Category Archives: Uncategorized

Artisanal Cough Drops

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Artisanal Cough Drops

Man Cold Log, Day 9 –

Provisions are starting to become scarce. An order for more cough drops has just been placed. Not that CVS generic stuff. No we need artisanal, organic, real honey infused magic drops.

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Where shall I fetch this mystical concoction you speak of? From the real honey made by bees whose names begin only with the letter “V” (he’s kidding, right).

What’s that, they’re located in Vermont? Sure I’ll drive to Vermont (I see we’re sticking with the V theme) so I can purchase cough drops that cost more than a line of cocaine at Studio 54 in 1985.

What’s that…I need to get them from Virgil’s Honey Farm where all the B’s are V’s. Sure that’s reasonable. I’ll shake hands with Van, the proprietor (pronounced Vahn, spelled using only hieroglyphics)…the guy with the beard and man bun who drives a vintage VW Bus (wth happened to Virgil?).

He bakes them out of his cellar. (Looking at website) Judging by the discarded pita chip bags and plume of smoke, that’s not the only thing he’s baking down there. I’ll go and be sure to fist bump Vera, Vicky, Victor and Vinny (worker bees, keep up) in the hopes they will regurgitate nectar into that sweet bee vomit sticky mess that you so crave.

How do bees make honey? (spoiler: It’s gross) Bee Vomit

Leaves for 2 days, returns with this…

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*Relax no bees were fist bumped in the writing of this completely (coughs into fist) fictional, not a spec of truth to it, post (maybe).

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Fiera!

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Fiera!

If you’ve been following my blog you know that I went on the Baltic Sea Cruise in large part to see my niece and her boyfriend perform on the ship. The ports were secondary in my trip planning. Honestly, it was one of the best vacations I’ve ever taken. Such an ambitious itinerary and a gorgeous ship. I quickly adapted to someone else doing all the cooking and cleaning for 11 days

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We finished our second day in St Petersburgh with a Princess Production Show named Fiera! This show was developed in-house with input from seasoned professionals including American Idol Director and Choreographer, Danny Teeson. It was a musical with a carnival atmosphere. The plot was simple, a father, the Ring Master, struggled with letting his daughter go. The daughter fell in love and the cast of characters danced and sang their way through the process.

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The songs were familiar – “Born This Way”, “Man in the Mirror”, “Sweet Child of Mine”,  each sequenced to help the story unfold. The dancing was phenomenal with colorful costumes and vibrant sets. It was quite the spectacle, much more technical than I would have envisioned for a cruise ship. In fact all of the production shows blew me away.

 

From Russia With Love…Part 2

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From Russia With Love…Part 2

The second day of our St Petersburgh Alla Tour was another jam packed itinerary which included – the Metro, a cruise on the Neva River, Yusupov Palace (Rasputin Exhibit), Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood,  St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the grand finale – Peterhof Fountains & Gardens.

The Metro in Russia is home to some gorgeous underground spaces, sadly we did not see those (kidding, maybe). We took a ride on the subway to the Admiralteyskaya (good luck spelling that) stop, which is 86 meters below ground. Greek Mythology and nods to Peter the Great were displayed in the metro mosaics that we came across. I think these guys are trying to catch the subway – img_8970.jpg

The Neva River was chilly so my daughter and I stayed in the cabin while the rest of the tourists froze their оценить off. The picture below was taken from the river cruise, it features the Saints Peter and Paul Fortress & Cathedral –

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Next up was the Yusupov Palace which hosted a Rasputin Exhibit. Fun fact: Rasputin was a close family friend and adviser of sorts to Nicholas II and his family. He was particularly close with the Empress of Russia, Alexandra Feodorovna, who credited Rasputin with keeping her son (heir apparent to the Russian Empire) alive. Alexei suffered from Hemophilia and it is thought that Rasputin was able to assist in some way.

