Give me Liberty

What is liberty? Is it destroying someone else’s peace and freedom because our own is sadly damaged? Is it dividing for any reason: white from black, men from women, rich from poor, young from old etc, etc. No it is not. The division we need to recognize is truth from lies, love from hate. Would any of those who are tearing down the history of our country opt to live in Hong Kong and exchange places with one of its residents as their freedom is being swiftly taken from them against their will? In 1997 after living under British rule Hong Kong officially returned to China with a sort of grace period when they continued to live with freedoms they were accustomed to having.

Now the Chinese government has rescinded those freedoms sending in thousands of military troops. The generation that inhabit the country grew up in a free society where they owned businesses, prospered financially and enjoyed a respected place in the world marketplace. Many saw what was coming under the rule of communism as it exists on mainland China. Their parents and grandparents generation escaped to Hong Kong to avoid what many saw as bondage.

Here in the US there has arisen a kind of liberty that chooses to destroy our history and to forget our country has already passed trough a revolution to become free of British taxation, a civil war to end slavery, and the rise of each new group of immigrants attaining their potential. It used to be said our greatness lie in the idea of a great mix, a melting pot. It still is true. Greatness comes from individuals living and working not in receiving their reward on a silver platter of government handouts. The problem with dependence on government is that dependency limits our liberties; communism is a brand of evening out so that everyone shares equally but in reality the wealth and power is in the hands of a few and liberty is a victim of the systematic removal of rights.

Aunt Gerry

Her name was Geraldine. She became the second wife of my Great Uncle, my maternal grandmother’s younger brother. His first wife died many years before and he remained alone until he met and married Gerry. The couple and their boxer, Boots, lived a simple life and enjoyed their well kept home located in an idyllic suburban neighborhood with tree lined streets, manicured lawns, and flower gardens. They lived in upper New York state and after my uncle died we kept in touch with her through cards and letters and traveled to visit just a few times through the years.

As often happens his widow, our Aunt Gerry, had to sell the lovely home and move to an apartment, actually relocating several times but remaining in the same area. She suffered through the years from diabetes having one leg amputation after another and finally resulting in a total loss of both legs.

I want to tell you about a particular encounter with this woman. My mother, who was a favorite with her aunt, asked if we would drive up to pay Aunt Gerry a visit. We arrived mid morning at her ground level apartment in a duplex on the edge of town. Her aid answered the door greeting us warmly and showing us into a small but cozy living room illuminated by several windows facing a back yard with several bird houses and feeders.

Our aunt sat in a wheel chair and, of course, the first thing we noticed was her missing limbs. Secondly, it was her familiar voice and warm smile that held our attention. The three of us talked easily about the family, our uncle, the past and the present. We watched various birds through the windows as we chatted. I felt comfortable and could have remained for hours more.

Noon came and the aid returned from the kitchen. She sat down for a while and told us how independent our aunt was taking care of her own bills and finances, dictating letters to friends and relatives, and having visitors. The caretaker spent several hours a day with our aunt and obviously admired her. She said a meal of boiled chicken was prepared for all of us and took my mom and me into the ten by ten kitchen.

She asked if we would clean up after the meal because she had to leave, My mom said we didn’t want to impose and we planned to eat out. The woman was emphatic telling us how much people who lived and ate alone loved to have someone to eat with. I immediately said we would stay. Mom agreed and we gathered snugly around kitchen table. We sat down and Aunt Gerry bowed her head and folded her hands with eyes closed. That moment became forever fixed in my heart. It was not what she said, but how she talked to God that impressed me. We always say grace but this was the ultimate grace. She spoke to Him as if He too was dining with us. I felt His presence.

Before we left that day she showed us an old shoe box filled to the top with hospital wrist bands from her numerous hospital stays. It was our last visit but she is one of those I keep in touch with even now and pray for the grace of my Great Aunt.

