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The Cookie Maker

The Cookie Maker

Life doesn’t come with a manual. It comes with a mother.

Happy 60th Mom!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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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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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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Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

imageToday at 8:46 a.m. with thousands of other people, I stopped to offer prayers to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist bombing at the World Trade Center. 8:46 was the moment when the plane hit the first tower.

I played “Amazing Grace” on my iPad as my prayer to the victims, families, friends and coworkers. And for myself. I didn’t have grace that moment or the next ones on that September morning because I was too consumed by my job. When my graphic designer came into my office, ashen and unnerved to say a plane had just struck the tower, I barely paused from my email review. I made some trite remark that I cannot remember. Probably something like, huh, that’s awful. Then I told him I had to finish the email I was working on. I do remember the stunned look on his face as he took his 6’4″ frame through the door back to his office. Read the rest of this entry

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Happy Birthday Adam & Alex-#27!

Happy Birthday Adam & Alex-#27!

Happy Birthday Sweet Sons!

Adam (l) & Alex (r)

Adam (l) & Alex (r)

Today you are 27—hardly seems possible that this much time has passed for you wombmates! I remember the night after you were born looking out from my hospital room, snuggling you up close as I looked over the city lights, baby in each arm. Who would you become? What things would you love in life? What are your special gifts? Would you be close as brothers?

The room was quiet and you were both snoozing, perfect contentment, baby A and baby B—Adam and Alex. I didn’t know then that you would become these incredible men who bring love, joy and light to those in your circle. Although it was my hope and wish you would.

Adam, you came into the world first. That’s your path in Read the rest of this entry

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For Fenway, A Love Letter

For Fenway, A Love Letter

Dear Fenway,

It is the sixth day since you crossed the rainbow bridge. It never occurred to me you would go on this adventure so soon. I imagined us growing into senior years together. Your slick, incredibly shiny black coat would slowly show the gray hairs of time’s passage. I inspected you often scouting for the changes. Only three hairs on the spot above your left brow. There was one, and then this past year two more arrived. You were barely five. I would have continued bragging rights to your youthfulness. Most people assumed you were a puppy because of your prance and curiosity.

Our peaceful spot.

Our peaceful spot.

You and me buddy. Bonded in a way as no other dog has ever touched my heart. Girl was special, as was Rosie. And long ago my Smudge. Yet you, and only you knew my soul. No matter what I was going through in life, you always stood by me. Your brown eyes filling me so deeply with your love. You heard my less than charitable rants over what I thought were important at the time. You patiently listened, head cocked just so, deciphering the words you knew from our time together. Your body wags to let me know, Read the rest of this entry

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Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror

“Mirror Mirror on the wall, I’m my mother after all.”

 

Mom helping me dress wedding day 1982

Mom helping me dress wedding day 1982

It happened just the other day when I went into the downstairs bath to get a tissue. I looked into the mirror as is my habit and I saw her. My mother staring back at me. It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen traces of her in my smile or my jowls. Yet this time her entire face was looking at me through my eyes.

At 56, I look like my memory’s version of my mother at the same age. You know, the one that shows up in the reflection during the unguarded moments when you’re thinking you really should skip the afternoon Starbucks run and get back to your writing. When my mother was 56, I was 24. Younger than my own sons now.

I was cocksure I knew what the world had in store for me Read the rest of this entry

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Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Halloween, Halloween, this is Halloween. All hail the pumpkin king!

Come little children, it’s time to play

We D’Agostinos love Halloween! It is hands down our favorite holiday. We had such fun creating magick in our little plot at 201 Miles. T made a witch’s castle one year as a surprise for us all. And a graveyard complete with wooden headstones and campy sayings. Ghosties swung from the trees, wooden characters made by my Dad stood guard. In the side yard, our towering scarecrow sported a necklace of  orange lights and creepy satin green hair. She would billow with the wind, face in a permanent twisted screaming grin. Read the rest of this entry

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Dad, The Center of Our Universe

Dad, The Center of Our Universe

 

Adventurers 1992

“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”

—Clarence Budington Kelland

T is the Pied Piper of our family. From the moment the boys were born, he had a vision for teaching them the joys and adventure to be found in life. Sometimes the adventure was found in our own backyard. Chubby toddlers chasing fireflies in the summer dark, trying to capture their magic. Guarding snow castles from dragons coming to capture their most beautiful queen Mommy. To jump in the center of a pile of autumn leaves, where there just might be a Daddy waiting to scoop you up in his loving arms. Read the rest of this entry

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