solstice memories

Katherine still loves her penguins

Trying to get used to this new editing page with its blocks and new steps I am having a difficult time… 🙁 But I must adapt to changes no matter how challenging this one is for me. It took me hours to create my last post but I will give it another go.

Today was a very emotional day for me. I took all the decorations off of the solstice tree, the best tree we’ve ever had. It was a Fraser fir. It smelled amazing! Its branches were strong enough to hold the glass bead garland my sister made for me years ago. I had such a good time decorating it with Tim, using all my white, silver and clear glass ornaments. A white skirt resembling snow. A white owl on top and a white fox curled up in the snow underneath it.

Katherine with the snow orb tree behind her

And while I was at it, I sorted through all the decorations I’ve been hoarding over the years and donated at least half of them. It’s funny when I think I’ve made so much progress simplifying my life and I still find object collections that have yet to be minimized. Now I have kept only the ones that truly “spark joy,” as Japanese decluttering author Marie Kondo teaches.

This holiday season was extra special for us. Nate & Shea haven’t been home to celebrate since they moved to Georgia in 2011, and Larisa & Dima were last here for the holidays in 2014. It was interesting how it worked out because we usually have our niece and her teenagers and my sister and her husband here for Christmas day but this year all of them couldn’t make it for one reason or another. We missed them!

It was wonderful having a house full of children again. I will especially remember the brisk winter walks we took. Also the first time Finn smiled at me, his whole face lighting up when he heard my voice, and holding my sleeping snuggle bug for hours… Getting two temporary PJ Masks tatoos from Katherine ~ Owlette is her favorite character from that show. She also introduced me to Puffin Rock, which has to be the most adorable children’s show ever. (It’s Irish but it can be seen on Netflix.) Katherine and I had some special moments together as she talks well enough to tell me about her life. I love listening to her observations. One time she darted down the stairs and exclaimed, “Grammy’s the best!” Talk about melting my heart…

Nate & Shea brought their nephews Julius and Dominic and they were sometimes here, too, when they weren’t visiting other Connecticut relatives, of which they have many! Julius, in his teens now, loved my meatloaf, which forever endeared me to him, and Dominic is so curious and active, he’s 10 after all, and interested in how families are related, cousins and all that. His main objective for this trip was to see snow for the first time. His chance came at 3 o’clock in the morning one day, and he was awakened to see flurries, but not the blizzard we were hoping for.

Dominic and Finn ~ Shea is Dominic’s aunt and Nate is Finn’s uncle. That makes them cousins, sort of, right?

Dominic and Katherine hit it off ~ it was fun to watch them interact and listen to their conversations. Nate, Shea and I took them to a holiday light fantasia which they both enjoyed very much.

One night Shea cooked us a lovely pork dinner, and another night Larisa cooked a chicken pie. Dima saved the day on Christmas when I suddenly realized I hadn’t even thought about dessert! All the stores were closed. He scrounged around in my pantry and was able to make some gluten-free chocolate-chip cookies, using a chocolate bar for the chips. It was great having Dima’s parents join us for that day, too. We all enjoyed the crazy gift basket tradition we have. Instead of exchanging presents we fill baskets with little items and take turns pawing through them to fish out whatever we’d like to take home with us. Some gag gifts, some treasures ~ it’s always fun.

And Nate helped Tim with his honey-do list. My pantry door stays closed now, the bathroom door no longer squeaks, the hole in the kitchen ceiling is patched and the dartboard is hung securely.

It was a wonderful two weeks!

walking on this earth

12.26.18 ~ Beebe Pond Park, Groton, Connecticut

If there is any wisdom running through my life now, in my walking on this earth, it came from listening in the Great Silence to the stones, trees, space, the wild animals, to the pulse of all life as my own heartbeat.
~ Vijali Hamilton
(Of Earth & Fire: Poems & Artworks)

12.26.18 ~ trees growing inside an abandoned foundation

Six of us took another family walk in the woods the other day, in Beebe Pond Park. Nate had been there years ago but I had never had a chance to explore it.

