Monthly Archives: April 2013


grief time

Today DJ turned 16!  When he was born, everyone told me to enjoy every minute because it goes  by so quickly!  They were right.  No more toys and video games for gifts.  This year, he all he wanted was a New York Mets jersey, a gym membership and DRIVING LESSONS!!  How did that happen??  When a girl turn 16, it is called her “Sweet Sixteen”, but is there really a celebration for boys when they reach that age?  Tonight we will have a low-key celebration starting off with watching Drew’s baseball game and then pizza for dinner.  That’s more DJ’s style – low key and mellow.

Celebrating his birthday, I have been thinking of Tim and Francine a lot today.   Something that they were going to experience this year.  Something that Timmy had wanted for so long.   Not only is he grieving over the loss of his wife, but also the life of his child. Even though it was so very early in her pregnancy, I know that Tim is grieving the loss of the baby as well.  I know that Tim finds it very important, and perhaps comforting, to talk about the baby.  They were trying to get pregnant for awhile, so they already had names chosen.  It seems that miscarriage is not talked about often.  Although, in this case, it was not a miscarriage, it was another life that was lost. Many people do not know what to say, unless they have dealt with it themselves.

I am one of those people who doesn’t talk about it much.  I had a miscarriage at 11 weeks, the year before DJ was born.  Before that, no one had ever discussed it with me.  I did not know anyone who had suffered the same loss.  After it happened, so many people came forward to share their similar stories.  I had no idea how common it actually was.  I don’t know why people are so private about it.  Dave and I were struggling over the grief of a child we never had the chance to meet and talking to others who had gone through a similar situation was reassuring.  I still remember that pregnancy just as clearly as my other two pregnancies.  It was uneventful up until that day.  I never knew if it was a girl or a boy, but the due date was October 2, and I remember it every year on that day.

It is so hard to hear, “everything happens for a reason”, and I heard it so often after that.  When I look back on it now though, I realize that had that not happened, I would not have my DJ.  My charming, happy, well-mannered and all around great kid.  I am sure that Tim cannot get past that phrase right now, but I hope that someday, he is able to somehow turn what has happened into a bittersweet situation as well.


baby quotesIt is the day before my son’s birthday.  I remember this day so clearly even though it was 16  years ago.   I can remember this day even more clearly than the day he was born.  The excitement of the unknown…waiting for my husband to come home from work.  Going to the hospital, my whole family in the waiting room!!  The first grandchild!  No one would leave ’till he was born.  At the time we did not know if it would be a girl or a boy.  We had names picked for either.  It would be the last few hours of going from just the two of us, to a family of three.  I had a very easy pregnancy and a fairly easy labor.  It would still be hours (6 1/2 to be exact) before he would come but I knew that our lives were about to change forever – and they have, but only for the better!

Getting Dirty for a Cause


Last year, I participated in two mud runs.  Each one was an event to raise money for two great causes.  The Warrior Dash, benefited St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and The MuckRuckus benefited Multiple Sclerosis.  In each one, I had to run, swim, and climb over, around, under and through many obstacles.  I even jumped over fire!!  Before those races, I had never even run a 5k!!  I am not the most athletic person…

I was able to finish both races, and since then,  I have also run two 5ks, (also fundraisers).  In June, I will be doing my 3rd mud run.  I am really looking forward to it.  This one will also raise money for MS.  I admit, I get more than a little nervous before each one.  My goal is to get through all of the obstacles that I can, and finish the race.  I am not doing it to be first or to win any sort of prize.  I am doing it just to prove to myself that I can, and in doing so, if I am able to raise money that will go towards supporting a cause, then not only am I winner, but those benefiting win too!

Here is a link to the event!!  If you can help out, great.  If you want to join our team….even better!

Tricky Tray


About nine years ago, before I was back at work full time, I approached my son’s PTA and told them that I had an idea that could raise some money!  A tricky tray!!  Many of them looked at me bewildered, because they did not know what it was.  A tricky tray is defined on Wikipedia as “a combination of a raffle and an auction that is typically featured at charity, church festival and numerous other events. Can also be known as penny social, Chinese auction or pick-a-prize according to local custom, or to avoid causing offense”.  Once that was cleared up, they decided we would try it.

