Memories – So Far Away; So Very Clear

“Pleasure is the flower that passes; remembrance, the lasting perfume.” ~ Jean de Boufflers

While contemplating writing a memoir, I recently began rummaging through boxes full of old memorabilia I almost forgot I had.  Ask anyone who really knows me; I despise paper and if it isn’t needed for tax purposes, personal documentation or other legal matter, more often than not it gets tossed.  So when I happened across clippings, letters and other such papers meticulously stored in several small cardboard boxes, I knew they must be something I deemed worthwhile keeping.

 Steve 19650002Sure enough, opening one of the boxes, I discovered a small collection of faded colored photographs that appear to have been taken in the mid 1960’s.  Instantly, I was transported back in time to my childhood living room.  There was that big old television – with its folding doors which protected me from Mighty Mouse as he burst onto the screen at the opening of each episode.  And there was my brother, mid-afternoon, still in his bathrobe, clowning with my uncle and neighborhood friends.  It’s amazing how many wonderful memories can emanate from one old photograph.

 SJD Ltr1 11_65It’s a shame some of the photos and letters I found in the box were so faded.  Luckily several letters were fairly legible and the photos still had some color to them.  I especially enjoyed reading the letters my middle brother Stephen wrote me while he was away at college.  Twelve years my senior, his writing conveyed levity, tenderness and love.SJD Ltr2 11_65

 

I must admit, reading the part where he asked me if I wanted to “play house” was a little creepy.  SJD Ltr3 11_65Back in those days however, little girls loved to “play house.”  There was nothing wrong with my brother wanting me to visit and help him straighten up his apartment; I was good at cooking, cleaning and ironing even at the tender age of 8.  Other notations regarding schoolwork, music, friends, pets, and especially about my father were heartwarming.  (Curious why he mentioned “witch” in both letters…I was always an “angel!”)

 The last few years have been challenging for my brother.  He faced a series of unexpected and unpleasant situations.  I pray my brother continues to heal and hope revisiting these letters brings a smile to his face.  We may live many miles apart, but he, along with my other brothers and sisters, are always close to my heart. 

 SJD Ltr1 10_66

Discovering these priceless memories help me realize how truly blessed I am.  These are feelings I didn’t recognize as a child.  Today, everything is quick – a text here, a tweet or status update there.  How many people actually take the time to sit down and write a letter?  Not many.  Life is so fast-paced that we often don’t realize how much we are missing.  A simple note or letter is able to bring so much joy to another person, joy that brief electronic communication fails to convey.

 I never did finish the letter to my brother; I wonder what I would have said next…but it would have ended with “Love, your sister Marybeth”  (that’s now my alias!)

SJD Ltr2 10_66Call me old-fashioned or traditional, I don’t mind.  Sometimes I feel I can’t live without all the new technology and make certain I’m current with it, as best I can be.  At other times, I’d rather do things the way I used to, MED 10_66 replylike making bread from scratch rather than using a bread machine (if I had one).  Several minutes of vigorous kneading works wonders for a person’s sanity.  The treasured little box I found brought me back to basics.  I can’t wait to see what other wonderful memories are yet to be revived.

Steve_Mom weddingSteve Hawaii2 2006

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I’ve been reminiscing the past year recently and when I came across this post, it precisely mirrored my thoughts. Thanks to Philosiblog for the post. Sometimes, others’ words fill the bare spots of your own conscience.

philosiblog

When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. – Lao Tzu

What does that mean?
Once again, we have another Twitter-friendly shortened quote. The more complete version is “Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.

What is it that you are lacking in your life? Conversely, what do you have in your life which you take for granted? About what could, or even should, you be rejoicing? Your health, your relative wealth, your friends, your family? Even if you have none of those, you could rejoice in the quiet and tranquility.

So many of us focus on what we do not have, and overlook or even ignore what we do have. At least until it’s too late, right? I’m sure it never happened to you…

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Wonderful Team Member Readership Award

wonderful-readership-award

Last week, Can’t Stay Out of the Kitchen nominated me for the “Wonderful Team Member Readership Award!”  I was ecstatic!

Unfortunately I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, nor how I should respond.  This was the second person that nominated me for something; I apologize that I did not act on the first.  My excuse is I was new and naïve…until now! 

I sincerely appreciate Can’t Stay Out of the Kitchen for nominating me for this award.  I am extremely grateful to all of my “fans” who make awards like this possible.  If it were not for the “Likes” or “Comments” I’ve received on my pages, I’d feel like a virtual blogger in a haystack!

