Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Memories

I’ve decided the reason I enjoy Christmas so much is not just the gift giving or the baking or the holiday music. It’s not just the family time or the time off or the hustle and bustle.

Christmas is so special to me because of the memories. More than any other holiday, Christmas conjures up fun times and special moments in my life long gone, but never forgotten.

I remember the family Christmas parties with aunts, uncles and cousins (many of whom I didn’t even know) gathered around the piano singing “Deck the Halls” and “We Three Kings”.

I remember “helping” my dad put up the trains, or platform, as we called it, in the kitchen, assembling tiny houses and arranging miniature people in all sorts of odd configurations.

I remember using that same platform as a fort, hiding under it and dreaming of all the toys I was sure Santa would bring me.

I remember coming home from school and hearing Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis belting out “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” and “A Christmas Song” over the stereo.

I remember the smell of chocolate chip cookies as they baked in the oven (and my mom threatening us not to eat them or we wouldn’t have any on Christmas night!)

I remember helping my father decorate the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, hanging homemade ornaments and stringing gold garland, as my mom readied the turkey in the kitchen.


I remember waking up at 5:00 a.m. and gathering on my sister’s bed, telling stories of Christmas’ past and guessing what time we could safely go down and wake our parents.

I remember rounding the corner and seeing the Christmas tree surrounded by brightly wrapped gifts, and having to wait "patiently" on the steps for my older siblings to wake up.

I remember the excitement of unwrapping each gift, an Easy Bake Oven one year, a Barbie camper another year, always amazed Santa got me just what I wanted!

I remember digging into my stocking and always finding a LifeSavers book, a toothbrush and an orange (always in the heal of the stocking) among other things. (Santa certainly was consistent!)

I remember the disappointment of having to put down all those fun toys for a few hours and going to Mass – the requisite time-out that I’m sure I needed but never wanted!

I remember the anticipation of calling my best friend and running back and forth between houses to see what we had gotten (a practice we still do to this day).

I remember it all – the excitement, wonder, joy and love Christmas brought with it. And for me, THAT is what Christmas is all about.

These days, as a mother, that excitement and joy can be overshadowed by the cleaning, shopping, cooking, wrapping and baking. However, I try and remind myself that I am now making memories for my children; memories that I hope they will hold as dear and close to their hearts as I hold mine.

And so this season I wish you all a Christmas full of fun times, delicious food, family gatherings and precious moments that will carry you through the years.

Merry Christmas to all and to all, Happy Memories!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thankful

What I am Thankful for (in no particular order):

~1 loving husband, 2 little dogs, 3 growing children
~A warm house
~An extended family that loves to laugh
~My slightly overweight, sometimes achy but overall healthy body
~My still-curious albeit occasionally forgetful mind
~The rich delicious taste of chocolate
~The sight, sound and feel of the beach on a warm summer day
~Books, books and more books
~My warm, comfortable bed after a long, cold, stressful day
~Clean water, electricity and the Internet (taken for granted until they’re suddenly unavailable)
~The privilege of being able to read, think and worship who and what I want
~A new day
~The quiet, peaceful stillness of a sleeping household
~The honor of being a mother, sister, daughter and friend to some wonderful people
~My life – as crazy, chaotic and unpredictable as it is.


Wishing you all an abundance of blessings and joy this Thanksgiving Season!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

And so it begins...

My daughter is a senior in high school. *Sigh*

Those of you who have a senior as well, or who have older children, know why I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed, sad, anxious, and stressed these days.

I’ve been through this before, with my son, and yet that doesn’t really matter. I will be going through this again in four years with another daughter, and yet it will still be overwhelming, stressful and sad.

What is “this” you ask? Well, if you must ask then you obviously don’t have a child old enough to be applying to college!

It’s not just the application process that is so overwhelming (although trying to gather and organize the transcripts, SAT scores, letters of recommendations, essays and applications can cause a bit of distress, to say the least).

It’s not just the idea that my daughter will be graduating in nine short months and embarking on a whole new life without me that makes me sad (although coming to the realization that my middle child, the always-smiling, easy-going one, will be moving on to a whole new world with new friends, new opportunities and new experiences does cause me to catch my breath).

And it’s not just the thought of the plethora of bills, tuition payments, shopping excursions and fees that make me anxious (although I am not looking forward to the Bed, Bath & Beyond trip in August to pick up all those necessities, that will cost me the equivalent of one semester’s tuition payment and will come home with me in the car because “who knew the dorm room was so small.”)

No, while all those issues are on my mind and causing me some anxiety and sleepless nights (okay, perhaps more than some), the biggest stress in my life right now is other parents!

Yes, I’m talking to all you parents and well-intentioned adults who just love to talk all about the college application process.

“Ohhhhh, you have a senior.” (Yes. What gave it away? Perhaps the fact that I just told you that, and was not smiling when I said it!)

What an exciting time for you all!” (Exciting? If you think screaming matches, tears and sleepless nights are exciting, then yes, I guess it is! And my daughter isn’t exactly fired up either!)

Have you looked at any schools yet?” (Looked at schools? Wow, there’s an idea. I hadn’t thought of that. We were hoping to just close our eyes and point to a school on the map.)

I’ve heard Ivy League school 1, 2 and 3 are good schools.” (Really? I hadn’t heard that. Well, we’d rather save some money and go to Just-as-Good State Schools 1, 2 and 3.)

What schools are you looking at?” (Like I’m going to tell you, so you can either: 1 – tell me what a “party” school it is; 2 – tell me how your niece hated that school; 3 – repeatedly ask me if she got in to that school; and/or 4 – shake your head in sympathy if she doesn’t get into that school.)

My son/daughter (niece/nephew; grandson/granddaughter) has looked at 25 schools, applied to 15 and has been accepted to 10!” (Well good for him/her! Now I can sleep at night!)

We’ve taken to avoiding cocktail parties and sitting by ourselves at sporting events. We tend to smile and nod when college talk comes up, making vague responses such as “Really?” “Good for them!” and “We’re still looking.”

Our standard response when we’re asked about colleges: “There’s a school out there for everyone.”

