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?

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?

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

Son’s Request Plays Within An Hour On The Radio: What’s Your Latest Godincidence?

Chris, The Thinker, with Belle.
Chris, The Thinker, with Belle.

Another “Godincidence” (a.k.a. something unexplainable that seems to be divinely directed, not mere coincidence) happened recently. Both of our children— Erin, 24 and Chris, 21 had come home for Easter weekend. As we were finishing breakfast, I was talking up the praise band that we’d be seeing at the service that morning. Chris, rather out of the blue said, “If I hear God of Wonders today, then I will believe there is a God.”

I sipped my coffee and shot up a quick and silent prayer, “Please let him hear that song today.” Chris and I have a little history with the song God of Wonders by Marc Byrd and Steve Hindalong. It seems that whenever he and I would have a discussion about the existence of God, faith, or organized religion, Chris would spoof-sing in a hippy sort of way some of the lyrics, “God of Wonders beyond our Galaxy, You are holy, holy.” He had heard this now-19-year-old song during his childhood when he and Erin attended a vacation bible school at an evangelical church in our area.

Though, or maybe it’s because he had received the same rudimentary Sunday school education I did—learning the basic tenets of the Christian faith and how to find the old and new testaments of a Bible–his current take on God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit was colored with age-appropriate, healthy skepticism.

“It’s nice that you and Dad are into it, but I just don’t know about it for me.”

We headed to Easter service in separate vehicles. Chris rode in Sean’s car and Erin rode with me. While driving, I had 106.9 FM, K-LOVE on my radio. Granted it is a Christian radio station, but in my experience listening to it for almost a year, I’ve only ever heard them play current Christian artists and new songs. All of a sudden, God of Wonders started playing. “Erin!” I screamed, “The song! The song! Call your brother right now! Tell him to turn on 106.9 on Dad’s radio!”

Erin looked stunned as she dialed Chris on her cell. “Mom, don’t cry, you’re gonna make me cry!” Then to her brother, “Mom says to turn on 106.9 right now!”

Chris was on speaker, “I bet I know what’s going to be playing,” he said.
“I can’t believe it, Chris! I’ve never heard this song is played on this station! You asked for it, Bud!”

Please share your latest “Godincidence.”

“Buddy Jesus” Meme Gets Personal

Just for fun this weekend, I searched my name in meme using Google Image and my oddly spelled T-A-N-J-A. I thought “Tanja with a “J” would never come up. Lo, I found this among other “Tanja” memes, a good number in German. At first glance I thought this rather duded-out rendition of Jesus could be a bit irreverent, but I have come to know that divine messages are delivered in all shapes and forms.

My husband who is far hipper on-line than me is well-versed in memes and explained that this is the “Buddy Jesus” meme. I realize that someone  generated this meme for another “Tanja” somewhere out there, but since we share the same spelling, I hope she won’t mind if I claim this meme as a personalized message for me today.  It rather reflects on my current faith journey status: I am seeing Jesus not only my Savior, but as “my bud” who gets my back as a Heavenly bro. God uses the world wide web as well as burning bushes to get our attention. Can a I get a witness?

Divine Depositor Revealed: Culprit Close to Heart and Home

“I have something kind of awkward to tell you,” our 23-year-old daughter Erin said on speaker phone from Vermont last week. My husband Sean and I held our breath. In a nano-second, my maternal mental Rolodex spun with at least seven or eight “awkward” scenarios she might break to us. Thankfully she came right to the point. “It was me who wrote on that twenty-dollar bill.”

Relieved it wasn’t something grave, I was just flabbergasted. “It was you? Really? Why?” I had tears in my eyes and a smile a mile wide that she couldn’t see.

“When did you do it?”

A few years ago, she said, but she had forgotten that she had done it at all until she was reminded by my previous post.

Back in 2011, sometime between her junior-year college breaks Erin had gone to our former church with us and was intrigued by this “reverse offering” idea. I recall now that it was a project loosely based on the Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30. A woman challenged parishioners to take a sum of money and to go out and invest it so it might yield more money for the church. I remember one woman used her “talents” to buy beads and wire and then made and sold jewelry with the proceeds going to the church.

From what I gather, Erin’s take on this project was to use her own (hard-earned) $20 from her part-time job and sort of invest it in us, her parents! “You and Dad are always doing so much and model devotion, love and perseverance. I just wanted to give this to you.” She explained that the message she wrote back then just flowed and “fit perfectly around the bill.”

IMG_0014

When I discovered this money popping out of my bible bag last week, I hadn’t recognize her handwriting.  I think I was thrown off because she had written, “Dear Sean and Tan,” and not, “Dear Dad and Mom.” Instead I’d asked a few female friends if they had made this divine deposit. Erin never crossed my mind.

There is only one other time in her life when Erin referred to me as “Tan” and not “mom.” When she was about 2 1/2 I had asked her to pick up her toys or something and she just gave me a look and said, “I don’t think so, Tan.” Needless to say I couldn’t keep a straight face and all parental resolve went out the window.

“I hope you aren’t disappointed,” Erin said.

“Why would I be? Because it was you or that you wrote on money?” I joked. I wasn’t even a little disappointed that the mystery was solved.  I was delighted, not disappointed. I explained to her a few reasons why:

First, finding this twenty-dollar bill with the message from “The Holy Spirit” brought me a profound sense of mystery and excitement (just like the still anonymous Valentine’s card from 2013). Who would take the time and thought to write such a lovely, spirit-filled message and give this generous gift of $20? I felt blessed to have such a grand list of possible friends/suspects to wonder about!

