Saturday, March 23, 2013

Simple Things Sunday: week #11, 2013

I missed my first STS last week. A very full week, of newborns and finished galleries and taxes and soccer and packing. The project I really want to be focused on is my office. We updated my old desk with a new corner desk but I have to admit, it is almost as cluttered already.

My focus over the next week will continue to be getting rid of more stuff, so then I can focus on how to organize what remains in a way that works for me. [Warning: self-justification coming] I don’t own a lot of shoes---I normally wear the same two pairs all season. Make-up organizers make me laugh because I own one stick of lipstick and all my make-up could fit into a sandwich baggie. But…(you knew that was coming), I am overly sentimental and keep way too many “mementos” as well as papers. Oy, the papers. I think it is a teacher habit of mine---because you never know when you might use that idea or project. I’m working hard on trusting that if I need something someday, I’ll be able to find it online.

2013 03 07_1065mixed tapes

Exhibit A: a bag FULL of old mixed tapes.

I can’t look at it too long, because it pained me to get rid of these, even though we don’t own a tape player and I rarely played any of them in the past decade.

2013 03 03_1156MZMO93tape

I love music, and I love compilations. Every staff I led made a mixed tape. Even my 9th grade honors English class made a mixed CD. MZMO’ers, did you remember what song you chose 20 yrs ago? My pick, Itsy Bitsy Spider, is actually “Coming Round Again” by Carly Simon.

2013 03 03_1161mixed tape by Marie

I was only able to do it after taking a photo of the liner notes of the ones that were the most meaningful to me. Above is a mix from 1991 by my friend Marie with a photo of us.  How could I throw that away? So many great mixes that friends sent us during our music-deprived years in the Peace Corps. In this day when handwritten letters are rare, I loved seeing the handwriting of old friends. And I kept the first (and only) mixed tape Brian made me that summer of 1991. One is okay. 300+ is not.

Baby steps. Learning to let go, so there will be more room for all the good tunes and good memories the future holds.

This post is part of Rebecca Cooper’s Simple Things Sunday series, which she describes as “taking the time to photograph the everyday details…to enjoy the beauty in the ordinary and to be reminded of just how important the simple things are.” Rebecca’s series is now on hiatus, but I hope to continue posting a simple & personal photo each Sunday.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ten on Tuesday


1. Today Brian and I are celebrating 19 years of marriage.

I picked Bri up at work to go out to lunch, since we couldn’t get a sitter for tonight. Deliciousness at Love Muffin CafĂ©, with uninterrupted conversation. He asked if this is where I thought we’d be 19 years ago, knowing the answer was no. And yet, I love where we are.

2. When I dropped him back at work, his friend Lenard called out hello, and knowing it was our anniversary, asked how many years. When I said 19 he looked shocked. I’d like to think it’s because we barely look 30 (ha!), but I suppose it’s because so many marriages don’t make it that long. I have no advice for others---every marriage is its own mystery---but I do know a key element that’s contributed to ours: laughter. This man has always been able to make me laugh.


I know in this post-modern age, we aren’t supposed to be all Mrs.Bennet-match-making-obsessed, but even the latest treatise on women and the workplace, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, acknowledges that the decision with the greatest impact on your happiness as well as your career is whom you choose to be your partner. I’m forever grateful to my 24 year old self for having gone with her gut and her heart on that decision. Best decision of my life.

3. Say what you want about Sheryl Sandberg (everyone else seems to be doing so) and her TED talk, or Barnard Commencement speech or her new best-seller, she’s gotten people talking. Regardless of where I’m in agreement and disagreement with her, I’m grateful to her for having raised the topic of why women aren’t in more leadership positions.

I’ve had plenty of lively conversation over the past two weeks, on hikes with friends (who had already read---months ago--- the articles I had just “discovered”) or over wine at dinner last week at a table of just women, who had each made very different choices and each had something to contribute to the conversation. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by people from whom I learn things, who share their insights and experiences.

4. I haven’t finished this month’s book club pick, Eva Luna (though I’m still determined to!) but see the last sentence above for why I try never to miss our gathering.

2013 03 11_2140secretgarden

5. Instead of Eva Luna, I have been reading The Secret Garden every night with Sean (and Nolan usually joins us). It is often the sweetest moment of my day.

