Life is an Adventure

Some days it seems that nothing happens, like a Seinfeld show. “It’s a show about nothing.” We give meaning to our days by what we think, how we react. It seems no matter how mundane my day is, I always try to find some meaning or at least some humor in it.

“One way to get the most out of life is to look at it as an adventure.”  William Feather

When I am out and about, I come home and tell Bruce what I encountered and he listens with  attention and says “That’s amazing!” Of course, it is nice to have someone to listen to my yarns, a good listener such as Bruce Barone. “Susan, how was your day?”

Let me tell you.

yoga class 2

On Saturday after a yoga class at Transform at Amy Bourque, I brought Prashna and Prashik, my Nepali friends, to a musical concert at the West Springfield Public Library.

ppp christmas3

Aine Minogue played the harp and told tales for over an hour. She has an Irish lilt and the gift of gab that the Irish are so famous for. She told a folk legend about the selkies on which the movie, “The Secret of Roan Innish” is based. When I told Bruce about it, he knew of the man, John Sayles, from Hoboken, NJ who directed it. We’ll see if we can watch it On Demand. In the meantime, I ordered the book on which the movie is based, “The Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry” from Abe Books. When I finish it, I will pass it onto Prashna, in the hopes that she will read it. It is actually considered a children’s tale. Despite my prodding and bribing, Prashik who is now in 6th grade and is struggling with reading and writing, has no interest in books nor reading. He took out a video game when we were at the library and told me it was “a movie”, a flat out lie.

charles diner

I asked if they wanted to get something to eat. I suggested Charlie’s Diner, as they had never been there. Going out to eat is an adventure for them as it is not something that Nepalis do. Prashik ordered soda, scrambled eggs, bacon and home fries. Prashna had a hot chocolate, chicken tenders, and fries and a side of ketchup. Their table manners are somewhat lacking, but we got through, with a little direction. They know nothing about nutrition and healthy eating, but every occasion cannot be a lesson.

Okay, that was more of an adventure for them than for me, but it gave me joy to do something for them. And, I had my favorite western sandwich on toasted rye.

western990

Going to Costco can be an adventure. Bruce always tells me “Be careful.” Once when we went together, I confronted a woman who did not return her carriage, one of me pet peeves. She reacted by screaming at me and Bruce thought she might take out a gun and take me out. Last week, when I was at the Costco Liquor store, a man had planted himself in front of the wine bins, on his mobile phone. I asked him if he were “shopping or talking?” He said “Both” and I kindly pointed out to him he was not doing either well. I am on a spiritual journey and I think everyone would be better off if they, too, practiced “one pointed attention”, as Eknath Eswaran describes in his landmark book, “Meditation”.

Not all my shopping experiences allow me to share my spiritual wisdom. Here I am with Bruce at Ocean State Job Lot having some fun.

Susan at ocean state

 

Bruce sees beauty everywhere; the seed packet display. It is nice to be out and about with a photographer who “stops to smell the roses”, so to speak.

SeedPackets

“Fill your life with adventures not things.  Have stories to tell, not things to show.”

Having a dog lets me experience life in a whole different dimension. Is that true for you, too?

susan and freddy lake ontario

Our mini labradoodle, Freddy, is full of energy. I ride on his roller coaster of excitement, wanting affection, eating, sleeping, barking, playing. He has a lot of personality and is demanding of our attention. Rather than look at him as annoying, I choose to see him as a gift from God, someone to remind me to slow down, pay attention, take care of the basics, be nurturing, show love, affection and devotion.

Bruce and I are alike in that we enjoy the social connection with folks  when we are about and about, doing errands, volunteering, shopping, taking care of business. It is an opportunity to be kind and helpful to others, share a moment, build good karma.

bruceand students

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Helen Keller

I wasn’t always so joyful, uplifted, and positive. I have been racked with depression, had many dark nights of the soul and lonely days, felt that it wasn’t worth it to get out of bed. It seems so long ago, going through each day with a dark cloud over me. After many years of moving through to the light, I see that life is not a struggle for me any longer. It is an adventure.

How did I achieve this transformation? I took to heart the words, “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  and “You need to come up higher in consciousness to solve your problems.” It took years of therapy, mind-expanding work, prayer, travel, faith in God, enlightened friendships, spiritual reading, yoga, passage meditation, repeating the mantra, letting go of painful experiences, and the Grace of God to turn to the light, to see the light in myself, in others, in the world.