To all of you who have taken the time to read my posts, I offer a great big, warm

THANK YOU! 

wonderful-readership-award

So now, here are the rules for the award, which are fairly simple to follow:

Nominate 14 other blogs to receive the award.

Here are my 14 recommendations (in no particular order):

Keeping it Real Mom – Life of a Real mom with Real challenges

Bucket List Publications – Lesley Carter is Adventurer Extraordinaire

Rebecca 2000 – For those who go where no one dares

Dianne Gray – Acclaimed Australian author

The Jenny Mac Book Blog – Artful Young Adult writer

All Seasons Cyclist – Any and all things Cycling

Fiammisday – Fabulous fashions for mom and baby

To Be Aware – Self Awareness and Fulfillment

i Game Mom – Educational applications for kids

Watch Out World – Food, crafts and fun in the blogosphere

Patrick Latter – Wondrous Canadian Hiking Photography and more

A Lot On Your Plate -Ccreative & practical tips, recipes, and more

The Better Man Projects –  One man’s heartwarming motivational journey

Mix It Up and Make It Nice – Great baking and hosting blog

THANK YOU…THANK YOU…THANK YOU!!!

The Season of Giving

 “Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” ~ Hamilton Wright Mabievanessa xmas baby

What is it about the words HOME and HOLIDAYS that bring a sense of warmth and comfort?  Or do these words represent something sad and painful.  Is your family intact or splintered?  Do you live by yourself but visit your family on the holidays or are your loved ones far away? 

There’s no escaping the Holiday Season.  It’s everywhere you look.  Sadly, it has become overly commercial; lacking the true meaning of the season.  But there is a bright side…for everyone, no matter your religion or lack thereof, age, gender or race.

H earth  O rnaments  L ove  I cicles  D ecorations  A ngels  Y ule

S nowflakes  E ggnog  A tmosphere  S tar  O rchestra  N ew Year

vanessa xmas youngMy baby (she’s 18 already!) won’t be returning home from college until mid-December.  She always helped decorate and I miss her greatly.  My DH?  Not exactly the decorating type (but he’s good for lugging the decorations down from the attic!)

All the outside decorations are up and I’ve begun the inside, but something tells me to wait until my daughter returns to complete the task.  On the other hand, I’d like to have it fully decorated, with the exception of the tree (which we always do TOGETHER), so when she walks in the door, she’ll see our home in all it’s fine holiday glory.

 Decisions, decisions.  There are still the tasks of mailing holiday cards, purchasing and wrapping presents, making and decorating food gifts, last minute cleaning, visiting friends and attending a holiday party.  But that’s not what’s important.

NYC Soup Kitchen Christmas I’d like to visit a shelter, hospital, soup kitchen or food bank and give something to those who don’t have all the blessings of the holiday season that I do.  It’s a time of new hope and love.  It’s a time of giving and sharing.  Life is too short to rush through the season.  Others less fortunate need some holiday spirit too.

 V & Mom XmasI think everyone can find a little time and bring cheer to someone who is without hope, who is sad or lonely during the holidays.  Santa may not be real (I didn’t really say that) but I believe in angels.  Will you be an angel this year for someone who needs one?  I pray you will.

 “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.’ Hungry not only for bread — but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing — but naked for human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks — but homeless because of rejection.” ~ Mother Teresa

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Faulkner

You never know what you’ll find when you dig through drawers you haven’t searched in a long time.  Today, I relocated my diary…from 1969.  Talk about a time warp!   Was I really that obedient, naïve and typically pubescent back in the day?  How refreshing to remember…all hope is not lost!

Although I didn’t write in it daily, some of the postings brought me back to a time when life was much simpler…or so I thought.  The first entry was on New Years Eve, January 1, 1969.  I recall being with my two cousins and my brother while our parents were out reveling.  How many people actually have a mini-description of that date?

I’ve noticed through my diary, how often I wrote about doing the dishes, peeling potatoes, vacuuming, watching TV, playing piano, doing a crossword, playing or even being tired.  I also noticed on days we were at my brother/sister-in-laws, or sister/brother-in-laws, we came home very late (or early morning…5 am?)

Another thing that amuses me is my handwriting which was so very sloppy compared to that of high school.  Some later spelling entries are almost unforgivable!  I received an “A” in both Penmanship and Spelling in grammar school but the writings in this diary are atrocious! Guess there’s no pardon by an aging perfectionist!

