Today she is 50

In 1967, I gave birth to a little girl.  I was 15 years old.  I went away to a home for unwed mothers.  They had those back in 1967.   Nuns ran the place, and I loved it.   It was a huge old building on North Lasalle Street in Chicago.  The student nurses were on the upper floors, I believe the UMs (that’s what they called us) were on the 2nd floor.  I remember running up a huge staircase to a large lobby on the second floor.  It was 50 years ago, so I am surprised I remember anything.  There was also an old Otis elevator, but even then I preferred the stairs.

In the hospital where I gave birth I believe I was severely mistreated.  I was left alone to labor – let me stress alone – for days.  From Saturday afternoon until Tuesday morning.  In the end, I was delirious from pain and lack of sleep.  And maybe lack of human contact.

When I had the little baby, I remember they told me she had a head full of black hair that stood up straight on her little baby head.  I named her Mary Catherine.  Because I knew I would never want to use that name for one of the children I planned to have and keep in the future.   Also because there was a beautiful young nun at the home named Sister Mary Catherine.  She was so kind and so beautiful.

Part of the deal was that I was supposed to be allowed to hold her – just once.  Just once.  But the nurses didn’t have time to bring her to me.  I had to leave that hospital without ever holding my daughter.  I never got to touch her.  And I knew I would never see her again.  I left that hospital lobby absolutely devastated.  Crying like I had never cried before and probably have never cried since.

I did “the right thing” back in 1967.  You went away quietly, you had the baby, and gave it to “a good home,” and then lost the weight as quickly as humanly possible and came back home to resume your life.  As if nothing happened.  The day after Mary was born, my mother came to visit at the hospital and brought me a very stiff and tight girdle.

When I came home I weighed a lot more than I had when I left.  I suddenly had breasts where I had been flat chested.  I was a completely different person.  And I missed the home and the nuns.   I did not feel like keeping this massive upheaval in my life a secret!

At home I was just expected to carry on as if nothing happened.  I discovered that my boyfriend cheated on me all the time I was gone.  And the world had completely changed.  Seriously.

1967, the Summer of Love.  I sat on a hospital bed in an unwed mothers’ home and knit and listened to the radio all summer.  I heard the Beatles radical Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and on and on and on.  Things had changed between April and August.  When I left high school, girls were wearing little plaid pleated skirts with big pins (yeah, I know, they are called kilts) and little cardigans.  Knee socks.  When I got home, girls were wearing bell bottoms and tunics.  Seed beads around their necks, and indian scarves in their hair.   Suede fringed jackets.  Suede fringed boots.

I started smoking cigarettes and lost the weight extremely rapidly.  I ditched the boyfriend.  I started using marijuana and LSD within a couple of months, and was drinking heavily.  I had a world class case of postpartum depression.  I wasn’t treated for that until the next summer.  And then barely at all.  My parents sent me away to Boston.  As if that would help?  It was awful.  They tried to find a boarding school for me.  Luckily, they couldn’t get me into one because they were already full of girls like me.

Life happened.  Obviously.

Every year on August 15, I would remember.  I started counting the years until she was 18 so I could meet her.  When she turned 18, I wrote to Catholic Charities to let them know where I was so they could find me if she wanted to meet me.  They sent letters to my daughter.  Her adoptive mother hid those letters because she felt terribly threatened by the idea of me popping up.  I don’t blame her at all.

And then in 1987, I got a letter from Catholic Charities saying that she wanted to meet me!  They cautioned against moving too fast to meet.  They tried to warn based on years and years of experience – why would anyone listen to that?  We exchanged photos.  My daughter is beautiful.  She looks like my mother.  She looks like one of my aunts.  Her adoptive parents also named her Mary!  I found out I was a grandmother.  I found her father for her and she met him before she met me.

We did meet in 1988.  The big dramatic moment that gets covered on TV these days.  Waiting at the airport to meet my 20 year old daughter I had never even touched before! We hugged.  We stared at each other.  She stayed at my house.  My kids met her.  She was very snotty.  She said some very cruel things to me.  She didn’t much approve of the fact that I still smoked back then.  She thought the whole AA thing was just kinda shady.  It went on and on.  It was terribly hurtful.  After she left, we stayed in touch for a few years, but then she vanished out of my life.  She did stay in touch with her father though. She met his family and ended up having an affair with her newly found aunt’s husband.  It was really sordid.   She ended up drinking and smoking…

I could not find her for maybe 20 years.  I assumed she had married (again) and had a different last name.  I was right.

