Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The eve of a New Year. Time for reflection of the past year. 2014 will go down as probably the most unbalanced of my life! February brought the miracle of birth, with our dog Gracie giving birth to 11 wonderful, beautiful puppies. That was an amazing experience that I was fortunate to share with her. She woke me up to tell me "it's time!". Not even a week later I got a call from the Ft. Lauderdale police telling me my brother had passed away. He was younger than I, and I thought it was a bad joke for about two minutes on the phone with the officer. It very quickly escalated and I knew, sadly, it was no joke. I'm not sure if the pain of missing someone you were so close to ever goes away, or ever subdues. The memories I have with John have been seared into every inch of my brain, and he is such a big part of who and why I am the man I am today. Protective, yes. Looking out for him when I could. My family lost another member, too. My Uncle Tom. What an amazing person he was, too! A gentle man. I remember staying with my sister Liz at TomnNancy's (they were one name!) after my parents divorced and we moved back to the Midwest. They treated us like their own. I am forever thankful for those two hearts! My extended family (family too) also lost a big person, too- "Aunt Marsha". She was quirky in a good way. She talked sooo fast! She also did the business' payroll and book keeping. It wasn't all sadness. I had a great year in the garden. My chickens produced enough eggs to share. I gave away some tomatoes. I learned about composting! Tonight at midnight Olivia and I will continue our tradition of writing down two lists and burning them. I believe in some traditions it is called a fire puja. On our first list, we write down the negative things in our life: things that hold us back, negative emotions, whatever we want. The second list is what our aspirations are for the new year. The negative list gets burned first. It is a great moment! The second list then gets burned, and when that one is lit, it is lit with hope and faith. Try it! So yes, reflect on your year but none of us have the luxury to dwell in it. Great the first morning of 2015 with a positive thought, and let that positive energy be your way in 2015! Happy New Year!!!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

I am in awe of my daughter. She is young, but darn it if she doesn't do selfless things that put a big 'ol smile on my face and joy in my heart. Today she opened her presents from Grandma and her two aunts. She got some good gifts, and also some cash (that's what she asked for!). She was telling me the things she wanted to buy; a horse set from Whole Foods, $5 to play games at the theater, and the rest to get some other toys. After we drove Grandma and Aunt Midge to the train station, we drove to the theater to catch an early show of "Annie". Traffic was heavy, but we weren't in a rush. I was seeing drivers getting frustrated that it went down to one lane from two, people cutting themselves off, head shakes, the whole 9 yards as Christmas music was playing on the radio. Then on the median, Olivia spotted a homeless man with a sign, asking for money. She said, "dad, I want to give this man some of my money". I asked if she was sure, she said yes. So we rolled down her window, the homeless man came up to the car, and I saw a little hand give the man one of her $5 bills. He seemed so happy! He said thank you so much, I heard a little "you're welcome" from the back seat, and the man just smiled and was so thankful. As we inched forward, I asked her why she wanted to give that man some of her Christmas money, that I was just curious as to why. She said "He's homeless. It looks like he could use some money." My heart melted. I almost cried. But most of all, I wish I could have just jumped into the back seat and gave her a hug! I said I'm sure the man could use the $5 to get something to eat, and that what she did was amazing. She showed me the true meaning of Christmas :)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Growing up, I used to hear the word "cope" a lot. It was one of those words people used in the "self help" circles, or the Leo Buscaglia books my mom used to read. People talked about "coping" a lot, and to be honest, it was a word I never liked. It rubbed me the wrong way when I learned what the word meant. It seemed like such a cop out word. If it were popular today I could imagine the word on Facebook or Instagram looking like this: #cope #coping#allyoucandoiscope. UGH! And I ended up hitching that word to the music of Marilyn McCoo, Diane Warwick, Barbra Streisand, all strong female voices that mom used to listen to, singing their words that mom could relate to. I would often sit back and listen to my mom sing along with those ladies (she actually DID have a good singing voice!) and think I was privy to a private world that only women would ever understand. Lyrics like "One less, bell to answer; one less, egg to FRRYYYYYYY" "Killing me softly" etc. etc. Then this past week happened. My car broke down an hour and a half outside of the city while I was with my daughter. We got a ride home from my wonderful friend Candi. "Dang Mercury in Retrograde" I swore at the direction I thought Mercury in Retrograde would be (somewhere up there, you know, starside). Then Monday happened. I really, really, REALLY starting feeling the loss of my brother. I was actually reaching for the phone to give him a call, and shocked myself thinking that that would no longer happen. All I wanted to do was say hi and catch up. That set me in a funk. I would never be able to do that again. So after a week of hiding my mood (yeah, not very well), I was doing some soul searching for answers. I meditated. I was quiet with myself. I drank some wine (I never do that! Well, alone at least). And you know what my answer was? Cope. It has new meaning for me now. It doesn't mean, "you will never get what you want ever again. So deal!". Rather, it means "be good to yourself. You're going through a rough patch, and I know you are strong enough to pull through. But in the meantime, you need to be ok with loss, sadness, hardships, as it leads to self growth and self realization. You will need to cope." So thanks M
om, Barbra, Leo, Marilyn and Diane! I'm doing my best at this "coping" thing.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Well it's September 15th, and summer is unofficially over. I welcome the autumn season! Around here, that means doing a big house cleaning before I pull out the rugs. Rugs go away in late spring to get cleaned and put away during the warmer days of summer, when the windows open up and let fresh air in, and the morning air cools the old hardwood floors. In colder months it's always nice to put your feet on something warm. I've learned a lot in the garden this year. I learned that amending the soil with organic dirt means a bumper crop of tomatoes. On the subject of tomatoes, give them lots of room to grow! They like stretching their limbs and expanding. I've also learned that adding some new chickens to an established group takes a little time. I learned to add the newbies at night, around 11 p.m. to confuse the older "ladies". I also learned what pecking order really means. Ouch! The ladies continue to lay delicious eggs. Actually, enough to give away to friends and neighbors. I've also learned about rabbits. Did you know that momma rabbits only feed their young twice a day? Not good when there is a late bunch born, and it is cold. Our rabbit had babies (kits) and as a result, we are hand rearing the sole survivor. He/she looks just like momma. And he is doing well! So, as you can deduce from my post, it was a year of learning about the garden and urban homesteading. I look forward to next year, using my composted chicken/rabbit/tea/etc. compost to make an even more tasty garden next year! And who knows, maybe even make that raised garden bed I was meaning to make this past year!

