Intentional Caps

I was instant messaging my friend the other evening, and every time she responded, some of her words were in capital letters.  In the world of social media, this could be considered a no-no, as capital letters means the person is screaming at you, not “talking” in a normal state of voice.

“Darn CAPS!” she wrote, then added an LOL for effect.  “I guess I need to get my nails done, I keep hitting the wrong keys!”

 “Its OK” I wrote back. “I know you aren’t screaming at me.” 

 Then we continued our conversation, which became quite varied at times.  We went from kids to men to clothes to spiritual experiences.  As she has been having some difficulties lately,  I ended with “I WILL PRAY FOR YOU – INTENTIONAL CAPS!”

 How often do we need to remind ourselves that life really should be lived with intentional caps?  To not have to filter ourselves, or guard what we say to others?  Friends should be able to say whatever they want to each other, with honest and thoughtful dialogue.  Of course, there is a thin line between being obnoxious and truthful, and what could be thought of as honestly could also become boorish behavior.  One should always think twice before they open their mouth to offer a criticism.  The desire to assist could be lost in the translation, creating all types of other problems.

 In today’s politically correct society, we have become too mindful of protecting free speech that we don’t utilize it at all.  I don’t think that’s what the founding fathers had in mind when it came to debating and sharing of thoughts & ideas.  Nor should it be so with any free society. 

 For the most part, we are able to say what we want without fear of retaliation or any harm coming our way.  But little white lies can turn into whoppers fairly quickly, and all because we censored ourselves in the first place. 

 I made up my mind a while back that I will strive to live every minute I have been blessed with loudly and unafraid.  To live my life with intentional caps and not be hindered by what the outcome of what my response should be.

 Otherwise, I’d just be one long sentence.


Where The Rivers Run

“I’ve got a mind for business, and a body for sin.”  So went the immortal lines uttered by Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) in “Working Girl.”  It was 1988 and women everywhere were beginning to put down the coffee pot and lace up their power shoes, i.e., sneakers with socks over their nylon pantyhose, shoulder padded suit jackets flapping in the breeze. 

We charged down the street from the parking lot to the municipal buildings, offices and law firms, briefcases in hand and determination rocking in our guts.   For those of us who had not gone to college and were trying to work our way up through the ranks, it became the clarion call for those were looking for any kind of break, anything to spur us on to the next pay scale or bump in responsibility.  I am woman, dammit, get the hell out of my way.

The movie ends with a fade out of Ms. McGill sitting at the desk of her new office, as a newly created Junior Account Executive, about to embark on a great journey of enlightenment and fulfillment.   Carly Simon is belting out “Where the Rivers Run” and we are standing up, screaming with girl power and ready to take on the world.  Unfortunately, we never get to see a sequel, and the movie itself seemed to be the pinnacle movie of her career.  She didn’t do much of anything after that; perhaps her mercurial rise to the top was too quick, didn’t give the rest of us time to catch up. 

Life is never like the movies, and most of the time we go home disappointed.I was somewhere in the middle of all that.  I had the power shoes and the suits, but also had 5 kids at home.  My mercurial rise never went higher than anyone else I worked with, and it wasn’t until I switched careers and opened a manufacturing company with my spouse at the time did I end up making any substantial money.

I think the best thing that came out of all that was that we (1) paved the way for our daughters and (2) realized it was all baloney anyway, and that even though you have to work hard, only success + networking + really dumb luck = more money.  Or another example is Worth divided by Tenacity and Spunk equals a Pay Raise.  Like poor Tess McGill, I fear she may have been set up to fail; “The Working Girl” in the Man’s World probably didn’t get very far.   Nowadays, there are no more Tess McGills out there who feel they need to sacrifice everything to get to the top.  The focus is more on inner development rather than personal gain, family rather than familiarity.  I think it’s a good trade off. 

 My life is vastly different that what I thought it would be when I was a working girl in 1988, and I am grateful for that.   But I often wondered what life would be like if I had never put on the power shoes.


Life Is Too Short To Peel A Tomato

On February 23, 2006, my first Story was published in the Williamson Sun & Record.  It was an interview with the new Sodus Town Historian, Sandy Hopkins, and I was so nervous!  It was the first time I had done an interview and wanted to make a good impression on both Sandy and my new employer, editor Wilma Young. 

 Several stories and interviews followed, and soon I was awarded the homey sounding byline “The Stories From The Lake.”  I was so happy to be able to write about the people I met in the communities of Williamson, Pultneyville and Sodus, while sharing with them a little about myself, too.   In fact, I wrote more about my life on the lake and my family than reporting.  Now and then I would attend a town board meeting, or cover an event in the community, but I knew my strength lay in writing essays about things that were dear to me, and in some way resonated with the readers.  As I often said, “If I didn’t make you cry, I didn’t do my job.”

Times change; so did I.  I kept close to my heart all who endeared themselves to me by liking what I had shared with them.  Writing for the S&R gave me the confidence to write and publish Rhythm & Rhymes of the Heart, Surrender to the Moon, and George & Bob Stories: Life Lessons of Little Brothers.  I also have three novels in various stages of development. My fourth book “The Book of the Stories From the Lake: The Byline of a Lifetime” is set for a November release.   Wilma Young wrote the foreword, and I have dedicated it to her and another writer who helped me get my start.

Additional exposure through this newspaper brought the opportunities for speaking engagements, book tours and as a teacher in adult education, facilitating on how to write a personal memoir.  I think I can safely say I have been writing mine all along. 