Our fist Tricky Tray, we labeled as a “Ladies Lunch Out”and held it on a Sunday afternoon.  I do not remember the exact figures, but around sixty women showed up and we raised over $5000.  It took a lot of work, a lot of volunteers and a lot of time and in return, it sparked a lot of interest.  We did it again the following year on a Saturday night.  Men wanted in on this too!!  That year we raised over $10,000.  We knew we had hit upon a yearly fundraiser that would raise big money for the school.  I chaired that committee at the school for six years and each year did better and better!  This year, although I am no longer involved in that school, the tradition has continued and I hear that they raised over $25,000 at the last one.

Last year, a parent at the school where I teach, and my youngest son attends, came to me and told me he heard I was “The Tricky Tray Queen” and he wanted to start the tradition at our school.  We formed a team, got families involved and in a few short months, we had “The Spring Thing” on the calendar.  We raised over $20,000 at the first one.  Tonight, is our second for the school.   The donated prizes have been staggering!  We will feature a live auction, a silent auction and the ticket raffles.  There is no way of knowing ahead of time how much we will raise, but we expect to beat last year’s totals!!  We have so many volunteers this year.  People are excited because they know that this event is benefiting their children.

When I get involved in anything, I put every effort into it.  Whether it is Pajama Drives, Book Drives, Food Pantry… other than family and my job, it is all that I can focus on.  With the craziness of the last six weeks in my personal life, I have not been able to give the time I usually do.  Other than myself, are three chairpersons for the event.  They have taken on my load and I am so grateful for them.   It is not like me to back out on responsibilities, but I have had no choice.  They are so wonderful and have been so good to me.  They deserve tonight to be the best one yet.  They have worked hard and put a lot of time and effort into a volunteer job all for the benefit of the children of our school.  I hope that they are aware of how much they are appreciated.

Sharing a Birthday

 bless family

Next week, we celebrate three birthdays in our family; mine, my oldest son DJ’s and my nephew’s.

I remember being in labor at the hospital and telling the doctors to do everything they could to make sure that my baby was not born on my birthday!!  I admit it might sound a little selfish, but I wanted my own day!!  Well, my wish came true, and he came the day before. We still call it our shared birthday and now, 16 years later, I can honestly say that I love sharing my birthday with him; I call him my greatest birthday gift.

Technically, we each have our own day. DJ’s birthday is April 30th and mine is May 1stand several years after, DJ was born, my nephew Mikey was born – on April 29th, so now all of the individual days seem to melt into one gigantic celebration of us.

Children really are the most amazing gift.  The fact that I received him a day before my own birthday, is just one more reason to celebrate.

My parents have always made a very big deal out of birthdays.  No matter whose birthday it is, we all get together to celebrate on the Friday before our birthdays.  We go to the same place, The Reservoir.  Since I was a teenager, this is where we meet EVERY weekend for Family Dinner.  The owners and staff have known my family forever!!  Since tonight was a “Birthday Friday”, there were more of us than usual but there was definitely a noticeable difference without mom and Francine.

Francine had been the dessert queen.  Either she would make it, or get it from her favorite Italian bakery.  Because of that, tonight’s dessert wound up being a last minute pickup as I grabbed an ice-cream cake on our way to dinner for us all to share because the end of a “Birthday Friday” can never end without dessert.

As everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to us we made our wishes and blew out the candles.  I know we aren’t supposed to share our wishes, but my wish was that we would be spared of any more sadness for a while!!   The truth is, tonight was fun, family time, laughter, good food…almost back to normal.  Just with a few less people at our table.


Bad Things Happen in 3’s

bad things happen

I know it is a superstition but I am sure that you have heard the phrase, “Bad things happen in threes”.  After Francine died, we kept hoping that this would not be the case for our family, but considering her death and my mom’s were so close together, we could not help think it.  It sounds kind of silly, but my mom went in the hospital on 3/8 and Francine on 4/9 so we sort of “half joked” to stay away from St. Barnabas Medical Center on 5/10.  Secretly, I thought that if we could get past that date, maybe our “bad luck streak” would be over.