Katherine and Dominic

Katherine and Dominic loved climbing on the many boulders deposited by receding glaciers millions of years ago.

following the leader

It was warmish for a winter’s day, but I was happy to have my gloves.

Katherine still loves to look at maps

We walked for a very long time and only turned around when Katherine got too cold and darkness was approaching…

mushrooms, moss, bark, leaves
a thin layer of ice on the pond
sticks and leaves under the ice
Beebe Pond
Katherine
Larisa and Finn and orbs
leaves hanging on tight in the breeze
Katherine sat a little too long on this cold rock, enjoying the long winter shadows
the frown ~ one chilled little girl
Dominic on the go
turning around to head home
Nate and Katherine ~ it’s wonderful to have a strong uncle to carry a cold and tired little one home
interesting connection between a tree and a rock
Beebe Pond

in the woods and by the sea

12.20.18 ~ Bluff Point State Park

When the powers of nature are the focus of your awareness and your thoughts, you come near to spirit, near to the source of all life. This is why most people love to walk in the woods or by the sea: they come close to the original source, and it is healing just to be in its presence. It cleanses you, brings peace of mind, touches your heart and brings you home to your soul.
~ Chris Lüttichau
(Calling Us Home)

The weather report was calling for heavy rain all day on the winter solstice, so my son Nate, his nephews Julius and Dominic, and I decided to go for a long walk in the woods the day before it. It felt so healing to be outside in the fresh air!

12.20.18 ~ Bluff Point State Park ~ Dominic and Julius

We are very fortunate to have this coastal reserve in our town. The scenery is always lovely, but I especially love the light of winter. It’s been so long since I’ve taken pictures with my Canon, so I grabbed it on my way out the door. To my dismay, I discovered later that the battery in it was dead and the spare was dead as well. So I made do with my cell phone. Of course, as soon as I got home I charged both batteries. 🙂

12.20.18 ~ Bluff Point State Park

due date

Larisa ~ 10.31.18 ~ Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The due date has arrived! It seems this baby plans on being late, too. Larisa is very uncomfortable and trying her best to be patient.

Tim has returned from Connecticut and has resumed taking Katherine to and from daycare. I’m doing laundry and cooking and we’ve both been helping out where needed.

Katherine is excited about Halloween and her best friend is coming over soon to go trick-or-treating with her. We have birthday celebrations scheduled for the next two days and another one next week. (Tim, Dominic and Dima) Lots of activity and a bit too much stimulation for me, but I’m pacing myself with periodic escapes to my room.

Dima got an early birthday present from his family, a combination smoker and grill. We’ve been having some fantastic dinners while we continue to wait for baby. 🙂

busy, busy, busy

5.25.18 ~ great egret at Eastern Point Beach

The fatigue from radiation has finally gone away, just in time! I’ve been neglecting my blog because we’ve had a lot of company and I’ve been over the moon cooking for them, having folks at my table again, and getting out and about with them.

Nate tells me someone has been trying to hack my blog, several times, and he’s spent hours investigating and remotely taking measures to protect it. I am so grateful he knows what he’s doing!

A new little brother or sister for Katherine will be arriving in Ireland near the end of October!!! Of course I will be spending a month or two over there to help out. Wouldn’t miss this big event for the world. 🙂

5.25.18 ~ Eastern Point Beach ~ Tim, Aunt Delorma and Allegra ~ when I suddenly noticed I was being watched while taking pictures of the great egret

I’ve taken a Photoshop course at the senior center so I’m looking forward to using my new skills. We’re still taking our Tai Chi class. Not sure I will ever master it. If I pay attention to my leg movements then my arm movements and breathing can’t seem to stay coordinated. And vice versa. But I get an “A” for effort and the instructor is very encouraging.

On Friday my sister and I are flying to West Virginia to visit our aunt and cousin. We’ve never been there before so it will be a new experience. I hope to bring back some good pictures. The last and only time Beverly and I have flown together was in 1974 when we flew home from Greece.

