Home Haircut: Husband Trusts Me with Clippers!

He’s so trusting!

New adventures in this Covid19 climate. My husband has a barber in Middletown. He goes every six weeks or so, usually very early in the morning because the shop fills up quickly. Sean, like many guys has a preferred cut, a fade, or in the summer, a high and tight style. He is pretty particular about his hair.

Though, I told him I wouldn’t mind at all if he let it grow out the wavy way he wore it when we dated in the 80s.

What a hottie! Springfest at SCSU 1985

After Covid19 protocols closed the barbershop, Sean combed the internet for a decent hair clipper set. Hard to find on-line, like rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizers, or fluffy toilet paper. After two failed attempts for home delivery from two different companies, Sean donned mask and gloves and picked up a good set at a local box store.

On an appointed day, Sean who is a very careful reader, laid out the pieces end-to-end and announced,

“Honey, you can do this!”

Trusting Sean.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes! The worse that could happen is that I’ll just have to buzz it all off.”

“But what if I cut you? ”

“You really can’t.”

So I read and re-read the directions as he got a chair and towel.

The zzz-zzz of the clipper reminded me of bees. I nervously and lightly ran the clipper guard over his thick hair. Nothing happened. We decided I had to go use a smaller clipper guard. He pushed my hand hard into his scalp with the clipper to illustrate I needed to apply A LOT more pressure to make any hair come off!

I sucked in my breath and felt like I was jamming it into his head. It didn’t shred him so I loosened up and started to play a little.

Ooh, look at me! I’m a hairstylist!

Sean got up and looked in the mirror and came back laughing. Wasn’t what he had in mind!

Embracing the challenge and with even more instruction from Sean, I managed to blend or fade, or whatever it’s called. He didn’t have to shave it all off and start from a cue-ball.

Not bad! He’d tell me or would have buzzed it off!

Turning Double Nickels: Party Like a Couple of Ten-Year Olds

Hollyann and Tanja ready to get silly at their Wonka Bash

Both my husband’s cousin Hollyann and I decided we’d embrace turning 55 this February by throwing ourselves a silly birthday party. We needed fun. We wanted to defy aging. It’s just a number, we reasoned. But I went further. “55 is double nickels and 5 +5 =10. Let’s be 10-year-olds with a ten-year-old theme.”

Hollyann and I went over a few themes. Brady Bunch? Superheroes? Costume? Nah… “How ‘bout Willie Wonka, a la Gene Wilder—Not the freakish Johnny Depp one?” I proposed. Hollyann shouted, “I like Willie Wonka!”

Immediately we began brainstorming. How about a Violet Beauregard piñata! 

A golden egg relay! Bubble gum bubble blowing contest. Guess the number of Gobstoppers! A chocolate fountain! Ice cream sundae bar! Fizzy Lifting Drinks (ginger ale and raspberry vodka!) 

What was the best party you ever went to or have ever thrown?

Rounding the Bases

  “This is where Dad wanted to be!” I called the fourteen of us into a huddle around the pitcher’s mound at Old Yankee Stadium in April 2019.

“Not up at the family headstone in Torrington. So, today we honor his wish.” 

My sister opened one of the sandwich bags of ashes I had given out to my three sibs and spread a copious amount of Dad on the pitcher ‘s mound. He had tried out for pitcher when he was 19 years old right there on that spot now dotted with gray.  Though Dad didn’t make the team back in 1961, we’d always been impressed that he at least tried out. Because of this, our entire family has always been and will always be Yankee fans. 

I quickly looked around the faces of my sibs, our significant others, our children, and nieces the huddle. It was a bit of a miracle that all of us actually got our acts together and converged more or less on time, without any real jangled nerves or bs. 

We four had such a long, painful history of not getting along. So much to had to due to our parents’ ugly marriage and divorce. There was Dad’s 26 years of wandering and then managing him the last 14 years of his life as his conservator caused lots of stress. 