Now, if it sounds like I’m a bit jaded, you’re right! I was at a party a few years ago when one woman repeatedly pestered a mom about her son, asking her no less than 10 times (I counted) where her son was applying to college. Despite such responses as “He hasn’t decided yet” and “We’re looking around,” this woman would not give up.

Why? Why do we feel the need to pry? It was obvious that this woman did not want to talk about colleges for whatever reason. Why don’t people get the hint?

My son was at a Christmas party during his senior year of high school There was a large group of other kids, parents, neighbors and various random adults there, gathered to celebrate the holiday season.

He told me that an older woman approached his group of friends and asked them where they were going to college. She then proceeded to pick apart each school mentioned, telling them what was good and/or bad with each choice.

Is this necessary? And is it anyone else’s business? Something my mom taught me comes to mind: “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all!”

These students are stressed enough (and so are their parents)! If you love(d) the whole college application process, good for you! I’m happy for you (and a little jealous)!

But I beg you, please be aware that not everyone is as happy or excited as you are. Some of us are a bit overwhelmed and anxious about the whole process. We’re concerned about getting into a school, picking the right school, and paying for that school.

If you find yourself talking to a high school senior, or parent of a senior, by all means ask how it is going. You can tell right away if that person wants to talk about it further. Take the hint!

And now, I’m off to College Night (in dark glasses and a baseball cap).

And so it begins…


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

18 Years

My mom died 18 years ago today.

It was a Sunday evening. I had just turned 29 and was 14 weeks pregnant with my second child.

It wasn’t a complete surprise – my mother had been diagnosed with Leukemia on New Year’s Eve, 1993, eight months after my mother-in-law died of cancer. (1993 was a very difficult year for us, to say the least!)

My mom was told she had six months to live – she survived almost two years. (Obviously the doctors didn’t know my mother - no one told her what to do!)

Despite the fact that we knew she was sick, her death was still a shock for our family. Mom had rallied once and was actually told she was in remission for a few months. As they say, with life there is hope.

While my mom was battling leukemia, my husband and I were facing our own challenge. After suffering one miscarriage, my husband and I had been trying to conceive for over a year. When we were finally given the wonderful news, we hesitated telling anyone until the required three month date, in fear of another disappointment.

We finally decided to tell my family our good news at my birthday dinner. A few hours before we were to meet, my mom called me. In a voice I had never heard her use, she told me she wouldn’t be able to make it to my dinner, she just wasn’t up to it.

I knew. My mom would never miss a birthday dinner for any of her six children. I knew.

When we were initially told our due date by the doctor, I was concerned. It was such a long way away for all of us. But I hoped and prayed that my mom would be there to see her newest grandchild.

With one phone call, that hope was dashed. I knew that wouldn’t happen.

In the bravest voice I could muster, I told my mom “No worries” and that I’d see her soon. Then I hung up the phone and cried, and cried, and cried.

I was torn. What to do? Call my mom back on the phone and tell her I was pregnant, or wait until we were all together again. I picked up the phone and shared my “good news” with her. In hindsight, it was probably the most important phone call I ever made.

The next day, my mother was rushed to the hospital. She died two days later. Had I not told her at that moment that I was pregnant, I know I wouldn’t have had the chance to tell her at all.

Was it the right choice? Yes, I think so. I hope so. I like to think my mom got a little bit of good news amidst her pain. And I know I felt better knowing that, while she may never meet my child, she knew another grandchild was on its way into our family.

As they say, life goes on. Six months later, my beautiful, sweet, easy-going daughter was born. From the beginning, she was a joy. She loved to be held by anyone and everyone and slept through the night at six weeks (unlike her brother). I have no doubt she was a gift from my mother.

I remember looking at my daughter’s face when she was born and wishing that my mom could see her. And now, 18 years later, I still wish that. I do believe my mom is up in heaven watching over us, but it sure would be nice to have one more moment with her, just to “catch up!”

18 years …

I miss you Mom.



Monday, September 30, 2013

October: Kindness is Your Name




Tomorrow is October 1. I’m sure you’re all aware of that, but I thought I’d point this out to you for a few reasons.

1. It’s the first day of one of my favorite months (not the least of which is because it is my birthday and anniversary month).
2. I have finally accepted the fact that summer is over and I am enjoying these sunny fall days and cool evenings and not missing the beach at all (okay, hardly at all).
3. I can now legitimately wear my sweaters and boots without feeling like I’m pushing the season.
4. It’s my birthday month. (Did I mention that?)

To celebrate this month, I’ve decided to make October my Random Acts of Kindness Month!

If you’ve read my blog, you know one of my mom’s favorite sayings was “Kindness is your name.” October is also meaningful to me because it is the month my mom died so, in her honor, I dedicate this month to fulfilling her wish. During the month of October, my name will be kindness.

I’ve tried to start this tradition in the past but the craziness of life always took over and made me forget. I have discovered that if I don’t write something down, I just can’t remember it. (Sad, isn’t it.)

This time, I’ve decided to jot down one act of kindness I will perform each day in October. I’m also trying not to break the bank with this project because I firmly believe kindness doesn’t require a lot of money. Having said this, my goal is to spend less than $5 (and in some cases nothing at all) each day to brighten the day of someone else – be it a friend, family member, neighbor or stranger.

Here’s my agenda for the month:

31 Acts of Kindness for the Month of October

Oct. 1 – Remember someone in your thoughts/prayers. I am attending a retreat so I plan on keeping friends and family members in my prayers.
Oct. 2 – Leave a “Take What You Need” flyer at your local library/grocery store. Here’s the one I will be posting.Take What You Need
Oct. 3 – Drop off homemade goodies to a neighbor who you feel could use a special pick-me-up, with a note telling them how special they are.
Oct. 4 – Volunteer with a local charity for the day. I volunteer with ConKerr Cancer and will be delivering pillowcases to a local hospital and Ronald McDonald House for those children suffering from life-changing illnesses.
Oct. 5 – Email someone who has helped you in the past and tell them (again) how much their guidance meant to you.
Oct. 6 – Call a family member and tell them how much you love and appreciate them.
Oct. 7 – Compliment a stranger. “Pretty dress” “Nice tie” or “Cute shoes” will cheer anyone up, especially on a Monday.
Oct. 8 – Mentor a child. I am on the board of a local organization that mentors high school girls. We will be holding a seminar today discussing the importance of self-esteem and self-confidence in teen girls.
Oct. 9 – Pay a little extra on your overdue fees at the library and give someone else the gift of a free day of reading!
Oct. 10 – Pick up trash in your neighborhood that’s been discarded on lawns and curbs.
Oct. 11 – Bring in your neighbor’s trash cans on trash/recycling day.
Oct. 12 – Make your kids’ beds today.
Oct. 13 – Spread the word about a friend’s start-up business. (Clover Market, an outdoor vintage, collectibles and craft market in Ardmore, PA is open today from 10-5. Come check it out!)
Oct. 14 – Call a friend and ask how they are, and then just listen. It’s nice to have someone ask about you for a change.
Oct. 15 – Drop off dinner to a friend/neighbor in need.
Oct. 16 – Surprise the kids with a homemade breakfast. If your house is anything like mine on a weekday, breakfast is often a Poptart or granola bar on the run. Make them pancakes or homemade waffles for a nice surprise on Hump Day!
Oct. 17 – Return the shopping cart – yours or someone elses – to its rightful location at the grocery store.
Oct. 18 – Donate canned goods to your local Church or food bank.
Oct. 19 – Say “Yes” when a cashier asks you if you want to donate $1 to a local charity.
Oct. 20 – October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Spread the word and encourage your mother/sister/friend/neighbor (or yourself) to get a mammogram.
Oct. 21 – Tell your family you love them! And give them a hug and a kiss! (And Happy Anniversary to my wonderful husband for 24 great years!)
Oct. 22 – Donate those clothes that don’t fit anymore! Someone will be thrilled with them.
Oct. 23 – Donate a tray of baked goods and/or money to your child’s school/sports bake sale.
Oct. 24 – Thank your mailman with a plate of cookies or a simple note. (Sure it’s nice to be walking the neighborhood in October, but come February it’s the last thing anyone wants to do!)
Oct. 25 – Thank the trash men too! It’s a dirty job but thank goodness these men have stepped up to do it!
Oct. 26 – Tell a parent something good about their child. So often we hear/see the bad about our children; it’s nice when someone shares the positive about our little darlings!
Oct. 27 – Share a positive quote on FaceBook or Twitter.
Oct. 28 – Bring baked goods to a meeting.
Oct. 29 – Surprise someone with flowers, just because!
Oct. 30 – Let someone in front of you in line at the grocery store or in the carpool line.
Oct. 31Happy Halloween! While the kids always get the candy, don’t forget the parents who are schlepping them around the neighborhood! A piece of candy, bottle of water (or adult beverage if they are walking) is always appreciated!

That’s my plan for the month of October. You’re welcome to join me. I’d love to hear your ideas for random acts of kindness. Or, if you’ve done this before, tell me how you felt after each act or how the person you bestowed your kindness upon responded to you. October, kindness is your name! Let’s do this!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Calling All Women: Are You Up for the Challenge?


I was browsing Twitter the other day and came across the following tweet from HuffPostWomen: Dear women: stop doing these 23 things.

This caught my attention for two reasons: I don’t like to be told what to do (and not to do) and I love lists! I had to read further.

Written by Emma Gray, the article was entitled: 23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing I highly suggest you check it out when you get a chance.

Reading it over, I soon discovered that I was currently guilty of doing six of the 23 things on a consistent basis and, at some point in my life time, I have been guilty of all of them.

I won’t overwhelm you with all 23 transgressions but I will share with you my 6 deadly sins:

1. Apologizing all the time. Not only is this number one on this list but it is also number one on my list of things I have been trying to stop myself from doing. A few years ago, some of my friends decided to play tennis, something many of us hadn’t done in years. Our first rule: No apologizing for bad shots. Here’s how that went: “Oops, sorry.” “Oops, sorry about saying sorry.” We couldn’t get through the game without apologizing. If you watch NCIS, you may know Gibb’s Rule #6: Never apologize. While I hesitate to say never, I do say, be aware of this word – and use it sparingly!

2. Bodysnarking – out loud or in your own head. While I initially didn’t know the official definition of bodysnarking (rudely talking about a person’s body – thanks Urban Dictionary), the brief explanation of “stop putting your looks down” resonated with me. I was forever doing this until very recently. What stopped me? My daughters! I realized I didn’t want them to look at themselves as critically as I looked at myself. The old “practice what you preach” lesson rang in my head. It’s a hard habit to break, especially as we get older, but one I am determined to halt, for my daughters’ sake and my own.

3. Obsessively untagging every “unflattering” photo of you that ever existed online. I will take that one step further and say to stop ducking out of pictures in general. I am always the first to volunteer to take the picture so I don’t have to be in it. It was getting so bad that I worried my grandchildren would ask my children if they even had a mother growing up. This summer, I decided enough was enough. Now, I smile, look happy and hope for the best!

4. Holding on to regrets and GUILT (the caps are my addition). Having attended 16 years of Catholic schools, I can confidently say that the whole “Catholic guilt” thing is alive and well and living in my head. I need to get it out, NOW! How? Still working on it. I tend to obsess over remarks and comments that either I said to others, or were said to me, and pick apart every reflection and word. Anyone else have this problem? I do know it isn’t healthy, or productive, but knowing something and practicing it are two very different things.

5. Spending time with people out of obligation. Why do I feel the need to keep acquaintances, even if they’re toxic? I think I’m afraid to hurt their feelings. And I have some unrealistic desire to want everyone to like me. (And if you need further reason as to why I do this, see #4) I finally have decided that my time is precious, and if someone is going to bring me down, rather than lift me up, they aren’t worth it.

6. Being embarrassed about your interests. I’m a bit of a book nerd. I also love to watch In The Kitchen with David on QVC Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings (can you do the Happy Dance?) and I watch a few of the Real Housewives series. There, I said it. And it wasn’t so hard. (Okay, I am cringing a little and worrying about what you all will think of me, but hey, see #4 – I’m over it!) If someone is going to judge me or make fun of me, than I probably didn’t want them as a friend anyway! And I will keep repeating that to myself even if I get snarky comments.

