Choosing Joy on Mother’s Day

Choosing Joy on Mother’s Day

All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.—Abraham Lincoln

Mom, Debbie & me

Mom, Debbie & me

Grandma Joyce & Baby Boinkers

Grandma Joyce & Baby Boinkers

Mom & Dad in finery

Mom & Dad in wedding finery

Grandma's lap is best!

Grandma’s lap is best!

Happy 1st Birthday Adam & Alex!

Happy 1st Birthday Adam & Alex!

Aunt Ellie, Aunt Bev & Mom. Sisters!

Sisters! Aunt Ellie, Aunt Bev & Mom

Happy 60th Mom!

Happy 60th Mom!

My your pie is yummy Joyce (Debbie, Mom, Carmen, Bev)

My your pie is yummy Joyce (Debbie, Mom, Carmen, Bev)

Story time with Grandma

Story time with Grandma. (Adam l, Alex r)

It’s the 20th Mother’s Day without my mom Joyce. TWENTY YEARS. That’s a lifetime. Enough days woven together to raise kids, change careers, move and relish life while tromping through the daily grind. All spent without advice and support from the woman who loved me unconditionally.

I think Mom would say I’ve done a good job of raising my family. She told my sister I was a “good little mother” in the early years of parenting our twin sons. Thank you Debbie for sharing that with me. I’ve held onto that gift more than you can ever know, replaying it over and over when the bumps were especially rough.

Do I think of Mom every day? No. Oh sure I see our birthday photo that lives atop my jewelry chest each day as I make the bed. I say a silent hello. But I don’t always pause to truly think about her. The many ways she lived a rich, spiritual life. How she dealt with a devastating diagnosis that almost took my sister’s life. Of a husband who successfully fought mental demons while she raised her first-born, worked full time and ran the household. Sitting bed-side by her sisters as they were dying. Watching her son struggle with such depression it almost ended badly but through the grace of God, come back to the light.

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The Soundtrack of My Life

The Soundtrack of My Life

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.—Berthold Auerbach, poet and author

I can chart tMusic of My Life2.JPGhe course of my life through song from the earliest days when my parents’ hi-fi played Oklahoma, The King and I, My Fair Lady and the Sound of Music. Through teen years, college, marriage, raising kids, business started and shuttered, parents departing too soon, music has been my balm and touchstone to the times mere memory obscures.

My first album was Carol King’s Tapestry. Each song seemed to express the longing of my 13-year-old heart for love and adventure. When I was an insecure girl searching for lasting friendships, You’ve Got a Friend promised a BFF wasn’t far off. Natural Woman gave me hope of future beauty and love. Tapestry spoke of a life fulfilled and no fear of the great beyond. Heady stuff for a tender age. My much loved LP, cover scratched with age now, traveled to college, New Hampshire and Syracuse. Yet the words remain timeless as I listen today on my iPad or phone.

Peace Train Concert 2014

I knew Mark was my musical soul mate through our mutual love for Harry Chapin and Cat Stevens— troubadours singing about everyday moments, family and the search for meaning in life. As newlyweds masquerading as journalists, we sat 10 feet from Cat Stevens turned Yusuf Islam in a press conference on his trip to Syracuse. In 2014 we had the transcendent experience of Cat/Yusuf’s first US concert tour in 20 years, part of the Boston peaceful boomer crowd singing along to the familiar lyrics.

Our wedding first dance was to Cat Stevens’ Foreigner Suite. Pre-wedding, Mark would sing the words to me as we practiced in our living room, “The moment you walked inside my door I knew that I need not look no more…” Father & Son is the primer for advice given to sons eager to explore the world. Adam and Alex have heard the lessons distilled from Cat’s wisdom many times over.

Amazing Grace comforted me through pregnancy, raising babies and our parents’ funerals. The simple melody and words are so consoling although I do not think myself a wretch. I sang this softly so often while carrying the boys and then as a lullaby rocking sleepy babies. Later walking behind caskets, tears choking my throat. Read the rest of this entry

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Unconditionally Mom–LTYM

Unconditionally Mom–LTYM

“I raised my sons to be extraordinary, to see possibilities, not roadblocks.”—Vicky D’Agostino, LTYM 2015

On a snowy February day I made a pivotal decision in my journey to becoming a bona fide storyteller.  While stirring my grande pike’s at Starbucks, I saw the poster announcing auditions for the 2015 Listen To Your Mother Baltimore Show  to be performed on  May 9. Listen To Your Mother (LTYM) “features live readings by local writers on the beauty, the beast, and the barely-rested of motherhood, in celebration of Mother’s Day in over 40 cities across the U.S.”  I auditioned…drum roll … I was in! Part of a posse of cast sisters who share the common bonds of motherhood–as in we have mothers, are mothers, do not or do want to be mothers.

