A Little History….

Memorial Day was first established by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic on May 5, 1868.   It was first observed on May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of the Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.  The desire for a national day of remembrance was born of the grief of the many casualties of the Civil War.   Many towns had already created ways to decorate the graves of the fallen soldiers and the movement was catching on across the nation.

New York State was the first to officially recognize Memorial Day on May 30, 1873.  Other northern states followed, while the southern states continued to choose their own days of remembrance.  Memorial Day became a national day of remembrance after World War I and the sentiment was changed to honor all fallen soldiers from any war.   Congress moved the observance of Memorial Day from May 30th to the last Monday in May in 1971, in order to create a three-day federal holiday weekend.

During the course of the weekend you will see many veterans selling a red poppy to raise money for disabled veterans.  Inspired by the poem, In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae, Moina Michael wrote her own verse:

We cherish too, the Poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led,

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies.

 Ms. Michael wore the first red poppy as a way to honor the fallen soldiers.    Another tradition was born.

As we enjoy the unofficial start to summer today, let’s please take a moment to pause and remember that the breaths we take are still filled with the scent of freedom and the aroma of hope, thanks to those whose breaths were silenced in service to our country.  May they rest in peace with the knowledge that today is not about division or politics.   It is about unity and reconciliation.  We owe them at least that much.


Happy Memorial Day to all.

In Flanders Fields

John McCrae, 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

 Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.


Life Goals….

The luckiest children have parents who allow them to dream big. In our extended family we have kids who want to be astrophysicists, famous baseball players, stunt doubles, rock stars and even President of the United States. I came up with five life goals when I was about 15 and all but one have remained unchanged.

The one goal I abandoned was to be President of the United States. Politics is still one of my passions but I decided a long time ago that the job of President really wasn’t worth the aggravation. I know, I know. How selfish of me. I denied our children the privilege of meeting Derek Jeter and The Jonas Brothers. Sadly, into life a little rain must fall.

Here are the other four, in no particular order.

1 – I will never break the seal on the annual tax booklet. Now taxes can be done paperless but back in the day we all received those sealed booklets that included the forms and the instructions. When I first started working I handed the booklet and my W2 form to my dad and his wonderful accountant did my taxes. I then married an accountant and the problem was permanently solved. There was also a Plan C in that my brother married an accountant as well so if the marriage thing didn’t work out I was covered.

2. – I will speak Italian. I studied Spanish and French in high school but Italian wasn’t offered. I speak Spanish now and I can handle French enough to get by but I REALLY want to learn Italian. It is the language of my ancestors and I honestly believe it is the most beautiful language on earth. I will start working with Rosetta Stone this summer and if all goes well, I will start taking classes in the fall. Sono cosi excitatta! Auguretemi buona fortuna.

3. – I will never go camping. Despite being married to an Eagle Scout, camping is out of the question for me. The two boys love scouting and both hope to be Eagle Scouts as well some day. When the youngest was eight or nine he begged me to go on a campout with him. He is the one who can almost always convince me to do something, but this time the answer was different. In fact, I told him that I would throw myself in front of a moving bus to save his life but I don’t love anyone enough to go camping. The therapy was expensive, but he is OK now.

4. – I will play the piano. As evidenced by last week’s blog, I continue to play the piano in spite of the piano recital. Last week was the first time that I almost came to blows with my piano teacher. He was being very supportive of my recital panic and was trying to give me tips to overcome it. As a response, I was having a tantrum. I did take on one piece of advice. Instead of worrying about every note, I really tried to become one with the music. It paid off. The night before the recital I was able to play “Somewhere My Love” with no mistakes. It doesn’t matter that the version I played at the recital only resembled the actual piece. After five years of lessons, I am a pianist.

Thank you, Peter.

On a completely different note, the kitchen is essentially finished and we couldn’t be more pleased. Every single person helping us with the job is top-notch and professional. My last shout out is to King Top in where the granite was cut. Ask for Jay to help you finalize the cuts and ask for Francisco to install it. King Top may be reached at: 41 Drexel Drive, Bay Shore, NY, (631) 231 1025.

