Tag Archives: Sons

Oh Christmas Tree. How Lovely!

Oh Christmas Tree. How Lovely!

Some Christmas tree ornaments do more than glow, they represent a gift of love given a long time ago. —Tom Baker

This year our tree is a magnificent 12-foot, 6-inch Douglas Fir with near perfect shape. Fifteen-foot ceilings in our living room indulge my yen for a ginormous specimen. Each year, I tease my beloved that this will be the year of the 13-footer. Each year, he replies his ladder only allows him to top our tree with our oversized cardinal at 12-ish feet. He strings hundreds of colored lights and yards of silver beads, (which I rearrange) to create the glittering backdrop to our beauties.

We have hundreds of ornaments carefully collected over the past 40 years. Our tradition begun as newlyweds is to choose them as gifts for each other that reflect our passions, hobbies and spirit. T gives me angels—delicate and dainty, sturdy ones that require a strong  branch, ethereal fairies, assorted dolls and cardinals. I give him Red Sox and PMC ornaments, VW Beetles, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Penguins, a skier and Nightmare Before Christmas characters, even the tacky leg lamp from A Christmas Story. The Boys added construction paper creations in the early years.

My Oz ornament collection now numbers 50. Some are gifts from T and other family members, others I collected. Most are from the 1939 movie well known as my favorite, and personal lodestar. Glinda and the Lion, my favorite characters,  appear in multiple iterations. There are nine Dorothy’s. Most have sound and or motion. The Boys loved to be the first to turn on our tree as dueling ornaments plugged into light strings chanted, “Cabby Cabby,” and “I am Oz, the great and powerful.” One year I discovered they also have play buttons. I press each one, for the pleasure and remembrance now that The Boys are grown and in homes of their own, and because of COVID, cannot come home for Christmas this year.

My own cross stitch ornaments from my design company, Victoria’s Needle, are stories of my family. The Christmas Angel is the tale of Christmas morning in New Hampshire 1975 for a family holiday when we were caught in a snowstorm en route to my brother’s house and ran out of gas. My mom and I walked to the nearby phone booth to call my sister to come get us. As we stuffed into the booth, Mom realized she had no change. She prayed to Mary for help, pressed the cradle and out popped a dime! THAT was a Christmas miracle for certain.

Santa’s Reindeer was created to commemorate the Christmas when my nephew Joshua was returning from the Navy for the holiday. My brother Paul and wife Dorinda, her sister Mickey, Adam, Alex and I dressed as Santa’s entourage to greet him at the Syracuse airport in full costume — Paul as Santa, sister Elves Jingle and Jangle, twin reindeer and me in an oversized, rented reindeer suit. The plane was delayed so we entertained the disembarking passengers and their families as we waited. When Josh finally came down the walkway, he took one look at us and hurried past while we sang Here Come’s Santa Claus. He was mortified; we were gleeful.

The Gingerbread Star is tribute to my Mom Joyce Mallette, The Cookie Maker. Each Christmas, she’d baked the most beautiful trays of edible delights, shipping them off for those she couldn’t visit in person. She entered heaven in 1996 and I continue her tradition now. It is my most holy communion with the woman who inspired joy and love for family.

 Santa is homage to my Dad Henry Mallette. I recently rediscovered  the story I wrote for the 10th Anniversary Just Cross Stitch Collection which explained why it was my favorite submission. It is a celebration of that jolly old elf who always embodied Santa’s spirit. He believed in giving without receiving, caring deeply for others, and most of all, living in joy. 

The oldest surviving ornament on our tree came from my childhood home, the dimestore purple ball with spray snow poinsettias whose luster has mellowed over six decades. My absolute favorite was a brushed gold ball encircled in glitter that went up first on our Syracuse tree. Alex accidentally broke it one year and I had to walk from the room to avoid saying anything hurtful. He was devastated as he knew the story of how my parents chose me to hang this as the first ornament on our family tree each year. Sweet boy, he carefully collected the shards and bottled them in a small jar that now sits in my home office as a reminder of resurrection and forgiveness.

Most precious are the ornaments crafted by family and friends. We have paper glitter dreidels from Adam and Alex’s pre-school days. Aunt Aurora’s Holly Hobby’s, assorted felt stars, mittens and bells, and corduroy trees always graced the bottom of our Miles Ave. tree should the cats wreak mischief. Aunt Annie’s plastic cross stitch snowflakes mingle with hardanger gifts from the Stitching Bitches, humble to expert examples of their skills. Especially dear to me are the ones my Mom made—beaded beauties, lace angels and some odd little homespun angels endearing in their homeliness. These makers are now angels themselves, so hanging them on our tree is a prayer of thanks to them for their enduring gifts of love.

Here’s the thing about our collection. These aren’t random items bought as last minute gifts to check off a list. From the humble to the spectacular, there was considerable thought and time, and in some cases, loving handcrafting. Store-bought were chosen with the greatest of care given our likes and loves. As I opened the boxes and laid them out, it was a tenderhearted connection to joyful memories and loved ones. Especially dear are images of our tiny twin sons creating their idea of beauty as they loaded branches within reach.

This is the true gift of Christmas.

