Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ending the Year with a Thank You

I think the best way to celebrate the end of another year is with gratitude. I am grateful to have survived another year; it's nice to be 66 years old and in good health. So for the next several days I will be giving thanks on my blog for all of my blessings in 2007.

Today I give thanks for my family. And I will begin by being grateful for my husband of 43 years. Although we have had many stormy times over the past year (make that years), there is probably no one else that would have put up with me for so long. And vice versa. I am grateful for the strengths I have developed from being his wife. He encouraged me to get my Masters degree and to pursue a career, in the days when husbands didn't want their wives to work. My perspectives have been broadened just because he looks at life so differently from the way I do. Thanks to him, I finally learned how to smile more and take life a bit less seriously. And thanks to him, I developed my patience to the level of a saint! But most of all I thank him for our three children, without whom we would not have our six grandchildren. More about them tomorrow.

Here's another hint. Whenever you feel blue or depressed, start giving thanks for your blessings. It really works!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I've been tagged!

My daughter "tagged" me and so I am filling in my literary pickings below. Unfortunately I don't know how to "tag" so I can't pass this on.

1. One book that changed your life:

Awareness by Anthony De Mello

2. One book that you have read more than once:

The Trilogy of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

3. One book that you'd want on a desert island:

The Bible (I figure I will need a lot of help to survive!)

4. One book that made you laugh:

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriott
(This is a book that made me laugh out loud on the NYC subway.)

5. One book that made you cry:

Oh My Stars! by Lorna Landvik
also, Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi
also, Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
and the last Harry Potter book
(I must love sad books.)

6. One book that you wish had been written:

The book I've been meaning to write about Paradox.

7. One book that you wish had never been written:

The Da Vinci Code.

8. One book you are currently reading:

Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light

9. One book you've been meaning to read:

Sink Reflections by Fly Lady to help me declutter and to "Just Do It!"

My Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Well I thought that retirement meant lots of free time to reflect and relax. Wrong! 2007 has flown by at warp speed and I am busier than ever. My part time job at the NY Citizens’ Committee on Aging is blossoming, as our elder poverty project has struck a chord with the aging and advocacy communities. After many rejections, we got a grant in November that will fund our work into next year.

Outings with friends are now a monthly event – whether its lunch with my pal Pat, museum-hopping with the “Met Club”, or chatting with e-buddies, I am enjoying these treasured friendships. In June I made a week long retreat on the Hudson; the theme was “Transitions”, a timely topic indeed. Most exciting, with the help of my blogging daughter, Tina, I began my own blog in July, where I share my thoughts and poems on the world wide web. And I am also working on a chapter for the new Partners in Healing book. Plus I finally caved into the Harry Potter hoopla and read all seven books. Wow!

The year began on a scary note when my “baby” brother Jeff suffered a heart attack only days before his 52nd birthday. Thankfully, he is now doing well. If you know me at all, you know how much I value family, where the joys and sorrows of life are lived. And so Jeff became a Grandpa when Adrian was born on 07/07/07. Then sadly, we lost my dear Aunt Alice very suddenly the end of July. She was the matriarch of the Pennsylvania branch of the family; now all the elders of my childhood days are gone. Suddenly I am the oldest – Yikes!

Time spent with family is precious: My husband accompanies his brother to the senior center daily. We both enjoyed trips to Longwood Gardens and the Bronx Botanical Gardens with my sister and brother-in-law, Kathy and Rich. We visited my Dad’s younger sister, Aunt Elizabeth (age 88) and her family for the first time in years. The highlight of the family year was the wedding of Audra and Brian in September. The whole Pennsylvania clan was there, along with my brother Jim from California with his family. Just what I like - a huge family Lovefest! Best news of all – Audra will present my sister Kathy with her 1st grandchild next year!

My granddaughter Marina had a banner year: winning 3rd place in her town’s poetry competition; serving a 3 week internship at the Bronx Zoo in August; and being confirmed in October. She even got braces! Chase and my son-in-law joined us at a Mets game in July, hosted by Primerica; Chase is now going for his Bodan Belt in Tae Kwan Do. Sierra started home school Kindergarten and is becoming quite proficient on the computer, especially Zoo Tycoon. Tina’s blog and comics are receiving recognition; she’s been invited to write for a home school magazine.

My son, daughter-in-law and grandson Sam took us to a minor league ball game on his company night in June. My son got a job promotion and finished paralegal courses this year. Daughter Lisa and family just returned to California after a long visit; it is amazing how big Jackson and Aidan are getting. Aidan has some powerful arm for a 2 year old! Watch out, A-rod! We enjoyed an old fashioned Family Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania with Lisa’s family and all the Pennsylvania cousins.

If you want to know more about my adventures during 2007 or would like to read my poems, I invite you to visit my blog at Especially the December entries. Meanwhile, I wish you all a happy, healthy 2008! Keep in touch!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Clutter-free Gifts

So how do we free ourselves from adding to the clutter caused by more Christmas gifts? I like what my sister did this year. Kathy is the generosity guru of the family. This Christmas she treated the whole family to Cirque du Soleil at Madison Square Garden. Now this is great. It’s a shared experience with those we love, great fun and best of all, it doesn’t take up any space in our house (unless you buy a souvenir).

I have given Kathy trips – that’s how we discovered Longwood Gardens – and treated family or friends to dinner or a show. A gifting experience that is remembered fondly and doesn’t add to our treasure troves. To really hit the spot, these should be shared experiences. Then you get the best present of all – the gifter’s presence to enjoy the dinner or show with you.

Personally, I love gifts that you can literally eat up. My hubby and I have gobbled up fruit baskets, fruit cakes (yes, we love fruit cake), homemade Aunt Kate cookies, etc. etc. And we never forget who sent us these treats. My friend Mary sends us a 2 lb. box of See’s Chocolates from San Francisco each year and we think of her with each sweet bite. Even though this gift sends my Weight Watcher points sky rocketing.

