“The beauty of standing up for your rights is others see you standing and stand up as well.” — Cassandra Duffy
Mark and I marched in our first Pride  Parade this month 15 years after our twin sons came out. Why so long you might think?
In a word, uncomfortable.
Us with figuring out the new rules of our family when the boys shared their truth. Them figuring out how to live in their truth in the already tumultuous world of being teenagers. And some family members who weren’t comfortable with our family’s reality clashing with their beliefs and religion.
As Mark and I talked about why we waited so long to walk with like-minded, loving people at Pride, we speculated that the boys were uncomfortable with us participating as we became comfortable with their new community. Our sons asked us not to walk during their early years as this was their thing. Dating is awkward enough as a teen much less when society doesn’t accept who you are. As Alex said, “Pride is the easiest time for gay kids to date and how young people start to find their first relationships.”
I remember the boys coming home after their first Pride parade and events totally pumped and empowered from the acceptance and support they experienced en masse. They whitewashed some of the hate mongers’ slurs and epithets as they know how incensed I become at ignorance and cruelty. Adam and Alex’s way of dealing with these small-minded bigots was to blow glitter kisses to them as they danced merrily down the macadam. Adam usually takes a more peaceful approach—unless someone harasses his Brudder. Hell hath no fury like his twin scorned. Read the rest of this entry
“Use it up, wear it out, make do.”—New England proverb
I’m sitting as usual enjoying my second cup of coffee as I began thinking about our dining room table. It’s not elegant or trendy. The top is scratched and the legs could use some serious refinishing. Calvin Kitty joins me in the mornings waiting for his taste of my scrambled eggs. He sits politely at the corner looking out at our backyard, chittering as the birds flit among the trees. I’ve never been one of those people who minds a cat sharing her table top has long as he waits until I’ve offered a dish for his tasting.
I ponder all that has happened around our old table. We’ve had it for 28 years. It was meant to be a short term solution when we were a very young family. Mark loves to tell the story of how we acquired it. Lechmere had just opened a store in the mall so we went to purchase a small dining set. We opened an account charging the set to get the 10% discount. As it turned out, Lechmere never charged us for it— though, honest as we were, Mark called them three times to tell them of their mistake. Apparently the Universe gifted us this set as they never followed up.
Raising twins, assorted business start-ups, part-time jobs interspersed with staying home full time to raise our sons meant less cash in the coffers. So our temporary set became a permanent fixture. On periodic moments of flush cash, I would lust after Stickley mission dining tables and chairs. Then circumstances would evaporate our windfalls and I’d polish her up, clean the dried bits of toddler meals and move on. Read the rest of this entry
“The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of…we know the truth not only by the reason, but by the heart.”—Blaise Pascal
As I walked Miles one cold Sunday afternoon recently at our favorite park, I was pondering my career and life. This is nothing new as the hamster wheel of what to do next spins constantly in my brain. I was feeling chipper and relaxed as I meandered with my big black dog. The sun popped out which is always so welcome in winter. The timing was cosmic, however.
I paused as we crossed the bridge to the main entrance to admire the view when I spied the heart-shaped rock in the middle of the stream. I’d made this trip dozens of times, but never before had I seen this gem peaceful amid the flowing waters. As I studied the scene, I noticed mini rapids flowing toward the heart positioned smack in the middle of the stream. Then I saw that the water surrounding the rock and beyond was calm, serene. The long bend of the stream was an elegant and subtle twist with the beauty found only in winter grays and browns of slumbering trees and tall grasses.
It occurred to me that this scene is a metaphor for my own journey. I’ve come through a rocky period in the D’Ag family in 2018. Death, job transitions, legal battles, bodily conditions out of control. It wasn’t all rough water—there were weddings and family celebrations aplenty. Freedom to explore my interior landscape and where I want to go next in the land of earning money, and just plain joy in the journey time.
What seemed suddenly revealed to me was the wisdom nature’s heart talisman offered. I often repeated to my sons they will never go wrong if they let their heart lead them to their happiness. Once you accept that simple, inescapable fact, you hit smooth waters. There is adventure waiting if you follow your heart as it points the way to your greatest path of joy.
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“Coda: a concluding segment of a piece of music, a dance, or a statement. It’s usually short and adds a final embellishment beyond a natural ending point.”—Vocabulary.com
Here I am, on the precipice once again.
Writing life—ready to resume.
