Time and Space

How many of you have thought, if I only had a little time and space I would…[write a book, travel the world, clean my house, insert thing here]. I am very fortunate to work for a company that offers a little bit of this – a sabbatical. Seven weeks off for seven years of service. Honestly, when I started with Tessitura back in 2015, seven years seemed like a very very long time in the future. Turns out that it is – sort of.

My life looks absolutely nothing like it did when I started this job. In 2015, I had one child in high school, one in middle school, and now I have a college graduate and a second one in college. After taking it one year at a time, and living through the weird time warp of the Pandemic, alternatively forever and a day, it seemed the time had actually come to really think about what I might want to do. The Universe seemed to align for us too.

As many of you know, my husband Joe worked for West Windsor emergency services for 25 years, and he decided he was ready to “retire” and collect his pension. I say retire in quotes, because he literally already had two other jobs, (see above: Two kids in college…) So it really was a question of rotating out of the fire department and the long shift work. I prefer the word: Evolution. Was he ready to give up that career, had he done all that he wanted to do there? The answer ended up being a resounding yes, especially the 24 hour shifts, which were only getting harder each passing year. With that decision in place, I decided it would be wise to line up my time off to coincide with his last shift so that we could enjoy some time together.

The other piece that sort of aligned accidentally, was our daughter Shannon’s plan after her college graduation last spring, to work in Disney as part of her Covid casualty postponed college program. In a different context, our son Joe had transferred to a different college, more transition as part of our family renewal/evolution.

As I started formulating plans, we thought we should take a big trip to celebrate all the things, and since Joe had not ever been out of the U.S., Ireland was first on our list, and London had ALWAYS been on my list. Shannon then scheduled her time so that we were able to drive her down to Florida and spend a couple of days in Disney with her as well.

So, the first thing we did upon my sabbatical (and Joe’s retirement) was – take a trip to Disney World. We were off to a good start!

After a hella-long drive to Florida with a very full car, we got Shannon settled in, and spent a couple of days with Pooh & Friends and enjoying Halloween decorations in Disney, then visited my brother and his wife who recently moved to Amelia Island, before heading back home. We promptly turned right around and went to Rhode Island to attend Family weekend at the University of Rhode Island and visit Joe. He was in the midst of pledging a fraternity, but he managed to squeeze in at least an hour or two with us… haha, (but actually true story). We were happy to have a beautiful New England day and take him to lunch, and also lucky for us, to stay and visit with my friend Julie in Newport, our Rhode Island “home”.

We zipped home to NJ, then left a day later for Ireland and England for 12 days. This trip was pretty incredible, so stay tuned for a separate post just about these adventures.

After we returned home and recovered from Jet lag, we were left with a few weeks just the two of us empty nesters at home – and not working. Weird.

I realized that if I had been working (from home) and Joe was enjoying his newly found free time without a concrete schedule, I would have been resentful – not in a bad way, but sort of just in the grumbly get up and start the daily grind, well, one of us has to work feeling. So we avoided that by being able to make spur of the moment decisions with our lovely New Jersey fall weather like, hey it’s a beautiful day, let’s take the top off the Jeep and take a nice drive! Hot Dog Johnny’s awaits! Or… Let’s drive up to Connecticut for a couple of days and see family…it was pretty awesome. I have worked basically full time since age 17, and I haven’t had significant time off other than maternity leaves (which IS NOT TIME OFF!) So, this was a profound discovery time for me.

Back in my professional dancing years with Princeton Ballet, (think late 1980’s) I was in New York City one day during a brief company hiatus, and I ran into Jennifer Scanlon, the woman who had set Jose Limon’s famed The Moor’s Pavane on us earlier that year. She was a lovely teacher and coach, and she had seen all of us as dancers through the most stressful of lenses, vying for a role, being in the studio 6 -8 hours a day staring at ourselves in a mirror, and when she saw me out of that context, she took my hands in hers and immediately said: You look so relaxed. I thought about that comment for a long time after that – and I feel like it was the same thing for me during this seven weeks. When you have a moment to just take care of yourself, and not be constantly thinking about work, or criticisms, or juggling a million things, it definitely feels better from the inside out. Note to self.

Other than the big things, and while working around our travel itineraries, I also made time to go to a Broadway show, I went into New York to have dinner with a friend, who does that? I mean, go to NYC just for dinner? Not this girl. I felt very cosmopolitan. I found great joy in just being able to plan to do one thing on a given day. As in, Today, I’m going to the chiropractor. Or…Today, I am having coffee with a friend. That’s it. I’m not answering 40 emails, squeezing it between meetings, or worrying about getting back in time for…more meetings. I went to appointments and then did something completely frivolous afterwards, like taking a walk around a park, or stopping at a store I never get to shop in. Time. Space.

I spent some time keeping up with my cat Poe’s Instagram account (@poekitty2022) who is a feisty black cat having adventures outside in our yard and inside our house, and frequently interacts with my sister’s dog’s Instagram account (@talleywoodside). Wildly silly and maybe ridiculous, but it’s so fun.

