Sometimes the Something is Memories

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Each year in that crazy time between the end of school and the beginning of camp I have the privilege of spending time with Dina and Daniel, two of my favorite people. We’ve got it down to a science, Bye-Bye Mommy, then Starbucks, summer reading, then whatever strikes our fancy.

I’m happy to say that rarely is our time spent in front of a screen unless, of course, it’s the big screen. As life goes on it seems more and more time is spent in front of a screen, but these two days had almost none of it. If there was a bit of screen time it was spent with a dog alongside providing a warm and furry distraction.

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There was coloring.

There was eating.

There was swimming and relaxing by the pool.

There was more coloring and reading and lounging.

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There was a trip to the animal shelter to check out a potential new companion for Toto. This included lessons on rescuing and avoiding pet stores that most likely get their puppies from puppy mills. What’s a puppy mill…,what I thought might be a tough conversation was received so well by these two compassionate kids, and the need to always go with a good breeder or rescue/shelter dog.

There was baking and learning knife skills and how to use a pastry bag. Because we absolutely had to make Mommy’s favorite cookies.

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There were take-charge moments at Starbucks, because who was going to stay in the car with Toto after taking her to work for …”take your dog to work day”. More take-charge moments at Shake Shack, thanks for handling lunch Daniel and dog walking.

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The Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage came through on Friday and Dina and I had a heartfelt conversation about it. Through the eyes of children all faith in humanity is restored. #lovewins

The realization that my time with Dina and Daniel may become a piece of my legacy is incredibly important to me. I have a favorite Aunt persona to maintain and a responsibility to be a safe place for them. More than that the older they get the less time I will have them to myself, soon these ordinary moments in time will make way for busy schedules and no need for camp. I hope the lessons learned stay with them and the memories are as precious to them as they are to me.

When I was in Houston recently I met a woman, Laurie Goldman Smithwick, who was hell bent on starting a movement to Step Away From the Screen and Make Something. The irony is not lost on her that this is curated on-line but she is gathering quite a following of people who feel exactly the same as she does. It’s wonderful to pop in and see some of the innovative ways people are using their time off screen. And so we joined the movement this time too, to step away from the screen and make something. What we learned is that sometimes the something is memories.

To see more of our time together visit us here.

Bill’s Father


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It’s no surprise to readers of this blog that I am a Father’s Daughter and usually you have to wait a minute or two before I post on Father’s day.  My Father has been gone for a decade, hard to believe, but I still feel the need to catch him up on all that is important to me on the four hour drive to the Cape.  The man loved to go for a ride.  I won’t have the opportunity to do that this year, my Cape weeks are all askew but thankfully they will eventually happen.  Instead I’d like you to enjoy someone else’s Father, I know I did.

Earlier this year I received an email from a friend and colleague looking to share a story on Ordinary Legacy.  I encourage all of you to do so but he took me up on it. The email was simple, “My Father wrote something back in 1952 when I was only one year old.  He passed away in 2002.”  With permission to post, he said, I believe you will enjoy it.

September, 1952

 My Walk Alone

By Walter William Stoeckel

The dark dimmed fields and woods of the countryside gathered me up in a silent welcome as I walked alone in the cool stillness of the summer night. The air was filled with the silver dust of moonlight sifting down silently and settling all around me as though caressing everything it touched. Far away – somewhere between my listening ear and the dark silhouette of the horizon – a night bird softly called and the distant muffled bark of a dog seemed to answer its melancholy call.

The road ahead mutely beckoned as it vanished dimly round the bend dragging the staggering fence posts in its wake while their strands of barbed wire struggled vainly to preserve some semblance of order in the lurching line. Only the sentinel like telephone poles stood alertly erect silently relaying their messages on threads of wire etched sharply against the powdery blue of the moonlit sky. A night sky so bright only a few scattered twinkling stars peeked through.

 A peaceful serenity caught me in its spell as I continued on alone entranced by the aura of tranquility in which I seemed to be completely immersed. The gentle touch of the dying evening breeze seemed subtly soothing to my cheek and brow. With a sigh I drank in this utopia. Then suddenly, I thought of the reality the morning would bring shattering this peaceful silence with screaming black headlines, blaring radios, and it’ cacophony of voices all vying for my attention. Repeating over and over again the stories of hate, violence, bigotry, deceit and death while trying vainly to justify man’s sins and weaknesses by linking them to noble sounding causes, rationalizing them in the name of logic and blindly believing it to be somehow synonymous with reason. Why must man forever covert and rarely cherish? How much bounty must there be to slake the thirst of greed? Why is his lust for power greater than his need?

