Synchronicity

It’s not just an album by The Police.

I’m a big fan of Julia Cameron and “The Artist’s Way.”  I’ve been through the book twice, and am leaning heavily toward another reading of it.  I do morning pages faithfully every day.  She talks a lot about synchronicity.

Have you ever thought about an old friend and run into them the next day?  That’s synchronicity.  Thought to yourself, “I need a new desk,” and gotten a phone call from someone who is getting rid of one? Synchronicity. Chosen a book by a Rhode Island author for your next book club topic, only to learn that your local library is having a Writers of the Ocean State event in a few weeks?  Synchronicity.

God, or the universe, or your higher consciousness wants to give you what you want.  But they aren’t just going to give it to you – you have to meet them halfway.  You have to say yes to the person offering you the desk.   You have to go to the writers event.

It’s like the story of the man who prays every week to win the lottery.  Finally, on his knees, he asks, “Why, God? Why won’t you let me win the lottery?”  And God says, “My son, you have to buy a ticket.”

Since starting this project, I’ve had so many Great Nana quotes come to mind that I’ve started keeping a list.  Things I had not thought of in years.  When I tried to come up with an “as Great Nana would say” for this post, the first thing that came to mind was, “God bless ya, God bless ya, you threw your leg over the dresser, God bless ya.” It was her response to a sneeze.  Not sure that it has anything at all to do with synchronicity, or why anyone would throw their leg over a dresser, but there it is.

Tonight, we roll…

It’s my month to host the family bunco night. The theme (Little Rhody) has been announced and evites have been sent. I’ve got dinner planned, dessert picked up, winner and loser prizes purchased, and snacks prepared. My house is clean-ish. The only thing left is to await the arrival of the bunco queens.

RI shaped donut cake from Allie’s Donuts

We’ve been playing since 1996 – a monthly chance for the ladies in the family to get together, roll the dice, and catch up on each other’s lives. We are three generations – my mother and aunties, my sister and cousins, and now my nieces. We have seen each other through weddings, divorces, births, and several high school and college graduations.

Not to mention a lot of milestone birthdays, often celebrated with a mystery day or a surprise at the bunco night closest to said birthday. Last year, when my niece Allison turned 16, we gave her “Sixteen Sweets” – a giant basket full of cookies, candy and other assorted treats. She loved it!

There were times over the past twenty years, when I didn’t love our bunco nights. When it felt like an obligation to give up a Friday night. But as time has gone on, I have come to appreciate the time with my crazy family. We all have our quirks, but it’s what makes us who we are. And we support each other – no matter what.

Bunco nights are loud and silly and generally include a mid-game dance break, as well as an impromptu Broadway sing-a-long. (Brooklyn’s here!) They are exactly what I need at the end of a long week. I can count on my bunco queens to shake me out of whatever funk I’m in and get me laughing. And usually singing.

We joke that the only way to quit bunco is if you’re dead. But honestly, I wouldn’t quit if given the chance. We took a vote once about whether to give up bunco, but it didn’t pass. After all, as my cousin Jamie would say, “You don’t HAVE to come to bunco. You GET to come to bunco.”

Lena’s Smiling PHACE

You’ve probably never heard of PHACE Syndrome. I hadn’t either until twelve years ago. I’ll never forget the day my sister called to tell me about my infant niece Lena’s PHACE diagnosis. I was standing in the produce section at Stop & Shop, picking up burgers to make for dinner. I remember her telling me about what amounted to a knot of blood vessels in her head, and another in her throat, blocking most of her airway. I stood there and I listened and I just kept asking, “but they can fix it, right?”

Twelve years and multiple medical procedures later, Miss Lena is a happy, well adjusted kid. She takes piano and dance lessons, and loves everything art related. Like me, she loves to write and is a fan of Trixie Belden books. She’s my weekly reminder to keep working on my own book. And she’s a sweet, generous, giving girl. She takes every doctor visit and procedure in stride, with a positive attitude.