The Romanov family’s close relationship with the wandering monk led to public outrage and ultimately the murder of Rasputin on December 30, 1916, which occurred in the Yusupov Palace. Speaking of Rasputin, I found myself in a rather twisted rabbit hole while Googling about the guy. Here’s a link if you’re feeling brave – Rasputin’s Junk on Display…

After the palace it was time for the church tours. Technically both churches are categorized as museums now which is an important distinction in determining who pays to keep the lights on. The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is a gorgeous display of what you would expect in a Russian church – multiple onion shaped domes covered in gold and gorgeous mosaic tiles that create the icons which adorn the walls.

The church was erected to honor Alexander II who died after being fatally injured by a carriage bomb, plotted by the Peoples Will (an extremist group) on March 1, 1881. The location where the fatal injury was dealt is marked within the church (below).

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Like most of the historical sites in St Petersburgh, the Church suffered damage during the Siege of Leningrad which lasted from September 1941 until January of 1944. For two and a half years the residents of Leningrad (now St Petersburgh) were trapped in the city. Suffering through air-raids, artillery barrage, starvation, and no access to outside supplies resulted in up to a million deaths (through the siege and evacuations).

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St Isaac’s Cathedral built between 1818 and 1858, was also damaged during the siege. It is filled with beautiful mosaics and a gorgeous stained glass Jesus.

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The final stop of our two day St Petersburgh Tour was Peterhof Fountains & Gardens. We didn’t have time to stop for lunch so Demetris, our driver, got bagged lunches for the 13 of us. They were delicious, our guide and driver really took care of us (Thank you Alla Tours).

Construction of Peterhof began in 1710 at the direction of Peter the Great. It’s been dubbed the “Russian Versailles” and it is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

According to Wikipedia – “The Peterhof Palace is a series of palaces and gardens located in Petergof, Saint Petersburg, Russia, commissioned by Peter the Great as a direct response to the Palace of Versailles by Louis XIV of France.”

I can’t speak of the actual palace at Peterhof but the fountains and gardens were spectacular (feature photo). You could spend a month walking the grounds here and you wouldn’t get bored.

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After 90 minutes of draw dropping beauty we made our way back to port. It was an exhausting day of touring but I needed to stay up to watch my niece and her boyfriend perform in the Princess production of Fiera!

Stay Tuned…

 

From Russia With Love…Part 1

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From Russia With Love…Part 1

One of the ports on our 11 day Baltic Sea Cruise was Saint Petersburg, Russia. To be honest, it was never on my travel bucket list, I didn’t know much about it. We booked the trip last minute so I could see my niece and her boyfriend preform on the ship. They both got jobs as entertainers and this cruise was one of the itineraries during their 9 month contract. I started digging in a bit and somehow convinced my husband to send our daughter and me.

To prepare for this port I watched The Last Czars series on Netflix. It was really well done and fairly accurate according to people who know more about Russian History than me (nearly everyone). Saint Petersburg featured prominently in the series as it was the capitol of the Russian Empire from 1712 – 1918. Nicholas II was the last Czar of the Russian Empire, he ruled from November of 1894 until he abdicated the throne on March 15, 1917. Spoiler – he was a shitty Czar. Whether that was due to malice, ignorance or ineptitude is up to debate, perhaps a toxic mix of all three. If you plan to visit or just need something to binge watch, I recommend the series (Netflix feel free to send me something for the plug).

With my newfound interest, I decided to book a tour during our two day stop in Saint Petersburg. After stalking cruise experts online and reading dozens of reviews, I went with the Grand Group Tour with Alla Tours. The group sizes were much smaller than the ship excursions and the prices were better with similar itineraries.

The morning we arrived in Russia I was a bit nervous. I grew up during the Cold War, Russia was enemy #1 for a big chunk of my youth and let’s face it, they get bad press on the regular – land grabs, election rigging, poisonings, scary stuff. So I open the curtain to my cabin balcony and THIS greets me –

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Russia is that a missel or are you just happy to see me?