And then there are the “contribution gifts”. My son likes us to donate to favorite charities, like Doctors Without Borders in their honor. This idea has become more imaginative lately because people still like a tangible token, along with their altruism. This year the World Wildlife Fund had a great gimmick – adopt an endangered animal and receive a certificate and photo of “your” animal. I got one for each of my grandkids and threw in a stuffed animal for the youngest three. Anyway, it’s a wonderful way to honor a friend, support a cause and get a tax deduction. And best of all – it takes up no space at all!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mother Teresa and Too Much Stuff

Lately I’ve been trying very hard to de-clutter. I feel buried by my “treasure”: too many boxes, too many clothes, too many trinkets. And yet… it is so hard to let go. If I could be sure that an individual or an organization would appreciate my precious thingys, it would make it a lot easier to donate them. But each item seems to have emotional baggage and I end up feeling like a prisoner of my possessions.

First of all, they need to be organized or I don’t remember that they even exist, much less where they are. Items with sentimental value – like drawings made by my grandkids (come to think of it, I may have some of my kids' drawings too!) or the last Avon pin that my Mom gave me or a birthday card from my daughter – these are especially hard to part with. It’s like I’m throwing away their love. And then there’s the hundreds of old photos. I can’t breathe thinking of it!

And of course I want to guard all my things, especially the emotionally valuable ones. When my house was robbed last year, I discovered how painful it is to lose my belongings. I felt violated. From time to time, I remember another thing that was stolen and the wound opens again.

The very act of cleaning out forty plus years of accumulations and to whom I should bequeath what, raises the terrifying thought of my own mortality. Bad enough to die but then to have your sweet stuff forgotten too! Oh no! No wonder I am stuck in this house that I think I want to move out of.

Filling up the bottomless black hole with “stuff” enslaves me in a way. Yet no matter how hard I try, I wind up buying more “stuff” I don’t really need. I have been reading Mother Teresa’s letters: Come Be My Light. The beginning reveals how she pestered the powers that be to let her heed the “call” to live in the slums of Calcutta. What intrigued me about this mission of hers, is how much she longed to become one of the poor, to give up all possessions. And I have come to see that this is what truly frees you. Maybe this is not as selfless as it seems – maybe it is just smart to detach yourself from material goods.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gifting Games 2

The List Game also facilitates another gifting game – creative gift management or varying your gifts from year to year to prevent recipient boredom. Of course some people I know like to get the same gift – which is why my brother is getting yet another Swiss Colony package this Christmas. And I confess I would never tire of a Barnes and Noble gift card from here to eternity.

Games to curb our over-gifting tendencies include “Silent Santa”. Put the names of all members of a group in a hat; each person picks one name, which equals one gift each. How about the Competition Game? It goes like this: “Well I put so much thought or spent so much money on her gift and look what she gave me!” Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of gift giving? I struggle to give up this outdoing game lest it escalate into bankruptcy. Not to mention petty res
entments, hurt feelings and other negative baggage I can do without.

Many good people I know have tried to curb the gifting frenzy. But sometimes it just doesn’t work. People are where they’re at and we must honor that. There may be a whole psychology of giving, for all I know. Meanwhile, it is much easier to give than to receive.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gifting Games

Do you play gifting games? I guess the most famous is “Re-gifting”, where you put aside a gift that you think you will never use and give it to someone else. Of course, the trick is to never give the “re-gift” back to the original giver or to anyone in his circle.

To prevent re-gifting embarrassment, I play another game – Lists, a favorite of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) sufferers. I keep yearly lists of all the gifts I give and to whom plus gifts I receive and from whom. That way, if I decide to re-gift something, I won’t give it to the “wrong” person. Now, this may sound terribly insensitive or even worse, ungrateful, but admit it. Who amongst us has never played the Re-gifting Game? In fact in some primitive cultures, it’s a revered tradition.

Those who practice re-gifting may be interested in an experimental game we played back in Grad School. Players place an unwanted possession, nicely gift-wrapped, before them on the floor or table. Using a spinner or dice, players choose any gift in exchange for their own when it’s their turn. After several rounds the gifts are unwrapped. As the game advanced, it was amazing to observe how players reacted when their “unwanted” gifts were prized by others. They began to fight to get them back and many went home with what they brought! Hey! This may even be a way to cut down on the overgifting syndrome known to plague 21st century families.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Guiltless Gift Giving

Some years ago my friend Sister P. came up with a great Christmas project at our agency: “Adopt-a-Family”. The idea was to match a poor family with those who wanted to do something charitable for the holidays. Only needed items, like clothing or household items were listed on the recipient’s profile. But of course, the adopters, who were recruited from the Archdiocese’s parishes, usually outdid themselves, supplying toys and games along with the sweaters and blankets.

I know many religious congregations have versions of Adopt-a-Family – there are Jesse Trees and in my parish, we have paper Angels that the children color: on the back it simply says “4 year old boy” or “Woman size large”. I think it’s a wonderful idea. Because it brings together those who love to shop with those who really do need stuff! A win win opportunity if ever there was one. Or what I liked to call “guilt free shopping”.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Christmas Shopping Season

With mixed feelings, I embrace that most frenzied time of year yet again - Christmas Shopping Season. I have mentioned before my love-hate relationship with Malls. Too much stuff, too much choice, too much temptation. Advent, the period of reflection and waiting, has instead become the Shopping Olympics of my year. So why do I succumb?

That brings us to the subject of "gift giving" and all the baggage that weighs it down. Gifts, in my family, were a way of showing affection. We were not raised to be particularly demonstrative, physically. So birthdays and Christmas were an opportunity to demonstrate our love for each other. As a child and young adult, I worked feverishly to find the perfect gift for each of my loved ones. Sometimes I made the gifts myself, like the year I made pastel paintings of nature scenes to give my Dad and Grandmother for Christmas. I even spent hours on creative wrappings. Maybe it was more about my creative efforts being recognized and appreciated than about expressing love. In truth, it was all of it.

I learned from the masters of gift giving - my Mom and Dad. Mom loved to shop. She gifted her family all through the year with bargains she uncovered in hidden racks at Bloomies and all her favorite stores. Once when I complained that Mom could not afford her generosity to me and my kids, my brother John wisely observed that it was her way of expressing her love for us. And I accepted that. So Christmas was the "mother" of all shopping sprees for Mom. She shopped up to the final hour and had her gifts wrapped only moments before we exchanged them on Christmas Eve.