Sadly for our family, we did not get that far.  Today, my sister’s father-in-law passed away.  He was 76 and had a fatal heart attack at his home.  I was not close to him at all, so I sort of feel like I am standing on the sidelines this time.  He lived in Maryland and did not come up here to New Jersey very often.  My sister and her family made the trip to his home a few times a year.  They will be heading to Maryland for his services.

Although his death is not affecting me personally, I just question “why”?  It is still our family that is being affected.  My dad is asking, “What did we do?  Is our family being punished for something?”  I don’t think so, but really…it does make me wonder.

I have definitely come to the conclusion that life is fragile.  We need to be better to one another.  We need to mend broken relationships.  Keep the positives in our lives and get rid of the negatives.  I know that my brother-in-law is struggling with the fact that he and his dad had not spoken in awhile, and that last time they spoke was an argument.

I don’t know if I believe in the quote, “everything happens for a reason”, but right now, I think our family need to focus on that, even if we never find out what that reason is.


roald dahl

Today, I came across these photos of a woman who began documenting her life in a series of photos called, “Self-Portraits”.  In the photos she was showing some of her most personal moments.

Take a look:

Although I am not overweight, I really found myself identifying myself with this woman.  I have always been very self conscious.  I have a genetic disorder called Neurofibromatosis (NF).  It is not a disease but a disorder of the nervous system that causes tumors to grow on nerves.  It presents itself differently for everyone but one of the symptoms causes skin changes and deformed bones.  For me, this is the case.  It is not contagious.  NF causes tumors which are growths of excess tissue from the nervous system. Some people, like me, develop neurofibromas under the skin, which appear as “bumps”.  They are not usually painful but I find them ugly.  I have fibromas all over me.  Most of them are small but they can range in size.  They are on my hands, feet, neck, stomach, back, legs,…pretty much all over.  This has made me an extremely self-conscious person.  I wear my hair long and usually draped over my shoulders.  I find that it helps me “hide” behind it.  I love winter, when I can wear long sleeves and sweaters to hide my arms.  I wear a tank top under all of my shirts so that if my shirt raises to reveal skin, instead you just see another shirt.  I have one on my chest so I will NEVER wear anything with a v-neck or low cut.  I spend way too much time pinning my shirts so that if I bend over, no one will see it.

NF can present itself it many different ways, such as learning disabilities, deafness, and blindness. I try to remind myself that I need to stop being so vain because for me, the only affect that I have are “the bumps”.  I know that it could be so much worse. I can walk, hear, see… I have never been teased or mocked for it.  Most people, especially children, are just curious.  They want to know if they can feel them, or if they hurt.  I usually just tell them it is how I was born, sort of like a bumpy freckle.  The best thing about kids is, once they have an answer, they go on and forget about it.  I wish it were that easy for me.

There is nothing that can be done for it.  Yes, they can be removed, and I have had some of them taken off, but there is no way to get rid of all of them.  Some people who have them removed, wind up getting more of them because they grow on affected nerve endings.

I have learned to live with it.   I am aware of them ALL of the time.  When I talk to people, even though I know that it is all in my head, I think that all they are focusing on are the “bumps”. My husband doesn’t care.  He tells me that I am beautiful everyday.  I just don’t feel it.  I try to.  I really do.  I look at myself in the mirror and don’t see it.  I am embarrassed to say that I am mean to myself.  I call myself ugly names that I would never, ever speak to anyone else.  I sometimes wonder why I bother with makeup since I cannot hide them.

I know that beauty is not only on the outside.  It is my motto!!  I do have areas I try to focus on.  I love my green/blue eye color.  On a “good hair day”, I love my long hair. I don’t like getting my photo taken, but there are a few that I actually do consider myself pretty in.  Those are what I need to look at to remind myself of my inner beauty.  I know it is there.  I just need to find the confidence to find it everyday.

