Handbag Sober….

Happy Monday!   Thanks to all of you who have stopped to tell me they read this blog every week and to all who are sharing it with their Facebook friends.  I appreciate it so much.

A few days ago I started taking apart the master bedroom and the accompanying office.  I only touch a piece of paper once and I clean out every room at least once a year.   Normally, this causes my husband and children to run around the house clutching their most prized possessions.

At one point I was quite overwhelmed with the pile of papers, clothes and other personal belongings all over the floor.  After spending a good ten seconds in self-pity, I put on those big girl panties and dove in!   Sorting and tossing paper was the easy part.  After an hour or so the office was done.

Now all I had to do was tackle my clothes, bags and shoes.  There were all of the clothes that I bought last year after I woke up one day to discover that the body fairies had made me larger.  Those clothes ranged from matronly to frumpy.  (Note to friends:  An intervention would have been in order.)  

I stared at all of the piles of clothes in size 6, 8, and 10.   Why did I own so many turtlenecks?   Do skinny people not get hot flashes?   Gone.  Ultimately, half of my clothes and shoes were put in bags for an upcoming tag sale.

The last group I sorted was my handbags.   I was shocked to discover that not one handbag was ready for the giveaway pile.  In fact, I almost fainted when I realized that it has been at least five years since I bought my last expensive handbag.   I covet bags and jewelry and I have never been apologetic.  The jewelry is covered by my large Italian-American family and my husband, but the bags are my responsibility.  When you visit me in the nursing home I will be covered in baubles and my bag will match that day’s tracksuit. 

It finally dawned on me….the economic drain of supporting my children caused me to go HANDBAG SOBER.   It is an insidious thing, I tell you, something that creeps up on you slowly.   When a person starts her own direct sales business, a good sponsor will always ask for her  “Why?”   Most people respond along the lines of building a secure financial future based on a steady stream of residual income.   That is a wonderful goal that I share with all of my fellow business builders, but at least I am truthful enough to tell you that going into Louis or Furla or Gucci with reckless abandon would mean the pinnacle of success to me!

No matter what your goal, go for it!    At the end of the day, we are living in dark times in which our fellow humans are turning on each other in despicable ways.  

The rest of us need to keep moving forward.  I, for one, will never give up on that flicker of light that is always within our sight.   It doesn’t matter if that light takes the form of a child’s hug, a smile from a stranger or yes, even a handbag.   Just promise me that when you are bathed in it, you will take the time to bask in the warmth for a moment.

The Joy of Guilt…..


I have decided that guilt is a constant theme in my life and rather than try to resist it, I am going to embrace it.    My entire cellular structure is pre-programmed with generations of Italian-Catholic guilt neurons so who am I to try and deny evolution?  

Let’s start with the general life phases of guilt.  First, there is sibling guilt, as in “I probably shouldn’t have convinced my youngest brother that he is adopted just because mom has no pictures.”  Then there is school guilt of “I really should have started that paper before midnight due to the fact that my parents pay for me to go to this lovely private school.”   I was a do-gooder in the homework department, so I stole that one from our eldest daughter.

The pattern of guilt continues until you hit the all consuming pinnacle, MOM guilt.    This particular type of guilt starts the second your first child is born and assumedly ends when you take your last breath.  What follows is my journey to date and the corresponding guilt rating, 10 being the highest:

First daughter is born and I return to work full-time.   (10)

Second daughter is born and I return to work part-time.   (6)

We move to London and I finally get to be an at-home mom.   (0)           

After two months, I am bored to tears of being an at-home mom.  (7)

I decide to have third child to fill up free time.    (2)

Third child never sleeps and is all consuming so the girls                  

are virtually ignored.  (9)

Decide to have fourth child but the third is still all consuming so now

I have to hire a nanny to handle the above-mentioned third child. (5)

Several years of exhaustion follow. (0)

Exhaustion ebbs but when I wake up I discover that I have two children in private school during a terrible recession and I still have a nanny. (8)

My blog is one day late.  (11)

So here I am, six weeks after I decided to go back to work, building two businesses of my own and creating sales opportunities for a wonderful outside company.  I am obviously incapable of doing anything on a small scale.  The guilt opportunities exist aplenty.

I know Danielle is really happy at school in Scotland, but I know little else.   Our second daughter is having a heck of a junior year between her workload and her health issues and I wish I could take her pain away and make it mine.   The seventh grader doesn’t talk about his schoolwork and I probably should spend more time probing.   The youngest has had a stomachache for three weeks and it only dawned on me today that it is probably due to the huge amount of medication he has to take for Lyme .  My newest addition to the guilt pile?  I often wish that I could be left alone and work 20 hours a day because I love what I am doing so much.

My youngest went to school yesterday despite his stomachache because I had an important meeting. I promised him that if he needed me, I would be back home at lunchtime.

My cell phone rang at exactly 12:15 and I didn’t even look to see who it was.   I drove directly to the elementary school where my ten-year old was waiting for me. About a half-hour later he turned to me and told me how much he enjoyed my company.   He then told me he noticed how happy I was these days and that simple fact made him happy, too.   If my children can accept my new journey with such open hearts, why shouldn’t I?

So, wrap that guilt up and embrace it, lest you miss one minute of the joy that is always a minute ahead of us.

Dad’s Turn…..

   I  made a new friend on Thursday. She made me realize that in my blogs I have never mentioned my dad.   Dad is a 76-year old Italian-American who broke all the stereotypes for men in his generation.