I’ve declared to many that personal writing is what I want to do. That this was to be my new path when we started our new life in Baltimore five years ago. I’ve journaled much about this in the past few years. I traveled to San Francisco to learn about publishing. I began a new book, a memoir on raising gay twin sons.
Then along the way, I lost my writing mojo. The defining moment for this was having to move from the rental house to a permanent house in Towson. It derailed my memoir writing as I had to spend the majority of my time looking for a new home for us in a truly short period of time—60 days. Then, the buying, moving and settling in time. The tragic loss of our beloved black lab Fenway that following spring knocked me off my pins for months.
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“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”—Julia Childs
Lana Lee Jones D’Agostino, July 18, 1955 – April 25, 2018
Friday, April 27, 2018. Lana, you’re missing the conversation about your life that’s happening as we listen to your brother Michael and wife Megan read your obituary we are crafting. Although you made your presence known when you knocked over the framed tribute President O’Bama signed to our father-in-law Vic thanking him for his military service. That passage you approved was about being a strong [and independent] woman—Steve’s addition.
Strong and independent. Yes indeed. But also tender and loving.
We knew you as our sister. Had conversations over the years about your work as a journalist. But as we sister-in-laws shared last night at your viewing, we really didn’t know the breadth of your professional life. Until you died.
Steve is collecting your press badges for your memorial service. They tell a story in their own right. 911 In New York City. The elevation of Cardinal O’Malley in Rome, The Boston marathon bombings. The Whitey Bolger story. JFK Junior’s plane crash. These were some of the big ones. You covered thousands of smaller stories that kept us informed and connected to the world outside our bubbles. Over 20,000 in your 30-year career.
Isn’t it a pity that we don’t get to glimpse our impact while we’re here. Perhaps a tad narcissistic, some might think. Yet it can also be an opportunity to measure how much more there is to do with whatever days are marked on our earthly calendar. Your days reflected how deeply you cared about social justice and truth telling. And family. Read the rest of this entry
It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. —ee cummings
On Saturday, April 14, I will stand on the stage at the 15th Annual Baltimore CityLit Festival with my Listen To Your Mother cast sisters and do a repeat reading of my 2015 essay on motherhood.
I auditioned for LTYM in winter 2015 after I read the poster asking people to read their original writings on motherhood. Hadn’t written a word yet, but my heart knew I had a good shot when I contemplated writing about my twin gay sons’ coming out. It’s a good story. I have decent skill as a wordsmith. My sons said, “Go for it Mom.” So—I wrote, auditioned and made it.
I rehearsed with my cast sisters, reading with ease and a bit of flair. The day of the performance, I thought, “I’ve got this! I’m used to public speaking and performing.” What I didn’t factor, was the hefty emotion of telling this very personal story with my sons and husband in the audience. I was at turns confident and a hot mess. Looking up where those pieces of my heart sat, I expressed the depth of my mother-love. My sons were laser-focused on me, trusting me to tell it true—that very intimate part of their story. I did them proud, so they told me after the show. Read the rest of this entry
Life doesn’t come with a manual. It comes with a mother.
You would have turned 90 today. December 15 is the fine day you arrived, aptly named Joyce to herald in the joy of the Christmas season.
I think of you every day. Little memories come to me as I glance at your photo on my jewelry chest. It’s the old snap of us on my 4th birthday. We are looking up bright-eyed with happiness at the unseen photographer. Sometimes I stop and study the images, wondering about our lives then and how we would share it now.
Your cookie baking Christmas tradition binds us tenderly together in this season of joy. You loved making delicious trays of cookies and candies for us, dear friends and co-workers. I remember tins and Tupperware stacking up as you baked. You began just after Thanksgiving since you had such a huge volume to produce.
Your artistry was masterful as you assembled the trays with delectable confections. Round balls, cut-outs, drop cookies, bars, tiny pastry shells of pecan pie. Chocolate peanut butter balls danced among the sugary orbs. The tins and platters were also part of the gift, selected with the receiver in mind. Ours were child-themed for your twin grandsons. I still have those trays, and the dinged up Courier and Ives tins that housed your treats.
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All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.—Abraham Lincoln
Mom, Debbie & me
Grandma Joyce & Baby Boinkers
Mom & Dad in wedding finery
Grandma’s lap is best!
Happy 1st Birthday Adam & Alex!
Sisters! Aunt Ellie, Aunt Bev & Mom
Happy 60th Mom!
My your pie is yummy Joyce (Debbie, Mom, Carmen, Bev)
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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Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.—Berthold Auerbach, poet and author
I can chart the 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