Favorite Episodes: St. Patrick’s Day Delayed …


January (and February for me) is a time for looking back at the prior year, our wins and losses.   Favorite Episodes is a way for me to look back at what I’ve written in 2015 that was well received by my readers while diving into my blog stats and editorial calendar.  Over the next few weeks, I will be posting little or no new original content. Instead I am reblogging some of my most popular posts from 2015 and developing a Favorite Episodes Season Three page in the process.

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It’s Memorial Day!

It’s Memorial Day! How did you honor our nation’s military heroes who sacrificed their lives during war?

Wait a minute.  Wasn’t that last weekend?  Didn’t we celebrate the unofficial start of summer, I mean Memorial Day, by throwing some burgers and dogs on the grill and kicking back a few cold ones?

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St. Patrick’s Day Delayed …

To say it has been a rough winter in the Greater Boston area would be the gross understatement of the year.  It was a winter that brought us what seemed like endless snow events as the meteorologists began calling blizzards, snow northeasters, and regular old snow storms; caused 8 or 9 days of school closings depending on the school system; countless school and business opening delays; a state of emergency or two where all non-essential vehicles were banned from our roads; the breaking of a record for the most snowfall and the delay of our local St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Continue reading

2015: The Year of Good Choices

Lately, it has been difficult for me to keep myself grounded. It seems nearly everywhere I turn there is stress, stress and more stress. A year of unemployment, drama with my other half’s family, stress and strife between the two of us, financial stress that isn’t going away anytime soon.

imageThe only time I’ve felt any holly or jolly is when I’m with my girls – my nieces, my sisters or closest girlfriend. But, when they are gone so is my holly and jolly. When I returned from a New Year’s Eve visit with my sister and my nieces, I lit my Christmas tree in my empty house (other half is with his family). If they didn’t have cats I would’ve spent the night but after one hour my lungs were scratchy and I was sneezing. I decided I could either sit on my couch and drown myself in self pity or I could spend New Year’s Eve doing something I would want to be doing all throughout 2015.

Flash. An ah ha moment. I decided to spend the rest of my New Year’s Eve writing and doing some organizational work both for my blog and in general to help set the tone for 2015.

My theme for 2015 is going to be the Year of Good Choices. I will strive to make good choices in all that I do in 2015. When facing a decision or choice my goal will be to make the choice that is most beneficial to me and my goals for my life.

2015 Goals & Objections

imageGoal 1 – Reread “Choice not Chance” by Duke University’s Head Women’s Basketball Coach, Joanne P. McCallie.

Goal 2 – Read twelve books in 2015, one per month that will help me either achieve a year of good choices or help me meet other goals, personal or professional. January’s book is “Choice not Chance” and February’s book will be Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.”

I need ten more books. Suggestions anyone?

imageGoal 3 – Establish an Editorial Calendar for from the sticks to the bricks and back again for 2015.

The editorial calendar for from the sticks to the bricks and back again is a work in progress; a fluid outline I anticipate reviewing and editing quarterly (and sometimes even monthly).

The current calendar for 2015 is:

First Sunday: a new monthly feature published on the first Sunday of each month. My initial intent for this feature was gratitude; highlighting what I am grateful for in my life and recognizing God’s grace at work in my life. The presence of gratitude and grace in my life will remain significant in this feature but I would not be surprised periodically if the subject matter delves off into a different direction.

Monday: a new weekly feature will begin in February either the 2nd or the 16th. More to come on that later.

Writers Quote Wednesday: in 2015, I am going to continue participating in Silver Threading’s weekly event. I have, however, decided that I will only be posting on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month.

#FollowFriday: I will continue writing this weekly feature that highlights the blogs of 1- 3 fellow WordPress bloggers per week. Based on Twitter’s #FF, I like the sense of community it helps me embrace.

Saturday Suppers: this feature highlights my adventures both successful and unsuccessful in and around the kitchen. Posts will be published twice per month on the second and fourth Saturday of each month.

Random: since the primary goal of from the sticks to the bricks and back again is to make me write more, I also want to publish a minimum of two additional posts per month that are unrelated to any of the blog’s features or events. They will be posted randomly throughout the month.

Goal 4 – establish a social media strategy with goals attached for measurable criteria by 1/15/15.

Goal 5 – develop a business plan with specific goals for a commercial real estate blog and research “service/company” to launch in either Q2 or Q3 2015 depending on whether I am working full-time or part-time.

Initially I thought of naming it lots and blocks and a friend suggests I play off
from the sticks to the bricks and back again and use sticks and bricks or bricks and mortar as its moniker. I’m not sure any of the suggested titles work. The challenge is coming up with a catchy name that also commands respect; something that while catchy sounds professional if quoted in a newspaper or business journal.

