The News

I’m just old enough to remember there was a time before cable, a time when there were 3 basic TV stations and every evening around 6:00 PM each station broadcast their own version of the national news. As I recall, it really didn’t make a difference what station you tuned into, the national news of the day was pretty much the same on each channel. The only difference seemed to be the personality of the Anchorman, think Brinkley, Cronkite, Reasoner. It was a time when you could turn on your TV at 6:00 and for the next 30 minutes feel confident you were informed, that you were being told the truth, that what Brinkley, Cronkite and Reasoner said was real, that they were men of integrity, that they could be believed. Is was also a time when television network leadership believed that broadcasting the news was a public service, something that didn’t need to bring in revenue, it wasn’t intended to be a cash cow.

Then came the 80’s, bad perms, oversized shoulder pads, stirrup pants and the emergence of 24 hour cable news. Little by little over the next few decades the 24 cable news cycle became the norm. Fueled by stories like the Challenger explosion and Clinton Impeachment hearings, people began to change their news habits. Instead of relying on one 30 minute news segment once a day, they could access news 24 hours a day 7 days a week. For the real news junkies, it was a dream come true.

Of course with 24 hour a day news coverage comes ratings and revenue, so the old model of broadcast news not being a money making venture turned into a money making cash cow. And how does one make money in the age of cable? By selling ads, and how do advertisers know where to place those ads? With the cable news station with the most eyeballs, and how does a cable station get lots of eyeballs? Well, we know now its not by the typical 30 minute broadcast with the traditional anchorman.

So just how did cable news grow? It had to become more of broadcasting pure entertainment 24 hours a day with just a bit of news to keep people watching. The news stories that would previously be reported as “just the facts” had morphed into tables of experts dissecting details that could lead viewers into areas that potentially pit one group of people against another. Fact checking became an afterthought for some of these stations and little by little it was less about the news and more about the individual personalities giving their opinions.

I have to admit, since I retired, I watched cable news while I ate lunch, I got to like some of the personalities. At night we’d fall into the routine of watching non cable news, 30 minutes of BBC followed by 60 minutes of the PBS Newshour. We appreciated the calm demeanor of the PBS hosts and their guests, the non-shouting polite discourse, it was so unlike my lunch date with cable news. It was like in The Crown when everyone gets fancy at night and is well behaved.

And now for this year, we made a decision not to watch any news, no cable for me at lunch, no PBS news at night. It was strange at first, but as the weeks now have morphed in the second month of this experiment, we’re adjusting. We still keep informed, we have phones and I have a Twitter feed that can make me nuts….and we find our evenings to be just a bit more relaxed, it’s hard to get upset when watching Rick Steves touring Switzerland or one of my all-time favorites, Lucy Worsley documenting British history.

Seasons of Life

The reason I love living in New England is the distinct difference in the seasons, at the beginning of each new season I think this is my favorite because it’s hard to choose just one. I tolerate the cold and the ice and the fifth season, mud, to enjoy the spring when trees bud and bulbs pop up out of hiding, the summer sounds of kids playing in the water and the sound of the crickets and fall, with pumpkin spice coffee and the vibrant colors of the trees.

Just as there are the physical seasons of life, there are also the emotional ones. The cycle of life is rich with many milestones along the way. Just as with the physical seasons, there are the favorite milestones that bring joy and happiness and then there are the milestones that leave in their wake grief, anger and pain.

The one milestone that leaves the most grief is the loss of a loved one. In this circle of life, it’s natural to mourn the passing of grandparents and parents, this is to be expected once we reach a certain age. It’s never easy, and without regrets for how we had to say our goodbyes. Sometimes we know it’s coming we have time to prepare, to say our goodbyes, and other times it’s a phone call in the middle of the night when you least expect it.

I was ten when my favorite grandmother dropped dead at the age of 69, she hadn’t been sick and I had been with her the week before. It was a heart attack, she went quickly they said, no pain, just gone. They said I was too young to go to the wake and funeral. It was the first time I saw my dad cry, I’ll never forget the grief and pain. Even though I was only ten when she passed, I have some very vivid memories of her teaching me to bake and she was the first person to introduce me to the game of solitaire.

