My mother’s butterfly

The vibrant black and orange spread of Monarch butterfly wings takes me back to a time when life was full of wonder and everyday was filled with new discoveries and adventures.

I was a brown bobbed, sticky fingered, nature loving, first grader when my mom first taught me how to raise butterflies. When summer came we would locate the milkweed plants where the Monarch’s laid their eggs, and carefully transport the larva to mason jars full of freshly picked and misted foliage and twigs. We would watch the caterpillar hatch from the egg and eat away each day at the fresh leaves we provided for it.  After about two weeks the caterpillar would molt and shed its skin. I remember my mother telling me to be very careful during this time not to touch the caterpillar’s habitat! Soon after the molting process it was time for the caterpillar to pupate. A gorgeous green chrysalis would appear on the lid of the mason jar reminding me of a precious jade jewel. Right before the butterfly was about to emerge the chrysalis would darken and then become transparent so we could see its wings inside the cocoon. The next morning we would rise at the crack of dawn to watch the butterfly emerge and practice pumping its wings. What a miracle it was to see the creature’s rebirth! As the Monarch fluttered its wings faster and began to gain strength we knew it was time to release it into the wild. My mother would gently remove the lid of the jar, and if we were lucky the butterfly would crawl up our fingers and take a moment to rest on our palms before flying away to find a zinnia, coneflower, or phlox to pollinate.  As I watched the Monarch’s rusty orange and midnight black colors blur to a shade of an autumn sunset as it traveled farther into the distance, I felt a sense of awe for the beauty of life and a special love for my mother who had taken such tender care of the small creature when it most needed her. It’s a  fact that in the wild, only about two to five caterpillars that hatch from the hundreds of eggs a mama Monarch lays actually make it to adulthood. Whether due to harsh elements, predators looking for a meal, or bacterial infections from the environment, it’s safe to say that a caterpillar has a rough journey if someone doesn’t step in and become their caretaker.

And so, as I sit and write this blog about an isolated event in my mother’s and my lives, my eyes become open to how she cared for me, her daughter, her butterfly, with a far greater love then she had shown to the delicate caterpillars. I wonder how she must have felt when her butterfly flew away from home. And so today in her honor, I’ll be planting some milkweed in my garden in hopes of attracting a mama Monarch to entrust me with her priceless babies. I know I won’t be as wise and caring as my own mother, but with the perfect example she set for me, I’ll at least have a “fluttering” start.


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Mad Ads from Mad Men Days

“Triocin! Blots out Hickies Instantly!”

“It’s egg-stra good for your hair. Shampoo plus egg.”

“Now she can cook breakfast twice…when you prescribe Mornidine.”

Can you believe that if you lived in the 50s or 60s that these commonplace ads wouldn’t even make you blink..let alone think? As I was perusing through my Screen Stories, Movieland, and Silver Screen magazines (with Doris Day on the cover of course), I couldn’t help but be distracted by the unusual, funny, and sometimes offensive ads that covered the sides of the pages. Here’s a few that caught my attention…





After I stopped chuckling at the thought of a vacuum pump that “gently lifts blackheads out in seconds” I couldn’t help but wonder…What ads are people 50s years from today going find humorous and erroneous?

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Golden Dresses of the Golden Era

When I first saw “To Catch A Thief” with Grace Kelly and Cary Grant I was naturally captivated by the complex Hitchcock plot and the brilliant acting done by all. However, I must admit that one of my favorite things about the film is Grace Kelly’s wardrobe. When she walks into Cary Grant’s suite wearing the simple and elegant flowing chiffon white dress with an extravagant strand of diamonds dancing around her neck it literally took my breath away. So much so in fact, that many years later when I went to pick out my own wedding dress, I was looking for as close to an exact replica as I could find.

There are many other dresses that stick out in my mind from the Golden Era of film that are stunning, extravagant, breathtaking, and most of all timeless. Some of the dresses themselves seem to have even become iconic. Over 50 years later the gorgeous gowns still captivate woman of all ages. Here are some of my personal favorites..

Grace Kelly in the classic white dress from “To Catch a Thief” and a stunning variegated blue gown from the same film.

