“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
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
“They say it’s your birthday. We’re gonna have a good time.”—The Beatles
It’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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I love you and that’s the beginning and end of everything.― F. Scott Fitzgerald
My 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
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 our 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
“Mirror Mirror on the wall, I’m my mother after all.”
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
What if I change course to pursue a lifestyle of fun, learning and writing?
Since moving to Baltimore last fall, I spent time just being, what I always craved when I had communications jobs where I had prestige yet no time to simply be. I’d be lying if I said these have been carefree months of lollygagging and leisure. The hamster wheel of “what am I going to do to earn my keep” spins relentlessly… Read the rest of this entry