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america

This is America. These friends of my family have roots in Nepal, Philippines, Portugal, Ghana, Seychelles, England, Sicily, Portugal, Ireland, Jamaica, Sweden and many other countries!

My cousin in Georgia once told us that America started with an idea. This is my optimist’s musing about the good old USA.

The thing I love the most about the Fourth of July is that a bunch of commoners said, “No We Won’t.” and had a grand idea that all people were created equal. Americans don’t grovel to kings. It is when we remember that we started as rebels that the spark lights up again and we feel the power of being able to choose our own paths, our own destinies. That’s the American spark. We dream big and achieve great things. That’s the American optimism.

Americans come from all over the world and from America itself. It’s a big melting pot. To maximize the happy American vibe, people should get over their ideas of division, superiority, race, religion and all those things they learned at home and from nasty neighbors. Think about what Jesus would do, and do that!

As an American with roots and history in the Philippines, I love both countries dearly. Americans can do that. Embracing people from other lands is a very good thing to do. Spread the love.

When I was at Harvard for grad school in journalism, (I have two Harvard degrees – it is the only university I have ever graduated from, but not the only one I attended, but I digress). For my Harvard capstone I wrote about the Wampanoag People, the Native Americans who met the Mayflowers folks. We should all learn about the amazing gifts of all the Native American people who were the first folks in this land. Learn about them, and learn about yourself while finding the things that resonate.

A really good tip for having a good American life is to become a positive person. There are lots and lots of things to do to change yourself. Be a good American.

No matter who you are, where you come from, you can always start over. I’ve started over multiple times. Don’t like the school system? You can homeschool somewhere. Don’t like the commute? You can work from home, be your own boss. It’s easy in America. You just have to find your way to do it.

One of the great things about American life is that you can find out who you are and live your life without other people controlling you. Finding out who you really are is something that not everyone gets to do. The gift of being different is that you can step back and think about why you think this or that. I am a left-handed mixed race person – I know what it is to be different, and in America that is OK. Embrace the difference, be uniquely who you are. It’s much easier in American than in conformist places.

The past disappears into dream land and this great country is big enough to have a place for any of us. Like liberal ideas, there’s Cambridge and Berkeley and many more places! There are maps out there that show where people live. There’s something for everyone in this huge land. More of the conservative sort, well, there’s lots of room for you in lots of places. Need to go 24 hours in a sea of diversity…there’s NYC, need surf, sand, laid back living? There’s a HUGE coastline. Need roots, wings, forgotten real estate and so much ocean? Well, there’s this little city called New Bedford.

I’ve lived in many states. Georgia, California, New Mexico, Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. They all have wonderful and unique aspects and treasures to enjoy.

Most of the things I have achieved since I’ve been an adult have come to me thanks to my American citizenship. It’s fun to live in a free country. I don’t spend much time looking at the downside, and don’t read negative commentary or listen to dire political or religious media.

I look out the windows every day, see mostly blue sky and maple trees. I go to the library to pick up books that I requested over the internet. We walk at night in safety, and live on a quiet block with people from many other countries. I can choose which of many masses I want to go to on Sunday. We have freedom of religion. The government, while unwieldy at time, does a good job providing us with affordable healthcare.

Think about that for a moment. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May, and have gone to many appointments, treatments, have had one surgery and will have another next week, will have more surgery in the months to come, and radiation and it is all covered. Thank you Affordable Care Act. With our last health insurance company, our deductible was $5,000 and we were paying $1500 a month.

Here is a short list of some of the things I’ve been able to do because I live in the USA.

Homeschool

Become an eBay powerseller

Open a small press

Publish a little magazine

Ditch the rat race (my husband did this)

Buy a 1910 house for 130,000.

Graduate from Harvard twice

Be a very devout Catholic

Have all the kids I wanted without government interference.

Do what I want most of the time.

Publish books

Be who I am

Have lots of pets

Have dependable power, water, roads, health care, access to information and education

Become a Licensed NeuroPositive Life Coach through the Applied NeuroScience Institute

Travel easily to other countries

Meet people from all over the world and eat their food and enjoy their culture

Really, we are all only limited by our beliefs in this country.

So, I’m a happy camper this Fourth of July. I’m proud that my ancestors and my husband’s ancestors all fought for Independence. It’s a beautiful country, a grand place of amazing opportunity. God Bless America. Be who you were meant to be. Spread the Love. Think Big, Be Optimistic. It’s a great place to call home.

If you want to learn to live a more positive life, get in touch with me. I have a lot to share.

 

 

manaoag

We went to a healing mass in Attleboro, Massachusetts, at the Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette. The ride out was glorious, the forests were green and along the way fields and farms stood out in prim New England style. Stone walls, graveyards, corn – blue skies and cottony clouds fed our eyes and spirits all the way there.

There was a good crowd at the shrine. People of every nationality and infirmity were there. Father Andre Patenaude (Father Pat) took up his guitar and sang with a beautiful tenor. We all sang along. I felt like we were being “softened up” or made to be more comfortable.

