Losses and Gains

Today I feel like I am sending my kid off to college. I’m happy for them to have the experience and know it is part of their growth (as well as mine), but also feel a bit of a panic as I see that it is becoming real. 

Wrapping up this year of blogging feels pretty darn real and my emotions are mixed, for sure.

I want to write today of the losses and gains I have experienced over the last 364 days. As in every journey we begin, there are both. It is inevitable.

American politician, sociologist, and diplomat, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, stated “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” And friends, losses and gains are facts.

What I lost:


Relationship. I missed many a night sitting in bed eating popcorn and watching Black List or St. Elsewhere or Sherlock with my husband. Thank you for your patience and support, dear Mike. I’m coming back so get the popcorn popping. 

Socialization. In a previous blog I have mentioned my annual cousins retreat. Last fall at our gathering, I had to slip away for a couple of hours to write my blog. I probably missed some very meaningful conversations, or at least some great laughs. Whatever travel has happened during this year has involved me disappearing for a period of time to write.

Workout routine. Well, something’s gotta go. There is only so much time in a day. Along with sleep deprivation, my previous steadfast workout routine suffered as well.

A little pride. In the beginning of a project, no matter what it is, you have a Pollyannish bent. I assumed that thousands would flock to my site and Kathie Lee and Hoda would be sending me airline tickets to appear on their show in New York. Though that has not happened, I’m still believing it may. 

What I gained:

Perspective. A true definition of perspective is this: The art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point. In simple terms, the way we regard something; our viewpoint. I like the long version of the definition. “…the right impression of height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other…” Everything that comes into our lives has its own weightiness. It is in measuring and balancing those things that make or break us. 

Knowledge. I have done a lot of research and reading, which has been fun. Knowledge also includes new words. I hope you have learned a few new ones, too.

The “every day remarkable”, meaning I began to see, hear and observe every day things as blog posts. It opened my eyes to the extraordinary ordinary.

New conversations. When I met new people and they asked about my life, I told them about the blog. When I ran into old friends and they asked what I have been up to, I told them about the blog.

Discipline. That one is a given. If anyone ever asks me how I was able to keep up, my answer will be exactly the way we should approach life, one day at a time. 

More photographed time with Mama. I was mindful every time I was with her that I may write about her in my blog that day. Very often I would snap photos of us together. I didn’t use all of them, but I have them. And they will always be a treasure to me.

A larger heart (not literally) from the love and kindness and support of dear ones. You know who you are.

Eleven pounds. Yep, sadly that is true. It is quite possibly a combination of reasons; decreased sleep, a stressful year with Mama, the loss of consistent exercise, as noted in the “losses”, and perhaps too many late night chocolate milks and kettle chips at my desk. 

An important aspect of healthy living is embracing the good with the bad, the sickness and health, the gains and the losses. 

I embrace every moment and every day of the journey, and I am grateful. 

Drawers and Treasures

Mama is still living but I feel like she has died. My sisters and I were at her house today (without her) sorting through closets and shelves and boxes deciding what to keep and what to let go in the upcoming estate sale.

About six weeks ago we moved Mama (kicking and screaming) to a lovely independent living apartment. She still has the same care as always; one of her children with her every evening and overnight and her wonderful weekday caregiver and dear alternating weekend caregiver.

The house had become too much for her; too much room, large full basement, yard that needs continual upkeep, A/C problems, plumbing issues, property taxes, on and on. 

Added to that, she had become afraid, though she was never alone. She would stare into the dark woods behind her house every evening. By bedtime she was stacking up chairs and pots and planters against the back sliding doors, though it was double-locked. She tried to eliminate every sliver of light that may escape through the plantation blinds on the front windows. “People can see right in” she would say. I tried to convince her that no one was out there peeking in the windows but she fiercely disagreed. There were times I nearly believed her.

However, Mama is not an apartment person. She is accustomed to front door access to a porch and a front yard with a tree, complete with magenta impatiens circled perfectly around. She watches the birds and talks to neighbors who stroll down the sidewalk.