Tom Cruise: Meeting Up

We got up earlier than usual that morning. After my husband left for work and our daughter left for school, I went about my daily chores. When the meter man came to read the meter, I heard a lot of gobbling and feather flapping and the man yelling, “Go away. Shoo!” I opened the door and sure enough the turkey was standing his ground about to fly at the fellow. “Go on. Leave him alone. Go.” The turkey seemed to listen to me and again he disappeared around the corner of the house. The man seemed relieved and laughed out loud. “Look’s like you have a new pet protecting you. What happened to him?” “I don’t know. He showed up yesterday looking like this,” I told him.After the meter man left, things went on as usual. Around three I heard my daughter outside the door talking to someone. “Well don’t you think you are good- looking? I think I’ll call you Tom Cruise,” she said laughing. Opening the door I saw our newly named turkey looking at himself in the basement window next to our front door. “That’s so funny, Christine. He must think there’s another turkey in that window.” That night when Tom came home from work, I asked, “Did you see Tom Cruise outside?” “What?” he said looking a little bewildered until I explained how the turkey got the name. Tom Cruise remained with us that week and the next and a month went by and another. He kept guarding our door when anyone but our family came up the walk. I’d go out and rescue the intruder and so it went. Twice we asked our neighbor, Bob, to bring his dog, Wolf, over to chase Tom Cruise away, but each time the dauntless turkey returned.

Then one Saturday I implored my husband to take that turkey away. My Tom (TS) somehow lassoed him by the foot and got him into the back of his pickup truck. But Tom (TC) tried to fly with his foot caught. With his wings flapping and profuse gobbling, it appeared he was going to injure himself. That’s why Tom (TS) managed to untie Tom Cruise’s foot. Of course TC used the opportunity to jump/ fly out of the truck and escape deportation. After that we gave up. He was an annoyance but what could we do? We got used to waking up to our turkey gobbling and he never attacked or injured anyone. We’d just live and let live. Our daughter loved animals but her beloved house bunny, Wiggy, was her sole pet. Now she had an outdoor pet turkey.

Then one morning as the days were growing shorter and cooler we heard our now familiar early wake-up gobbling as we lay in bed. But suddenly we heard a whole lot of gobbling getting louder and reaching a peak. Soon the gobbling got softer and eventually faded into the distance. I looked at Tom (TS) and we both said, “Tom Cruise is gone.” And he was He was picked up by his own ’people’.

And I wondered. How did Tom Cruise fit into my story? Of course only God knew. But my own thoughts though incomplete were: Tom (TC) was a real annoyance while he was with us. Yet he had enviable perseverance sticking by us whatever we did to drive him away. We learned to love him or at least tolerate him. We missed him when he left. He gave us a family story to tell to future generations. And God must have looked upon the visitation of our guest, and laughed heartily!

The End

{This is a true story, Creative in the sense that dialog is of course not word for word. Also my own take on the event is my own. Each of the events happened as recorded here. On the whole, a touch of the divine in our lives. Hope this made you smile.}

Tom Cruise: Uninvited Guest

Surprised? Well, so was I, when one summer day thirty years ago a bedraggled, male turkey showed up at our front door. We often had a flock of wild turkeys come through our yard. We live in a rural area, in the sticks one might say. When I saw him, I thought he must have had some sort of ‘fowl’ mishap. He was missing a few feathers and some of them were standing out straight not nice and together. In fact he looked pitiful. He didn’t run away when I opened the door; right then I should have known, he meant to stay. “Christine, come here a minute,” I called to my then teenage daughter.She appeared next to me and peered out the door. “A turkey? Why is he just standing there looking at us?” she questioned.

For some reason this turkey seemed of a different breed. Not afraid of us at all. I shut the door. My daughter went back to her room and resumed her cleaning. She was the last one in our nest. Her brother was in college studying Mechanical Engineering. As I resumed making dinner, there was a racket outside the front door. It sounded like gobbling and fluttering feathers. I heard our neighbor’s voice calling, “Hey, you have a guard turkey out here. I brought the paper but that odd turkey won’t let me come by the front door.”Bounding down the steps and opening the door, I yelled, “Git, go on, shoo!” With that our feathered friend slinked around the corner of the house. Bob chuckled handing me the paper.

Now in his seventies, Bob remained obsessive about almost everything including the exact time he brought us the newspaper, what meals he ate and when, what part of a trail he walked each day, etc. You could say we were the only disruptions in his schedule. It seemed to me he welcomed the occasional meal he had with us at no set time and often by last minute invitation. I’ll have to bring Wolf over next time. Look’s like your friend is protecting you. He’s liable to attack me,” he said as he as he strode across our yard clad in his well worn blue sweater and brown cap.

When my husband got home that night we told him about the turkey. “Sounds like the flock abandoned him. Survival of the fittest you know,” was his only comment, But at five am the next morning we realized our new friend was still around. He had evidently nested for the night next to the pickup cap which sat on the ground below the sliding glass door of our bedroom. He awoke with the sunrise and began gobbling loudly to greet the day. My husband, who is definitely not a morning person, woke up and sat up. Still sleepy, he asked, “What’s the racket?” “Sounds like that turkey. I guess he spent the night here,” I said not knowing this was the first of many for our uninvited guest.