In September Tim & I will be driving to Kentucky for our niece’s wedding and a 3-day family reunion immediately afterwards. On our way home we plan to stop at a few places in western New York to do some family history research.

5.25.18 ~ great egret at Eastern Point Beach

So much to look forward to!

Rock Close ~ Druid’s Cave ~ Wishing Steps ~ Witch’s Kitchen ~ Witch Stone ~ Fairy Glade ~ Where Two Rivers Cross

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

If you look closely you will see me peeking from through the doorway. Another enchanted forest lies beyond this wall. This post is going to be terribly long but it was impossible to edit it down any more than I have. 🙂

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

There were paths and stone steps leading every which way between boulders and gnarly trees. Following the map provided was more than a little confusing.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

But an occasional sign would sometimes give us a clue as to our whereabouts.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

Druid’s Cave
Said to once be the home of a religious hermit who was fed and cared for by the Jefferyes family… it may well have sheltered many others through the centuries.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ entrance to Druid’s Cave

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ inside of Druid’s Cave

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ window at the back of Druid’s Cave

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ looking at the window (looks like a black hole near the bottom of the picture) from the outside of Druid’s Cave

The roots of the trees, I think most of them were Yews, were growing around the stones, and their branches made huge canopies over the rock formations.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

Wishing Steps

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ looking down the Wishing Steps

For hundreds of years, the Blarney Witch has taken
firewood from our Estate for her kitchen.
In return, she must grant our visitors wishes.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ at the bottom of the Wishing Steps

If you can walk down and back up these steps with your eyes closed — some suggest walking backwards — and without for one moment thinking of anything other than a wish, then that wish will come true within a year.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ looking left from the exit of the Wishing Steps

We say only that the steps can be slippery and that we take no responsibility…

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ cannot remember what this was…

Witch’s Kitchen

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ Witch’s Kitchen

Historians will tell you that this was home to the very first Irish cave dwellers.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ Witch’s Kitchen

But if you arrive early enough in the morning,
you may still see the dying embers of a fire.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ Witch’s Kitchen

Firewood, paid for by your wishes on the Wishing Steps,
is lit every night by the Witch of Blarney,
as she fights to stop shivering on her
nocturnal escape from the Witch Stone.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ Witch’s Kitchen

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ another leprechaun bridge!

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ another friendly robin

Witch Stone
It takes little imagination to see who is imprisoned here.
The Witch of Blarney has been with us since the dawn of time.
Some say it was she who first told the MacCarthy of the power of the Blarney Stone.
Fortunately for visitors,
she only escapes the witch stone after nightfall — and we close at dusk.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ Witch Stone

Fairy Glade

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

The faerie folk of Ireland are famed the world over for their mischief and charm.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

They have of course been here longer than any of us and it is
our duty to keep them safe in this special glade.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

They do, however, have a native cunning.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ we just missed seeing the fairy who darted inside and firmly closed the door

So if you spot one, don’t let it be fooling you.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ more tempting paths to follow

There is so much to see at Blarney Castle & Gardens! Of the 14 things we could have seen here at Rock Close we saw only 5 of them. Elsewhere on the castle grounds there are more gardens, arboretums, woodland and riverside walks, the Blarney House… I could go on. There’s no way to see all this in a single day. I do hope I get to return here some day.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ so many majestic trees…

On our way out something else caught our interest:

Where Two Rivers Cross

Prior to 1870, the River Blarney joined the River Martin near the Rock Close,
but the course of the river was altered and the gradient was changed
to increase the outflow of water when Inchancumain Bog was drained.
The River Blarney was re-directed under the River Martin,
which was channelled overhead via a short aqueduct.

2.5.18 ~ Rock Close, Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ where two rivers cross

At the point where the River Blarney emerges can be seen
the remains of an old flax mill.
It is a rare occurrence really in that one does not often find
a place where one river passes under another.
As a matter of interest,
the River Martin was known as the River Aumartin in the 1600’s
while the River Blarney was known as the River Whey.