For Dad, his gifts were tied up with the "bow" of his own self-esteem. If the gifts he so thoughtfully planned did not elicit the hoped for, enthusiastic delight on the part of the recipient, he felt painfully rejected. So I remember fondly his Christmas surprise to me one year during my teens - a stereo! (For all you younguns', a stereo in those days was today's I-pod.) Anyway, that was the perfect gift for me and I hadn't a clue. Looking back, I feel happy that my joy at that gift gave Dad even more joy. Now I understand.

This is too hot a topic to drop. So "shopping" and "gifts" will be featured in my pre-Christmas blogs and maybe I will blog more this month. Besides, I'm off to the Mall now. To do some Christmas shopping! And then to spend time with the best Christmas gift I ever received - my daughter Tina. Happy Birthday Tina!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

An Early Thanksgiving

I have been so busy lately that my blog has suffered. As I revisited my autumn poems to share, I did notice that they seem a bit sad and it surprised me; it certainly wasn't intentional. It seems that Autumn in New York has become a November rather than October happening. Today, as I looked up at the sky, I thought: "That's a November sky all right." And I remembered the following poem.

An Early Thanksgiving

That’s a November sky up there
Dark clouded circles drooping from its heavy lidded eyes
Frosty breath chasing fingers into pockets
Planting autumn’s answers in the
Deep down dirt of harvesting hearts
That walk along the noisy banks of the silent river
Pondering the taste of pumpkin memories
Singing in the shower of leaves
Their sacred songs, a glorious chorus of joyous hues
As gratitude graces a new generation of pilgrims.

Copyright Eleanor Ramos 10/23/04

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fall's Farewell

The leaves are taking a long time to turn this year. Last weekend we hiked in Bear Mountain; it was peak. This weekend - all at once - the colors have come to the city trees. My trek through the Botanical Gardens forest yesterday, under a "Noel" gray sky, was awesome. And so it seems that most of my Autumn poems were born in November.


Autumn lingers a bit longer this year,
Tempting me to taste her fiery fruits.

Leaves let go and flutter like confetti,
Embracing me within their whirling waltz.

But I’ve no room to swallow autumn’s music,
No time to feast upon her pungent poems.

I plod along my way with leaden footstep,
My binging heart too gorged to find its home.

Soon darkness slowly steals across the journey,
Extending over me his hovering hand.

Such comfort, so much safer than fiesta,
I hide within his grasp awaiting dawn.

E. M. Ramos 11/14; 12/13/2000

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Never enough time...

Sometimes time is on my mind when I'm not even aware of it. Like when this poem came to me last Memorial Day.....

Memorial Day

Folded boulders, remnants of the last
Ice Age to hit the Bronx,
Deeds deep hidden in their wrinkled crevices,
Deeds all but forgotten.

Trunks of trees, wrung out like wash rags
drying in the heat of May,
Fear forever frozen in their furrowed faces,
Fear of what will never be.

Breathless breezes bathe the aching head,
cool the heated heart while
Thoughts of Death invade the mind,
terrorize the soul, paralyze the will

Not enough time
to get it all done
to do it all right
the way it should be

Not enough time
Never enough time
Now there really is
Not enough time.

Copyright E.M. Ramos 5/29/2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

Where does the time go?

Hey is it only me? Or does everyone feel they just don't have enough time. I have not posted for two or three weeks. Why am I so busy? Why am I so angry about "not enough time"? I thought retirement meant having lots of free time.

Well it has been a full two weeks - did a workshop at a NJ parish for Partners in Healing; joined a spiritual direction group; got a grant (at last!) for my part time job, which means more work; my granddaughter's Confirmation (see "my daughter's blog"); having overnight guests, which means serious housecleaning.

I think what is bothering me is that I was thrown out of my comforting "routine". Having all these "different" things to attend to instead of sleeping late, blogging, walking, malling and to top it off, I missed 2 Weight Watchers meetings. And yet. I enjoyed all of it, even the cleaning.

So why was I so angry? It hurts to interrupt my routine, to introduce change, uncertainty. I am no longer on "safe grounds". I am not in control. That's scary and it transforms into angry.

Luckily, I still remember to pray. And last Sunday - when I was really angry - I remembered to focus. And this is the story my ANGER is trying to tell me, the same story I have heard so many times. I am angry that I am not DOING all that I "should" do, that I am not what I "should" be. Old story. And it feels so sad.

Of course, I even wrote a poem about it. Actually many poems. Keep tuned.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Autumn's Youth

While I wandered in the woods the other day, I received a surprise - the gift of a poem. A poem for this particularly warm, dry Autumn.


Fall debuts without fanfare.
Here a red fringed branch

blinks brightly from the brush.
There an oak bedecked
in Midas glory
pops up upon the path.

But mostly trees seem tired,
their drying limbs droop
heavily toward earth.
Their worn out leaves,
edged in weary gray brown,
sport age spots and ragged tears.

Like star gazers beneath
an early evening sky
revealing its secrets,
Those awaiting autumn’s awe
keep vigil and behold
her colors unfold
before their eyes.

Copyright E. Ramos 10/7/2007

Sunday, October 7, 2007


I keep thinking of this theme of “friends”. So I looked up the meaning in my rather antiquated Webster’s – Friend, n. one attached to another by affection. Well, now that takes in a lot of people in my life. Including many who also happen to be members of my family, like my husband who probably knows me better than anyone and still sticks around.

Although our relationship has changed and evolved over the years, I can certainly say that I count my adult children, and their spouses, among my friends. We are there for each other in tough times, like times of illness; we share laughs as well as heartaches and complaints; we have wonderful conversations about topics ranging from the challenges of parenting to the war in Iraq (especially how to get out!) to the latest books we are reading. We have gone on trips together; enjoyed shows and movies together; celebrated joyful occasions together; and continue to learn from each other - although I am still waiting for one of them to show me how to put up photos on this blog. And they have given me the best gift of all – my grandchildren. Believe me, I know how blessed I am to have children who are also my friends.

Last week our family had a joyous celebration, my niece Audra’s wedding to Brian. For more on the wedding and pictures, see my daughter’s blog (link on sidebar). Many family members I had not seen for quite some time were there and it was wonderful to catch up, to hang out, and to remember old times and all that we shared – and still share.