Maybe 10 years ago she sent me an e-mail.  I was easy to find.  I was so happy to hear from her.  We were spending time on the phone and were making very preliminary plans to meet again.  But then she started pushing me about my kids.  She wanted to talk to them.  I tried to explain that they were adults and were not mine to give her (my kids didn’t want to have anything to do with her).  She told me she and her daughter were coming to visit me and they were going to stay with me.  I was completely freaked out.  She started sending me very offensive e-mails and when confronted, she told me that’s just how she is.  Then she stopped answering my phone calls and e-mails.  I told her I found her inconsistency very difficult to deal with, and she told me she was “consistently inconsistent.”

On April 30, 2010, she sent me a text asking me to do her a favor and “forget I’d ever existed.”  That she would thank me for giving her life but she realized abortion wasn’t legal in 1967, so I really didn’t have a choice.  It went on and on, and I opted not to respond.  I am sure it came out of deep pain of hers.  But it wasn’t very honest, it wasn’t very nice, and I just opted to opt out.   Or you could say, I decided to respect her wishes for me leave her alone.

Within the last year she sent a Facebook friend requested to my sober daughter.  My daughter accepted it.  Since sober girl comments and likes almost everything I post on FB, my “other” daughter now can see it.  She hit my daughter up on messenger recently and they had a long conversation.  Mary admitted she is very jealous of the relationship daughter and I have.  Sober daughter also told me this girl is very unstable and probably mentally ill.  And on drugs.  She understands that she may have to unfriend her so that she doesn’t have access to me and all my relatives.

This all feels horrible.  I wish I could make it be a different way.  I SO wish I could wish her a happy 50th birthday.  I am afraid it would just cause more trouble.  I don’t know what you do with a person like that.

This hurts my heart almost daily.  It feels like a big gaping hole in my life.

I have from time to time convinced myself that I fulfilled my obligation to her when I gave birth and relinquished her to a “good family.”  She did have a good family, and a good upbringing.   I was fifteen freaking years old!

But now I am older and I am retired and I have found that the old hurts kind of refresh themselves if given enough time to ponder.

What an indulgence to write this all out.  But probably cathartic.  Thank you for indulging me if you have read it.


Posted in Family, History, Truth | 4 Comments

Rainy Days and Mondays


Today is a rainy day and a Monday. And that’s all fine by me, though I had planned to take a walk this morning.  I will get on my treadmill instead.  Which I love.

Later on I will meet my former boss for lunch.  I am so grateful we can be friends.  I am so grateful to be friends with every single one of my former bosses.  I should specify:  those who are still alive and live in the area.

Last week was a rough one for me.  It came home to me over and over again that my plans for retirement are just not working out the way I thought they would.  I listed a few  of these disappointments (grievances) in my last post.  It sounds whiney.  But I am profoundly disappointed about some of this.

I must have alternate plans now.  I must find other ways.  I think some will require a bit of effort, but I believe some will just fall into place.

Yesterday at Mass, the pastor announced a new initiative at our church.  Creating culture.  I am interested in almost every activity coming up.  Imagine a Latin class!  For free!  Sign me up!!!  A book club – the first book is the Confessions of St. Augustine.  Yes!!  A Saturday hike with a Mass.  I am so very excited about these things.  I do love my church and I think that might be the only retirement plan that is actually working out.

After Mass yesterday, I took communion to the homebound.  This is such a wonderful ministry for me to be involved in. It absolutely terrified me to start doing this, but I find it so rewarding.   I had expected the people to say “Who are you to be bringing me communion? Who do you think you are?”  Instead I am greeted by people who are mostly trapped in their homes (and they are the lucky ones, the ones who either have family to care for them or can afford to hire caregivers), they are so happy to see me.  They are so grateful to be able to receive communion.   No one has ever doubted my “qualifications” to do this.  That is a real blessing to me.

The only thing that is a bit scary is saying the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father) with these folks.  I am so used to the AA version – the Lord’s Prayer said at our meetings.  The cadence is different and the ending is different.  I have slipped from time to time at Mass and instead of saying “Amen,” have said “for thine….”  I just have to be mindful.

