Category Archives: tradition

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


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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Filed under family, friends, tradition

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

Pysankas and more

When I was little my mom started a collection of eggs for me. Unfortunately, I don’t exactly know why and I never asked, but I suppose it was just something for us to share. The first eggs were little Limoges porcelain eggs from France that a neighbor brought home after a trip to France. Then I got it in my head to collect an egg from countries around the world. I have quite a few but I haven’t added to the collection in many years and I struggle with where to put all the ones I have. I displayed some of them for awhile, but honestly, it just feels too fussy to have around, not to mentioned that it’s a pain in the neck to dust.

Still, this time of year I can’t resist taking the pieces out and enjoying their beauty and the memories associated with them. I share just a few with you here.

These are pysanka, traditional Ukrainian easter eggs. They are real egg shells with intricate designs dyed onto the shell using a batik wax technique. A student of my mom’s brought them back from a trip and I’m amazed that a high school student got them from Ukraine to the US in one piece.

This is a large porcelain egg from Hungary. The artist used a single hair brush to paint some of the detail in the design.

Another large porcelain egg with a bisque finish from Japan. The flowers are raised and delicate.

Blue and white glazed pottery egg from Portugal. I just love how the artist placed the flowers and left a lot of white space.

Classic Wedgewood pottery egg. This is the smaller of the two that I own. The larger one got broken by the kids when they were little because I foolishly left it out on the coffee table. Cliff meticulously pieced it back together but it still looks like a mess. I keep it though, I just don’t put it out.

Large Irish Belleek china egg. Besides that it is the iconic bone color and high glaze, I just love how the stylized flowers are kind of randomly sprinkled over the egg, giving it a kind of movement and lightness.

This is a plexiglass egg that my sister got me many years ago when I visited her in Berkeley, CA in 1972. The artist, who lived near her, poured liquid plexiglass in half of the mold, suspended a dried flower inside then poured move plexiglass to fill the mold. It’s difficult to do this without getting any bubbles inside. This material scratches very easily but I’m managed to keep it relatively scratch free.

Various stone eggs. Some agate and some marble. The two white eggs are just frosted glass and I was told that they were used to encourage hens to lay eggs where you wanted them to be laid.

The Limoges eggs from Limoges, France where the porcelain is made. The small egg with the yellow flower was the first egg in the collection, brought back from France by a friend of my mother’s. It very much reminds me of my mother as she was an avid rose gardener and her favorite color was yellow.

This is just a fraction of the collection, I’ll share more as the years go by. I’ll probably always struggle with the pull of displaying the collection vs. the uncluttered feeling of a clean room. But the pieces are filled with memories and a reminder of my mother.

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Filed under art, family, Love, spring, tradition, travel

In the Land of Plenty, Sacrifice is Good for the Soul

this year’s lenten season began on march 5th with ash wednesday.
for those of you who are not christian, lent is 40 days of fasting and reflection in preparation for the resurrection of jesus Christ.

“the term is derived from an old english word which meant the lengthening of days. we move out of the cold barrenness of winter and, as the days grow longer, long for the promise of new life which comes with spring.” words by deacon keith fournier

my childhood was immersed in all things catholic – i went to catholic schools from grades 1 through 12, almost all of our friends were catholic and i volunteered at the catholic hospital next door to where we lived. my year was driven less by secular calendar or even seasons, but by the catholic calendar. but for personal reasons and for all the negative reasons that the catholic church has been in the news lately, i walked away from it. i don’t want to be associated with an institution that has been far, far away from any kind of moral compass. in other words: i am a recovering catholic.

still, there are lessons in the writings of the church and the rituals it established. there’s a comfortable rhythm to those childhood days of preparation for easter sunday. lent is a reminder of mortality and while that may not be a thought we wish to have, the fact is that we’re all going to die.

“in an age drunk on self-worship, a reminder of the brevity of our days should draw us to our knees” source:

i like that quote. i especially like the phrase “drunk of self-worship” as i think it sums up the age we’re living in. so, a little self-sacrifice in these days before easter can go a long way to replenishing the soul.

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Filed under catholic, religion, spring, tradition


whether it’s food, songs, dance, decorations, travel or even jokes, my favorite part of the holidays are the traditions.  simple things that serve as touchstones, moments that connect you with others and all of you with the generations.   

we grew up celebrating st. nicholas day on december 6th.  (my mother was from austria where they celebrate st. nicholas day and my father’s name was nicholas)  on the night of december 5th, we would raid dad’s sock drawer for the biggest sock we could find and lay it out by the fireplace for st. nicholas to fill.  (in austria, they use a shoe, but we always used a sock) in the morning we’d find the sock stuffed the same way:  an orange in the toe, some nuts, some chocolate, a candy cane and a small toy or two, maybe some other kind of funny gift.   

it was like a christmas hors d’oeuvre, just a taste of what was to come in just a few short weeks.

in some ways it was better than christmas (yeah, i say this as an adult…) because it was just a little nibble, not an all-out banquet.  

aside:  as a kid, i was a huge fan of laura ingalls wilder’s little house on the prairie books.  in one book, laura describes a christmas when they got an orange and a candy cane (and i think something pa carved) and i remember being amazed that laura got the same kind of things that i got in my st. nicholas stocking. (we didn’t get stockings at christmas) 

st. nicholas day kind of marked the real beginning of the christmas season.  after december 6th, we would start cracking the walnuts for mom to make the potica (a bread with a filling made of walnuts, raisins, honey, cinnamon and butter) and look forward to our annual shopping trip into los angeles.  

c and i continued the tradition of st. nicholas day with our three children.  c got a kick out the kids raiding his sock drawer (i swear he even bought certain pairs so that that kids would have the perfect st. nick sock)  there’s a great train/toy/hobby store near us (nicholas smith – unfortunately you can only buy train related products on-line but the store has so much more) where c and i would find the best tiny toys, stocking stuffer items for the kids.  yep, you guess it, picking them out was as much fun as they had playing with them. 

i went to catholic school as a kid, so it wasn’t unusual to find other kids who also celebrated st. nicholas day.  not so for our three, so i’m pretty sure they didn’t much talk about it with friends.  (i remember one teacher telling j that he wasn’t allowed to share that he got a visit from st. nick because not everyone else in the class got one.  hmmm.) 

everybody’s grown now and there are no little ones for st. nick to visit, so our tradition is dormant for now.  it’ll be back again.  with the simple pleasures of an orange, some nuts, a candy cane and a small treasure.


Filed under Christmas, family, holiday, tradition