I planned future trips to Disney to visit Shannon – we just went back for Thanksgiving. I am going back with my sister in law in January. (I am not a fanatical Disney person, but since she’s only there for six months we have to plan accordingly…)

And oh, house projects – there are no shortage of house projects. I had hoped that in time maybe Joe and I would be on a track to become the next Chip and Joanna Gaines and start our own HGTV show, but he says I don’t have the skills. He may be correct. ☹

I guess what I could say was most impactful during this time was just reaffirming and understanding exactly who I am. There is no doubt that it is a complete paradigm shift when your partner “retires,” “evolves,” or simply changes paths. I’m grateful that I could take a moment and breathe that in, instead of barreling on to the next thing without the space to process it. We are still most definitely an empty nest work in progress, but we are learning and growing together into this next adventure and stage of our lives. Going back to work feels good right now, and my perspective has appropriately adjusted and refreshed. I can feel the possibilities. I didn’t clean my whole house, or write a book, but I certainly took more time for myself …even if you can’t take seven weeks off, spending time doing something that brings you joy and happiness is important everyday. Remember to create the time and space.


Lace up…Inspiration in 2020

I never set foot on an athletic field in High School. I couldn’t even tell you for sure if Princeton High School even had a football team in the eighties. (But I think they had a soccer team). Suffice it to say, I did not understand the world of varsity athletics – what playing a varsity sport actually entailed, or what teammates really meant to each other.

But, I will say, I love a good sports movie. I mean, I truly enjoy watching the inspirational tales (especially the true stories) of underdog teams who make it to the finals against all odds, miracles on ice, Cinderella stories, athletes that overcome adversity, I’ve seen them all – multiple times. (With plenty of tissues on hand). I’m also literally the biggest fan of the Olympics. Every two years, my family knows that I will be fanatically watching every moment of coverage of sports I never even cared about until those two weeks, and then I’m glued to the television for days and nights on end rooting for athletes in the ski jump and the Nordic combined and I can’t even pronounce their names. Because those athletes made it to the OLYMPICS.

So, imagine when we had our very own real life version of an inspirational, spectacular finish of a sports season happen in 2020. [Big Cheers!!]. High school varsity athletes and coaches have had to navigate their seasons in the midst of a pandemic, with no guidebook – and our soccer player has been a part of that. And the last week of Joe’s soccer season perhaps provided the most twists and turns, emotional ups and downs, and outright drama that I have seen either in a movie, or experienced in real life. It was nothing short of exhausting and exhilarating.

These young men on the Hopewell Valley Central High School soccer team have proven their resiliency all season, enduring all the weirdness of sports in 2020; Health checks, canceled practices, schedule changes, not knowing each day if the season could get shut down, playing each game as if it might be their last. They all took care of each other, relied on each other, and kept themselves healthy for the past three months, leading in to the post season sectional finals. And then things really got interesting.

Their team was supposed to have their State sectional quarter final on a Tuesday evening.  They had a remote day at school Monday, so I was cautiously optimistic that all would be fine. Since no one had been at school since the Friday before, things were unlikely to unravel (I thought) with a positive case coming to light at the high school. But, alas, at 2pm on Tuesday, we got an email that there was a positive case identified, and the student had been in school THAT DAY. 
The coach reached out immediately to say that the game was “postponed”…but honestly we all thought they were done. The semi finals were scheduled for Thursday, and the finals for Saturday; obviously they couldn’t hold up the tournament, so the possibility was very real that they would have to forfeit the game. 
All the boys on the team began texting each other, Joe wandered in and out of my office at home pacing and running his fingers through his hair. I tried to stay mostly silent, knowing nothing that I could say was going to be helpful. Later that evening, he and his best friend Matt took a drive (they called it their “cry drive” – they went to the field at the high school, got food at WAWA and hung out together). I admit, I did some of my own crying too. In the meantime, I was obsessively searching the high school soccer schedule on, (complete coverage of high school sports…) and I saw that their game was moved on the calendar to Wednesday, but I knew it had to be contingent upon the whole team being cleared in time from the contact tracing.  Still, there was a glimmer of hope. 

Wednesday morning arrived and we were on pins & needles.  I was very distracted and I kept refreshing my email to see if there was any news.  At around Noon, Joe came tearing down the stairs and leaping into my office exclaiming: GAME IS ON!!!! GAME IS ON!!!! So we cried again – this time in relief.  The email subject line from the coach was: LACE UP.   Loud music was played in Joe’s room all day and there was some dancing too.

The HV Bulldogs went into that game Wednesday night with a TON of adrenaline, and took the field by a hundred fold teenage force. It was fantastically exciting, hard fought, fearless, all heart, tied up at the end of the game, ending up going into double Overtime…and they WON. They came away with a win on their home field in the quarter sectional finals, after just hours before not being sure they would even get to play the game. 

It was like a movie. And it was not over! They had to turn around and play THE NEXT AFTERNOON, after playing two hours of full out soccer in freezing cold temperatures, with cramping muscles, bruises, and coming out a little battered. Add to that – their goalie had hurt his ankle, and ended up spending a late night in the ER. This was setting up to be a classic scenario of an underdog team rising up from adversity to challenge the more experienced, nationally ranked team that was pretty much anointed champion before the game was even played. IT JUST DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT.

They were all a little emotionally overwrought and wiped out from the night before, (Joe sat at virtual school the next morning with a heating pad on his leg and bowl full of bananas), but these boys absolutely pulled it together. Their opponent had literally rolled over every other team they had played this season, and had many days of rest to boot.  But the Bulldogs came out strong, scored first, and stayed in the lead until the second half; they fought all the way.  We cheered loudly. The loss was ultimately 3-1, but the opposing team was confident on their home field, and hadn’t played an entire game less than 24 hours before! So I absolutely consider it a win for our boys – because most importantly, and above all else, in the midst of a Pandemic, they got to play their last two games on their terms, and with all the uncertainty, put their hearts all out there, instead of having the season fizzle to an end out of their control. 

