Author: Michele LaFollette

Grief and Loss, Pandemic Prose

The Stories We Tell

Birthdays, siblings, brother, death, death of brother

Dear Reader:

Well, there’s the Cuomos, I know, but Anderson’s my man. Always has been. Now more than ever, I’m glad he has a platform and an audience. He understands loss and that’s enough for me as we’ve passed over 50,000 deaths in this country in the past couple of months.

I just sobbed through his interview with a woman who lost her 32-year-old husband to Coronavirus. The widow is the mother of two just beginning to ponder the life her children will lead without the presence of their father. Anderson was unable to keep his composure. He cried along with the woman, but offered her valuable insight. He knows what it means to lose a father when one is young.

He offered hope to the grieving widow that her children could come to know their father, in a way, through her stories. “They will know him through you,” he assured her.

This is what Anderson Cooper does whenever lives are lost. He tells the stories of those who are gone or gives an opportunity for loved ones to tell those stories. And, I believe, that is the single most important gift you can give to anyone who has loved and lost.

I have loved and I have lost. I’m 60-years-old and the three most significant events in my life happened decades ago. I met and married my husband and gave birth to an amazing daughter. Then, I lost my 36-year-old baby brother and first best friend to cancer. That was 20 years ago and yet I still feel the need, the desire, to tell the story of his life. I’ve written about him here on this platform. My husband knew him in life. My daughter knows him through me. He will live in some way through me always.

I have not lost anyone to the pandemic, but it is a sad reminder of the weight of grief. I watch and read the news with a heavy heart each day. If you are mourning a new loss or an old one, you are not alone.

Michele

Eat, Drink and Be Merry, Pandemic Prose

Happy Easter from My Home to Yours!

My Vaillancourt Easter collection

Dear Reader:

Easter brunch was almost a new experience this morning. I’m sure that’s because everything has taken on a greater meaning since we began sheltering in place. I felt blessed to enjoy quiche and berries and bubbly with my two favorite people in the world. These are the same two people that make my life, under any circumstances, more beautiful.

I am a woman who loves celebrating and decorating and entertaining. And so, two weeks  ago, I hit the basement to retrieve the decorations and we’ve been enjoying them ever since. I would have loved to share my home with my friends and neighbors, too, as I did last year. But, here you are…on my blog…thank you!

Let me introduce you to my favorite Easter decor: my Vaillancourt bunnies. In 1984, the year I got married, Judi Vaillancourt received a gift of three antique chocolate moulds from her husband. The gift gave rise to both a creative and business endeavor that continues to thrive 36 years later (as does my marriage)!

Inspired by the Victorian art form of chalkware, Judi begins making her distinctive figurines by pouring liquid chalk into the moulds. Then she applies her skills as a classically trained artist to bring color and expression to the forms. What emerges is a delight.

Today, I’m taking a break from the worry that has become my constant companion to appreciate my home and family. I can hear the birds chirping, appreciate the colors of the flowers and feel the warmth of Spring. That is enough.

Hugs,

Michele

P.S. Wait until you see my Vaillancourt Christmas collection!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry, Family, Friends and Neighbors, Pandemic Prose, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

An Unforgettable Birthday

Dear Reader:

For weeks my friends admonished me in strong tones that I simply must do something for my birthday this year.

“It’s a milestone birthday,” they reminded me. “You need a party!”

I enjoy gatherings with bubbly and cake and music. But, for some reason, I held back. It wasn’t because of the dread of turning 60! I have a rather unique way of dealing with the decades. It has puzzled my daughter for years.

“You are the only person I know who rounds UP your age!”

It’s true. It started when I was 28; I’d tell people that I was 30. And, so 38 became 40, 48 became 50 and well, I’ve been saying that I’m 60 for two years now. I’m not sure why I’ve done this. Maybe I felt it would help me adjust to the swift moving decades or protect my fragile ego. (My ego’s not that fragile, though!) In any case, I was prepared to celebrate another birthday, but I could never have guessed how I’d be celebrating it.

Like the rest of the world, we’ve been instructed to stay home to control the spread of coronavirus. But, as you can see, I left my house…safely! My neighbors all joined me for a toast, from our respective front yards, at 5:30 p.m.

I was in by 6 p.m. filling my glass with Cal Poly student made Pinot Noir to pair with my cheese pizza. And, we did have cake…three tiny cakes! I won’t forget this birthday. And, for a good long while, I’ll remember to be grateful for the simple things. Here’s to health, family and friends!

May you all remain well,

Michele

Dogs, Family, Friends and Neighbors, Pandemic Prose

Hugs…the safe kind

 

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Dear Reader:

I am a homebody, so perhaps it’s easier for me to deal with the day to day issues of protecting myself and my family from coronavirus. I’ve been staying home for the past two weeks…voluntarily. My friends in Monterey and Santa Clara County have been placed on Shelter in Place Orders. I’m grateful for that, as I am also a worrier.

Hoping that you are healthy and that you can appreciate the small pleasures that come from being at home:

  • dogs sleeping in your lap
  • hot cups of tea
  •  good books
  • pajamas…all day
  • and time to bake, clean, organize, relax and reflect.

I will conclude, as I always do, with “HUGS.” I am a hugger and, I must admit, I’m missing those.

