Grandma O'Malley

When someone is born on Christmas Day, there is something extra special about them. At least I think so. To share that blessed day must be reserved for a special few.

Grandma O'Malley was born on Christmas Day back in 1898. She had beautiful soft, pure white hair worn neatly tucked in a bun. She only wore dresses. Every day. And she made amazing cakes filled with layers of creamy chocolate or smeared with gobs of orange pulpy frosting.

She was always kind and sometimes quiet...sometimes chatty. She would always dry the dishes after Sunday dinner at Mom and Dad's house. She would stay into the evening and watch Lawrence Welk with us. She tolerated my dancing on the wood between the parlors, something I'm not so sure my four siblings wholeheartedly appreciated :)

She lived on the third floor of a black tenement. Her home smelled of Sunday roasts and had a huge farmhouse sink that I coveted even as a little girl. Only now do I realize how out of place that sink was, way up high in this triple decker home overlooking a schoolyard in the city.

She had cellophane wrapped sour balls in a glass candy dish on her kitchen table…right near the radio.

I'd sit on the prickly textured armchair and look out at the schoolyard . A drone's eye view of the world down below was silhouetted by her palest of pink Christmas cactus. 

Years later, long after her passing, Dad brought me a piece of her cactus. It's blooming now. Rubbery leaves give way to delicate blossoms filled with hot pink stamens and childhood memories.

Did I mention that Grandma O'Malley also passed on Christmas Day,  eighty some odd years after her birth on that blessed day?  Her legacy is on my windowsill, framing the life that surrounds it….children laughing….frosted cakes….and endless chatter.


Walking Hand in Hand

We are stuck in between seasons here in Massachusetts.
Caught in a seasonal purgatory.

Sandwiched somewhere between the time of endless blossoms and abundant snowfall.

I don't think I am the only one who notices this strange in-between phase. 
It sneaks up on us as the last golden leaf falls…silent and unrepenting...

It is a time where embracing a neutral world becomes quite thrilling.

A time when the shoe polish colors of my childhood come to life…tan…cordovan…cognac…winter grape...

It is an interval of sorts, a path to another place...

…or another time...

…a field of yellow….a barren wood...

It is transition and solitude waking hand in hand.


Returning to the Earth

Autumn in New England.

Since we turned the clocks back, I feel like I spend my time chasing the light.

The woods beyond the garden block the late afternoon sun, but I cannot be too upset, as the sunlight streaming in a dappled spotlight through the branches is awfully pretty.

Temps in the 60's in November, green grass contrasting perfectly with the changing leaves, bronze fennel bursting with life, morning glories giving their seeds to the earth....what's not to love?


Slow it down….

I planted the dahlias on my Dad's birthday in May. We shared them as a favorite flower, and it was kind of my way of saying "I miss you". When none of them flowered I was a bit down. I picked the lone bud and brought it in. It is slowly opening, each day comforting me with a bit more joy. And here is where my life lesson presented itself. Perhaps I expect more than I should at times. Perhaps my expectations, especially for myself, need to be scaled back and slowed down a bit. Perhaps I need to let life just happen instead of spending so much time wishing and hoping. I'm ok if this is as far as this dahlia opens. It's beautiful. And I know my dad would think so too.


A Little Lesson

After a full day of teaching, a weary mind and a growling stomach called me to the kitchen.  It is there that I recall perhaps the most important lesson I will teach all day. {Showing how to break thirds into sixths, modeling it, and looking for that light to shine in the hopeful faces around me was important…of course….that's my job! I teach! } But today, as I look into this sweet face, those baby blues, my beautiful almost twelve year old daughter, I know the lesson I need teach, and reteach. I need to write the lesson plan of my life.

Our daughter has Celiac Disease, and this is Celiac Awareness Month.

She was diagnosed by bloodwork, then by endoscopy at Children's Hospital, Boston.

She was 7.

She hadn't grown in an entire year.

Any other symptoms were somewhat minor. A slight tummy ache before bed at night. When children are young and say their belly hurts, our first parenting response is to feed the…."must be hunger pains".  I am horrified at how many times I fed the belly ache gluten, not realizing I was encouraging a hidden disease.

She was a 7 year old who already knew what brick oven pizza tasted like. She knew the crunch of cheddar goldfish and loved eating at friend's houses or out as a family. But suddenly upon diagnosis, her little world was turned upside down. Actually, the whole family was, I suppose.