The mass was solemn and beautiful and he preached a fine sermon on Sts. Peter and Paul and their personalities. After the mass was over, those seeking healing were invited up to be anointed and prayed over. It is a very simple and ancient thing. I was surprised at how many people there were. Was I really one of those asking to be healed? Oh yes, I was. Illness is a great equalizer. It is something to pray for a job or a house, another to pray to meet the right person. But to be healed is a deep human request.

I felt quite vulnerable. There was a lady who stood behind everyone as Father Pat made his way down the line – she was there to help people if they fell. I didn’t feel like falling, and wondered if I needed to. But no, I am too repressed and proper to let go that much in public. I began to wonder what it all meant, and how it all worked. And then….

And then Father Pat was in front of me, anointing my forehead with fragrant oil, and praying over me. I guess it was one of the ancient formulaic prayers of the Catholic Church, one of those in the Ritual. I couldn’t discern what he was saying. But I heard the words, “Through Jesus Christ Our Lord.” Then he had move to the next person.

I moved away from the altar steps and walked over to where three women were praying over a lady who seemed to be recovering from cancer. Her hair was short, as though it was growing in again after chemo. She looked frail. I waited until she was done and took a seat between two of them, with one lady behind me.

One of them asked, “What is your name?”

I said, “Kathleen”.

She said, “Kathleen, what is the matter? What can we pray for?”

I started to cry. “I have breast cancer, I have six children, I’ve been married to my husband for 30 years this year.” I felt this huge load of emotion pour out and they began praying with urgency. Suddenly, Bud was in front of me, grabbing my hand, his eyes full of tears. I said, “This is my husband.”

One of the ladies smiled and  said, “We figured as much.”

Then the leader said, “Give her the oil”.

I was handed a bottle of oil with a label that said, “St. Raphael’s Oil”.

“Put some on you and pray every day.”

I know that St. Raphael is one of the archangels, the agent of healing, happy marriages and meetings.

I said, “Thank you.” I felt as light as air. Off we went to get ice cream and to look at the beautiful, beautiful afternoon.

***************

This afternoon a small package arrived in the mail. I looked at it, and saw gold. I thought, “Fireflies”. I always remember the miracle that happened to my mother and her family during World War II. During a dramatic do or die moment, as they were struggling up a mountain path in the pouring rain, next to a raging river, my grandfather cried out to Our Lady.

“Cover us with they mantle O Blessed Mother of God, that we may be saved from every evil and temptation, every danger to body and soul”.

Suddenly the fireflies appeared. Our Lady’s Mantle, they said. And they made their way to their destination in complete safety. The story has been told again and again and it has fed me personally my whole life.

But never more than at this time, when the stakes are high and I am calling for help.

“Cover me with your mantle.”

So this afternoon as I looked quizzically at the package, I couldn’t figure it out. Then I read the note. It was from my dear friend Rose, in the Philippines. It was a piece of the mantle of Our Lady of Manaoag, from a shrine in the Philippines, close to my ancestral land of Pampanga and my childhood homes of Clark Air Base and Bauang, La Union. The crowned image of Our Lady has had many custodians through the centuries, and this piece that came to me, came from a private collection of regalia used in the 1950′s.

Our Lady’s Mantle came to me.

Tonight we went for our usual walk up and down Maple St. It is an easy mile and absolutely gorgeous on nights like tonight, with the crescent moon rising against a Maxfield Parrish sky. Right before our block I saw two fireflies. “Oh let’s go see the fireflies at the zoo!” I said.

Minutes later we were down at the zoo where a piece of lawn backs up to the woods. All through the woods, the fireflies danced high up in the trees, down amongst the shrubs, around the lawn. It was a spectacular little show.

Fireflies, Our Lady’s Mantle, the Healing Balm of the Church…. All shall be most well.

 

Link to the Official Site of the Manaoag Shrine:

http://manaoagshrine.org

 

Surprise!

 

Today was a day of gifts. First of all a friend of mine visiting Paris said she prayed for me at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Montmarte. It is the Feast of the Sacred Heart so this was a wonderful thing. It touched my heart.

It was a gorgeous day here. This afternoon I went for my acupuncture appointment, which is so helpful in managing chemotherapy side effects and other things. While I was there someone came to the house and left this statue and rosary on the front porch. My son answered the door as a gentleman was walking away.

There was a card that read:

Best wishes for a quick recovery. Hope this beautiful image of Our Lady gives you a measure of comfort.

I made this rosary with beads from the Philippines given to me by a friar.

The card was unsigned, and the gentleman zoomed off in a red car. That is all I know.

Dear friend,

Thank you so much for the beautiful statue of Our Lady. It is made from narra or a Philippines hardwood in the Filipino style. I love it. I consider it a gift from Jesus and on this great feast of His, it is like he is pointing to His Mother. I hope one day to find out who you are, because I think someone drove far to bring this to me. God Bless you abundantly!