Then, there was the reminder of how God still speaks to us and gives us signs and words of encouragement especially at times in our lives when we feel burdened and weary.

Plus, posting about this mystery stimulated many readers to think and share about mysteries in their own lives! It started conversations about miracles, mercies and unexplained circumstances.

I told Erin that my heart was full of joy because I believe that the Holy Spirit in her moved her to write that encouraging message on that $20 three-plus years ago. That it was meant to be found now as words of encouragement to keep us on track. Think about it, three years ago Erin was a “broke college kid”and twenty bucks was no small amount for her to part with!

All in all, I feel so blessed that I have a daughter (and son) who even when they naturally and appropriately question the basics of what they’ve learned in Sunday School (who hasn’t or doesn’t?), that they are, in my heart and understanding living their lives guided consciously or unknowingly by the Holy Spirit. Finding this message, nearly four years after it was planted in my often-used Bible bag was yet another gift of God’s good and perfect timing. Even though it was written in my own daughter’s hand a few years ago, I feel the Holy Spirit was all over it then…and now!

Have You Any Sweet (still unsolved) Mysteries of Life?

Have you any unsolved mysteries in your life? I have two that I may never solve but they are happy ones, none-the-less. The first one I am thinking about is coming up on its two-year “unsolved” anniversary. In 2013 I received a homemade lace Valentine card that says, “I love you” in fancy, swirly script. The envelope’s cancelled stamp only says it’s from Southern Connecticut. My address is handwritten on a white label, in pen. “Tanja” is spelled correctly, but Moriarty has an extra “i” in it. I called around back then but to this day I still have no idea who sent this to me!

Today, I stumbled upon a second mystery. I ‘ve been on a tear going through old files, notebooks and boxes lately, putting decades of my writing into some sort of order. Am I merely stalling to work on current writing projects?

Anyway, I reached for my Bible bag thinking I had stored a eulogy or two I’d composed for friends and loved ones over the years and wanted to put them in a three-ringed binder.

As I started picking through the side pockets of the pouch, a twenty-dollar bill popped out! I jumped in that surreal moment when one finds unexpected money. A $20 no less, in my Bible bag?

It was folded in quarters and as I unfurled the bill, I noticed someone had written a message around the edges on the back. It says, “Dear Sean and Tan, Please accept this reverse offering as a token of my appreciation of your devotion, love and perseverance. Love, The Holy Spirit.”

Say what? Love from whom? It’s in what appears as feminine handwriting. Does the Holy Spirit have girly penmanship?

I immediately thought,” I can’t spend this! It has our names on it and a personal message from God!” Then I thought, “Who would leave me this?’

I don’t know how long this mystical money has been in my bag. I did attend a study group this fall and on occasion brought the bag with me. Yet, I can’t imagine when or how one of them would have made the divine deposit while I was right by it.

I suspected a friend of mine who’d likely do something like this. I had been in a study with her for months back in 2013. She claims it wasn’t she.

If it wasn’t CB, would the generous person please reveal him or herself so I can take you out for some, err, Heavenly coffee? But, if it was the Holy Ghost, please approach me gently and don’t freak me out!

Please share when you’ve received something mysterious or from an anonymous source.

Mommas with Middle-Aged Children

Revised, From an assignment in 2006

She walks up my front steps and my heart races.

“It’s so good to see you,” I grab her up in a giddy embrace. Electricity flashes through me reminiscent of a school girl’s crush, but it’s deeper than that. It’s our souls reconnecting, if only briefly.

“I remember you,” they seem to say to each other. We do not rush to pull away just yet. Our twenty-something year history flashes through us in a nano-second. Without recanting every detail, our spirits silently acknowledge the posts.  We were newly marrieds when we first met. A few years later, she was a new mother and I was pregnant when our husbands went to war. We cleaved to one another almost like spouses. Oh, how we understood the other’s fears, frustrations, and loneliness.

Our five kids, born close like stair steps between our two families, have known each other since they were zygotes.  We mammas would run up phone bills exchanging remedies for teething woes and diaper rash, and daydreaming how not to how to lose our woman-selves in the midst of being wives and mothers.

It was her idea that we escape to the Norwich Spa. She was insistent. Our men could deal with the drool for twenty-four hours as we replenished ourselves in the swirling hot tubs after our massages.  She picked me up and we didn’t look back for a whole twenty-four hours.

Through the years, we celebrated holidays and took camping trips as families. Our kids grew closer than cousins. Now with lives so busy with work and multiple kid activities, we don’t see each other very often. Though we live only fourteen and a half miles apart, we might as well orbit in separate solar systems. On rare occasions we catch each other by phone at home.

So it feels like worship standing with her in my foyer. But if  I don’t physically disengage soon, I might start crying.

“Come on up! The coffee’s on!” I pull away and we walk up the split level stairs. She strolls over to my kitchen table and out of habit, takes her usual seat. I pour our coffee and remember her fickleness for sweetening it. “Two teaspoons of sugar, or just one and a skoach?” She smiles and holds up two fingers. We catch up with family news, our jobs, and our husbands. One cup of coffee leads to two, and then we finish off the pot. After what seems like minutes, but is really two and half hours, she says she has to leave. “Gotta pick a kid up from driver’s school.”

Suddenly, I am a desperate junky. “But you just got here!” I feebly suggest a road trip. “The Spa?” She gets that familiar, faraway look, but snaps back. “When? There’s soccer, and guitar lessons, and horseback riding…”

“Yeah. There’s basketball and volleyball,” I counter.

“Some day,” we sigh.  Our souls lament as we hug goodbye.