But I have to say a special word about the mother of the bride, my sister Kathy, a true friend, perhaps my oldest friend, and one who grows dearer as the years go by. Kathy is the “glue” that keeps our family together, a one woman network who keeps “in touch” with family far away, to keep us all up to date on the latest family news. I have called Kathy “terminally generous”, and anyone who knows her will agree. For instance, not only did she gather and help make arrangements for all the out of town guests to the wedding, she prepared welcome baskets for them complete with home baked Aunt Kate cookies (that’s another blog), Yankee caps, and lists of places to explore on Long Island! She is amazing, such energy, always doing something, always busy, always welcoming. And still has time to read! Can we really be related! Seriously, I am one lucky woman to have such a sister, such a friend, such a great family.

Friday, September 28, 2007


Yes I do have fictional friends. Since retirement, I have had more time to read – unfortunately when the book is intense, I find myself staying up to 3 a.m. to see what happens next. I enjoy books about friends, especially the kind of groups in Lorna Landvik’s Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons or Susan Kidd Monk’s The Secret Life of Bees. Check out The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs, a poignant tale about a woman’s club based on Manhattan’s upper West side, a club that does more gnoshing than knitting and whose members grow to support each other through many crises. A wonderful film The Station Agent is about the struggle to make friendships and allow friends into your life, to see your pain, to help you out.

These fictional friends have touched me deeply and reminded me how important friends have been throughout my life. In one difficult transition time after another, a friend – Jo, Arleen, Ann, Sr. Pat and so many others – showed up to walk with me through the pain.

I think of all these loving people as my own personal cheering squad. When the game is going my way, they celebrate with me. When the score is against me, they cheer me on, encouraging me not to lose heart. And vice versa.

Just like in the books and movies.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


One of the blessings of retirement is the time to refresh friendships, reconnect with old friends and make new ones. And today, there are so many ways to “be with” friends.

This past year or so, I’ve noticed that my “in person” getogethers with my long time pal Pat have been happening more often. We share two of my favorite pastimes – eating out and “window shopping” at the Mall.

Then there is the group of ex-Catholic Charities colleagues that meet once a month to do museums or cultural sites. We’ve done Met tours, Botanical Gardens events, trips to the Zoo, the Nassau County Museum of Art and the Talbot’s outlet (how’d that get in there?). To tell the truth our monthly gatherings are 90% café and conversation and 10% culture. Last month we even ran into another “friend from work” at the Met, so there were six of us.

There have also been many friends from the past that I can spend more time with via e-mail; this blog has brought messages from many. And some visits are planned for next month with friends I haven’t seen for years.

For my internet challenged pals, who live far away, I’ve logged in more phone time, especially with A. who lives on a farm in the mid-West. A. and I go way back – to our college days at St. John’s University.

During the Transition Retreat I made last June (see July 5th blog) one of the retreatants reminded me of a dear friend Mary, a lively 90+ year old who lives in California. I was prompted to make a long overdue phone call and found that she had been seriously ill. How glad I was to speak with her!

My dream of making new friends in retirement is taking a bit longer but I trust that my pursuit of volunteer service and a spiritual direction group starting in a few weeks may bring new people to grace my life.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A New Season

I love the Fall. It was, maybe still is, my favorite season. Now I revel in all the seasons of the year, which mirror the seasons of my life. In December 2001 I decided that if I ever wanted to publish my poetry, I would have to "do it myself"! I called the first volume of poems Secrets of the Seasons.

And now it's time for an Autumn poem, inspired by the Bronx Botanical Gardens.

A Rosy Reception

The roses of October are
arousing. They cry out:
Come join in the revelry!

Have a whiff of our aroma
at its peak,
as glorious as incense
rising up at Benediction.
You need not bend
to savor the scents.

Behold our Joseph coats of
many colors,
a Fall feast for multi-tasked eyes.
You need not blink
to savor the sights.

Be immersed in the sunshine
of our presence.
Be restored in our embrace.
Rejoice in awesome autumn
and be glad.
Copyright E. Ramos 10/3/2004

Friday, September 14, 2007

Remembering 9/11/2001: Looking back

A few last thoughts about that day six years ago. I dug up my old 2001 journal to do a memory check. Did my 2001 account of the events match the memories I've been posting this past week? For the most part they did, remarkably so. What my memory forgot was the pain and anger that I, and many of my colleagues, felt in the long months following the attack, when our work and agency was changed forever. We were also in grief and it was not being acknowledged, given the overwhelming grief of the victims and families directly affected. I believe all New Yorkers, Americans and the world suffered a great loss on that day. What do you think?

I was surprised to find that I had begun writing that day, September 11, 2001, while we waited for my niece to walk uptown. I share it with you now. You will see the misinformation that we had in this account.

9/11/01 It feels unreal. There is a sadness in my gut, my head aches, my whole body is buzzing. Is this shock? At 8:45 this morning, a plane crashed into the World Trade Center. Minutes later, another plane crashed into the other tower. Within the hour, both buildings imploded. I have no idea how many died. It is incomprehensible. Manhattan is closed off. Bridges, transit, tunnels. We hope they are letting traffic out. Dottie and I are waiting for Damarys to walk up from Houston.

It was a deliberate terrorist act. At least 7 planes were hijacked and were flown into the Twin Towers, Pentagon, other spots in D.C. Other planes were shot down. Hundreds of passengers killed. Fighter jets patrolling the NYC skies. All airports in the whole country closed. It is so unreal. A terrible movie. So much hate. I cannot hate back. I just can't. And that feels right.

L., A., T., A., J., J., J., K., PMc, L. (family and friends) all trying to call, all concerned about me. All worried about me. That feels hopeful. Hundreds of people all lined up to give blood, people coordinating rides for other people. The evil brings out the goodness. And LIGHT and LOVE always triumph.

A wake up call for America. Wake up! You are vulnerable. All your weapons and money and control and possessions and security measures will not protect you. Wake up and SHARE, CARE, let the best in your people shine forth. The only hope. God help us all.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remembering 9/11/2001: The Poems

I share with you today three poems I wrote about this day in the months that followed.

Advent 2001

Autumn lingers in dryness this year,
no gusty tears to wrench her last leaves free.

