“You Can Never Go Home”

A sunny and very windy Sunday morning here in Westminster.  Reminds me of Chicago and the bitterly cold, windy days there.  I’m trying to think of what to write this morning, and a song comes to mind.

I open iTunes and start playing the Moody Blues’ song “You Can Never Go Home” from their album “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour” and think maybe they got it wrong. You absolutely can go home again, especially in your thoughts.

“I don’t know what I’m searching for, I never have opened the door.  Tomorrow might find me at last, turning my back on the past.  But time will tell of stars that fell, a million years ago.  Memories can never take you back, home, sweet home.  You can never go home anymore.  All my life, I never really knew me till today.  Now I know why I’m just another step along the way …”

I think each of us never really knows our inner self until some epiphany occurs.  I don’t think it matters how old we are when it happens.  Some people are fortunate and figure it out when they are young; others (like me) are older and still searching.  As I read more and more about different spiritual paths, it occurs to me that maybe this is all part of the journey.

So now, I reconsider the lyrics.  Do they refer to the journey to enlightenment and not the earthly life we know at the moment?  Using that interpretation, I think what they’re saying is that we don’t go back and relive past lives (unless we haven’t yet learned what we’re supposed to learn in this one).  Yes, by the way, I believe in reincarnation.

Funny thing (and I think I have written about this before), when I was in my early teens in Chicago, I used to do yard work for a neighbor.  Her son was away from home (don’t recall if it was college or the service), and she would invite me to lounge in her son’s chaise with headphones and listen to his albums.  I remember being introduced to Santana and the Moody Blues there.  I fell in love with the MBs.  Now, all these years later, I’m finding entirely new meaning in their songs.  I wonder if they had already attained what so many of us are still looking for.  Based on some of their lyrics, it seems so.

Still trying to be mindful of everything around me.  Trying to take the not-so-nice things in stride, whether it’s insanely awful drivers on the roads, random things getting messed up at home, or filing my taxes and learning the results are highly unfavorable.  Everything happens for a reason, right?

Return from Hiatus

My nephew Mike, bless his soul, sent me a Twitter text and asked me where my blog posts have been. Thanks for nudging me, Mike!

I’ve been taking an unplanned hiatus from blogging, a little overwhelmed lately with some family and personal issues. I felt like I want to reach out to someone, to bounce ideas off someone, but I didn’t know who that “someone” was. Very frustrating. Plus I felt that whatever I might have said in a blog may have been something I shouldn’t have said. Maybe that doesn’t make sense. I used to be able to bounce ideas off a friend I had a while ago. But that friend turned out to be someone who had self-serving rules of what constitutes friendship, and after 10 years of being friends, I had to walk away. Chalk it up to the process of frustration elimination.

It’s been a very emotional year so far. One of my aunts has been diagnosed with lung cancer. One of my cousins (a few years younger than me) had a stroke, and while they don’t know what caused the stroke yet, they found a brain tumor. Another aunt (who I’ve always considered more of a cousin than an aunt because she’s the same age as me) was just diagnosed with COPD and asthma. Another cousin who is my age had bypass surgery several months ago. One of my younger cousins passed away suddenly earlier this year. I’d say they’re dropping like flies, but that sounds crude, so I won’t say it. And things haven’t been going all so well for Josh either. He’s been having his share of this bad year too.

There has been a convergence of not-so-wonderful things happening. It’s all very unnerving.

But on the brighter side …

Deb and Mike, my sister and brother-in-law, visited last month. Let me tell you, I’d been waiting 13 years to see them pull into the driveway, and when they did, I started crying – not bawling, but tears of happiness. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I wanted to hold onto them and not let them go back home. It was great spending time with them, talking, going to the Renaissance Festival, catching up. Yes, we talk on the phone just about every Sunday, but it’s not the same as face-to-face time.

I want (need) to take a road trip to Chicago soon (although it probably won’t happen until after March) to see the family (including Ms. Mia Zatanna Knol) and to bring back some of the fabulous Chicago culinary experience. Just to name a few food items – authentic Chicago style hot dogs (including real hot dog relish in jars I can bring home), Italian beef, Don’s Dock fish chips, Tortorice’s pizza (my favorite), Green River, Pagliacci Giardiniera, and maybe some German potato salad from Kuhn’s Deli. Ahhhhh … can’t wait!

