Category Archives: family

family

Not Only Once in a Lifetime (Hopefully!)


this halloween is shaping up to be a big one and not because of a costume party or trick-or-treating or anything relating to halloween per se, but because of temple owls college football. ok, i heard you groan right then, but stick with me.

c graduated from temple university school of pharmacy and two of our three kids also graduated from temple, but from boyer college of music. our oldest was in the band while she was at temple as well as drum major for two years, which served as a reason to buy season tickets to temple football. truth to tell, ten years ago, the band was the only reason to go to a football game. our youngest was also in the band while he was in school so we held onto the tickets, and also because they are prime club level tickets on the fifty yard line at the philadelphia eagle’s stadium. truthfully, we didn’t go to a lot of games and when we did, we only stayed until after the band had performed, because temple was usually losing or embarrassingly losing.

now i’ll admit that i have not always been a football fan. my dad played football in college, so football was often on in the house during the season, and mom would occasionally watch college ball after dad died. but for a big chunk of my life i ignored football. after i met c, i started to learn more about the game just by watching with him, since he had played in high school and briefly in college. now i think i’m pretty knowledgeable about the game, although i’m also smart enough to keep my mouth shut most of the time when it comes to commenting on the game. (there’s little worse than sitting next to a person who complains constantly during the game but doesn’t even know what is really going on down on the field).

the plan was to stop buying season tickets after our youngest graduated. and then something kind of wonderful happened: the temple football team started to win. over the years they have had a few marquis players who made it into the nfl, but you could count them on one hand. a couple of years ago there were more than just a couple of talented kids and last year there were even more talented kids on the team, and most of them were freshman. this year the majority of the talented kids are sophomores and juniors and temple is at 7 and 0 for the season so far. more importantly, they beat perpetual powerhouse penn state for the first time in 74 years!

so this year, temple plays notre dame at home on halloween night. and the game is the college game of the week on abc network. and the show “college game day” will be broadcasting from independence hall on saturday morning. whew! i’ll tell you that philadelphians are not used to such positive attention and temple football fans especially are not used to positive attention. ok, so maybe notre dame has something to do with it… but hey, we’ll take it.

now those of you who are used to be affiliated with schools who have big winning teams are yawning at our excitement and you’re certainly entitled to your cynicism, but you know yourself how fun it is to have a winning team. we just keep pinching ourselves to remember to savor the moment, because, well… this could be the one time or this could be the beginning of something.

let’s hope this halloween is filled with nothing but treats for the city of philadelphia and their temple owls!!

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Filed under college, Fall, family, football, friends, history, school, success, tradition

Tribute


my childhood girlfriend lost her mother this past week. though we correspond periodically and share pictures of facebook, i haven’t seen m since my mother’s funeral, because we live on opposite sides of the country. but the people you reach out to when a nuclear family member dies are those who knew that nuclear family back in the day because there’s a special kind of bond that was forged.

eight years ago at my mother’s funeral, m’s mother was in the beginning stages of alzheimer’s and though she looked the same, it was clear that she was struggling with the disease. i know the disease progressed mightily over the years, and necessitated m’s family placing their mother in a facility where she would be safe and properly cared for. and the facebook pictures of her with her mother and the new grandchild hid the sadness and struggle with an unforgiving disease.

but i only saw a tiny glimpse of her mother’s change as she wondered away from m at the reception after my mother’s funeral and so i’m free to remember her mother as she was a half century ago.

m’s family emigrated here from portugal and lived just a block away from us. she is two years older than me, as were most of my close friends when i was growing up. i can’t remember exactly when we first met, but i know that we were friends when my father died and still friends when her father died just a couple of years later. we navigated our middle and high school years together with our fractured families and each walked down the aisle to get married without a father’s escort.

m’s mom was warm and inviting and i can still hear her hearty laugh. m’s grandmother also lived with them and i remember her mother and grandmother sitting at the dining room table and conversing in portuguese while m and i played with barbies in the living room. the lilting softness of the language drifted in from the next room, punctuated by laughter and just felt so comfortable.