Kathleen

What can I say? Life is grand. Now for a big walk around the park in the golden hour. God Bless us all.

 

This is the Charles W. Morgan, New Bedford’s last all wooden whale ship, gliding into the harbor on a visit. The waterfront, which is miles long, was lined with people. We knew where to go from the way people were leaning and pulling over. She glided in like a swan. It made me think of New Bedford’s history and all the times people would wait for their boats to come in. It was a poignant and memorable sight, and an omen for the prosperity of our dear city. Things have turned around. I’m happy to have witnessed it.

Prior to the Charles Morgan’s arrival, I spent a couple of hours having a PET scan. I was injected with radioactive tracer, then spent a jolly forty minutes chatting with the technician, trading stories of growing up in other lands. We agreed that San Diego has perfect weather and climate. The PET scan was interesting. The one request was that I not move. So I didn’t. I prayed the rosary and a Divine Mercy chaplet while in the doughnut, counting on my ten fingers.

Tomorrow is Chemotherapy session #3.  I still have my hair, my nails are still growing. This week I didn’t have any side effects at all. I’m grateful but easy about whatever happens. I’ve learned a lot about life since the grand diagnosis. I’m a wimp about discomfort and pain, so I am truly, abundantly thankful that I had an easy week. I count on my acupuncture session the day after.

Nothing bothers me anymore. I don’t care it tortilla chips aren’t crispy, if the living room is a mess. (I didn’t care about them before either so maybe that isn’t a good example). OK. I don’t care about politics, or any of the dire prognostications. None of it matters, really. The only thing that matters is staying in the present and being a loving human being with a particular focus on the dear ones I have been assigned to journey through life with. My husband Bud, my kids, my large family in California and the Philippines, my friends, my neighbors.

I’m grateful for everything. For the way the puppy gallops down the sidewalk when we go on walks, for my geraniums that line the front porch, for the robins hopping and the seagulls soaring. For sunlight on the water, for wind in the maple trees.

I’m grateful for the kindness shown to me over and over again by friends and family. I do know and appreciate all of it, and relish it. I don’t know what will happen down the road in this treatment. Will there be pain? I hope there is good pain relief. Will things shrink and shrivel and go away? I’m counting on it!

I have plans. Really wonderful plans. I want to go to San Diego to see my sister and brothers. I want to go to San Francisco to see my mother, brother, sisters and cousins. I want to see my nieces and nephews! I want to meet my great-nephew.  I want to see everyone and go to the Philippines too. And to Spain, and Germany, and France, and the Vatican!

Over here I want to enjoy the summer books sales, eat lobster, enjoy a fried clam platter, watch the sunset at Gooseberry Island. We are growing a tiny lawn in the backyard and soon we will have a new hammock, and a hammock chair in the tree.

And through all this there is the REGIMEN of good foods and supplements and daily walks and lots of water. Life is a full-time job. And a very happy one. I wish you all a happy and healthy summer. Pray for my healing, I humbly ask. God listens to everyone.

 

 

Yesterday, at mass, a phrase came into my mind. “This isn’t where I planned to be, but it is where I am, and there will be blessings here.” I thought immediately how the quotidian is infused with glory. I thought of how the simple act of going to mass and sitting in a pew is gilded. It was Father’s Day yesterday, and I thought about my Daddy. The recessional hymn, “Holy God We Praise Thy Name”, was one I sang as a child  going to mass at Clark Air Base in the Philippines.

The day before we were at a birthday party. There was a tea party at four in our friend’s garden. There were teenage girls in summer dresses sipping from decorated Mason jars and eating sweets. I looked at the girls from the window – they looked like flowers with flowing locks. Did they know how beautiful they are? Did they know that this moment, this moment of being young and beautiful is something that is given freely? I wished them all well, wished them, like a fairy godmother, all the good things in life.

Later that evening, as laughter rose and fell in the dining room, I waved good-bye to my daughter. The living room I was sitting in was full of golden light. It seemed to me that the moment was suspended in time. The easy laughter, the happiness, the camaraderie, all condensed like an elixir of honey. I may not remember what we ate, but I will remember how the room was shot full of gold and how the trees outside spread their leaves over the lawns making deep shadows in the early evening.

In our dining room tonight, my arms feel as though they are on fire. The side effect of the chemo is muscle pain, and after a three-hour gap of being pain-free, they both were suddenly, intensely painful. I breathed through it and the pain went back into hiding.

I looked at the door to the butler’s pantry, and the mirrors and prisms hanging from the chandelier combined with the evening light for a glorious show. We laughed about how I might eat my dinner, since I couldn’t lift my fork to my mouth. Bud would feed me.

Yes he would. But I didn’t need him to, because the pain went away as quickly as it came. These days are like surfing. I never know what will come, I just know that it is all part of this experience.I know I will be provided for.  The only way out is through.

 

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