Oh, yes.  January 16 I was an innocent young girl having a dream about “Owen.”  I vaguely remember a boy with that name…hmmm.

Okay, I was in 7th grade when I penned these entries; still very young.  As a matter of fact, TOO YOUNG, but then again, in today’s society, my dreams and fantasies are realities to some children nowadays…how sad. 

Childhood seems to be waning: adulthood seems to begin at 12, with the ignorance of an infant.

 Even back then, I was concerned about my report card.  A 75 would never do.  I’m sure the teacher made a mistake and the correct grade was  85.3. 

 It’s sad that today, it’s acceptable not to strongly encourage children to study hard and do better in school…it seems everyone gets an award for “trying.”  But how hard do children really try?  Distractions such as TV, Xbox, Wii, Internet, etc., are everywhere.  How often do children pick up a book on their own just to “read?”  Seems to be a foreign concept unless you own a Kindle.  Then again, Smartphones take priority. 

I remembered the “Blizzard of ’69” after reading my diary.  School was closed for two weeks.  I’m sure that made my parents very happy.  However, since we were still amused and occupied with recently acquired Christmas presents, snow days weren’t qute as bad as they could have been.

Notice the note on February 11 as “Diane’s Birthday.”  Diane was then and still is my BFF.  We remember and celebrate each other’s birthdays every year, to this day.  How wonderful is that!

March 7 was actually one of several clippings I pasted from the TV news about a “great” movie; this one was the 1961 “All Hands on Deck” I saw featuring Pat Boone and Barbara Eden.  It seems we were always over my sister Kathy’s house.  NOW I REMEMBER WHY…My sister was the first to have children in our family; I used to babysit for them ALL THE TIME, lovingly I might add, while my sister, brother-in-law and parents used to play cards!  Damn, I never even got paid! LOL

 Oh, this one was a gem.  Visiting my brother and sister-in-law’s house and writing about the “celebrities” I liked very much (at such a tender age)…  Bobby Sherman, Robert Wagner, James Conrad, David Hedison, Dom DeLouise.  My favorite female was Carol Burnett!   I still love Carol!

I eliminated a few more personal entries that only “girls” should discuss…but yeah, they were recorded in my diary and are beautiful to remember.  Could you imagine what I’d be writing online if the internet were available back then?

Just think…this was the stuff I used to think was important enough for me to write about back then.  Today, it’s finances, food costs, gas prices, mortgages, healthcare, taxes, exercise, tuition…and more. 

Oh, how I sometimes long for the younger, softer, innocent years of my youth! 

“Keep a diary, and someday it’ll keep you.” ~ Mae West

Jack of All Trades, Master of … Few?

Waking to a blanket of fog engulfing the cul-de-sac this morning was not exactly motivating; however, I managed a good breakfast, some exercise, taking care of kitties and checking e-mail, eager to begin my day.  While preparing breakfast, I had to acquiesce; I’m just not proficient at some of life’s little skills.  Then again, neither is Martha Stewart; how disappointing.

For your amusement, I’ve created a list of some common endeavors which seem to evade the OCD in me.   Can you identify with any?

Sectioning grapefruit   -By the time I’m finished, it looks like something the cat hacked up.

WordPress, Pinterest   –Still trying to get the knack of these sites.  And I joined Pinterest because?  Certainly not because I enjoy spending countless hours looking at dog and cat photos, although I’ll have to admit, they are adorable!

Fixing hair   –I’m blessed with a full head of hair; however, it takes at least 40 minutes to blow dry and style and that’s just to get it looking neat.  Putting it up, braiding, clips, etc., I’m all thumbs.

Water-skiing   –Not in this lifetime.  Why can’t you just start in a standing position?

Making homemade pasta  -Damn eggs keep sliding over the flour well!

Electrical wiring – Amps, volts, ohms, watts, neutral/ground, breaker/fuse, pigtail, busbar, gang, splice, Yikes!

Planting tulip bulbs  –Wondered why the stem was so short; guess I should have planted the root side down???

Pruning trees/shrubs  –What pruning, just chainsaw the hell out of them!

Making Pot Roast  –Nothing beats my sister Kathy’s pot roast; but I can make a kick-ass chili!

Clipping cats’ nails   -Not unless they’re dazed and confused first.

Using an iPod  –My daughter donated her old ones to me…haven’t used one yet.  What’s wrong with the radio?