I asked Lena to help me out with this post and share a little bit of what her life with PHACE is like and here’s what she had to say:

I have been living with PHACE for basically my whole life so it doesn’t really effect me as much. What I mean by this is that I was diagnosed with PHACE when I was not even one year old so if PHACE effects me, I don’t really realize it. I’m used to doctors appointments and stuff …. It is just normal for me.  What PHACE is is basically an acronym for symptoms. you have to have I think at least 3 of the symptoms.   Recently I went to a conference where people with PHACE came from all over the place. It was so nice to have people who can relate to me. Like this surgery that I hate, because you have to lay straight for  so many hours.  So yes there is not a permanent cure for it but I am ok with that because it makes me me. I do though would like to help other people get more knowledge about PHACE. 

The PHACE Syndrome Community Friends is an organization that works to promote awareness, share medical information, support research and provide a community for PHACE families. Their annual conference gives Lena a chance to meet other kids with PHACE, and my sister and brother-in-law an opportunity to connect with other PHACE parents.

My large extended family have thrown ourselves into supporting PHACE awareness, and if you follow any of us on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve no doubt seen us use the #showyourphace hashtag this week. Lena and I like to take Snapchat photos each year…here is this year’s:

So what can you do to promote PHACE Syndrome Awareness week? Wear red today for PHACE awareness and #showyourphace with a picture. If you’re inspired by Lena’s story, visit www.phacesyndromecommunity.org to learn more about PHACE or to make a donation.

Happy St Patrick’s Day…

…and Happy Birthday to Uncle Art, another of the voices in my head. He is not as frequent a visitor as some of the others, but I do hear him occasionally. Uncle Art gave me my first typewriter, back in the day when we still used them. I don’t know how he knew that I would end up writing, but I guess he did. He was the type of adult who actually listened to the answers when he asked a kid a question.

Growing up, I thought Uncle Art just didn’t like the color orange, because he would say “Hate orange.” It was years before I understood that the “Orange” had more political and religious connotations for the Irish. And yet, I still say it now and then, without even realizing it. My five-year-old niece Aria recently informed my mother that Auntie Tara doesn’t like orange. I’ve no memory of using that phrase to her but I guess those voices slip out even when I don’t know it.

Having been a religious brother, Uncle Art was, at least to me, the expert on religion in our family. Once on a trip to visit him in Boston, I refused a giant chocolate chip cookie, because I had given up cookies for Lent. “It doesn’t count when you’re traveling,” was his response. I took his word for it, even though I wasn’t sure a day trip to Boston counted as traveling. He would know, I guess…and the cookie was delicious.

The other, oft repeated, Uncle Art-ism that sticks out for me is that if a company has their name on something, “they expect you to take it.” This is why, somewhere packed away in a box, I have a place setting of Sheraton Tara silverware that he brought home for me from some trip or other. It’s become something of a running joke for some of us, pointing out things we could take because they expect that.

I think of Uncle Art most at St Patrick’s Day, because it is his birthday, and at Christmas, because he loved it so much. He would arrive at my Nana’s house on Christmas with presents for all, and still have us all to lunch at his house on the 26th, where we would find another pile of gifts under his tree. He was truly one of the most generous people I’ve ever known.

And not to forget the holiday itself, as Great Nana would say, it is always Saint Patrick’s Day and never Saint Patty’s. If you must shorten it, it’s Paddy’s. I will celebrate with a pint of Guinness and boiled dinner, with my brother’s “Gramps” playlist gracing us with Irish music. And despite the fact that green is not my color, I’m wearing a green t-shirt. After all, as Great Nana would say, “Green, green, you’re the queen.”

Bears, Bones, Battlestar Galactica? What I’m reading this week…

Just kidding…there’s absolutely no Battlestar Galactica in any of the books I’m reading, at least as far as I know. But here’s what I’m reading at the moment.

“Bag of Bones” is a reread – one of my favorite Stephen King’s. I’m a huge King fan, from my very first encounter with him (The Dead Zone) in junior high, and his books are high on my reread list. This particular story of Mike Noonan and his summer at Sara Laughs, his vacation home on Dark Score Lake, is one of my favorites. I read it every couple years, usually alternated with “The Stand” and “It.” And of course anything new that comes along. There aren’t a lot of Stephen King’s that I haven’t read. So far the only one I didn’t like was “Gerald’s Game.” Not a bad track record.

