February 3rd

Today is our birthday.  No I don’t know exactly when they were born but the girls came to me on 11-3-08 at approximately 18-19 months old, or so the vet thought, so do the gizzintas… Now just Toti and I celebrate together.  She gets a special treat and I get to stay in my pajamas until 2 (even on a work day).

My text message alert, my IM alert, Facebook alert, email alert, IG alert all have different ring tones so this morning sounded like a symphony of love. Complete with crescendo, overture and finale. I am grateful for every one of those notes.

I get to hear people’s actual voices, on the phone, that I haven’t heard in a while.  My heart is bursting at the sound of Ki, and Bev, and of course, Rere, Terri, and Sandra.

Words are powerful, and poignant, and blessed and abundant.  For every word of love on this day (and during these weeks!) I am grateful.  The words came from near and far, from those I see every day or only once in a while. They came over social media and over dinner tables. They came with pictures and cartoons and gifs.  They came with reminders of where I’d been and what I’d accomplished and they came with the hope of another wonderful year ahead.

Google knows it’s my birthday.  It took me a minute to realize it, I don’t know how exactly (clearly I have my own algorithm), I’m not sure if I’m freaked out about it or not.  But they know…

I am officially of retirement age.  Oh don’t worry I’m not leaving the best gig in the company until they throw me out, tap me on the shoulder and tell me it’s over. They might very well think I’ve already retired, I’m that far under the radar.  Well if they sweetened the pot I might consider it but those days seem to be over.

Top it all off with dinner with those nearest and dearest and damn it was a day to remember.  Because February 3rd hasn’t always been the best day of my year, there have been times when I could have stayed in bed (fat chance of that now, thankfully) and not many would have noticed but if you do your life’s work well you’ll be rewarded with all of these wonderful reminders of how your legacy is shaping up.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for making this day so special. Ubuntu; I am because of you.

What’s Next?

There probably comes a time in every career when you begin to think, what’s next?  For those starting out, it’s a matter of; is this working for me?-do I like this job?-am I bored?-or I can do better?  For those of us beginning to wrap up it’s a matter of relevance and retirement.  The big R & R.

Many of those in the middle aren’t even thinking about it, somewhat afraid to tempt fate.

Something happens to start the process, for those starting out it’s a matter of money-status-deserving-entitlement!  For those of us wrapping up it can be something along the lines of technology.  Technology rushing ahead of us with the force of its fury sneaking up behind us to bite us in the ass. Or…you can find yourself in the unusual position of being one of a select few who actually know something others don’t.

About what?  A rickety old mainframe system, once state of the art I’m sure, that now needs to be upgraded to interface with the real world. The app world.  The world that includes code and mapping and URLs, that world.

I recently found myself in that position and I’m not sure how I feel about it.  On one hand I feel like a dinosaur about to take the plunge into extinction and on the other hand I feel like a dinosaur being resurrected from a company archeological dig.  You notice either way I remain a dinosaur.

Regardless of how I felt about it I found myself, along with one other colleague of the same status, awake at 6am and at the ready to test the newest upgrade of the poor old mainframe system.  We came to the conclusion that the last time we heard each other’s voices, this time over Skype, was the last time this function got a facelift.

The test failed at 630am and there was much discussion of what went right and what went wrong, most of which escaped me.  Fast forward several hours later and phase one of the testing had been completed successfully.

These are the things that get me thinking, wouldn’t it be better to think of yourself as a well-regarded “company historian” than a dinosaur?  Didn’t it prove better to take a preexisting system with good bones, that has served you well, remains relevant and important and upgrade it?

Could one make the leap that in our throwaway society, where spikey hair and skinny jeans reign, sometimes the lessons and knowledge of the past also serve you well and remain not only relevant but incredibly important?  If only to prevent you from trying to reinvent the wheel?

Perhaps this is what’s next; a renewed respect for the company elders. Perhaps…or more likely, since the last known existing old mainframe system has been upgraded, a bit of R & R is in order.


August was…

August was

Bee-like.  Busy in a laid back sweltering way, creatively productive, sweet in its return on courage manifested and hopeful.  I had the opportunity to take part in August Break 2016 on Instagram.  Using the thoughtful prompts from Susannah Conway I thoroughly enjoyed each day of capturing my ordinary take on the subject and sharing among her many followers.  Making space on her site for us to share our blogs shows the true measure of her generosity.  Not only am I grateful but I’ve taken away many a lesson.