I have a take-away for you …

Don’t be afraid of the future. Don’t let the bad events of the past prevent you from finding your own happiness in the here and now or in the future. Hold onto those who love you and those whom you love, because you can never know just how long they will be in your life. Don’t take them for granted! Share your dreams, your life, with someone who “gets” you. It’s worth everything!

Summers of Long Ago

Growing up in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago in the 1960’s was something special.  We played Cowboys and Indians, Army, Statues, or other games in the streets without any worries (well, the kids didn’t worry; can’t speak for the parents).  We ran up and down the creaky wooden stairways and halls of the corner apartment buildings (usually without the apartment residents yelling at us).  We strolled the side streets and hung out in the playgrounds until dusk, oblivious to any concerns of drive-by shootings, child abductions, or pedophilia.  In our realm, our reality, the world was pretty much safe, secure, and (for the most part) revolved around us.

The excitement of summer usually involved running after fire trucks to see what was burning (this time) and watch in awe as the firemen raced to extinguish the flames.  I remember once one of the junkyards (what is today’s politically correct term for them?)not too far from us had a fire, I think it was a mound of tires that time, and you could see the smoke from miles away.  And smell it too.  There were apartment buildings that burned sometimes, and the occasional warehouse fire too.  If we were walking around the neighborhoods and happened to see smoke off in the distance, we took off in that direction and didn’t stop until we got to the scene.

I mean, what else was there to do that was exciting and adventurous for kids during the summer?

We were city kids.  We didn’t know about summer camps or summer enrichment programs.  Most of our moms were stay-at-home moms.  We didn’t need babysitters or daycare – we had each other.  Cousins and neighbors and a few school friends.

There were failed attempts to learn to how swim at Holstein Park.  There was a summer dance that the park’s rec facility one summer Saturday (all I remember is “The Age of Aquarius” playing, the black light posters hanging on the walls, bell bottoms, and a lack of kids in attendance).

There were bike rides to Logan Square and very long walks to Downtown Chicago where we’d sometimes ride the subway and el back home.

There were hours spent sitting at the Clybourn station doing nothing but talking with my girlfriends and watching train after train come in and go (okay, I admit that we’d sometimes put those purple and white quartz rocks on the rails to watch them get obliterated when the train’s wheel attacked it).

Shopping for the latest Ray Bradbury (I will miss you) paperback at the downtown bookstore (wasn’t it Cokesbury?).  Buying candy and bottles of Pepsi® at Clem’s, the corner candy store.  Walking across Damen Avenue to the library to pick up something I hadn’t already read.  Falling in love with the mind of Sherlock Holmes and the voices and souls of Elton John; Gordon Lightfoot; Judy Collins; and Peter, Paul & Mary and wishing and wishing for something special to happen if only just one time in my life.

I won’t lie and say I don’t miss those days.  Not the running after fire trucks part, but having someone to hang out with day after day.  Even when we were simply sitting on the concrete stairs that led from our front yard to the sidewalk, frying ants with magnifying glasses, listening to the FM transistor radio, playing with our Barbie® dolls, or creating masterpieces with our colored pencils and crayons – all of those things meant we were spending time with people who mattered.  People, kids actually, who cared about each other and didn’t even realize it.  It was a given.  These were people we wanted – we chose – to spend time with.

Why does growing up and getting older have to mean that the closeness we had with our childhood friends has to evaporate?  Why do relationships and careers steer us so far away from the happiness we knew as kids?  I’m sure this isn’t true for everyone, but I’d bet it is for many, many of us.  Do we ever look back and wonder what we lost along the way?  And is there a way to recapture what we’ve left behind?

Spam® … the Edible Kind

Classic Spam

I don’t know if it has something to do with the change to daylight savings time today or some weird craving for the past, but this morning I woke up determined to have a Spam® sandwich.  Crazy?  Yeah, I know!