My mind wandered, as did I, alone in the night. I peered through the bright darkness of the countryside around me and listened intently to its silence. I spoke to myself aloud, and not unfervently – “If only all this could be mine. If only some great benevolent landowner would say to me: (‘This is yours, all of it, as far as you can see or hear. Yours to do with as you wish for as long as you want it’) how everlastingly grateful I would I be.” To be able to relax in peace and quiet; to be able to build a little world of my own, free from a world of tarnish and greed., free from men living too much on the misfortunes and sufferings of each other. Ahh! This would be a dream come true.

I suddenly stopped and stood still in the road as the truth struck me with a stunning force and I must confess a degree of condemnation. In a moment I became aware that a great land owner really had given me this to do with as saw fit as long as I wished. Slowly I began to walk again but now the night, the countryside and I had changed and I knew what I should have known before.

I had been walking in the night but I had not been walking alone.bills dad 2

Imagine my joy in reading this treasure.  I couldn’t help thinking that for the next fifty years of his life Bill’s father lived this revelation.  I wanted very much to know if that was true.  I wanted to know if this was written for something or merely to cement his thoughts and be used as a reminder when life intruded as it did on his walk.  I was curious to know more about this wonderful story that made him think of Ordinary Legacy. My friend did not disappoint.

I never knew my father had written “My Walk Alone” while he was alive. He passed away in 2002. I found this and several other ponderings while going through his files helping my Mom with his affairs. I transcribed what he wrote so I could save it, and share it with my family. I forgot about it till last weekend, I was going through my files looking for things to send my son.  He asked me to send what I call Billisms.

My Dad went by his middle name Bill (William). He was an interesting guy who had a great worldly curiosity. He wasn’t the kind of Dad that played ball with the kids, or went to sporting events. He would take us to plays, or symphony concerts, or the circus.  He was a very good photographer. He loved taking pictures of flowers, and landscapes and people. He took all his pictures in slide format, and we would sit around the house while dad had a slide show of his collections. We didn’t really appreciate it enough when we were kids.

He was not interested in cars or mechanics. He was an artist who did fantastic pencil drawings, and did enameling work for a while. When he was young, he worked as an artist for the Scranton Lace Company designing Lace patterns.

He was an avid gardener with a huge vegetable garden, and numerous sculpted flower beds. He was an amateur actor, and director and played many roles. He was a Deacon in the Church, yet he loved science. He was great at giving sermons. He was an accomplished golfer, and President of his golf club. He was an accomplished gymnast, and I remember he could go up and down the stairs of our house walking on his hands. 

He had a great laugh, and was a handsome man with twinkling, radiant blue eyes. 

What fond memories of an interesting man, I can see why Bill loves some of the things he does.  I can also see where he takes after his father, living his life the way he wants his story told.  This is no ordinary legacy, three generations sharing the gifts of each other carrying on and adding original links that reach back and forward.  I am deeply grateful to have been able to share this with our little community.

Ordinary Legacy loves Billism #34:

Reading history is informative.

  1. Remember history is helpful.
  2. Making history is living life to its fullest.

To all of you who have your fathers close, enjoy them, even the slide shows, they are too quickly gone but as you can clearly see, never forgotten.  Thank you, Thank you Bill for the gift of this story for us all.





Soul Cleanse

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Many people suffer at different times of the year, most common is around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.  I won’t say I suffer, but I become nostalgic, and mournful, and something…between Memorial Day and Father’s Day.  It may seem an odd time but it is steeped in loss, and remorse and second guessing.  It’s also filled with hope but it takes a minute to get there.  It usually culminates in a long discussion with my Father on Father’s day on the way to the Cape but this year is different, I won’t be taking that ride until a few weeks after Father’s Day.

Instead I will spend some time with my dearest friend and niece Carly doing a 5k color run.  Don’t get excited, I’ll be walking but still… I’ll be among people and laughter and joy instead of having the same discussion I’ve been having for the last decade. There is a time to hold on and there is a time to let go.


As if to set in stone this is a time to let go, I happened to attend a funeral mass yesterday for a business associate’s father.  I didn’t know the man but I’ve known his son for fifteen years.  I’m not sure why I decided to go but it was enlightening and emotional and bought me clarity on so many levels.  Normally I am steadfast emotionally at these things but I was tearful at the love shown, the grandchildren left behind, the music, the ritual of the mass, and the regret that my father’s passing was so very different.  It became more and more apparent that his legacy was left exclusively in our hands and what an enormous responsibility we had taken on. The fact is his legacy is ours to treasure we are not responsible for it, we didn’t create it.  It is only up to us to tell his truth.

