Monthly Archives: March 2013

Easter Without Mom


My mom has only been gone for 16 days yet, we have had to go through two holidays without her.  Anyone that knew her, knew that holidays were “her thing”.  She always went overboard with the festivities.  Even as she got progressively sicker with COPD, she had a hand in making the holidays special.   It did not matter what the holiday was.  Today, Easter Sunday, was the first day I had gone back to church since the funeral.  I really did not know how it was going to be. I got a little teary eyed a few times during the mass, but it wasn’t as bad as I had expected.

For many years, we had been celebrating Easter at a nearby restaurants.  Everything was prepared and done for us.  No one had to cook, no one had to clean, and it was easy for everyone.  No one felt like going out to celebrate this year.  Instead, we had so much food left over from all of the services for my mom, that we froze it, and then were able to eat a big dinner at my grandmother’s home instead.  It was a nice, quiet, (well, quiet for our family), event.  There were 22 of us this afternoon. We had a house filled with people, way too much food and lots of laughter. The kids had a big Easter egg hunt in Grammy’s backyard and we kept everything simple.

Because of her illness, my mom had been able to do less and less each year.  Therefore we had some time to gradually get used to her being unable to participate as much as she had in the past.  She was still always involved in the holidays and the preparations, but got frustrated with the fact that she could do so little.  She was certainly able to remember how things needed to be though, and she had no problem giving directions to everyone else.

Today, we all were missing my mom.  Each of us in a different way I am sure, but there were so many times that we were able to smile at our memories of her.  We joked about anyone who sat in “mom’s chair”, the one she always sat in at any holiday.  My aunt and I laughed when we needed her to tell us if the ham was ready, (she the Jewish girl, and me the pork hater).
I thought that the holidays might deepen our sorrow, make us feel guilty for celebrating or even depressed, but it didn’t.  Instead, these two holidays have given us the chance to relive memories and have given us the opportunity to take time to remember what made these days so special while she was here.
Holidays and traditions have always been so significant in our family and mom was a big reason for that.  We will continue to celebrate with each other, with these big family gatherings, and make the holidays as magical as she wanted them to be.  It might mean that we need to step into a new rhythm in our lives doing it without her, but we will find ways that make it work and she will be there all around us in spirit, just as I am sure she was today.

Life Coach


Over the last six weeks, I have been attending a class on Saturdays.  The best way I can describe the class is as a “life coaching group”.  I really did not know what to expect when I started.  I knew that we would be doing a lot of journaling, which is what I was most interested in since I had just begun this blog.  I thought that it was going to help me become a better and more inspiring writer.  At the time, I did not know who was going to be in the class or what we were really going to be focusing on, but I thought that it was going to be a good step for me.

Six weeks later, I can honestly say, that as I leave the class each week, I do so with new perspectives, clearer decisions and ideas of what I need to be working on to get through any fears or obstacles I might be facing.  I am discovering changes I need to make in my life, and although I might be taking baby steps, I am finding ways that I can make those changes.  We focus a lot on gratitude and disappointment and how they play such an important part in our lives.

Our group is comprised of seven women, which includes our coach.  I knew five of the women prior to starting, (although I did not know that they would be in this class before we began).  At first, I did not know if knowing these women was going to be awkward or uncomfortable for me but actually it has been quite the opposite.  I am so at ease with these women.  There is tremendous support and acceptance between all of us.   We share laughter and tears.  We joke that “what happens in group, stays in group”, and it really does.  There is a solidarity among all of us.  Each of us have something to contribute to the conversations.  We do not judge each other, we just listen and offer support, suggestions and validation to one another.  We console one another and show compassion.  Many of our sessions have involved tears but they have also been filled with laughter.  I feel like it is the best therapy that I could ever get.  They are my support group.