She has struggled to adjust. Understandable. Though I am not sure the struggle to adjust is as much about the apartment as it is about adjusting to this new life, this new life that is actually a death.

I pulled out small drawers in an antique dresser. In the drawers were pieces of a necklace, a tiny locket, bobby pins, safety pins, two pretty marbles and a pearl tie tack. In another drawer I found four $2 bills, a few small pine cones and a little leather pouch with her initials burned into the side. 

These intimate things that have meant something to her. It feels like such an intrusion, such an uncovering of her interior life, laid bare for us to see, laid bare for strangers. 

I ran across a beautiful cameo with a gray/blue background, hanging from a dainty silver chain. I do not remember seeing Mama wear it. I will ask my sisters if they mind if I take it. This journey is about seeing an item here and there that we feel a sentiment about or just something we love. 

It has caused me great reflection, not so much about Mama, as myself. What will my children find? Scraps of notes and saved birthday cards. An earring who lost its mate. A drawer full of ribbons and shoelaces. Receipts and Chapsticks and headbands. Postcards and subway cards and ticket stubs.

The day caused me to want to go home and look through my own things and discard. However, I realized that there is healing in the purging. I’m glad to have found things that Mama thought were important. Every item has a story and most of those stories I will never know. 

It is enough to know that they mattered to her. 


About a year ago I began a process of helping Mama with her hundreds of photos. We created a system of using photo boxes and with a Sharpie, writing on the box the name of each one of the children; my three siblings and myself. When we saw a photo that was strictly that person’s family, it went into their box. For random photos or Christmas photos and group photos, we put them into chronological order by year. There were also several generations of black and white photos; my grandparents era and then my parents dating/wedding/young family era. What a job! We worked on them for weeks but then life happened. I got busier with my job and family and we put the photo sorting on hold.

Today I was back in the basement at the ping-pong table, where the photos job began. What an emotional roller coaster it was. I smiled at fun pictures and had tears with sweet/sad ones. I saw photos of my two brothers, who died far too young. It is crushing to look at their grade school pictures and realize the outcome of those tender years. 

I ran across the above photo in a box that contained similarly staged photos of my siblings from their school picture day. It was sixth grade. 

I am on the front row, second from the left. I remember the outfit well; a cherry-red jumper with a starched white blouse, and knee socks. I also remember being a bit jealous of the two girls on either side of me with their white “leotards”. Always on the fashion awareness edge. 

Except for seven or eight, I was able to recall the name of every kid in that photo. Amazing. This is, of course, the way our minds work, which reveals itself continually in people with dementia. Those memories that are so pressed down and layered into our brains, are retained, whereas the newer memories have not quite taken root.

I do wonder what all of these classmates of mine are up to these days. It would be fun to have a crystal ball and be able to peer into their lives. There is one thing I know for sure, which is that they are all my age.

Being an August birthday, many or most are probably already 61 years old. When I was young, it was always a point of contention to be the youngest in the class–everyone else getting to 12 years old before me, then 16, then 18. I was always lagging behind in the age race. 

But now, well, I don’t mind one bit dragging up the rear in catching up with my classmates. For 19 more days, I can state that I am only 60. So there, Vickie and Becky, sitting on either side of me with your fancy white pantyhose. 


On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than victory.” 

More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion and by day’s end, the allies gained a foot-hold in Europe. The cost was high. More than 9,000 allied soldiers were killed or wounded but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 soldiers to begin the slow, hard trek across Europe to defeat Adolph Hitler’s troops. 

I am amazed when I think of the courage of these troops, marching bravely into a situation, knowing they may very well lose their lives. Somehow these young men and women had the ability to see the big picture. They were able to look ahead and conceptualize the truth that their deaths could change history. They did it for their moms and dad and brothers and sisters and wives and babies. They did it because they knew that nothing, nothing means more than freedom. 

I am ashamed to admit that I have never known what the ‘D’ in D-Day really means. I did a little research.