Sunflower2018

My wounds, hurts, fears, doubts, etc. were incurable to the extent that I held on to them; they don’t go away on their own.  In fact, they continued to accumulate and motivate all my thoughts, choices, and actions until I treated them.

I learned to ‘treat’ through the Mind of Christ,  each pain, each hurt, each insecurity by coming up higher in consciousness.  A “mind change” is essential if there is ever to be any “life change” at all. This is not a one time deal; our minds need to be tended to with constancy.

“I beseech you brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye many prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

What is life but one grand adventure?

adventure

A song, “Say Yes” by Bob Franke may inspire you.

 

It’s Mare’s Birthday

marebirthdayToday, January 17th is Mare’s birthday. She often told the story of her birth. Her great aunt, who acted as the midwife to her mother, had to walk through “snow that was this high”, she would indicate about 3 feet with her hands. Her family home was “back lots”, meaning a place off of Hillcrest Avenue, where the DiStefano family now call their compound.

snow

The year was 1923 and Harding was President.

 

Mare was the first born to Frank and Angelina (Rossi) Germano, both immigrants from Italy. Frank and Angelina would have 5 more children in the next 12 years–Benny, Lena, Helen, Ray, and Anna. Thirteen years after Mare’s birth, Angelina would end her own life.

Her birth certificate gives her name as “Germain” and there are a few iterations of the name–Germani, Germain, Germano–before her family settled on ‘Germano’. Also, her mother’s maiden name was stated as “Russelli”, but was later called “Rossi”.

mare birthcertificate

Mare described her Mother as kind and gentle. She had “big hands” as did Mare, and as I have, too.

marenov2014

That is about as much as Mare remembered about her Mother and what I know about my maternal grandmother. I had a sense that there was some shame to her death. Angelina is buried in St. Thomas Catholic Cemetery in town and I often wonder what was done to achieve that feat when the Catholic Church considered suicide a sin.

Mare had only two things that belonged to her Mother–a beautiful cut glass sugar bowl and a glass vase. I managed to break the sugar bowl when I was dusting the shelf it was show-cased on. At that time, I did not know of Martha Stewart’s advise to remove all objects from a shelf or tabletop before dusting to avoid mishaps. I now have the vase and I am very careful.

mare vase

Mare was 13 years old when she lost her Mother. She was in the 8th grade and had to leave school to help manage their household and to care for her younger siblings. By this time, the family was living at 20 Bonair Avenue.

mare house2

Later on, Mare and my father would buy the lots next door, from her father, at 40 Bonair Avenue and build their home, the home I grew up in.

mare house

The two youngest girls, Helen and Anna, went to live with their godparents. Helen went to Warwick, Rhode Island to live with Louise and Larry George. And Anna, 1 year old, went to relatives in town who lived in what was called the Mittineague section.

It must have been heart-breaking  to leave school, for Mare loved her teachers and learning. Much later on, when Mare was in her 60’s, she returned to school, took “night classes”, and earned her GED. What a goal to set and an accomplishment to achieve!

Mare never complained about her childhood. She said it wasn’t easy, but she never said it was hard. It was 1936, in the throes of The Depression, when she was 13. Her family was poor and so were her neighbors. Her father worked as a conductor on the Boston & Albany railroad. He also sold fruit and flipped real estate. She said Pop brought a lot of “junk” home. I guess he was a collector of sorts.

She did say she “didn’t even have a doll”. Later on, as an adult she bought herself a doll and sewed clothes for it.

marew doll

Her childhood experience did not leave her bitter, nor sad. She was keenly sensitive to others who experienced pain and loss and she offered a compassionate, helping hand to many people throughout her life.  She had a formidable inner strength. Her byline was “to persevere” no matter what came her way.

Memorial bench at Old Tatham School in West Springfield where Mare attended grades 1-6.

memory bench

I give heartfelt thanks to my Mother for all that she was as a person and all that she accomplished in her life. Truly, she was the wind beneath my wings.

susanmarenov2014

Happy Birthday, Mom.

