Sunday, August 12, 2018


I believe I was in the middle of eating a meatball when he grabbed my hand.

It was over 30 years ago, in what now seems like someone else’s life. I was at my former sister-in-law’s home at a traditional Italian family dinner when her tenant from the upstairs apartment barged in urgently as if escaping a fire.

He grabbed my hand and looked at it intently. “You’ll never be rich, but you’ll always have enough.”

He was likely younger than he looked, prematurely wrinkled, thin and balding. His features were all a bit crooked. He stared at me strangely, as if he knew secrets about me I didn’t even know I had. I was told he was a vagabond and had worked in the circus for most of his life as a psychic. But before you assume my reading was just vague enough that it could apply to anyone, there’s more to the story.

“Read me!” my ex asked.

“Broken window,” the odd character said with a thin grin, just before we heard the loud crash of a brick being thrown through our car window. At which point he closed my ex’s hand and pushed it back towards him as if to say, ‘you asked for it’.

The whole exchange happened in about the time it took you to read about it, but it has stuck with me my entire life. Fueled by the creepy confirmation of the ‘broken window’ event, I often reflect on the mean of having ‘enough’ in my life.

There is something strangely beautiful about the word when used as a describer.

Enough love.
Enough friends.
Enough money.
Enough time.

It has a Goldilocks and the Three Bears ring to it. Not too little, not too much, just enough.

It assumes contentment. A lack of greediness. An abundance of thankfulness.

It also carries the undertone of knowing that while things could be better, they could also be much worse.

Enough heartache to know true love. Enough sadness to appreciate joy. Enough illness to be thankful for good health. Enough difficulty to balance my blessings.

In May of this year, I made the decision to end my newspaper career after 35 years in print media.

In short, I had had enough.

Enough time wasted sitting in traffic. Enough 12-hour days. Enough stressing about budgets. Enough Sunday nights spent dreading Monday mornings. Enough leaving in the dark, and coming home in the dark.

It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my life, but in the end, it came down to this.

I don’t need a corporate life.
I don’t need a big income.
I don’t need a big title.

Because along with those things comes a big price tag.

What I really need is, quite simply, enough.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Time, it just goes

And the time, it just goes.

While we wait for something to change, something to happen, something to start, something to end.

It goes as we prepare for the day. THE day. Any day.

It goes in traffic lights and traffic jams. Hours of cars crawling to and from the place where the time just goes during wasteful meetings and wishful dreaming of being someplace else. Anyplace else.

It goes in footsteps, footfalls, walking, running. Putting distance between the time we start and time we end.  The time in between just gone.

It goes in the ticks of a clock during the sleepless nights spent worrying.
Worrying about the time, and where it goes.

It disappears in errands and chores, in grocery stores. Clean up needed for time waster in aisle three.

Wasting time wanting, wishing, needing.

It goes as we try to plan a better way to spend it. As we try to find a better way. As we try to feel better.

It goes in the baby I just held, now married with babies.
It goes in the people who held me as a baby, who I now hold up as they teeter totter and wonder where their time went.

As I silently try to explain.

It just goes.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's Game Time

There are a lot of Christmas traditions. These are mine.

Week 1 tree goes up. Week 2 window lights on. Week 3 cards get mailed. Week 4 post the Rudolph story. 

That’s about all the spirit I can muster as part of a tiny, aging family whose biggest gift is that they survived to see one more Christmas. There is no gift shopping, no turkey in the oven, no kids working themselves into a frenzy, no dog wandering around with a bow stuck to its head.

As Bill Belichick would say; it is what it is.

So I continue working through my festive ‘to do’ list until I hit task number four, which should be the easiest. Just say a few hopeful words, cut and paste the Rudolph story, and everyone will ‘like’ it on Facebook and wish us a happy holiday.

But that’s where things become derailed and the skis fall off the sled, because the hopeful words are hard to muster up on this 15th anniversary of Stephen’s death.  For the past week I’ve gotten up each morning and stared at my blank computer page, telling myself to just jot down a few merry words and not give the gift of depression this year.

But like a season-weary, injured NFL player, I’m a game time decision. I’ve had a little red X next to my name for the past week, and although I’m trying hard to rally I’m just not sure if I can dig deep enough to find any Merry in this Christmas.

