Bishop Lennon…

Bishop Richard Lennon died today. He was the bishop in Cleveland until about 2016 when his health took a downslide and he retired early.

I am not of the Catholic religion. I don’t generally agree with the philosophy of the Catholic church, or any church for that matter. I’m also not particularly impressed with celebrity. I am not saying this to be contrarian, but to set a background for 5 minutes that made me a better person.

I used to work for a provider to people with developmental disabilities that was based in the Catholic church. It is a very old provider, we worked in a very old building, and that’s where the children in our care lived. There was a chapel inside the building that housed many treasures and (some people believed) ghosts, including most of us who worked there. I had the experience of the elevator going up and down randomly, and my coworkers had multiple encounters that they tried to talk themselves out of. It was in this building I met Bishop Lennon.

He had come to decommission the chapel before we moved out. My office was just off the lobby of the second floor, by the copier and facing the elevator. It overlooked a senior living complex across the street with two pools in front and preturnaturally teal water continuously shooting in the air. I never did figure out what was in that water to give it that color. Nothing could live in there but maybe mermaids. Anyway, my boss was showing him around, and for some reason he came into my office.

Why did he come in? I was nobody noteworthy, not on any list to meet. He walked in and shook my hand, introducing himself. When he did, I can’t explain the feeling that his grip conveyed. There was a power in this person beyond what I had ever expected or known. This was probably in 2016, just before he retired, and I can still feel the aura. He stood there, and I told him I loved working in a place where I could put up religious items. I had a plaque of “Amazing Grace” hanging up that he walked over and looked at. Could he tell it was my mother-in-law’s, who always thought of herself as Catholic even though she had been victim of the anti-divorce judgments decreed by her church? He stood for a minute, and it felt like time stopped for awhile. My office was peaceful and the windows were open…could he have felt a minute of calm too?

We chatted about work, about the things in my office (thank heaven I had put away my “how to say things without swearing” chart..) and just life in general. He shook my hand again, said good-bye, and left. Feeling completely awestruck I had to sit down. I then furiously texted my friends of course! I had been completely calm and cool until then. I didn’t know what had happened, but I felt different. I had not come to work that day even knowing he would be there. Our paths intersected for a few minutes, and I met a Godly person.

Later someone asked  why he talked to me. I said I didn’t know. It didn’t matter. Does there have to be a reason? I’m not Catholic. I’m a nobody. But I was blessed to have had this experience, and I will always remember. Amazing Grace indeed, Bishop Lennon. May you rest in peace.

Laughing in the rain…

Did you ever notice that some people laugh alot and others don’t? I don’t mean smile, or nod, but just laugh. What does it take for you to laugh?

I am generally not super serious, but it takes alot to make me laugh. There is a woman i eat lunch with who can do it. I’m not sure why, but she is hilarious. I’m not a generous laugher i guess, but not on purpose. Sometimes though, it hits me. Bad karaoke makes me run away because i will laugh so hard i cry, and that’s just rude. Bad Christmas songs, or good songs done so badly…we have a “Dance Party Christmas” CD that must be some guy sitting with a synthesizer in his basement because they all sound the same. Jonathan and Darlene Edwards, for my musician friends.. Finally, my favorite humorist, Jack Handey. He was on SNL and Deep Thoughts is one of my favorite books. Here is a sample of his offbeat humor:

Maybe in order to understand mankind we have to look at that word itself. MANKIND. Basically, it’s made up of two separate words mank and ind. What do these words mean? It’s a mystery and that’s why so is mankind.

When this girl at the museum asked me who I liked better, Monet or Manet, I said, “I like mayonnaise.” She just stared at me, so I said it again, louder. Then she left. I guess she went to try to find some mayonnaise for me.”

If you’re at a Thanksgiving dinner, but you don’t like the stuffing or the cranberry sauce or anything else, just pretend like you’re eating it, but instead, put it all in your lap and form it into a big mushy ball. Then, later, when you’re out back having cigars with the boys, let out a big fake cough and throw the ball to the ground. Then say, ‘Boy, these are good cigars!”

Yes, that’s what makes me laugh. While I was walking Chester I had a Jack Handey thought. I was thinking about my birthday and that I can say I was born in 59. When I’m a hundred years old, I will have to say i was born in 1959 so they don’t mix it up with 2059. That will be a pain.

