A Princess is Born

 

Dear Reader:

The only way to watch a Royal Wedding is live on the BBC! The alarm went off at 2:30 a.m. and the preparations began. We put the kettle on, of course, and prepared proper English tea and (im)proper cucumber sandwiches.

We imagined it would be wonderful in every way, but could not have anticipated the palpable feeling of love and joy emanating from across the pond. As our country mourns another senseless school shooting, the Mother Country serves as an inspiration.

Cheers to THR the Duke and Duchess of Sussex!

Michele

 

Wonder Woman and Superman Spotted in Monterey, California!

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Dear Reader:

In a rare photo-op today at Zone Fitness in Monterey, California, Wonder Woman and Superman appeared together. It seems Wonder Woman was under the impression that she, and only she, would be the focus of the shoot. But, Superman had other ideas.

“Wow, he just photo bombed her,” one young fan exclaimed!

“I’d expect that from the Flash,” said another.

Wonder Woman, however, was unperturbed and warmly introduced the Man of Steel as her “favorite Justice League colleague.”

“Ladies,” she said, “I am a singular wonder, but I’m also a good team player!”

The event included an impressive demonstration of crunches, curls and squats followed by the inspiring story of Wonder Woman’s pursuit of strength. Premier Protein shakes in banana (WW’s favorite) were served following the Q & A portion of the show.

Batman, upon hearing of Superman’s surprise appearance, reportedly announced he may be in the neighborhood the next time his female cohort appears. Stay tuned to this site for further updates.

Michele

P.S. If you’d like to feel like a superhero (or just dress like one),  you can buy a WW t-shirt at Target!

 

 

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

Dear Reader:

My favorite people are the people who begin conversations with a question…this question: “How’s Natalie?” This gives me the opportunity to communicate straight from the depths of my heart. And, it immediately puts a smile on my face, because my daughter is my favorite topic.

I remember a strange encounter at Noah’s Bagels when Natalie was about four years old. I noticed a man at a nearby table watching us enjoy our cream cheese covered  indulgence. On his way out, he looked at me and said he thought it was nice to see a mother and daughter so obviously enjoying each other’s company.

“Oh, she’s my greatest joy, ” I remember answering.

He corrected me. “Well, your husband must be your greatest joy or you wouldn’t have her.”

If I ran into that man today, I’d tell him the same thing. Indeed, I love my husband, still. But as Alice Thomas Ellis so succinctly put it:

“There is no reciprocity. Men love women. Women love children. Children love hamsters*. Hamsters don’t love anyone; it is quite hopeless.”

Being a mother is, at once, both the most humbling and the most rewarding experience of my life. I will never consider it anything less than a miracle. It will always be the choice I am most proud of. It will always be the responsibility that drives me to be the best person that I can be.

It’s so easy to go on and on about what makes my daughter special, but I’ll just say that, despite all of her accomplishments, it is her kindness and generosity that I am most proud of. As I’ve watched her grow into an adult, I am so comforted to see her display a quiet, resolute strength and a deep understanding and acceptance of herself and those closest to her. She is a young woman who I both enjoy and admire.

I’d like to thank her for letting me “drop by” to enjoy a donut with her and her roommates. There is no place I’d rather be today than sitting across the table from my girl at SLODOCO dipping a maple bar into my latte.

Happy Mother’s Day, dear readers!

Michele

* When I repeat this quote, I change hamster to dog. Kids loves dogs and dogs DO love them back!

Winnie Waits…

Dear Reader:

Spring Break ended two weeks ago, but Winnie still waits for Natalie to emerge from her bedroom every morning. I’m sure she doesn’t understand what “college” means, but she seems to understand that something’s going on when the duffel bag comes out!

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Really?! She’s leaving already?!

Given how darling and devoted this dog is, I’ve begun to wonder if my daughter returns home to visit me …or her!

Michele

Chocolate Me, Please!

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Dear Reader:

Last night our neighbors joined us for cocktails. They always bring a treat of some kind when they visit and usually it’s a pink one! This time, though, I was surprised by the presentation.

“Oh, that’s for Tom,” Marietta said as I enthusiastically reached for the Lula’s chocolates.

“Um…oh…really?!” I exclaimed.

“Well, I just read your latest post,” she continued, “and we can see that you’ve lost weight.”

“Well, you really weren’t that big,” Frank added.