I’m grateful.  Last week was sad, but I am moving on.  Learning to “play the ball where it lays” has been a blessing.  I cannot force things to be the way I wanted.  Instead I believe I may be looking at things falling into place that are infinitely better.


Posted in Friends, Gratitude, Retirement, Surrender | 4 Comments

Festivus in August

I purchased this yarn yesterday, it will be used to make hats (in school colors) for my older granddaughters. I love this yarn. It is called Knerd String, and is just luscious, soft, and squishy wool. I have made 6 other hats of this yarn and have enjoyed every stitch.
This is the hat I knit for my daughter. Well, actually I made two because when I finished this one, I tried it on and said “Sorry Laura, this one’s for me.” I made another one for her, which I finished last night.
This is my son and his daughter – my precious granddaughter – in the hats I made last year.  His is light brown and darker brown – I also made a matching one for his son.  And his wife and daughter got the lavender and purple ones.  I love these reversible hats!  It takes twice as long to knit, but so worth it!

Here’s something I never thought I would say:  Adjusting to retirement is a bit harder than I anticipated.  Somedays are just heavenly.  Then there was yesterday.   And so far today.  I have found that I need to have at least one or two things planned every day.  In addition to daily Mass (one hour), and my workouts (~90 minutes).  Then I have nutritious eating, which takes an inordinate amount of time between shopping, preparation, cooking, and even eating!

I am a bit heartbroken about a couple of things that are not what I expected in retirement.  The meeting I used to attend daily has grown intolerably uncomfortable.  I went there yesterday because one of my sponsees was celebrating a birthday, and it was just awful.  Warring factions and people trying to control everything that happens in the meeting.  Like how long people can share, and what they can talk about.  But they start the meeting with this weird format – before the chair comes up with a topic, s/he asks if anyone has a problem, anything they need to “say out loud” …or if anyone is “sitting on a drink.”  Yesterday a new guy raised his hand and said he had a problem.  He needs a car. Seriously.  Everyone sort of rolled their eyes at him, but he was just responding to a question that WE asked him.  He has a problem.  He thought he would throw it out there. He’s brand new, who can blame him?  So, I thought I would go to that meeting everyday, but that is absolutely OUT.

I thought I could take all these lovely hikes.  Have you noticed that I am very seldom posting photos of trails?  Yes, that is another thing that is out.  Denver is gaining population at an alarming rate – every single month thousands of people flock here.  High density housing is going up in places that used to be landfills, golf courses, farms, and fields.  There are TOO MANY people here.  Of course, they want the Colorado lifestyle – who doesn’t?  And for most of the new folks, they are paying an exhorbitant price to just live here, of course they want to take advantage of the beauty of nearby nature.  The trails are not just crowded, but they have become dangerous.  There are mountain bikes on single track with little old ladies (me) trying to take a peaceful hike.  Although pedestrians have the right-of-way, bikers do not behave that way.  My favorite place to hike is full of rattlesnakes.  I usually decide that is an acceptable risk.  But when you are stepping off the trail into the brush every two minutes to let a bicycle pass, the risk is no longer acceptable.   I took a hike last week and realized it was my last one there – at least until late fall or winter when the faint hearted stay home.

Thank God for the park nearby that charges $10 per car to get in.  I have an annual pass and go down there for my hikes, swims, and bike rides.  Much more peaceful, but it is not a mountain hike, it is a walk or ride around a park.

I drove to my favorite yarn shop yesterday.  I used to think it was an acceptable drive – 30 minutes through town in high traffic.  Then parking on a downtown street or tiny parking lot with maybe 10 spaces.  You see, I wasn’t planning on having a car accident that totaled my car just 5 weeks into retirement.  And then when that “worked out” ok, I thought I was good…. but I am terrified of driving in traffic.  I don’t think I am going to my favorite yarn shop anymore.  I think I am going to drive to the mountains to a shop there.  It is farther, but takes about the same amount of time to get there.  Next time I buy yarn or fabric, that is where I am going.