These athletes showed a maturity and understanding that was beyond their years, they kept themselves healthy all season and put their teammates first – and the stuff that was out of their control was just that – I am so thankful it all worked out for them, that they were supported on so many fronts- by the school district, their coaches, the State athletic governing body. They eeked out this season in the nick of time. 

We have certainly lost a lot of things this year, there has been no shortage of struggles. Our teenagers have made sacrifices, and we as parents have worried on a scale that is not measured. The world has felt so out of control, but perhaps we all gained some perspective. We could say that it wasn’t a true soccer season because it wasn’t a traditional schedule, there was no county tournament, no Varsity trip, no State finals in the way everyone was accustomed to. But in the heavy plus column is that many of us appreciated this season more than any other that came before it. We cheered a little louder, hugged our athletes a little tighter. Gave each other a little more grace. Each game that came and went, we all exhaled a little more.

I, for one, appreciated that in a world that feels very fearful, I could watch these guys be absolutely fearless out on the soccer field. Twice a week, for a couple of hours, I almost forgot we were living in a pandemic, except for the mask on my face. I am grateful for every moment, and I know these boys are grateful for each other, perhaps even more than they would have been in a “normal” year. There were no “would haves” “could haves” or “should haves”. They truly left it all out in the field, and I gained an understanding of Varsity athletics in a way I never expected to.

In the second half of the final game, near the end, when Joe was on the bench for a couple of minutes, I heard him yelling to his teammates on the field: “DEFEND AS A UNIT!”. I would say that they did just that, both on the field, and off.

The sting of the losses will fade in time, but the moments they shared, and the friendships they nurtured – they will keep those forever. Well done, Bulldogs, we got some true inspiration in this excruciating year. I’m exhaling now.


Coronavirus Plandemic

I remember back in April, when we were at the beginning of the COVID crisis – the chaos, fear, uncertainty, saying many times to people….”When this is all over, we’ll…” fill in the blank. Go to dinner? Go to the movies? Have a party without worry? Celebrate milestones without “drive bys”?, SEND OUR KIDS TO SCHOOL?

I don’t know when it started to change, maybe sometime this summer, when the world realized it wasn’t going to be “all over”. It was going to hover over our plans, our existence, our everyday life, for a good long time. We stopped saying: When this is all over. I stopped planning for things too far into the future. It was incredibly painful to cancel everything on the calendar last spring, so by not having too much on the calendar, that doesn’t scare me so much now.

The “plandemic” has arrived. My strategy to plot my family’s life only a few days or a few events at time. I held my breath for school to actually start, I held my breath even longer for soccer practices, and games to actually land on the calendar. Week by week. Actually, day by day.

There’s now a fall chill in the air. With winter looming, and knowing the days are getting shorter, I have had real moments of sadness, so I started employing a strategy of coping by only thinking about things in bite size pieces to keep me from getting completely overwhelmed. I don’t know that it always works, but sometimes at the very least, it calms me down.

But when I get to question of planning for the holidays, I just stop. Too overwhelming. What’s happening THIS WEEK, I ask myself, and the answer is, soccer games, bike rides, walks, deep breaths, and cooking good healthy food. That’s a good week! No planning beyond the week. To the next high school soccer game, fingers crossed, breath held.

My sister Chris and I wrote an article together a couple of months ago about coping through the pandemic, using duffel bags as our barometer and how to metaphorically pack them with strategies that would buoy us up throughout the pandemic. Best case scenario was 1 duffel bag, worst case would be 3 duffel bags. (In case you missed it, and are curious to know more, you can read it here: )

In my proverbial duffel bag scenario, winter right now is at about a 10. So, there you go. I struggle with the winter in the BEST of times, so it’s daunting to me to even imagine coping without my usual comfort mechanisms – will I feel OK to go out and eat at a restaurant? People won’t want to gather inside, so we will be isolated just like last spring. What will I do when it gets dark at 5pm? I may just invite my neighbors over to the fire pit with many layers and 5 blankets instead of mustering up the courage for one more zoom call to socialize.

This is where I get to the Plandemic. Plandemic = no planning. I have to kind of shape my day as I feel I can, take baby steps, don’t eat the whole cake – take the small bites. Do the thing that makes me feel good.

When I listen to the “experts”, (and by the way, who the hell is an expert on living through a pandemic?) they say self care is so important. Take care of yourself. This is my coping mechanism. The “Plandemic” is going to go on for at least a few more months, so I am going to continue to go day by day. Week by week. Piece by piece. This is my self care, this is how I will stay sane.

But….having a Senior in High School during a pandemic is like WTF every single day. It makes college planning activities kind of hilarious/traumatic. (Is that even a possible combination of feelings?) There is literally not one piece of going to school right now that is normal – though I am extremely thankful they are trying. But as far as “planning” for actual college which is NEXT YEAR (!) I am going through the motions. I feel so disconnected, as if this is some mirage of activities that are not real. But I will say that young Joe has proven his resilience, and he is showing his maturity. He’s finding his way forward, so I am following. But, also saying my usual set of phrases on repeat: “I don’t know…” “Well see….” eventually I suppose there will be acceptance letters, decisions to be made, financial aid packages to weigh, and I’ll probably keep saying, “I don’t know…” “We’ll see…”

I admit that I am a bit weary of being grateful for the little things we get, as if we should be thankful this pandemic wasn’t screwed up even worse. “At least….” has become my least favorite leading sentence.