my mother didn’t work and m’s did, so i thought she was just so interesting because she had a job. she was a seamstress in a factory in downtown los angeles, sportswear i think, and i will never forget the day m’s mom took us both to her workplace. i saw the rows of machines and racks of finished clothes, which all seemed like magic to me, but i will never forget the band saw like contraption that was used to cut three foot-thick stacks of fabric. my mom was a home seamstress and all of us girls in the family learned to sew, but to see garments being made on a huge scale was utterly fascinating. i had a flashback to that moment when our daughter took us on a tour of the sewing factory where she now works in production and design.

m’s mom also owned a corvair and we got to ride in it. to me, that car was just about as cool as a mustang, both cars being the pinnacle of auto ownership at the time, except for maybe the corvette. i loved seeing that corvair parked in the driveway as i came up to the front door of their house.

years later, after i had moved away from california and m settled in a town further north of where we grew up, i tried to stop in and say hello to her mother when i was in town (which was unfortunately far less frequently than i would have liked). when i was pregnant with our first child, m’s mom asked my mom to make sure that i stopped by and she surprised me with a beautiful eyelet lace and ribbon comforter and pillow she had made for the baby. i still have them.

i looked for m’s mother’s obituary on line and was a bit taken aback when what popped up was douglass and zook funeral home, the same funeral home in our home town of monrovia that handled my father’s funeral and maybe even her father’s funeral. it’s funny how a moment like that can trigger a long buried memory, but can also serve as some kind of continuum.

though the life arc of our families was different, there is still a bond between us and even moreso now that we both have felt the sadness of losing our mother, but the parts of our lives that we shared will always be fondly remembered.

rest in peace dear mrs. b.

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Every Moment


often in this life we need to slow down and remind ourselves that the moment we are currently in needs to be consciously attended to, savored, absorbed. easier said than done certainly, but if you make up your mind, you can find yourself in the middle of a moment that will bring you lasting joy every time you replay it in your mind.

i was able to have a second one of those moments a couple of weeks ago with one of our daughters. okay, granted it was kind of an easy moment for the taking – being with her as she chose her wedding dress – still, i think we’ve all seen and heard this experience turning disastrous.

when our oldest daughter shopped for her wedding dress, she asked her future mother-in-law and me to accompany her. she preferred to choose a dress herself and without the pressure of an attendant or an entourage and ended up buying the first dress she tried on. not to say she grabbed something and ran, but to say that she knew herself well enough to know what her choice would be. i worried about her buying the first dress she tried on and encouraged her to try on other dresses, but when she put the first one back on, it was clear that was the dress. it’s so odd to say, but if you keep your mind open as an observer, you really can know exactly when your daughter has chosen the perfect image of herself.

i was afraid at the time that my lasting memory of her choosing a dress would be overshadowed by the worry that was hanging over every bit of my thinking, which was that she was planning a wedding mere months after her diagnosis of cm leukemia. it was so tough to push away the thought that were her future outcome to be not good, this dress might become a symbol of stabbing sadness instead of overwhelming joy. it took every bit of my years of acting training to hide what i was thinking at the time.

fast forward to now. our second daughter is planning her wedding and scheduled a wedding dress shopping day. like her sister, she had a vision of a dress she wanted and a vision of how she wanted her day to go. she asked for a champagne breakfast with a couple of friends, her sister and me (daddy was nice enough to come along as designated driver in exchange for breakfast since he was verboten from seeing the dress).

at the salon, she tried on the very dress she came to that salon to see. it looked spectacular on her! i thought how funny it was that again, one of our daughters picked the first dress she tried on. but since there were still 45 minutes left on the appointment time, the attendant brought her other dresses to try. every one of them looked beautiful on her, but none rivaled the first one. then the attendant suggested something completely out of the box, which was a skirt and bodice combo that is modern but still somewhat traditional, interesting and edgy. her sister was the first to notice how e’s demeanor changed and saw right away that this would be the choice. i was unconvinced about the dress but tried to project neutrality since i firmly believe that my role was as an observer, not an influencer. the attendant encouraged e to go out into the bigger room and look at herself in the huge mirror. i was the last one into the large room and saw her just as she turned around and saw herself in the floor to ceiling mirror and was struck by the sight. trust me, out of nowhere and without a thought of becoming emotional at all, i teared up.

