Diamond and Silver Anniversaries Remembered

“Don’t marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can’t live without.” ~ James C. Dobson

 Stella_Ray AnnivYesterday would have been my parents 75th Wedding Anniversary.  Years pass in the blink of an eye.  From what I understand, the ceremony was small and modest but charming just the same.  I decided to get married the day after their wedding date, 25 years ago.  The date had special meaning to me and each year I become more aware of the similarities between the two marriages.  Sadly, my mom had passed some years prior to my wedding; however I was grateful to have had my father escort me down the aisle.


Ray_Stella 1940sIt’s unfortunate I have no photos of their wedding day although I remember spotting what was rumored to be my mom’s wedding dress in an old cedar Hope Chest.  The dress appeared to be about a size 0 or 2 by today’s standards and was a stunning yet casual, pastel periwinkle blue, my mother’s favorite color.  Truth be known (and it will be now), I tried it on when I was in my late teens or early twenties and tore some of the seam stitching; I was obviously a little larger than a size 2!  I still wonder what ever became of that dress…  (Notice the difference in my dad’s hair in 25 yrs?  From a “bush” to “barely there!”  LOL)

With 5 brothers and sisters, it’s also baffling that no one can recall where the boxes of photo albums and black and white snapshots stored with the cedar chest disappeared to.  As a child, I used to flip through the photos, giggling at how funny the styles looked “back then.”  I’ll keep my fingers crossed and say a prayer that someday they’ll materialize before I’m too old to see them clearly!

M_C Wedding fullM_C Wedding ringM_C Wedding Dad 

My 25th Anniversary began with a mammogram and bone density screening.  That was so much fun!  Not.  Actually, I planned to have the tests done on this date so it would be easier for me to recall when I had them for future reference.  So far, the remainder of the day is up in the air.  Maybe the man I considered my “Prince Charming” a quarter century ago will have a surprise in store.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Some Food Fun on Valentine’s Day


 Many couples celebrate this day by going out to eat at a fancy restaurant, however this year we decided to spend some quiet time at home, just the two of us.  Our daughter is away at college.  I sent her a nice “care package” last week filled with lots of goodies for the holiday to let her know we miss her. 010


Since we were staying home, I thought I’d have a little fun with food today.  Instead of making the same old thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I thought I’d play around in the kitchen.  Okay, so the food wasn’t really gourmet fare, but it was fun to make, healthy to eat and totally satisfying (especially the dessert!)

 Happy banana strawberry smoothie

A strawberry-banana smoothie was perfect for breakfast.  Even the food was smiling (before I wielded my paring knife!)  Made with non-fat yogurt and a drizzle of Agave, this frothy breakfast was delicious, filling and less than 300 calories (based on an average serving.)


By the time lunch came along, we weren’t that hungry.  I had some cantaloupe chunks and walnut halves while I made my husband a nice little turkey sandwich on toasted whole wheat bread with a mug of hot skim chocolate milk.    


???????????????????????????????For dinner, I decided to make a Shrimp and Broccoli dish which was delicious, easy to prepare and wholesome.  I served the shrimp over a bed of brown rice and a small green salad with lemon squeeze on the side to round out the meal.  Before marinating the shrimp for about 15 minutes in a mixture of soy, garlic and ginger, I put together another heart-shaped happy face for the holiday!


???????????????????????????????Being Valentine’s Day, I decided to splurge on dessert and make some of my husband’s favorite cookies, Mint Chocolate Chip, as I spelled out a loving message.  A couple of these delightful chocolate sensations with a nice warm cup of tea really hit the spot.  We plan to spend the remainder of the evening relaxing by the fire. 

 I hope everyone gave and received lots of love today.  And if you have pets, I hope you gave them lots of extra love today too!  Valentine’s Day is not just for lovers, you know…

From CameraPhone 008

“We love the things we love for what they are.” ~ Robert Frost

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

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.


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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Our Cat – Buried Alive?

It happened AGAIN!Reboarded floor with axe     Our XL sized cat, Mike (a female) decided to poke her nose where it didn’t belong. 

We’re still remodeling our dining room and I guess, while the rafters were exposed and the carpenter was busy elsewhere, Mike decided to go under the floor and through the rafters…somewhere.