  • At least my son is in school *sometimes*.
  • At least they are having a soccer season, even if it’s not what they thought it would be. At least we get to go to the games, even if my family can’t come and watch his senior year.
  • At least my daughter is at college, even if she has to live like a hermit

At least… It’s a real struggle not to be angry, which I know does not help. But yes, I am angry that so much has to be sacrificed by us when we weren’t protected from this AT ALL, and now it looks as though this is a future sacrifice for….who knows how long.

I did briefly think of writing a book called: Parenting in a Pandemic for Dummies – but maybe instead I’ll write one called Plandemic strategies for tomorrow, or Have your Plandemic cake and eat it too. Seriously, y’all, it’s a plandemic dilemma.


A Love Letter to my Ballet Family

As the days have ticked by during the months of this Pandemic, I’ve certainly had my brain full of plenty of things to worry about, just like all of you. For me at this particular time in my life, I worry mostly about my almost-grown kids and what their life is going to be like for the next year, I worry about my husband going out on the front lines for work, I worry about my friends who are unemployed right now, and I worry about my clients in all facets of the Arts, who I talk to everyday and who have no idea how long they have to endure.

But the one other nagging worry, and feeling of helplessness, and sadness, is really going all the way back to my artistic roots as a dancer. Because for all the creativity, the zoom meetings, the moving everything to the “virtual” – there is no way for ballet dancers to do this well. Because the point (pun intended) is for dancers to be TOGETHER.

When you dance together, either partnering with one person, or dancing with 16 other dancers in the corps, the energy is built on the people in the room It’s not simply the hands on ability for the teacher to correct and see you up close, but because of the sheer joy and harmony of moving together through space. You are literally BREATHING on each other. Let’s face it, there is no way to dance together 6 feet apart, and WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO?  Not to mention moving through space in an expansive studio where you feel like you can fly. You can’t do that in your living room, no matter how hard you try. (Well, without breaking a lamp.)

I am literally flooded weekly by the hundreds of Zoom classes and virtual classes that are offered now at ballet studios all around me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds, and even some brave ballet schools with students attending in person this summer, standing literally acres apart at the barre in sterile studios with masks on… and honestly, my heart breaks a little bit every single time.  I can only imagine what a young dancer must be feeling- your years as a dancer are fleeting, there is no time to be lost, you don’t ever have enough time in this life at your peak as a performer.  I fully admit that I would have absolutely lost my shit at age 16 or 17 if a global pandemic had come along and taken away my community, my world, my ability to work together, to BE together cohesively with my fellow dancers- my ballet family.

So, to the ridiculous levels of creativity that everyone in this world is challenged to rise up to, the endless zoom ballet classes, the dancers putting panels of Marley on their kitchen floors so they can continue to train and do their barre work and put their pointe shoes on without breaking an ankle on waxed linoleum, I bow down to you. And especially to my friends who are ballet teachers – I know you have learned all kinds of  new technology and stepped so far out of your comfort zone just to endure this, (and are probably hating most every minute of it) I feel you and I applaud you.

And to the ballet students and professional dancers, I am rooting and cheering so hard for the day that you can feel the air from someone else’s movement brush by you as you move through Grand Allegro, when you have to lean back at the barre because someone’s Grand Battement comes just a little bit too close to your face, when you can grab the hand of your partner, look into their eyes and feel their sweat, their energy, their grit, and their passion.  When you can BREATHE together. The same air, in the same room.

This. is. Ballet.






No Duffel Bags


I have a pretty steadfast, predictable measurement in my life as any kind of crisis or natural disaster is looming. Ranging from the number of duffel bags that end up in my living room, I can accurately measure the severity of what might be coming. In my experience, if it’s a big 2 day snowstorm, (2 duffel bags), a category 3 hurricane, (3 or more duffel bags), or perhaps nothing at all. (No bag packing is required).

I’ve been married to a First Responder for 28 years.  My husband Joe has been a firefighter/EMT for more years than I have known him – I’ve only been involved for the last 30 of them.  As a Captain for West Windsor Township Emergency Services Dept. and also as a member of NJ Task Force 1, there have been countless disruptions to our everyday normal life.  There is a rhythm that comes with the unpredictability of this life, I know that sounds odd, but I’ve learned to pick up on it, and when we face any kind of event that will disrupt us – I ask the questions I want to know the answers to, and if I don’t want to know about it, I don’t ask. This helps me manage what is in my control, and not worry about the rest.  Joe is a very calm guy. He doesn’t put on a front for me or our kids. He’s always honest with us, but he’s also steadfast and rock solid. There is a rhythm to our conversations and preparations before he is called in to work, or deployed with the task force, a bit like a music composition, taking on the tone of whatever may lie ahead.

As we’ve been wrestling this past month with the onslaught and unpredictability of the COVID-19 crisis, I have found myself thinking back over the past disruptions, I guess trying to help me find a way to cope a little bit better –  and here are a few.

9/11.  There was no time for talking because this all happened so fast. Off he went, we had a 3 year old preschooler. He was not yet a member of the NJ Task Force at that time, so he did not go on a lengthy deployment to NYC. Even though our lives were very disrupted, I felt very lucky.

Fast forward a couple of years to 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast.  He was actually out in New Mexico just beforehand attending a class, and he and his colleagues were watching the events, knowing they would be most likely sent out with their team.  He flew home, packed everything up (3 plus duffel bags), turned around in about 12 hours and left with the task force for New Orleans. We talked hurriedly as he re-packed everything. Shannon was just about to start kindergarten and Joseph was 2.  I remember standing in our kitchen as young Joseph held on to my leg and Joe made several trips out to his truck with his bags.  Since this was before the age of social media, I literally glued myself to cable news each night after the kids were in bed to keep up with what was happening.

In Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Irene in 2011-  we knew this was coming and was going to hit NJ. He always makes sure we are prepared before he leaves, so he got the pump all hooked up and ready for the basement in case it flooded, and showed me how to turn it on.  We got big jugs of water to put in the bathtub (we have well water, so if we lose power we don’t have water either). We secured the rest of the outside, and then he went to work.  There was a lot of flooding, and we lost power for several days.  It was late August and Shannon was about to start 6th grade, and I remember going to orientation at the middle school while some neighborhoods (including ours) were still without power.

In the boat on Route 1 during Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Sandy in 2012 – this one scared me probably more than the previous storms, but I figured we had been through a hurricane the year before, so we could get through this one. (2 duffel bags). Joe left for work before it actually hit, once again everything was secured and ready, but I wasn’t prepared for how scary that wind would be overnight.  The kids and I slept in our bed and I couldn’t convince myself that a tree wasn’t going to fall on the house. Sandy was a wind event, but no flooding for us, and there were trees down everywhere. The power was out for almost two weeks, we had to get a generator because it was October and we needed the heat on. I remember sitting in my car charging my phone and doing conference calls with the staff at McCarter Theatre, where I was working at that time, to figure out when we were going to be able to open back up again.  The rhythm of this one was chaotic, unpredictable, and pretty dark.

His most recent long term deployment was for Hurricane Florence in 2018. The NJ Task force went to North Carolina, and this started with another bit of chaos since I had a work trip to Florida that I had to cancel, first because I was worried I’d get to Florida and not be able to get home, and though our kids are now older, we couldn’t have him leave without knowing when I could get home.  This was 3 duffel bag trip, and a calmer rhythm in our conversation because the storm wasn’t coming for us at our home.

Packing up to leave for his North Carolina Deployoment


So here we are in 2020, in the midst of this Global Pandemic.  This started several weeks ago with less worrisome conversation, but now is a serious silent undercurrent of concern at all times. As with everybody in this country, it has affected every facet of our lives, bringing Shannon home from college early, Joseph – a high school junior stopping every single activity that brings him the most happiness, (including soccer which is the center of our lives at the moment).  I am not traveling anywhere for work for the foreseeable future, when usually I am gone for several days each month. Life is very disrupted.

Yet there is not one duffel bag in our living room.

It’s unsettling to me, as the rhythm is off – we know that this crisis is out there, but he is home. There is no deployment, no marathon overtime hours, though all the phone calls that usually accompany those plans are happening daily/hourly.  His shifts have been moved so that he actually is working less frequently, which means he is home even more.

We take our job seriously as a first responder family. I am humbled by it, and this responsibility has always helped me to keep everything in perspective as well as understand my priorities. His job, and supporting him always comes first without a doubt. When our kids were young, my mom used to worry enough for both of us, she would ask me a million questions, and I would somehow be fine with all of it (which I think drove her crazy). I could handle the unpredictability; I found my way in understanding that I could not control the circumstances, but I could control my reaction to them.

But this is all out of control. There are no duffel bags to gauge the severity or longevity of the event. No context. I can’t say to myself:  Well, the last time there was a global pandemic, we did XYZ….  I am in uncharted territory, and not quite sure how to wrap my brain around the hour to hour changing landscape. I worry about every time he goes to work, yet I know worrying is not helpful.  My rational self knows what I need to do, but the irrationality of everything coming at me is sometimes overwhelming.  I have no doubt that every other family with a Doctor, a Nurse, an EMT, a Firefighter, a Police Officer or any other first responder or essential employee is feeling unprepared as well.  We don’t have a rhythm or a compass right now.  But yet, I know you are out there, and we are connected. We know what to do when we have to do it, and we know how to prioritize. We’ve got our support systems. So, I say with conviction, no matter what happens in the next month, we got this.

And maybe I’ll actually look forward (maybe) to the next time I see a duffel bag.


Second Time Around the Block

Here I am, I blinked, and I am navigating the roads a second time with a new teenage driver.  Vastly different, yet in some ways very much the same.

A couple of things that have struck me as I have begun this process again. Shannon was terrified about driving, I mean, she would start to cry when a car came towards her from the other direction – for weeks.  We practically had to smother ourselves to not burst out laughing and be empathetic yet firm in saying: Don’t worry so much, the road is wide enough for both cars. [Insert face into sleeve and muffle gasping laughs.] She did eventually get over this.

Joseph is NOT terrified. In fact, he wants to drive, and asks to get behind the wheel whenever there is an opportunity.  He backs down the driveway like he’s done it a hundred times. I am not even nervous getting in the car with him.  I wondered if this was because I had been through it already and was like, yeah, so what if he hits the mailbox….we can get a new one…or if it was just because I am just numb to nerves at this point?  Either way, vastly different driver.

BUT yet – the SAME in that he goes so far to the edge of the right side of the road that I instinctively lean to the left. I call this the “mailbox lean”.  As in, in my mind think that if I lean to the left *inside the car*, the *outside* of the car somehow won’t hit the mailboxes on the side of the road. I realize this is irrational, but absolutely cannot help the instinct.  So, I’ll gently say, hey, how about you move over a little so we don’t end up in the ditch?  And he responds exactly THE SAME way Shannon did:  The road is so narrow! I’m not that far over mom, but WHY ARE THE ROADS SO NARROW HERE?  [Insert face into sleeve and muffle laughter].

Shannon used to pull in a parking lot and look for the “pull through” spots so she wouldn’t have to back up.  Joseph – SAME.  I’m like, you do know, eventually you will have to actually back up out of a parking spot?  Yeah yeah mom, I know.