One of the prompts was “handwriting”. Of course it came at the exact moment I was trying to figure out where to start my summer work:

once you see it

It was my intention to use my down time to launch the Elder Beauty Project instead I’ve scraped it.  As a project, I’ve scrapped it as a project because the real project is and always has been Ordinary Legacy. Thank you David for reminding me of that and now I see it again.

The fact that I’m tired of talking about myself remains.  While this has been the outcome of my summer work, the month long journey to get there has been amazing.  After a somewhat delayed start, read procrastinated for weeks, I worked up my courage to send an email to the director of the Mahwah Senior Center, Susanne Small, telling her about what I do and how I’d love to do it.  She loved the idea, with enthusiasm and more generosity I was invited to the center to share my vision.  I was also invited to speak with several of the seniors about my vision.  While they are a bit curious, I’ll need to come back with a bit more for them.  Suffice to say you’ll be seeing more of this:

sr wood carvers0011

Susanne has graciously offered to work with me to develop the questions most likely to yield the result I’m looking for, she knows our seniors and what makes them open up.  I’ll be able to leave brochures for them to consider working with me sharing bits of the ordinary that make their lives distinct.  That got me investigating and developing a concept brochure.

Which in turn led to Bergen County Camera, where collectively they know everything, to look for a new lens for my DSLR.  I mean they know everything so showing them what I do now and how I want to tweak it took a bit more courage.  They didn’t flinch at my work, thank God. It always helps to lead with the fact that you understand full well that you are an accidental photographer… I have a new lens, which I like but the jury’s still out on whether or not it will perform the magic I require.  What? I’m practicing and keeping an open mind, I mean believing in my talent…like I always say, you shoot enough you’re bound to hit something.

True to form once you allow yourself to see it, you will see it everywhere.  Like here:

Amalia 20152

And here:

eagle scout project005

And here:

2016-08-27 09.26.04

These are the stories, the ordinary legacy stories that have been right under my nose while I was too busy being all about me.  Not very Jeanette-like as it turns out.

So going forward Ordinary Legacy will continue to be about preserving the ordinary stories that are all around, hopefully full of senior insight, definitely traditional recipes that may be lost, collections and oh those amazing ordinary legacy moments in time.

I can’t let go of the Heartlines series I just started because it’s been so well received.  If you haven’t seen them yet, they are heart shaped letters to a specific someone but not addressed to them.  They tackle that someone’s current situation/dilemma/angst/ without mentioning their name.  In the end there are always several people who would swear that the Heartline is meant for them.  The beauty of us all being in the same boat as it turns out.

For me September has always been the beginning of the New Year.  I don’t do resolutions but I can see this year I’m headed away from Facebook, because their algorithms are becoming a pain in the ass, and leaning toward and loving Instagram where images=stories, duhhh.  I’m glad to be back, renewed and ready to keep allowing myself to see all those ordinary stories I’ve been overlooking.  Hope you’ll stay tuned and join forces along with me.

Let Your Hands Tell Your Story


From watching him play the other day – I recognize his hands in the picture, she mused.  My friend is talking about a street artist we had the pleasure of listening to just recently. I love his story but I don’t really know it. He was a clarinetist; he is a lover of Mozart and jazz. He plays it all on a table of water glasses down near the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria VA. How does one wind up as a street performer, how does one learn to play glasses of water, how do you find yourself in this position but still love what you do?

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Eat, Pray, Love; “We have hands; we can stand on them if we want to. That’s our privilege. That’s the joy of a mortal body. And that’s why God needs us. Because God loves to feel things through our hands.”  I find the thought of that fascinating and interesting somehow, but I think at the same time I knew it. Going back over some of my images I found many that reflected hands and I instantly knew the circumstances and the feeling that went with each image.


If you find yourself holding someone’s hand when they need it most it will become part of your story. “One hand I extend into myself, the other toward others”, said Dejan Stojanovic. There are times they may not even realize you’re holding their hand, like when you teach them about living on their own, surrounding themselves with themselves and enjoying their own company, but you’ve made a difference in their life.


This is especially true in the life of a dog. Trust, love, familiarity, your hands can convey all of these things. A dog knows your story better than you do sometimes. Never raise your hand to a dog but always extend it. DSC_9802 (2) 135 DSC_5809

And while you’re extending your hand to someone you love your story and theirs will become one. That wonderful time when you join your lives and as John Geddes so wisely said in A Familiar Rain…“…we’ve let go of so many things, but never each other’s hand …”  If the unthinkable happens and your lives are no longer joined it may very well be because you let go of each other’s hands, by choice or by circumstance. That too becomes your story.