Now it’s time to part with some of our collection, sending off select pieces to Adam and Alex for their own trees. Each year I will gift more, offering touchstones to our shared past to bring them Christmas joy,  as they add to their own collections making new memories.

In The Garden

In The Garden

Just remember, in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows, lies a seed that with the sun’s love, in the spring, becomes the rose.   —Bette Midler

was interviewing my colleague Rose for a newsletter story about her newly found passion for gardening. It was a joy to listen to the lilt in her voice as she described learning about the variety of flowers and shrubs available, how much sunlight and water they need to thrive. We agree that our gardens are the perfect spot to decompress from our current climate. A beautiful alternative to news that rocks our souls daily.

“The garden is an oasis that calms the chaos,” I reply to her description of happiness her new garden brings.

This got me thinking about my gardens. How they are a labor of love that took many years to cultivate. Trial and error when I misjudged the light and soil conditions. How some of the perennials took in spite of my ignorance. Others withered away. Roses present a particular challenge to me. I’ve killed my fair share of hybrid tea roses. You must carefully tend them, fertilizing and cutting back, ensuring not too much water lest the leaves turn yellow and eventually fall, leaving a long thorny stem and anemic, stilted blooms. I finally learned roses I grow best are the knockout variety—they like the south and north corners of the front of my house. These showy grand dames require less tending, bringing heady fragrance and energy in late spring. I recently planted a new deep pink one in the hole vacated by last year’s failed rhubarb experiment. So far, she’s happy.

Gardens require pruning, feeding and weeding. Funny thing about weeds, some appear with handsome flowers so are welcome among the more regal lilies, brown eyed Susan’s and cone flowers. Some have to go, because they zap too much energy of the floribunda. It’s a delicate balance.

There are seasons to gardens. That’s a well know fact. Plant too early and the frost will destroy your tender plants. Skip fertilizing and mulching, and you’ll get flowers that struggle to bloom. Oh, they will survive the first year.  Each year thereafter, they are smaller and less healthy, until they finally give up the ghost. If you respect their simple needs for light, food and water, however, they plant their roots deep, giving back with their powerful charm. Then come fall, its time to put them to bed for a long sleep while the roots and bulbs go dormant. What a blessing of renewal spring brings when they awake and send up tender shoots. The cycle resumes.

It’s also a delight to discover surprises—stray seeds brought as gifts from the birds and squirrels that nestle in a small unclaimed patch of earth. In my Syracuse garden one year, giant sunflowers appeared, growing six feet high with enormous mop heads that blossomed fully. After the flowers faded, they gave back to their winged friends as small wrens perched on the bent necks plucking the ripe seeds. Working together, they made magic real.

I taught my boys well about the care and feeding of a garden in their teen years in Syracuse. I had them water the extensive beds most summer early evenings and mornings. There was often griping and protestations. But here’s my little secret they didn’t know then. It was deliberate because one cannot help but ruminate on life with optimism when faced with such beauty while hands are occupied carefully watering the stems, not the blooms. This insistence flummoxed them because it would have made the chore pass quickly. Enforced solitude is good for the soul.

Seems the lessons took because now they both call me sharing their delights as their buds bloom. My sons have become gardeners. The country mouse and the city mouse.

Although technically the Adams’ home isn’t really in the country, but a charming Tudor in a smallish Michigan city. They are reclaiming their yard plant-by-plant. T and I helped them overhaul the bones of their yard when we visited last September. Now they are digging and shaping, planting bulbs, shrubs and perennials while filling their space with Adam’s considerable collection of Pier 1 gewgaws and lanterns.

Alex lives in Baltimore City with his beloved Will in a historic row home and they are planting in window boxes, pots on the deck and perennials in the small patch of soil beyond the boards. Their backyard is their haven filled with bird song, greenery and new plants. Alex decorates with his unique blend of bones, ephemera and sparkle. He teaches Zoom yoga from the deck, sharing his little slice of heaven with his students.

Alex & Will’s garden

Adams’ Garden

My sons have learned how calming it is to dig, plant and deadhead. It’s hard to stay angry or sad when you work amidst such miracles you’ve nurtured. When you’re really vexed, there’s nothing like a good weed pulling spell to dissipate the mood. If ever there was such a time we need a break from the trials in our world, it surely is now. 

This is what we know. Gardens offer solace and pleasure, thoughtful pause. Like Rose says, “They make me happy.” Indeed. Time to go give the girls a drink and see who’s come out to shine beauty, peace and joy in the neighborhood today.

Landslide Wedding

Landslide Wedding

Time makes us bolder, children get older. I’m getting older too.”—Stevie Nicks

We recently spent a glorious weekend with our sons attending the wedding of their childhood friend Katherine in beautiful Ithaca, NY. Our boys first met Katherine in middle school and have remained fast friends all these years. She considers us her second parents, I consider her the daughter of my heart (DOMH). Katherine aka Kitty and Sister, joins the ranks of Bri and Anna as DOMH. God blessed us with boys, and fate gifted us the girls. Adam H completes our family circle as Adam’s bethrohed.

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PRIDE On Parade

PRIDE On Parade

“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 [1] 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



“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.
Corporate job—over.
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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Unconditionally Mom, part à deux

Unconditionally Mom, part à deux

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

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

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.




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’!!!

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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