I am the oldest of four, two girls and two boys. Growing up, he always told us that women were smarter than men but that we had to work twice as hard to get half as far.  He expected us girls to be well educated and follow our dreams.  Dad reminded us constantly to appreciate that our mom is a brilliant woman who sacrificed her career for us.  One of his famous sayings is that when they married, he and mom decided that he would make all of the big decisions and she would make the small ones, yet in 47 years a big decision has never come up.

Whilst many parents made their children earn their trust on a regular basis, Dad trusted us implicitly to make the right decisions.  The best example of this trust was my being allowed to attend the public high school, despite earning a scholarship to a nearby private school.  He picked me up from my visitation day, and he must have sensed my misery.  We made a deal on the ride home that I could go where I wanted as long as I kept up my grades.  We both kept our side of the bargain and my high school years are among my happiest.

When he left education to go into international business, life around my house became very interesting.  He would often travel for weeks at a time and when he was home, many of the people he met in his travels became house guests.  They were of every race and religion and I found out later that many were in government intelligence in their respective countries.  Thus, we grew up in a home without prejudice, except of course, if you were ignorant.  We children weren’t spared this bias.  We were all allowed to have our own opinions, but woe to the one who couldn’t back it up with at least some semblance of fact.  I am sure this daily discourse is why I make sure that my children know all sides of an issue before an idea is formed.

Despite his respect for us children as individuals, we knew very clearly that my Dad had no interest in winning popularity contests with us.  During one of his summers home from law school, my brother decided to keep up his existing social hours. One morning Dad told him that he had to stop coming in so late as my mother couldn’t fall asleep until everyone was home.  My brother tried telling Dad that this was really mom’s issue, not his.  My dad nodded in agreement, and then asked my brother if he would like to pack his car and return to D.C. that moment or after he got home from work.  Problem solved.

Over the years, I have learned about my father’s quiet, consistent generosity.  Whether it was for a family member in need, one of his students or a stranger in need, Dad did what he could, even if he had little to spare.

My dad is presently working on a book about all of his views on life and his numerous adventures.  It will be a great read.

Running, Part II


The now infamous Madeleine and Brian debut run took place on Saturday night at the Disneyworld Wine and Dine Half Marathon Relay.  I am happy to report that we posted a respectable time of under three hours thanks to my husband’s very long legs.  

As many of you know, this whole thing started months ago as a dare from my younger brother, Mark.  It then evolved into an intervention trip to cheer me up when Danielle left for college.  Mark has been running for over twenty years.  My sister-in-law, Pam, ran the NYC Marathon last year to celebrate turning 40.   Brian, we found out, can run a 10-minute mile, which he did for six consecutive miles on Saturday night.  Since he trained very little it was a surprise to us all.  I always thought my children got their athletic ability from me.  Anyway, I knew I needed a serious training regime to compete with these overachievers.

I was supposed to start training in January.  I tried for a month or so and then I decided I had plenty of time so why hurt myself?  Next thing I knew, it was June.   I got winded running to the mailbox.  During the summer I ran as often as I could, hating almost every minute of it.   

So here we were in Orlando, with four days to get ready for the race.  Here’s what happened.  Pam and I sat by the pool on Wednesday and then treated ourselves to a lovely dinner and a fireworks display.  We did a training run Thursday morning at 7:30 am.  Having never run in such humidity, I was pretty sure my lungs were going to come out my nose.  Then we spent the rest of the day in two Disney Parks (the men met us mid-day) and enjoyed a late dinner.   On Friday, we made sure we were amongst the first to arrive at ESPN Sports Center to pick up our race packets, as we needed to go and conquer both parks at Universal.  After that we went to Disney Village and then enjoyed another late dinner.  At this point, I figured that having aching feet was part of the training prep for seasoned runners.  I was wrong.  No one else had aching feet.

Saturday arrives and we head back to ESPN to get ready for the race.   After two hours of listening to peppy Disney cast members leading everyone in song and dance, we were corralled to our various areas.  My group started at 10:20 pm.    Within a few minutes of running, I felt a searing pain run up my right Achilles tendon.  This was a tad concerning as I ruptured my left one six years ago.   Luckily, after two miles, my legs were numb so the pain was gone.

At around mile 3, I just started to run as hard as I could.  I may not have run like the wind, but certainly like a small draft.  Soon enough, we entered Animal Kingdom and I could see the relay line where Brian was waiting to start his leg of the race.  Once he took off, I crossed my finish line and a medal was placed over my head.  How I love bling!!!!  I got in line to get my picture taken with my medal. 

Then something unexpected happened.  I started to cry.  Whilst the first 40 years of my life were pretty darned charmed, the past six have not been much of a picnic.  I’m certainly not complaining, as I know life happens to everyone.  I cried for the daughter I miss terribly and for the daughter who dances en pointe despite toes curled by a cruel disease.  I cried for our parents’ health struggles and for my 97-year old grandmother who lies patiently waiting for God to call her home.   

I didn’t realize how much of myself was invested in this race until it was over.  I left Florida on Sunday feeling grateful for all of the blessings I do have – family that loves me, children that still need me, friends who support me in ways that I will never be able to repay. 

The most important result of this adventure is that it is my turn to set the dare.    So, Mark, here it is.  All four of us will run the full 13.1 miles next year but this time, you will be wearing a tutu and wings.  I get to pick the color.