in that moment i didn’t see a dress, or a bride even – what i saw was our grown daughter looking like her happiest self as a young woman dressed to greet the partner she has chosen to share her life with.

i also realized that this was the last time i would ever have that moment in my life and made a mental note to just savor it.
making it all even better was the fact that i was standing next to our oldest daughter who is still happily married, cancer free and about to celebrate the five year anniversary of her bone marrow transplant.
moments that are worth savoring.

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Filed under advice, family, image, Love, marriage, Parent, tradition, wedding, women

The Couple That Hangs Together…


You know that saying that goes, “If you really want to get to know someone, travel with them?” I’ve got a new one for you: “If you really want to know the state of your relationship, wallpaper a bathroom together.”

I know, your first question is probably, “Wallpaper? Isn’t that completely out of style?” Well, actually no. Wallpaper is enjoying a moment right now and there are a lot of very cool patterns available.

Our house was built in 1950 and at that time there was such a building boom that tile manufacturers couldn’t keep up with production. Instead, they made “tiles” out of the new wonder substance called plastic (also in horrid colors but that’s another story). When we bought the house the bathroom walls were green plastic tiles halfway up and the rest painted yellow. Obviously that had to go. So, when I was pregnant with our second child, I popped off those awful tiles and scraped off thick layers of mastic as best as I could, which left the walls a bit of a mess. They either had to be wallpapered, drywalled over or have a skim coat of plaster applied. Wallpaper was the cheapest option.

I put up a beautiful striped wallpaper with a border at the top that went with the rest of the house at the time. That was 25 years ago and the wallpaper no longer goes with the rest of the house. Plus, I was sick of it.

So, thinking that I still remembered how to hang wallpaper, I found about five patterns that I liked and C and I agreed on one called solitude.

I didn’t pay any attention to the fact that the pattern on the paper was an offset pattern (meaning that you will waste a good deal of paper making the pattern match). C removed all the cabinets (which I painted) and hardware from the room and I scraped off the old wallpaper and conditioned the walls for the new paper.

We knew that when you hang wallpaper the first piece you hang should be on the wall that is the most seen and completely plumb. This we did perfectly. Then we began hanging the rest of the room and got about halfway around and realized that we probably also needed to restart on the panel next to the first one and proceed the other way so that the end of the project (where there is always a mismatch of pattern) would be over the door and hardly noticed.

If you’ve never hung wallpaper I will tell you NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER attempt to wallpaper a bathroom for your first wallpaper job. It’s just too difficult. Besides the fact that bathrooms are generally small, they also have lots of things to maneuver around. Add to that walls that are completely out of plumb and you get THE TOUGHEST WALLPAPER JOB YOU WILL EVER ENCOUNTER. And that is why all the wallpaperers I called wanted $1,000 or more to do the job.

But I thought that since I had done this once before that I would be fine. And we mostly were, except for places where we weren’t and I’m not going to point them out because when you come to our house you’ll just look for them.

In a rush to finish, I decided to cut the last four panels for the job all at once. I thought I was meticulous at cutting them because they all matched, except I measured the length of them perfectly but didn’t measure the proper length from where the pattern matched so they were all a foot too long at the top and too short at the bottom. We had to shut down work until another roll of wallpaper arrived.

The new roll of wallpaper arrived and C cut it all because he knows how to be patient with cutting and not mess it all up. He drew the plumb line so I could keep the paper straight in spite of an inside corner that was over 1” out of wack and I hung the rest of the panels.

So the wallpapering is all done, but I still have some painting and fine fixing to do, but the bathroom is usable and the house is less of a mess.

Here’s the point: though working in a space so small we were almost on top of each other, making mistakes, having issues with hinges and hardware, shelves, medicine cabinet and the new light, not to mention the mess that extended into three other rooms of the house we did not scream or threaten, insult, scowl or threaten to divorce. In short, we just forged ahead and figured out how to make it work. Together.