 

 

Joe invests in the stock market and creates more financial prosperity

investing and creating wealth

stories about susan

As Joe was a smart man and there was ‘extra money’, so to speak, in the household, Joe invested in the stock market to increase his wealth. I don’t know how he educated himself about the markets and companies and investment risks. He likely read and studied somewhat and then took a big load of money to a downtown Springfield stock brokerage office to invest in stocks that he had picked himself.

nyse logo

Back then, I remember that he had money in Shenley Whiskey and Allegheny Steel. On his days off, he would go to the brokerage office and watch the ticker tape come through and see how his investments were doing.

schenley

He read The Barron’s.

He would come home and at the dinner table tell us what had happened at the market that day and about a particular woman who was always in the Shearson-Hammil office. She was a Jewish…

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thoughts about women’s shoes, on a rainy day

crow

Today it’s rainy, cold and windy. A good day to shop, online

I love shoes. I love buying them and I love wearing them. Just last week as I hopped up on the examination table in my doctor’s office she said , “I like your shoes.”  Navy patent leather Weejums.

shoes my weejums Man, music to my ears. Because everyone knows that women dress for themselves and for other women, not for men. If we dressed for men, well, we would just be naked, wouldn’t we? My brother told me when I was in high school when I was fussing about my clothes that it didn’t matter because boys don’t care what you are wearing.

first impressions

Still, I enjoy compliments from anyone especially when they notice my shoes. The thing is since I have gained weight and am no longer my lithe, petite self, I don’t like buying clothes and I don’t like the way I look in clothes. Not that I am advocating nudity. It’s just that your feet don’t gain weight and they always look good.

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I have a pedicure every month so my toes and feet are always ready for sandals, open-toe shoes, mules, or sling backs. susan toesJoanne does the best manicures and pedicures; she works at renew.calm.joanne3

I buy most of my shoes at Nordstrom, online. I am a 9 Medium.  Nordstrom has free shipping and returns, though I rarely need to return shoes.  I don’t pay full price; I only shop the sales. In addition, I earn Nordstrom Notes on my Visa credit card [no airline miles for me] and use my Notes for my shoe and make-up purchases. So, they are basically free to me!

Nordstrom Note

Right now I have an $80.00 Note that is burning a hole in my pocket. I spent some time this morning looking at shoes, online. To my dismay, and this is happening more frequently, I did not find anything I was heads over heels about. Sorry for the pun.

I do not like gladiator shoes and this trend seems to be going on forever. We are not walking for miles in the desert sands in the Roman Empire, are we?

julius ceasar

I do not like metallic~anything. Although I have read that metallic is out, I still see a lot of it. Studs~really? Bows and ruffles on shoes? Embellishments~no way!

So let me show you what I came across today.

Shoes that look like you stepped on an animal and still have the poor thing stuck to your foot.

Shoes that have bows.

A pair of shoes with ruffles.

shoe ruffle

Shoes that have embellishments.

 

A pair of shoes for the woman who always wanted to be an architect.

shoe iwant to be an architch

Shoes that you could not possible walk in and stay upright.

Shoes that say “happy hooker”.

shoe happy hooker

Shoes that say “Don’t take me seriously.”

shoe dont take me seriously2

 

Shoes that are down right stupid.

shoes x

And a pair that says, to me, “WTF?”

So, tell me what you think when you go shoe shopping. What is your experience? Pictures, please.

 

 

When was the last time you learned something new?

“When was the last time you learned something new?” was a question I used to ask candidates interviewing for positions when I was working in Human Resources. It was amazing to me how many people were stumped by this question. It was not my intention to stump anyone; rather, I was seeking out  people who have a zest for learning, are open-minded, can change their minds when presented with new information. The Vice Presidents and CEOs that I supported insisted on these qualities in the people we brought on board.

I  love learning new things and having my mind-set challenged by contrarian views. This week I was so challenged.

 

Prashna asked me if I could  provide transportation to West Springfield High School to one of her 4th grade classmates who is also in the band. The Elementary School band is performing at the West Springfield High School. Prashna is in the school band; she plays the trombone. “Sure, no problem”, I say.

I picked up the young girl at the house that Prashna directs me to. Her Mom comes outside. I get out of the car and introduce myself, assuming that the Mom must be concerned about the person who is driving her daughter to and from the school for the evening performance. I also give the Mom my business card so she knows my name and has my telephone numbers and somehow I think it makes me seem more legit.

She doesn’t give me her telephone number which would be more practical, should some situation emerge regarding her daughter. I don’t even know her last name.