We all come from different backgrounds, but we are still a  group of like- minded women and that is creating a foundation for learning, inspiration and personal  growth. Each of us contributes and we sometimes sigh with relief when we realize we are not alone in our thinking, no matter how crazy we might think we might be!  We all have different issues that we are coming to the class with, but it turns out, that we all have a lot of similarities as well. This has helped me, (and I would think all of us), gain clarity, set goals and move through our fears.  We see our lives in different perspectives and in doing so, we are gaining the confidence we need to move forward and in the process, I have made a new circle of friends.

Doing Good on Good Friday

Good Friday

This year, Easter and Passover fall at the same time.  For Christians, Easter weekend recalls how Jesus died on the cross and rose again.  For Jewish people, Passover is the most-celebrated Jewish holiday of the year.   For  others, it might only  mean a nice long weekend.  Whatever it means to you, perhaps it can serve as a reminder of the values many people seem to have let fall to the wayside in society today.

Robert Green Ingersoll, wrote, “Hands that help are better far than lips that pray”.  Perhaps today can be a day that you do something good for someone else.

  • Donate to a food pantry
  • Bring flowers to a nursing home
  • Make dinner for someone else
  • Donate gently used clothing to a shelter
  • Bring pet food to a shelter

There are so many things that you can do to help out someone else.  So whether you are Christian, Jewish, something else, or nothing at all,  I hope you can appreciate the life lessons that are celebrated this time of the year.



Today I share with you, the blog of a wonderful family friend.  We have kept in touch through Facebook, but until my mom’s wake,  I had not seen her awhile.

friend journey

Growing up Ellie was one of my mother’s closest friends. Perhaps it was the first time that I really understood what friendship meant, how important it was to our survival as humans, and how a friendship can really last and endure over the years.

These two women met before I was born at the Junior Woman’s Club and rumor has it that Ellie pointed a finger at my mom when she was pregnant with her fourth child, telling my mom to watch out because she could have a third. At that time my mother wasn’t planning on having a third child, and sometimes she mentions the curse of Ellie’s finger, because a year after Ellie’s son Timmy was born my mother was pregnant with me. Her perfect child. I really owe my existence to Ellie. Or at least legend has it.

As I was growing up a lot of my first memories, strongest memories, memories that are still intact revolve around Ellie and her family. I loved going over for the fourth of July because her house sat on top of a hill and in the distance you could see the New York City Skyline. Perhaps this is when I first fell in love with the city. Their parties were always full of the usual cast of characters from our town, and right when dusk turned to night the sky would dance with colors. The city was just beyond my reach on her porch. Fourth of July’s at the Gianni’s is what my childhood was about.  I remember the layout of their house, the run down the hill in their backyard, and going just beyond the property where the trees were.  Their basement had amazing toys, the kitchen always had wonderful homemade smells, and upstairs I would play with Kathi’s cabbage patch dolls.  Creating our own shows and dreaming of being on the stage.

Ellie created a warm welcoming feeling whenever we went over to visit from the time my memory had developed to the last time I saw her right before my cousin Evan’s wedding.  We had stopped by her house to change and get ready for the wedding.  Her breathing had become a bit more difficult but her spirit remained the same.

Growing up Ellie loved to entertain, as does my mother.  When she was hosting one of her parties it almost felt like the whole town gravitated toward her, and her family. I remember New Years Eve in their den when I was in elementary school being allowed to stay up, if I could, and watch Saturday Night Live. As the parents were celebrating in the living room and kitchen us kids were in the den watching TV. I remember trying hard to keep my eyes open so I could ring in the New Year for the first time in real-time. I think I made it to 12:01am and promptly fell asleep on their couch.

Ellie supported my theatre adventures at the Papermill. Coming out to see me as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. I remember her joyous smile, her excitement to have seen me on the stage. Her love was unending for all the people in her life, the family she adored, the friends she counted on, and the community of Maplewood/South Orange.