I know what you are thinking…"I see gluten free foods EVERYWHERE! Restaurants sell gluten free too!" But WHOA Nellie. Slow Down! It's NOT that easy!

A product marked gluten free doesn't mean healthy. In fact, many boxed gluten free foods are high in starches and carbs, and processed. Not all, but many.

And as for restaurants, cross contamination is our enemy. Children's Hospital told us that ingesting as little as a crumb can put your intestines back to where they were.

So now's a good time for me to explain exactly what Celiac Disease is. First off, it's NOT an allergy. It's an autoimmune disease.

If someone with Celiac eats wheat, rye, barley, or contaminated oats, gluten (a protein), attacks the small intestine, and the body tries to fight it with an autoimmune response.  The villi of the small intestine are damaged, and proper nutrients cannot be absorbed. If these symptoms aren't treated, other autoimmune problems may develop, like Type I Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), certain types of dermatitis, anemia, osteoporosis, infertility, miscarriage, epilepsy, migraine, short stature and intestinal cancers.
(info from Celiac.org)

Our daughter has spent the last five years fighting a disease that to many around her, appears to just mean a lunchbox at birthdays and a homemade lunch each day from mom.

But I am here as her mom, her protector, her advocate, to say it goes so much deeper. 

It's a disease about willpower. It's about sacrifice and willingness.

It's about explaining the why's and how's.

It's about reading EVERY. SINGLE.  LABEL. TWICE.

For our daughter, it has also meant trying to wrap her little girl mind around why your friends don't just include you in lunch, or dinner or snacks anymore, even though that had been your norm.

But it is also about friends and family that ask, and read, and try to make an 8, 9, 10, 11 year old feel welcomed, and safe, and NORMAL.  A gluten free snack, an egg cooked in a clean pan, a pizza order from one of two local restaurants that are very strict in their practices. Food shouldn't have that much of an overwhelming impact on a child's life. But it does. Think about it: movies, class snacks, donuts, friend's houses, birthdays, vacations, impromptu car rides.

 This almost twelve year old has fought a valiant fight.

She gave up gluten five years ago and hasn't looked back. She has NEVER cheated.

 I'm not sure I could be that strong! 

PLEASE SHARE THIS POST in support of  or daughter, CMT, and the fight that she and others fight daily.

Thanks to our friends and family for caring and helping.

Thanks to On the Go and Chipotle for being the two local restaurants where we can safely order gluten free food.

Together we can fight for easier ways to manage this disease, and we can pray for a cure.


In C's words: " I feel like it's been a journey because I have tried different foods, foods I might not have tried if I wasn't gluten-free.But I feel like I have been excluded from some things because I am gluten free. Moving forward I am trying to stay positive, and want to encourage others to know that it WILL be ok, and that we need to find new ways to celebrate life, not just with food!"

A few gluten-free recipes from previous blog posts:


Wisdom…and Thoughts on Turning Fifty

{see post below photos}


I’ve done the usual school afternoon kind of things…ride from friends to golf…phone call to the registry…throw in some laundry…tidy the house…plan and prepare dinner…

And here I sit. Contemplating life. And the concept of WISDOM.

My heart’s beating a bit faster tonight. I’m even a little on edge. You see, it’s the eve of my 50th birthday. I’m not sure I ever saw it coming. I have NEVER been one to be concerned with age. I blow the candles out each year and continue on with life.

But something’s different tonight. I’m not sure it will ever be the same. It’s a feeling I cannot truly explain, but I will attempt to describe. It’s a feeling of “what if?” and “when?” and “should I?”.  It’s a questioning of self. Have I done enough in that half of a century. Have I cared enough? Loved enough? Wondered enough?

Have I chased my dreams more than adequately? I mean really made an effort? Even if I fall into bed exhausted?

Have I planned enough, without planning too much?

Will my future meet my expectations?

Are my expectations honest and important enough to pursue?

At the end of another 50 years, will I be able to look at my wrinkly cheeks in the mirror and smile? Will I feel accomplished by my own means and to my own heart?

It is a strange feeling. Different than marrying or giving birth. I feel a new chapter beginning,and  it feels remarkable and frightening at the same time.

I hope I have the WISDOM to do it justice.

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