She is Muslim, wearing the traditional dress and head covering. She is petite and quite beautiful. She seems stressed and explains that her husband works many hours and at night. He works at a restaurant. I ask if she has other children. Yes, an infant and a three year old, one of whom has Down’s Syndrome. She takes my hand and we say good-bye.

Zmrda is a lovely 10 year old girl. She is well-spoken and poised. She too wears the traditional head covering of Muslim women.

zmrda

Later, Prashna asked if I can provide transportation for Zmrda, if she gets accepted in the GOTR program.

Girls On The Run is an after-school program for girls that focuses on fitness through educating them and preparing them for a lifetime of self respect and healthy living. The ultimate goal of GOTR  “is to provide the girls with tools and resources that develop their ability to think critically–a skill that will serve them well for a lifetime.”

Prashna gotr

Prashna let me know that Zmrda was accepted into the GOTR program. I contacted the school coordinator and let her know that I would be providing  Zmrda transportation from school to home and asked if the proper clearance was given by the parents so as to avoid any problems when I pick up Zmrda  later in the afternoon.

Ms. O’Brien returned my call and said “yes” the form had stated “Mrs. Susan” [that’s what Prashna and Zmrda call me] as the ‘responsible party’.  Ms. O’Brien wanted to be sure that meant me and she had confirmed it with Zmrda’s Dad by telephone.

I enjoy seeing the girls two afternoons a week. They have become friends and listening to their conversation is always enlivening.

This past Tuesday, I brought Freddy along for the ride as I would not be making any other stops along the way. [On Thursdays, I bring Prashna to Girl Scouts meetings, after we drop off Zrmrda.]  As Prashna is approaching my car, she sees Freddy and Freddy sees her and they both are very excited.

Freddy in the car

As the two girls tumble into the car, Prashna tells Zmrda Freddy’s name and says that he is a good dog and says how much she likes him. She is petting him and Freddy is wagging his tail uncontrollably. Zmrda sits back and says her Mother does not allow her to touch a dog. I ask why and she says “because dogs are dirty and they have germs.”

Uh-oh, did Freddy hear that?

freddysaywhat

“Say what?”

Islam forbids Muslims to keep dogs, and the punishment for that is that the one who does that loses one or two qiraats from his hasanaat (good deeds) each day. An exception has been made in the case of keeping dogs for hunting, guarding livestock, and guarding crops.

Most Muslim scholars agree that in Islam the saliva of a dog is ritually impure and that contact with a dog’s saliva requires one to wash seven times. This ruling comes from the hadith:

The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “If a dog licks the vessel of any one of you, let him throw away whatever was in it and wash it seven times.”

Prashna’s response to the situation was: “Zmrda, pet him and then you can wash your hands and your Mom won’t know what you did.”

Yes, she did say that and I did admonish her for it.

The Nepalis have their own rituals about cleanliness, washing, food and what one can and cannot do with their right and left hands.

I am uncomfortable with beliefs, superstitions, traditions, and rituals that have no basis in what is True. I know I am wandering into dangerous territory here. It just doesn’t sit well with me that parents let their child get into a car with a woman they do not know, yet the same child cannot pet the women’s dog. Which, the stranger woman or the dog, poses the gravest potential danger?

I heard a commentator on television the other day say that “it’s not that Trump doesn’t know anything, it’s that he doesn’t learn anything new and he is not open to learning anything new.”

Religions need to question and revise their man-made interpretations of Truth as new knowledge and insight unfold. Religious dogma cannot remain steeped in the past with all of its cultural backlog and baggage, if it is to be meaningful and relevant to today’s generation.

“Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy, the mad daughter of a wise mother. These daughters have too long dominated the earth.” Voltaire

Jesus, the Nazarene, reminded the Pharisees and the high priests of the day that their religious practices on cleanliness missed the mark when he was asked “Why do your disciples break the traditions of the elders?  They don’t wash their hands before they eat.”

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?”

Jesus then taught the people, saying “it is not what you touch or put in your body that defiles it; for what you put in your mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body. Rather it is “the emissions of your hearts, your thoughts, words and deeds that cause you to be unclean. But eating with unwashed hands does not make you unclean.” Matthew 15

Petting, touching or kissing a dog does not make you unclean.

freddyatearthdayfair

To read about Prashna and my involvement with a Nepali family, read a previous story:

https://storiesaboutsusan.com/2017/09/18/how-did-this-start/