Through rehearsals I came to know these fine women in a very intimate reveal of our souls. It was View More: http://jensnyder.pass.us/ltymamazing how quickly the walls came down and the hugs flew as one by one, we listened with awe, empathy, tears and laughter at our stories. We are a vibrant, collective voice of our intensely beautiful, poignant experiences of mothering’s joys and struggles. Some of our stories are gut wrenching. Some are hilarious. Some are both.

On the BIG DAY, our families and friends sat in the auditorium waiting eagerly for our shining star moment. There were plenty of laughs pre-show as we gals gussied up in the dressing View More: http://jensnyder.pass.us/ltymrooms. Lovely producers Taya and Arlene kept us focused and pumped up. Arlene gave us a most special blessing as we held hands in a circle of love that our words would find root in the hearts of our audience who most needed them.

When my turn came at the podium, I was uber-emotional since my sons were in the audience with my darling husband, future son-in-law and good friends. It was the first time I publically shared Adam and Alex’s coming out story. It is at turns raw, honest and funny. I got through it forgetting everything I’d learned about public speaking/performing. But that didn’t matter because it is my love story for my boys. Momma Bear on the scene, tender heart and all.

View More: http://jensnyder.pass.us/ltymWith the utmost respect and love, thank you to my LTYM 2015 cast sisters Heather Pulliam Belcher, Elisabeth Budd-Brown, Lisa Brown, Kim Fossum, Heather Leah Huddleston, Laura Ivey, Arlene Jackson, Taya Dunn Johnson, Taylor King, Kristi Koumentakos, Anne Mathay, Katie McLaughlin, Michelle Reale-Opalesky and Michelle Smith. Special thanks to LTYM founder Ann Imig for your brilliance and passion to create an organization that gives motherhood a voice. Jen Snyder, thanks for your keen eye and elegant photography that captured our day for eternity. You women lift me up with your bravery, grace, wit, wisdom and compassion. I treasure each of you!

View More: http://jensnyder.pass.us/ltymSo here, for your viewing pleasure is our 90 minute show. FYI, this show was on May 9, prior to our excellent U.S. Supreme Court’s national decision on June 26 legalizing gay marriage—#LoveWins! I never doubted it for a minute.

 

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#LoveWins

#LoveWins
#LoveWins

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family.U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Edwards

I am humbled by the beautiful words of Justice Anthony Edwards in his written opinion for marriage equality.

The Happy Couple!

The Happy Couple!

               “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people becoming something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

               The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.”

This is a historic day for the LGTBQ community and all the families who have long waited for the right of our loved ones to marry whomever, wherever they wish in our United States. This mother’s heart always believed in the wisdom of our Justices to honor the rights of Americans. For my sons Alex and Adam, my future son-in-law Adam, this is my dream for your lives come true. Not same-sex marriage—just mWedding ringsarriage. Our family will stand along side you, proudly witnessing your loving commitment to cherish, honor and love each for all time.

Now let’s plan that Adams Family wedding. Time’s a-wastin’!!!

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The Zipper to the Fat Suit

The Zipper to the Fat Suit
The Zipper to the Fat Suit

“If diets worked, we’d all be thin already.”Sandra Aamodt, neuroscientist and science writer

Several years ago my friend Janelle and I were having another late night work conversation, long after we should have gone home but for the crushing workload. We were lamenting our weight and body conditions. This gorgeous, 5-foot, dark haired beauty who looked pretty tiny to me uttered a phrase that captured my 40 years of searching for the perfect body. “Vicky, I’ve been looking for the zipper to the fat suit all my life too.”

Wham! Just like that, one simple sentence struck my soul center like lightening. All my years of dieting, exercising, self-loathing, success on some programs, epic weight swings were summed up in one thought. If only I could find that zipper…

Little Vicky

Jack-o-Lantern smile!

As I look at old black and white photos, I see a normal size 7-year-old kid with a pixie haircut, deep dimples and sparkling eyes. It would be convenient and fashionable to blame my mom (and Dad) for my early weight issues. Dad was a man short on words of love, but knew how to share his affection through cakes, cookies and Trevalino Bakery’s jelly doughnuts. He worked the night shift at the paper mill and brought me treats to discover in his lunch box each morning. Even now Henry’s Hostess fruit pies whisper love to me though he is gone.