Michele

 

Creativity, Flowers, Inspirational Women

Blossoming

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Dear Reader:

There is something both comforting and encouraging about watching this bulb blossom as I attempt to bring focus and meaning into this new year.

I hope your life is unfolding in wonderful new ways, too.

Hugs,

Michele

P.S. The cute little bear in the window, a gift from my husband, is a Margaret Hudson design. Margaret began creating art to support her family when her husband became unable to work. She became well known and loved in the Central Valley of California and beyond.

Creativity, Flowers, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

My Voice…

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Dear Reader:

Last you heard I’d found my voice. Well, easy come easy go! I’ve been down with a cold the past week. It’s been doubly hard because I was mentally prepared to charge into 2020.

Last year was a difficult one as we moved from Carmel California to Sacramento. Everything changed. I slipped into depression and gained ten pounds. I’m feeling stronger and ready to chase the attainable yet challenging goals I’ve set for myself.

But, I’m currently practicing patience. Life is like that. At 59 years old, I’ve learned that things don’t always go as planned. The year is young. It’s only beginning and I hope to flower, in time, with proper care.

All the best,

Michele

Family, Friends and Neighbors

I’m Proud of My Friends

Waterford baby block

Dear Reader:

Today ends Pride Month and I’m thinking of all the gay men I’ve known, but particularly the first one I met twenty five years ago and the one I met only 8 months ago. Shopping and fashion are part of my DNA and that interest served as the foundation for all of my  friendships with gay men.

Before I had my daughter, I shared a cubicle wall with Carlos. We worked in a high testosterone environment at a Silicon Valley start-up. Neither of us were destined for great success at the company, but we earned enough to dine well and shop well on shared lunch breaks.

One day, I visited him in the hospital during my lunch hour in the middle of a dramatic rain storm. He joked that he always provided plenty of drama. Thankfully, he’s an AID’s survivor. He was my first friend to give me a gift when I announced my pregnancy. The tiny crystal baby block came with a note: “Here’s your girl’s first piece of Waterford.”

He really went above and beyond throughout my pregnancy accompanying me to maternity shops to apply his critical eye to my selections. One day about seven months along, I came into work with a new purchase I’d made on my own. I’ll never forget his reaction…uh, open mouth, “That’s a whole lotta denim!” I’ve got the pictures in my photo album and, of course, he was right. Every time I look at that dress now, I can hear his voice.

I haven’t seen Carlos in years, but he was the first of several gay friends. I feel so fortunate to have made another close friend when I moved eight months ago. One of my neighbors has become particularly dear to me. He and his partner go out of their way to help everyone on the street. They are the guys who take out and bring in the trash bins of elderly widows. They can be found on the street often walking their tiny dog and they’re always ready with a pleasant greeting. When their trees give them too much fruit, they leave bags of lemons and oranges on their neighbors’ doorsteps.

One night, early in our friendship, my friend shared that he’d always known he was gay. He remembered watching the Donny and Marie Show with his buddies. While they appreciated the attributes of Marie Osmond, he found himself admiring Donny. Well, we had that in common!

“But, I wouldn’t have chosen to be this way,” he concluded.

I haven’t been able to get that moment out of my mind. It is so sad to me that someone I find simply wonderful would want to change an integral part of himself. It is, of course, understandable. I do hope for continued progress and acceptance of those in the LBGTQ community. If only everyone had friends as good as mine, society would surely change.

Hugs,

Michele

Politics

Protesters Hit the Street in My Neighborhood

 

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Protestors gathered in front of my neighborhood Trader Joe’s.

Dear Reader:

Last night was not a typical night in my new neighborhood. My phone started ringing at 5 p.m. Neighbors were calling to warn us that the local chapter of Black Lives Matter had organized a march through our section of town to protest the shooting death of a black man at the hands of the police.

“I’ll bet this didn’t happen much in Carmel, ” joked my first caller. “Actually, it’s a first here…as far as I know, and I’ve been here for 35 years!”

Shortly after that first call, we heard a police helicopter overhead. My husband used a tracking app and we followed the yellow line as it made its way closer to our home. Suddenly it was over us and we heard the people in the street before we saw them.

We watched from the windows that surround our front door. It’s an odd sight to see a steady stream of people moving down the road. There were a couple hundred marchers chanting “Not a Gun” over and over. We stayed by the door until the last marchers passed. They were followed by a dozen police cars and several white unmarked vans that we speculated were filled with SWAT teams.

The organizers said that they chose our neighborhood because it is old, established, upscale and  predominantly white. They also noted that many city officials reside in East Sacramento. I only know one. I met him while walking the dog the day after Thanksgiving. He was giving his home the Chevy Chase Christmas Vacation treatment and I commented on how magnificent it looked.

“Well,” he shrugged, “when you have kids, you just do it!”

He’s the Assistant City Manager …and a father of three. We bought Girl Scout cookies from his daughter last month.

I do not have an opinion to share regarding the shooting, but I do have strong feelings about what transpired outside my home last night. Since the 2016 election, I’ve often felt simply ashamed of my country. But, last night I felt proud to live in a country that gives people the right to peaceably gather and protest. I wholeheartedly support free speech and that says something when POTUS regularly attacks the fourth estate.

I must honestly conclude by saying that I was also extremely grateful for the highly visible police presence.

Michele