Monday, December 19, 2016



'Tis the season to be jolly.
But I have a secret:
 At Christmastime I cry.
A lot.

Not big sobbing boo-hoos,
but the eyes brimming,
heart-squeezing, silent
tears that slide from the
corners of my eyes when
I am moved.

What, you ask, could cause
crying at Christmastime?

It's little things, and
big things, old things and
new things.

Singing those timeless carols
for the first time each year,
 my voice joining others as
the tunes float above us
to the rafters. A tear.

Unwrapping ornaments that hold
such dear memories of a time, 
a place or a person. 
Another tear.

Have Yourself a Merry 
Little Christmas always brings
a tear, especially:

Through the years we all will
be together, if the fates

Because of course, at some
point, they don't allow.

I miss toasting Christmas
with my Gigi, who adored
this festive season, as well
as many other beautiful souls
who used to savor it with us.

Naturally, that's life. It's
like a train that you share
with other passengers for part
of your trip; eventually they
get off and others hop on.

The others make me smile. New
companions on this life train,
bringing joy to our journey.

But I am always a bit wistful
when I remember the love,
stories and camaraderie I
enjoyed with those who have
already left the train.

Our minister says we feel
things more keenly at
Christmastime....the joys
are deeper, as are the

Treat yourself gently.

A dear friend once told me
that when she felt holiday 
sadness creep in, she'd 
cope by taking a deep breath
and counting her blessings.

And so this is what I do, too,
and I find that the taste of
sadness gives way to 

I think about my warm, snug
home, people under its roof who
love me, laughter and smiles
from holidays past....and 
those yet to come.

The train continues on its
journey.  Someday it will be
my turn to disembark and make
room for others, but until
then I am determined to enjoy
the view that is this
Christmas, right here,
right now.

Thank you from the bottom 
of my heart for sharing
the ride.


{All pics mine, except
for the snow angel, taken
by my sister-in-law.} 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Label Makers

Recently I witnessed a car pull
over in the rain and its driver
hand a small umbrella through
the window to a man waiting for
the bus. Following an acrimonious
election season, that simple act
of empathy reminded me that
we are all traveling through
this life together.

I've missed that sense of unity.

Fueled by both regular and
social media, we've become a
world that places labels on
one another, which only serves
to divide us.

Whether these labels are economic,
political, religious, geographic or
something else, they say,
I am this, and you
are that.

Instead of a humanity stitched
together by our similarities, we are
like a ripped canvas, shredded
into a million tiny and disjointed


Generally, we don't label those
who we love and value the most.

Dad is just Dad.  I don't think of
him as that Libertarian, or that son
of immigrants or that caucasian.

He's Dad.

My friend Fiona is just Fiona.  
don't see her as that working 
mom, that woman from Illinois
or that Catholic.

She's Fiona.

So why are we so quick
to label others?

Walking through the last days of
autumn, I mulled this question,
then came up with my own:

If I could only use one label as
a guide to who I want in my life,
 what would that label be?


For me, kindness is more important
than where you are from, what 
your job is, your skin color, politics,
gender, creed, intelligence or any
other characteristic that can 
be labeled.

If you are kind, I'll be drawn to you.
But if you are unkind, that's
the label I'll stick on you.

My friends, we are all fellow occupants
(not owners) of a tiny spot on a small
planet in an infinite universe for a
very short while. 

What if our common experience was
guided by the desire to earn the
label kind, instead of focusing on
how we might be different from
one another? 

Kindness in thought.
Kindness in speech.
Kindness in action.

What one label would you
use to determine who you
want in your life?

Labels are distancing phenomena.
They push us 
from each other.

~ Leo Buscaglia


{all pictures taken by me}

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Dress {Encore*}

*Original 1/26/13

As I drove from the Goodwill
donation garage last week, the
peach chiffon dress, nestled in
its dry cleaning bag, lay across
a heap of clothes and pillows in
one of those mega storage bins.

My heart clenched.
My eyes pricked.

I took a deep breath.

And as the sunshine on that
cold, sunny day beamed
through my windshield,


And gave thanks.

Thanks for the 95 year-old
lady who waltzed in that peach
chiffon confection at my brother's
wedding, when she was 88.