There is no greater energy than the energy you find within a church or temple or any spiritual place of devotion.  It blankets you whether you are of the sect or not.  I love the feeling but I’ve let go of the need to participate as part of the flock.  So many questions whirl around me are answered by my knowing that “God ain’t mad at me”.  As Lincoln said, “When I do good I feel good, when I do bad I feel bad. That is my religion.”

I’ve been journaling my thoughts and revelations over the past two weeks and more and more I’m drawn to the words of one of my Lime Sisters, “My grip is loosening.”  Thank you A’Driane Nieves for the generosity of your truth and your talent, you can’t begin to know the legacy you are creating.  I am grateful for your friendship and sisterhood albeit from afar.  I miss my Lime Sisters and their unbridled energy.  I need a tribe…

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My journaling has brought many revelations about introverts vs extroverts, fear, loneliness and motivation. How to begin, when to know if it’s smarter to keep on going or walk away.  What brings joy and what the hell is my purpose.

I’ve come to realize that my purpose comes at a cost.  When you are a go to person and people get what they need they go away. They go away whole and better and joyful and grateful but they do go away.

I’ve also come to realize that my concentration should always be on the ones who stay and become family.  Concentrate on the ones who come back and share their wholeness and a bit of themselves with me on a higher level of equilibrium.

I’m grateful for those wonderful people who let me vent, or rant, or withdraw but don’t freak out as if the world was going to end.  I’m even more grateful for the people who reciprocate what they have gotten without missing a beat. The dear Aunt M’s continue to support and enrich my life.

And so my soul cleanse these past few weeks has been difficult and rewarding.  It has been emotional and joyful.  It has cemented my story the way I want it told.  My six word memoir, a woman of substance who shared, still rings true to me.  I am looking forward to letting go that which is no longer mine and embracing that which belongs to me.



Legacy Link

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What the hell is a legacy link?

Whenever you begin a sentence with “every time I_____________” or “whenever I hear_______________” or “I have a story_____________” or “I was so overwhelmed” chances are you’re connecting to a legacy link. It could be your legacy; it could be someone else’s legacy. Either way a connection to a story that becomes indelible is a legacy link.

Every time I pass another car on the highway, before I move back into the lane I always check the rearview mirror. I don’t rely on the side mirrors I make sure I can see the car I just passed in the rearview mirror. Why? Because Coach Casio said to, and that’s enough for me. When I was in high school several decades ago, it was mandatory to take driver’s ed. At Bergenfield High School that meant getting in the car with Coach Casio, wrestling coach extraordinaire and tough guy. It could be daunting but I got one of the only compliments he ever handed out, you drive like a man…the only thing I want you to remember is to check the rearview mirror before you pull back in the lane after passing someone. Forty years later I still do it, I still remember it, and I think of him every single time.

Whenever I hear the word Machiavellian I will think of one of my former bosses, now dear friend, Rawleigh Tremain. Not because he is or ever was Machiavellian but because that word began my education. I didn’t know what it meant at the time, I was twenty one so give me a bit of a break, and it was spoken by someone I admired. I wanted to know what he knew. When I worked with him he showed the greatest admiration for each of us, regardless of our position in the company. He was motivating and highly educated without airs or degradation of any sort toward anyone. Where he could have acted entitled he encouraged. I credit him with my decision to go to college in my forties. A BA in Social Science and an MSED later I can only begin to know what he knows but I remain ever grateful for his guidance albeit from afar.

I have a story said a friend of mine this week. About a chance meeting that had the making of legacy written all over it. For him a stretch into mindfulness and selflessness, for the other person a life line in a fearful situation. Something as simple as holding a person’s hand when they are afraid will last a lifetime for both of them. Uncharacteristically putting yourself out there and feeling the enormity and emotion of it can’t help become a legacy link.

A series of emails receive from another friend this week went straight to my heart. He’s a remarkable man who’s been up against some overpowering circumstances that could easily have put him under. He understands the meaning of self-exploration and the work required to battle back from those circumstances. I am in awe of his perseverance.

His poignant insights and shared experiences, especially a wonderful story about his son, both reassured and inspired me. He is very much cognizant of living his life the way he wants his story told and giving his son balance, fun, mindfulness and integrity. These words of his moved me and assured me that they are both destined for a wonderful legacy together.

“Whatever else I am, I’m certain I’m a good father. There may have been a few times that I resented the tough times in my life…but those times have brought me to this place, my place in the world…being a good father to my son. “

I am incredibly grateful to all of these wonderful people who have created legacy links in my life, who shared their stories, either inadvertently or directly I am better for it. I can’t begin to tell them, and the many others, the significance they‘ve achieved, not only in my world but in the world.