In this season, surrounded by the budding trees and the daffodils and hyacinths coming up through the ground, I feel an immense grief for the loss of my best friend from childhood. Susan left this earth on March 31 at age 69, not quickly, but after almost 2 years of dealing with terminal cancer. Cancer is insidious, invasive, giving and taking hope with each treatment and new miracle drug.

I’m thankful that in the fall and winter we fell into a routine where I would visit along with a few of our close friends from middle school. Each of us brought something, I brought the bagels and cream cheese, Bev brought the brownies, half cooked and gooey, the way they should be, and Marlene would bring the heathy stuff, fruit and quiche. Susan would sneak the keys to the car and drive to pick up the most amazing gourmet muffins to complete our brunch. We knew she was having a good day when she presented the muffin box.

Susan’s love language was gift giving and even though she was very sick, she never stopped making gifts. When we visited, there would be 3 bags on the counter in the kitchen each containing a wonderful handcrafted token of love.

I’m grateful for this time we spent together as friends, talking about the old days, when we walked together the 1.75 miles each day to and from school, about our shenanigans, and how they helped mold us into the adults we are today.

I’m most grateful because we had the opportunity to have the talk, the talk that no one ever wants to have, but the talk everyone should have with their loved ones, the talk where we freely express our love for one another and acknowledge how much our friendship has meant. This is the gift I will always treasure from our friendship. And I’m grateful I was with her and her family during the last few days of her life. I know she knew I was there, sometimes she could squeeze my hand or try to smile.

At her funeral there was a very large basket of flower seeds, Susan was also a master gardener, she had the ability to transform any space into a thing of beauty. And it was fitting for her, even at the end, to make sure everyone left with a gift from her.

I will plant Susan’s seeds and she will always live on in my heart. I will feel her spirit when I see Hydrangeas in bloom, catch a whiff of her signature Shalimar or walk along the beach. Rest my dear friend, until we meet again…..

Another Statistic

We received word this weekend that my 41 year old son-in-law was found dead from a suspected overdose. Receiving that phone call and listening to the heart wrenching screams from my daughter was hard, very hard. But the reality is this, when there is active addiction in a family, every time you answer the phone, on some level, this is your greatest fear.

How it happened at this point is irrelevant, but what brought him to leave this earth at the young age of 41 is most likely the story you’d would expect. Suffice to say he endured a traumatic childhood full of stuff no child should have to endure. He most likely tried to get through the storms by self medicating, probably first with a little pot, then some pills and then the heavy stuff that the toxicology report will contain.

He was a part of our life for almost twenty years and in that time we saw the very best of him and the very worst. For the few years he and my daughter lived with us, he tried to be helpful, he liked to mow the grass on the riding lawnmower, cigarette in one hand, his signature Mountain Dew in the other.

But there was also the other side, the side where we suspected he was using, late night runs, things around the house that would turn up missing, always explained in a way that would arose our suspicions, but never in a way that would lead to an out and out confrontation. People who live with addictions in their families can relate.

When his son was born, he held it together, he worked hard to help our daughter get through school and for a brief period of time, we thought all was well, we were hopeful that this precious baby would be the reason he would stop. But that wasn’t to be.

Instead, overtime the addiction won, even with multiple times in rehab, each time leaving with a renewed sense of hope, it was only a matter of time that his body would crave more and he found himself falling prey to the desire.

There is such a stigma with addiction, the words people use, loser, druggie, why can’t they just stop, they got what they deserve, and on and on. Addiction is a disease, it’s been proven that there are actually changes in the brain and for so many addicts, as much as they want to stop, they just can’t. And for many, they have burned every bridge with every loved one which in turn makes it difficult for those left behind to figure out how to grieve, was there something they could have done to prevent their loved one from looking for that last high?

Today it was announced that over 100,000 people died this past year of overdoses, this is a staggering number and for every victim there is a ripple effect, wives, children, brothers, nieces, nephews, everyone in the family is touched in some way.

In the end, I believe that he deserved better, that perhaps with the right therapy or a comprehensive long term rehab program, he could have made it in recovery and instead of his son visiting him at the Funeral Home this weekend, he and his son would be shopping together for the Thanksgiving Turkey.