Oh, how I love my neighbors! After I thanked them for both the compliments and the truffles, I explained that I do still eat chocolate. (If you are contemplating sending me a box, dear reader, please feel free to do so!)

My personal trainer, Jonathan, has given me a suggested menu and I follow it in a flexible manner. I’m eating more protein and vegetables and generally less food, but I still have an occasional treat. I can’t imagine living without wine or dessert, in moderation, despite my new appreciation for salmon salad!

Tonight, however, I will be eating clean and skipping alcohol in recognition of the fact that I drank and ate more than I usually do last night. When friends come to visit, I’m an “eat, drink and be merry” kind of gal. You can’t take the Italian out of me.

Michele

Happy Birthday, Brother

Birthdays, siblings, brother, death, death of brother

Dear Reader:

He would be 54 years old  today, but instead he rests under a marker that reads: “Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not here—I do not sleep.”

Today,  I can not help but remember my brother. Perhaps, you, too, have a special birthday you remember but no longer celebrate in the conventional fashion. Or, maybe your mind turns to a loved one on the anniversary of his death. Loss will touch us all and I have found that it can be such a comfort to share the experience with others. I hope you will not mind if I share my experience of loss with you today on this day that can not help but move me.

During his 36 years of life,  my brother, Matt Lehman, occupied a large place in my heart and in the imaginations of family and friends. He was handsome, stylish and charming. (Think Matt Dillon, seriously!) He was a salesman and a collector. He’d been born with long eyelashes and affecting eyes. And bat his eyelashes, he did! The gesture was even more disarming when it was combined with his ready smile. He radiated enthusiasm, as if for him the entire world and everything in it was exciting. He was a joy to be around, and so everyone wanted to be his friend.

Matt was the youngest of three siblings. He was like the exclamation point after his two sisters. And, he certainly was not meant to be the first to die. But, as he told me one day after a visit to the cancer treatment center “how can I ask ‘why me’ when there’s a 12 year old child sitting next to me waiting for his chemo treatment?”

There was never any hope given other than the  possibility that treatment could extend his life a bit. It was in July 2000 that I received his phone call telling me it was cancer, “not a good kind,” and the doctors had estimated he had four months left. In the end, he lived a full year after his diagnosis. He made the most of that year generously sharing the time he had left with those who loved him.

I vividly remember an exchange with Matt during one of our last visits. His faith was unshakable; he was going “home.” I did not share his strong beliefs, but I found myself explaining that I couldn’t go with him just then. I needed to stay and raise my 4-year-old daughter. My baby brother was going somewhere and some part of me felt that I should go with him or instead of him. Or maybe, some part of me wondered how I could bear my grief.

For a long time after Matt’s death, I felt sure that every ring of the phone would bring news of illness or death. And, of course, just below the surface was the fear that came with being brutally reminded of my own mortality. But, I have celebrated the milestones of 40 and 50 remembering that my brother never did. I am grateful for the years I’ve been given to test my commitment to my husband (shaken but never destroyed!) and to watch my daughter grow into an adult I admire, respect and love.

And, so  with tears in my eyes and a big smile on my face, I remember my dear brother today but not beside the headstone that bears his name.  For he is not there. He lives with me in my heart and I know in the hearts of many others.

I welcome you to share your remembrances of those you have loved and lost.

Love,

*Shell

*This nickname died with my brother. When he was young, he could not manage to say Michele and so I was Shell to him for as long as he lived.

This post was originally written on February 19, 2017 and posted after my blog went live on March 24.

My Journey to Strong: Chapter 1

 

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Chapter 1: Fear is an Excellent Motivator

 

Dear Reader:

The day I met my personal trainer, my ankle was still swollen and blue from the fall I’d taken the week before. I wore work-out clothing and furry slippers. My husband chauffeured me to my appointment as I hadn’t driven since my mishap. Indeed, I had barely left the couch.

We pulled up to a small office building where the first thing I noticed was the stairs leading to the upper floor. Thankfully, the gym is tucked behind the stairs on the ground floor. I hobbled in and Jonathan greeted me with energy and enthusiasm (two things I lacked).

“We’re lucky you’re on the bottom floor,” I said. “And, by the way, I’m so nervous that I need a drink!