Trees stand like stalwart sentinels
in brilliant defiance
of the terror wracked thoughts
that stalk writhing spirits
since fall began,
and towers fell
one sad September morn
not long ago.

In oneness we await
Winter’s wise and wondrous advent.
Will she fill drought stricken hearts
with her snowy waters?
Will she fill aching black holes
With her holy hope?

Copyright E. Ramos 11/23/01


Death rains all around me
like ancient fire arrows
from out the friendly blue

When will the one that bears
my name find its mark
and pierce my trembling

A thousand yesterdays ago –
I think it was last month
I basked in freedom’s

I strolled in never-ever land
while cauldrons roiled

Life reigns all about me
like a regal glow
that heals the aching hole
in my heart.

Each sunrise warns of sweet risk
a chance to walk again
to breathe in the sacred

To greet each alien face
with new faith
to meet the mirrored me
with a smile.

Copyright E. Ramos 10/01; 6/02


for Lisa & Me

There are shadows in the rainbow
Did you notice?
You can hear the heavy silence.
It whispers to you
of what was.

Come rain, wash away
the guilty tears
of summer with
drenching drippling.

September has returned
Fair daughter of Virgo
Who dares to rip out her radiance
from your grieving heart?

Her softest breath caresses
wounded memories
that wrinkle
the still surface
of your soul.

Her bountiful blue
and sultry perfume
shout to you
of what is.

Copyright E. Ramos 9/7/2002

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Rembering 9/11/2001: The Hope

On September 12th, 2001, my 60th birthday, I did not go to work. At Mass that morning, I was struck by the readings for that day: all about forgiveness and not seeking revenge. As a former spiritual director of mine would say, there are no coincidences. And the thought did occur to me very soon after the attack. Please don’t let this result in retaliation. The Sharks and Jets song from West Side Story kept playing in my head. “Well they began it, they began it … and we’re the ones to end it once and for all!” For a short time, I lived in hope.

Later that day, to get away from the TV and the horrific replays of collapsing towers and falling bodies, I went to walk in the Botanical Gardens. As I sat outside the Café, on another bright blue day, something seemed strange. It was so quiet. The sky was so alone. Of course, there were no planes, no visions of spear like jets bent on mass murder; for a long time after September 11th, whenever I saw a sleek jet, fear would grip my heart.

But right there at the Café, the stories of goodness began to unfold. A woman coming back to thank a Café worker for helping her the day before, when she was desperately trying to find out if her daughter was safe; her daughter was with her now. It gave me hope: human kindness and compassion were not destroyed after all.

Still later, our family gathered at an upstate restaurant to celebrate my birthday. And my daughter’s gift was a surprise announcement that she was pregnant. I remember thinking that this child should be named Hope. And today, five year old Sierra is a constant reminder that hope for the future is alive and well.

I finally got back to Manhattan; the freedom to walk where I wanted was already disappearing, for security reasons. Sad. Since I worked for a social service agency based in NYC, we were immediately mobilized to respond to the tragedy. First, we were organized into a 24 hour telephone response team to answer calls coming in. We thought most calls would be from victims or their families needing help. But all the calls I took were from people from all over the country wanting to help. HOPE. Goodness seemed to be making a comeback big time.

On the day I returned to work, my daughter called me, urging me to get out of Manhattan; she was scared. I felt so depressed after work I began to walk up First Avenue. A candle light vigil was scheduled and I saw people beginning to line up along the street. But I had no candle. There was a church nearby and I went inside feeling distraught, drained, and left out. I began crying; it was all too much. When I came out of the church onto the avenue, a woman gave me a candle. And I stood, with countless others, of all different ages, colors, faiths, nationalities. We stood shoulder to shoulder along First Avenue singing “God Bless America”. Hope.

A week later, the Annual Westchester Mass for Older Adults was about the only event that hadn’t been canceled. The usual festive occasion was quickly toned down in keeping with the somber times. During the Mass, a young man came into the church. He still had his firefighters uniform on – it was covered with soot. He was a rescue worker, just returned from Ground Zero, and had stopped into church only to come across a hundred or so senior citizens. At once they embraced him, invited him to the luncheon after Mass, where he was the guest of honor and spoke to us about his experiences and the sacrifices so many heroes were making in their efforts to find survivors. Nothing turned out as it had been “planned” for that day but I am sure no one forgot the 2001 Westchester Mass for Older Adults. And the special gift I received from those days, when so many were at their best and gave so unselfishly was Hope.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Rembering 9/11/2001: The Horror

It’s been six years. My next few blogs will be sharing my memories, thoughts and poems of that day that changed our lives forever.

On September 11, 2001, I was working in midtown Manhattan. As usual, I walked through Central Park early that morning, noticing how exceptionally blue and gorgeous and peaceful the sky looked. When I exited the elevator for my office shortly before 9 a.m., I met Annie from the mail room. Annie always had news first and she told me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center tower. Soon everyone on our floor was gathered around the TV. Given that many of us were around on the day of the first World Trade Center attack some years before, I can’t believe we thought it was an accident at first, a small plane horribly off course. Then we witnessed the second plane flying straight into the other tower – and we knew. This was no accident.

People were frantically trying to call their loved ones who worked in the WTC. When the unthinkable happened – the collapse of each tower – a woman, the sister of a man whose remains were never found, began crying and screaming. Surrounded by social workers in shock, trying to comfort her.
In my suite of offices alone, there were three people whose relatives died that day.

And the rumors began. No one knew how many planes were out there, how many cities had been attacked, whether we were still in danger. But we all had the same goal: to get home, to reach our loved ones. In the weeks and months to come, as I worked with victims of the attack, this theme came up again and again – the desire to get home. And it was difficult getting calls through, reaching anyone by phone or cell. Were the roads open? Were the subways running? I guess they weren’t because it seemed like everyone was walking, walking home.

At that time, my niece from Puerto Rico was living with us and teaching at a school downtown. We could not reach her but my daughter Lisa, who lives in California, was able to contact her from there and relay messages to me in midtown Manhattan. Lisa’s birthday, by the way, is September 11th. Mine is September 12th and Lisa was my very best birthday present. September has always been my favorite month. For a long time, I resented the infamy attached to 9/11 and refused to refer to the attack by that date: I called it the WTC attack.