I heard it said that for something to be funny, someone has to get hurt. I don’t believe that. the world can be funny, sad and delighful all at the same time. I can’t help seeing the irony or off the wall humor in people. People are weird, including myself! If we can’t laugh at ourselves and the world, we will not make it.

When I was in the Aadams Family musical I grew close to my Aadams clan. We went to the end of season awards show. Our Wednesday won Best Supporting Actress, and our director won, but our musical didn’t win, and Morticia didn’t win, although we felt we deserved it. It was raining, and of course we forgot umbrellas. She and I walked to the cars and talked in the rain for a few minutes. Our Gomez pulled out, almost hitting us. Morticia’s comment? “How romantic.” We realized it was a perfect Aadams night..we lost, we got rained on, and Gomez almost hit us. As Allison/Morticia put it, “a little rain, a little pain,what could be better? “

When life gives you lemons, think like an Aadams. Read some Deep Thoughts. Listen to Jonathan and Darlene. Sometimes you’re the pigeon and sometimes you’re the statue. Stay strong and have a good week! And laugh a little!

the clan
always smiling!

Geauga Lake and memories…

They say that people come and go from our lives, some leaving deeper marks than others. Some are bound by blood, some by choice, and some by a memory of a time or place. Walking Chester at the end of summer inevitably draws my mind to a memory of a place that owned all that summer is, and the adventures of eight random people that worked there.

I was a tutor in a high school during the school year. But in 2005, when my children were old enough to be on their own over summer vacation, I got a job at Geauga Lake Amusement Park. If you grew up around Cleveland, you know Geauga Lake. If not, I’m going to take you there but from the inside. Geauga Lake used to be across a lake from Sea World, and it was a hometown version of Cedar Point or Six Flags. By that I mean it was smaller, fewer rides, not the really high coasters, but essentially all the fun. Truth is, it was one of the nearby places that had seasonal jobs that paid decently. I was only there for two and a half months. In and out, make a few bucks. Little did I know.

When I started, one of the first things they have you do is to get a uniform. The uniform consisted of a white collar shirt with khaki pants. These clothes were not made for women who are short and chubby. It was awful. I had to get pants to fit my waist and hem them about six inches. The shirt was fine but we had to wear it tucked in. Oh, and don’t forget the nice ascot. No matter. Misery loves company and we were all in it together.

My job was in the rides department office. My hours were from 7:00am until 2:30pm. It was about an hour away, so I left home at 6:00. When I pulled in the gigantic parking lot, nobody was there. The rides building was a little yellow and brown squatty building down a sidewalk outside of the park. I’d go through a side gate and there I was. The sidewalk was sandwiched between a big wooden roller coaster and a creek. 7:00 am was early, and I could see the maintenance workers still with their lights on, working on the ride, checking and double checking. Every so often an empty car would careen past being tested. On the other side, I smelled the creek. To this day, I can’t tell you what it smelled like except that if I smell it, it takes me back. The frogs would still be singing when I arrived; rain or shine it seemed. I’d punch in with my badge and it was off to the races.

The park itself was empty of guests at 7:00am, but workers are there 24 hours. Most of the employees are in high school or college. Some are international and come to the US only to work there. These are the ones that work all night, then all day, then sleep for a few hours and do it again. I honestly never saw anyone work as hard as they did. The rides office was a beehive of activity each morning. My job was payroll; entering and fixing errors in ADP. I learn quickly and became good at it. I learned that the lifeguards made the most money. They had the skill and responsibility and were kind of on another plane. The rides operators (and us) considered rides the best department in the park. We were the thrill seekers, the cool ones. There were eight of us in the office. We all had to fill in if we were needed—I usually didn’t have to because, well, people want to get paid. But besides doing payroll, one of my jobs was an hour or so on dispatch.