Yet, when Dad died a week before Thanksgiving I noticed that for the time being, at least, something clicked for the good in his four children. I like to believe Dad had asked God on his way to Heaven, or maybe when he got there, to “Please heal my four kids’ relationships,” I hoped it would last.

But now there we were in the huddle. I asked to my younger brother to give the next instructions to the clan.  As the eldest of the four sibs, my role has often as the leader, or in some rougher terms “The Boss.” Yes, I planned the details of this trip, toted Dad’s ashes in my backpack on the train, and I made the pins of dad we all were wearing. Someone else could share in leading.

Andy announced that each of us take our bags to various parts of the field. Someone would tell when it was exactly 12 noon and we would then release Dad at the same time. 

Giddy and thrumming with anticipation (and also feeling a little like we were being naughty kids), the four of us took various positions in the outfield. My two adult children and I skipped to left field. 

My husband stayed at home plate looking at timer on his cellphone. “Ready, one minute.” Then, “Ten seconds. Then, “Three, two, one.”  
I opened the zip lock top of the baggie and spun around scattering Dad like I was a twirling ten year old. My two children stood back, laughing.  “Go, Dad!” I said.

I glanced over at my brothers, in center and right field. They seemed to be smiling with their families. My sister ran into the infield and sprinkled what she had left in her bag on each of the plates. 

Spontaneously, our whole group amassed together just beyond first plate and I passed around York Peppermint Patties, Dad’s ultimate favorite candy. We held them up making a toast, “To Dad.”

After that, with a bolt of energy, I hustled over to home plate. Pretending to hit an imaginary baseball, I ran, well, jogged actually, to first base, then to second, on to third. When I finally rounded to home, I stomped on the plate and threw up my arms in victory. 

Starting My New Year (#54) I Promise to Listen to My Inner Child A Lot More!

Playing on a giant adirondack chair waiting for my chocolate-vanilla-twist
with chocolate sprinkles!

February 25, 2019: I turn 54 today. I’m cool with it. It’s better than the alternative, they say. I’ve had a lot of major changes in the past nine or so months that have made me appreciate how time keeps on tickin’, tickin’ into the future. Changes, huge changes are making me take stock of where I am and what I am doing. What do I want to do? What do I really need to do?
I keep coming back to “Choose Joy over Drudgery” whenever possible. If it’s fun or going to bring good health and happiness– and I have a choice–why not listen to my ten-year-old self and choose what she would choose? Something fun. I’m tired of being “too serious” and “on.” Now, after major life changes, I want to chill out a little and be as carefree as a fifth-grader!

One of the biggest changes in my life recently was my husband’s retirement from 31 years on the Middletown Police Department this past summer. It’s really been a couple’s career or lifestyle. Both of us experiencing over three decades of the ups and downs of a noble, exciting, gratifying, yet- sometimes-thankless, public-service career. We’ve dealt with changing schedules, unforeseen emergencies—in short, just a little bit of stress. It has often ramped up anxiety in me, forcing me to my knees. Not a bad thing to pray to keep the fear at bay. Still, over the years, I’ve watched in horror, the change in some of the public sentiment regarding police. When Sean first started in the mid-80s, police were highly respected and revered. In recent times, they’ve been hated and even hunted down, killed in the line of duty! I am beyond grateful and relieved he/we made it to retirement.

Sean retired from 31 years of service on the Middletown Police Department in August 2018.

No more second phone going off at all hours. No more dangerous SWAT calls (although I know he misses those kinds of adenine scenes the most!) He took a new, basically stress-less job right away as a resource officer at an elementary school. Now instead of managing 83 cops in the patrol division, he high-fives the pre-K to 4th graders as they come in and out of the building. He makes sure visitors are signed-in and accounted for when they leave. He is currently unarmed (which nowadays I wish he was), but he says he finds it less stressful than carrying. I will keep praying for his safety (and that of staff and students there). It is great to see him come home from work smiling, sharing highlights of his day—something funny or cute a kid said or did. Now he gets 13 weeks off including all holidays, weekends and summers. Not a bad gig!