Audrey Hepburn in “Sabrina” and from her fashion montage scene in “Funny Face”

Katherine Hepburn in “The Philadelphia Story”

Doris Day’s Pink Dress in “Lullaby of Broadway”

Grace Kelly (again) in “Dial M for Murder” and “Rear Window”

Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor

Well, there you have it! Those are just a few of my favorites. I hope you will share yours as well 🙂

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Real beauty amidst a flood of tears

Ever since I’ve had a daughter I seem to cry at everything. A butterfly flitters across my lawn and a single tear runs down my face. I listen to “Follow Me” by John Denver while sipping my morning coffee, and my emotions take over me like a sudden downpour in the middle of the night. I see my daughter and her Daddy snuggled up together before bedtime reading “The Great Cookie Thief.” As I watch my husband graciously act out the story for her (for the hundredth time), and as my sweet angel giggles and tries to mimic his every action, my heart seems to stop for a second, and I must take a deep breath and swallow back my cries. I speak with a friend who has lost a family member to cancer and the tears come flowing out me, gushing out from the depths of my soul with no regard for my pride, and with no intention of stopping. What has gotten into me? Can I still chock this overflow of emotions up to post-baby hormones, lack of sleep, or a good ol’ Aunt Flo visit? I think the answer is – no. After all, I stopped breast feeding over a year ago, I had many sleepless nights before I had a baby, and I have been a woman for some time now! So what is it about having a daughter that has driven me to become a puddle of mush when I see my rose bush develop its first bloom of the season? To be completely honest with you I’m not quite sure. But, I read a quote the other day by Frank Lloyd Wright that shed at least a glimmer of light on the issue – “The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life.” Mr. Wright was not speaking about the superficial, commercialized, sexual “beauty” that we are inundated with today. He was talking about the beauty of nature, of the things that come naturally without manipulation, and beauty in the form of deep set wrinkles filled with wisdom and understanding. I remember about 5 years ago when I wouldn’t leave the house until I had spent at least two hours in front of a mirror – plucking, curling, lining, combing, highlighting, contouring, more eye shadow, more mascara, more blush! I thought I was investing in beauty. HA!! I couldn’t have been farther from it. Now 5 years wiser and in the mist of trying to teach a toddler to use the potty I’m lucky if I can grab my concealer stick and cover up my now navy blue under eye circles before trying to squeeze in potty time for myself. You see, now I’m busy investing in REAL beauty. In my baby girl. In a brand new creation that God has entrusted me with. I think I am finally able to see the real beauty in the world, because that is the beauty I need to impart to my little one. So although when friends stop by for a cup of tea I often open the door with blood shot eyes and a tissue in hand, I’ll still be wearing a smile on my face, because I know that the beauty that comes from being moved by the wonderful creation around us is far more important than looking like the retouched cover of a magazine.


My first rose of the season. 🙂

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My Lorax princess teaches me to “Let It Grow!”

Forget Cinderella fantasies and Sleeping Beauty tales – my daughter dreams about the Lorax. Yes, you read that right. That pudgy, neon orange, mustached “speaking for the trees” Dr. Seuss character dove straight into her heart…and now into mine as well. Let me explain. My wonderful husband took her to see the movie a few weeks ago, and upon hearing how much she loved the film I decided to stock her Easter basket with the real thing. As my husband read the book to her Easter morning while I prepared for our cookout that afternoon, I was overwhelmed by the story and it almost brought me to tears. I looked around my kitchen and what did I see? Bottles, boxes, plastics, and more bottles! Empty water jugs, egg cartons, potato peels, cardboard mac and cheese boxes, and paper towels galore. And where would all of my thoughtlessly discarded trash end up? The garbage can of course. I was utterly disgusted with myself. How could I have become so careless? I immediately went to work on my plan of attack.  I opened the cabinets under my sink, and went to work using old diaper boxes to separate my recycling. Upper left cabinet – plastic recyclables. Lower left cabinet – paper products to be burnt or recycled. Right cabinets – compost piles. I was just finishing up, and ready to breathe a sigh of relief when I stood up, and what should enter my vision but a ginormous, disgusting, disgraceful roll of paper towels. I instantly declared boldly to my family that we would never again be using these absolutely unnecessary tree killing products, and that washcloths and rags would be the only acceptable “wiper uppers” around this house. Having removed the roll, the ugly paper towel hanger that was attached to the wall seemed to still smile ominously back at me. Off I dashed to the tool box where I grabbed screw drivers, pliers, and wrenches galore. With all the anger I held toward myself for how thoughtless I’d been over the years, I ripped that baby right off the wall and flung her with all my might out the door (not a dramatization – actual event – don’t worry it went in the plastic recyclables cabinet once I had calmed down).  I took a deep breath and sat down to think for a while. My mind raced with all the other changes I needed to make. I must tell you it became quite overwhelming. I looked over at my daughter who had been asking to “Lorax. Watch…Watch. Lorax,” so I searched YouTube to find a clip for her. I landed on the ending song of the Lorax movie “Let It Grow.” “Let it grow, let it grow, like it did so long ago. It’s just one tiny seed, but it’s all we really need. Time to change your life with deed, time to let it grow.”  Time to change your life with deed.  So far that day I had a made quite a few changes. But as everyone knows it’s easy to change for an instant; it’s harder to make changes into habits. As I contemplated this I took another look at my sweet baby girl dancing around the room to the song lyrics I thought would be so difficult to uphold. The huge grin on her face told me how. I had to change for her. I have to show her the best way to take care of the world, and then encourage her to do even better. I scooped up my Lorax princess and read her the story once again. As I closed the book I felt the last words were imprinted on my heart for years to come…  “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

