Archive | March, 2014

Each Day a New Decision: Choose Life

25 Mar

“Summer and winter and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above, Join with all nature in manifold witness, To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love”

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It’s spring in the northern hemisphere, and spring can be a difficult season for many. While we tend to think of winter as a difficult season with people struggling with seasonal affective disorder and a myriad of holidays, many people suffer with spring. The signs of new life it brings – trees budding, birds singing, grass greening – can be troubling to those not experiencing personal signs of new life.

While skeptics may say the only two certainties in life are death and taxes, I say each day gives us the opportunity to choose whether we are just surviving another day or whether we are truly living. Skeptics may say each day we are just another day closer to death. While this may technically be true, why not each day choose to live? Why not choose life?

John 3 talks about being born again from the Spirit. Every day is an opportunity to start afresh. Afresh with a new attitude. Afresh with new friends. Afresh with new or repaired relationships. This is what I refer to when I refer to choosing LIFE. Choose active, not passive, participation in your own life! Continue reading

My Wild Irish Roots

17 Mar

When your full name is Doreen Ann Mary Mannion, you do not need to wear green on Saint Patrick’s Day, or drink green beer for that matter. Being Irish is certainly not a “one day a year” event in my life. My father’s mother, my Nana, Anne Corcoran, was “off the boat” Irish; she arrived in the US alone at age 18 in 1924, straight from the family farm in County Longford. My father’s father, my Pop, Charles Mannion, was second generation American. Until recently, much to my Mom’s dismay, I rather thought of myself as Irish-American, and that’s it; I since have taken great delight in learning more about my other half – my French-Canadian half.

nana cow

My Nana could be very funny. She sent this photo back to Ireland with the note, “With love to Mother. ‘Which is the cow? Don’t you think I look sweet, and how?'”

Thanks to years of difficult research by my Mom long before the Internet, I not only know who my great grandparents were, but also know the names of all 8 of my paternal great, great-grandparents – all born in Ireland – Thomas Mannion & Anne McElroy, Patrick Gaffney & Anne Masterson, Thomas Corcoran & Bridget Duffy, and Patrick Leavy & Ann O’Reilly. (I even know an amazing 11 of 16 full names of my great, great, great-grandparents on my Dad’s side.)

Thomas Mannion was the son of Patrick Mannion & Margaret Grady, who were kicked off their land by the British and forced onto a coffin ship bound for North America in 1849 during an Gorta Mór, which took place between 1845 and 1852, and which you may mistakenly know as “The Potato Famine.” While it is true the potato crop failed, this was no famine. This was mass starvation.

Patrick, Margaret, and Thomas were accompanied on the journey by Thomas’ siblings John, Patrick, Malachy, and Mary; and Margaret’s brothers Thomas and Leonard Peter, and their wives and children. The families were luckier than most. Not only did they survive the starvation efforts at home; they were not sold to the Caribbean as slaves and they all survived the journey across the Atlantic to Quebec.

It is unknown when Patrick Gaffney & Anne Masterson came to the US. They had four daughters, including my great grandmother Annie, and a son, James. James was quite the character. Born in 1868, he found favor as a Tammany Hall politician as a young man and went on to become a prominent businessman and owner of the Boston Braves during the period they won the World Series as the “Miracle Braves” of 1914.

gaffney ws

James E. Gaffney, fourth from the right.

Gaffney was also involved in the impeachment of the governor of New York, William Sulzer, the only time in history the governor has been impeached. When Sulzer refused to do Tammany’s bidding and name Gaffney Superintendent of Public Highways, Tammany threatened to have his job and they carried through on their promise.

I have been fascinated by my great, great uncle James Gaffney since I was a child and first viewed the large portrait of him hanging in my grandparent’s home. Gaffney had built the home and the one next to it on speculation, and when it did not sell, he gave it to his sister, Pop’s mother (I’m sure there were tax writeoffs even in those days, lol). Pop inherited the home from his mother.

It never made much sense to me why the portrait hung there since he was not close to his sister, my great grandmother, or to Pop. I recently determined this portrait is the one referred to in several New York Times articles as being missing as it may have demonstrated that Gaffney had surgery to avoid identification and conviction on a number of serious charges concerning awarding of city contracts! No wonder he buried it at his sister’s house on Long Island!

The Corcoran, Duffy, Leavy, and O’Reilly names are still well-known in their areas of origin. My Dad still has first cousins there and I have been fortunate to visit several times as well as host cousins here in the states. We had a great Corcoran family reunion there in 1999, pictured.

ireland family reunion 1999

Corcoran family reunion, 1999

So, no, I won’t be wearing green today. On a day when everyone is considered Irish, I appreciate the chance to go on a bit about my wee Irish family and my Wild Irish Roots! Thanks to my Mom for being the genealogist in the family and for all her years of research. Prayers for all the family members who have passed since the family reunion. RIP.

What, Me? Worry?

4 Mar

I have a confession to make.

I’m scared.

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I’ve been out of work for almost 7 months now (with no unemployment because my previous employer misinformed the unemployment office about my situation and made me ineligible). Our savings are depleted, including a couple of small 401ks I had from previous employers. My parents have offered to help, but who really wants to take funds from their fixed-income parents? I worry about them having enough to live on!

We’ve been blessed. Our household income was doing just fine until a few years ago, when both of our health situations soured and my employment situation went south. The combination of high medical bills and reduced wages has proved difficult for even the best planners among us. Oh, sure, we are still very blessed, and very spoiled. Unlike many Americans, we usually take at least one nice vacation per year. I just got back from Australia. How bad could things be, really?

Bad enough that I just took a job making a bit more than minimum wage, for which I am very grateful. Bad enough that, unbeknownst to Connie, I floated an ad on craigslist to see what kind of response I’d get for renters for our spare bedroom & bathroom upstairs, and, well, YIKES!

If you know me or have read my postings for any length of time, you know I am not into comparative suffering. Telling myself that at least we have a roof over our heads and food does little good when I wonder how many more months we may have these things if I do not find employment, and soon. It does not help to hear that “something will come through” or “God will provide” or “He never gives you more than you can handle” when you have seen so many friends in this exact position go on to lose their homes (four that I can think of without thinking too hard).

As a Christian, isn’t this when I am supposed to have more faith, not less? Isn’t this when I am supposed to remember

Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matt 6:26-34 (NRSV)

We aren’t eating Ramen every night. We haven’t sold the pups. It’s not exactly the Dust Bowl, yet. I guess I just don’t like being this far out of my comfort zone.

Maybe that’s the lesson I need to learn.

Dear God,

You have given us beautiful shelter, clothes, food, frisky puppies, great friends, loving family. You’ve nursed us back to health every time we’ve needed it. We do not doubt you; we doubt our capability for patience. Help us be patient. Shine a bright light on the path you would have us follow. Take away our worries and replace it with trust.

Amen.

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