Dispatch was the heartbeat of the rides. We had a manager, Andre. His code was 201. We had codes for every possible scenario. I don’t remember most of them but I think 18 or 19 was the code for an irate customer holding up a ride line. There was one for a storm and the closing of the rides, one for vomit on a ride, and our favorite, code 37. The script was, “Base to 201, Mr. Hyde’s is 37.” Mr. Hyde’s was a ride that slowly went up, and then dropped passengers down quickly. Mr. Hyde’s was perpetually broken. Did you figure out the code? Yep…37 meant broken. Actually it meant broken without customers on it. 38 was not so lucky. We uttered that phrase probably 3 times an hour. At one point maintenance opened a secondary office at the base of Mr. Hyde’s. One of them was stationed there waiting for the inevitable code 37. At the end of the season we got shirts with the top ten reasons to work in the rides office…Mr. Hyde’s was number 7.

One of my best memories, outside of when the log ride leaked and flooded the midway, was when my kids came to visit after work one day. I was able to get a sizeable discount, and of course I got in free, so it was fine to go in the afternoon. We rode the water ride about ten times since my daughter loved it. We ate fries and junk, and the kids went on the bigger coasters. We ended the evening at the water park. I don’t think they realized how much that night meant to me.

I could go on with stories forever; the lake that must be half full of passenger items from the ferry, the operator who sprayed water on his ride and told Andre it was wet from the rain so he could just sit there (even though the rest of the rides were up and running…nice try),. There were the storms when everyone piled into the office sitting on desks laughing and talking. I could tell you that for the international students who stayed in the dorms, there were midnight movies in the water park, with popcorn and snacks. There were carp as big as dolphins (maybe not, but you get the idea) that we could feed with fish food for 25 cents. Most of all there were people laughing with their families and friends. I used to walk at lunch just to see them. There was an excitement in the air; a fantasy world of fun. I was a part of it.

Geauga Lake closed two years later in 2007. The water park stayed open until 2016 but it’s gone now too. It was bought, and now sits vacant. Last night I watched a video of a drone flying over the now overgrown park. I literally cried. Usually I like abandoned buildings and sites, but not this time. The structure was there without the heart, the people.

I know things change. My elementary school was torn down, and soon my children’s probably will be. Our favorite restaurants change hands, stores come and go. I think what bothers me about Geauga Lake is that some of the coasters are still there. It’s like they are waiting for someone to send a car down to test it…for Mr. Hyde’s to be code 37 again, and for the girl who loved the water ride so much she went on it over and over. One summer it was all mine. I shared it with seven strangers, Katie, Greg, Michelle, Melissa, Jennifer, Patrick, and Carlita. We were rides, we ruled.  Number one on the shirt? Without dispatch the park doesn’t run! Two and a half months can form a lifetime of memories. Sometimes that just has to do.





Happy birthday to me…

So the big thing has happened. I am now officially old. I turned 60 which really doesn’t seem possible. I always thought 60 was old, and now I am. I’ve been trying to ignore it, but it came anyway. Just like the Grinch and Christmas, it came. You know what? It wasn’t all that bad. I took Chester to the Lake Erie pier near our house for a walk. I took the day off work. We went to Paninis that night for dinner. And, I got my new “compliant” driver’s license. Anyone who has not gotten theirs, take heed..if your name is different on your birth certificate and on your driver’s license, they will ask for a marriage certificate (if it’s due to marriage that is..) I had heard this, and was ready, so it was quick and easy. I look like a convict in the photo, but it’s a license not a billboard. So it was a nice day all around!

Here’s my thought on aging: I don’t like it. I don’t like not being able to do the things I used to because my older body can’t. I don’t like arthritis, or the myriad of other aging related annoyances. But it’s all OK. I’m glad and grateful to be alive and have more days. What good does it do to worry or dwell on it? I figure I have waaay too much to do. So happy birthday to me!

Lately there’s a thing that shows up on facebook or somewhere that says a person is asking you to donate for their birthday. I’m not going to do that; I don’t expect donations unless you want to donate a cookie. Then I’ll take it. What I would like for my birthday is for you to do something fun. I don’t care what, buy some M&M peanuts (my vice), go for a walk, pay something forward, or watch a favorite comedy or movie. Do it for yourself and do it in secret; whatever makes you happy. Start a puzzle, call a friend, buy something online, and then when you feel happy, just smile to yourself and I will psychically know that you are sending me good vibes.  Um… yes, you skeptics, I will!

The pictures i have included are three at the pier, and one of a fruit basket my husband got me. He calls it “fruit cake” Please note the “60” made out of pineapple…

Have a wonderful week!