Back at my office, everyone was leaving, going home whatever way they could. We were scared and confused but as often happens, the worst times bring out the best in people. My friend and co-worker, Dottie M. had her car and waited with me until my niece walked uptown to our office from her school, some 60 blocks – in heels. Then Dottie drove us and others home and by that time there was no traffic on the eerily empty roads. As we crossed the bridge into the Bronx, we saw the smoke billowing where the World Trade Center used to stand, proud and shiny in the skyline. We were in shock. But we were going home.

There was a foul stench in the air that day and the next all the way up in the Bronx, miles away. I remember thinking that I was breathing in what was left of victims. It was so horrific that I felt numb. And then a crazy thought began to invade my brain. I was determined to go down to Manhattan. I guess I just wanted some kind of “return to normal”, to go back to work, to help in whatever way I could.

Saturday, September 1, 2007


I am proud of all six of my gorgeous, precious grandchildren. But this blog entry is dedicated to the oldest, Marina age 14. Marina just completed a three week internship at the Bronx Zoo. Half of that time, she spent with us since we live so close to the Zoo. It was a pleasure having a teenager in the house again. It's been kind of quiet since the nest emptied years ago.

Of course Marina is not what I think of as the stereotypical teen, blasting Hip-Hop music, chatting endlessly on cell, U-tube (?) or text messaging. She doesn't even own an I-pod or a cell phone. So it was very easy to be with her, sharing her fresh juicy ideas, hearing her enthusiastic description of her intern experiences, even listening to her doubts and frustrations about working on a group project.

And it was a real joy to see how she grew in those three short weeks. Taking responsibility for rising early (M. is not a morning person!) by preparing her lunch and clothes the night before. Learning the ins and outs, ups and downs of a Zoo career - from mucking out the enclosures in the Children's Zoo and walking the retired miniature horses to taking notes, complete with illustrations, during class. Perhaps her greatest accomplishment was adapting to the "team" approach, not easy for any age.

I was so proud to see her finished project last Friday. All the young people did a marvelous job designing exhibits and building scale models for various animals of Asia, Africa, and North America. Marina's group did the Bengal tiger and her artistic strengths and creativity shone brightly in the lush greenery and neatly painted and sculpted landscape of their exhibit. I believe she learned a valuable lesson - you don't have to be an expert at everything when you work as a team. Just learn to be patient, listen, and utilize each team member's gifts and talents. Skills to last a lifetime.

You know, I think I grew through this experience too. After observing Marina's home school friends this summer and seeing what the young Zoo interns accomplished, I believe that typical teens are more like my granddaughter after all. And that feels much, much better!

For more about Marina's Zoo adventures - and pictures even! - see "my daughter's blog" (sidebar).

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mother Teresa and Faith

I just read a newspaper article about how Mother Teresa struggled with her faith for the last 50 years of her life, with only a 5 week respite. During this time she could not feel or experience God's presence and questioned her belief in God and the value of her life's work. Although I have not yet read the book of her letters and writings documenting her "dark night of the soul", knowing that she went through this gives me a new appreciation of Mother Teresa's profound faith. Ironic?

To be lost in such persistent darkness and then to forge ahead anyway and continue to do the good works you once felt called to - well, to me that is faith personified. And to desire God the way she did, without feeling anything, without being certain of anything and yet, still desire this relationship with God - if this is not faith, what is? I believe that most of the saints experienced these times of darkness, but fifty years? I admire her courage to continue to search her soul and look within. Most of us, faced with such pain, would give up and reach for the TV, tranquilizers, work, cookies, whatever it takes to distract us from the dark truth of uncertainty.

I started this blog with the dark womb of transition and how I felt a bit lost as to where the road leads for me in my post-retirement world. I think I may have a new patron saint of persevering during dark times. Mother Teresa may turn out to be the champion of those who struggle with their faith.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Mall and My Mom

OK I confess. I love to visit the Mall. Yes, the stores may be all the same, wherever in the world you are. Towns forfeit their uniqueness by admitting Malls into their midst. You give up that cute little craft shop on a tiny street with "absolutely no parking" for Gap, Bath & Body Shop, Victoria's Secret, etc. etc. You know what I mean.

So what attracts me? I can't buy more stuff. Where would I put it? And especially now, that I am trying so hard to de-clutter, to free myself from the bondage of material things. I have so many clothes that I can't remember what I have or where I put it. I keep buying duplicate colors of T-shirts. If I wore a different outfit every day, I wouldn't run out of clothes till 2008 or 2009!

So why do I love to go malling? For one thing, at the Mall you can be alone but not really alone. There's lots of distractions from dwelling on painful inner stuff (like getting old) and scary outer stuff (like the terrorist threat). Of course, the Mall brings up the challenge of "too much choice". But that's a good thing. When there are so many lovely things to choose from, I usually give up and buy nothing. Another important consideration, being on a fixed income. And the Mall is exciting. So many bargains. Which brings me to my Mom, who may be my model for malling.

My Mom could find bargains back in the days when "40, 50 and 75% off sales" were unheard of. And she could find bargains in unexpected places. Like the time she led me up escalators, zigzagged through aisles, and maneuvered around racks of dresses to a remote bargain corner in Bloomies. Amazing, given that I get lost in Bloomingdale's just trying to find the exit on the first floor! Yes, Mom would be in heaven (well she's there anyway) with today's bargains. Yet Mom never bought for herself. Her purchases were always gifts for others: her kids, grandkids, friends. She had a cache of gifties, waiting for the right recipient. Even when her gas was being turned off for non-payment of a bill, Mom would shop for her bargains. I felt guilty accepting her gifts when I knew her financial struggles. Then my brother John gave me an important insight. This was our mother's way of expressing her affection, which she had trouble doing in a touchy feely way. After that, I accepted her way of loving us. And I let the kids keep the dollars she would sneak into their pockets.

There's a lot of Mom in me and that includes the part that loves shopping. The Mall. A magical place. I even wrote a poem once. Read on.....

The Mall

The Mall

Ferocious forces lure me to
Cathedrals of consumer goods
to worship what I feign would shun,
to fill my emptiness with stuff
that sucks out all the breath inside

The hypocrite in me may boast
a knowing of uncommon depths.
Yet here I'm pleased to be among
Delusion's myriad delights.