Although she no longer
remembers her dancing days, I,
her granddaughter, know that
until the last few years, she
danced through every decade
of her sweet life.

{Gigi on the right; bestie Mildred on the left.}

Gigi's parents scrimped during
her teen years, the time of the
Great Depression, so that she 
could take dancing lessons.

It wasn't peach chiffon in
those days, but more humble
fabric donated and sewn by her
best friend's older sister into
recital outfits.

{Third from the left.}

When she graduated from high
school and her dad saw the ad
in the Cleveland Plain Dealer
for an audition with a traveling
vaudeville troupe similar to 
the Rockettes, off she went in
her homemade costume....

And made the cut.

An exciting new chapter
in her life unfolded.

Even after she became a wife
and a mother and hung up her
professional dancing shoes ~

that's how it was in those
days ~

Gigi still loved to dance.

It wasn't uncommon to see her
do a little two-step when she
was really enthused about 
something : )

Well into her 80's, she always
told me that she was going to
learn the Tango,


After retiring, Gigi and a
friend joined Arthur Murray
Dance Studio for instruction.

Which is where the peach chiffon
dress made its debut.

She wore it to a recital, with
a sparkly brooch pinned to
the bodice.

Oh, that dress just floated.

Gigi was so enamored of its
style that she kept it in her
closet for over 20 years, until
it reappeared for my brother's

{2005 ~ 88 years young}

The rumpled chiffon looked
a bit forlorn on that 
Goodwill pile.

But as she herself used to
tell me,

All good things have to
come to an end, Sue.

{With the groom!}

Like her dancing days.

And the mind that was able
to remember them.

And the peach chiffon dress.

{Luckily, I still have 
the brooch.}

And her stories.



Jeanette Bernice Gatton Browning, 
aka Gigi, turned 99 years old
on September 17th, 2016.

She danced into heaven the next

 I'm certain that she's
finally learned how to Tango 

(all images my own)

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Befores

This year I fell deeply, madly
blissfully in love


I've never disliked September, but
in my mind it was the plain
stepsister to that gloriously
bedecked Cinderella of a month,

September was simply what came

But not this year.

This September took me back to
being ten years old, when I got
my first pair of glasses.

Wow! I told my mom on the way home
from the eye doctor. I can see every
blade of grass! And all the leaves
on the trees! Wow!

The Monet world I'd been living
in prior to my glasses disappeared.

That's how I felt about this
September. It wasn't the blur that
so many previous Septembers have
been. Instead, I really saw it,
along with its many charms.

There is a wonderful yin and yang
to the days of September.  They are
warm enough that many flowers are
still abundant, but shorter days
begin tinging the leaves with
brilliant color.  Grasses turn 
brown or a rich golden.  Geese 
still call softly from the lake,
but many are practicing their
v-formation for the pilgrimage

Unlike October, September has one
foot still in the summer, and one
perched in the fall, and it's a 
lovely mash-up of nature's 
bounty, with tomatoes and zucchini
nestled on the kitchen counter
next to apples and pumpkins.

I miss it, already.

October will dazzle, I'm sure,
just as Christmas does or a long-
awaited trip, a vacation or a
significant milestone. But, like
all anticipated events, October
will flash brilliantly and then
quickly be over.

I'm learning that the real joy
resides in the ordinary time that 
leads up to the dazzle.

In the Befores.

Because looking back, I can now
see that the Befores contained
a special sort of beauty all 
of their own.

Sharing a bunkbed with my
little brother {before we
had our own rooms}.

Riding my bike all over our
small town {before I got my 
driver's license}.

Living in a tiny apartment
{before my husband and I had
saved enough for our first home}.

Nursing my babies {before
they were weaned}.....

And now, preparing to wave goodbye
{before they spread their wings and
fly towards adulthood}.

As I look toward the next chapter
in my life, I do so with a greater
appreciation for the Befores.  
Like September, they harbor a 
unique sweetness that won't be
fully recognized until they have


Well, said Pooh, what I like best,
and then he had to stop and think. 
Because although Eating Honey was a
very good thing to do, there was a
moment just before you began to eat
it which was better than when you 
were, but he didn't know what it 
was called.

~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh



(all pics my own)