As the article states, women “often drive ourselves insane striving for perfection in our experiences, relationships and selves.” I say enough is enough. HuffPost Women issued a challenge to all women to stop doing these things. I never back down from a challenge. Anyone care to join me?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

My newest obsession

I think I am a closet photographer. I don't have the talent, or creativity, to take professional pictures, but I am becoming a bit obsessed with Instagram !

Anyone else find themselves browsing through this addicting app while waiting in line at the grocery store? Or in the carpool line? Or watching TV at night? Or making dinner?

Yes? Then I have the activity for you. (And if you answered "No" than you obviously have a more interesting life than I do so hey, give me a call and invite me over some time!)

Next week, I will be joining The SITS Girls and their Instagram Photo Challenge !

This is a one-week challenge to share photos, meet others and share our obsession!

I think the reason I enjoy Instagram so much is because the picture (usually) is all that is needed to convey your feelings or thoughts at that moment. Now, you may be wondering why a writer doesn't want to use words. My answer: sometimes words, or at least a lot of words, are unnecessary.

As that great philosopher, Dr. Seuss, once said, "The writer who breeds more words than he needs is making a chore for the reader who reads."

Sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

If you want to join The Photo Challenge, check out the link above.

And if you want to follow me on Instagram, I'm Here !

Happy snapping!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Stop the Glorification of Busy!


Stop the glorification of busy!

I was browsing Pinterest this summer and noticed the above quote, and it just stopped me in my tracks. Finally someone has expressed, in just five words, what I have been feeling and experiencing for years now.

Stop the glorification of busy!

I cannot tell you how many times I have been in a conversation with someone and it feels like we are trying to outdo each other with horror stories of how busy we are.

Stop the glorification of busy!

When I started my blog a few years ago, a friend (a very good friend) called me when she discovered my blog to tell me, specifically, that it must be nice to have the time to sit and write a blog. She didn’t call to congratulate me or tell me how happy she was for me that I had found a new outlet for my passion. No, she called to tell me that she was just too busy to do something so superfluous. (And she has never mentioned my blog to me again.)

Stop the glorification of busy!

I love to read (as you know if you read any of my posts). Books relax me, take me away to other places, teach me, and entertain me. I joined Goodreads a few years ago and use it not only to find new books but also to keep a running list of the books I have read. Recently I was telling a friend of my goal to read 65 books this year – a lofty goal but one I am enjoying accomplishing. Her response to me? You guessed it. Wow, I wish I had the time to read that much.

Stop the glorification of busy!

I think we feel more important if we say how busy we are. I think we feel we are being judged negatively if we respond to the question “What did you do this weekend?” with the answer “Relaxed!” I think we all need to…

Stop the glorification of busy!

I cannot imagine anyone’s life is so busy that they don’t have time for some sort of hobby or outlet. Whether it is exercise, shopping, browsing the internet, social media or reading, most people fill their free time – no matter how long or short that is – with some sort of distraction. Sadly, I think many of us are just too embarrassed to admit it. We fear others will think we are slacking. After all, the busier we are the more important we are, right? Wrong!

A few weeks ago, I spent the morning at my daughter’s swim meet. I chose to separate myself from the crowd and stand on the hill overlooking the pool. What I observed and overheard saddened me. It was like watching ants in action – people never stopped. Very few just sat and watched their kids swim. Moms were buzzing around buying drinks for their kids, folding towels for their kids, organizing pool bags, and generally hovering over children who were old enough to take care of themselves, while Dads were giving their kids advice about flip turns and strokes, checking stop watches for their kid’s times, shouting their kid’s names over and over again while the meet was going on, and slapping the backs of other fathers comparing notes on times and who knows what else.

Then, just as the meet was wrapping up, the cell phones came out in earnest. Suddenly, the air took on an even more frenzied feel, as plans for the rest of the day were being discussed. Baseball games, softball practices, tee times, tennis matches, work appointments – all were being scheduled and dissected. On to the next activity!

When did Saturday afternoon become so exhausting? When did life become so exhausting?

Stop the glorification of busy!

Is anyone else tired of it all? Does anyone else feel like slowing down a bit and jumping off the treadmill – even for just a little while – and enjoying life rather than complaining about it.

I propose a challenge to you. Stop using the word “busy” for the rest of the month. I’m going to try. Can you do it?

Stop the glorification of busy!

Monday, September 2, 2013

A look back at August

Summer is over.

It is Labor Day evening, just a few hours before bed. We are home from the shore with backpacks packed and lunches made, supplies labeled and alarm clocks set for an hour we haven't seen in a few months (three, to be exact), and our mood is mixed.

We are happy (a new year is beginning) and sad (summer is over); excited (oldest in the school) and nervous (college applications looming).

Mother Nature seems to sense our mood, as the day was a mixture of rain, storms and sun.

We spent the day getting ready: shopping for last-minute supplies; packing school bags, checking schedules, doing laundry, and trying to enjoy every last minute of summer.

My goal: gather my August Breakpictures together into a collage. (Easier said than done!)

But I have succeeded. (Okay, true confession: my daughter did it. I'm not that tech savvy yet. But I'm trying).

Here it is:


And, as sad as I am that summer is ending and school and Fall are about to begin, I can't help but smile as I look back at the past month.

I remember the day I sat on the front porch reading, and captured my midday experience.

I laugh at the memory of my daughter and I trying to find a seagull who would stand still long enough for me to snap a picture.

And I smile at the largest photo of my youngest daughter, smiling herself, about to enjoy her favorite donut during our breakfast together.

I so enjoyed participating in The August Break and would encourage everyone to do their own "Break" at some point in the near future. Not only did it make me slow down and capture my days in photographs, but it gives me a wonderful collage of memories that I will have to look back at (especially in February, when the weather, and my mood, are often cold and dreary.)

Wishing everyone a safe, healthy and successful school year!



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Numbers

Numbers - it seems as though our lives are ruled by them. Dates, times, budgets, goals - numbers dominate our lives.

Here is a picture of what my day looks like:


A rather calm day, especially compared to what it will look like a month from now, when school and life begins again!

My day is ruled by numbers: What is today's date? What time is my meeting? What train do I catch? How much is my grocery bill? How many miles should I walk? How many words have I typed?

Imagine a day without numbers? Chaos?