I want to gaze and graze the fields
of nifty knick knacks no one needs,
while festive frocks ensnare my heart
and I succumb again
and buy!
but why?

Why do I love the drone of crowds
that mill about the merry mall?
Why do I frequent fast food courts
and eat contentedly alone
amidst the chattering tables?

Medieval mystery dwells today
in new millennium market fairs
wherever common folk abide
and artisans display their wares,
the marvels of their giftedness.

Don't judge the mall; her shoppers know
there is an awesome presence there.

Just be aware.
Be just.
Be free.
Enjoy the Mall.
And be.

Copyright E. M. Ramos 03/04/2002

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Creating Poetry

I see my poetry as a gift. Not only whatever skill or talent I may have, but each inspiration, each poem is a gift. Like certain music or artistic expression, poetry comes from a deep place within. It is the most intimate form of literature.

As I have noted before, most of my inspiration comes from nature, usually when I am walking. Which means I start memorizing the lines to myself until I can sit and write them down, although I have tried writing and walking at the same time. The poem I posted today "A Summer Afternoon" came to me one glorious day last month, while walking in the New York Botanical Garden. It was a top ten day - blue sky with wispy clouds which reminded me of the angel hair we used to put on the Christmas tree. Then I glanced up and saw in one of the streaky clouds all the colors of the rainbow, not a real shaped rainbow, but a patch of rainbow! I couldn't believe my eyes and began to ask strangers if they saw what I saw. "Get my camera" shouted one man. He saw it. And then, just as suddenly, it was gone. But I was inspired and a poem came. And now that I read that poem over, I see that it is a poem that expresses the deep gratitude I felt for all of God's creation, especially for that beautiful day.

My next step in writing is fun to me. I like my poems to have "beats", rhythm. I think it comes from my Math background. Or maybe my obsessive compulsive nature. And whether I like it or not, alliteration forces its way into my poetry. One of my favorite poets is Gerard Manley Hopkins, so that may explain it. Usually the words feel "right" somehow; but if not, there's always my trusty Thesaurus. Poetry, for me, is like painting with words.

To see my latest poem (which could be a work in progress), read on.

A Summer Afternoon

A Summer Afternoon

The sky is streaked with angel hair.
A rainbow glows where none should be.
Receive a day of untold gifts
to walk along the green graced paths,
brushed by a breath of sun,
to smile as ducks sail soundlessly
and watch the chipmunks play
to hear the hope of frog song
and revel in the caws and coos,
the chirps and tweets of life,
A rainbow melody.
A day to give thanks
for untold delights.
Copyright E.M. Ramos 7/22/2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

Good "Old" Summer

I wrote the following article many years ago for a parish newsletter to the homebound. And wouldn't you know! It's just how I've been feeling lately.

Good "Old" Summer

The season of summer sometimes reminds me of the season of late life --- old age! Just as the heat of summer weighs us down heavily and demands that we slow down, so too the losses of aging weigh us down and slow us up.

When I pause to rest and enjoy the lazy days of summer, I notice nature at peak productivity. There’s almost too much beauty to take in. We need time to see the butterfly on the blade of grass or the tiny flowers growing out of the hollow of the towering oak. Summer is God’s gift to us, an invitation to hang out with His creation and praise Him in His glory!

Can it be much the same with our experience of “old age”? When we need to walk slower because of arthritis, is this an opportunity to see what we once missed as we hurried on by? When friends and loved ones are no longer with us, we are left with our memories, our life stories. And perhaps, like with summer’s bounty, there is too much to take in all at once. One of the blessings of later life is time --- time to consider our own unique story, time to heal the hurts and celebrate the joys, time to grow in wisdom and to simply “hang out” with God.

Ministers to the homebound have a special role to play in this process of life review. They can listen to the stories of those they visit, without judging, fixing or giving unasked for advice. It helps to have a caring companion as we review our life journey with all its pain and laughter, triumphs and sorrows.

And as we discover that throughout our lives, God has been there holding us, supporting us and loving us, even when we were least aware of it, we thank Him for His gift of life.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


It's been awhile since I've written. My Aunt Alice died one week ago today. She married my Uncle Ed, who was my godfather and my mother's only sibling, right after World War II. They lived with my grandparents and great aunt Kiki for awhile while my uncle went to college on the G.I. bill. My family lived downstairs, in the "flat" on the first floor of Kiki's three story apartment house.

I have so many happy memories of those times so long ago. Aunt Alice and Uncle Ed playing pinochle with Nanny and Pop-Pop, with my other Grandma and Grandpa, with my Uncle Val. Accusing Uncle Val of reading the cards in Nanny's glasses. Thanksgivings at the huge table my Dad built in the finished basement. Even after Aunt Alice and Uncle Ed moved to Pennsylvania, they would return each Thanksgiving. I see them around that table: my Dad carving the turkey, my Mom, Nanny and Pop-Pop, Kiki with her home baked pies, Aunt Alice and Uncle Ed, my sister, brothers, cousins and me. Now I am the oldest of that close "first family" of my childhood. And that is a hard place to be.

To learn more about Aunt Alice see my daughter's blog (sidebar).

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Walking in the Dark

I am so grateful to those of you who have commented on my poems, either on my blog, by e-mail or by phone. So your reward is - more of my poems!

Today's poem is another "summer" poem, and one of my favorites from the year 2000. I like to write in seasons, but this poem is about growing older and the journey, as much as it is about summer.

Walking in the Dark

I notice that July slips by
more quickly that her
sister months,
as if the warmth of summer
cannot hold its breath
for long.

The long lit eves I looked to
with such longing all the
begin to dim as darkness
reassumes his righteous

The verdant fields once youthful
with blooms of ev'ry hue and
take on an aging pallor,
reflecting my own graying

Ah, days of light!
So short and sweet
with promise and deceit,
make way for long, dark nights
that strip dreams
to the bone
and thrust us on the way
in earnest.
Copyright E.M. Ramos 7/24/2000

Friday, July 20, 2007

Summer Concerts

Summer concerts, especially on a warm July evening, are among my most treasured memories. Last night, my husband and I attended a Waterlily concert at the Botanical Gardens. At first I was disappointed because the threatening weather forced it indoors. "I come to this place to be outside!" And I love the Gardens so much, it's wonderful when I can hang out there as late as possible. However, the concert, albeit inside, turned out to be a treat, featuring Renaissance era viols and recorders. It felt like I was at the Renaissance Fair.