The Vaccination Wars

It’s been almost a full year since this nightmare called Covid first began to impact our lives. We’ve been through it all, from not seeing our family and friends, to closed schools and businesses, to attending church on Zoom, to no travel and meals out and for some folks the loss of people we love. Almost 500,000 people who were with us this time last year are no longer here, it’s a fact that continues to get glossed over, I think we’re all just numb.

We lost a loved one, my dear sweet mother-in-law, she died alone in a nursing home 2 days before her 73rd wedding anniversary. It was only a few days before she passed that she was allowed very limited in person visits from her husband and sons. Her death was not directly from Covid but the fact she couldn’t leave her room for her daily strolls around the perimeter of the nursing home which forced her to stay in her chair 16 hours a day watching new channels, without the touch from her husband or sons or loved ones for 4 months, IMHO contributed to her premature passing.

So here we are in this next stage of getting a vaccination. For everyone who has not yet had the pleasure of trying to make an appointment in Massachusetts, I’d just like to share, scream, bitch and moan about the experience, in a nutshell it totally sucks, I won’t bore you with all the details, but here are just a few of the frustrations. You can’t make two appointments at the same time, which means if you want appointments to be together you should each open the site on your own phones and navigate together, think of it as the new date night! Secondly, in order to find out if there are appointments you will need to create accounts at the pharmacies and grocery store chains…so make sure you unsubscribe when you get the first email or they will clog up your inbox. I don’t even want to think about all the sites that have my information including birthdate and insurance information….yes you have to input everything before you find out if there are available appointments…

I’m frustrated because we’ve known about this for a year and in all that time our elected officials couldn’t develop a vaccine plan that would be easy for all to navigate. And that system would include real people you could call that would make your appointment if you didn’t have access to the internet.

As I was complaining on FB, I began to get messages from various people on where to try next, it felt good that even in this hot mess time, people still care for one another and try to help in any way possible. I’m glad in all of this, we haven’t lost the good parts of being human, the parts that want to help one another.

This experience made me think back to the 1980’s when the Cabbage Patch Kids were all the rage. We had three daughters and each wanted the coveted Cabbage Patch Kid for Christmas. My then husband and I searched far and wide for the elusive dolls, and this was before the internet where you actually had to physically go to the stores. Each week we would venture out on a hot tip hoping to score a deal….and feel defeated when we came home empty handed. Until one day, we struck gold, three dolls, priced a bit more than we had planned to spend but success! It was a great Christmas.

I’m confident that within the next few weeks hubby and I will be vaccinated, and with our dads vaccinated and several of our kids vaccinated because of their jobs, we may be able to gather together in the not too distant future and that’s what’s keeping me going right now….

Blessings and peace to you all

The Good Stuff

A few years ago my daughter gave me a beautiful personalized journal…..It came complete with color coded stickers and a lovely laminated cover. It was so beautiful that I thought I would ruin it by writing in it, so after looking at it for a few days, then thinking about what I would write, then going to Pinterest to check out how everyone else was using journals, I put it away in a safe place. And there it stayed until I stumbled across it a few days ago while putting away some books.

As I look around my house I see many things we never use. Top on the list is the collection of crystal glasses that each year I pull out of the china cabinet, wash, and put back. I can’t recall using the brandy glasses since my scotch phase several years ago. We have on a few occasions used the delicate etched glass ice tea glasses, but I have to say I never really enjoy using them because I am afraid they will shatter when they are washed. We finally gave up on the crystal matching wine glasses after so many broke and left us with a crazy assortment of glasses from wine tasting tours.

When we were first married, we had a group of 12 completely mismatched everyday glasses, no two matched. We would joke and say that our glass collection represented the different phases in our lives. The lone survivors of the matched sets, the sturdy ones that weathered all the storms. And even with all the mismatched everyday glasses, I never once thought to set our everyday table with the good glasses.

And the glasses are just one thing I save for best, let’s not even get started with the good china, the good platters, the good candles, the good linens, the good purse, the good sweater…. we all have our lists, they are endless.

