Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lucky I'm Not a Horse

About two months back, I was participating in a Zumba class. Just to clarify, this is a dance-based exercise class - you'll see them advertised on TV and think that they're populated only with rock-hard, highly-trained dancer types. They're not - they let me in, even though I occasionally have trouble counting to eight while remembering how to distinguish my right from my left. The one piece of advice I can give you concerning such classes (which I had taken and enjoyed before) is this - don't wear sneakers! This one time, I forgot my exercise shoes and went in just my faithful Keds.


Well, that was just my shoe squeaking against the floor, right? As I gamely try to keep up with the Latin beat.

Turns out no.

For the last eight weeks, I've pretended that the ankle was just a little stiff in the morning, but it hurt. Well, at least "heavy discomfort" and it didn't really get better. I went to the doctor after FryDaddy began referring to me not as his "Best Beloved" (a man who quotes Kipling. I had to marry him!), but as "Festus." A short course of steroids helped temporarily, but I wouldn't stay off the ankle to really let it heal - ten thousand steps a day is the goal, right?


X-rays and an MRI later, I wound up in an orthopedist's office, being cheerfully told, "Oh, no. You didn't snap the Achilles. If you had, you wouldn't need an X-ray to know it. But something's not right back there."

So I'm now the proud owner of the season's most sought-after accessory - a stylish black walking boot that immobilizes the ankle and causes me to lurch about. Wags have suggested that this should make my Halloween costume a cinch - Frankenstein, Ahab, Long John Silver, or perhaps a generic zombie.

Sigh. At least it's not a "real" cast, or something requiring surgery, or injections. And they're not talking about putting me down like a high-strung racehorse.

And if anyone asks, this is all the result of a thrilling trapeze accident.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Long Hauls & Lessons Learned

My parents, Mr. and Mrs. Mockingbird, celebrated their Golden Anniversary this past weekend. It's a funny story - when Mom was considering the wedding date, she didn't choose to commemorate their first date, or some equally romantic time, for my mother is nothing if not pragmatic. So she selected the anniversary of the date my dad received his Navy flight wings. As she puts it, "He won't forget that one!" That's them up in the corner - happy and joyous on their wedding day.

But the wedding is not the same thing as the marriage.

While I'm sure my parents have had downs as well as ups (it's been fifty years, after all. And we're Southern, so we can hold a grudge good and tight), they've always been excellent role models for me. While I made more than my fair share of (ahem) unfortunate romantic decisions* prior to meeting FryDaddy, I always knew what I wanted, even when I wasn't sure how to get there. And those were lessons learned, in large part, from my parents.

Chief among those lessons is that people don't usually change that much after marriage, they just become more of what they already are. Take me, for example - I'm an indifferent housekeeper at best. I'm most unlikely to suddenly become Martha Stewart and it would be a foolish thing to hold your breath waiting for that to happen. Oh, I always have good intentions of dusting the shelves and emptying the ironing basket, but - well, that's part of the Road to Hell Paving Company. After a certain point in time, you just can't domesticate people, so it's best to look around carefully and decide if you can accept what you see.

Mom and Dad apparently did and it seems to have worked out well. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

*In the spirit of full disclosure, it should be noted that not all of my decisions were unfortunate. Bad timing, yes. Unfortunate, no.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


In the years since 9/11 became a shorthand notation for A Bright Line Event That Changed Life Into Before and After along the lines of the Kennedy assassination and man's walk on the moon, the eleventh of September has taken on great weight and meaning for Americans. A sort of calendar gravitas, if you will.

It has long been said that disasters bring out both the very best and the very worst in people and I imagine there's truth in that statement, for scared people are as apt to do extremely stupid things as they are to look beyond their own fright to offer assistance to others.

But there are those who do just that.

It is exactly for this reason that I take great comfort in the story of Fr. Mychal Judge, one of the fallen heroes of that awful, hellish day nine years ago. I never had the privilege of meeting Father Mike, but his story resonates with me - to the point that every 9/11 I re-read his story and I'll freely admit I still cry a little.

Black 47 sang his story - you can find the lyrics here - and they did it well, for he was a regular at the band's gigs, but there was far too much to fit into any song, no matter how powerful and moving. Fr. Judge (funny how that sounds, isn't it?) was Irish and Irish stories are at their best when they're funny and sad and wondrous and, most of all, epic. He was all of this.

He was - among other things - a twin born two days before his sister, a dedicated priest, an alcoholic who found redemption in the Twelve Steps as much as he ever did in the church he so devoted himself to, quite possibly gay, although he took his vows of celibacy seriously, so who's to know for sure. He loved New York and he loved the firefighters who protected the city. He was a chaplain for the NYFD and he accompanied his boys to the Twin Towers that clear September morn when death and damnation rained from the impossibly blue sky.

And he was the first official victim of the tragedy of the Twin Towers.

He died ministering to his boys and was, in turn, ministered to by them. His broken body was carried in a chair from the lobby of Tower One and was then reverently taken from the ongoing disaster scene to nearby St. Peter's Church and laid on the altar, his helmet on his chest. The picture at the top of the post was taken at the scene.

The firefighters paused to remember their priest and went back to work.

It's what Father Mike would have expected, they say.

You can read his story here. I do, once a year.

There's a movement to have Father Mychal Judge canonized as a saint, but to me that seems wholly unnecessary. The lessons of Father Mike's life are found in his life, not in his death. He took time for people. For all people. He practiced unconditional acceptance and love of people as manifestations of God, no matter how screwed up they may have been. He loved drunks and addicts and the diseased and the beaten-down. He loved the frightened and the brave. He loved the struggling and the recovering. He loved when it was hard to do so. He felt called to love and he didn't scold God for who he sent Father Mike to love. "They're all My children," God seemed to say to Father Mike. "How can I choose which ones to love? So how can you choose which ones are worthy to love and care for?"

So Father Mike loved 'em all.

There is a prayer attributed to Father Mike that I think sums up the man's life both succinctly and well. It simply states: "Lord, take me where You want me to go, let me meet who You want me to meet, tell me what You want me to say, and keep me out of Your way."

I spend so much of my time worrying - being a scared person on the verge of doing stupid things. Father Mike reminds me that we're all called and we're not called to worry. We're called to love and minister to the hurt and bruised and downtrodden. With a smirk and a joke, if at all possible.

Requiescat in pace, Father Mike.

Monday, September 6, 2010

White Shoe Alert!

Traditionally, today is the last day that it's okay to wear white dress shoes. The rules have been relaxed tremendously and that's a good thing! Still - there's something about white pumps that seems to belong to the hot summer months. Sort of like seersucker, which would really, really look out of place at a Christmas party. Or potato salad, which also would look out of place at a holiday shindig.

So it's time to begin thinking about the cooler weather that's ahead. Here in the Nest, the heat broke a few days ago and, while there's plenty of warm to go around, we're not sweltering in the high nineties at the moment. I'm not much of a hot-summer-month person, so saying "Buh-bye" to the heat waves doesn't spark a sense of sadness with me. I'm set for fall. Let's see if I can come up with five reasons to look forward to Life After Labor Day:

  • Corn mazes, complete with pumpkin trebuchets
  • Spiced apple cider
  • Candy corn
  • Pumpkin pie scented candles
  • Knowing that Halloween is coming soon

Yep. Count me as one of those who's ready to pack away the summer shoes! But let me just finish that potato salad before we call it "quits" on summer . . .