6. I love St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s a challenge. It falls in a week already full of celebrations so that it is easy to overlook even in a proud Irish household. And, if you read my post on Saturday, you’ll understand why I couldn’t quite rally this year. My sons, however, fully rallied.

web2013 03 17_2162my little leprechaun

Sean and Nolan set leprechaun traps, and Aidan served as a waiter at our church’s largest fund raiser, their annual Corn Beef and Cabbage dinner. I did manage to make Mom’s trademark 7-layer bars and rainbow jello for the dinner.

2013 03 16_2168rainbowThe recipe for Rainbow Jello couldn’t be simpler, but the challenge is finding the time to stay at home to do it. I started it with kids help, but finished it long after everyone else had gone to bed.

I used one large box each of five kinds of jello. You can see I didn’t wait quite long enough when I added the orange or yellow layers---they tend to mix with the previous layer if you do that. I recommend waiting a full 45 minutes between layers.

Last year we made it as one large dish, but since the whole thing is about the pretty rainbow look, and there’s nothing pretty about a jello mold that’s already half served, it’s worth serving in individual clear cups.

8. Speaking of Irish, I found this book at our local library: Essentially Irish by Josephine Ryan and so enjoyed it. I wish I could pin most of its photos to Pinterest. How my mom would have enjoyed it. Maybe one of you reading this could help me (Mary?). What is the Irish term for the large dining/kitchen cupboard/cabinet/buffet as featured in this image?2013 03 08_irishsytle

10.  Here’s to my next 10 on Tuesday not attempting to fit 10 different blog posts into one. Kind of like Nolan fitting FOUR birthday celebrations into 3 days. Clockwise from the left: his family celebration the night of his birthday, his celebration at school (cake by Ms. Tiger), his friend party the day before, and his church celebration on the day before that (at least that one he had to share with Aidan!).

webnolie's 4 cakes for his 5thbday

Aidan had gone up to the front of the church for his blessing the previous Sunday, and Nolan became shy & self-conscious when it was his turn. He *might* have taken a swing at his brother up on the altar when Sean tried to put him at ease by joining him. It was hilarious but everyone’s laughter made him even more self-conscious, and he ended up burying his head in my shoulder.

I get teary every time our boys go up though, on the threshold of a new year in their life, and we all recite the blessing. I’m capturing it here---so I don’t forget it:

Watch over thy child, O Lord, as his days increase. Bless and guide him wherever he may be. Strengthen him when he stands; comfort him when discouraged or sorrowful; raise him up if he falls; and in his heart may thy peace which surpasses understanding abide all the days of his life.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Betty Anne, my mother

A year ago today my mom passed away. The past year is a blur in many respects. I don't know if the impulse to pick up the phone, to tell her a story or share a recipe, will ever go away. It stings when I remember and put the receiver back down, but perhaps it will feel worse when that no longer happens.

My mom delighted in little things and that is what I now miss the most---I've spent so much of my life looking for things that would delighted her. How she would have particularly delighted in Nolan at this age, how wrong it is that he won't know that delight first hand.

Below is the post I wrote a few weeks after we returned home. Thank you for allowing me to share some of her with you.

Mom passed away peacefully at home on Thursday, March 16, 2012.

Sitting on the floor of a Holiday Inn bathroom somewhere in Nebraska at 2 o'clock in the morning, as the boys slept in the room next door, I put together a slideshow for Mom's wake. It was surreal, but also therapeutic to spend quiet time alone looking through photos of Mom throughout different stages of her life. Mom loved music and her taste was eclectic. I used three of her favorite singers, Louie Armstrong singing "What a Wonderful World", Eddie Vedder "Just Breathe" and Andrea Bocelli singing "Time to Say Goodbye"---the lyrics of which were in my last post. Here is an edited, shorter version of the video, minus that last song. I've added captions with my future adult sons as their intended audience. I'm keenly aware my kids won't know who is who in old photos unless I label them while I'm around:

BettyO'Malley from Deirdre Keating on Vimeo.