City Dogs…

Today was the annual City Dog Reunion. City Dogs is a program that promotes and works with “bully breeds” who are frequently not adopted from kennels.  Let’s be honest, most are pit bulls. In Cleveland, as in many areas of the country, pit bulls are prevalent. Yet because they were, and unfortunately still are sometimes used in dog fighting, the breed is looked upon with trepidation. In addition, any injury by a pittie is going to get media attention. Some cities have a ban on pit bulls, others have rules on fence size and insurance.

The City Dog Reunion consisted of maybe 50 or so pit bulls. Some would think that it would be a melee of fighting dogs, but they were the most well behaved dogs I’ve ever seen. Truth is, pit bulls are great dogs, for those that look beyond the outer shell.

Anyway, Chester had a wonderful time at the reunion, and so did we. There were station/tents set up a good distance apart from each other, and a “passport” you could get initialed when you went to the tent. We got lots of freebies, bought some City Dog stuff, and Chester entered the “most expressive ears” and “best smile” contests. He didn’t enter the “biggest head” or “best trick” since his best trick is getting us to give him more treats. He got lots of loving from the people there, and there were multiple baby pools set up for the dogs to drink from or get in, whichever suited them. I did learn that many of the pit bulls love water; not just drinking but playing in it. Chester really doesn’t like to swim, but he drank and watched the others jump around. There were no fights, and it was a feel good kind of day. All of the dogs were exhausted at the end of the three hours judging from the facebook photos. I know Chester was! All in all, it was loads of fun and a super celebration of “pibbies.”  Yes, they played, yes, they sniffed each other’s butts, yes they ignored each other, yes they rolled in the grass, basically they were just like any other breed.

Chester is 25% pit bull and 25% boxer. The rest is a mix. This qualifies him as a City Dog, but he doesn’t look like the typical pit bull. At one point, a lady made a comment that she “forgets that they have other kinds of dogs than pit bulls” at the Cleveland city kennel. She was being nice, there was no offense taken, but it gave me pause. Truth is, I wondered if others thought we were interlopers, if we belonged. The adopters and other owners were very welcoming, don’t get me wrong. I just wonder in the back of their minds if they assume he is not a pit bull based on what he looks like.

Of course since my mind then takes everything to the next step, I thought about how much we all make assumptions based on appearance. I speak with a lot of people on the phone daily, and many I have not met in person. Our company just added photos to the staff directory and it’s freaking me out a little. The first thing I did was go through and look at the pictures of people I talk to a lot. They don’t look anything like I imagined. I had to pause. Does it matter? I know who is kind, who is a good worker, who is quick to respond, who has a wicked sense of humor and who is frankly, not easy to deal with. Does it matter if the guy I speak with has a beard that would rival ZZ Top? What do they think of me? Did they think I was younger, prettier, more composed, or just the opposite?

Part of the problem is time. To build a good relationship, I was taught there are five “must haves”—time, space, positive tone and words, living in another’s shoes, and being connected. (The Good Life)  I want to think on time for a moment; how much time do we give people? Do we have time to get to know them? Or do we make assumptions based on first impression, then move on. Just like people glance at a pit bull and move on. The inside person may be just like me, but I’ll never know unless I make an effort over time.

This world is fast paced. I get it, my job involves quick thinking and analysis of a situation. I listen to calls to an incident hotline and determine if the situation needs investigation based on the rule and a quick assessment. But the investigators I assign the case to–they spend 45 days with the incident. They will know the person much better than I do. In fact when I go back at the end and read how it turned out, I’m often surprised. I don’t have the gift of time. Yet I think that the world would be a much better place, and I would be a better person, if the visual first impression was just that, a first impression. The thing about first impressions is that often there are no second or thirds. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone had a second chance? Had time to know you and you, them?

We own a part pit bull. But he’s not like any other doggie, he’s simply Chester. He’s treat motivated, hates bunnies, loves digging squeekers out of toys, likes other dogs, chases cats, and sometimes goes into wild dog mode where he runs through the house at top speed. He’s one of a kind just like you and I are. It’s been a year since we adopted him and it took every bit of that year to get to know him. There are people who we can get to know too, if we take time and have an open mind.

The pictures are Chester at the reunion…he’s tired but happy!  😊