The carpenter left three hours earlier, after first screwing down plywood over all the open spaces on the floor.   My husband thought he heard a tiny “meow.”  My cat may be large but she’s not a “meower.”  “Where the heck is Mike?”   “I think she’s in the floor!” he said.

Before pulling boardsGreat, our cat is buried alive in the floor.  This is the second time in two years this happened.  The only problem this time is that we couldn’t pull the plywood boards up.  They were screwed down with special screws which we had no tool for!

My husband rushed into the shed and brought back a …pick axe.  Really?  Guess he didn’t have a crowbar.  In any event, it took about fifteen minutes to pull the boards up but Mike was nowhere to be found.  We called her name, we searched with flashlights, and we even shook her treat bag…no Mike.Boards yanked up

I stuck my head in between the rafters in the floor with the flashlight but couldn’t see her.  There was one small hole in the corner – no, Mike was too big to fall down through that hole…wasn’t she?  OMG what if she DID fall through – that would mean we would have to tear out the wall downstairs to get her out.  There was no way to get her out from upstairs.  OMG…OMG….OMG.

 After more than an hour of calling her name, we decided to go into the kitchen to plan our next move.  Sure enough, who comes squeezing out from in between the rafters – yup!  That little brat!  She scared the heck out of us – especially me.  She was probably looking through the rafters watching me as I stuck my head down into there looking for her.  Of course I couldn’t see her – she’s black as night!  Damn cat.

Mike after being buried aliveI really wanted to yell at her but I couldn’t.  After taking a towel and cleaning her up a bit, she meandered over to her food bowl, plopped down and pawed the food into her mouth as usual – like nothing happened.  That’s a cat for you.  At least she’s safe.  I’m sure she’s saying – “Oh those humans – they make a big deal out of everything!”

I tell you, some days I’d like to exchange these cats for a bunch of kids…what am I saying?  Never mind, you get the picture.  Thankfully, all’s well that ends well.Mike on sneakers

 “Cats know how to obtain food without labor, shelter without confinement, and love without penalties.” ~ W. L. George

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

Sunrise, Sunset, Swiftly Fly the Years

It’s a beautiful moment when you see a sweet little girl blossom into a beautiful young woman.  This afternoon, I attended the bridal shower of my best friend’s daughter and realized that time passes much too quickly as we grow older.  Each day should be treasured for what it is. 

Twenty something years ago, I visited with my friend and her little girls at their new home.  Here we were, two best friends, reminiscing about our “younger days” and all the fun we had as single women and now, we were wives with families.  Did those labels define us?  Our previous conversations were filled with discussions of what we were wearing when we ventured into New York City on a Saturday evening, and now we were talking about our favorite dinner recipes or how to take care of a child’s fever. 

We used to be called “hot women” and now we were being labeled “wives” or “mothers.”  What happened?  Did we suddenly become “cold” now that we merged with a life partner?  Were we no longer attractive to the opposite sex just because we had a ring on our finger or pushed a stroller?

What happened is that we no longer defined ourselves as anything besides being part of someone else’s life; whether a spouse or a child.  It was our fault.  We soon learned that deep down inside it was perfectly fine to still think of ourselves as hot young women AND married women.  Our dreams, spirits and ambitions were the same back then and haven’t changed to this day.  The only difference now is that all the love we shared, tears we cried and challenges we conquered over the years now appear on our faces like stars in a summer sky.

My friend’s daughter has grown into an intelligent, lovely, caring young woman.  Her fiancé is kind-hearted, friendly, loving young man.  They complement each other, not define each other.  Each is perfectly able to stand on their own yet together they create a bond that is solid and genuine.  As individuals and as a couple, I wish them all the treasures one lifetime can hold and the strength to endure any adversities that may cross their paths.  “

“I think a man and a woman should choose each other for life, for the simple reason that a long life with all its accidents is barely enough time for a man and a woman to understand each other and. . . to understand – is to love.” ~ William Butler Yeats

“The spaces between your fingers were created so that another’s could fill them in.” ~ Anonymous ~

When Acceptance is a One-Way Street

Why does my age, gender, color of my skin, hair, religion or moral compass become a punching bag for every person who somehow feels inadequate in life?  According to the media, I (comparatively speaking) am being targeted by multitudes of people I’ve even never met because of who I am.  My choice of food, friends, jobs, sexual orientation, religion, political affiliation, clothes and even charities I donate to have been criticized, condemned and ridiculed.  I’m a strong person and can take the abuse yet I struggle to understand it.

