“you are important to me” and other messages

I have seen and heard a few things lately that have taken me aback. I have given quite a bit of thought to them and reflected on my own childhood.

Let me share with you and then you can tell me what you think and feel.

There is an advertisement on television for The American Women’s College at Bay Path University . It features about 4-5 women, aging from about 38 to 60 years. The ad is geared toward the ‘non-traditional student’. There are no men nor children in the commercial; there is one scraggly mutt.

They all say something about their dreams, their goals and the last statement is by the youngest woman and she says, “It’s my time, now.”

The unsaid words are that when she was responsible for caring for younger children they were a burden, an interference to her own desires which she has put off until now to pursue.

You get the sense that other women are divorced, widowed or otherwise single and not burdened by a man. The poor dog:  I hope he gets the care he needs when she is sitting in her Philosophy 101 course.

This dualistic thinking is not productive to living a genuine life. It is not “either or” but rather it is “and”.  I support women pursuing their goals, whatever they may be. Let’s be honest. If a woman has children and limited finances and time and cannot fit in college at that time, let’s be clear that it was her choice, hopefully a loving choice. Later on, she decides to pursue her education or her career, out of a loving place of freedom to choice, not because a burden [children, husband] no longer exists.

I never felt that I was a burden to my parents. Both of my parents were fiercely independent and they pursued their own personal goals, but never at the cost of their children. I can’t remember a time I was left with a babysitter other than my older brothers and that wasn’t too often because I don’t think they were too keen to tend to me.

My parents brought me with them~to the movies, out to dinner, to friends’ homes. I felt special to be with them. I didn’t feel I was keeping them from doing something else that they wanted to do. Until she passed, my mother made me feel I was the light of her life.

Have you seen the advertisement? Tell me what you think.

I saw a scene the other day that disturbed me.  As I was entering a church for weekly Lenten Service around noon, the day center was releasing the 2-4 year old children to their parents and some grand parents. The parents and children were scrambling with their arty papers and coats and hats and there were shouts of glee from the children to see their Mom or Dad. One Dad had broken free from the crowded hallway and was pulling his little one along and said to him in a scowling tone, “We don’t have all day.”

Really? I know there are adult time commitments, but do we need to make a child feel he is less important than something else? Is rushing the little tyke from the building to the car in the parking lot really going to save that much time? Why not savor the time with the child and make him feel that there is nothing more important to you at this moment than him?

“Let us make one point, that we meet each other with a smile, when it is difficult to smile. Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family.”  Mother Teresa

Once when I was in a retail store, I over heard a parent saying to a child, “You can’t have everything you want.” Really?  My father used to always says to Mare, “Give Susie whatever she wants.”   My parents also taught us that we could have whatever we wanted, as long as we worked for it.  Do you recall the Biblical story in Luke 11-13 where Jesus is teaching about fatherly love and Our Heavenly Father:

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Joe wasn’t a religious man, yet he wanted his children to have whatever he had and more. Mare did, too.

Parents, isn’t there a better way to teach your children about wanting and possessing, responsible giving and receiving than to say “You can’t have everything you want”?

You might even use Mick Jagger’s line which is a little softer and more hopeful: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try real hard, you might just get what you need.”

Another time when I was in a store I heard a parent say to a child “Life isn’t fair.”

Really? What a terribly negative, limiting message to give a child. It is wholly untrue, to boot.

Universal laws are always in place, as well as spiritual laws. Gravity is never suspended. If you jump off a building, you will always go splat! Two plus two always equals four.  When you follow spiritual principles, “you become carefree and joyful, and your life becomes an expression of unbounded love”,  Deepak Chopra assures us. What could be fairer? Follow the laws of the universe and you shall prosper abundantly.  Always.

What do you think about the messages you were told as a child? What messages do you tell your children? Yourself? Are they negative, limiting, diminishing? Or are they positive, uplifting, life-giving?

super bowl weekend 2017

It’s Super Bowl weekend.

Bruce Barone has bought a half bushel each of avocados and tomatoes to make guacamole and salsa dips.



Never mind that I don’t especially like either. There are 4 varieties of chips, too. He grocery shopped on Friday as he “wanted to avoid the crowds on Saturday.”