That was a bit intimidating…according to our guide, Roman, it is an 87 story sky scrapper (not a scraper, a scrapper) which is owned by a petroleum company. Oh and Roman said it looked like a corn husk. Roman also said the Crimea land grab was fake news so draw your own conclusions.

Our first stop was the Palace Square which features the Alexander Column, the Winter Palace and the General Staff Building. It was gorgeous and we got a clear morning which is rare as SP only averages 60 sunny days a year.

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Winter Palace completed in 1762 was the first building constructed in the square and became the primary residence of Russian Czars. While visiting the Palace Square we ducked into a souvenir shop which, immediately offered Russian wine and vodka to all the customers, it was 8am (slurs speech, it’s 5pm somewhere Ruskii). My daughter tried on those big furry Russian hats, eyed the Faberge eggs and ultimately fell in love with this Russian nesting doll –

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I didn’t buy it at the time because $45 seemed outrageous. Then when we got home I found it on Amazon so, someone will get this at Christmas….shhhh.

The Hermitage (1764) was our next stop, the place is infested with gold and precious works of art. We had the good fortune to see works by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and countless other artists at a mind numbing pace.

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Danae, Rembrandt (1636 w/later revisions). This painting was seriously damaged in 1985 when some jackass threw acid on it. Extensive restoration and repair were done with some of the damage left intact so as not to entirely redo the painting.

After a couple of hours, my daughter was going numb from the barrage of information so she started to amuse herself by photo-shopping Michael Jackson’s head on famous works of art. I thought it was genius.
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After the Hermitage we went to a restaurant for lunch which consisted of Borscht and Chicken Kiev. I enjoyed it, DD is not a fan of beet soup but she tried it and the chicken was better received. We were given pastries with a cream inside as dessert, yum. Next stop was the Peter & Paul Fortress and Cathedral.

The Cathedral featured the remains of the Romanov Family, including Nicholas II the last Czar. Their bodies were not interned until 1998 with the exception of Prince Alexei (born as heir to the Czar) and Princess Maria. The remains suspected to be of Alexei and Maria were not discovered until 2007. These bone fragments have since been tested and identified as the missing Romanovs though the Orthodox Church has not yet interned them with the rest of their family. The entire family was murdered in July of 1918 after being held captive by the Red Army in the city of Yekaterinburg (pssst…watch the series, you will not be bored).

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We finished the day with a trip to Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin. It was exhausting, crowded and monotonous – gold, mirrors, chandeliers, hall, followed by more gold, priceless antiques, rare works of art and yes, more gold. Keep in mind this Palace, along with the other cites we visited had extensive renovations after being devastated in World War II. I kept thinking of the people that went hungry while all this gold was being brushed on for the renovation.  Here’s the backyard –

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…and more gold for the road, stay tuned for the rest of St Petersburgh!

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We On FIRE!

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We On FIRE!

They stood around watching the house burn. It was quite a spectacle, the crowd grew larger with each moment. Massive flames visible, engulfing the structure, smoke could be seen for miles. Onlookers speculated about the cause…

Man: Maybe she left the stove on?

Woman: Possible, that happened to a friend of a friend once….actually, they think the cat started that one, jumped on the stove and hit the nob just right. Insane!

Man: Could have been smoking in bed or in a recliner, fell asleep…wake up with your hair on fire, literally!

The fire continues to burn and spreads to the next house…

Mayor (grabs a megaphone): Y’all need to step back a bit, this fire is getting out of hand!

Woman: Indeed it is, I heard it started with a space heater.

Man: What? That’s nuts it was 60 degrees last night who uses a space heater when it’s 60 degrees!

Woman: My momma that’s who….she has circulation problems, always cold.

The fire has spread to several buildings now with no end in sight…

Kid: Instead of talking about how the fire may have started, why don’t we try to put it out?