To me, it is absolutely a testimony to us as a team. Clearly it would have been a lot easier to hire someone to do this work, but doing it ourselves made for a much better life experience. And now we have another $1,000 for a well-deserved vacation.

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Filed under advice, communication, family, house, manners, marriage, renovation

Where There is Love


the news has been filled with a lot of tough stories, what with all the strife abroad, the protests here at home and the natural disasters around the globe. but in the middle of all of that, we got a huge dose of “awwwwww…”

our daughter e and her boyfriend became engaged to be married. we knew that her boyfriend was going to propose to her because we spoke to him, like with did with our other daughter’s boyfriend, and told them they needed to come and speak to us before proposing. considering that both couples were already living together before they got engaged, asking for the boyfriend to come and speak to us was clearly an antiquated ritual. still, we clung to it because it gives us a chance to have a special moment with their boyfriend and officially welcome him into our family. we also get the fun of being in on a big secret and who doesn’t enjoy that?

e’s group of friends have this established ritual of throwing a surprise engagement party right after the engagement, so they were all poised for the big night last saturday. unfortunately, the party got a little too big to hold where it was originally scheduled, so it was moved to our house. it was a little hectic, but e’s friends brought food and drink and smiles.

what a happy, exciting night!

so now e and h begin the first tough test of their relationship: planning a wedding. so far they’re a good team, but we wouldn’t have expected anything less. it’s already interesting to see their ideas come together and in the end to see how they present themselves as a couple.

love is a beautiful thing. and when people you love express their love, well, life is more wonderful than usual.

sometimes a dose of love is all you need to put life in perspective.

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Filed under family, Love, manners, marriage, Parent

Auld Lang Syne

new year’s eve is such a strange tradition — this way of staying up to usher in what for any other day would be just another day. But, apparently we humans have been doing this for centuries so who am I to part with tradition.

c and I don’t go out on new year’s eve and we’ve always had a tough time convincing friends that they would want to come out somewhere with us (even when we offer a comfy place to stay overnight). so, over the years c and I have made our own fun on new year’s eve: enjoying a evening of hors d’oeuvres, champagne and dancing in the kitchen. c is a very good dj. we’re usually asleep by five minutes after midnight though.

since visiting scotland, i have learned that edinburgh is home to Hogmanay (hog-mah-NAY), a rousing Scottish new year’s celebration, making it one of the best places in the world to celebrate new year’s eve. Here’s a description from infoplease.com:

“One of the traditions of hogmanay is “first-footing.” Shortly after midnight on New Year’s eve, neighbors pay visits to each other and impart New Year’s wishes. Traditionally, First foots used to bring along a gift of coal for the fire, or shortbread. It is considered especially lucky if a tall, dark, and handsome man is the first to enter your house after the new year is rung in. The Edinburgh Hogmanay celebration is the largest in the country, and consists of an all-night street party.”

I can tell you that after visiting Edinburgh, this is most likely one hell of a good party.

but this year though I feel as though c and I have already had a new year’s eve moment. while we were in Scotland, we took a tour of the highlands and the tour guide/driver offered some history and highlights of his country. of course, he spoke about the Scottish song we all sing on new year’s eve: “auld lang syne”, written by the Scottish poet Robert burns. our passionately patriotic scotsman guide/driver sang the song in in his thick brogue and spoke of the true meaning of the words, telling us that the song asks whether old friends and times will be forgotten and promises to remember people of the past with fondness. then he encouraged us all to sing with him.

as the sun was setting, our little tour bus filled with twelve belgins, two Argentinians and we two americans wound our way from the Scottish countryside back to Edinburgh, singing a soulful version of “auld lang syne”. It was a moment to remember with fondness.

“For auld lang syne, we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet.”

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Filed under family, history, Love, New Year, travel

Merry Christmas

May you enjoy all the blessings, closeness and love of this season.

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Filed under Christmas, family, holiday, Uncategorized