Through the Eyes of a Child…

Christmas season begins in our house the day after Thanksgiving.  Every year my stress level escalates to the point that December 26th, the least favorite day of my childhood, is now my favorite.

This year I will be doing things differently.  It started last week when I decided to put our ample number of Christmas decoration out.  I gave myself the chance to do it over a few days, and to really examine each piece for its meaning.  Each child has his or her own tree, filled with personal decorations received each year.  I put Danielle’s tree up on Thursday morning, and through my tears, I looked at the year on each of the ornaments and it took me on a journey of her life and her interests.  

On Friday we left for Syracuse to spend a few days with my sister-in-law and her family.  This was planned as a distraction from the fact that Danielle will not be celebrating Thanksgiving here in the States for a few years.  Upon arrival, my four-year old nephew threw himself into my arms as if we hadn’t seen each other in ages.  Two weeks is a long time when you’re four!  His three siblings immediately started to tell me all about their Thanksgiving and how excited they are about Christmas.  We rode a mountain coaster together and most of us went on these crazy fast zip lines.  That night three generations attended a showing of “The Muppet Movie.”  We all loved it.  The next day some of us went Christmas shopping in a town where Dickens characters milled the streets, a holiday tradition.  Others attended a college football game and that night, fifteen of us played a not-so-friendly game of Trivial Pursuit and had a blast. 

Sure, the presents under the tree are exciting, but the children in our family made it clear this week-end that their joy is found in being with each other, doing the simple things that form the strongest bonds of family.  They chatted excitedly about the Christmas menus that have been the same for about 100 years, making s’mores in the wood burning stove, sipping hot chocolate, seeing their cousins from Ohio and finally seeing Danielle!  Not one mention of new video games or Legos was heard.

For our family, the wonder of house is built on the foundation that we are indeed celebrating the birth of the one we view as our Savior.  Your family may celebrate the miracle of a scant amount of oil burning in a lamp for eight days or a myriad of other traditions.  

My goal is simple. My actions this holiday season, when seen through the eyes of a child, will be ones that celebrate their innocence and show them love.  What greater gift is there?

As We Give Thanks….


Thanksgiving in my family also serves as the official beginning of the Christmas season.  Despite the fact that some decorations already went up today at my house, I vowed that this year I would give Thanksgiving the respect it deserves.

Global events have created one of the bleakest years a long time.  Our own politicians are arguing about the direction of America, world leaders wait for the next military strike and the economy shows no signs of recovery.  Yet, even in the slightest of cracks, anyone can find the light if he is willing to open his eyes wide enough.

I know that a dark cloud will hang over the festivities on Thursday, as our eldest will not be with us.  Yet, I give thanks that she is blissfully happy at St. Andrews.    Our second daughter is being plagued at every turn this school year by a return of her rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. I give thanks, though, for how she handles each challenge with grace and acceptance, always moving forward to reach her goals.

The economy has forced many of us to simplify our lives and to fully appreciate what we do have.  What were we all chasing, anyway?  In my case, the uncertainty of the future convinced me to pursue my dream of running my own businesses.

Whilst outside today, I saw a honeysuckle that is obviously confused by this window of warm weather.  The fact that it was alone in the garden allowed its beauty to be overwhelming.

Snow and power outages are most likely in my near future, but that means there will also be time for knitting, snowmen, hot chocolate and nights by the fire.  

Over the next few days, think about all of the things that seem wrong in your life.   Then think again and look for the light in each of them.  I guarantee you will find something for which to give thanks.

Finally, I am grateful to all of you for taking a few minutes each week to read my words.

Happy Thanksgiving.

At What Price Beauty…..


I have been surrounded all my life with women who are meticulously put together every day.  My mother has gotten her hair done twice a week for at least 45 years, a trick she learned from my grandmother.  Mom still dresses meticulously and always looks like she stepped out of the pages of a magazine. The accessories always match and she changes her purse every day to match her outfit.  The thing I admire most about these two women is that as classy as they are, they own equal amounts of warmth and kindness. 

As for me, I strive for the warmth and the kindness, but the rest simply exhausts me just thinking about it.   I have gotten by (until now) with a greatly reduced sense of vanity.  Lately, though, the tide has turned.

A few months ago it came to my attention that my look could best be described as “schlubby.”   My mirror told me.  Hmmm.  If I continue in this direction I will soon be facing looks of great pity in the supermarket.  Thus began my physical overhaul.