Larisa picked us up and we headed back to her home. My cold by now had reached the runny nose phase and I went to bed early. Later that night Tim’s brother Josh arrived from England to visit with us for a few days. But this is the end of my photos.

The next day we went into Cork’s city center and spent the day shopping and visiting different pubs. It’s all a blur to me now because I left my camera at home and spent the day blowing my nose and feeling miserable. But I did manage to find some connemara marble for my sister!

And the day after that I stayed in bed while the others went to the Titanic Experience Cobh and saw Josh off at the airport later that day. That night Tim & I spent our last delightful evening with Katherine and her wonderful au pair, Anna, while Dima & Larisa went out on a date.

We arrived home on a Thursday and flew down to Georgia on Friday. Not pleasant flying so much with a clogged head! As it turned out Shannon had a sinus infection so we sat around talking ~ misery loves company. Tim and Nate were puttering around tending to techie projects and bringing us food. One afternoon we got ourselves out to a flea market and then a nice dinner out. And it was good seeing Julius and Dominic again ~ I cannot believe how much they have grown!

We flew home on Tuesday and I had my final radiation treatment on Wednesday. Phew! That was quite a vacation!

Today old man winter came back for a morning visit and left us 4 more inches of snow. A perfect day to snuggle in and finally finish these posts about our trips to Ireland and Georgia.

persistently, abundantly, miraculously

1.22.18 ~ Cork, Ireland ~ Katherine has been taking good care of her beloved Purple Penguin ♡ photo by Larisa

One morning you might wake up
to realize that the knot in your stomach
had loosened itself and slipped away,
and that the pit of unfilled longing in your heart
had gradually, and without your really noticing,
been filled in — patched like a pothole, not quite
the same as it was, but good enough.

And in that moment it might occur to you
that your life, though not the way
you planned it, and maybe not even entirely
the way you wanted it, is nonetheless —
persistently, abundantly, miraculously —
exactly what it is.

~ Lynn Ungar
(The Way It Is)

After recovering from surgery and the bad cold I then had about a week of feeling good. I couldn’t wait to get back to my chores and even happily spent a morning giving the bathroom a thorough cleaning. It was fun to go food shopping with Tim, run errands together, cook a few meals, do some laundry, and enjoy a lovely long walk on the beach.

Then Wednesday I had my first radiation treatment and it went very well. But the predicted side effect of fatigue hit the next morning and I wound up sleeping most of the day. If that is the only side effect, though, I am grateful. I still feel sapped. Being a morning person usually full of vim, vigor and vitality, I woke up this morning wondering why on earth I felt so sluggish and it took me an hour or so to figure out that it must be lingering fatigue from the treatment. (And why was I looking for the eggs in the dishwasher?)

So Tim volunteered to do some food shopping today. And I am going to make a packing list!

Tim and the kids planned visits to fill the two week period between my 2nd and 3rd treatments! I will be getting my 2nd treatment (at Smilow Cancer Hospital in New Haven) on Wednesday and then going straight to Providence to catch a flight to Ireland to see Larisa & Dima and Katherine!!! And then the next week we will go to Georgia to see Nate & Shea!!! We will arrive home the night before my 3rd and final treatment.

I may be a tired blob but at least these trips will help pass the time and my radiation oncologist thinks they are a great idea. I do hope I get to see Blarney Castle and more of Cumberland Island National Seashore. But whatever happens it will be wonderful seeing the kids again. ♡

Farewell, Auntie Lil

Lillian Elizabeth (Chomiak) Rioux (1915-2016)

Last autumn we lost our aunt, who lived to be 101 years old. The various stories behind the above drawing presented a puzzle for us but after comparing memories we finally decided that the sketch was probably drawn on one of Auntie’s cruises. She kept it hanging above her bed for as long as I can remember, flanked on either side with the senior high school pictures of my sister and me.

Following is the obituary I wrote for the newspapers:

Lillian Elizabeth (Chomiak) Rioux, 101, of Storrs, Connecticut, died on October 27, 2016, at Mansfield Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation, after a short illness.