He laughed and offered me something to drink. I declined feeling sure that he meant to bring me nothing more potent than a glass of water. And, of course, it was a joke (sort of)! I had come ready to talk about getting in shape. We began by discussing my goals. They were as follows:

  1. Fall less often
  2. Fall less often and
  3. Fall less often

I told him, what only those really close to me know, that I fall with some regularity. My last meeting with the pavement really scared me. I explained that fear was my primary motivation:  fear of injury, fear of doctors and hospitals and fear of aging badly. I was anxious to know if my goal was doable and he assured me that it was.

“Balance is strength,” he said, and “strength is balance.”

To prove his point, he asked me to attempt the 1-legged standing balance test. I passed! I was even able to balance on my still recovering right ankle! He explained that strength would determine my ability to respond to challenges to my balance. I could offset my inherent klutziness and my tendency to spend too much time dreaming, plotting and planning rather than observing my surroundings.  I was elated… for a brief moment.

Then it was time for me to be weighed, pinched and measured.  I turned away when Jonathan checked my reading on the scale. I did not peak at my measurements as he listed them on my chart. And I displayed no curiosity about my fat to muscle ratio. I just submitted to the process. I was focused on getting stronger. I’d worry about getting thinner later. That brings me to my first bit of newly acquired wisdom on my Journey to Strong.

Wriggle into your black leggings and check your vanity and embarrassment at the gym door!  Just do it!

Michele

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, How I Love Cyclamens!

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“…a cyclamen that looks like a flight of butterflies, frozen for a single, exquisite moment in the white heart of time…”
Beverley Nichols, Down the Garden Path

 

Dear Reader:

Tis the season for cyclamens! These wonderful flowers look good in my garden in white, in my home in red and in my shed in pink, of course!

I’ve read that on the Mediterranean Island of Cyprus they grow in great drifts of thousands of plants and fill the air with fragrance. Perhaps, someday I’ll see that, but for now they have arrived in great quantity at my local nursery.

I came to associate the flowers with Christmas when I began dating my husband in high school. His mother, Mary, has a bright green thumb and she has always decorated her world with growing things.  At the holidays, the entrance to her home was filled with white cyclamen. They sat in a long line on a console table underneath a large mirror. It was a simply elegant way to greet visitors, and it remains a beautiful memory for me.

Mary will spend Christmas at our home this year, and there will be  white, red and pink cyclamens to greet her!

Michele

 

Dia De Los Muertos

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My altar
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Catrina draped in my grandmother’s rosary beads
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A lamp made by my brother

Dear Reader:

Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is a misunderstood holiday celebrated in Mexico, and in my home, on November 2. Given the timing of the holiday and the macabre imagery and costumes, people assume it’s simply “Mexican Halloween.” But, the meaning of this holiday is so much greater.

In the year 2000, my 35-year-old brother was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer and I did what I always do when presented with a major life challenge; I researched and read about the topic of death. Books have always been my saviors. During the toughest year of my life, as I watched Matt die, the accumulated wisdom of others brought me comfort. It was during this time that I learned about Day of the Dead.

The holiday takes its origins from the Aztecs and was celebrated around the end of summer like Halloween. With the arrival of Spanish conquistadors, Catholic influence led to the combination of the holiday with All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day. Dia De Los  Muertos follows the same two-day structure. In the Catholic tradition, All Saints’ Day calls us to reflect upon how we should live; All Souls’ Day is a celebration of those we’ve loved and lost. In the Mexican tradition, November 1 is the day to remember the loss of children and November 2 is the day to remember adults who have left us. The most important aspect of the holiday is the belief that the spirits of the dead join the living for the celebration.

In preparation for the party, altars are created that contain remembrances and offerings to our departed loved ones. (Sugar skulls are often included for children and alcohol for adults. You may have noticed KAH tequila in my display.) I love arranging my tribute each year and I love talking about my altar to visitors in my home. Those who are represented are gone but not forgotten; that truism is comforting to me.

I remember:

  • My grandmother, Rose Carmella Bartucci. She had a big heart and memories of her make me smile. My daughter never knew her, but her middle name and nickname (Rosebud) are in her honor.
  • My brother, Matt. I miss you so much.
  • My father-in-law Jim. My husband inherited all your best traits and my daughter adored you.
  • Bart, my faithful four-legged companion. The pink shed isn’t quite the same without you.

During the time that my brother was sick and following his death, I often felt very alone in my grief. It’s not easy or natural to speak of death and dying in our culture, but I believe very strongly that we should. What better way to start a conversation than by bringing the departed back into your living room?

I’ll end this now as it’s time to toast my loved ones.

Cheers,

Michele