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Everyday’s a Doris Day

To say I’m a fan of Doris Day would be a huge understatement.  After all, I watch, sing, or read something of hers at least every other day. If you’re thinking of calling the cops on a potential stocker hold it right there!  Let me explain my love for her, and then you can decide if I’m coo coo for Doris puffs or not. I was first introduced to Doris Mary Anne Kappelhoff from my great aunt Jan and great aunt Rosemary sometime during my fabulous middle school years. Dressed in crisscross jeans, Hawaiian shirts, and light purple lipstick it was obvious my style choices were experimental at best- frightening at worst.  One look at Doris up on that screen dressed to the nine’s in an all-white bare back gown, sapphire drop earrings, with platinum locks aglow, and I never dared look twice at a tropical button down shirt again. Lest you think that I liked Doris Day for her glamour alone let me assure you that was just a drop in the bucket. This woman could act! She could do it all…comedy, drama, singing, dancing…there wasn’t a medium in which she didn’t excel.  And she was genuinely a nice person too! Her love for animals and the work she did/does to protect them I dare say is saintly. As I got older I found myself wanting to learn more about the woman behind the movies. Enter my true passion for this wonderful lady.  I read a number of biographies on her, but the best was her autobiography. Did you know that Doris’s father cheated and left her mother for her mother’s best friend?  That she was first married to an abusive man who tried to abort their child against her wishes?  How about the fact that her third marriage to her manager, Marty Melcher, had left her completely broke after his passing because he had swindled and squandered away all of her money?  While she recovered from these debts by doing a 5 year run of the Doris Day show (which her deceased husband had agreed she do without consulting her), she still suffered more tribulation . Her son, Terry Melcher, had become entangled with Charles Manson, and it was believed that the Tate murders were intended to be the murders of Terry and his current girlfriend (the murders took place at the house they had just moved out of).  Doris and Terry lived for many years after that with round the clock body guards, and fears for their own lives.  Things cooled down over the years, but in 2004 Terry died of a long battle with melanoma leaving Doris alone again. You may expect that all of these events turned Doris into a depressed, angry, and scared woman. Quite the opposite!!! Despite all of these circumstances she always vowed to look at the best in a situation, and believed that difficult things happened in order to give her the strength to cope with future events. She says in her book, “The success I care about is in knowing how to deal with situations, in not allowing anything in my life to get out of hand. I know that I can handle almost anything they throw at me, and that is real success.” It is this mentality that brings out my fervent love for her. Her unwillingness to let life get her down, her resolve to look at life’s difficulties with optimism and overcome challenges with a smile on her face.  And okay…I love her as an actress and singer too. When facing my own challenges, it is her music and movies that help keep the smile on my face, and the pep in my step when life presents less that desirable events. If laughter is the best medicine, then Doris Day is my drug of choice.

Me and my Doris collection.

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Ukrainian eggs around my Grandma’s table

I used to make Ukrainian eggs with my grandma every year at Easter. We would gather round the kitchen table, and she would go up to attic where she stored all the intricate tools, waxes, candles, and dyes that we used to make our beautiful creations.  Our stylus tools in hand, we would add beeswax to the cup of our tools, let the wax melt over a candle flame,  and then begin to decorate each egg with care. We created intricate patterns and designs that wouldn’t be revealed for many hours. Draw…dip in yellow. Draw…dip in orange. Draw…dip in red. Draw…dip in green. You get the point. Finally, after hours had passed and we’d dipped into the final black dye making our creations complete, we would hold the egg next to the candle flame until the all wax melted away, and then tenderly we would wipe all the wax off with a paper towel. We were left with a small masterpiece that would last a lifetime if cared for properly, but more importantly I was left with wonderful memories of the day I had spent with my grandma. Now the time has passed, and so has my grandma. But, I have wonderful Ukrainian eggs adorning my house at Easter that each reminds me of her in a different way. Each egg holds a different memory of a different year. Some years she would share with me stories of our ancestors in Italy coming to America. Sometimes she would tell me tales of her years studying math at the university. Other times she would share silly stories of my mom, aunts, and uncles mischievous adolescent adventures. She would share Easter recipes, and we would talk about gardening and how to dye lady’s lace flowers different colors. Every once in a while we would spend our time together at her kitchen table in silence. Just enjoying being there together creating something beautiful.  That for me is the most beautiful and poignant memory of all. Just being with her…because I would do anything to just be with her again.

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