Before Shannon drove, the car was a place where we always talked. For Joseph, he avoids talking and tends to put in his ear buds to listen to music and give me one word responses. Not so much conversation.  BUT, when he got behind the wheel, no phone, no ear buds, just me.  It was like an epiphany.  I COULD TALK TO HIM IN THE CAR AND THERE WAS NOTHING HE COULD DO ABOUT IT! (Bonus: Because he is a good driver, I’m not even correcting him,  gasping in horror, or admonishing him for not stopping soon enough at an intersection.) This leaves time for….more talking!

This evening, we drove to the grocery store. On the way home, the 70’s radio station started playing “Bye Bye Miss American Pie.”  He shook his head and said: My god, this song is 8 minutes long. What even.  So we had a good chat about what the song was all about, that I didn’t really know why it had to be 8 minutes long, and that when I was young and heard it over and over again, I had no idea what “the Levee was dry” meant either.  It was a whole. entire. conversation.  When we pulled into our neighborhood, he said – My god, Mom, it’s STILL PLAYING.  And we burst into laughter – real laughter.

Since I travel so much for work, and he isn’t amenable to texting or talking on the phone a whole bunch while I am away, much of our relationship lately has revolved around me telling him to do something, or asking why he didn’t do something, or yelling at him while he walks away from me. Which makes him not want to talk to me, and I can’t really blame him, but I also really need him to do things.  Add to that that he is suddenly taller than me, his voice deepened over night, (or so it seemed to me) – and when he walks in the kitchen and says:  “Hey mom” I almost spit out my coffee on a daily basis.  Who the hell is this new person in my house?  I am having some trouble navigating how quickly he is changing, and sometimes I just want my little sweet boy back, but then I see him behind the wheel, confident, growing up, and sometimes just like his sister. Only totally different.

So here we go around the block (literally) the second time – this motherhood thing doesn’t get easier, I’m just navigating the road, leaning to the left, one mailbox at a time.











Dealing with Dementia

By definition, Dementia is: A syndrome that involves a significant global impairment of cognitive abilities such as attention, memory, language, logical reasoning, and problem-solving severe enough to interfere with social or occupational functioning.

So, basically, Dementia is a whole bucket full of symptoms that sometimes make no sense and are not easily pinpointed. My mom had been officially diagnosed with Dementia about a year before she passed away, but I regretfully have to say that though we didn’t know it, she was struggling with this illness for much longer than that. In the few weeks since my mom has passed away, with all of the swirling thoughts, emotions, and reflections, I have strangely and suddenly ended my day to day worry of caring for my senior parent. I no longer have to ask, what’s next? 

When she got sick, I started researching more, reading more, asking more questions about Dementia, I was amazed at the range of symptoms and the variety of forms that it can take.  But perhaps more importantly, when I opened up and talked about it, I discovered so many other friends who were dealing with (or had dealt with) a Dementia diagnosis in a parent or relative. I was so grateful for others to lean on, and question, and compare notes with.  I’ll be very frank here in that my mom could be difficult at times, it was a part of her nature, so we simply didn’t recognize early symptoms, we just chalked it up to her frustrations of getting older and taking it out on us.

But – Oh, how I wish I had known what she was struggling with – and what I was struggling against!  My mom was fiercely independent.  Yet in the last couple of years, her world of independence was shrinking slowly, and closing in on her. She had lived on her own since my father died in 1995, and she relished that independence and ability to do as she pleased, and thrived as she was able to continue to drive into her eighties. But as she started to struggle with mobility issues, good old fashioned aches and pains, and just basically slowing down, things became more difficult, and she needed more assistance. My brother John and I lived close by, so we took on more of a care giving role, getting her to the grocery store, checking in on her more regularly, I took her shopping and to appointments as she slowly stopped driving altogether, (she was not happy about this, I might add…)  but she was using a walker, so getting herself in and out of the car had become impossible.

Last year in January, 2018, after an “event” that occurred where she ended up on her apartment floor, (and nearly died), she ended up in the hospital, then went into rehabilitation, and  ultimately moved to long term care. It was during all of this that she was officially diagnosed with Dementia, but at that point, I realized just how long she had been suffering with it. All the little clues became so apparent. How did I not see it? We also had the revelation that most of her mobility problems were stemming from her Dementia. And in that moment, it became clear that we could not explain any of what was happening to her in a way she could comprehend. And all she wanted to do was walk.

I spoke with several Directors of long term care facilities as I was searching for the best place for her, and though I knew the answer to mom’s situation in my heart, I would always ask if they had patients who returned to independent living.  A few of them said, Yes, in some cases, that can happen. But the conversation that struck me was when one of them responded: We see this happen so often, their world becomes smaller and smaller. They do only the bare minimum, the things they can manage, which becomes less & less.  My mom’s last few months in her apartment were exactly like that.  Her eating became erratic.  She could no longer manage her laundry, but when I came to do it, she was saving face, say Oh, I was just so tired today, I’ll get to it. She could barely get from the chair to her tiny kitchen by holding on to furniture, and refused to use her walker in her apartment. She couldn’t remember to put on her compression stockings, and her legs were always swollen.  Much of the time John and I were discussing/arguing with her regularly about getting more assistance, but she didn’t want strangers taking her anywhere or coming into her house –  we were just trying to make sure she was safe, and ultimately, we were unsuccessful.