Monday, May 19, 2014

The last pup is about to go his new home, and then it is training time for my little girl! What a great experience that was, although it was a TON of work. It made me happy to know that the puppies are making families happy. The garden is coming along well. Planted some good veggies and a few herbs, so fingers crossed in a few months I'll be heading to the garden for dinner! ALL the chickens made it through this brutal winter. Not only did they make it, but their egg production is back on full force! Already sold a couple dozen, the money going back into their feed. Spring seems to finally be here! School is out next month, so O will be going to some camps, Michigan, maybe gymnastics, and of course, GRANDMA! Hope your spring finds you happy!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Oh, what a horrible winter this was. Two major things happened; first, my dog Grace had a litter of 11 beautiful puppies! The following weekend, my mom came down for a visit. It was a nice visit, always is, when mom comes into town. Olivia and I dropped her off at the train station on Sunday as we always do. The next morning, I drive Olivia to school. Mondays are harder days for me anyway, as those are the days when Olivia goes to stay with her other dad for the week. On the drive home, I am overcome with emotions of family. I start crying. I think it was my mom leaving, Olivia going away for a week, and the new litter. I get home, and I leave my phone on the table so I can clean the whelping box ( a box used for delivering pups, and they stay in it for awhile). I am halfway through and the phone rings. I'll return the call when I get done. Then it rings again. And again. And again. I see I have a voicemail. I listen, and it is my younger brothers partner telling me to call the Ft. Lauderdale police, and he leaves the number. A rush of thoughts came through my head, "was he in trouble? Did he get beat up?" But nothing, NOTHING prepared me for the call I made to the police. "We regret to inform you your brother John has passed away." Silence. "What?" I respond. "We regret to inform you your brother John has passed away". I think it's a bad joke. He's younger than me. Works out regularly. He's my little brother. "No. That can't be. He's young". "Sir, please call (number inserted), as this is where the body will be delivered, and they can assist you further. We are sorry for your loss. Please call your brothers friend, he has been here with the body. Again, sorry for your loss." I hang up. I call my brothers partner. He tells me they think John died of a massive heart attack. I can't stop crying. For John. For me. For his partner. I call my family to tell everyone. Most don't answer, as it is Monday and we all work. I get ahold of my dad. Disbelief. I give him the number to call, as he lives in Florida as well. My sister calls back. "NO!" is what I hear. "Please pick up mom from work and tell her". "I will... oh, Patrick.." My brother was cremated, and there were two services; one in Ft. Lauderdale with his wonderful partner and some family and MANY friends, and one in Milwaukee where we grew up. It took me awhile to write the eulogy... I didn't want to believe my brother was gone... and had the support of my oldest sister while reading it. A day hasn't gone by without me thinking of him. Missing him. I listen to old messages he left on voicemail. I am going to miss those silly texts. The "Happy Neeeeeew Yeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrssssss, Patrick! OOOH, another year!" But really, I am going to miss my little brother most.