Saturday, July 27, 2013


Most of you know that my brother Greg has been battling stage IV colon cancer. His fifth anniversary was last week in fact. My darling niece Hadley, thought it might be helpful to bring some peace, and hope, to Greg by asking us all to collaborate on a video to lift his spirits. So all of my siblings, and their families sent pictures, and at Hadley's request "three words" to give to Greg. Greg was very moved by the video, as were most of us. I'll let you judge it for yourself below. I spoke to him a few days ago and he seems peaceful and happy. Please continue to keep him in prayer. He has been fighting a long time...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Silver linings

I haven't had enough time this week to finish off the story I started, telling about how our beach trip began last week. It ended really well, but it didn't start out too great. We left here in two different cars. The idea was for the older boys to maintain some independence, as well as to  keep us all from being too cramped up. They were supposed to follow behind us. John-Paul however left a bag in the driveway, which had Andrew turn back and begin a fatal series of mis-communications- eventually landing us in the middle of Queens... two hours off course... not on our usual route... on a Friday night... while trying to find our older kids... and Fred screaming expletives out the window in frustration. Eek!

Welcome to New York.

Crawling into my Moms place just after midnight,we promptly went to bed. The next morning we awoke to our suitcases needing to be unpacked. Sorting out a dozen people into a summer house is always a dirty job. It wasn't too long before one of the kids mentioned that "something might be wrong with the downstairs bathroom." Fred and I looked at one another horrified. He went to check the bathroom and sure enough the plumbing was backed up. I took a deep breath, packed the kids in the car leaving Andrew behind as the sacrificial lamb, and wished Fred good luck.

Fred can fix anything that can be fixed.

Six hours, two snakes, and a few bottles of drain-o later, the plumbing was still not working. Twenty years of marriage will teach you when your spouse is reaching their breaking point. Fred's was approaching quickly. I started calling local plumbers-  number after number-no answer. I had a sneaky suspicion that the fourth of July holiday, and air-conditioned summer homes had something to do with it. I am all for roughing it,but its just not possible to have twelves people in one house with no working toilet. I even called the local hotel- booked solid, just like the plumbing.

Fred turned to me and said "Ellie, we may need to pack back up and head out." I asked him to give me a minute. He nodded. I walked upstairs into my parents old bedroom, sat down on the bed and looking up said a prayer,  it was quick and to the point:

"Mom and Dad- I could REALLYYYYY use your help right now!If you're listening, can you find a way to sort this out for us? Thanks. Amen."

 My Mom always told me she liked the way I prayed, she said it made her laugh as I reminded her of The Fiddler on the Roof- like God was completely within earshot at all times for me.

As I walked back down the stairs to tell my husband maybe he was right, and we should drive another six hours home, I found myself suddenly thinking of my cousin Bob. I certainly didn't have my address and phone book with me on this trip, but Fred did have his cell, and I might be able to get onto facebook if I could just get a small connection. Was this divine intervention? Via my atheist cousin?Maybe? Perhaps?

In another moment I had two bars and was signing into my account. I clicked on the tiny phone screen and found my cousins name quickly and began my message:

"Bob I need some help we r in Southampton got in last night. Plumbing backed up and Fred cannot fix . We are trying to get a plumber but r really stuck right now . Would it cause big problems to ask your mom if I could stay the night at roses grove if we cannot get it resolved? I know the house is closed up but Fred could easily get in if she said yes ?"

Roses Grove is the beautiful house my grandfather purchased over seventy years ago that first gave my Dad and his siblings and their future generations the Southampton bug. It is a family house largely unchanged  over the years. Within moments came a reply:

I" will call her right now and explain the situation. She adores you and I'm sure it would be okay with her.
I'll get back to you ASAP."
Not ten minutes later came an official answer which taught me a lifetime worth of lessons on what it means to be family:
"My mother just said, "She's a Rogan! Of course!"
"She also said that you should look for blankets, etc. in the chest in the upstairs hall."
Later my Aunt Helen called to tell me she was sorry there wasn't anything in the fridge. What a spectacular lady my dad's twin is and all three of my cousins who checked in to see if we  were all right. And so with a hope, and a few worries still tucked away, Fred and I packed the kids into the cars and drove a mile to the first house I ever fell in love with. The house was all locked up, and we didn't want to break any glass, so Fred had to be extra clever. I won't tell you how he was extra clever, or you might get the idea that you might also be extra clever, and try to sneak into boarded up houses

Take it from me, you're not. 