Lillian was born on January 30, 1915 in New York City, the daughter of the late William & Katherine (Fusiak) Chomiak, both immigrants from Ukraine. She married Leo Oscar Rioux on November 30, 1934 at Montville, Connecticut. Her husband died on June 5, 1957, leaving her a widow for 59 years. Lillian was predeceased by their two sons, Leo Adrian Rioux (1936-1984) and Lance William Rioux (1950-1979).

Lillian was also predeceased by six siblings, Mary Riback, Jon Stephen Chomiak, Augustine Chomiak, Augusta Jean Hereth, Olga Chomiak, and Theodore William Chomiak. She is survived by her sister, Ludmila Sabatiuk of West Virginia, her grandchildren, Leo Rioux, Jr. of Montville and Sarah James of Tennessee, seven nieces and nephews, four great-grandchildren, and a great-great-grandson.

Lil was a graduate of Norwich Free Academy and was a seamstress employed at Hendel Manufacturing Company in New London for many years. She was a long time resident of Montville and later moved to Juniper Hill Village in Storrs to live closer to her brother. An avid traveler, beach bum and shell collector, she loved to sew, cook, grow orchids, do jigsaw puzzles and work with her hands.

A memorial gathering will be planned for next spring. Memorial donations can be made to Mansfield Town Senior Center, 303 Maple Rd, Storrs, CT 06268.

We had our memorial gathering for her on May 6, spreading her ashes on the graves of her parents and her husband and two sons, as she had directed. My Aunt Em read to us her memories of Aunt Lil’s earlier years.

Grave of Aunt Lil’s parents, William Chomiak (1882-1965) & Katherine Fusiak (1887-1943), Comstock Cemetery, Montville, Connecticut

Every year on Memorial Day, my father would drive Aunt Lil to these two adjacent cemeteries, so she could plant geraniums in front of the headstones, each one a different shade of red or pink. When my father could no longer drive, my sister and brother-in-law stepped in to take her. As he has been doing for years now, John once again planted the geraniums that meant so much to her, this time with family spreading ashes and telling stories.

Grave of Aunt Lil’s older son, Leo Adrian Rioux (1936-1984), St. Patrick Cemetery, Montville, Connecticut.

The story Auntie told me was that it was not permitted for her to be buried in the Catholic cemetery with her husband and sons because she never converted to Catholicism. But she married a Catholic and had her sons baptized in the church. It was her wish to join them in the cemetery by spreading her ashes on their graves.

Grave of Aunt Lil’s husband, Leo Oscar Rioux (1913-1957), and their younger son, Lance William Rioux (1950-1979), St. Patrick Cemetery, Montville, Connecticut.

At the last grave Tim read a poem my sister Beverly wrote in memory of Auntie for the occasion.

They were worker’s hands, never soft, never still.
It took me fifty years to catch them, hold them, keep them safe and warm.
A thousand times I watched them go:
knit and purl
peel and chop
turn the pages
stir the pot.

If hands could talk what would they say?
It took me fifty years to hear them, know them, find out how they spoke.
A thousand times I felt their love:
show and tell
hug and pat
acts of kindness
pet the cat.

I’d come to love her knobby hands
that always showed me what to do.
How those hands have touched my life!
They’ve one more job before they’re through:
stitch and mend
my broken heart.

~ Beverly Chomiak
(Her Hands)

Then we all went to eat at one of her favorite restaurants, Old Tymes in Norwich, finishing the meal with dishes of Auntie’s favorite black raspberry ice cream. ❤

golden pheasant

On a recent trip to Georgia to see Nate & Shea, Julius and Dominic we visited an adventure park where I spotted this female golden pheasant, which is native to the forests and mountains of western China.

3.19.17 ~ female golden pheasant ~ Valdosta, Georgia

As I was photographing the rather plain female, I happened to look down and saw a colorful male briskly walking straight toward me. What a face!

3.19.17 ~ male golden pheasant ~ Valdosta, Georgia

I darted out of his way and captured a side view as he quickly made his way over to his mate.

3.19.17 ~ male golden pheasant ~ Valdosta, Georgia