As I approached puberty, my Mom worried I was getting plump. I overheard her tell my dad to stop bringing me treats. She started monitoring my snacking, calling out from our living room, “Tory, what are you getting?” as I rummaged for evening munchies. She suggested I eat a piece of fruit when her delicious pies, chips and Dad’s booty sat on the counter. So I learned the art of sneak eating, stashing forbidden loot stuffed under my shirt as I made a beeline for my room, waving an apple in my hand as I hustled by Mom.

But I won’t blame my mom.

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Getting Married

Getting Married

I promise to love, honor and cherish you all the days of our lives.

Wedding ringsMy son is getting married! On his wedding day, there will be vows exchanged, rings slipped happily on fingers, the traditional mother and son dance, cake cut and flowers gracing tables. Tears dabbed with tissues passed among the well-wishers. My joy will blow the top off my happy meter. My husband Mark and I will pose for photos with the newlyweds and family members who have come together to celebrate Adam’s joy and the beginning of his lifetime entwined with his beloved.

If you’re picturing the scene, you might be seeing my son resplendent in his tuxedo and the bride on his arm in her snowy white finery. But if you know our family, you know the true picture. On my Adam’s arm, is his Adam, aka Marv, also resplendent in his tuxedo. That’s right, my son is about to become half of “The Adams Family,” as my cousin Janice lovingly joked.

For those of you who have religious views about marriage ordained by God, I challenge you to open your minds and hearts. Love is colorblind and gender neutral. Until the day I die and get the chance to talk to God in spirit, I believe a benevolent God wants all of her children to find happiness and love in a partner. Woman and Man, Woman and Woman, Man and Man—doesn’t matter.

What does matter is the cherishing love between spouses. Nurturing each other through the joys married life brings and the sorrow that inevitable comes from life events. Sickness and health. You hope the scale tilts more toward health, but there are no guarantees. Speaking from experience, I am married to a person who honors our wedding vows 100 percent. Mark honors me as his partner, his equal and holds me up with his love and respect, as I do for him.

I want this life for my sons.

The Adams Family

Gay marriage is polarizing Americans. Christians especially. Yet the tides are shifting; Americans are exercising their rights to have equality as 37 states legalized gay marriage. The Supreme Court hearings began Tuesday and the Justices will decide in June how the remaining 13 states must adhere to the Constitution which guarantees equal rights for all people of the United States.

I cannot fathom why 39 percent of Americans (polled by ABC last week according to an NPR news story from Cokie Roberts) think allowing my son and his fiancé who want the right to commit legally to each other undermines the sanctity of marriage. Justice Sonia Sotomayor says, “We are not taking anyone’s liberty away by allowing gay couples to marry.” I fervently hope her wisdom and deep constitutional knowledge prevail for Justice Anthony Kennedy who will likely cast the deciding vote in June.

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Tiara Time

Tiara Time

“They say it’s your birthday. We’re gonna have a good time.”—The Beatles

T&V 50th loveIt’s time for the annual wearing of the tiara. As in, it’s my 57th birthday today and I have several tiaras to choose from. My son Adam bought me an antique one with seed pearls at a dandy little shop in Provincetown several years ago, though it was well past my birthday. I have a 40th birthday version and the one from my dental company job photo shoot where I posed as the tooth fairy (and oh, the dress and wings that came with THAT tiara!) The best one however, is my 50th birthday Audrey Hepburn replica from the movie Roman Holiday. It’s covered in Swarovski crystals and sparkles with intense beams when the light hits it.

I am shameless when it comes to my birthday—telling random strangers wherever I happen to be that it’s my birthday. Because I LOVE THIS DAY! It’s a celebration of living joyfully, appreciation for my parents who made me and fun for my family who have come to accept my narcissism for my special day as a loving quirk.

My family thinks my habit of counting down the days to my birthday is endearing. I write the number of shopping days on my husband’s Ansel Adams work calendar. About 20 days before, I start singing, “It’s almost my birthday!” to the Beatles Birthday tune. Mark loves to tease me when I say, “My birthday is in X days.” He replies sardonically, “It’s your birthday soon?” It’s our fun little game. I would be disappointed if he didn’t play along.

Mark loves to surprise me so my birthday is a natural time to indulge in this. In my 20’s, he arranged a work posse party at Chuck E. Cheese’s so we could play games and swim in the ball pool. On my 40th Mark, my siblings, nieces, nephews and our kids staged a remake of the Wizard of Oz starring me as Dorothy seeking out the wizard to reverse my trip “over the hill.” And of course, the 50th blowout was the best and biggest yet. In between the BIG ONES, there were treasure hunts, dinners lovingly made at home and fancy ones at swanky restaurants, and a trip to the Smithsonian to see the real ruby slippers. Homemade gifts from our sweet sons who reveled in the joy we created. One year, my darling even made me a banana cream pie because my mom always made me that dessert and she had passed on. I love M for trying as baking is not his forte. We still laugh over the pencil eraser texture of the filling which was an odd gray color from the skim milk.