The class on Saturday?  It was the first time they did that quilt in a class, and we all only finished a quarter of the top – in the 6 hour class.  I really needed the hand-holding to get it done.  When I visited the store yesterday (to get yarn), the manager (who I absolutely love) asked me how the quilt was, and I told her I don’t think I can finish it on my own.  She told me I could hire a tutor for $40 an hour.  Yeah, when hell freezes over I will do that.  I hope to God this quilt doesn’t end up in my closet along with two other quilts I never finished.  And yes, I thought I would finish them in retirement.  I will somehow get the courage to get out my mat, rotary cutter, and sewing machine and get this thing done so I don’t feel like a quitter.  Funny how similar the words quitter and quilter are, no?


Because I am sure you all are dying to see this thing – above is a photo of the quarter quilt.  Maybe if I tell you all I will finish it, I actually will finish it.

And now that I have written all of this, I will stop.  I have a feeling I could write all day and just come up with one grievance after another.  Not a good thing to do.  I better instead try to focus on what’s good….

Like that beautiful red & white yarn that needs to be wound into balls.  And hats are waiting to be knit!

Life is good.  It truly is.  I am so blessed to have these kind of problems, I do know that!

Thank you God.

Posted in Crafts, Fear, Junk-blogging, Knitting, Retirement | 6 Comments

Hair in a bun

My hair has finally gotten long enough to wear in a bun. It’s a little bun, but it is a bun, and the hair is not in my face or on my neck.  That makes me very happy.  Probably not the most flattering hair style, but I do love the low maintenance (I stopped coloring it several years ago).  I have an appointment with my stylist this morning.  I will ask her what she thinks.  Should I keep this long hair or cut it back?  What do you all think?  Any opinions are appreciated – unless you want to tell me I’m ugly or something like that!

I took a tiny job, watering the lawn of a woman who is out of town for 10 days.  I don’t know how I ever worked all those years M-F, 8-5, because this little bit of a schedule feels like it is putting a crimp on my whole life!  I really don’t want to work, even this tiny little bit.

Tomorrow I am taking a quilting class. I am very excited about it.  I purchased the fabrics the other day and after looking at them for a couple of days, I think I don’t like two of the colors.  The quilt has 5 patterns, and 3 solids.  The solids are an off-white, which is ok; a light orange, which I think is too pastel for my taste; and a light turquoise, also a bit too pastel I think.  Not sure though.

Any opinions on this?


I would love to hear from any of you who may care to weigh on my hair and my quilt!

Thank you for honoring me by reading this nonsense!


Posted in Crafts, Hair, Junk-blogging, Work | 13 Comments

Homemade Greek Yogurt

I’ve been asked to share my recipe, so here you go!  It takes a long time, but is not difficult to make and it is so good, it is totally worth the time it takes.

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • 1 6 oz. container plain, unsweetened yogurt (with live cultures)
  • food or candy thermometer
  • slow cooker
  • 2 large towels

1. Pour milk into slow cooker.  Turn heat to high and heat to 180 degrees F.  It takes around 2 hours.

2. Turn off the slow cooker and allow milk to cool to 120 degrees F.  This also takes around 2 hours.  Measure unsweetened yogurt and allow to sit at room temperature while milk is cooling.

3.  When milk has reached 120 degrees, mix yogurt into milk and stir gently but thoroughly.


4.  Replace lid and wrap crockpot in towels.  Set it in an out-of-the-way place where the yogurt can ferment undisturbed for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.

5.  Unwrap crockpot and transfer the crock to the refrigerator to let cool completely.  Do not shake or stir.  It will set better if you leave it undisturbed.  I also think it gets more sour the longer it sets.


6.  This is where it becomes Greek:  Transfer yogurt into a cheesecloth lined strainer, placed in a bowl.  (I use a piece of unbleached muslin.). Let strain, in the refrigerator,  for several hours.  It depends on how thick you want it.  I don’t like it to be very very thick.


7.  Spoon the strained yogurt into containers for storing.  Be sure to keep 3/4 cup of the yogurt to use as the starter for your next batch.  This recipe makes about 5 cups of yogurt.  It is so good.  I think it gets better  every time I make it.  I particularly enjoy it with walnuts, a splash of vanilla, and a touch of stevia.  It is also good with fruit and all the other myriad ways we use yogurt!  Enjoy!