Well, it’s Christmas Eve, and it’s game time.

I can almost hear the Fantasy Festivus players cheer as I put my headset on and line up to the computer. I make a few key plays, score high points for extra-long sentences and get hit with a few penalties for ‘non-excessive celebration’ as I type these words onto the screen.

These imperfect, heartful words that will be sent out into the Universe, just in case there is someone out there who feels like me and needs a cheerleader on the sidelines. Someone to say “I know it’s hard, but you can do this. Don’t think too far ahead, just think one day at a time, and on this one day, you can do this.”

For me, that cheerleader is my brother Stephen. And Rudolph.

Read it and rally my friends, it’s game time.

The Night We Saw Rudolph.

Twas the night before Christmas on Webb Street in Salem. Stephen is five years old and trying desperately to fall asleep amidst the holiday excitement and anticipation of Christmas morning.

I tell him that if Santa comes and he is still awake, he will fly right by and not bring him any toys. Just then, someone drove into the driveway of the liquor store that use to be our neighbor and put their brake lights on, causing the bedroom to glow in a bright, red light.

His eyes grew as big as saucers as he looked at the window, then at me, and muttered “Rudolph…!” just before falling asleep.

From that year forth, every Christmas Eve Stephen would turn to me and say, “Remember the night we saw Rudolph?” and we’d laugh at the memory. But as we grew to adults, I began to respond, “That wasn’t Rudolph, it was….” and before I could finish the statement he would give a little smirk and say, “SShhhh, it was Rudolph” and we’d just smile.

My brother has been gone 15 Christmases now, but I still tell this story to anyone who will listen.

Because looking back, Stephen was right.

It was indeed Rudolph.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

10 Memorable Books

It was supposed to be a quick Facebook scan: who did what, who ate what and who went where. But instead, I was tagged with a challenge that has weighed heavy on my mind: list 10 books that made a difference in my life.

Books and I go way back.

Almost all of my childhood memories include me reading. Me, with my white pleather bible full of colorful photos, crying because people were mean to Jesus; Me, in my cardboard fort with a flashlight, glued to Ten Little Indians; Me, carrying home huge stacks of books from the Salem Public Library with just my pixie haircut and Ked’s sneakers sticking out from behind the pile; Me, convinced flying saucers really were spotted over the Salem Power Plant after being brainwashed by Chariots of the Gods; Me, writing a suspense novel in high school as a way to make friends, an effort that ended up in a bonfire after a particularly hurtful bullying incident.

So choosing the top 10 books in my life is a big task. It is not a list that anyone is going to want to run out and read, but it is my life through books.

1) The Bible
Would it surprise anyone that I wanted to be a nun when I grew up? Up until the time my father was killed in a car accident, I was deeply religious in a home where that really wasn’t. I’m not sure if it was faith or fear that guided me in those early years, but I would hit my knees faithfully every night, and keep a growing list of things I needed to repent for in preparation for my weekly confession. If you’ve read my blogs, you’ve heard mention of my infamous white pleather Bible, origin unknown, which was so well worn and read that I had to wrap it up with my rosary beads to hold it together. I won’t go into details of the changes in my life that challenged my faith, but let’s just say I’m back, and I wish I still had that Bible.

2) Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss
What’s not to love about Dr. Seuss? I would read this book out loud to no one in particular so I could preserve it to memory like a beautiful poem (I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam-I-Am). The rhythm of the words were melodic and soothing in a life that was anything but that, and it still makes me smile to think of the oasis his words offered to my younger self.

3) Our Bodies, Ourselves
Don’t go rushing out to buy this at the same time please! Growing up in a home that didn't talk much about anything deep or particularly important, this book gave me some much needed information and education about stuff young girls need to know. If you grew up in the same era as me, and you were a girl, I know you read it too.

4) Ten Little Indians (And then there were None), Agatha Christie
This was my first grown-up type of book, and it introduced me to the all night, flashlight under the bed, page turning experience that would become an almost nightly occurrence throughout much of my young adulthood.