2013 (8)


You will leave notes. DSC_0056

You will celebrate. 095

You will create.DSC_8494 You will ponder. 003

You will lend your hand. DSC_2043 (2)

You will reassure. DSC_0329

You will work. 198

You will discover. DSC_3199

And you will grow old. “…You won’t age? I promise you this – your hands will go shiny and transparent and at the slightest bruise they’ll bleed…”  ― John Geddes.


But if you’ve lived your life through your hands in a way that God can “feel things”, your story just might be a beautiful one that people will tell over and over. Like Mozart’s for instance, being told to this day in concert halls and on street corners.

Turning Point…Community


It’s hard to believe I’ve been writing Ordinary Legacy for five years. Five years of pouring my heart out onto the page and into your lives with as much humor as I could stand or as much grace as I could muster. It’s been quite a journey through the moments in time that stopped my heart and restarted my life. I am so grateful for the day that started it all, sitting around a table with two women who, to this day, are dear to me in so many ways. The way they hardly knew each other but who knew me well enough to prod me on to just begin. And begin I did, and continue through I did, and now I feel I’ve reached a turning point. And isn’t that the way all changes begin? At some turning point, whether it’s a tragedy, a triumph, a loss or a gain? Ordinary Legacy is growing up and as almost all people and things mature they must evolve to stay relevant. They must become about something other than the original, something more.

More, more than me. Ordinary Legacy is transforming into a community. As defined by Dee Hock: “The essence of community, is heart and soul…Community is composed of that which we don’t attempt to measure, for which we keep no record and ask no recompense. Most are things we cannot measure no matter how hard we try.”

In the past few weeks I’ve learned so much about people and how they see themselves. I’ve learned to listen more closely to how they want their story told. I’ve learned that people tend to run up and over themselves in the day to day. As Gretchen Rubin is fond of saying, “The days are long but the years are short”. Is there a way to stop the years, no probably not. Is there a way to make them count, I’m sure of it. It’s been said that thinking just one minute beyond what’s happening now can both create or prevent outcomes. Just one minute.

I am finally awake to the fact that everybody has and is a story, all of them worth telling in their ordinary yet extraordinary way. There are people like my Father who, now that he’s gone, can only live on through my sister and me and on these pages. When we are gone there is a chance that no one will ever say his name again, the thought of that is one of the reasons this blog exists.


My mother has a very different story, her nieces and nephews have passed on Aunt Marie stories over and over. Those stories are irrevocably linked to their grandmothers. The kids we grew up with will be telling the Rere stories to their kids too. My mother has spread herself far and wide and will continue on in the stories told about her for generations. She is an extraordinary legacy because she’s living her life the way she wants her story told. Does she realize it? Probably not, imagine if she did…

We all live in several different types of communities, there is our actual home community, our spiritual community our work community. All of these communities are rich with personal stories. At every turn there are people you will always remember, whether they know it or not. For instance, I was hired by a man nineteen years ago who will be retiring in October. I have a million stories that could be relayed here, some of them good, some frustrating, some funny, some not so much. The fabric of this relationship has a strong thread of gratitude through it, nubby in places where we don’t see eye to eye, smooth in the places that we’ve laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe and the tears were running down our faces. The sheen is one of respect, the strength admiration, the color vibrant. It’s my guess that after he retires I might not see him again, but I will remember him my whole life. He is living his life the way he wants his story told. I believe he is well aware of it. “Integrity is a powerful force, keeping you alive to others long after you’ve left their presence.” ― Mollie Marti


I believe that most of us fall somewhere in the middle, I believe that given the right forum one might really catch on to the possibilities that small things can make a difference and that those small things we change today will define the stories that are told about us. I believe I have the super power of listening and actually hearing beyond the words and that it honors me to be able to tell someone’s story. I believe that I can teach. I believe that I can learn.

I know like I know that I can create a place where stories can be told just like at the kitchen tables of old. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to do it but I want to try. I hope you’ll stick with me as I sort through the zillion thoughts in my head about round tables and discussions. About creating a place where legacies, like my Father’s, can reside safe in the body of work that will be yours, mine and ours. Give me your thoughts, tell me your stories, and let me be your voice. Together this community will come alive and stay alive through moments in time and lives well lived. Come on…