He has made hummus for me. I like it served with roasted red peppers and toasted pita. That’s how it was served at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires when I worked there as Director of Human Resources.


Stop by Sunday; but you’ll have to leave by 9 p.m because that’s when we go to bed. We’ll find out who won on Monday morning.

Actually, we would rather be in Denver with Bruce’s son, Daryl Barone and his good woman, Julia Mae, watching the game with them and their friends.


But what would we do with our little Freddy and Nadine?


We used to go to my brothers’ bar, Rallys, in Westfield, MA each Super Bowl Sunday. [They  sold the bar a few years ago.] It was a closed party for their customers who put on quite a spread of food. My mother always made lasagne. The customers always made a big deal of Mare and Joe.  Of course, I continued the tradition when she no longer could. One customer, Kim, made little pineapple cream puffs and would put aside a plateful for us to take home for Joe. It was a good time.


I am not especially interested in sports and Bruce is not a rabid fan. I am glad for that because I would not like to be married to someone who spent a great deal of time watching sports on television. Surprisingly, to me anyways, Bruce Barone used to play high school football. He was a star athlete and was called “the gazelle” as he ran very fast. Those were his glory days.


Sports can do many things, large and small. It can be a unifier, a source of tremendous pride, in a city which has a team. And certainly, it can be a revenue stream for a city, if the powers that be haven’t negotiated away all the monetary benefits.

It’s a shame the cost of tickets. Did you see the woman who asked NFL Commissioner Goodell if he had 2 extra tickets?  http://abc13.com/news/woman-asks-nfl-chief-for-suite-tickets-gets-them/1737209/

“Would you happen to have two extra seats in your suite to watch the game? ” the woman asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during an hour-long fan forum at the House of Blues. “It’d be a little better than my couch, but I just thought I’d throw that out there,” she added.

Goodell responded with a laugh and then, “Are you serious?”  He said to her, “See me afterwards.” He arranged for her 2 tickets in his suite of seats.

Man, that was something! Just like Mare used to say to me, “Susie, you have to speak up and ask for what you want.”

It’s a positive thing for folks to get together and pass the time under convivial circumstances, with friends, family, food, and drink all around. It’s fun, to be sure.

As I said earlier, stop by and have a beer or a glass of wine and some food with Bruce and me. I hope the team you are cheering for wins. If you are betting, the Pats are favored by 3 points. [I put that in because Bruce has no idea what it means.]


Gyms, fitness studios, yoga studios

Bruce and I, like a lot of people TALK about getting fit and losing weight and about joining a gym.

In the past, we have joined gyms such as Planet Fitness and Expert Fitness but never continued even through the first year. Boy, does that hurt when you see the money still coming out of your checking account during the annual contract period. At the end of which, we are no more fitter and a wee bit heavier.


In October 2016, we  started talking again about getting fit. I did some on-line research of yoga studios and found one that met our needs. Mainly, it was convenient to get to; it offered daily day-time classes; and a monthly rate for unlimited classes. We joined Karma Yoga on October 28, 2016. We attended regularly, three times a week. The teacher, Laura, was terrific and we liked the space and the other yogis. It was perfect, except it was HOT.


While Karma Yoga does offer HOT Yoga classes, the class we enrolled in was not advertised as “HOT”. However, the room was HOT from the earlier morning HOT yoga class and our teacher kept the room HOT. The temperature was between 97 and 109 degrees. The moment I walked in the studio, I felt uncomfortable and started sweating.  During the class which is called “Power Yoga”, I became totally wet from sweat. I stuck it out until Christmas. We had taken the week off because we were busy with the holidays. When it was time to return, I just could not bring myself to suffer anymore with the high temperature. We decided not to renew our monthly membership.

Meantime, in mid-November while Bruce was in Denver visiting his son, Daryl and his good woman, Julia, I did some research on gyms. We were still practicing yoga at this time, but we wanted to add fitness to our lifestyle. I found Conca Sports and Fitness on-line and set up an appointment for Bruce and me to check it out once he returned home from Denver.

Conca Sports and Fitness is not your typical gym. It has all the equipment and weights and space as a gym, yet it provides individualized attention and training.  We signed up for a “special introductory one month session”. It was a reasonable price and we went 3 times a week for a couple of hours each day. We had a customized plan that we followed and it was updated each week, based on our progress. We liked the trainer/owner; it was convenient; the space was clean and open; we liked the other people who trained there.