I started with my wardrobe.   Whenever I received an invitation that read  “country casual”, “festive attire” or “business formal”.  I interpreted it to mean “clothes that fit.”   So, I purged my closets and then attended a few CABI parties.   Such fun!   Aren’t I earning my own money again?  Yes, I am, so between my earnings and Brian’s earnings I was covered.  

Moving on to jewelry, I reached out to my friends in the worlds of Silpada, Premiere and Stella & Dot.  More happiness!  I might even need a second jewelry armoire.

Even my shoes were subject to great scrutiny.  I now own only 20 or so pairs, but don’t panic, there is always Zappos.

Then to make-up, as in I am starting to do my face every morning.   OK, maybe every other morning.   Everyone was right.  Lipstick does brighten up your face.

Now, to my hair.  That is a saga in and of itself.    As for the hair not on my head, I have been getting waxed or lasered for years.  At least this was covered.  Of course, there was the awkward moment a week ago when the 10-year old asked me what a Brazilian wax entailed.   We are a VERY modest family, so a visual of any sort was completely out of the question.  Somehow I stammered that it was a bikini wax that was high and tight, like a military cut.  That seemed to be enough of an answer for him.

The big challenge remains to be the hair on the top of my head.  Everyone in the house is taller than me so they feel it is OK to comment on the grey hair on the top of my head.   So, this Friday I am off to the salon.  It seems that my appointment is going to take at least three hours.  Seriously?   There was great discussion when I made the appointment as to whether I was going to get a glaze, a panel or something else.  These words are meaningless to me so I told them to surprise me.  I’ll let you know next week how this adventure turns out.

The last piece of this puzzle is of course, my weight.  I continue to work on it at home and in the gym so I presume that one day I will be an ideal size. Too bad I didn’t live a few centuries ago.  Renoir would have found me divine!

The key to all this change is simple.  I’m only able to move forward because I finally embraced who I am and what I look like.  Every curve, every wrinkle and every grey hair has been earned honestly.  So, please let me ask you something.   Your friends and family already know that you are beautiful where you are right now, so why not believe them?

Rosemary’s Bridge….


Twenty-two years ago I had the good fortune of being able to start a new direct  marketing division at Hearst Magazines.   Those were heady times, and the money was flowing freely all over the place.  There was no better place for a woman to be than in sales.  I stayed there for ten years, leaving only due to Brian’s relocation to London.

I had many peers and a few mentors.   One of my mentors, Rosemary Montroy, was the type of person that everyone should have in her life when she starts her career.   Rosemary already had grown children when we met.   She was one of the key figures at Direct Media, one of the biggest direct marketing companies around.    The offices are still located in Greenwich in a stunning setting at the bottom of a hill, with a stream running in front of the building and a waterfall to the side.  As one of Direct Media’s main clients, I spent a lot of time with Rosemary.  She introduced me to all of the industry legends and showed me the ropes.   Most importantly, she showed me how to treat people well and earn their respect.   She was “mama” to so many.  

Rosemary and I would meet for dinner during my time in London and in the first few years of my return to the States.  As in so many things, life got in the way and we lost touch, though we always knew what the other was doing through our mutual industry friends. 

I received a phone call in September, 2009 that Rosemary had passed away.  She was only 64.

Her wake was packed.  Amidst the sadness there were many hugs as I came across old friend after old friend, most of whom I had not seen for twelve years.  We promised to keep in touch and we have done exactly that.   Thanks to these wonderful women I slowly gained the confidence to go back into the world of those who earn a paycheck.

Three weeks ago I found myself standing in front of the Direct Media building for the first time in fourteen years. The name of the company has changed and the parking lot was not as full as I remembered.  My old friends inside are now the seasoned veterans.

The only way to get into the building is to walk over a short wooden bridge.   As I made my way across on this beautiful fall day I started to cry.   It was wholly unexpected.    The memories came flooding back and for an instant, I was thinking about the pictures of my little girls that I brought to show Rosemary.    My dreams were still intact and my confidence was brimming.    We would chat about a great new promotion or of the many deals we would make with other companies.   Then, of course, there would be a gaggle of us going off to lunch.

How could I know that all of these years later I would again have my foot in the door of the industry, albeit from a different angle?   Those little girls are now young women who owe so much to their wonderful high school just down the street from these offices.   Two of the women with whom I worked live in my school district, and another dear industry friend fights her own battle with cancer.  So far, she is winning. 

As I dried my tears on that bridge, it hit me.  The journey may be different but the dreams are the same.  Thanks, Rosemary, for watching over me still.