Something when inserted into this sentence makes the reader have confidence in what they are reading:

“The third quarter vacancy report was released today by _____________ and economic indicators point towards …”

Goal 6 – Organize all aspects of my home which impact my daily life physically and/or financially by 2/15/15.

Goal 7 – organize the garage and basement by 6/30/15.

Goal 8 – meet monthly with an accountability partner to review progress on each goal.

With less than an hour left to 2014, I was feeling stronger and organized as I prepared to face 2015 head on. I am looking forward to a year abundant with good choices and a daily practice of writing and organization.

I wish you and yours a happy, prosperous and healthy 2015 filled with joy and laughter.

Cheers to the New Year!

Antipasto, heavy on the salami, hold the pasta

Writing 101, Day Ten: Happy (Insert Special Occasion Here)!

Today, be inspired by a favorite childhood meal. For the twist, focus on infusing the post with your unique voice — even if that makes you a little nervous. Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.  Feel free to focus on any aspect of the meal, from the food you ate to the people who were there to the event it marked.  Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

Growing up in a predominantly Italian American family, every family celebration or holiday meal featured a pasta dish, red gravy, and a stick (a loaf of Italian bread).  Whenever my extended family gathered together there was an abundance of noise, cousins and definitely food.

Each of these celebratory meals started with the antipasto, a selection of olives, cheeses, cured meats, and a variety of vegetables like artichokes and mushrooms marinated in olive oil or vinegar.  The antipasto platter glistened on the holiday table set by my Nana or mother like precious jewels.  My mouth salivated as my eyes set upon the round slices, marbled and reddish in color.  Salami, a cured Italian sausage, was always my favorite.  It didn’t matter to me how I ate it, plain slices with nothing added; slices wrapped around provolone; layered together with lettuce, tomatoes, provolone, olive oil, roasted red peppers sandwiched in a piece of stick with oregano sprinkled on top; or even Americanized on Wonder Bread with mustard and American cheese.  More often than not, I would eat so much salami during the antipasto or first course that I would struggle to eat my main course.  I could eat pasta and red gravy any time but salami and antipasto were extravagant and reserved for holidays and special occasions, too expensive for normal daily consumption.  Salami was a special treat, not the ordinary bologna or imported ham that normally occupied the cold cut drawer in our refrigerator.  And I appreciated its specialness.

I was a finicky eater as a child with more of a sweet tooth than appreciation for spiciness, so salami was not the type of food I would be expected to like.  Meatballs and pasta, yes, cannoli, gelato, any one of the variety of Italian cookies my mother baked definitely.  But in addition to my sweet tooth, I developed an early appreciation for savory goodness of salami.  On more than one occasion, my parents had to remind me not to each too much salami before the main course, but I could not seem to satiate my taste for the savory treat I relished.  Moments after my parents reminded me, my little hands could be seen reaching across the table for one last slice of salami before the antipasto was put away and the pasta course was put on the table.  Although I loved pasta and meatballs, on the special occasions that antipasto was served, I preferred my antipasto to be heavy on the salami, hold the pasta.

As a child, an uncle brought my cousin and me to our first Bruins game and what I remember about that night besides my excitement over seeing Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito was that my uncle took us to an Italian restaurant for dinner before the game.

“Order anything you want,” he said to me.  I looked at the menu and asked for a salami sandwich.

My uncle was baffled.  “I said you can get anything you want, he reminded me.

“That is what I want,” I replied.

“A salami sandwich?” He laughed. “You can have that anytime!”  He tried to convince me to order something else.

I did not change my order.  For me, my first Bruins game was a special occasion and instead of celebrating it by ordering a multicourse meal, I preferred to enjoy my special treat: antipasto, heavy on the salami, hold the pasta

As an adult, I now serve antipasto on my table when my family gathers at our house on holidays such as Christmas Eve.  And although the cold cut drawer in our refrigerator periodically houses salami next to the ordinary bologna or imported ham, I still consider it a special treat.  For me, it can turn an ordinary day into something so much more than ordinary.

Geraniums make me smile ….

Mother’s Day came and went. And, I did step out of my comfort zone.  In the process, I think I may have stumbled across a tradition that I could embrace going forward.

My day started out with a call from my godson Michael and his sweet six-year old daughter, Kendra wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day.  I eased into my day and called my sisters wishing them a Happy Mother’s Day.

Several hours passed and still I had not decided what I would do with my day.  I finally called my aunt and wished her a Happy Mother’s Day.  Casually, I mentioned that I was thinking of going shopping at our local outdoor mall and asked her if she wanted to go with me.  We agreed to leave in an hour and I nonchalantly told her not to eat suggesting we could grab lunch while we were out.  I did not want to make a big deal out of this outing.  Normally, my aunt would be at my youngest sister’s house but she was on softball mom duty – one of my nieces was playing in a tournament all weekend.