We regularly asked what the new rate would be at the conclusion of our month-long session. We were told, by the owner, that he was working on some new programs and he would be able to share with us at the beginning of the new year. So, we took the week of Christmas off and returned at the New Year and met with the owner. The rate went up 58% and we didn’t have a good sense of what the new program would be like.  But at that rate, we didn’t need to dwell too long on it because we felt it was way too expensive.

So back to the drawing board. I did some on-line research again and we visited a few places.  We really preferred to be at one place that offered both yoga and fitness. No luck, until our sister-in-law, Eleanor, suggested Fitness First Health Club. We checked it out on-line and made an appointment for a tour. It is a large, spacious place with all sorts of trainers, equipment, weights, fitness classes, yoga, a pool, and sauna and steam rooms [for both men and women], to boot.


It is different from other gyms in that it has ‘reasonable‘ fitness class–meaning classes other than spinning, boot camp, death by workout, H.I.I.T, and other extreme workouts. It also has yoga 6 times a week and at multiple times during the day and evening , not just at 5 a.m. on Saturday. The pool, sauna, and steam are nice additions that not every gym has, including Expert Fitness.


Fitness First is not a franchise. The owners are right there, to greet you. It has an extensive staff of class teachers and personal trainers with long tenure. It is clean. The clientele is diverse. Best of all, for us, the price was right for membership that includes both fitness and yoga.


My bet is that Bruce Barone and I are going to stick this out for the full contract year.  What do you say?


Customer Service at Vera Bradley

Don’t you just love Vera Bradley’s byline:  “It’s good to be a girl.”?  I do. Nadine, our beautiful cat, likes it, too.


I was never a fan of Vera Bradley. I never liked the cotton printed pocketbooks. They looked too, well, baggy, for one. And, the print never seemed to match what the woman was wearing who was carrying the printed bag. Not that women need to be matchy-matchy in their fashion style, but they shouldn’t be Glamour Don’ts, either.


This Christmas, my grand-niece Lauren, had a lovely purple paisley print cosmetic bag. I love purple and paisley~put them together and WOW! Here’s what Lauren has~Lilac Tapestry:


So I checked out Vera Bradley  and was surprised to see things other than pocketbooks and backpacks. I ended up buying some boxed notes, a note card for someone special, a pretty hair bow for our grand-daughter, a pair of wicked cool flip-flops, and a pajama tee. They were all on sale, plus an extra 40% off, and free shipping. Here’s the pattern on my flip-flops~Nomadic Floral:


The lovely green lined box arrived with all my goodies. The only disappointment was that the tee was too large for me. There is an enclosed form to complete for returns as well as a prepaid mailing label. Very convenient for me.

I looked on-line and they had a smaller size in stock so I called customer service to order it and to see if I could get the same 40% discount as that promotion was no longer going on. “Sure” she said. “Let me see what I can do.” The real price came out a few cents less than I had paid. I was a happy shopper.

As soon as I hung up, the order verification was in my email as well as a customer satisfaction query. Not one of those long ones, that takes a chunk of time out of your afternoon and asks all sorts of personal demographic data. This one asks “How I would rate Gabriela on a scale of Poor to Excellent.” I choose ‘Excellent’. I was then asked why I gave that rating. I stated that “Gabriela was pleasant, helpful, and personable.” And, lastly, I was asked what should Gabriela be rewarded with: A cup of coffee, a lunch, or a product gift~these were shown in graphics. I choose a product gift.

All in all, I love Vera Bradley products [except for the bags and backpacks]. Beautiful designs and colors. The prices are good, especially when on sale, and if you can catch an extra promotion, that’s even better.

When I had an issue with an item needing to be returned, it was easy as pie and reordering via the customer service rep went smoothly and quickly.


Customer Service at Sharper Image

Customer Service  at Sharper Image

As most of you know, I am seeing an occupational therapist for the treatment of arthritis in my hands. [These are not my hands.]


I have arthritis throughout my body, but that is where the pain is. After 2 sessions, I was pain-free in my hands. The therapist gave me a paraffin heat treatment on my hands as well as hot moist treatment on my shoulders. She recommended that I get a paraffin treatment devise for home use and recommended Walmart.