Another huge life-altering thing is that in the past nine months, I’ve gone to seven funerals. Some were relatives of friends, others distant relations, but some were oh, so very close to home and heart. My mother’s husband Paul died in early August, followed by my sweet Aunt Wanda, who died after a short illness just two weeks later. And then, flooring me to the core, my Dad died very unexpectedly two days before Thanksgiving. I found him in his easy-chair. His passing was and still is so surreal to me. We’ve had such a long, bitter/sweet journey, but he died with so much dignity. I’m doing better with my grief. I just didn’t expect it to hit so hard. I’ve been coming up from it by journaling, taking care to just “be” in moment. There’s lots more to unspool.

Me and my Dad, June 2018

On the upside, my siblings and I have been banded together like never before since my Dad’s passing. That is no small thing, and I am so incredibly in awe and eternally grateful.

So, as I start my New Year (as my Dad would explain that’s what one’s birthday was, a personal New Year), I am in a fresh, contemplative, if not an odd place. I’m not really sure which way I am going, or what’s next. So, maybe it is a good time to just listen to my inner child and follow her lead for a while.

What are some of the ways you play? Have fun?

A Booksom Babe Goodbye: We’ll Miss You, Diane!

Diane had stopped coming to our bookclub soon after her diagnosis. She’d had brain surgery and was on an intense course of chemotherapy. We were at a loss. Diane had been a “Booksom Babe” for 13 years. We loved her wit and her insights as we discussed literature, sipped wine and shared bits of our lives.

She is only 59, we lamented. She just retired from a successful career in nursing.

We felt numb and inadequate as we continued to meet as a bookclub the past 18 months without her.  Care baskets of hand lotions, cards, books, and food were assembled and delivered. Some of us wore tie-dye, psychedelic, cat tee-shirts and brought hand drums to cheer her in her living room. We wanted to make her laugh. We all wanted to forget for a little while.

Because there were few options available, Diane opted for experimental medicines. For a while, the tumor was at bay. We all were a little hopeful. Maybe she’d finally catch a break.

Though she never complained to our bookclub, we were fully aware of all she had endured in such a short time. She lost her husband to lung cancer in 2005. In the past year she’d lost her mother and then very tragically, her son. How did she manage to go on at all? Her wonderful 26-year-old daughter “A” was  her “rock”, she said. We marveled at the young woman with so much tragedy and weight on her shoulders.

The tumor came back with a vengence. Soon Diane was moved to Hospice care.

We kept up with her progress feeling all the more helpless. Some of the Babes brought meals to her daughter to warm up after long days at the Hospice center.

Then Diane died. We knew it was coming, yet I think we were all a little stunned. We’d lost book club members to moves or people opting out, but never to death.

Bookclub was scheduled at my house just two days later. I decided we’d still meet, though I wasn’t sure we’d actually talk about the book. Would we be grieving as a group, too distraught to discuss it? I prayed before the women came over that we would find comfort that night. The five who came over greeted one another with the usual hug, but then we each just shook our heads and sighed. As usual as we assembled in my kitchen around the counter. This time, we raised a glass to Diane.

As we sat in my living room,  we skirted around the topic of our own mortality. We vowed to travel more. Do the things we’ve been putting off. Ever a practical group, we brainstormed what might do in memory of Diane, and how we might help her daughter.

After a while, someone enthusiastically suggested we discuss the book. Everyone was up to it,  so we discussed it late in the evening. I don’t think we were being irreverent or callous.  At times of grief, I think people tend to grapple for normalcy. We’re a bookclub, so it was normal to discuss our book, even though Diane had just died.

After everyone left, I ran the night through my head. It was good to get together for bookclub, but I felt a little odd that no one cried.