According to all the health experts the next few months of this pandemic will be difficult at best. So what better time to use all the good stuff?

May this New Year bring you good health, joy, peace and love.

O Holy Night

My mom was the soprano soloist at our little Methodist Church in Wakefield, Massachusetts and each Christmas Eve I would sit in the pew with my dad and siblings and listen to my mother’s beautiful voice sing “O Holy Night”. It just wasn’t Christmas Eve until mom sang. As a kid I was always nervous that we were totally messing up Santa’s schedule by being in church. I was convinced we should be home in bed…what if we missed him? Even as a young child I had the need to want to control everything…I’m not fond of surprises.

Now as an adult one of my favorite parts of Christmas is the Christmas Eve Service at our church, seeing the faces of people who have traveled to be with loved ones, the ones with the youngsters and the ones who make their annual trek to the building. The service ends with the congregation singing Silent Night by candlelight and for me that is the love of Christmas.

So let’s just fast forward to this year and hopefully you can stand one more rant about just how much this entire year sucks….because of course, we won’t be attending church on Christmas Eve, we’ll be watching it on Facebook Live….and I think that just about sums up this entire year, Christmas Eve on Facebook…

This past week I listened in as our little guys teacher tried her very best to make the kids holiday celebrations seem normal, and our little guy tried his best to keep his camera shut off and had no interest in the virtual activities. Other than looking for that ridiculous Elf every day, he doesn’t even mention Christmas…

Since March I’ve tried to keep the “this is ok, we’re all in this together, we’ll be OK” going but I have to admit I’m hitting the wall….hard…Yesterday was our 13th wedding anniversary and our tradition for the past 6 years has been to book a luxurious room at a Boston hotel and attend the Boston Pops Concert followed by a wonderful dinner at one of Boston’s finest restaurants. Of course that’s not how we spent our day yesterday…

Our family is large and we value our Italian roots and most of all I will be missing our gathering tomorrow, our marathon of grazing on amazing foods and drinks sprinkled with the unwrapping of gifts, all the laughing…I will miss our blended kids annual candy exchange, a tradition that begin the year after we married. The grown up kids decided that a bag of candy would suffice as the perfect gift and so the tradition hindsight, they were smart…one size fits all and everyone is happy…

So this evening, I’ll make our families traditional pasta with seafood, my mom’s recipe, and at 5:00 my family will arrive for their Christmas Eve take out dinner…and tomorrow we’ll gather again in the morning, in the garage, staying socially distant from one another and wearing masks to exchange gifts and food each to bring back to their own home. It’s the best we can do under the circumstances.

And tonight, I’ll tune into our church’s Facebook live and do my best to think about all the Christmas Eve’s past and hopefully this ache in my heart will be lifted. And I hope and pray that next year things will be back to normal…..whatever that may be!

Blessings and Peace to all

My Angel Tree

My mom was an expert at choosing just the rights gifts and after reading Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, I’m convinced her love language was gift giving. For anyone who hasn’t read this book, I highly recommend taking the time to read it cover to cover and if you’re in a relationship, it’s fun to read it together.

Giving and receiving gifts is not my love language so when I’m asked what I want, I usually just glaze over and respond with candles, or a bottle of wine or some warm fuzzy socks. My husband is always amused when I tell him his gifts of the electric can opener and the cookie scoop rank among my favorites.

I don’t think my mom ever asked me what I wanted, but every year both for Christmas and my birthday she managed to give me the perfect gift. At some point I expressed interest in collecting angels and from that point on she added a new angel every year to my ever growing collection. Each year I would look forward to her angel gift.

The first Christmas after my divorce I decided against a big tree and instead went to my local Walgreens and purchased a 4′ tree and filled it with all my little angels. The little tree now 15 years old, represents all my blessings, and I especially love the angels that came from far away places like Armenia or Guatemala, given to me by some very special people.