Have you tried living without your calendar or blackberry? Have you gone more than a few minutes and not checked the time? Have you lived off the grid for any length of time?

I gave up wearing my watch one vacation - determined to live in the moment. That lasted about two days and I caved. I just couldn't do it. I'm sad to say I work better with schedules and routines.

Numbers - a necessary part of my life.

Monday, August 19, 2013

White

A few years ago, I finally fulfilled one of my decorating dreams (of which there are many, many more, sadly enough) of finding a little spot in my house just for me. I rearranged the furniture in our bedroom (my husband didn't really need that extra night stand) and was able to claim the corner just for me. And what did I put in it?
This...


Oh, I know, it's not much in the grand scheme of things, but when I'm able to slip away from the rest of the house and tuck myself away in this oh-so-comfy, white chair with my favorite book - it's heaven on earth (or at least Meadowood Road!)

This is my little slice of white for today.


(If you haven't gotten a chance to yet, check out The August Break and see what others are taking pictures of this month. It's well worth the time, and a nice little break in the middle of the day!)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Home

Home - such a warm, welcoming four-letter word.

It’s an especially poignant word for me today, as I just came back from three weeks away and I am readying my son as he prepares to leave for his final year at college.

Home makes me think of my kitchen table, my comfy bed and my nightstand piled high with books. Home conjures up sweet memories of my youth, playing with my siblings and sharing secrets with my sisters.

While the picture below shows our house in which we live and raise our children, our home is harder to capture in pictures. Our home is filled with love and laughter. Our home is a combination of old and new; do-it-yourself and work in progress. Our home contains memories – both good and bad, funny and sad. Our home is not made of stone and siding, but laughter and tears.

Our home is where our family is!

What's your definition of home?



“Every house where love abides and friendship is a guest, is surely home, and home sweet home, for there the heart can rest.” Henry Van Dyke

(Day 13 of The August Break - Home.)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Skyline

We've had beautiful weather while on vacation this year. It's been sunny most days,with a refreshing ocean breeze that cools you off on even the hottest days.

Unfortunately, that weather pattern has broken and these past few days have been a mixture of sun, clouds, rain, and humidity with that ocean breeze still blowing when you are near the water. It's like Mother Nature doesn't know what she wants.

This is the skyline I saw while roaming the island today before dinner:


Will it rain again?

Will the sun break through for a beautiful evening?

Will the clouds hang on and put a damper on our sunset?

Only Mother Nature knows for now...

Monday, August 5, 2013

My gift from the sea

One of my favorite books to read during the summer is Anne Morrow Lindbergh's "Gift from the Sea," and one of my favorite quotes from that book is the following:

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.”

That is my wish for myself, and especially for all of you who have chosen to take the time to follow me. I wish you patience and faith to see what life brings you. Take the time to enjoy these last few weeks of summer.

(Today is Day 5 of August Break. Assignment: close up.)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Let's go ride a bike


When was the last time you rode a bike?

We are at the shore, so we use a bike for everything from exercise to daily transportation to pleasure.

Our morning exercise routine is to ride a few miles on the boardwalk first thing in the morning, enjoying the sun as it rises above the ocean.

We ride our bikes to the beach because parking is next to impossible in a 5-block radius of the ocean, and it's a lot quicker than walking!

And our evenings are often spent pedaling up and down the neighboring streets, looking at homes and imagining the lives of those who live in them.

Interestingly enough, when summer ends, so do our bike rides. We pack them away with our beach chairs and sand toys, never to be used again until next summer.

Been on a bike ride lately? Enjoy!

(Today's August Break assignment was circles, which immediately brought to my mind these bike wheels!)



Thursday, August 1, 2013

August

So, rumor has it that August has arrived. I’m not sure I believe it, and I know I don’t want to believe it. Why is it that March, which by the way has the same number of days as July (I recited the rhyme just to confirm) seems to drag by, and July passes in the blink of an eye?

I have to say, I’m not a big fan of August. As one of my friends put it, August is kind of like one long Sunday night.

Oh, the first two weeks are great: we squeeze in our vacation after swim team is over and before preseason. The weather is still sunny and warm, and the beach, though crowded, is still our oasis.

But come mid-August, my summer is over. My son goes back to college, which requires hours of packing, laundry and shopping, my daughter starts two-a-days for volleyball, school schedules are posted which leads to the dreaded back-to-school shopping, and my calendar suddenly fills up faster than you can say “Where did summer go?”

Having said all that, I’ve decided to change (or at least try) and change my attitude towards August this year.

I recently came upon a site by Susannah Conway called The August Break. The goal is to slow down and appreciate these last few weeks of summer before the hectic days of fall overtake us all.

Each day (okay, in all likelihood a few days a week), I will post a picture on my Blog along with a few words describing either the photo or my thoughts surrounding the subject. My personal goal is to take the time to stop and appreciate everything around me before it disappears (to school, to the weather, to the busyness of my everyday life.)

My wish for you all is to not only enjoy the pictures, but to also take a moment out of your busy life to appreciate the "everyday" surrounding you.

Enjoy! And let's make August last!

August 1, 2013



My daughter woke up a little earlier than usual (which means before noon) and we decided to sneak out to breakfast - just the two of us. We went to our favorite place on the beach - Northend Beach Grill, in Ocean City, NJ. While the weather was a bit off - drizzly and gray, the sun was still peaking out between the clouds above the ocean. It was the perfect way to start the day - catching up and enjoying Mother Nature in all her glory. Happy August!

Friday, July 12, 2013


I love books!

Thinking back to my childhood, I remember reading Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Encyclopedia Brown and Anne of Green Gables, just to name a few.

Growing up, our attic was my resource for new books, since I was the youngest of six and had shelves of titles from which to choose.

When I got older, I moved on to Borders, Barnes and Noble and Atlantic Book Stores.

And don’t even start me on the library. I could (and do) spend hours browsing the shelves of our local library, picking up books on everything from vegetarian cooking to thrift shop finds.

(Truth be told, I’d love to open a bookstore some day, just as soon as I win the lottery and get three children through college! I even have a name for it, but that’s a secret for now!)

Last year, I looked around our home and realized we had way too much stuff; stuff such as three shelves of games (that no one in my house likes to play), two tubs of crayons (why do I buy new boxes each school year?), and three bookcases of books (oops, my bad).