My relationship with my aunt is complicated – she is my godmother and my mother’s baby sister but we are not what I would call close.  I’ve never shared with her any of my emotions about Mother’s Day and the anniversary of my mom’s death.  On the one hand, I’m sure she can relate as my grandmother died 11 years ago and made her a motherless daughter.  But on the other hand, my conversations with my aunt just aren’t of an emotional nature.  I would describe our relationship as one obligated by birth.  The reality of my asking her to spend a few hours on Mother’s Day afternoon with me had less to do with her and more to do with my mom.  Given the circumstances of my aunt’s failing health and the unavailability of her favorite niece, my mom would want me to step up and do something nice for her sister.

So off we went shopping, it wasn’t so bad.  There were no altercations with grown daughters being excessively rude to their mothers even in the department stores.   I bought my first Christmas present for one of my nieces and actually wrapped it.  It was a great deal that I won’t get in season closer to Christmas.  This purchase is very ironic because as I have mentioned I am a procrastinator and buying a Christmas gift this early is crazy early for even the most organized person.  I was always the daughter who came rushing into the house, bags of presents in tow, an hour maybe two before our family gathered for Christmas Eve looking for wrapping paper, tape and scissors.  My mom would get a good laugh out of this early purchase and that it is already wrapped.

We went to lunch not at one of the nicer restaurants but at my aunt’s choice of Friendly’s because the wait at the other restaurants was 25 – 30 minutes.  Although my palate wanted something more than a fast food restaurant, I must concede that Friendly’s was a great choice.  It was a perfectly safe restaurant for me to be at on Mother’s Day; there were no adult women with their mothers, the clientele was either families with young children or the very elderly.

geraniumsAfter lunch, I went to Home Depot while my aunt did her grocery shopping.  I bought some potting soil and geraniums to plant in pots and planters.  Also, earlier than I normally manage to complete, usually my best is the end of May/mid -June.  I love geraniums because my mother loved geraniums.  When I walk up my walkway and onto my front porch and see the geraniums lining the stairs and the windows, even after the most difficult day, they make me smile.  Geraniums remind me of my mom and make me think of happy memories and I can’t help but smile.

My trip to Home Depot revealed to me how I could spend Mother’s Days from now on: planting geraniums and smiling.  And I know as that Sunday begins to fade, I will still feel relief in knowing that another Mother’s Day is passing and Monday is about to come once again.

Motherless Daughters on Mothers Day

Since my Mom passed away eight years ago today, Mothers Day has been difficult to the say the least. The first Mothers Day after Mom died, was more than painful falling the day after we buried her in a torrential spring storm – a bona fide New England Nor’easter complete with strong winds, rain cascading from the skies as if to wash away our tears, and flooding that prevented us from holding her services graveside.

If it is true that the first set of holidays after a loved one passes is the most difficult then that first Mothers Day was especially difficult. My childhood home that had no less than 24 hours before been filled with the sounds of people – family and friends – was excruciatingly quiet. The walls seemed to ooze with the heaviness of our grief. I was alone in the house that seemed emptier than I’d ever known it to be. This simple ranch where my parents had raised four daughters was never quiet. My parents built the house on a plot of land that three generations of my mother’s family prior to my generation had gathered for family events and gatherings and it had never known so much quiet. But that day, my three sisters were each with their families and I had sent my other half off to be with his mother; assuring both of them that if I felt like I needed company I would join them. One of my best friends invited me to join her and her family that day; which would have been perfectly comfortable as her parents were like mine. We all knew, however, that I would stay where I felt I should be holding vigil in my mother’s house.

In the Mothers Days that have followed, I have learned that is best that I stay away from places where mothers and daughters gather such as nail salons, malls, and restaurants during the days around Mothering Sunday. It is in everyone’s best interest that I am not in a place where daughters might argue with their mothers. The week before the second Mothers Day after my Mom’s death, I had to abruptly leave a Marshalls store near my house. A mother was telling her daughter to try something on that the daughter who was about my age did not want to try on. The daughter was being as rude as the mother was being stubborn. I wanted to say, “Just try it on and you can laugh at how ugly it looks on you,” but instead I blurted out, “Don’t be so mean to your mother, you are lucky she is still alive.” I dropped the items I had in my hands and darted out of the store before either the mother or daughter could react. My girlfriends who have also lost their mothers have all had similar experiences, so we motherless daughters do our best to avoid the mall in early May.

My new normal Mothers Day has been to call the people I need to acknowledge and then do my best to pretend that it is just another Sunday. Mothers Day is one of the days that I feel her loss more intensely. This year I have been feeling like I should step out of the safety of my comfort zone and do something – perhaps visit my mother’s grave although mom would prefer I give the flowers to someone living to enjoy like someone in a nursing home who doesn’t get visitors or invite my aunt to dinner because that’s what my Mom would do if she was still alive. I make no promises except that I will do whatever feels right to me even if that means staying home waiting for Monday to come once again.