My sister Maria gave the eulogy. I've always known Maria is a great writer, but I wish I could share her delivery with all of you---the way she captured my dad's voice saying "No more parties." Or the whimsy in Mom's voice saying "Let's go to the movies." My mom had nine children, so in many ways she was nine different mothers and I didn't know how anyone of us could share the mom we experienced and still include everyone. Miraculously, Maria encapsulated the parts of my mom that everyone who loved her knew well: her love of celebration, spontaneity, and children.  Here's one of my favorite parts:

She was keenly perceptive of beauty: where to find it and how to create it.  Her whole life brimmed with books, music, theatre, politics, cuisine, gardening, fashion, decorating, sports, and religion.  Her vast powers of conversation to recall a telling detail or relate an incident with humor allowed her to spread her enthusiasm to others.  Above all, she loved movies.  Many of her favorite memories of growing up were attending the weekend double feature in the 1950s.  Indeed, watching a movie with my mother was an education, because one did not passively watch but analyzed and interpreted and rewatched important scenes.  This past fall she was not feeling well and when I came to visit I expected her to be tired but toward evening she said, “Let’s go to the movies.”  She warned me, “Dad may not let us.”  When we got to the show to see The Help her whole being was energized:  “I’ll get the tickets, you get the popcorn.”

The last coherent conversation I had with Mom was on March 10th. We were planning to drive in that Tuesday, after hearing that Mom hadn't been eating and was sleeping so much. Thursday, the 8th, I got calls saying a miracle had occurred, once again. She was up, eating a hamburger, and on the phone that Saturday she joked about the doctor complimenting her dancer legs. She was happy to hear we were coming but she insisted, "I don't know what they've told you, but I'm not going anywhere."

In the end, I wasn't there to hold her hand, as I had hoped, but we had said goodbye many times in the past year. I am comforted knowing my sisters Maria and Elizabeth were with her as well as my brother Martin, and as always, our dad, who gave her what I'm convinced is one of the greatest gifts possible: a peaceful passing in her own home. I've always been grateful for my siblings, but never more so than during that difficult week when we laid our mother to rest together. 

We are still in a fog of grief here, feeling our way. We were prepared, and completely not. Our Uncle Pat passed away that same week, so the boys attended two funerals on our short trip. How grateful I felt to have tradition and ritual and familiar words and songs at a time when my brain was so muddled. I will be processing, I know, for a long time, for the rest of time. I have never known a world without her in it. But already I feel comfort from those last words--- I see her face in my children and in my own efforts to live and love well. And I am  comforted by the Myth of the Missing Moon in a new way, and I know she was right, she wasn't going anywhere---she is with us still.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Photo+Quote | March Blog Hop


webAidan and his mom

Brian took this photograph eleven years ago this month in Ashland, Oregon. I knew just enough about photography to ask him to turn off the flash on our cheap point and shoot.

I don’t know who Kristi Barlett is, but I’m sure she wasn’t the first or the last to give this bit of advice. It may be a clichĂ©, but it’s a good one. I know I’ve failed many times to take one day at a time, especially with my oldest child. My view is always the long one, and often I feared that some moment would define the future for us: if I supplement, will that mean the end of nursing? if we bring him in with us, will we be sharing our bed forever? if I quit to stay home, will I ever be able to work again? I wish I hadn’t allowed those worries to eat up a second of those precious days. Still, with all my worries and hormones, I have to grant myself this much: I more than enjoyed the journey. I relished those days.

And now that sweet babe is an eleven year old boy. And I still need the reminder to keep it all in perspective, take it one day at time. Just because he hates to take a shower now doesn’t mean he won’t bathe when he’s a grown man. Just because he seems to be insatiably hungry 24/7 doesn’t mean our grocery bills will bankrupt us (or will they?) When he stands close to me now, I know he’s not asking for a hug ---he’s measuring again his progress in reaching my height. But I hug him anyway, because I’m enjoying this journey.

Photo+Quote is a monthly series that I’m using to dig deeper into my own archives. On the 15th of every month we are challenged to pair a chosen quote with a photograph.You can see how the other photographers in the series interpreted this month’s quote by following the blog hop to Idie Atencio of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Simple Things Sunday: week #10, 2013

web2013 03 09_that expression

That’s the expression I was hoping for when I made Aidan a shirt using one of his drawings.

We are in the midst of major celebrations---Aidan turned 10 11 yesterday, Nolan will celebrate his 5th birthday tomorrow with friends (it’s actually on Tuesday).

Lots of galleries in the works---but for the next two days I’m still celebrating the births of my own babies.  Thanks for your patience. Have a great week, everyone!