And this my friends is how it seems to me when people discuss mass shootings in America. They want to blame mental illness, video games, the avocado shortage, Mercury in Retrograde, shitty parenting, a lack of Jesus, racism, politicians and big pharma. The common denominator in mass shootings is GUNS, 100% of the time. Let’s start there because we on fire.

Laundry Fairies and Other Absurdities

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Laundry Fairies and Other Absurdities

Hi blog friends, sorry for being so scarce these days, summer sucks up free time better than Bounty Paper Towels (Bounty feel free to send me a case or two of paper towels for that spontaneous ad placement). I usually have a teenager buzzing by me in the kitchen and a geriatric(ish) dog that insists on sleeping directly under the desk in my kitchen. In short, there’s no privacy which cramps my style.

For those that read my last post the wedding went fine. A few highlights which are better left as bullet points (your imagination will be more exciting than the actual events):

* The temperature on the day of the wedding was triple digits (100 Fahrenheit, 38 Celsius). The air was so thick you could chew it which, didn’t do my hair any favors.

* My mom popped over as my husband and I were in a the last precious minutes of getting ready to avoid being more than 20 minutes late. She wanted to see my dress. I never went to a prom so I guess this is my fault. You just don’t expect your mom to want to see your wedding guest dress at the tender age of 51.

* The hubs got dressed in a parking lot and was spotted in a drive by.

* There were at least six women wearing a slightly different version of my dress. One dress in particular was the shorter version of my gown.

* There was minimal drama which I am not at liberty to discuss. No cops were called and no punches were thrown. Some may be disappointed by this so here’s something to satisfy that – Brawl

*The hubs and I rolled in around 2:30am and our bedroom door was mysteriously locked. Both kids deny locking it, the dog looked guilty. We were able to break in with a paperclip and a credit card.

In other news, my daughter and I are going on a Baltic Sea Cruise next month and I am super excited. My niece is a vocalist on the ship and her BF is a dancer so we will get to see both of them perform multiple times. Oh yeah and the ship goes to six ports – including Russia. So I’ve already drafted a novel in my head about a middle aged women who takes a tour in St Petersburg and is arrested by the KGB for Facebook posts that include this –

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If you don’t see me in September send in the Seals. This is just a girls trip the hubs and son will be home. We’ll be gone just shy of two weeks. A friend of mine recently went away for the weekend and she is currently buried under a mountain of laundry.

Friend: (Can’t go out today) …..need to get caught up on laundry…

Me: You mean the Laundry Fairies didn’t keep up while you were gone?

Friend: They don’t even show up in a GIF!

Me: Haha because they don’t exist, even in fantasy!

So if the Kremlin doesn’t get me, the laundry will. Do any of my blog friends have summer vacation plans?

 

 

 

 

Because I Can

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Because I Can

I am quietly sitting in the main level bedroom of a nicely appointed house that dates back to the 1890’s. It’s insulated well enough that air conditioning isn’t required despite the high summer temperatures outside. The windows are open and I can hear the chatter of cows from the farm that borders the back yard. I can hear those same cows from my own home which is within walking distance. Here though, I get to eavesdrop on the more nuanced conversations, beyond the distressed mooing that occasionally travels to my patio. The cows are conversing in more hushed tones.

Each room in this house has been lovingly filled with precious items.  Long ago gifts, remembrances and highly sought after antique flea market finds that probably took months, perhaps years, to procure. The individual pieces are meaningful, eclectic and likely filled with sentimental value. A lot of love went into decorating this home and perhaps a twinge of obsession, the result is a timeless casual elegance.

The items themselves are a bit worn around the edges. Faded like the lingering scent of fabulous meal after the dinner dishes have been cleared. It seems more poignant with some of the newness ebbed away by time, longevity has it’s own allure which, something shiny and new can’t quite grasp.