The Recital……

The top fears for humans, according to the science of Wikipedia, are as follows: ghosts, the existence of evil powers, cockroaches, spiders, snakes, heights, water, enclosed spaces, tunnels, bridges, needles, social rejection, failure, examinations and public speaking.

I imagine that she who shares these fears reacts in a similar fashion when faced with them. Her adrenaline starts flowing causing her blood pressure to soar. This causes extreme panic that then causes rapid breathing that then lowers the blood pressure and then makes her feel faint and possibly, about to puke. The low blood pressure also empties the brain of any knowledge of how you got in the situation in the first place.

I know firsthand about this sensation, as I own a fear so powerful that I can only be grateful that I must face it only once a year. My fear? The annual piano recital. You see, the four children in this house started taking piano lessons at the age of five and will be allowed to stop when they leave for college. Danielle already tested this approach and it is now clear to the others that I am not kidding. After nine years of yelling at them when they missed a daily practice, the kids dared me to start piano lessons. Faithful readers know that I am a sucker for dares.

So, four years ago I started lessons with our wonderful, patient piano teacher. Leading up the first recital, I was entirely relaxed, confident that I knew my song. Upon arrival of recital day, the aforementioned warning signs kicked in with full force. By the time I reached the piano, I had no idea what my name was so forget about the song. At the end of the recital our teacher asked if any of his students wanted to play his song again while the others were having refreshments. Yes, folks, that was for me. I was supposed to play a Disney song and it came out sounding somewhere between a polka and a funeral march.

This annual exercise in fear has been quite humbling for me. I am not crazy about enclosed spaces, but other than that, the common human fears don’t phase me. I think of all ghosts as being as gentle as Casper and evil forces have nothing on some of my relatives. I am a very experienced talker so public speaking is a joy for me.

This year’s recital is on Saturday and I am already nauseous. The one saving grace? I don’t have one. I will let you know next Monday.

Our piano teacher, Peter Chiusano, is a very talented musician, and obviously super patient, as I am still his student. Peter has been with us for eight years and with other friends for almost as long. He works in Northern Westchester, Putnam, Carmel and Ridgefield, CT and he comes to your house.
Peter may be reached at 845-228-KEYS.


I am on a mission to save paper…from extinction. Before the comments start flying, I assert that I respect the environment as much as the next person. As a family we work hard to keep packaging and paper waste to a minimum, recycling every last scrap.

Yet, in the combined rush to save the world and save time, many have forgotten that our goal should be to live in a way that moves the human race forward. I contest that it is impossible to move ourselves to a kinder, gentler time when the only way we communicate is through a screen.

E-vite, e-mail, Facebook and Twitter help us to connect with many whom we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. I also love that commerce and information may take place in cyberspace at lightning speed. On the minus side is the fact that most of our personal interactions never resemble the personal.

Our children know that a written thank you note must be sent to acknowledge every kind act and gift. At the age of five the note may have read, “Thank you for my gift. From, XXXX”. Later the note takes on a life of its own, filled with the child’s personal statements and unique way of expressing thanks. Danielle may write something funny in her notes and our other daughter will write something very deep. One son will comment on sports and the other will tell you exactly how he is going to use his gift.

The paper calendar is another dinosaur with which I refuse to part. Mine is big enough for me to print in large letters and it may always be found in the same location. This way, no one here can say he or she didn’t know of an upcoming appointment due to a technological snafu.

My mother, like her mother, buys a card for every occasion for each one of us children and grandchildren, 17 people in all. My mom and my aunt send weekly cards to Danielle in while at university, a gentle reminder that she is missed. These cards are a welcome expression of love.

Every handwritten card or invitation sends a message that the recipient is special, that someone took the time to find the paper, the pen, the stamps and the mailbox. It is graciousness in its simplest form.

Those of us living in Northern Westchester are fortunate to have Fine Lines, located at 141 Katonah Avenue, Katonah, NY, (914) 232-4856. The owners, Laura and Barry, carry greeting cards and note cards for every taste and occasion. They are experts in creating the perfect invitation and announcement and have a wide array of paper styles from which to choose. So go ahead, send a card and make someone’s day!