A week later, four of us Babes attended Diane’s Celebration of Life. The priest remarked to the full church that we all “showed up” because Diane had showed up for so many throughout her life. Her daughter reinforced this in her eulogy giving poignant examples of Diane “being there.” Diane was there for A’s long recovery after her life-threatening ski accident.  Diane had argued with reluctant doctors that they needed to perform yet another surgery on A to alleviate her daughter’s constant pain. One time Diane called the high school where her step-daughter attended and demanded the girl be assigned a new partner to walk with in her graduation procession. The kid with whom she was originally paired had bullied her. As a Girl Scout leader, Diane jumped off a bus in Boston on scout field trip so she could apply her medical skills to a bicycle courier who was hit by a car. The list went on and on.

We Babes sat in renewed awe of this strong, vigilant woman we were proud to know and privileged to call a fellow Babe. Our hearts were burning at the total unfairness of her untimely death.

At the end of the service, people were filing out of the pews in an orderly fashion ahead of us making their way to the back of the church.

Suddenly, I didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye to Diane. She had been cremated and her beautiful pearl-colored urn sat on a small table surrounded by purple Irises at the front of the church.  I leaned to the Stacey on my right and told her I needed to go to Diane’s ashes.

“Do you want me to come with you?”

I said it was up to her, but I had to go. As I approached the table, sunlight streamed through the ceiling windows casting bright rays around Diane’s island-altar.

I rested my hand on the cover of the Diane’s cool, smooth urn and closed my eyes.  I thanked God for the privilege of knowing this awesome woman. Then I whispered “Goodbye.”

At that moment, I felt a warm hand atop of mine. I opened my eyes and saw it was Stacey’s. She had decided to go against the tide and join me. My throat tightened and I started to shake.

I opened my eyes a second time and saw that Ann and Theresa had now joined us. Through bleary eyes, I gazed down at the pile of Babes’ hands stacked on Diane’s urn. Ann’s hand was on top of  Stacey’s, and Theresa’s hand on top of Ann’s. This impromptu gesture of solidarity, collective loss and admiration hit us hard in our hearts, right then  and there at Diane’s urn.  We were crying as we turned to make our way down the aisle toward the receiving line.

The Hardest Part of Parenting: Realizing Our Kids are Only On Loan To Us

OH MY! Chris Moriarty just moved up to Burlington, VT on Sunday to start a new job. I can’t believe what a gut punch that was. Thought I was ready for it—didn’t even think about it leading up to it, really. Erin Moriarty has been out of the house for three years. We see her almost every month and we’ve gotten accustomed to this. She loves where she lives. Now Chris is going to check out Burlington, too.

Yet, after he pulled out of the driveway I was a mess. I know it is so good for him to spread his wings, so good for all, but those first few hours after he left were almost unbearable. (A weird kind of birthing process?)

It is NOT written in any of the baby books how fast childhood goes or how bittersweet (translation, “wrenching”) it is when they fly out of the nest. It can be mind-blowing to realize that our children really are meant only to be “loaned” to us. In time, they should be encouraged/let go to have their own life to probe, discover, embrace…

I am proud beyond words for him for taking this step. My heart is so full that he and Erin have such a good and solid sibling relationship that they are there for each other.

I know I speak for Sean Moriarty when I say we are so grateful for the many blessings we’ve been given in raising both Erin Moriarty and Chris Moriarty. God has granted them and us two decent (not saying perfect), but two (plus) decent decades growing up as a family. Because of this, every time we get together it will be richer and more precious still. God is so good and merciful…and is watching over them.

e-c-in-ireland
Chris 23, Erin 25, in Ireland 2016

Life is Beautiful by The Afters :

Tann-ya! Tahn-ya! Banana! Bah-nah-nah!

What’s in a name?