I left Maplewood at eighteen for college and returned on breaks for the next four years, but in 2002 my parents left the town I grew up in and I hardly returned until last Thursday, when I went home again for Ellie’s funeral. My mother wasn’t able to make it to say goodbye to her friend, but I was able to show up with my dear friend Josh and say goodbye to a woman who was such a huge part of my childhood.

Ellie Gianni was a symbol of love. She always put others before herself, a trait that she shared with my mother. She raised a strong family who has always remained close.  I’m so grateful that I had her in my life.  Her death was unexpected but her life was something that will always be remembered and treasured by the many who were lucky enough to know her.

Thank you Ellie for teaching me about friendship at a very young age.

mom and mrs

Have a great day!




Last night, my dad and I sat and went through all of the mass cards, sympathy cards and flower cards that people have sent over the last week.  Tonight, I tried to organize all of them for him on a spread sheet so that he and my siblings and I can divide up the thank you notes so it is not too overwhelming for anyone.  Thanks to all of these people,  my mom is going to have prayers and masses said for her all over the country.  I know that this would make her so happy.  She had to stop going to church awhile ago because she just wasn’t able to get through the whole mass with all of her breathing difficulties.  I know that was hard for her – not just her breathing, but emotionally as well.  I know she enjoyed mass.  She always sang louder than anyone there, so for her funeral we chose all of her favorite songs.

I have had so many people come up to me over the last week to offer their condolences.  A lot of them knew my mom.   Some did not, but after reading about her and all of the great things she has done for the community, many of them realized that they actually knew who she was.  Whether they knew her as “The Duck Lady” or” the lady on the bench who talked to everyone,” she was a presence around town.

Her death has made a lot of people sad and although we may not understand why sad things happen, I know that what is helping me, is knowing how much others cared about her.  Her kindness towards others was evident and as more and more people tell me how special she was to them, the more uplifted I become.


obama gay straight

Marriage equality is the issue at the Supreme Court today.  I wish there was a way to take a photograph of my Facebook page today.  Everywhere I looked I saw this image:


Friends were posting quotes like, “I’m straight but not narrow” and “I support gay marriage”.  I am so happy that so many of my friends have the same beliefs that I do.  I believe that all citizens should have the same rights.  If you aren’t hurting anyone, then who on this earth can say what you do is right or wrong?.  Who are we to judge?

Legalizing same-sex marriage is the kind thing to do.

Welcome Back


Today was my first day back to work since my mom died.  I have never taken so much time away from my class.  I was away from them for seven days.  I missed them and I know that they missed me too.  I knew that getting back to work was going to be hard but I also knew that it was going to be good for me.  The support that I have been receiving over the last two weeks, from the families of my students and from the staff at my school as been incredible.  Letters, cards, emails, messages, phone calls…it has been staggering.  Today was no different.  I thought that it was going to be difficult, but it was completely the opposite.  The solace and comfort I received from the teachers, the students and their parents was incredibly gratifying.

I walked into my classroom to see the most beautiful display.  It was a welcome back message.  I could not help but smile. Each child had made a flower and written something that they loved about me.  It almost brought me to tears, but this time, the tears were happiness.  It was exactly what I needed to start my day.  They were so excited to show it to me when they got to school.  They were as happy to see me as I was to see them.  It was so good to be back.

class flower project



Every year, Tuscan School, where I teach and where my youngest son is in 5th grade, puts on a school play.  The production is done entirely by volunteers.  Hours and hours go into the production, which runs for three days.  This year’s show, “Tuscan’s Ticket to Broadway” was fantastic.  I don’t even know where someone would begin to thank all of the people involved.  The play is a compilation of many groups of children and each group is run by volunteers.  There are also volunteers who create the art and scenery for the show.  More volunteers are involved with the backstage crew and the smooth running of each production.  During intermission, even more volunteers are on hand to sell snacks.. I don’t know how many families are involved, but I know that the show could not go on without them.  The volunteers are critical to the success of the show.