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To Cuss or Not to Cuss…never my effin’ question!

To Cuss or Not to Cuss…never my effin’ question!

“My father worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium, a master.”—Ralphie from A Christmas Story

 When my kids first heard this line from our favorite holiday movie, they said in unison, “Mom, look they’re talking about you.” You see, I love to cuss. Have from the time I was a pre-teen and dropped my first F-bomb in public.

I remember that evening with fond affection. It was a very frigid winter but coming from hardy stock, the cold and snow never stopped us Northern NY kids. So there I was with my white figure skates, sporting fluffy homemade blue and white yarn pom poms, twirling around the ice rink at St. Joseph’s Catholic School. I decided to show off my newly acquired skill of inserting the F-word masterfully into the conversation. Oh I felt so grown-up and chic as I whirled around the ice, skating in tandem with my girlfriends, firing off this “queen-mother of dirty words” as Ralphie said.

The F-bomb has seen me through a lot of situations in my life. Job losses, broken treasures, stupid drivers and stubbed toes. In fact, my tapestry of obscenities is legend in my family if I somehow injure myself. It begins with “Dirty rotten mother-effer…” and goes downward from there. All bets are off too when my temper gets the best of me. Though I have learned not to flip drivers off anymore as you never what they are packing and can take exception to this gesture. Yet I can flip that bird in a host of ways if I don’t think there’s danger lurking.

Our poor baby sitter Mary took a heated tongue lashing from me one Christmas when I went to her home to pick up my toddlers. She was an extraordinary sitter! Patient, organized, played fun games and made nutritious meals. She was a gem! Well, the evening before on the way home, sweet Adam, approximately 2 1/2 years old and very verbal, was enjoying the view of the streets from his car seat in our van. Suddenly he shouts, “Oh my Jesus Mommy, look at those Christmas lights!” I nearly drove off the road because a) I thought it was hysterical and b) my baby just uttered his first curse words. Surely he must have heard them from the sitter because I really did try very hard not to swear in front of the boys then.

Mary vehemently denied it and I decided to let sleeping dogs lie. Then, when I was doing something at home one day shortly thereafter, I heard myself say, “Oh my Jesus…” I never did apologize to Mary, but if you’re reading this, I was a boob and you were a goddess.

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My Darling Valentine

My Darling Valentine

I love you and that’s the beginning and end of everything.― F. Scott Fitzgerald

My Universe BoxMy husband presented me with a quarter this week. For my Universe Box, a tiny vessel that houses all the coins and paper money the Universe lays in my path. Years ago I started collecting pennies, nickels and dimes I found on the ground. Quarters are a big score. I recycle the money by putting it in the Salvation Army Red Kettles at Christmastime. My darling shares the fun of the game too.

Many moons ago this glass treasure chest was a Valentine’s surprise from my sweetheart  filled with tiny, deep pink dried rosebuds. Each time I add the find du jour, I catch a whiff of roses that warms my heart.

See, it’s the little and big things that make up our happy marriage. Equal parts fun and joy with a smattering of heartache you cannot bypass in life. I count my blessings because I am cherished by a remarkable man who truly means it when he says my happiness is what matters most to him. Who indulges me in all way my quirky ways, loves me with all my imperfections and overlooks the things that could legitimately drive him crazy… Read the rest of this entry

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For Margot, the Queen of All Cats

For Margot, the Queen of All Cats

Margot is the quiet sentry of our lives.

Bonjour Margot Poisson,

I wrote much of this back in January when our lives were intact. You were still here, as was Fenway. We were settled in Beautiful Girlour little rental house and adjusting to the quasi-southern lifestyle. We three creatures had a rhythm all our own, bobbing and weaving about each other’s days. Now it’s just me from the original trio, and our new boy Miles. You tolerated Miles with much grace, putting the little nipper firmly in his place when he ignored your warning hiss. He learned quickly to bow to your authority—and claws.

You rebounded well with the move to our new house. On our car ride over to Beaverbank Circle, you looked with curiosity out of your crate, uncharacteristically quiet. I think you sensed this was to be your final home and were excited in your own cool cat way. You claimed the downstairs bedroom as your own, safely gated away from the new puppy. Gazing from your perch on the corner of the bed, and often the floor just beyond his reach from the other side of the gate, you teased him mercilessly as he whined to get in and play. You simply squinted with delight at your cleverness as you sat comfortably with your legs tucked under while Miles pawed the opening. Read the rest of this entry

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