(The end is near!)

Creative Nonfiction: Tom Cruise

Ever read a book but have little recall of its content, except for one sentence or thought that finds a permanent place in your mind and heart? I’ve read a book like that; I read it twice in fact. The book was titled The Spirituality of Imperfection; it’s really a number of stories with an introduction. The one thought that impressed me was in the introduction. The author said, ‘God must love stories because each of us has one’. How true of us humans. There are innumerable autobiographies & biographies, each one a story.

One of the most read and most loved is St Theresa the Little Flower’s, The Story of a Soul. I’ve also read that one twice and remember mostly the whole story. Although she passed on to eternity so young and lived her adult years behind the walls of a Carmelite convent in France, her story is known the world over. The story I am about to tell you is a minute piece of my story, not my autobiography. How it fits into the whole of my life, I haven’t figured out, but I believe it will be revealed to me here or in the hereafter. It’s about a turkey.

(On the light side; Stay tuned for the rest of the story!)

Ascension of Jesus

This Thursday we celebrate the joyous feast of the Ascension. For His Apostles it was also awesome yet in a way frightening. They were now left without their teacher and for the next nine days must await word from Him accompanied by the Blessed Mother cloistered in The Upper Room. below is a short excerpt from mu novel followed by a poem.

Excerpt from Ch. 45 of Daybreak:     { Jonathan and his friends Simon and Abraham are returning to Jerusalem after spending the night at the home of Lazareth,  While walking on the Mount of olives they happen to meet  the eleven Apostles of Jesus who have just witnessed a miraculous event. }

“Peter, what happened today?” Simon asked, unable to wait any longer.

“We eleven were in the upper room in Jerusalem south of the Temple where we had observed Passover together. He appeared to us and then brought us here to the mountain overlooking the town of Bethany. He told us we would not see Him again until He comes in glory and He would prepare a place for us in the mansions of heaven. Elijah and Moses joined the Messiah, one on each side of Him. A cloud suddenly covered them and they were gone,” Peter said.

“Two beings, arrayed in white garments that shone with an unusual light, appeared at once beside us,” John continued. “They asked, why are you staring after Him for He will return as he left.”

Peter said, “He told us to go back to Jerusalem with His mother and await the Spirit of truth. The Spirit would give us the courage we needed to spread the good news of His teaching. We are on the way to His Mother and ours, and then to the upper room where we celebrated Passover.”

( Poem written in 2003 )


They stretched their necks and gazed in wonder as their Master was taken from them.  They were not ready  to lose Him; they were not prepared. They cowered to be alone.  But their Lord knew they needed Him. He allowed them to grieve in prayer. They had their mother to console them.; He was merciful to His friends. This Novena would bring them to readiness to receive a powerful gift. Will I be ready, Lord? Will your face knock me from my feet; prostrate my body and my soul? In grief I wait. Prepare me as they were prepared. Lord let me be ready. Keep me close to You through Her; open my soul to receive your gift. Bend my heart that I may look up and see you coming in the clouds with the angel beside me saying: He is coming back just as He left.

Greet Him. You are ready. His Spirit is in you. Alleluia!

On Being a Mother

When growing up as one of  seven children, I don’t remember appreciating what my mother did. There are countless memories that illustrate her great love of family and each of us, her children; while finding time to care for others: a dear Uncle who had a stroke, add to that a baby girl whose mother died in childbirth, our dad through years of cancer, and her own mother who passed on at 103.. These she cared for in her home over the years.

How did she manage this and find time for countless friends and relatives who stopped by unannounced and various children often dropped off for the day. I think this great capacity to serve and be there for so many souls began with her bringing up raised in a Christian home. She continued the practice of her own mother of spending the first hour of the day reading her Bible and praying. She followed the example of her father in generosity of time and possessions for the asking.

We wonder why Jesus bequeathed to friends, like us, His own Mother who can and will help us in every way just for the asking. This ability of the Blessed Mother to render unfailing help is exemplified by the supernatural ability of my mother, only on an even larger scale. Happy Mothers’ Day, Moms!