“Beartown” is a new read – borrowed from my brother Joel, along with the second in the series, “Us Against You.” I have read another Frederik Backman – our book club read “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry,” which I liked but not everyone did. It’s because I’m “literary”, right, Erin? Anyway, Beartown is about hockey in a small town in Sweden, and starts off with a shotgun being fired into someone’s forehead. I don’t think that counts as a spoiler, since it happens on page 1. I’m only a chapter or two into it, as I got distracted by an actual hockey game last night, though reading would have been preferable to watching the Bruins lose. One side note, being a Boston fan, I keep reading Beartown as Beantown. Go B’s!

Finally, “Sisters” by Kellie Coates Gilbert, is a Kindle freebie. It’s book one in a series about sisters living in Sun Valley, Idaho. I’m a sucker for a small town series – my favorite being Robyn Carr’s “Virgin River” – and a lot of the free books on Kindle are book one of a series. I don’t always continue on to the next book, but many times I do. Anyway, this particular book is devoted to middle sister Karyn, who is finding her way after the death of her husband. I generally read the Kindle books in bed, because if I fall asleep it automatically saves my place. Thus, I’m not very far into this one either, because I do keep falling asleep. Not because it isn’t good, but because the only way to shut my brain up long enough to fall asleep is to read until I can’t possibly keep my eyes open. But I’ll share at a later date if this one turns out to be good.

So that’s where I am this week – in the middle of three books. My goal is to read 155 books in 2019. According to Goodreads, I’ve read 28 so far, and am one book behind in order to hit my goal. For the record, I don’t usually count rereads, although I will if I get desperate. Like if it’s December 28 and I’m five books short, I might throw “Bag of Bones” on there. But I’m trying not to.

I don’t have an “As Great Nana would say” for this post, so instead I’ll leave you with this…as Stephen King would say, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” Happy reading!

The people in my head

I hear voices in my head a lot. Not the Son of Sam kind of voices…no one is telling me to murder my neighbors or anything. Just your normal, every day, voices talking to me on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s song lyrics or a movie quote. Sometimes it’s a family member. I often hear my sister Erin telling me to “Be nice…it’s Christmas,” around the holidays. Lately, I hear my niece Lena asking how my book is coming – usually when I’m on the couch binge watching Grey’s Anatomy.

The voices I hear most are those of people who are no longer with us. Every time I leave the refrigerator door open while I pour a glass of iced tea, I hear my Nana telling me that leaving the fridge open is the biggest electricity waster. I have no idea if that is factual, but she said it to me so many times when I was growing up, I have taken it as such. And I hear her yell at me every single time I do it. Not that it stops me, I kind of enjoy hearing her yell at me in my head.

First and foremost, though, of the voices is my great grandmother, known most affectionately to me as Great Nana. Although she passed away when I was fourteen, she is still my go to source of wisdom for so many things. And she, too, lives in my head and talks to me on a nearly daily basis.

Just last night, as I was having dinner at Siena with my husband, she reminded me for the fourteen thousandth time to get my elbows off the table. This was a pet peeve of hers, I think. I once heard her scold my father for the same thing.

There are so many Great Nana-isms that fill my life, and eventually I’ll share them here. I don’t really know what else I’m doing with this blog, beyond publicly exploring what the heck I want to be when I grow up. After more than twenty years of talking about being a writer I’m just going to sit here and do it. Come along for the ride if you like.

It’s not all going to be about the voices in my head. There might be some book reviews or I may write about the things I do for fun. Or maybe you’ll get to hear about my vacation plans. It could be anything that pops into my head…which can be a strange place sometimes, and not always easy to navigate. Once, after he failed to follow my convoluted stream of consciousness, I told my husband that my brain is a scary place. His response: “It’s like a Hallmark movie, written by Stephen King.” That’s me, in a nutshell.

And maybe you’ve read this and decided you don’t care about all the wacky thoughts and the people who live in my head. And that’s ok too. Because as Great Nana would say, “I love me, who do you love?”

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