TanJam

Welcome to my website!  I am  Tanja, pronounced “Tann-ya.”  (Nevermind the “J”, it’s silent. Think Scandinavian, like “Yumpin’ Yiminy” for “Jumpin’ Jiminy”.)   It’s  “Tann-ya”, like “Can ya?” not “Tahn -ya”,  that rhymes with lasagna. Think Sun-Tan, or tan as in beige.

This is all a bit laborious to explain every time I hear my name read from an attendance sheet, a roll call, or resume.  I wince when nine of ten times it’s, “Tahn-ya” I hear, and not my given pronounciation, “Tann-ya.”

Most of the times I just deal with it—like the momentary scratch of nails on a chalkboard.  It’s easier to take it if I know that I’ll probably never have to deal with the person again, say at the DMV when my renewed, still warm driver’s license is ready, “Tahn-ya, your license is ready,” or I am alerted from a librarian that a book I am picking through library loan is in. “Tahn-ya, your…

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“Father, Forgive Them”: Timeless, But Is It Possible?

One of the seven phrases Christ said on the cross was, “Father, forgive them” Luke 23:43. To me, these words are as fresh today as when He first spoke them. I believe in this phenomenon because of what Hebrews 13:8 tells us, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

That means to me that when he said, “Father, forgive them,” they weren’t meant just for the high priests, the local government, the soldiers or the scoffers that day. No, these words, “Father, forgive them” transcends time and is also an appeal for you and me. “Father, forgive —all of them.” Especially me.

I am thankful that Jesus has interceded for me so many, many times in my life. Times when I wasn’t even aware I was doing something wrong—back as an unrefined child. For the mean things I said on the playground, to a sibling, or to a classmate.

Moreover, I am grateful for Jesus’s very personal plea, “Father forgive (Tanja).” He asked God to be open to me when I’d finally wake up after willfully sinning—as a rebellious teenager, or worse, as an inconsistent, lukewarm, so-called Christian. I may have known the rules, yet I flaunted them.

Still, Jesus spoke on my behalf. I didn’t deserve God’s forgiveness, but reflecting these times in my past, I am overwhelmed with the advocacy, undeserved love, and forgiveness.

Since I’ve experienced this blessed forgiveness, when I hear, “Father, forgive them,” I also feel I need to be more of what Jesus modeled. That is, to try to be more forgiving to those who have hurt me, betrayed me, and caused me pain. I have made some good strides, but I am not 100% there yet. I wonder if I’ll ever be?

For the time being, I can only try to follow Jesus: Marvel at His strength and love for us on the cross, and be guided and healed by what He says and does today.

 

Thank you, Tenth Avenue North

Living Out Loud With Passion & Faith:What’s Your New Tag Line for 2016?

Jukebox Hero
Living Out Loud and shamelessly playing my air guitar to Foreigner’s Juke Box Hero karaoke  after Sean’s cousin Jeanne’s cruise wedding. We were all a bit pie-eyed “performing” in front of a bewildered if not disgusted audience. Good thing they didn’t have rotten tomatoes!

Happy New Year! I removed the word “Healing” from my homepage tagline “Living and Healing with Passion and Faith” to “Living Out Loud with Passion and Faith.”

Why? Because after four years of blogging and therapy and getting deeper into my faith, I felt it was time.  I feel more whole. When I first started blogging four years ago, I was in the throes of therapy working out forty-something years of hurt, anger, righteousness, and conflict. Some of the junk was due to the cards dealt to me; some of it was self-inflicted.  Many of my posts talk about facing stuff, shedding old skin and growing some new.

I’ve been able to forgive myself and forgive others. I’ve learned the blessings of extending grace instead of waiting for the other person to bend first.  I’ve become a bit more discerning before jumping in. It is OK and sometimes crucial to say “no.”  I remind myself to consider the big picture, to be still and know that God is God. More than a few times, I’ve given a tricky person or difficult situation over to the Divine to duke out, instead of me.

I’ve also gained peace by disengaging when it just wasn’t worth the effort or damages to hammer my point home.