5) Chariots of the Gods, Erich von Daniken
Come on, you know you read this too. Didn’t you? This was a cult books that was all the buzz when it first came out. I was obsessed with the thought of aliens visiting earth and sucked into the whole conspiracy theory thingee.  I am almost tempted to read it again, but I’m afraid it would be like watching the frightening episode from Lost in Space with the big white alien gorilla when I was a kid, only to discover when I re-watched it as an adult that it had an obvious zipper on it and you could almost see the guy’s real shoes sticking out.

6) The Shining, Stephen King
Wow… LOVE Stephen King. This daunting book was very fat and had very tiny type, but it scared the heck out of me in a very big way. I know the movie got a lot of buzz, but some of the scariest stuff in the book could only exist in your head, so if you liked the movie, and like being scared, invest some time and read the book!

7) The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
I can hear you now, yawn. I think if I re-read it again I may yawn too. But it gave me a lot of peace in a time of sadness after my brother Stephen was killed. It helped me clear out a space in my head that wasn’t full of grief, if only for a moment. I spent many solo hours in the Starbucks cafĂ© in Swampscott nursing a Gingerbread Latte in a comfortable chair, trying to stay part of the world at the same time I was trying to stay in my right mind. Every book has its moment of importance that can’t always be replicated, and this was the right book at a bad time.

8) 26 Miles to Boston, Michael Connolly
When I decided to start running in memory of Stephen, I decided to start big. My first goal was the Boston Marathon and I worked backwards to figure out how I would get to that finish line. Part of that experience included pouring over this awesome book that details the entire course, offering memories from each mile. I recommend it highly to anyone running Boston that hasn’t read it yet.

9) Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
This voracious reader went through a very long dry spell when life obligations consumed every last molecule of space like the old science experiment when you fill a glass with rocks (is it full?), then sand (is it full now?) then water (now is it full?), leaving years devoid of reading anything more than a newspaper or magazine. This book reminded me of the page turner mysteries I used to love, and the days I would keep the book and flashlight next to my bed so I could cram in a page or two each time I woke up in the middle of the night. It was another ‘right book at the right time’ that reminded me of the deep comfort I get from a really great read. It brought me back to reading regularly, which I am grateful for.

10) The Book I Will Write One Day, by Me
Less reading and more action is required to make this happen, but I believe that someday it will happen. And who knows, maybe long after I’m gone it will be on someone’s top 10 books list.

You never know.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Stuff I Miss

Here is a list of some things I miss:

Waking up and having absolutely nothing to do all summer.
Old-fashioned drugstores with ice cream soda bars.
Asking if I could go to the bathroom at a restaurant just so I could crawl under the table to get out.
The Lost 45’s radio program on Sunday nights.
The ‘popcorn man’ on the Salem Common.
The tilt-a-whirl at the Salem Willows.
Wearing old sneakers with my bathing suit so I wouldn’t cut my feet on clam shells.
The dill pickle jar on the counter at Lena’s sub shop on Bridge Street.
The Spiegel catalog arriving in the mail.
“Sobi’s” meat market on Webb Street in Salem.
Weylus’ in Salem- free bowl of soup with your lunch plate.
The “V-bar” for awesome grilled burgers.
My white pleather kid’s bible and glow-in-the-dark rosary beads.
The creature-double feature.
A brand-new Colorforms set.
The sandy, salty feeling of a day at the beach.
Showering with a hose.
Buying a whole new back to school wardrobe, from the shoes up.
The lunch-counter at Almy’s and their super-salty string French fries.
The “Salem station” on the radio.
My grandmother’s polish cooking- everything started with a chunk of pork fat.
Using a clothes pin and a card to create annoying sounds with my bicycle.
Eating pretty much anything and not knowing or caring about the calories.
The Salem News, when it really was just Salem.
Playing my new 45 record over and over and over until it was memorized.
A bottle of coke-syrup in the frig.
Fishing for flounder in Salem Harbor.
Digging for clams at low tide at Collins Cove Beach.
Russell’s Ice Cream’s ‘sweet cream’ hot fudge sundae with real whipped cream.
Hobby shops full of jigsaw puzzles, paint sets and models (not the fashion kind).
Making stuff out of gimp with the Salem Common park instructor.
Watching ZOOM and talking in ubbi-dubbi.
Checking out stacks of hard cover books from the Salem Library.
Watching Disney’s Wonderful World on Sunday nights.
My body dotted with calamine lotion, zinc and mercurochrome from too-much summer fun.
Back when being a kid and ‘having fun’ was our job.