I knew we needed to clean out. Luckily, I found a local children’s charity that accepted our games, puzzles, craft supplies and children’s books, but I had a harder time giving away my books. In the past, when I’ve absolutely, positively had to get rid of some of my books, I’ve donated them to our local library for their annual book sale. (I’ve also dropped them off to a used bookstore in return for credit and gotten more books. I know. I have a problem!)

But this time, I came up with another idea. A brilliant idea, if I do say so myself! I decided to start my own book exchange!

And thus, the Book Koop was born. (You don’t even want to know how excited I was when I came up with that name!)


I purchased a plastic container, filled it with the books I wanted to share, put it on my covered front porch, and sent out the following email to family and friends:

“I have a collection of books just sitting on my shelves collecting dust. I hate to see books sit and would rather share them with others. With that thought in mind, I decided to start a book exchange - The Book Koop…
I have filled it with books that I would like to share with all of you. Please feel free to take a book if you are in need or if any look interesting…
If you'd like to leave a book (or two), please do. However there is no need to leave a book if you take one. I will try and check the bin and update the list of books available, so you don't waste a trip if nothing looks interesting…
I don't need the book back (and would suggest you only "share" books that you don't want back as well) so feel free to keep the book unless you want to pass it on to others when you are finished with it."

I didn’t get much feedback at first, and thought briefly of closing down, but when I went out to check The Koop after a month, I noticed quite a few of my books gone, and some new additions to the container. Success!

I recently got an influx of books from one neighbor and am thinking of expanding!

And, interestingly enough, I have had quite a few workmen come and ask about it, since it’s sitting next to my front door.

Having it outside makes it easy for everyone. Friends can come up anytime and pick up or drop off a book, and I can share my love of books with others without cluttering up my house. (Although I have a hard time saying books are clutter!)

I still hit the bookstores, although there are fewer and fewer to pick from these days, and I can’t resist the library, but I’ve also picked up quite a few new books from The Book Koop that I may have never looked twice at when shopping in a book store by myself.

So, while it’s not quite the bookstore I’ve dreamed of opening, The Book Koop is a pretty good start.

I love books!



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Summer Reading

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is catch up on my reading. (Ok, true confessions: I really don't have to "catch up" on my reading, as I do plenty of reading throughout the year. However, for whatever reason, I don't feel as guilty spending an afternoon reading during the summer as I do in the winter months.)

Anyway, I've spent the past few weeks at the beach, surrounded by sand, family, friends and some great books.

Here is what I've added to my "Read" list on Goodreads and, since I dislike long reviews, my very brief opinion of each book.

*The Orphan Train - Christine Baker Kline - A fascinating lesson on this sad era in US History; quick and interesting read.
*Tattoos on the Heart -Gregory Boyle - A must read about a priest, LA gangs, and Homeboy Industries; need I say more?!
The Rescue ~ Nicholas Sparks - A good beach read; typical Nicholas Sparks.
All the Summer Girls - Meg Donahue - Another good beach read, especially since it takes place in Avalon, NJ.
The Silver Star - Jeannette Walls - Walls tugs at your heart strings again with fiction this time when recounting two sisters searching for family.
*Beautiful Day - Elin Hilderbrand - Family drama surrounding a wedding on Nantucket; Hilderbrand at her best.
Sisterland - Curtis Sittenfeld - I just couldn't connect with the characters in this book; good but not great.
The Execution of Noa P. Singleton - Elizabeth L. Silver - A bit long and drawn out, but worth your time.

Warning: Many times I may like/dislike a book depending on my mood and not necessarily on the book. And, let's be honest, everyone has different opinions of what they feel makes a good story.

For that reason, I'll simply tell you that, while I enjoyed all of the above books, the ones with the asterisks were my favorite and ones I gave either four or five stars.

Next on my to-read list:

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls - Anton Disclafani
The Shadow Tracer - Meg Gardiner

I'm always in search of new authors/books, so suggestions are welcome! What are you reading this summer?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Put a fork in me. I'm done!

Put a fork in me, I’m done!

I’ve reached my limit. I’ve had it. I have left the building.

(Can I think of any more clich├ęs?)

I’m at the end of my rope. I don’t feel like doing this anymore! (I guess I can!)

It’s June and I have officially checked out! (Okay, really… that’s the end of them!)

Which would be fine if THERE WASN’T ONE MORE WEEK OF SCHOOL LEFT!

And, to make matters worse, it is possibly the most stressful week of the entire academic year. Yes, that’s right – FINALS!



I know this is nothing new. I remember taking finals when I was in high school, listening to the those lucky youngsters who were all but finished school (as if watching movies and cleaning desks was on the academic calendar) running outside my bedroom window, playing and getting ice cream from the ice cream man, while I sat sweating in my room, trying desperately to memorize a semester’s worth of work in one night!

Oh, there was a brief respite in my academic career. I graduated high school and college, worked a “real job,” got married and had my babies. June was looking good again. The days were longer and warmer, and the promise of summer made the month one of my favorites.

And then those babies grew up. And started school. And started taking tests and exams. And I suddenly feel like that high school student again, sweating through my days and nights re-learning how to conjugate Spanish verbs and trying to remember the dates of the Mexican-American War. (It was 1846-1848, in case you can’t remember either.)

Yes, I know. I am not the one in school, taking those finals. But, if you’ve ever lived in the home of two children (girls, no less) studying for final exams, you know the whole family suffers.

Tears, tantrums and tirades fill the house, and that’s just from me.

It’s exhausting, and I’m not even taking the tests.

Do we really need to test these kids on things they learned in January, when they can’t even remember to make their beds in the morning?

One more week – that has become my mantra every morning when I wake up the girls.

One more week – and then homework and test and schedules will be a thing of the past (at least for a few months!)

One more week – I can make it, can’t I?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mom Said


My mother had a saying.

Well, she had many sayings: “pick up your feet” when someone was trying to brown-nose her; “break every bone in your body”, usually directed at my brother or the dog when they were acting up (ironically she never laid a hand on any of us but that threat was good enough to stop any goings on), and “this room is a pigsty” – self-explanatory and usually directed at the bedroom of my sisters and I. But one of her favorite sayings (and I’m sure the one she would most like to be remembered by) was “Kindness is your name.”