Volunteering can be something we choose to do in many different ways.  Volunteering is an activity that a person takes on for the benefit of someone else.  The Tuscan volunteers, have benefited an entire school.  Their time and effort was evident in the the performances.  These are people who freely gave their time and effort for cause that not only benefited their children but benefited other children as well.  The only thing these volunteers expect in return, is the joy of the children as they stand on stage and perform with pride.

It is important to take the time to thank these volunteers.  It will remind them of how special they are and how important they were to the well-being of your child.  There are so many ways for people to volunteer.  Think about volunteering at your child’s school.  It doesn’t have to be something that is a big undertaking.  Even small gestures can be a help.   Kindness takes many forms and volunteering is one way that you can spread kindness that could benefit many people.

Volunteering could easily become a way of life!







Getting Back to “Normal”

missing someone

Now that the funeral is over, and our friends and relatives have gone home, it is time for us to focus on getting back to “normal”.  We are all still grieving, which might make it hard to get back into our regular routines. The  day-to-day stuff might seem difficult but I also think that it will be a helpful distraction.


Each one of us is different, and each of us are going to  handle it in our own way.  This weekend is Drew’s school play.  He has been rehearing for months and last night was his first performance.  He did great.  Two more shows for him and family will come to each of them to cheer him on.  It has been a welcome distraction for us all.   I will be back at work on Monday.  That means lesson plans and homework for me all weekend.  It is good to be able to concentrate on something else.

I know that some days that are going to be tougher than others. We will all get back into the swing of things.  I have a feeling that grief will come on in waves.  My dad told me this morning, while driving he heard the song, “Moon River” on the radio.  This was their wedding song.  I am sure that times like that might be very intense, because there is not a sign that its coming.  Holidays will be emotional, but there will be time to prepare for those.  Small reminders in the little things we might see and hear will conjure up memories of her.  I am hoping that they will make me smile more often than cry.  Listening to particular songs and doing other activities that she enjoyed might be painful at first because of the memories we will have of mom, but I think that after a while, it will become less painful and perhaps something we look forward to doing.

I don’t think that any of us will ever get “back to normal”.  Yes, we will all get back to our normal activities, but I am sure there will be times where it might be difficult to get through the  everyday things.  No matter what, the grieving process will continue, but it will be different for each of us.

Getting back to enjoying our lives doesn’t mean that we aren’t missing mom.  As I walked through town today, I had such a strange sensation.  So many other people were there, going on with their lives.  Those that know me and knew my mom, offered sympathy to me, while others, walked around smiling and laughing as if nothing tragic had happened. Obviously, they did not know what I was going through right now  but it seemed like the whole world should have stopped just like it has for us.

The next few weeks will be a time for  grieving and rebuilding. We will all move on and we will all notice that mom will continue to live on in our memories. My blog has been such a release for me.  It lets me sort out my thoughts, while giving others a chance to read about what my mom and our family was going through.  I know that when I started my blog, “A Project for Kindness”, the idea was to look for stories about kindness and share them. It seems that I went off track a bit while blogging about her. Yet, the more I think about it, my mom embodied kindness.  Her life was built around it.  I will continue to look for kindness all around me and write about it in my blog.  I am sure that stories about my mom will appear frequently because going forward and healing from grief doesn’t mean forgetting about her but keeping her alive through our memories.


Celebrating New Life

for a reason

As time passes, new generations are born and old ones die.  How evident this has been for me recently!

After two very difficult weeks, today was a day to celebrate new life.  Our good friends Annie and Joe had a baby boy today.  Our tears of disappointment over my mom were turned to joyous smiles for them.  We have been so filled with heavy hearts for so many days, that their good news was a reason to be happy.  A reason to smile.

I am not sure exactly what I believe about “the afterlife”, but I know that my mom loved babies and she loved Annie and Joe, and so I’d like to believe that she is watching over their new baby boy, his special guardian angel.