decisions decisions

When my father passed away, I was absent from school for about a week. When I returned, my desk was covered in cards and plants. As I began my reentry, I sat there and opened each one, appreciating the kind words, the love and the support. There was one little canvas pouch with a gift certificate to a local nursery from everyone. It was a generous gift and Billy and I went back and forth about how we could use it.

We contemplated a rose bush in honor of his favorite description of himself and his five sisters, “The rose amongst all the thorns.” he’d proclaim, at family gatherings. To which my aunt would correct him, “No Bobby, you’re the thorn amongst all the roses!” We contemplated a birch tree in honor of the tree that stood in our front yard for as long as I can remember. One year, it started to show signs of disease. He had a friend who knew trees, that friend came over and tried to work his magic and save that tree. Despite his best efforts, the tree had to go. My father planted two birch trees, where there once was one. He created a bit of an island in the front to showcase the two trees. We joked growing up that it looked like burial plot and my father would joke right back, “just bury me under the birches!”.

Billy and I contemplated the rose bush or the birch for a while. For quite a while, two and half years to be exact, we’ve contemplated this decision. On Sunday, we found ourselves heading to the nursery determined to spend. We walked over to the trees. We weaved in and out of the unplanted, yet well cared for trees. Roots masterfully wrapped in burlap. We found ourselves touching the branches, examining trunks as if we were arborists. We landed back on the very first one I saw, a “Dura Heat” River Birch. We both agreed, it was the perfect choice to plant in our front yard. The perfect tree to look at and remember. The perfect tree to make the world a little bit brighter (like he did) and the perfect tree to remember my roots.

the family chat

We’ve got a family group chat. I’m sure many families have them. They are really helpful when your family is no longer living under one roof together. Right now, Hannah and Grace are in college and Megan, Billy and I are here together at home. These family group chats come in handy to stay in touch, notify, or just be plain silly. Part of the fun of having these family group chats, is changing the name. In December, Megan changed the name every day as a countdown to Christmas. Who knew it could be used as an Advent Calendar? Sometimes, Maci girl pup renames the chat. Once, when when she had to wear a neck collar to stop from itching, she named it, “My Family is Mean to Me” and included a sad selfie. So today, in honor my family, I scrolled a back to January 1, 2022 and discovered that our family group chat has been renamed 22 times this year:

New Year, Snow Day, Mom’s Colonoscopy Day, Grace Doesn’t Have Covid, Snowing in Elon, Grace Will Never Get Covid, It’s Maci’s Birthday, It’s Megan’s Birthday, Dad Got a Raymond James Water Bottle, Beast Mode Megan, Hannah and Megan in Burlington, Bermuda or Bust, Happy Birthday Daddy Stooge, Happy Birthday Grace, Utah Ski Trip, Hannah’s B-day, Utah Dad, Dad Heading Home, Easter Weekend, Hannah Got a Job, Hannah Got Many Jobs, Hannah Accepted a Job…

Each one is probably, in some way, slice-worthy, but for today, I’ll let the 22 names speak for themselves, representing little snippets of our life apart, but together.

thanksgiving 2021
all together

the bedrock

dig and turn

mix and rake

like a mason pours the foundation

we prepare ours

elbows deep in dirt and leaves

dig and turn

mix and rake

preparing our foundation

unearthing worms

welcome, working worms

reusing leaves

we scatter seeds so tiny

gently covering

softly tamping

dig, turn, mix, rake

prepare the foundation

the bedrock of our garden

See, Observe

cherry blossoms branches Easter 2022 Mary

Sanibel 2022 – We rode all around the island. We looked up. We looked down. We slowed to look left. We slowed to look right. We saw birds hiding and swooping. We saw gators swimming and sunning. We soaked in the sunshine and tropical flowers. We rode. We observed.

When I look at this piece of bark, it makes me look deeper. This piece of bark reminds me of binoculars. When I am looking through the bark, I close my eyes and imagine I am on a boat. I am looking through my binoculars. I’m seeing the waves move and the seagulls soaring. It makes me feel like I am FREE.

Today, I found a folder from 2017 titled Soft Start/Greenbelt. In it were pictures of 5th graders and their journal pages. I scrolled through the images in awe at what kids were sketching and writing. Denia, the classroom teacher and I, shared a belief in children and journals. We believed they deserved space and time to think on paper, to discover on paper, to observe. We believed that the habits nurtured in this time were essential to growing them as writers.

Six years ago, I started this blog and I titled it, Let’s Observe. My path to becoming, to believing, I was a writer was founded on observation. There were many questionable sketches and line drawings 29 years ago. What I discovered through those questionable drawings was space to think and time to harness ideas swirling in my busy mind. To this day, I believe in the power of observation and cultivating that habit for writers. I believe in it and I live it.

I was gifted beautiful Cherry Blossom branches for Easter this year. “Just put them in water. I’ve snipped them as they should be snipped so they will open just sitting in the water.” Mary told me as she handed me the branches. Thursday after Easter, sure enough, those tiny cherry buds began to unfold into soft pink blossoms.

Observation is a path to writing and living.

Peter Cottontail

I can hear his voice, “Here comes Peter Cotton Tail, hoppin’ down the bunny trail. Hippity Hoppity Easters on it’s way.” I can see him awkwardly skipping around the house with a goofy grin.

It’s Good Friday, the sun is shining, it feels warmer than I anticipated. It’s a day my Dad would have loved.

Growing up, Easter was always special for our family. There were the traditional Italian foods – homemade ravioli, crecia, chocolate torte, rice pie and more. There were Easter baskets and chocolate egg huts. There were corsages for my mom, my sister and I. There were new outfits and of course there was church. Sunday morning, we’d have breakfast from the griddle compliments of my Dad (my Mom got to rest). There was something about Easter Sunday that gave my Dad an extra twinkle in his eye and spring in his step. My Dad never preached about going to church or his faith, but his actions and the way he lived always represented his values, his faith, his belief in God.

So, today, I sit here thinking about my Dad and thankful that he showed me how to live a faithful life, a life full of belief in all things, people, and God.

“Here comes Peter Cotton Tail, hoppin’ down the bunny trail. Hippity Hoppity Easters on it’s way.”

Mom and Dad, Easter 2011, Seekonk, MA