Long ago when I was still working at Heifer International, I was with a group of volunteers and donors in Alabama visiting some farmers of a self-help group who received some livestock and training from Heifer. When we rounded the corner, we saw a trailer that was partially destroyed from a fire and as we entered, there was a banquet of food served on a table covered with beautiful linens. The food was made lovingly by the group members. At the conclusion of the meal, our host gave us each a beaded angel ornament, she told us that these beautiful crafted angel ornaments were made by their self help group and sold with the proceeds used to buy food for the poor. That’s right, this woman lived in a partially burned out trailer and she was raising money to help others.

My beaded Alabama angel is a constant reminder during each holiday season of the generosity that is shown to others. I’ve learned through my years in non profit fundraising work, that it’s often those who have the least that share the largest percentage of what they have with those who have less. Maybe it’s because they have experienced first hand what it’s like to be hungry, or not pay the rent or keep the lights on, that compels them to share with others.

This Christmas season is like no other we have experienced in our lifetime. And as difficult as things are right now, my spirits are lifted by all those who are actively looking for others to help this year. Our own church is sponsoring Food is Love, Donate ( a program to provide food to those struggling and since May we’ve provided over 13,000 meals. It’s a staggering amount considering where we live. Our family is forgoing gifts this year and we along with some friends are donating bags filled with hats, mittens, blankets, socks, journals and toiletries to 33 residents at a local addiction recovery center. It’s our way of paying our good fortunes forward.

So this season I encourage you to find what makes your spirit soar, give it some thought, you may be surprised at what you learn!

Blessing and peace to you all

Thanksgiving 2020 Style

Never in a million years would I have thought we’d still be dealing with this pandemic. The first week in March we were in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina sharing a beach side house with friends. Every evening before dinner we watched the local news. With every passing day, there were more and more stories about Covid and at that time especially about the horrors coming out of Northern Italy. Little did we imagine the Northeast corridor, our neck of the woods, would be next.

And yet here we are, just days before Thanksgiving and not only are the numbers are rising, but there is speculation that we are heading into unprecedented growth…in the wrong direction. Hospitals could reach their breaking points and our entire healthcare system may be on the brink of disaster if we don’t contain this virus.

We have a large blended family, 6 grown children, 5 grands and thankfully both our dads, each in their mid 90’s are still very healthy. There has been much discussion over these past two weeks about what the holidays will look like for our family. We are like every other family right now, we feel frustrated that we can’t just do what we want to do and be with who we want to be with.

After weighing all the options and looking ahead to a dreary Thanksgiving weather forecast we’ve decided to try something completely different this year. We’re fortunate that several members of our family live relatively close by, so we’ll each make one or two dishes and divide them into several containers. Then we’ll meet briefly outdoors with our masks on and hands sanitized and exchange containers, a smile and some virtual hugs. The end product will be our complete traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but instead of eating it together at one table, we’ll each bring the exchanged containers back to our own homes.

So just as we’ve reimagined school and work in this time of Covid. It’s time IMHO to reimagine our holiday traditions. So maybe that means we put up the Christmas decorations after Halloween and that our traditional Turkey dinner this year is not all being physically together around one table, but that our dinner comes from several take out containers…who knows, maybe some of our reimagining will result in the making of new traditions.

I hope whatever you decide to do this Thanksgiving it’s the best decision for you and your loved ones.

So stay safe and keep wearing your mask and lathering yourself in hand sanitizer!

The Promise in a Bulb

As we enter our 7th month of Covid lockdown, we’ve had lots of time to work in our yard at the little house. With no vacations, or extended outings, there’s lots of time to spend planning out new gardens. This spring we planted new gardens in our back year with the goal of attracting honey bees and butterflys. We were pleased when on a recent afternoon our little guy spotted 6 honeybees gathered on one of the new plants.

Being cooped up for such a long time means spending time looking at gardening sites and creating new boards on Pinterest for all the ideas to improve the gardens. One photo that caught my eye was a spring garden awash in yellow daffodils of every variety. With some more research on where to plant and purchase said daffodil bulbs I put in an order for 100 assorted bulbs. When the order arrived, I spent some time researching the various methods of planting such a large quantity of bulbs.