Some years back, the New York Philharmonic held concerts on the Garden lawn. We would take a blanket and supper, sit on the grass, and listen to music of the masters, sometimes accompanied by overhead jets. We even got to see Shakespeare plays and operas. Being lucky enough to live in New York, I've also enjoyed the summer evening concerts at Central Park.

It seems that this tradition - summer evenings + music + the great outdoors - cuts across most cultures and is a unifying opportunity. There's also a magical feeling attached to the experience for me. I think it comes from the times, many years ago, when my mom took me to the summer Seuffert band concerts in Forest Park, Queens. The band leader was my piano teacher and inherited his position from his father. It was my introduction to John Philip Sousa and classical pieces, along with popular music of the time. The magic was that I truly believed that fairies lived in Forest Park. Maybe they do!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

August First

Many of my poems are inspired by nature. The one I am sharing today came to me during one of my daily walks in Central Park, New York City. And it's another of my "summer" poems from the year 2000.

August First

The worms are drowning
in the earth
and creep up on the path to die
where I
step softly, striving not
to crush them underfoot.

The heron swerves and
dives across
the tranquil skin of Turtle Pond,
dipping in and out
of fertile waters
while I
pause to hear
an unfamiliar cry
buried deep within
the leafy overgrowth.

Who is this new bird
that teases my heart
on a mysty August
Copyright Eleanor M. Ramos 08/01/2000

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Longwood Gardens

I love exploring nature, wherever I find myself. Last weekend my husband, Angel and I visited Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA with my sister and brother-in-law, Kathy and Rich. We met our cousin Janice there. Longwood features scrumptious, colorful gardens, most with fountains. There are wooded paths, meadows, waterfalls and a medieval Bell Tower. (Rapunzel! Rapunzel!) The conservatories are breathtaking. For anyone who appreciates art and nature, it is worth the trip -

My favorite garden is the Italian Water Garden; it has a European feel, dozens of dancing fountains and water cascading down a staircase. I especially love the earthen jars that seemingly breathe water out and over their outer skins, almost like their innermost being was melting outwards. Maybe it's a good analogy of letting God's love for us work out of us towards others. Anyway, it felt great sharing Longwood, especially with first time visitors, Angel and Rich. I like being alone in nature but there is something to be said for being in a beautiful place with others - loved ones, friends, even strangers. You always get a new perspective through another pair of eyes.

And so it was a peaceful, happy trip, despite the encroaching heat wave. We enjoyed a delicious meal at Longwood's fine dining restaurant. My grandson Chase and I agree that eating out is always part of the experience! To close out the luckiest day of the century (07/07/07), we saw the fountain show, complete with colored lights and classical music.

It gives me hope when the extremely rich, in this case Pierre Dupont, use their wealth to conserve a place of natural beauty, create a setting for artistic expression and then share it with the rest of us considerably less affluent folk.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Gift of Nature

Nature is inspiring, renewing and healing for me. I love being out of doors, in beautiful places. Every weekend finds me walking in the New York Botanical Gardens or the Bronx Zoo. And now that I'm retired, I get there during the week too. When I was working full time in the city, I would get off the express bus at the Met on 84th Street and 5th Avenue and walk through Central Park to my job on East 55th Street.

These sacred places of nature have inspired most of my poems. During difficult times (transition again!) I have found consolation just walking and being in nature. I once shared with my friend Sister P. that I could not understand how some people are so unmoved by sunsets, mountain views, flowers, etc. And she told me that my appreciation of the beauty of nature was a special gift. What a lovely way of looking at it. How grateful I am for this gift.

Friday, July 6, 2007

An August Blessing

I have noticed that many of my recent poems deal with "transition". The one I will share today was written in the summer (how appropriate) of 2006, shortly after I retired that June. It deals with my struggle to begin a new phase of my life.

An August Blessing

Peeking through the holes I see
Pieces of the sky
Holy trees
Peaceful clouds
Bless me on the way.

Sitting still upon a bench
Surrounded by a kiss
Quiet rest
Gentle breeze
Calm me on the way.

Melting down the grief of June
As anger bids farewell
August heat
August hope
Heal me on the way.

Clinging to my treasured trove
Unwilling to let go
Cluttered home
Heavy heart
Teach me on the way.

Walking with nowhere to go
Watching every step
Precious time
Prayerful feet
Guide me on the way.
copyright E. M. Ramos 10/15/2007

Thursday, July 5, 2007


Since retiring from my job of 25 years last year, I have been in “transition”, a time of change, darkness and new possibilities. Last week I made a retreat "Embracing Life’s Transitions: God’s Call to Transformation". I remembered other times of transition and how they had shaped me into what I am today. In particular there was the time that the department I headed was dissolved and absorbed into another, without an identity or mission. It was hard. I saw it as a personal failure and felt angry, confused and humiliated. Yet in this painful place I was to be befriended by Sister P., who helped me re-structure our work into Ministry to Seniors, a more effective program that trained hundreds of parish volunteers who reached out to hundreds more homebound persons over the next 15 years. Even more, Sister P. convinced me that one need not be a religious to be called to the spiritual life. And so began an awesome inner journey: retreats, journalling, bio-spiritual focusing – a totally new perspective on how I viewed God and my faith. Such growth!

Transitions are like being in a cocoon, a time of darkness and turmoil, a time for waiting. I am not a patient person so it is very difficult to sit still and wait. But recalling past experiences gives me hope that some day soon I will emerge again into some exciting new form, just like a butterfly. This blog could be the start. 7/5/07

Monday, July 2, 2007

Inner Elder

I am off and running! And that feels great! I want to thank my daughter, Tina for encouraging me to start my own Blog. Beginnings are full of hope, especially when you're older. I see this Blog as an opportunity to share my thoughts, my feelings, my poetry, my experience and my dreams. To keep my computer literate friends up to the minute on my adventures and to meet new people in the exciting world of cyberspace.

Inner Elder is also the title of my self-published books of poetry. My poems best express who I am and I look forward to sharing them.