Back in Chicago growing up in the 60’s, Spam® was not a stranger in our home. Spam® and scrambled eggs for breakfast. Fried Spam® for dinner. Spam® smothered in ketchup (the only way to swallow it back in those days).  We didn’t have it every week or anything like that, but we had it often enough.

My Dad used to joke that my Mom could feed an entire army on one can of Spam®.  She could slice it so thin that you could almost see through it.  No joke.  But you know what?  Extremely thin slices fried up crispy to the point of being crunchy is the best way to eat it.

So that’s what I did this morning.  I opened a can (yes I always keep a can of Spam® in the basement pantry for these situations that might occur every year or two), cut three very thin slices, fried them until they were crispy, and then made s sandwich.  A Spam® sandwich and coffee – what a great American breakfast!

As for the rest of the chunk of meaty(?) substance?  It’s in a sandwich bag in the fridge.  It will probably sit there for a couple of weeks until someone decides on trash day to throw it out.  I mean, seriously – it won’t last in the fridge for a year, will it?

Hmmm ….

Conflicted

Sometimes the only word that describes how I feel is “conflicted.”  I know a lot of people must feel this way too at different times in their lives.  Riding out the storm of emotions is, to say the least, interesting.  There is this convergence of events – some recent, some not so recent – that is sometimes making me feel like I don’t know which end is up.

When my ex moved out of state, I admit I was a little sad.  It wasn’t like I saw him all that often, and it wasn’t as if we were close friends after our divorce.  But our son connects us, and before Josh went to college there were still conversations and decisions that had to be made.  When Ken left, it felt like there was a void.  And I couldn’t really make sense of why I felt that way.

While cleaning out some old files the other day, I found a couple of letters Ken had given me shortly after we separated.  I read them and the flood of memories reminded me why we broke up in the first place.  All of the resentment and bad feelings reared up, and I suddenly I realized it wasn’t his leaving town that made me sad.  It was simply that the people I had moved to Maryland with were both in different states now.  The Chicago transplants were now one instead of three.  I believe I’ve said this before but now I see it in a slightly different light.

Also, all of the **** I went through with the sociopath hangs over my head.  He was released from prison last year and I’ve been looking over my shoulder ever since.  He contacted me once after he got out, and I didn’t respond.  But the feeling that he’s lurking around some corner won’t go away.  There’s a chance he’ll go back to prison if he doesn’t pay the restitution he owes to a bunch of people, and nothing would make me feel safer than knowing he was back behind bars.  Sad to admit I feel this way, but I do.

I could rant about a couple of other things that are going on right now, but it’s not the proper venue for that.

Look – I’m not a perfect person.  I made mistakes in judgment before.  However, I don’t want to be held down by the past (mine or anyone else’s), regardless of how long ago or how recently something happened.  I don’t want to have to second-guess whether I’ve made the right decision.  Decisions can be difficult sometimes, but sometimes they have to be made anyway.  There is too much in life that still needs to be accomplished.

My advice to whomever wants to take it:  be trustworthy; have integrity; be honest with yourself and with others; realize that it’s okay to make a tough decision; and if you don’t like where you are in life, do your best to do something about it.  There are no easy answers, but by tackling the issues head-on you just might emerge a better person for it.

Monday, August 8 and the Blahs

I guess it’s a case of the Monday blahs.  I didn’t sleep all that well last night, woke up almost ten minutes late, and have to leave work early today for a doctor appointment.  What a day!

I’m listening to my iPod while I work and have to say that music really helps make the day better.  Especially when something comes on that I haven’t heard in a long time.

I’d love to connect with some old friends from Chicago but am having a helluva time finding them.  There were girls I hung out with in high school that I’d love to know how they’re doing now.  Time and distance can really suck!

Jamie told me yesterday that we’re going to his brother’s party on Saturday!  Yeah!  I get to meet his family again.  The first and only time I’ve met them was a July 4th party three years ago.  Curious, isn’t it, that so much time has elapsed?  Don’t blame me for this.

Oh yeah – “Vogue” by Madonna is on the iPod right now.  “Come on, Vogue!”  “You’re a superstar, yes, that’s what you are!”

We all are, aren’t we?