I have agonized and thought so long and so hard over whether my knowing that she had Dementia earlier would have ultimately changed anything about her trajectory. We did not have the capacity to move her into our home. She did not have the means or capacity to live with assistance in a situation she would have deemed acceptable. It was all such a fight.

I understand that I won’t ever know the answers to my questions, and life unfolds as it is going to, I cannot change any of it. But for anyone who is reading this who is dealing with parents or relatives with dementia, the wisest advice we got from the professionals was to realize we didn’t cause it, and that we couldn’t cure it. I did ultimately figure out how to cope with it, but it was through a changed behavior – I had to completely re-learn how to talk to my mother. (Not an easy feat!) I had to delve deep, and take advice from the social workers on how to respond appropriately to her world, her delusions, her irrationality, her fantasies, I had to tell myself over and over: she is sick.

There were definitely moments of clarity and lucidness with her, glimmers of the old Gloria, and my family and I did learn to find ways to use our sense of humor in the best way that we could manage. When she talked about kids climbing in through the windows of her room on Halloween night, we asked her:  Did they have any good candy with them? When she complained about taking a shower, my husband would say: Well you have to get cleaned up, you can’t be the stinky kid in here. My brother told her he would bring his shampoo and towel and take a shower first just to show her it was clean. I listened to my son admirably and deftly navigate conversations where she confused his soccer game with his choir concert.  We brought her coffee regularly, and took her out occasionally for family dinners, which I know she thoroughly enjoyed.

My last conversation with her was on the phone a couple of days before she died. I was in Baltimore with Joseph at a soccer tournament, and she was in the hospital. She sounded really energized and we had a wonderful, normal chat about his crazy soccer schedule and my upcoming travel the next week. There was no meandering, circuitous confusing side tracked topics.  I remarked to my brother afterwards that I couldn’t believe how good she sounded.  My sister visited her that day and said the same thing.  It was as though we were given a final gift of our mom before she left us.  I have given myself permission to remember the mom that I lost years ago, the mom that I could talk to, who could be responsive and caring.  I had to shove that all away, so far down, for so long. So, while I don’t miss the guilt, the struggles, and the uncertainty, the what’s next.…I do indeed miss my mom. And those memories are happy ones.










Home Renovation – We Survived the Holidays…

As most of you know by now, we are in the midst of a “home renovation” project.  I have other terms for this, such as: Tarp on the house project, How long will our heating oil last this winter project, and other things I can’t really write here.

So, I am well aware that home renovation projects take….time. I know that all projects go….off schedule. I know that I was… crazy in thinking that maybe the kids would be in some form of their rooms by the holidays. But…I hoped.

Joe construction

Yeah…that didn’t happen. And to my pleasant surprise, as we are all smushed into this tiny house, using every pocket of space currently for something or somebody, we…survived.  Not only did we survive, but I venture to say that this was one of our most pleasant holiday seasons as a family.  I bravely say this not having actually asked my family if they agree. But for me, sort of expecting the worst, I think we actually thrived, and here’s a few reasons why:

No stress over getting out all the Christmas Decorations. Where things fit, we put them. If it didn’t make it out of the boxes, oh well.

I didn’t freak out over decorating the tree. The tree went up, it sat for a few days, then Joe put the lights on. It sat for a few more days, and I finally said: You know, we should get some ornaments on it. We weren’t all home at the same time, so we sort of did it in shifts, I saved the Princess ornaments for Shannon, I saved the sports ornaments for Joseph, and instead of me yelling at everybody to stop doing everything and enjoy putting ornaments on the tree because we HAVE TO DO THIS, it just sort of happened.

Let the outside Christmas lights go.  Yup, I sure wanted my little Christmas tree with the white lights on it, and it really would have been nice to have the candy cane post lights, but, as Joe said quite practically, (and not even in a snarky manner):

I am sort of using the plug.

Right. And that was that. You could see our Christmas tree in the window through the scaffolding, and well, it was the best we could do this year.

Everyone could eat the cookies. While Joe was toiling away hammering/cutting/nailing and freezing in winter weather, (even snow), I made cookies, and I just decided that it was fine if everyone ate them, I mean, who was I saving them for?

I relinquished my closet space and was done with it.  Normally I have WAY more places to hide Christmas presents, but with everyone on top of everyone, I shoved everything into my closet, and literally when I opened the door everything would fall out. There were bags stuffed all over the shelves, shoes, everything. I was like, whatever. 

I had to relax if I couldn’t find something. Before the construction started, as I was still  recovering from my broken leg, whenever I couldn’t find something, or I started agonizing over missing paperwork, clothing, or soccer/basketball shoes lost in the epic teenager pile of stuff, I was calling it “broken ankle problems.”  Now, I just call it “construction problems.”  Things get moved, if we have people over, piles get moved again and again, and lord, I have sifted through blankets, clothes, etc. etc. looking for Joseph’s button down shirts, a tie, soccer socks, lord only knows where his nice shoes went – it’s just C-R-A-Z-Y.  I have made my peace with J piling his clothes on my office chair. If he can find his dress clothes on Basketball game days without causing me to want to poke my eyes out, then I can live with that.

I know everyone was probably happy when I was gone: I was traveling for work the last week of November and the first week of December, and I am SURE everyone was thinking: Thank God. One less person in this house.

I am holding on to things a little tighter.  You know, nothing is ever perfect. Holidays especially. Shannon has only months left with us in this house before she goes to college. I am impressed with how she has dealt with not having her personal space (she knows it’s for the greater good) – but it’s been a long time coming, and she is a joy and a wonder of a teenager.  I love sharing my space with her because I know it’s only for this moment in time, that will be gone in the blink of an eye.  I equally love how we can talk before bed, how we have stuffed animals everywhere, and this allows me to more easily forgive and ignore the dirty laundry all over the floor.