The house is still all original. It is beautiful to me in every way. It is old, and strong, and sturdy, and full of happy light memories. I went upstairs to set up a few bedrooms while my mind still  troubled by thoughts like 
"What if... someone breaks something?"
 "What if... something gets wrecked?"
 "What if... ( insert catastrophe here)?"

...Then suddenly I heard children laughing. I walked down the wooden staircase following the voices,  into the living room, through the kitchen, and out the back screen door, where the clothes line hangs. My kids were all playing on the old rope swing, laughing like mad as they tried their hardest to steer one another past the tree it hung from. The image was all new as my children were in it, and yet as near and familiar  to me as my own skin.  I must have done that a thousand times as a kid. A smile broke across my face and  every trace of worry disappeared. That laughter was what the house was for, I recalled. This was the place to be happy, and free, and play board games late into the night in the heat of summer, with only the mosquitoes and older-cheating-brothers to contend with. 
This is summer. 
This is family. 

And for the rest of the evening as my older sons sat around the dining room table playing Settlers of Catan, and younger sons found an  original copy of The Absent Minded Professor to watch, with  my little girls were tucked into beds comfortably upstairs in a house their great-grandfather had loved enough to want for his family; I drank it all in. I walked in and out of each room looking at the furniture and the rugs, and the windows, and paint- feeling my parents and Aunts and Uncles, and cousins all with me, surrounding me happily, and it seemed I had stumbled for the moment on a small piece of heaven. I swam in the memories.

I slept happily-and easily that night. 

Next morning Fred contacted a plumber, and with the right equipment we were back in business in no time at all. Ten kids doesn't give you the luxury to linger very much, and so I left that wonderful hous as quickly as I had come. But those memories were, and are magical to me.They are with me now. It was like walking into yesterday and getting a second chance at it. 

I have never been so grateful for broken down plumbing in all my life. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Summer day

Fred was going to be working on a roof today. I said was. The rain made it an office day, happily. We had coffee together while we prayed our morning prayers and listened to it drip, drip, drip. And then we spent about 4 hours writing estimates, and invoices before there was a long enough break to let the girls take a dip. Sarah is almost completely independent in the pool now- and a self taught swimmer- so we are doubly proud.

Just when Fred started to get restless, he remembered that our raspberries were ready for picking. He gathered all the young-uns' together and put gloves on as many hands as he could find, and they set to work. By this evening we had our first batch of raspberry jam for the season. Best part was not having to leave the yard. We should have another batch by the weekend, giving us about 18 jars total. I'm going to try to do a few different types again this year. I am aiming for hot-pepper jelly but have never done it before. We'll see.

I also want to show off the rest of my potted garden, which miracle of miracles,has still not died! I haven't bought tomatoes for a few weeks already, and they look like they'll be coming for a while. Best potted veggie so far was my Japanese eggplant. It is producing like crazy. Potatoes are going swell also.But, its not all bliss. I have one tomato plant that is really struggling to grow. I am being gentle with it, as it reminds me of how I looked when I was pregnant with Sophie- worn and tired! That plant doesn't have to do much to stay in my good graces.

and they're off
best picker of the day award
Lo-lo and Sarah ate far more than they picked
Michael was determined to fill the bowl with or without them
the last of my strawberries
broccoli in full swing-orange tree in the background

hand full of tomatoes every few days now
finished product by this evening

Sunday, July 7, 2013

New York Adventures


We headed to the Hamptons, about ten days ago, for our annual summer break. Even though we've been doing this for the last 20 years as a family (and even more since childhood for me) this year felt different and I wouldn't, couldn't really, commit to it until the last minute.