Posted in Food | 7 Comments

Into my 34th…


So, now I start my 34th year of sobriety.  Don’t get the idea I think this is nothing, because it isn’t.  But it also isn’t my doing.  It is the Grace of God alive in my life.  Nothing short of miraculous.  Not the “rewards” of my splendid “working” of the program.  I posted this photo on Facebook yesterday and probably shouldn’t have.  Nice to hear from folks, but probably a little bit too much attention for me.  It’s dangerous for our egos, you know.  And although it probably isn’t a technical break of anonymity, it is definitely a spiritual break of anonymity.  I used to be afraid I would be struck drunk if I ever broke a tradition, but I have changed my mind about this and many other things over the years.

I am going to my favorite craft store this morning to sign up for a quilting class on Saturday.  I don’t know why they waited until 4 days before the class to announce it.  Oh well.  I am going to see how much the fabric will cost, and then factor in the $75 for the all day class… and then decide.  But I have probably already decided to do this.  I want so much to make a quilt for my bed.  In the class, you make the top of a 5′ square quilt, which will not really work for a full sized bed, but it should be pretty anyway.  I was given gift cards for this store for my birthday and retirement last year and have hung onto them all this time.  For an “emergency” just like this?

The home made yogurt is fermenting in the crock pot.  I started it before I left for mass this morning.  And now I can’t leave the house until it cools to 120º.  Then I can wrap the crock pot up in towels and let it sit for 8 to 10 hours.  After that time, it is yogurt, but is better if you refrigerate it undisturbed for another few hours.  THEN, I strain it for a few hours more until the whey strains out and it becomes greek yogurt.  And I do this a couple of times a week.  It is SO worth it.

This is my life today and I can’t think of anything I would rather do.

xxxooo, mc

Posted in Crafts, Food, Gratitude, Peace, Retirement | 4 Comments

Planning a Camping Trip

My little kitty, Gigi, on her little perch.  She’s a funny little thing.

My best friend is in the hospital, for the second time this month.  Her heart is not acting right.  I hope to God they can do something to make it work right again.  I met her on the day I got sober.  She 12 stepped me.  It was the one and only twelve step call she ever made.  I am so grateful because I believe she was the one person in the world who could have talked to me that day and gotten me to go to a meeting with her.  The rest is, as they say, history.  We formed a fast friendship and have been friends since.  I have stayed sober, she has not.  She married a Brit and moved to England 20 years ago, after that she started drinking again.  We write each other every day.  I haven’t heard from her today and I am a bit terrified.

Yesterday I bought a tent!  I am camping at Yellowstone National Park in August.  I am so excited about this trip.  I never thought I would go camping by myself, and certainly not at Yellowstone.  I am so afraid of big wild animals.  Bison are BIG and they are everywhere in YNP.  I will have to stop visualizing one stomping over my tent while I sleep.   I will also have to stop thinking about being a snack for a bear.  I will read everything I can get my hands on about being in that park.  I plan on eating at restaurants so I don’t have to worry about cooking and storing food properly.

You may ask, why do this if you are so afraid of animals?  Well, I am doing this so I can see my two older grandchildren who live very near the park.  Hotel rooms in their town are generally over $300 a night, and that just isn’t in my budget anymore. They live with their grandfather, my ex-husband, and (obviously) I am not invited to stay at their house.  My eldest granddaughter now has a drivers’ license, so they have a bit more freedom to visit me.  Camping at the park, including the purchase of a tent and sleeping bag, will cost less than one night at a hotel.

Earlier this year, I realized they are almost grown and I have not been much a part of their lives since my ex took custody.  It is SO hard to get to see them.  I decided that I would go up there and do whatever I can to see them, if only for a meal in a restaurant.  I will do that.  They will know that I did that.  It’s all I can do.

It is so important that I do all that I can do.  One of the best ways I have found to avoid regrets is to do what I can, and when I think I can’t, re-think and find ways to do whatever little I can.

Frank Sinatra may cavalierly sing:  Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention….  but with the life of an alcoholic, I have a few regrets that are heartbreaking (like not taking proper care of my children when they were little).  So forget about doing it “My Way,” I think I shall try to do it as close to the right way as I possibly can.

By the Grace of God, only by the Grace of God.

Posted in Cat, Friends, Regrets, Travel | 8 Comments