Source code  –Per Wikipedia, “…any collection of computer instructions (possibly with comments) written using some human-readable computer language …” Human computers or computer humans?

Zumba   -Another reason to wriggle, writhe, bump and bounce and pull my back out!

Photography/Videography  –So many buttons, so many accessories, so little time to understand what they all do.

Sewing tulle  –I’d rather get a root canal.  Needle gets caught in holes all the same.

Angry Birds  – Have no clue what this is, how to play, never owned a Wii or Xbox, etc. but I used to play a mean game of PacMan…waccka, waccka!

Bra shopping   –Natural breasts slope; so why make rubberized bras that look like they’ll cover torpedoes?

Choosing between a comma and semicolon -MS Word keeps highlighting my commas, wanting me to use semicolons when they should be used for emphasis, no?; yes.  Arrggg.

Skimcoating   -There has to be an easier, faster, less dusty way to make a wall smooth.

Competing with my sisters in Scrabble   -I’m the youngest and they cheat…enough said.

Surviving the NY Times Sunday Crossword with my brother I’m the youngest and he’s the oldest…and he doesn’t cheat; he’s just too smart for me!

Hope you enjoyed my bit of joviality for the day.   Peace – Out ;D

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” ~ Thomas Edison

A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish ~ Antoine de Saint Exupery

First, I’d like to apologize to any readers who may have noticed I’ve been somewhat sidetracked lately.  This blog is about living life to its full potential.  Occasionally other passions put me off target.  Having said that, I’m back to writing about things in my life which I have limited control over but are important to me: love, family, good health, proper nutrition and exercise, fond memories, good friends, spirituality, adventure and community.

 Notice I did not mention weather.  We were hit with another Nor’easter today; however it’s not nearly as bad as the hurricane was.  Our first snow fell this afternoon and actually the sight of white snow blanketing our green lawn and orange pumpkins was quite pretty.  Pretty does not mean I want it to linger; I hope it will melt soon.

Now back to concentrating on the next meal plan I’m going to tackle.  I’ve done quite a bit of research and found a site (U.S. World and News Report) that summarizes some of the best plans to date.  I’ve decided to try the TLC Plan (#2).  Notice the numbers at the end of each diet indicating whether or not people found the plan to be effective.  Of the first ten diets, only three, 2 Vegetarian and Weight Watchers, had more positive feedback than the others.

 The remaining 15 on the list, which I am not illustrating here, were:

  • Eco-Atkins Diet                      Abs Diet
  • Flat Belly Diet                         Medifast
  • Jenny Craig                             Nutrisystem
  • Macrobiotic Diet                    Glycemic Index Diet
  • South Beach Diet                   Atkins Diet
  • Raw Food Diet                        Paleo Diet
  • Slim-Fast Diet                        Dukan Diet
  • Zone Diet

The challenge for me is finding a plan I believe I can stick with.  If I have to avoid a certain type of food that I’ve enjoyed all my life, it will only make me crave it more.  That’s part of my addictive personality I suppose.  Of more concern is trying to find a plan which my husband can manage, as he needs to keep his cholesterol under control.  As it is, convincing him to eat more fruits and vegetables will be no easy task.

Here is an overview of the TLC Diet:

  • Type: Low-fat.
  • The aim: Cutting high cholesterol.
  • The claim: You’ll lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol by 8 to 10 percent in six weeks.
  • The theory: Created by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program, the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes Diet (TLC) is endorsed by the American Heart Association as a heart-healthy regimen that can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Cutting back sharply on fat, particularly saturated fat, (think fatty meat, whole-milk dairy, and fried foods), strictly limiting daily dietary cholesterol intake and getting more fiber, can help people manage high cholesterol, often without medication.

Our goals are to both lower LDL and lose weight.  Therefore, I’m planning daily caloric intake of approximately 1,800-2,000 for my husband and 1,200-1,300 for me.  Saturated fat intake will be less than 7 percent of daily calories and no more than 200 milligrams of dietary cholesterol a day.  On TLC, we’ll be eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, fish, and skinless poultry.  I’ll be working with a dietitian to formulate daily meals that are feasible for our lifestyles as well as working in an appropriate exercise schedule we both can enjoy.

The goal is to reduce LDL cholesterol levels by 8-10 percent and lose between 10-20 lbs. within six weeks.  At least with this plan, we’re in it together.  I won’t have to prepare separate meals all the time.  My biggest challenge is being creative; incorporating fruits and vegetables into meals without being obvious. 