So I can think of no better time than to tell you, with a little tinge of sadness, this is my last column for the S&R.  I shall continue my byline on my website “The Stories From the Lake” at and would hope you would pop in to take a look.  I hope you will keep in contact with me and share your thoughts as you read what I have written for that day.   Look at it not as my leaving completely; just moving to a different address.   I could never leave the smell of springtime apple blossoms, the waves of summer,  and the geese honking farewell in the fall.

One of my favorite poets is Robert Frost, and he sums up perfectly what I am feeling as I write this final column.  “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

Stay well my friends, and always remember to look for the best in people, to love even those who feel they are unlovable, and never waste your time, the most precious gift of all.   Life is too short to peel a tomato.


The long oblong table was set and the silverware shone brightly against the crisp white tablecloth.  Those of my children who could travel and their significant others were there, and as the waiter poured the water in our goblets, we each placed our napkins in our laps, precisely the way I had taught them when they were little.  Their father sat to my right, as we had situated ourselves right in the middle between all of them, with everyone fanning out around us.

 It was a vastly different seating arrangement than when they were younger.  He always sat at one end of the table and I at the other.  The fact that we had to divorce before we could sit next to each other was now merely amusing.  We had long forgiven each other and had moved on with life, but had to keep reminding them we were okay and they could relax, we were not going to yell at each other.   When he caught my eye, he smiled.

 We were sitting once again in the restaurant where we had always celebrated a family event. A birthday, a milestone, a promotion; somehow, we always gravitated here.   Now, after a space of time and being apart for years, there was an excitement surrounding our arrival together.  As we were being led to the back of the eatery, the smells and aromas filled our nostrils as fast at the memories filled out hearts. 

 For the celebration this spring evening was the culmination of many years of prayers and yearnings.   Not for us, but for our children.  Our son had graduated from college hours before, and we knew we could no go anywhere else but here.

The journey from high school to college for him took many detours.  Six years in service to his country, and another three years working full time while going to school full time had taken its toll.  He was always weary, but still made room for a daughter who was supposed to belong to someone else; we can’t imagine her not being in his life now, or in ours. 

 His own love sat with us too, smiling and whispering things to him gently whenever someone wanted his attention.  For there were many stories and memories to be told, reminiscing of old games and secrets, dreams that were long forgotten, resurrected.

 His father tapped his water glass lightly as to make a toast, but would first share of a memory of his own he wanted to share with us all.  It brought tears to our eyes and already swelled hearts were bursting with love and affection for each other when he was done.  Various nose-blowings ensued as he finished and we reminded again of what it meant to be a family.

 It looks different now, but we are still a family.   There will be other celebrations and other occasions where we sit back and let them bask in the love of their siblings and of us.   Although we are battered and bruised with more than our share of heartaches and disappointments, one sure thing shines brilliantly through.

 Family is forever.

Houston, Venus is Calling

Well, it never fails.

Just when I start to get comfortable with life, the worst kind of crap starts flying around.  Case in point: What a rotten Mother’s Day.

(read My Mother’s Trip to Venus)  

Of course, it was great to spend time with my children, receive their cards and talk to them on the phone.  I also enjoyed the hugs & wet kisses from the doggie kids.

But there was a definite fly in the ointment.  My 77 year old mother has returned to planet Venus. It seems that the mini-strokes have resumed their attack on her brain.  What an anomaly the word “stroke” is anyway.  To stroke a cat or a dog is comforting and relaxing; to have one is not.

She is once again in the land of the lost, the twilight zone of her own mind.  She is totally lost to us, mumbling gibberish.

But, just as she did during the last sojourn, she stops back in for a visit once in a while.  She realizes she’s been gone, but never remembers what she did or said.   I asked her if she knew what happened.  She said she realized what she was saying wasn’t making sense, but was powerless to control it.  It was as if she had gone to Venus.    We are all realizing the trips are becoming closer together, her most recent one was last week, and she spent Mother’s Day in the hospital.  A text from my sister told me she knew it was Mother’s Day, and that the window of opportunity to call was now.

“Hey, Mommy.”

“Hey” said the voice on the other end of  the cell phone.  She spoke with a voice strong with authority, her Mother voice and different from the last woozy haze- filled time we spoke.

“Hey” I repeated.  “So.  You’re back.”

“I am.”  There was never really much to talk about with my mother anyway, even when she wasn’t half out of her mind. 

“Good.  Happy Mother’s Day. See you next week.”

“Not if I see you first.”   Then she laughed and hung up.

My mother was, is, and always will be, an enigma wrapped inside a question mark, and deep fried in bacon grease. 

The strokes she suffers are not ones to completely debilitate her.  She is able to walk, talk, feed herself, go to the bathroom and retain a sense of normalcy, except for when she opens her mouth. 

“I can’t eat the potato salad, there’s ants all over it.”  This was in response to a plate of spaghetti placed in front of her.

“You know I don’t drink vodka.”  This to a bottle of water.

Then one day she’ll wake up in her hospital bed, buzz the nurse and freak her out with an annoyed  “And how the hell did I end up in here”  kind of stare.  As long as she can tell them who the President of the United States is, the date  and where she is, they send her home.

 I’ll be going to see her next week in Houston,  where she has lived for the last 25 years.  We know this time she’s not going back to sleep in her bed that she bought when she and my dad were first married.  My 3 sisters,  brother and his wonderful wife and I are all taking turns, sitting with her and smiling as she talks to my dead father and all her long gone cousins.  I wondered if they were really sitting beside me and she can see them,  listening as well.  

I know that time is short and each time the strokes arrive, it takes a piece of her with it, never to be returned.  Her memories are all she has, and each time it gets a little bit harder to say good bye.

I just wish Venus wasn’t so far away.