The Gift: Grand Parents, Grand Children

The Swings Hang Vacant Waiting

The frame stands, reinforced, rusty bolts replaced, repainted sky blue
The swings hang vacant waiting for the grand children

From the first the son helped his father
Eager as he held the hundred bolts & nuts
As one by one the metal pipes connected rose
Gifted by grand parents, the box contained glee and motion, flight and wonder
The child grew, joined by a sister and the two flew to lands beyond sight
A few years of togetherness

Abandoned, the blue faded and surface rust marred the magic
Swings sat waiting until the day a  son of our son and his brothers
Caused a grand father to refurbish and rebirth the flying machine
Powered by the energy of little legs and grand imaginings
Flying higher than the sky.

We had a few years as we flew to heights beyond
But one day look to land as grand children in that long awaited time and place
Together, never ending, always waiting wonders ever new
Flights beyond, soaring skyward.

The swings hang vacant, waiting.

DJ Pasternak April 1, 2020

Reflections on Easter 2020: Continued

The Easter season began as in other years with fasting and Mass on Ash Wednesday; however, in April churches were closed and Masses celebrated by the priests were designated private Masses. In our diocese the churches were open and hours of Adoration permitted. Soon the norm became only private Mass allowed. Blessings came to us when our parish and many others set up live streaming of Mass every day of the week. Our pastor also set up Flocknotes where he informed us of news and written homilies and spiritual food for thought through email.

Palm Sunday drew near and we felt an urgency to do something to acknowledge we were about to celebrate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. There would be no palms. A friend emailed us photos of decorations using greens and flowers for Palm Sunday. I used Yucca plant spears and a couple of branches of an indoor plant for the palms and silk flowers all tied together with a purple waterproof ribbon. It looked great on our door but who would see it? So I made another similar piece for a metal post near the road, added some purple streamers and a bow for the mail box. I placed the sign given to us by another friend from church that said One Nation Under God.

Holy week came and we watched the streaming of the Tridium; Holy Thursday, Good Friday. and Easter Sunday as well as the weekday Masses. We received the grace of spiritual Communion. We happened to have a black wrought iron cross in our garden and my husband had an idea to paint it white, decorate and place it down by the road near the post. He bought a solar spotlight and we put it out on Holy Saturday night. It gave us consolation when we walked down in the darkness and viewed the lighted cross. Our Christmas tree refused to drop it’s needles and we placed it, still in its stand, by our front door. We adorned it with white lights for all to see through the nights of the Easter season.

I had baked a traditional Easter cake, cranberry bread, and cinnamon buns on Good Friday. On Saturday afternoon our son and daughter-in-law came with homemade Italian cookies and a pot of yellow tulips. We sent a bag with the baked goods and a box of chocolates home with them. We missed seeing the grandchildren but were thankful all were well! Another friend dropped off a bouquet and another stopped by with hand made masks we ordered plus a basket of daisy mum plants.

On Easter Sunday we watched Mass streaming on our parish website and enjoyed a pasta lunch. We usually gave baked goods to people on Easter and later in the afternoon brought some of those to our neighbors. We had a plate of the pasta left and brought that to a friend who made our masks along with a box of chocolates. We observed the rules of social distancing and wearing masks.

Although we were not able to be together with our family or invite friends over, we knew the spirit of Easter was present and Jesus dwelt with us in spite of everything. Perhaps the circumstances made us find our way to see God’s love through sharing with each other and seeing Him in others.

All is well. He lives!

Reflections on Easter 2020

In 2014 an idea for a novel came to me. I don’t remember the exact day or time. After many self edits over five years, the 87,000 word Historical Christian novel, Daybreak from on High, now remains stored in micro soft word in my computer, as well as, in a box from Staples. The book is about a young Jewish man named Jonathan who sells doves with his father in the Court of the Gentiles in the Great Temple in Jerusalem. The story begins with the announcement of the birth of a prophet, John the Baptist, on the Feast of the Atonement.

In writing this work of fiction I learned that Jewish life centered around the feast days of their faith, the three major ones being the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Our Christian feast of Easter is in proximity to Passover. Jesus celebrated these feasts with his family as he grew up and He celebrated the Passover with His disciples the Thursday before He was crucified.

In reflecting on the life of a Jew I realized our lives as Christians also center around the Holy Days on our calendar. We observe the forty day period of lent leading up to the  Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus. Like the Jews we follow certain customs in the form of fasting, worship, and festivities. This year churches were closed because of the corona virus pandemic. The usual observance of Palm Sunday through Holy Week and Easter in our churches was not possible. In Chapter thirteen of my novel Passover was cancelled one year because of a massive loss of life, not caused not by a virus, but by the Roman Ethnark Herod Archelaus. The Temple was closed and the people celebrated the feast at home.

I will describe how my husband and I celebrated the 2020 Easter in my next post.