Saturday, January 10, 2015

Stars are born

My family is an entertaining bunch. A few years ago my daughter Alli shot a family video of the family. eHarmony asked us to send this video as an audition for a national promotional campaign. My husband George and I met on the dating website in 2008 and married in 2009. 

I just found that video and it was a winner.  And eHarmony loved it too -- the marketing department flew both of us to Hollywood for a photo/video/commercial shoot to be a "success couple."

But the best part of this video are the kids.  The six daughters are full of energy and my son and husband are the heroes of the group.       

Friday, August 29, 2014

Soaked for a cause

It's all the rage -- getting wet to combat #ALS! I did it with my sidekicks Bill and George, however, Bill cheated and dumped the cold bucket of water (with ice floating in it) on me! 

He cried about some payback for cake getting smashed in his face on the Coates-Ellis wedding day.  Guess he toasted too many times that day.  George had attacked him with the cake, not me. Well, it was my idea, so maybe we're even now.

The best part about getting drenched -- raising awareness to collect donations for this crippling disease. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What is happening to mom?

Mom with her girls in Time Square 2005
I admire my mom. She is what every mom should be.  She loves me unconditionally.  She knows I am not perfect, but is always there for me when I need her.  I want to be like her and I am.

That is why I am afraid. 

My mom has dementia.  At the young age of 70 years old, the family has finally accepted that she will never be the woman that she was.  Sharp as a tack and tough as nails.  A business owner. The Nana.  The matriarch.  The woman that I feared, but wanted by my side. It seems like yesterday that she had guiding me through life, now she needs me and all of us.  It is our turn to take care of the woman who made us who we are today.

Dementia is confusing to the family.  This powerful woman is now not in charge.  A role reversal.  It did not happen overnight.  It took years to get to this point -- she can't sign her name or remember her birthday. But she remembers who I am -- which is important.  Because when she can't, it all changes.  

I decided to do a series on this disease that steals our precious loved ones from us.  I wanted to keep a record of how this came to be.  Maybe it will help other families understand the struggles that occur when the mystery unravels.   
I knew something was different with mom when I was planning my wedding to my second husband.  In the summer of 2009, I was in a state of bliss.  A long divorce battle had ended with my first husband.  I had meet a wonderful man named George on eHarmony and months later he proposed. 

The divorce had taken a toll on the whole family, especially my parents.  I had been married for over 25 years and it ended abruptly.  My parents were as surprised as I was.  My parent's marriage has lasted 53 years -- happily ever after is the norm in our family.

My dad and my middle daughter loved Elvis. A silly Christmas moment with Elvis 2007. 

With four children and a shaky future after my divorce, I looked at my mom to help me solve this colossal problem.  Mom was always the fixer, the planner, the controlled one of the family. My dad was the stable one -- the bread winner -- giving all financial control to my mom who was always a savvy investor.  They supported us emotionally for a few years bringing smiles to our faces.

Neither one of my parents graduated from high school.  Back in the 50s, that was not that unusual.
Dad was a mechanic and knew his trade in life since he was a little boy.  One Christmas he wanted a Briggs and Stratton motor and that was it.  He was bored in school and was finally kicked out for being a prankster.

Mom in High School 1958

Mom was a good student.  She won a poetry contest and would proof read my papers in school.  She left school to marry my dad.  He was cool -- a greaser with a great car.

The shop.  The family business for over 50 years.

They took over my grandfather Frank's auto mechanic garage when he had a stroke.  Mom was the business woman and dad was the boss.  My brother Tim joined him as a mechanic after high school.

The beach house that mom and dad built.

In that summer of 2009, George and I drove to my parent's beach house to meet mom and dad.  My mom never liked the idea of me dating but she was impressed with George.  Dad was glad that I had found a good man.  He drove down to our Virginia home on weekends to help us build a deck. I think he committed to the project so that he could really check out George.    Mom stayed back in Pennsylvania -- she was always an independent lady.

I asked my parents if they would host an engagement party at their beach house.  I was really happy about my new life starting and wanted all the bells and whistles.  George had three girls of his own and I had three girls and a married son.  I was thrilled to blend the families and wanted this time in our lives to be a celebration. 

My mom had always jumped at the chance to help plan an event.  It was something we could do together.  She agreed to the party, but the planning turned into stress and anxiety for my mom.

That day she couldn't keep her thoughts straight.  My dad jumped into the event with George and I and we hosted the engagement party with my mom just pacing and going off by herself.  She actually was upset about certain friends attending.  We didn't know it at the time but this was the beginning of her dementia.             


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

How to make a sculpture garden visit fun for grandkids


Brookgreen Gardens, SC is the kind of place that sounds like it would be fun for kids.  However, to toddlers, the visit can be, a little ho-hum.  Plants, sculptures, fountains and a petting zoo spread out all over acres of walking trails is a paradise for active adults like me and my husband, but to toddlers it just means tired legs.
Our main motive on our trip to this historical garden was to wear the kiddies out -- nap time is the best time of the day!  So after walking for almost 1 mile of paths, bridges that meandered past treasures of the past, the boys were whining for food and the car.  Since it was December, all food was shut down. I don't get that. 
Their parents warned me that the youngest turns into a Gremlin-like character when his stomach gets empty.  So you can imagine the fear when the cafe was closed and he started throwing his goldfish crackers at me. 
Thank goodness their Pop Pop is a marathon runner.  He raced back to the car in record-breaking speed only to find me and the munchkins frolicking in a new-found treed paradise for kids.  A storybook village for Cinderella, Dr. Seuss, and Captain Hook were peeking from the trees. Both boys had a surge of energy and sprinted to the surprise fun place. 
All was good until the bellies started to growl.  Pop Pop scooped the boys up and set the SUV's GPS to the first food stop. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Finally graduating college -- as an adult

Started in 1978 fresh out of Lancaster Catholic High School, my college degree was finally finished today.  Raising kids -- seven to be exact -- and operating a few businesses got in the way of checking off that degree finished list item. 
I always regretted not finishing.  Two of the four years had been completed, but the last two were twice as hard.  Especially since there were mortgages, car payments, and three kids in college to take care of.  
However, it had to get done.  I had to finish what I started to encourage my kids to do the same.  In 2011, I returned to the George Mason University campus full time, and on December 19, 2013, I walked in the graduation ceremony -- with an honor chord!   




Sunday, November 10, 2013

A walk in Manassas Battlefield: Penny and her pal

What does an empty nester do on a stress-free weekend?  Entertain the dog. Somehow the pooch has become the new kid of the house.  Always an important part of the household, Penny became the center of attention when the baby of the family left for college in September.

The Manassas National Battlefield is Penny's favorite place.  Birds, squirrels, and fellow pups along the trails by the Stone Bridge, with towering massive sycamore, white pine, oak, and  maple trees, is a doggie paradise. Her pal enjoys this historical park too.    

Does your pet have a favorite spot to visit?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Reuniting high school friends after 35 years

It was like time didn't pass even though it had been 35 years.  Giggling like school girls, the gang met up and gabbed about the past and the present. The days of cheering, marching, and clubs were long gone but the stories lived on in the night of our Lancaster Catholic HS Reunion.

Disco and rock and roll of our era thumped in the background as we nibbled on buffet food and sipped country club cocktails.  Some of us cut a rug on the dance floor not caring about our mature age and let our hair down.  The clicks were gone and the jocks were not noticed but the so-called nerds now seemed to rule the world.

Saying goodbye at the end of the night of laughing and chatting left me with an appetite.  Thank goodness for the 24 hour Jennie's Diner where we reflected while devouring dippy eggs and crunchy bacon.