This post is part of Rebecca Cooper’s Simple Things Sunday series, which she describes as “taking the time to photograph the everyday details…to enjoy the beauty in the ordinary and to be reminded of just how important the simple things are.” Rebecca’s series is now on hiatus, but I hope to continue posting a simple & personal photo each Sunday.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Our 1st Anniversary Winners!

A huge thank you to everyone who participated in the celebration giveaways this month, and to all the clients who allowed me to capture their families for a moment in time during our first year in business!

And the winners are…

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1. The 12x12 gallery-wrapped canvas goes to…Baby Emily who received over 45 comments saying “I’m a Fan of Emily!”

 Project life baby edition

2. The Project Life Core Kit - Baby Edition for Her, including page protectors and monthly dividers, (supplied by none other than Becky Higgins herself!) as well as a $25 Amazon gift card for the album of her choice goes to…Jill of Kentucky and her sweet twin baby girls!

The Oscar Prediction contest winner was Leila, and the winner of the Parenting Manifesto by Brene Brown was my dear friend Lara!

Thank you again to all who participated. It was so much fun----and I’m very grateful I didn’t have to pick any of the winners! And a huge thank you to Becky Higgins and her team for their support of our little contest too.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Simple Things Sunday: week #9, 2013

simple things sunday 0302

Aidan got his first pair of eye-glasses. Thanks to Harry Potter and the nerd-is-the-new-cool wave, he is rather enthusiastic about them. Of course, being able to see things at distance can have that effect too.

The sweet ladies at our optometrist's front desk probably think I’m the world’s worst mother. I was skeptical for several reasons. Brian, as he likes to point out, has superior vision (at least until the 40s have their full effect on him), and I have an astigmatism that I only got glasses for in my 20s. I wear them all the time now, because being able to see details trumps vanity for me. Last year we got the dreaded letter from the boys’ school that Sean needed his eyes checked (Aidan’s were deemed perfect). We paid $80 for the eye doctor to tell us the school test was wrong and Sean had great vision. When a letter arrived saying Aidan needed to be checked this year, I was less enthused by the prospect of spending $80 for an appointment we didn’t really need.

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So I arrived a bit cynical. It was already obvious that Aidan liked the prospect of wearing glasses. When they announced that he was near-sighted, I asked if they were really sure. Yes, they said, not seeming to understand my question. I asked again, this time mentioning my son was rather eager to need glasses and could they tell if he had tried his best to guess at the eye chart letters. I could see the woman struggling against an eye roll (thanks to my detail-besting glasses), and she assured me my son really did need glasses, that his prescription was stronger than her own, and having them would probably be amazing for him.

But, she added, he shouldn’t wear them when reading. Wearing them while reading would make his eyes work harder and cause problems. “He’s always reading,” I said. I’m sure they thought I was still trying to weasel out of spending money on my son. She smiled, “Oh, he likes reading.” Aidan more than likes reading. He always has a book on him. The idea of him taking his glasses on and off throughout the day at school seemed to ensure his losing the glasses.

Our sweet, kind and smart boy also happens to lose everything. He literally lost his baseball mitt in the middle of an inning while playing in the outfield. No one could find it. His lunch box twice this year. His winter hat every season. I have a lot of empathy for him in this area because for most of my life I was the same way. I left my purse on the Chicago El at least three times my first year of college before I gave up using purses altogether (until I had children…when I became much better at not losing things too).

web2013 02 25_0470aidan and his glasses4x6

Maybe it was because they thought Aidan had an uncaring, tight-fisted mother, or, just as likely, because Aidan was his charming self, the optometrist ladies took a shining to him and all his questions. They invited him back to get a picture taken of his inner eyeball and even printed it out so he could take it to school and show his friends.

And it has been almost a week since he got them and he hasn’t lost them yet!

This post is part of Rebecca Cooper’s Simple Things Sunday series, which she describes as “taking the time to photograph the everyday details…to enjoy the beauty in the ordinary and to be reminded of just how important the simple things are.”

Check back on Monday to learn the winners to all our February giveaways!

ETA: Aidan just read this (he’s at an age where I’m careful to give him editing rights on anything I write publically about him) and gave it a thumbs up. Though, of course, he thinks I should include the gross photo of the inside of his eyeball.

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