The construction will end. I know this. And there will be great rejoicing. But for now, I grab my kids when I run into them in the hallway and hug them, I turn my back to the unmade bed in the office while I am working, and remember that we are lucky to have what we have.  And I try not to freak out when the wind blows the tarps around and it sounds like the side of the house will blow off….but I admit that sometimes I kind of lose it over that.

Next Christmas season, I hopefully will be posting photos of a nice front porch, with my little Christmas tree lit up, and NO TARPS anywhere in site. Oh wait. Never mind. Phase 2 of the construction may have just started by then…

House front














So, How is it…working from home?

At the end of September, I started a new job with the Tessitura Network, a company where nearly all of the employees work out of their home. My particular job involves some travel as well, but now that I’ve settled in a little bit to a new routine, I think I can finally provide some answers to the ever-popular question: So how is it working from home?


I left my job at McCarter Theatre, where my office was like a train station. People coming and going, sometimes actually forming a line outside my door, there was noise in the hallway, noise in the marketing office next door, colleagues “popping in” – pretty much a continual stream of conversation. Now, there is no one.  Well – except my husband Joe when he is off from work, which as fate would have it, is more than he used to be, since as a fireman, his shifts recently changed to 24 hours. But Joe is a pretty quiet guy, so it’s usually me yammering away about something while he nods and drinks his coffee.  And then he wants to go take his nap after he gets home from working 24 hours. I am learning to adjust, and even appreciate, the quiet house.

My cats love me

We have 3 cats, who have now decided that clearly I have decided to stay home so that I can let them in and out. All. Day. Long. And when I am on the phone and can’t get up, they will knock over my cable modem, jump on my computer, or start scratching papers up in the office. I can say that I have never have had office mates that were as furry or as needy.

The Fed Ex man scared me to death

One warm October afternoon, I had the window open next to my desk, when I heard a man talking outside. My heart literally stopped – I listened intently, crouched under the window, then stealthily darted from window to window trying to see who it was without being seen myself. I was sure there was a serial killer in Titusville who must have known I was working from home all alone and he was coming to get me. (And he was right outside my window!)  Finally when I bravely looked out the front door and saw the Fed Ex truck, (which I never heard pull in the driveway…) And I then saw him scratching my cat Maxine’s little head on our front stoop while talking to her, well, forehead smack. #thefedexmanisnotanaxmurderer.

No, it’s not a person coming down the stairs

One of the most difficult things that I’ve found about being home alone is sorting out the various noises in the house. I keep trying not to imagine that every little thing I hear is not a ghost, or that someone hasn’t snuck inside the house while I was on the phone with my headset on. After the first couple of days, I finally stopped jumping out of my chair when I heard our littlest cat plodding down the stairs. For a cat that’s literally the size of a kitten, she is very heavy on her paws, and she absolutely sounds like a person. But she’s a cat.

My kids are chill

My son Joseph, a 7th grader, was at first just a little disappointed that I was now occupying the space where he was used to playing his X-box when he came home from school. He now has to wait a full hour and a half before he can watch TV, etc. in the office. But, on the flip side, he no longer has to wait for me to commute home from work to start dinner, and I think he is digging this.  My daughter Shannon, a 10th grader who really enjoys some quiet time alone in her room after school, has adjusted to my existence, (even though she used to regularly call me at work when she got home) – I don’t think she wants to admit she sort of likes my being there. Anyway, Joseph said,  I keep forgetting that you’re going to be here when I get home, but I kind of like it. Hey – I’ll take it!

Nothing happens in our neighborhood. Really.

I knew we lived in a quiet neighborhood. It’s one of the reasons I love it so much. But somehow I thought, maybe some exciting things happen during the day – like the senior citizens on our block had a dance party, or I would see moms and their small  kids walking, or maybe there was a secret spy ring on our street that I would uncover because I now worked from home all the time. Well, there’s none of that. I believe we live in the quietest, most uneventful corner of the country. The deer tromp through the yard and eat our apples, the lady across the street picks up her leaves one at a time…(seriously), and evidently anyone with small children is keeping them inside. But that’s OK.

I have to put a sign on the door when I’m on the phone

Since everyone in my family assumes that I am always available to start a conversation anytime they’d like me to, and since I have a headset on and they can’t really tell that I’m on the phone – (talking to someone else), the easiest way to avoid the kids bursting into the room while talking loudly is just a simple post it note on the door that says: I’M ON THE PHONE. 

We’re all adjusting

The real answer to So, how is it working from home?…. is, I guess, a mixed bag. It definitely has its great aspects, I enjoy walking down to the Delaware river, or taking a bike ride when I have a chance at lunch, I sometimes get to have a meal with my husband (when he’s not napping) – and I really like being able to check in with my kids after they get home from school. Even when they don’t really want to talk, they know I’m there. I no longer feel the stress of trying to leave the office on time and get home in rush hour traffic so that I can get dinner started (and eaten) before we have to dash off somewhere.  I get to drink my own coffee, and work while looking out over my nice little yard. What do I miss?  Well, I have to admit that I didn’t actually mind my office being a central repository of people. And I like Wawa coffee. And sometimes I wish I could walk into the town of Princeton to get sushi or ice cream.  But, for now I’ll take my quiet neighborhood, my needy cats, I won’t kill the Fed Ex man with a baseball bat, and you’ll be the first to know if I uncover that spy ring.