When people see me at first glance, they’ll notice a middle-aged, Caucasian female of average weight and height.  I don’t wear designer clothes or carry a designer handbag.  I generally wear costume jewelry.  I am currently unemployed.  I don’t walk around like I own a mansion and a yacht.  Yet I’m being accused of being insensitive to the plights of others who are “different.”

I get it.  I may not look like I’ve ever suffered a day in my life.   Nobody knows, however, about everything that’s ever happened to me in my life except me.  Even my family and friends don’t know everything I’ve experienced.  They don’t need to.  What concerns me is when my opinions, based on my personal experiences or set of values, are attacked without provocation.  When I’m expected to be understanding and not judgmental, why aren’t I afforded that same respect?  In my lifetime, I have never witnessed such a period of double-standards as I have in recent years.

As far as I’m concerned, to each his own; live and let live  As long as someone is not hurting me or my family in any way, shape or form, what they do in their personal life does not concern me.  We all have opinions, likes, dislikes, hopes and dreams.  Mine may not be like everyone else’s but in our society, we are supposed to welcome diversity.  Disagreeing with someone whose opinions and choices are different than mine does not make me a homophobe, xenophobe, racist or religious fanatic.

A difference in the color of our skin, sexual orientation, political affiliation or religion (or lack thereof) does not mean we cannot live alongside one another in harmony.  If you were drowning, I would help save you, hungry, I’d help feed you, hurt, I’d comfort you; I wouldn’t care who you were.  Why are some people so shallow to fall into the pit of labels, hatred and condemnation?  Maybe because it’s so easy to do.

I guess I’m just tired of all the pathetic rhetoric I’ve been hearing over the past decade.  I make no apologies for my feelings, opinions or moral values nor do I expect others to do the same.  I admit there are times I wish I could make some people change their minds about something, but I have no right to impose my will on anyone.  Accept me for who I am or not.  I accept me, flaws and all.  Everyone has the right to agree to disagree.  However, it’s about time we try and make acceptance a two-way street.

“Nothing brings down walls as surely as acceptance.” ~ Deepak Chopra

Dare to be Bare

Within the past several months, countless photos have been posted of “stars” or “celebrities” without makeup.  Of course, with the exception of Alice Cooper, the photos are of women of various ages.  The most recent photos were posted from the NY Daily News, Pop Crush, Huffington Post and E-Online between July and October 2012.  Occasionally I’d view these casually, if at all, because I’m one of those women who looks quite different with and without makeup.  Mainly I click out of curiosity and after the third or fourth photo, I move on to a more interesting topic on the internet.  Going without makeup may not be a big deal to most but the concept of beauty and appearance had a big effect on me when I was young. (Photo: comedienne Kathy Griffin c/o www.huffingtonpost.com.)

 I recall wearing mascara in 8th grade; unacceptable in parochial school.  One of the nuns insisted I go to the bathroom and remove it.  Adamantly, I walked to the bathroom, waited several minutes and went back to class.  Needless to say the teacher wasn’t pleased and down to the principal’s office I went.  The point is, I felt naked without it because I was so fair-skinned and did not see the harm in wearing one tiny coat of mascara to school.  Truth be known, I had been teased quite a bit because of my fair-skin, red hair and buck teeth.  Additionally, I was one of the tallest girls in my grade and already fully developed.  How I detested puberty.

Embarrassed and harassed at school, my only choice was to start wearing a little makeup.  What was the big deal?  Has anyone seen the way young, I mean 5th grade girls, look now?  And my teacher thought a little mascara was a sin? 

The way I looked became critical to me.  I was less self-conscious if I wore a little makeup.  No longer did I feel like that pale, pasty-skinned girl anymore.  Makeup made me feel attractive.  Hindsight is 20-20 however.  Wearing makeup became a crutch for me; it was my mask.  After high school, I attended a modeling academy for 10 weeks.  Again, that exposure helped me create a false façade. 