Sometimes, she even sang it- “Kindness is your name.”

This was always said when one of us (she had six children – not including the dog or my Dad) was gossiping about someone. Of course, at the time, we never appreciated hearing that little ditty. We would be ranting about a teacher who did us wrong, or a friend who mistreated us, and my mother would listen patiently and usually end our tirade with those four little words, “Kindness is your name.”

Sometimes, she wouldn’t even be involved in the conversation. I would be deep in a discussion with a friend about a girl in school who had the nerve to commit some atrocity against me, and she would float by, carrying a load of laundry, and simply sing her little admonishment, “Kindness is you name, Kathleen.”

It got to the point, since I was the youngest, that she didn’t even have to say – or sing- the words, she simply hummed the tune, and I would know what she was saying.

I could never understand why she couldn’t see my point. Why couldn’t Mom agree how awful this person was to me? (Keep in mind that, at 13, “awful” is a relative term. Grievances could range from looking at me wrong, to buying the same shirt as I had on, to not calling me when they said they would. You know – terrible, earth-shattering crimes in the teenage world.)

My mother rarely talked negatively about anyone, and certainly not in front of her children. In fact, the big joke in our family, to this day, is to shush anyone who is speaking poorly about someone else because “they could be listening in the windows.” (Never mind that the person may not even live in the same state. According to my mother, you never know! Wise words!)

Sadly, my mom passed away much too young and too soon for us. And, while we miss her every day, her spirit lives on. When I wrote to my family and asked them about their favorite “Mom sayings” I opened a floodgate of memories.

We remembered the good (“Things always look worse at night” – a saying I tell my children, and remind myself of often); the bad (“I could wring your neck)” and the funny ("Are you smoking Dutch cleanser?" – which I still don’t understand but was used when we asked to do something that was totally unreasonable.)

My son was just a toddler when my mother died, and my girls never met their grandmother, and yet, in many ways, they do know her. They know she loved her family (Her last words to us, “Stick together and take care of your father”), she loved the beach (“Salt air cures everything”) and she believed in, and expected, goodness from her family. (“Kindness is your name.”)

My mom’s words continue to resonate with me, conjuring up memories and life-lessons that she taught me through my early years. And while she is no longer with us, her words will be passed on and will continue to teach her grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, for years to come.

And that is a pretty good legacy for anyone to leave!

Happy Mother's Day Mom! We miss you always!







Monday, February 11, 2013





Lent is coming. Yes, it’s that time of year.

For those who aren’t familiar with Lent, it is the forty days leading up to Easter in which we concentrate on how we can become closer to God; how we can become more mindful of God and our relationship with Him, with a focus on prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Unfortunately, for many, Lent simply means denial. What is the most asked question this week? “What are you giving up for Lent?”

Over the years, I’ve given up chocolate, diet coke, cursing, yelling, beer, and gossiping. (Wow, reading all these vices in print makes me look like a bit of a derelict!)

My children always use the same line – “I’m giving up school.” Or “I’m giving up homework.” So predictable!

My husband has joined us at times, giving up snacks or desserts. (He uses this time as a way to get back into shape before spring. Who am I to judge?) Not being Catholic, he doesn’t abstain from meat on Fridays, which has led to a few uncomfortable meals during Lent, with four pairs of eyes glaring at him as he eats his cheeseburger!

When discussing Lent with my children, I often stress that it isn’t always about giving up something. It can be about starting something positive. I tell them to think about turning a negative (no snacks) into a positive (3 pieces of fruit a day).

I like that idea. Rather than feel like we are depriving ourselves of something, why not feel like we are rewarding ourselves with a better diet or better behavior? Rather than focusing on what we are doing wrong, let’s focus on what we can do better to become a better person and closer to God.

Last week, I was sent a link to two great sites that discuss some different ideas to toss around with your family this Lenten Season. Both focus on making Lent a joyful time of devotion and anticipation rather than deprivation and dread.

Busted Halo, (www.bustedhalo.com) an online magazine for spiritual seekers, has posted a calendar on their site entitled Fast, Pray, Give. It offers daily prayers and practical ideas for fasting and almsgiving.

It encourages readers to keep at it, even if there are days that we forget or fail in our devotion. “The idea isn’t to be perfect but to continue on our path, so if you slip up one day, don’t give up; simply begin again the next day,” say the editors.

The other site that I found was LentMadness (www.LentMadness.org). Similar to March Madness and the basketball brackets, LentMadness can be described as a showdown of Saints. Started by two Episcopalian priests who wanted to lighten up the whole mood of Lent and get people a little more excited about God, this site posts two saints and allows viewers to vote for their favorite. The “Field” starts with 32 and, in keeping with the March Madness theme, narrows down to the Saintly Sixteen, the Elate Eight, the Faithful Four and finally the winner, who receives the Golden Halo.

According to their website, they are hoping LentMadness will “allow people to get to know some amazing people who have come before us in the faith and remind one another that there’s no reason for a dreary Lenten discipline.”

Last year, about 50.000 people visited the site!

Why not change things up a bit this Lenten season? Check out some of the sites mentioned, or think up some positive changes you can make in your life. Rather than ask, “What are you giving up this Lent?” let’s ask each other “What are you doing to change for the better this Lent?”

(And let me know what your Lenten resolutions are. I’d love to hear about them.)

As for me, I’m planning on checking in with the “Fast Pray Give” calendar daily. I like the idea of mixing it up each day.

I am also planning on giving up Social Media for Holy Week. This could be a tough one, as I am a bit addicted to Facebook. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 28, 2013

This I know to be true... of myself

I read somewhere (don’t ask me where; I read so much I can’t remember sources anymore. This is normal, right?)

Anyway, I recently read an article in which the author asked, “What do you know about yourself?”

I’m sure it was a question posed to someone famous, or at least someone whose biggest accomplishment of the day was NOT completing 5 loads of laundry.