So, here’s to a new year of living up to my new tagline “Living Out Loud with Passion and Faith!” I expect to laugh more, cry more, praise more, forgive more, and play more air guitar!

Is it time for you to have a new tagline in 2016? What would it say?

Trick-o-Treat Pick Up Truck: Neighbor from My Childhood Evokes Harrowing Halloween Memory

“Tyron Rumsowa” (an anagram of is real name) must’ve stood all of four-foot -six in his steel-toed farm boots. Even on the rare times he’d come to church— on his horse he’d tie up on the black iron fence–Tyron always wore what looked like a boy’s size 10 faded denim overalls. He had salt and pepper hair and matching scruff on his small face. His deep-set eyes and slightly crooked nose reminded me of a turtle. Small in physical stature, Tyron made up for it with larger-than-life antics that even 20 years or so after his death, are still remembered as legendary by the over 45 crowd in my hometown.

As a kid in the mid 70s, this Lilliputian neighbor of mine always seemed ancient, but surprisingly spry. He’d drive his big red tractor up and down the road or be dangling from a ladder sprucing up his big red colonial down the street. Tyron farmed several acres that ribboned behind four or five houses on our street, high on a ridge. From our Cape Cod across and at the bottom of one of his pastures, I could make out silhouettes of his cows, horses and sheep grazing high on the hill against the backdrop of the sky.

As a recent assignment at our library’s memoir writer’s group, I immediately thought of this real life character from my childhood. I could expound on several of his antics, but in the spirit of the season, a particular Halloween night when I was in first grade (’71) comes to mind. Thankfully I was too young and innocent to know how deadly this kid holiday might have turned out; I am sure it scared the hell out of my poor mother—thanks to our real life character neighbor!

Mom was leading my younger sister and me as we trick-o-treated around our neighborhood. The pinprick eye-holes of my plastic witch mask that smelled like my cousin’s Lite Brite were hard to see through. It was sweaty, but I could draw in the crisp, late autumn air through the oval mouth hole. Sometimes it made a whistling noise when I exhaled.

We were about to head back to our yard and into the house to count our candy when Tyron came crawling up our street in his late 1950s pick up truck. I heard it sputter along, but I had my mind on more important matters.

“I hope I got lots of Snickers!” I muffled through my mask.  I couldn’t wait to dive in my loot after the obligatory examination of potentially tampered candy. We never found any pins and needles. We lived in a safe neighborhood, after all.

“Get down!” Mom screamed all of a sudden. I felt a whoosh behind me and the next thing I knew I was witch-face-down in a pile of leaves. “Stay still!” Mom whispered pulling my sister and me under each of her arms. Too stunned to speak or cry out, we just lay there, clutching our pillowcases of candy.

I could hear my breathing loud and fast inside my witch mask. After a little while, Mom whispered frantically, “Quick, run to the house!”

I stood up, but couldn’t feel the ground beneath me. My legs were flailing behind me like a Raggedy Ann doll as Mom carried us like two sacks under each arm to the house. “My God,” she said, out of breath setting us down in the kitchen.

We took off our masks and looked up at her. “What was that about?” I asked, not sure if I was supposed to laugh or be serious. “I’m scared Mommy,” my sister said tearfully, clinging to my mother’s arm.

“What the hell is going on, Sone-ya?” my father asked, his eyes wide.

“Tyron had a shot gun pointing of his pick up window!” my mother said, her eyes were big. She had her hand on her chest.

“What?” he said. “That crazy old coot!”

I don’t exactly remember what happened after that. There were no cops. My mother or father probably just called Tyron’s son who lived across the street from us. I do recall mom saying that Tyron was angry at kids trespassing that night on his back forty.

Looking back, I have to say that no one was really scarred by this event. We just sat on the braided orange rug in the living sifting through our candy.

Do you remember a colorful character from your childhood? Post about in it the comments below!