Shortly thereafter, I was thrust into the limelight by some “well-meaning” co-workers who persuaded me to enter a local beauty contest, “The Long Island Search for Miss Universe.”  One associate, who claimed to be an amateur photographer, took numerous photos of me for a portfolio.  After being interviewed by the pageant coordinators, I was selected to participate.   Was I actually pretty enough to be a beauty contestant?  Wow, I was on Cloud 9.

Arriving at the catering hall where the pageant was being held, I was escorted into the contestant’s dressing room.  Armed with my makeup bag, hot rollers, lighted make-up mirror, bathing suit and gown (which I made myself); I found a chair and parked my belongings.  Scanning the room, I grew very anxious.  In my opinion, everyone competing was taller, thinner and prettier than me.  It was also evident these young women had competed before.  They boasted professional cosmetic trunks, hair products and pricey gowns.  With the exception of my homemade gown, my items were in a shopping bag.  I wanted to run and hide.  Although everyone was nice enough to me, I felt like an outsider.  What was I thinking; why was I here?  Surely I did not want to be a professional model.  How could I continue? 

Thankfully I mustered enough nerve and competed.  Actually, I had fun.  Winning Honorable Mention didn’t hurt but I vowed never to allow anyone to coerce me into a situation I was hesitant about from the beginning.  As luck would have it, the pageant officials wound up being charged with mismanagement and misrepresentation.  Luckily, the company that sponsored me was able to get their entry fee back. 

The experience taught me some valuable lessons; to trust my instincts and that I’m beautiful just the way I am – without makeup, curled hair or fancy clothes.  Therapy helped me overcome my self-consciousness.  I still enjoy putting on makeup, fixing my hair and wearing coordinated clothing,  but it no longer dictates who I am.

Let’s face it; women have been wearing makeup for centuries.  So too have men.  It’s a billion dollar industry.  I am grateful my daughter does not take after me with respect to makeup.  She goes bare and doesn’t care because she too, is beautiful just the way she is.  I try to make sure I tell her that often.  So hats off to those celebrities who dare to be bare.  Their confidence is beautiful enough.  Either that or they’re so popular they just don’t give a damn!

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller

Writing Challenges

One of the most disturbing challenges a writer faces is interruption; even a burgeoning one like me.  There were three topics I was inspired to write about today, yet all of them fell to the wayside when I answered a telephone call.  Upon spotting the number on my phone, I could easily have let it descend into the hellhole of voicemail.  However, my parents didn’t bring me up that way.  At that moment, I realized my intense thoughts would have to be put on the back burner, searing in the recesses of my mind, until I accepted my position as a loving, caring family member and answered the ring.

There is a funny thing about being disrupted though.  You never know what to expect.  Granted, many times the talk is frivolous and painfully time-consuming but sometimes, when you least expect it, you can actually learn something. 

As the youngest of a large family, I am used to and expect interruptions.  I cannot gauge which ones will be morbidly agonizing at the time or quality of context or those which will illuminate me.  Often I expect calls from one of my siblings to be an ordinary, friendly conversation.  When another calls, who is often more remote, I fear the call bears bad news.  Nevertheless, in the midst of writing, any call can be an agonizing distraction.

What do you do when a friend calls when they “should know better” than to distract me during specific hours of the day.  I’ve been a salesperson and know that all calls are important.  Are writers so self-absorbed that they should eliminate all contact when they are in “their element”?  Maybe so, but how could anyone expect others to live their lives that way?

I don’t have an answer.  I’m still testing the waters in the realm of writing.  Most of my deepest, most dynamic thoughts come from when I’m alone, even if it’s only for a few minutes before I get a chance to record them.  I’m trying to find a balance between doing what I’m expected to do as a woman, wife and mother and writing and to be honest, it isn’t easy.  So many others I’ve read about have had similar difficulties but they seem to excel.  I’m latching onto their coattails for confidence and know somewhere, there is a reason to continue writing.

“I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.”  ~ Edgar Allan Poe