You see,  I was anxious about being in my Mom's house without my Mom this first time. She loved the place so much. She looked forward to it all year long, and as a happy consequence, so did the rest of my brothers and sisters. For as long as we all can remember Southampton has represented all that was good about family, and summer, and home. I dare say it means a great deal more to us all than the regular house we shared for daily life where beds and kitchens are  basic comforts from the regular monotonous grind. But  it's not like that at the beach. The beach is sort of sacred to us for its ability to wash away the stresses of life, gain new perspective, and give us all new chances at our failings with ourselves, and each other in my family. Like the waves, we all keep coming back, over, and over, and over again. Changing yes, but softly, gently, gracefully from year to year.

And so the thought of going back  was riddled with fears of the grief that those memories might hold of such a recent loss. But a small voice inside of me kept calling out to me too, and I have learned to trust that 'littler' voice a bit more as time goes on. It didn't quite say "If you build it, he will come" but more like "if you go there, they will come."  And so with a few prayers, a very full van, and (thanks to my husbands closet pyromania problem-) a trunk full of fireworks we headed out.

We arrived the first night, after midnight, and I was restless sleeping in my Moms' room. By morning we discovered major plumbing problems that Fred couldn't fix ( and as you all know, Fred-can-fix-anything) which had us moving out overnight. That story is so good it deserves a post of its own, and so I'll try to get to it once the unpacking is done if you'll just be patient!). But thankfully, by the second morning we were back up and running.

For certain, I checked many times to see if my Mom was out sweeping, or puttering around the yard, or folding laundry, and I felt I could almost see her shadow pass me a few times as I joked with the kids and tried to feel 'normal' again in her house. Her presence was in every nook and cranny.

And then it happened. Slowly at first. They arrived. Neighbors stopping to chat, and then nieces, and sisters, and cousins, and friends, and nephews, and in-laws, and brothers, and... they just kept coming. And it was wonderful! And while we all worked through old memories that were difficult and beautiful, we managed to build a few new ones to get us through the present. And that happened so naturally because all our children love each other so too. And those generation are multiplying, and old faces show up in new little ones. People stop and comment 'your little boy looks like your nephew!' or 'your daughter smiles like your sister does!', and traits and similarities are so apparent in us all. And  in that  both my parents were linked to us all again for those few blissful days.

You needn't ask me if we had a wonderful week at the  beach. I took so many pictures, and they tell the story quite well, even if I simply add a few comments for back drops. (But it was wonderful, by golly, yes- it was!)

settling into the bay
shuffle board
Mashashimuet park ( what a mouth full!)
this is ALL of my kids at the playground- no joke!
Matt- like a boss
boogie board
photo bomb compliments of Pete and Joe
Roman emperors for all
Andy Warhol  reenacted by Andy Pete and JP
Jess, GA, and Charlie show up!
Red, White, and Blue
not only did they throw out candy at the parade this year- but also beach balls!
JP was seriously happy to hug that dog!
And just as the fireworks began my sister Celine arrived
sparklers were the warm up show for Fred's firework extravaganza 

He lit them off for almost an hour straight!
Ciara is like a big sister to my girls!
And Liam is a built in buddy!
Uncle Tim played all weekend long!
First a sweet shot of some of the girlies...

Mix in some boys....
And then Aunt Angela added 24 cans of silly string!

she deserved that spray !

Graceann watch out!
Jess and Freddy at their usual 
missing the rest of our siblings for this great shot!
Tommy did not beat a single Rogan in badminton all week- poor kid! 
cousins at the bird sanctuary
be vewwwy quiet!
Uncle Chris supplied the sunflower seeds

my crew at the walks end
Here's Braxton- my sister Celine's grandson!
fast friends
I know you'll be surprised to hear Fred and Celine got into a water fight while filling the kiddie pool
And soon dragged Mark into it...
while Merrick and Peter wrestled on the grass like they used to when they were two!
John-Paul still has a loooonnng way to go to catch his cousins in height!
And my sweet sister Teresa surprised us all !
And added to all the fun as usual
Even got into a watermelon eating contest!

Do you think he likes it?
Anna needed a bath afterwards!