Play Ball!

children play

With two sons, and a husband involved in baseball, I have been to many games to watch and cheer them all on.   My youngest son Drew is extremely competitive so when he was younger he hated the “no strike outs” and “no outs” rules in the early years of baseball and tee-ball.  He loves Little League now – it is quite competitive and I cannot help but get excited when he is at bat or when he makes a play at the plate (his favorite position is catcher).  I must admit, I am more than just a little bit competitive myself…so I find myself yelling and cheering a little louder from the sidelines than I really should be.  The kids are out there, cheering each other on and motivating each other to do their best despite the score. 


The games have definitely become more fun to watch, as the kids have gotten older.  When they were little, there were plenty of kids who would be in the outfield picking dandelions or spinning in circles rather than playing the game.  Innings could go on forever!!  Now, that they actually understand the rules and have a goal at the end of the season for winning, they really focus on the logistics of the game. 


Now that they are older, baseball has become a much bigger commitment as well.  A Teams, B Teams, tryouts, travel…it is much more of an obligation.  Yet in the days where so many kids are addicted to the computer, video games or the television, it is nice to see these kids outside playing and being active.  They way it should be. 


When homework and dinner are done,  it gives me such pleasure that my boys prefer to go outside and play. I love that they are out there being active and exercising and in a time where everyone seems over-scheduled, my boys are finding time for childhood.   A chance to play outdoors where they can use their imaginations as they envision themselves in the big league making the big catch or hitting the grand slam!  The spontaneous, free play of the backyard… no arranged playdates, no schedules to follow.  Just getting outside for a game of ball.  There is not much better than that in my kids’ opinions and that is fine with me. 


dr seuss better

One of my favorite things to do with my students on Earth Day is to read them The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.  This children’s book deals with loving, respecting and taking care of the world that we live in.  It is a simple yet powerful expression about how we need to take care of The Earth.

When I told my students that we would read it, most of them told me that they had already seen the movie.  I let them know that the book was made long before the movie and that it was a little different than the movie verison. I had an audio version narrated by Kelsey Grammer so they could listen along. They sat and just listened.   The affect was mesmerizing!  When it was over, we talked about how we could take care of the Earth.  The book includes the quote, “Speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues”.  They found the image of that funny, yet all knew that it meant that they have a responsibility for their environment and need to take care of it.

Their ideas of how to keep The Earth clean and safe are simple, and a great reminder for people of all ages.  Here are a few of them:

  • ·      Don’t litter
  • ·      Recycle your trash
  • ·      Plant a tree if you cut one down
  • ·      Don’t smoke
  • ·      Walk or ride a bike instead of driving

We should all take their advice – these simple ideas and keep our Earth clean because as Dr. Seuss tells us, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot; nothing’s going to get better its not”.

Blogging as Therapy

do for others

The last five weeks have made me fall off track a bit on the original intention of this blog; yet, the amount of readers has grown immensely.  Perhaps it is the personal twist I have put into my writing.  I have written about my mom and Francine over and over again, and used my writing as my own “therapy” to get through this sad time.   It has been my way of dealing with it and through my writing; I have been able to let others know how we all are doing.   It has amazed me to see how my blog has been shared.  People are telling me over and over how grateful they were for it because it helped them understand what we were going through and it gave them some peace of their own.

So today, as I sat down to write, I really felt stumped.  Not that my grieving is over, just that I am not sure what else I can write about it.  I am sure there will be difficult days…Mother’s Day is going to be rough this year for all of us.  On those difficult days I will write about them.  When I find myself missing them immensely, I will write about them.  I don’t want to wallow in grief. I want to get back to the original idea of my blog and continue to look for the goodness around us.  I have said numerous times that my mother embodied goodness and kindness. There was nothing that she would not do for someone else.  In Francine’s obituary, we asked that instead of flowers, that donations be made to two animal foundations.  She had a special way with animals and did so much to help them.   The two of them did kind things all of the time.

During this time, of grieving, it is important for all of us who have been touched by these two women, to try to live our lives as they did.  Do as they did.  Find what is important to you and then find a way to help or contribute.  As you go about your daily routines, be grateful for what you have and inspire others to do the same.  There are so many ways to do good and at a time where we are seeing so much tragedy, it seems that it is even more reason to do so.