Back to topic: I started thinking about what I’ve learned about myself over the past 40-something years, and came up with the following list, in no particular order:

1. I love being home.
2. I am comfortable being by myself.
3. I love the quiet.
4. I work better by myself or in smaller groups.
5. I don’t handle deadlines well.
6. I need my surroundings to be in order. (For me, a chaotic environment leads to a chaotic mind.)
7. My house is neat, not necessarily clean – and that’s okay with me.
8. I can say “No” and understand it is an acceptable and complete sentence.
9. A little guilt is good for me.
10. I can’t please everyone.
11. Not everyone is going to like me, and that’s okay. (Still working on this – I know this in my head, but my heart often has a hard time accepting it.)
12. I can’t do everything, and I won’t feel guilty about that.
13. When people say to me, “You do such a good job, I just had to ask if you would…” they really mean, “You’re a sucker and never say no to anyone, so would you please organize…” In this case, it is perfectly okay to say “No.” (See #8.)
14. I don’t do drama and I don’t play games. If you want something from me, ask.
15. I don’t like people who aren’t nice.
16. I can’t worry about what others think of me.
17. I can’t control everything. (I can’t, right?)
18. Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.
19. I am not perfect, and never will be. (But unfortunately, I am still trying.)
20. I have to put myself first sometimes, in order to better serve others. And that’s okay!
21. I like myself… I really do!

It’s an incomplete list, as I’m sure there are other things I know of myself, but it’s a start.

What do you know about yourself?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Century-Old Tradition Continues

Long before Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream speech” and the idea of a “Day of Service” became popular, eight women in Philadelphia had an idea. In October, 1914, surrounded by a depressed economy, high unemployment, and a war erupting in Europe, these women decided they needed to help alleviate the suffering here and abroad.

Thus began The Emergency Aid of Pennsylvania, an organization that, while tweaked throughout its history, has lasted close to 100 years.

The Emergency Aid of Pennsylvania (EA) began in a tiny house on Walnut Street in Philadelphia. Those eight women enlisted the help of family and friends to raise money, clothes and supplies and ship them overseas, to European countries in need.

Then, when the United Stated entered the War, they set up a Home Relief Division, a pre-cursor to the Red Cross, to help with emergencies closer to home, including outbreaks of flu and polio.

They sold over $68 million in war bonds.

EA established the first girls’ trade school in Philadelphia to teach unemployed women the skills they needed to obtain jobs.

And they continued their work overseas, opening service clubs for local servicemen and serving in the war zone in any way they were able.

During World Ward II, The Emergency Aid of PA had over 3,000 members, with women serving as hospital volunteers, raising funds for programs in the area, and researching projects they felt needed their attention and help. It became one of the largest women’s organizations in the Philadelphia area.

Throughout the years, EA has met each crisis that arose with speed and efficiency. Their policy was to render service until another agency was able to take over.

By the early 1980s, many of the programs started by EA had been taken over by professional organizations, as Philadelphia had more than doubled in size.

With decreasing membership, and fewer volunteers, EA decided to become a foundation in 1984. However, its members were determined to keep the spirit and tradition of its past alive.

With this in mind, The Emergency Aid Foundation of Pennsylvania was formed, with a mission to “improve the lives of women and children by providing grants to effective non-profit organizations and to encourage education, leadership and community service in young women through mentoring and by awarding scholarships.”

The Foundation has awarded over $1.7 million in grants since it was set up in 1984, with emphasis on those organizations that aid women and children.

It continues to encourage young girls with its Founders Award, which is given each year to approximately 20 9th grade girls in high schools in Southeastern Pennsylvania who have been nominated by their principals or school counselors and display high levels of service and leadership in their school and community.

The girls spend the next three years participating in seminars sponsored by EA on such relevant topics as self-esteem and time management, as well as continuing their service hours with trips to local Senior Centers and the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia.

Since its inception, over 500 girls have received this award and benefitted from the generosity, knowledge and tradition of this century-old organization.

EA has also awarded over $425,000 in scholarship over the years to 140 Founder Award recipients to help pay for college.

A Mentoring Program was set up in which scholarship winners are paired with an EA member to help guide and mentor them throughout their college years and beyond, forging friendships that will last a lifetime.

The Emergency Aid of PA tradition, started almost 100 years ago by those eight women, continues to aid those in need in the Philadelphia area, and beyond.

To find out more about this inspiring organization, please check out its website: www.eafoundation.org.





Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Just do it already

Have you ever put off doing something? And put it off! And put it off!

Oh, you have a myriad of reasons – too busy, little interest, too overwhelming, too scary. And the more you put it off, the “bigger” this thing becomes in your mind. It’s like a snowball rolling down a hill, becoming larger and gaining momentum, and you fear it like nothing else.

Then, when you can put it off no longer; when you can no longer come up with a good excuse; when the deadline has passed and the time has come; you tackle this huge thing… and you accomplish it in short order with no issues.

I cannot tell you how many times I have done this. Whether it is making a phone call I dread or cleaning out a closet or finishing a project, for some reason I will delay and delay, and the issue will become bigger and more intimidating in my mind than it really is. It doesn’t matter what it is, or how big or small it may seem to the outside world, there are just some projects that stymie me.

Yet once I finally tackle it, I often realize it really wasn’t that bad, and I wonder why I was so worried about it in the first place.

This is what happened to me recently with my writing. A few months ago, I started researching other blogs to see if I could pick up tips. And the more I read, the more insecure I became about my own writing. Instead of helping me, it hurt me. I started to doubt myself. I stopped writing. And the longer this went on, the larger this doubt became. This snowball was really picking up speed, and growing in size.

I made up excuses: kids need help, house has to be cleaned, volunteer work taking up too much of my time – anything to avoid writing.

And then a friend asked me to write something for an organization I am involved with. I respect this person, and truly believe in this group, so I knew I was going to have to step up to the plate (or sit down at the computer, as the case was) and focus.

And, after a few anxious moments and false starts, it all came back to me. Words starting flowing and sentences started forming. In a few short hours, I had a solid story I was proud to send to my friend.

That snowball melted and I was back at the computer. And here I am again… writing and enjoying it.

Lesson learned: tackle the projects that worry you first, before they become a bigger issue than they really are.

Don’t delay. Even if it’s just a small step, start. Most times, it’s all in your head.

And stop that snowball at the top of the hill, when it is still manageable! We can do it!