I checked out Walmart and they were out of stock. I used Google Search for paraffin devises and checked out a number of sites and devices.  I especially wanted one that was made for feet so I could also treat the dry skin on my feet. I was considering features, price and shipping costs. I landed at Sharper Image where I have never shopped before. I found a Dr. Scholl’s model for $55.00 or so and had a 10% discount code which  I figured covered shipping. I received the devise, read the instructions, and plugged it in. The paraffin was suppose to melt in 2 hours. Well, 5 hours later, it was not fully melted. I left the devise on overnight and the wax finally was melted.  I gave myself a treatment and it did feel warming and soothing.


However, since the heating unit was not working as specified, I decided to return it. I telephoned Sharper Image and told the rep the problem I had with its first use.  She said “What do you want?” I said “I want a refund.” She said “Your account will be credited within 7-10 business days.” It was nice that I did not have to return the defective item. But, there was no explanation and no apology for my inconvenience.

This was my first experience with Sharper Image and it left me with the impression that it sells shoddy goods and they are more than prepared to deal with refunds. I won’t shop Sharper Image again, nor will I buy Dr. Scholl’s products.


Christmas Eve 2016


It happened again, like it did last year. At the last minute on the 24th of December, I found myself in Rite Aid looking for a Christmas card for Bruce. Me and a bunch of men, who you could tell, didn’t have a clue, trying to find a card that said ‘just the right thing’. The only “To My Husband” card left was in Polish. Oh well, Bruce would get a kick out of it. I remember last year, I ended up with a Charlie Brown card for him.charliebrown

Then, off to the hair color aisle. Thank God there was no shortage of Clairol products. I felt I just had to touch up my hair.  You know the feeling.

Next stop was Masse’s Seafood to pick up 2 pounds of cocktail shrimp and sauce. Back home, I needed to make dessert, finish the laundry, wash the kitchen floor, color my hair, shower, and get ready for our annual Christmas Eve get-together with family and friends.

Bruce had been working steadily making short rib stew [a new addition to our menu] and bourbon and bacon mac and cheese [which replaced lasagne a few years back].


We also had a salad which didn’t go over that well~not sure why~spinach salad with glazed pecans and pomegranate seeds with a honey vinaigrette. He grilled up a kielbasa and made deviled eggs. A small catastrophe with the paprika, but I won’t go into that.

Bruce bought a loaf of bread rather than making his own, as he had just made a rye loaf for the family gathering on the 23rd at Betsy [his ex-wife] and John’s home. We gather each year with Bruce’s son, Daryl and his good woman, Julia, her parents, Kim and Joe, Bruce’s daughter, Danielle, our son-in-law, Mike, and our two grandchildren, Emily and Matthew. Freddy comes along too and plays, meaning makes a commotion, with their border terrier, Libby.

Bruce made baked tortellini with tomato sauce which I made from a recipe I have used for decades. I made a cheese ball~first one I ever made. It was made with blue cheese, dates, pecans and scallions and covered in crumbled bacon and parsley. It was served with club crackers and curried peach preserves. I found this recipe on PBS food site and it was by Vivian from “A Chef’s Life”. Here’s a picture of it. Definitely, a keeper.


Back to our Christmas Eve gathering. I had a hard time deciding on a dessert. I went through my recipes and cookbooks and websites and finally landed on peach upside down mini cakes.  It sounded good.  As I was putting the recipe together, I could just tell it wasn’t going to come out right. But what was I to do at this point? So 30 minutes later…The mini cakes are stuck in the tins, of course. I managed to get them out and pieced together the peach and brown sugar mixture that was supposed to be on top, rather than stuck in the tins. The batter was tough, but I served it with vanilla ice cream which kind of redeemed it. I had also made chocolate chipolte cookies and oatmeal cookies.

My friend, Jacki, brought chocolate dipped strawberries~yummy. And Julia brought “Legs” inspired by “A Christmas Story”.  She is very talented and very funny!


Daryl and Julia like Moscow Mules, so we made a cranberry version. The punch was a big hit.


Here’s a picture of the table with the appetizers.


The nativity set was my mother’s. It is very beautiful and I am honored to have it.