I have a few more days to prepare my meals and get ready to begin anew on Sunday.  Thank goodness for whiteboards; they’ll come in handy to chart daily meals and weight loss.  I’m looking forward to engaging in another plan which will help encourage healthy eating and physical exercise.  Time to get out the ball, band and weights again!  Just as long as I don’t have to get out the shovel…yet.

“To lengthen your life, shorten your meals.” ~ Proverb

Reflections of a Loving Soul

This morning I was informed I lost a kindred spirit this past weekend; Paul T. Pearsall, a man I’ve known for over 30 years.  I guess you might consider Paul a friend of the family in an indirect way.  He was my eldest sister’s best friend’s son, but he was more than that.  Only three months separated us in age, yet Paul was much wiser than I could ever imagine.  It wasn’t only his captivating wit that had people charmed; it was his genuine love for his fellow man that radiated whenever you spoke with him. 

A lover of animals as well, Paul could always be counted on to provide some comic relief when all the dogs gathered around.  Normally, I would only see Paul when there were large gatherings of some kind, which seemed to be on a regular basis at my sister’s house especially when her five daughters were young.  Mary, Paul’s doting mother, brought Paul wherever she went and he so loved visiting with everyone.  I don’t recall ever seeing a frown upon that man’s face.  His laughter permeated the premises and no one left the event untouched by his warmhearted dialogues. 

I recall a fairly recent account of Paul, who was confined to a wheelchair most of his life due to cerebral palsy, taking a trip along the streets of his town, unescorted.  Maybe he just wanted to get out into the nice warm air on his own one evening, wheeling along without a care in the world, free as a bird.  He had that capacity, you know, and a will to beat the band.  Paul’s disability did not hinder him from standing up for himself, and he did so repeatedly.  Yet how could you argue with such a sweet person who never told a lie his entire life? 

When my nieces were all grown, they used to gather with their families at my sister and brother-in-law’s home for the holidays and I especially enjoyed spending an occasional New Year’s Eve with them.  Mary would bring Paul by to ring in the holiday with everyone on the front porch; pots & pans clanging away.  Oh, how he loved to see the excitement on everyone’s face as we welcomed a new year with smiles, kisses, hugs; plenty of love to go around.  Just seeing the happiness on Paul’s face made us all appreciate what we had and how blessed we were to have the opportunity to spend time with one another. 

No, I didn’t see Paul very often but that doesn’t negate the connection I felt with him.  I envied his unconditional love for his fellow man.  It was delightful to witness his happiness when the dogs jumped upon him, tails wagging joyously as they lapped his face in excitement.  How simple and uncomplicated Paul made life seem.  While he didn’t have full use of his legs, his arms were more than willing to bear his weight when he sat on the floor with us, eagerly engaging in casual conversation.  Why can’t life be that undemanding, I often wondered?  Nothing seemed to faze Paul, and if it did, I certainly could not discern it by his mannerisms. 

As his mother grew older and weaker, you could tell it was more difficult to care for Paul.  Now a woman in her 70’s, I applaud her years of undying devotion to her son.  She has three other children who are married with families of their own and while they helped out with Paul as much as they could, it was still a difficult journey for a mother to endure.  Yet she refused to place Paul in a home for someone else to care for.  He was her son, her treasure, her life; and now he’s gone. 

While I’m deeply saddened that Paul is no longer with us, I am certain he has found new happiness in the realm beyond our imagination.  I grieve for his mother Mary, who will most likely experience a whirlwind of emotions.  Gratitude and despair will frequent her for time to come.  Fortunately she has many people around her for support.  I cannot imagine what it must be like to lose a child, even more so, one who was disabled and needed constant attention.  When someone spends the majority of their life preoccupied in the daily care of another person, especially their own child, and suddenly that person is gone, an enormous void occurs.  Only time can heal a loss, if ever possible.

I will truly miss Paul.  I’ll miss his laughter, charm, wit and generosity.  It’s not often our paths cross with someone who is truly an unexpected inspiration; prompting me to think twice about my own shortcomings.  Thank you, Paul, for blessing my life and the lives of those who knew you.  You were not like the rest of us who often take our lives for granted.  You were an innocent, without the flaws of fallacious humility and distant idealism that befalls many of us.  Sleep well Paul.  May God keep you in His loving grace. 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” ~ The Beatitudes, Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:4