As with everything else in the age of the internet and armed with a plethora of information from several Youtube videos, I embarked on the project. There were three different methods of planting these bulbs, the first, just dig an indivdual hole and plant a single bulb, the second idea, dig a circle large enough to hold 6 bulbs in a circle and put one in the middle, and the third method was to just dig up an entire area and pretty much just scatter the bulbs and after checking to see they were all turned the right way, cover up the area. I couldn’t make up my mind to which method I should use, so I used all three methods and come April, I guess I’ll know which one worked best!

As I planted the bulbs I thought of Natalie Sleeths hymn “In the Bulb there is a Flower” and specifically the verse “In the cold and snow of winter there’s a Spring that waits to be, unrevealed until it’s season, something God alone can see”

Made me think about the hot mess time we’re in right now, how as the cold and snow season begins we’ll be back in forced hibernation. How a corner of our dining room has been transformed into a make shift classroom for our 4th grader who spends 6 hours a day in front of a Chromebook screen trying to keep up with his school work. And how it breaks our heart that we have no plans to visit our youngest grandchild because we don’t feel safe getting on a plane. If I’m being completely truthful, I’m not feeling too optimistic about the upcoming season

Then I think of the bulbs I just planted, how with a combination of hibernation and their stored nutrients they will emerge strong and healthy in a swarth of yellow beauty.

So maybe I should take a cue from the bulbs and try to enjoy this upcoming time of hibernation, to prepare the little house with the comforts we’ll need to keep ourselves safe and comfy during the cold and snow. And look forward to emerging in the Spring to see the beautiful blooms of the yellow daffodils

Fall in the time of Quarantine

The leaves are beginning to turn, the artificial orange fall scented candle is burning by the stove and my favorite pumpkin spice coffee is back. The calendar still says summer, but in my mind and in the aisles of CVS, trust me, it’s fall.

In any other year, fall also means back to school, but in our time of quarantine, fall this year means scrubbing off an old Ikea desk and setting it up in our dining room so we can have the pleasure of spending every weekday from 9-3, supervising little man as he begins 4th grade. I’m especially looking forward to watching him do his Zoom gymnastics, over and under the chair, camera placed so only the top of his head is showing….all of you with kids, you totally know the drill….the struggle is real.

Fall is the time we Bless the Backpacks at our church, but this year, instead of backpacks, our pastor will bless the laptops….we also have a Sunday when the pets are blessed, not sure how that will be handled over zoom in case it’s too cold in New England to worship in the great outdoors.

With Fall comes apple picking, our annual gathering of the grands dressed in their appropriate Patriot team shirt to pose for the grandkid photo that ends up as a refrigerator magnet until the following year. Not sure how we’ll manage that while wearing masks, socially distancing and fighting off other families in the orchard for the best apples

Fall is also Halloween…..will every piece of candy come with a Lysol wipe? Can you even buy Lysol wipes?  Will we just throw the candy bars into a sterilized pillowcase?  I can’t wait to see all the options erupt on Facebook with all the mommas….yes, I’m on several momma FB local pages….and I’m thankful there was no social media many years ago when I was raising my kids.

And let’s not even begin to talk about Thanksgiving. What will happen to all the 25+ pound birds that are being raised now when the chance of large family gatherings the end of November held indoors with no viable vaccine has current odds of happening between slim and none?

Let’s face it, there will be no magic vaccination ready in October, that’s just another lie….and if we can’t get this virus contained the only certainty is that more people will die….and as they say, that’s just the facts.

With the warm weather we’ve been able to get out and visit with folks outdoors while maintaining our social distance…..sometimes things seem like normal…but that’s only until the cold weather returns and once again we’ll be forced to stay indoors and back to socializing on Zoom, and for me, that’s just a very depressing thought.

So next week, I’ll put away the white pants, as every true New Englander has been taught to do….and break out all fall decorations from the basement and visit the local nursery to buy some big mums to plant next to the haybales and pumpkins I’ll get from a local farmer….and I’ll try not to think about how much this season will be different this year.

I will try hard to count my blessings, for I have many….and not to dwell on all that we’re missing…but I also need to acknowledge that it’s hard, and sometimes the most difficult part is giving myself permission to take the time to acknowledge that things are upside down right now.

Stay well and stay safe my friends and above all else be kind to yourself, remember, these are not normal times and somehow, we’ll get through this mess!