We had a house full of people, friends and family, and a good time was had by all.


I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Very Happy new Year.


Wind Beneath My Wings

The song, Wind Beneath My Wings, was playing on the car radio the other day and it started me thinking how much my mother influenced me with her encouragement and support.


She was my biggest cheerleader and supporter.

I remember she told me when I was born that Joe went to the Tatham Social Club and told everyone there that I was the prettiest baby girl in the whole nursery. It’s not that I actually was; what’s important is that every loving father thinks his daughter is the best and every loving mother tells her daughter she is the best.

She told me it was the happiest day of her life when I was born~she had a daughter, after having two sons.

Once I had applied for a job and Mare inquired what was happening. I stated maybe they didn’t like me. Immediately she said “How could they not like you?”

There was a Seinfeld episode with the very same theme. Remember when Jerry was pitching a pilot to NBC and he was waiting out their decision and he said “Maybe they don’t like me.” Mrs. Seinfeld reacted, “How could they not like you?” Every loving parent thinks the same thing and communicates it.

I had Mare’s approval on the way I dressed and how I decorated and cared for my home. She was always complimentary. My hair~not so much. She would tell me if it looked messy or dry and suggest I needed a deep conditioner. Once, when I said to her she needed a good haircut, she said: “You know, sometimes your hair looks like a horse’s tail, but I don’t say anything because it isn’t nice.” I think that’s a mother-daughter thing and probably a topic for another story.

She thought I was smart and believed I knew everything. Really. She would ask a question and if I said “I don’t know”, she would say, “But you have your Master degree.” Seriously.

Once, we were in the hardware store shopping. She needed garbage bags for the kitchen waste bin. I picked up a box of 250 bags. She asked if that was enough, should she get 2 packages? I said, “Well if you use one bag a week, this package would last 5 years.” She turned to the pimply faced young boy who was helping us and said, ” My daughter is very smart. She has her Master’s.” He must of thought, “Oh boy, it’s gonna be one of those days.”

It wasn’t that I thought I knew everything. Mare conveyed to me that she had faith in me to reason anything out, big or small. For the most part. She disapproved of me getting married when I was only 18 years old and she disapproved of me getting a divorce 7 years later. She worried about “where I would fit in.” As the years went on, she saw that I could manage very well on my own.

Mare was proud of my degrees and what I accomplished in college. It was Mare who financed my undergraduate degree. I had stupidly delayed going to college after high school and got married instead. So although I was married, against her wishes, she paid for my tuition because she wanted to see me go to college and  not be stuck without the ability to earn a living.

When I went to grad school, I was no longer married. I paid for tuition and fees myself as I had been working for 4 years and saved money. However, Mare gave me living expense money, monthly, to make things a little easier on me.  She was the one who made it possible to start and complete my education and go on to have a successful career, enjoy financial prosperity, and accumulate wealth.

She took pride in all the positions and companies that I worked for over the years in my Human Resources career. I have always said that ‘behind every successful person is a woman.’ For me, it was Mare.

She helped me run my home when I was working long hours or traveling extensively. She did my errands. She arranged and met the repairmen and contractors at my home. She did stuff that needed to be done at my home. She varnished my sun room that was covered in knotty pine paneling, walls and ceiling, one hot summer day. She had a neighbor remove a snake she found in my yard. Little things, big things, she took care of what needed to be done, to make my life easier.

She was concerned about the effects the demands of work had on me and how emotionally draining it all was. I had dinner with her every night [when I wasn’t traveling] and she was always nurturing and encouraging. A home cooked meal and a glass of wine and upbeat conversation~balm for the soul. Remember, Mare and Joe took care of my dog Casey for me while I was at work. What a Gift!

At one point, she suggested that I train to become a yoga teacher as she knew how much I enjoyed going to yoga classes and how much I gained in fitness and relaxation. In retrospect, I should have given more thought to her suggestion.

When she thought I needed help or advise she gave it. Mostly, what I remember of her loving, challenging, important words to me were:

Be bold. Show compassion. Persevere.

These were the hallmarks of her personality and her legacy.


The thing is, the regrettable thing is, I didn’t let her know that she was the wind beneath my wings.

Mare passed on December 11, 2014, siting in her comfy chair, in her living room, in my arms.