and I said YES!! And so did 26 others!

As the date of Nov. 3 came closer, update emails from Liz came. She let us know where and when we would be landing. She let us know who would be picking us up, taking us to the first hotel in Dublin, and about dinner and a show that first night there!

Once we were there, Liz let us know about the Hop On Hop Off bus, Trinity College Tours,  and the tours her sister had arranged for at the Guinness Factory (Absolutely amazing!) She let us know what time to meet for the bus that would take us to Ennis for the next 5 days. She let us know that the driver would take us past a famous castle and to Blarney Castle to kiss the stone!

That evening, once we were in Ennis, we all met in the pub at the Temple Hotel to talk about the many options of things to do and see from there.  Leslie, Scott, Lisa, Rich, and Vinnie and I were set on visiting mom’s childhood town of Glin located on the other side of the Shannon River. We hired a driver and off we went. We took the ferry across and drove on winding roads. In Glin, we visited her church, saw a few side streets, took pictures of the castle from a distance away and then stopped at a pub and met a  few guys who knew connections to my mom a generation or two back! With mom on the phone we pieced together a few of those connections and then off we went to Julia Adams’ home. She and her daughter filled our hearts and bellies with hospitality in a moment’s notice. What a beautiful afternoon we had with Julia, her daughter, and two sons. I was so grateful that it was only Tuesday and and we had accomplished the visit to Glin!

On Wednesday came the Cliffs of Moher! Why this place is not on the list of Natural Wonders is beyond me! Absolutely gorgeous until the fog rolled in and the cliffs disappeared. It didn’t matter to us though, we were on our way to Gus O’Connor’s pub in Doolin! Liz’s fantasy retirement spot…..and a place with great food, beautiful people and a pub full of Liz’s friends and family for her birthday……and a surprise cake!!!!

By Thursday, it was time to shop and enjoy Ennis. Some of us decided to shop while others decided to get tatoos!! Leslie and I got the Celtic symbol of Love (trinity and heart) as “sister tatoos”….Lisa bought the Celtic trinity necklace for her symbol of Love for us!!  Kind of a special time for all of us to be in Ireland together!

Friday had arrived and Liz had the list of folks who had said YES to Golf vs. Shopping in Galway! The two groups boarded two separate buses and headed out in two different directions. I was on the first list. After all, if you are going to play golf for the first time in your life, you might as well play it in Ireland with people you love!

Our bus pulled up and we figured out the club situation.  Three foursomes approached the first hole and we tossed around the jokes about “addressing the ball” and the rules for playing “best ball”. That is when Jim surprised Liz with a “gift” that brought us to tears. Jim had brought some of Liz’s Dad’s ashes to be spread onto the golf course in Ireland as we overlooked the ocean. Of all the people in Liz’s world who were laughing, drinking, and enjoying the week in Ireland,  the one who was so obviously missing was her Dad; Liz’s silent and ever-present companion. Jim’s moment of raising his arm and releasing the ashes into the breeze reminded us all that Don Reid’s spirit was very present on this trip. It was such an emotional moment of tears and love to kick off the golf outing. I felt so blessed to be a part of that very special moment in time. I was so happy I said YES to golf instead of shopping in Galway. Galway will be there should I every go back to shop, but in reality Don Reid, and Liz’s love for him, will also always be present on that golf course in Ireland.

My first golf outing was so special for so many love-filled reasons!

Thank you, Liz….for inviting us all to your party in Ireland. I would have never wanted to have missed it!