The best job I ever had.

Friday, July 11, 2014

This Morning in Salem

These are just a few of the things I observed early this morning in Salem, not necessarily in this order.

Me running.
Empty nip bottles.
Lost signs for a kitty.
Dogs walking owners.
A Brazil flag flying at half-mast.
A Red Sox flag flying at half-mast.
Seagulls emptying out full trash cans.
The sun rising a little later than the day before.
Dueling exercise groups on the Salem Common.
A zig-zaggedy squirrel taking forever to cross the street.
Clusters of leaves and branches, evidence of this week’s wild storms.
Customized license plates revealing the personalities of mystery owners.
Commuters funneling out of side streets around town into the train station.
The Salem Public Library, making me nostalgic for the many years I visited daily.
Bittersweet so aggressive I feared moving too slow or it would ensnare me.
A beautiful peachy purple sunrise that made it worth getting up this early.
The soft, rhythmic sound of kayak oars cutting through the still water.
Like minded fitness folks running around this great little City.
My nana’s house on Collins Cove Beach, still unchanged.
Preparations for the Seafood Festival down the Willows.
Two cardinals diving, dipping and dancing in the air.
A rooster walking up someone’s front stairs (?).
Lots of spitting (oops, sorry, that was me).
One random sneaker, in good condition.
People watering flowers.
Freshly paved streets.
Secret cemeteries.
Good Morning.
Good Run.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hey, Thanks!

Here are just a couple of people I’ve been meaning to say thanks to. Sorry it took me so long.

The moving company manager, who surprised me with a refund check saying they overcharged me when I wouldn’t have known the difference.

The ‘trash man’, who placed my emptied barrel on side of house, put the cover on and gave it a little pat before he moved on. I saw you, thanks!

Friends who pick up where we left off, even if there happened to be a 20 year break in the middle.

The people who tend to the sponsored traffic island gardens around the city- nice job!

Coffee Time, for making delicious golden birthday cakes with buttercream frosting. So delicious, I sometimes get a small one just for me, when it’s not even my birthday. Wait, did I just say that out loud?

The car repair guy, who waited for me to get to the shop to replace my broken wipers on a rainy night, even though it was long after closing hours. And he didn’t even seem to mind.

Little kids who take a liking to me and let me know what it feels like to be a mom, if just for a moment.

Philanthropic companies. Times are tough for all of us, but you still give what you can. You rock.

The person in the grocery store who randomly handed me a $1 off coupon for something I just put in my carriage. Nice!

The state trooper who was at the scene of my brother’s death in a car accident, who randomly checked in with me for years after my brother had been killed, just to see how my family was doing. Above and beyond.

Everyone over the years who has said “you can do it!” when I wasn’t sure I could. Sometimes I still couldn’t do ‘it’, but it was still nice that you had faith in me.

My long-time primary care doctor, who truly and deeply cares about my well-being inside and out. She's sick! (in the way that we now say something is 'sick' if it is really, really good).

My notoriously tough college English professor, who gave me an A+ on an original screenplay and added a note that my writing was indicative of a “beautiful soul”, words I never forgot and still aspire to live up to.

My wonderfully wild memories of the crazy hyjinks we use to pull in the workplace at the Salem Evening News, back in the days when it really was just the SALEM Evening News, and you could balance work and fun without getting into trouble.

The scruffy guy at the coffee shop who overheard me talking about a fundraiser I was working on, and handed me a $250 check from the construction company he owned. You never know!

The nice lady who gave me a hug and wiped my away my tears after I crashed my bike, back when you could show that kind of affection to other people’s kids without worry.

The penny candy guy on the corner who would occasionally let me pick a free bonus piece- score!

My co-workers, who send me encouraging notes thanking me for helping them balance their work and personal life, reminding me that we can sometimes make a big difference in very small ways.

The little girl who was washing her hands in the bathroom at Fantasy Island, and spontaneously said to her mother as I walked in: “Mama, she’s beautiful!” (NOTE: I was only about 10 myself at the time).

My running friend who said she missed my blog, reminding me I missed writing it too.