The ‘D’ simply stands for “day”. In the military, D-Day is the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. The designation was traditionally used for the date of any important military operation or invasion. For example, the day before June 6, 1944, was known as D-1 and the days after were D+1, D+2, and so on. 

Tomorrow morning when you awaken with the freedom to go to work, call in sick, participate in a yoga class, attend a bible study, take your grandkids to the park, worship your God in any way you choose, or order a venti vanilla, extra hot, extra foamy, half caff caramel macchiato at Starbucks, remember that it is D+27,011 and someone fought and died bravely in order for you to do that.

Accept nothing less than gratitude.


This morning my husband and I attended the annual Memorial Day parade in our town. It is a nice little parade with the high school marching band, local fire trucks, members of city council riding in convertibles, tossing out candy to the kids, and marching men holding flags representative of their branch of the military. It is very home-town and sweet and I have gone for many years and waved my small American flag. It is the least I can do.

Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day – Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died who serving, whereas Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans. It is also not to be confused with Armed Forces Day, a minor U.S. remembrance celebrated earlier in May, which specifically honors those currently serving in the U.S. military. 

Since it is a day of remembering, let’s remember some significant statistics. 

The number of Americans who died in WWI was 116,516

The number of Americans who died in WWII was 405,399

The number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War was 58,220

By far, the most costly war in terms of human life was World War II (1939-45), in which the total number of fatalities, including battle deaths and civilians of all countries, is estimated to have been 56.4 million, assuming 26.6 million Soviet fatalities and 7.8 million Chinese civilians were killed. Some project that the total number of lives lost was closer to 80 million. 

As we attend our parades and wave our American flags and eat our grilled burgers and potato salad, may we also remember. 

I sit on my lovely deck complete with pots of beautiful flowers and sip on sweet tea as the sun dips into the west. I am humbled and grateful. 

And I am free. May we always remember. 

Ask Mom

Today I took my middle son, Christopher, to the airport to catch a flight back to New York, where he is staying for about four weeks. He had been home for a weekend visit to attend his Grandma’s 90th birthday party.

I had a meeting at work at 2:30 so had about an hour to fill between. I decided to shop for one hour, and only one hour. I set the timer on my phone so I would not get carried away and lose track of time, which has indeed occurred. 

I stopped at a big outlet store, known for nice clothing that may have been an overstock item or last season’s style or have a small tear in a seam that can be easily repaired. The prices can be quite amazing.

Today, all black, white and navy pants were $1.99. Yep, it’s true. I bought two pair of white Gap jeans and two pair of black, skinny ankle length Banana Republic pants. All four pair for $8.00. Great for summer. 

While I was in the dressing room, making sure the pants fit (there are no returns), I overhead two sisters trying on clothes. They were asking each other’s opinions on different pieces. And they were very honest with each other. I heard one say “No, don’t get that dress. It makes you look fat.” The other called her a name then they continued chatting back and forth. 

I head one of them say “I really like this blouse, but look at this.” The other one replied “Oh, yep, I see that.” The first one then said “Take a picture of it and text it to Mom. Ask her if she can get that stain out.”

That made me smile. I do not have daughters, I have three sons. But I can imagine this scenario happening if I had daughters. 

Moms know things. When my mama was younger, I remember calling her to ask a question about cooking or how to hem a skirt or if I had measles as a child. 

Moms also know how to find things that no one else can find. I will empty every drawer and every closet and every box to find something for one of my children. 

Moms know how to gently rub a child’s back as he vomits. We give sympathetic “Oh honeys” and mean it every single time. I remember my mama doing this for me. 

Moms know how to help with science projects at 11:00 p.m. Moms know how to soothe a hurting child, whether that child is five or 25. 

Moms are not super stars. Moms do not have super powers. Moms simply have an innate sense of helping their kids find answers to their questions, come hell or high water. And we will search the ends of the earth to find that answer. 

We will go through the fire. We will stay up all night. We will fight the fiercest opponents. 

We can even tell how to get a stain out of an item of clothing when we are not present to actually look at it. 

Come to think of it, maybe we do have super powers.