After several minutes Thelma, jumps down from the bed and visits me at my corner chair. A petite orange tabby, she sniffs my feet for a few minutes. I attempt to pet her which yields a do not touch look so I stop myself and decide to ignore her. After a few minutes she bites my knee because that’s what cats do. My involuntary jolt sent her scampering away for the remainder of my visit. Her sister, Louise, is out in the yard somewhere planning her next kill or rolling in the grass, sunny side up. I won’t hear from her unless she wants to come in which, she will announce by jumping 4 feet up, onto the screened porch door. Thelma & Louise keep things interesting around here.

During the olfactory interrogation, I can hear the Serena Williams match on the TV in the kitchen. A man’s voice is giving an unofficial commentary of the match…”Oh no, Geezus!” and “Come on Serena!” are on a repetitive loop. I’m happy that he has a distraction even if the end result isn’t what he wanted. He is passionate about something separate from the care-giving which likely consumes him. In this small way he is reclaiming something important for himself and I wish more caregivers would do that.

Before he leaves for the gym he stops by the bedroom. He tells me that they just got back from vacationing at the beach where they got married decades ago. I wonder if his wife has any recollection of that now as she lay snoring, midday, in the bed they still share. He gives her a long, gentle, emotional hug as he prepares to leave and I try to become invisible in that moment.

I see the hospital bed close by and I wonder which one of the two beds she will pass in. Probably the hospital bed, it will likely happen before the unofficial end of summer. I push against the inclination to imagine a similar scenario in my own life as I silently ask God for another 20 (pretty please make that 30) years of health and happiness with my husband. I am momentarily engulfed in the absolute knowledge that this is all temporary. I’ve seen this situation play out about 100 different ways in the ten plus years that I have been a hospice volunteer. It’s usually some diabolical form of cancer with the wife caring for the husband or the daughter caring for a parent. It always leaves a print of sadness on my soul which gets absorbed and gently tucked away.

When I prepare to leave, I notice the fireplace in the bedroom has writing on the header. “Fairy Tales Really Do Come True…” is painted in pretty cursive. A swirl of emotions courses through me. I don’t believe in fairy tales, I had to rescue myself and yet, my life is blessed beyond anything I could have imagined as a child. For the thousandth time I question why I do this…why do I place myself in the center of someone else’s heartbreak. The answer is always the same, because I can and those that can, should.

 

Insomnia Inspired Ted Talks

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Insomnia Inspired Ted Talks

Today’s post is brought to you by…INSOMNIA. I don’t drink or do drugs so sleep deprivation is the closest thing I have to a mind altering state. So while I’m experiencing my “buzz” (more like static in my brain) I thought it would be fun to write something. My sleep deprived brain has selected possible Ted Talks as my topic du jour. Seems like there are Ted Talks for just about everything by lots of folks so why not throw my not-sleeping cap into the ring.

Possible TED Talk topics:

Insomnia – Still fleshing this one out some ideas will be researched further…Why does my brain come alive at 3:14am? Is shoulder pain an early warning sign of a heart attack? Dear gawd why do I have to pee again? It’s too hot….now it’s too cold. Why does my mother hate me? I wonder what happened to Lynn, that chick I hung out with in 1987? What are my kids going to do for a career? I wonder where the hubs and I will retire. I hope the dog lives until both kids finish high school, unless she’s incontinent and then… What was I thinking when I decided to get ferrets in my mid 20s?

Women’s Wrongs – Yeah I know some of you are tired of this topic, too bad. The US Women’s Soccer Team is such a blatant example of the pay gap that it can not be ignored. Reproductive rights in jeopardy and rapists still getting away with well, raping. Terms being used to describe pedophiles and predators in main stream media – young women and underage are used improperly, it’s simply children.

Feminist is not a dirty word, discuss.

Politics – There doesn’t seem to be any room for center anymore and this frightens me. People are dead set on teams – Red or Blue, we need more Purple. I want reasonable gun control. I want accessible health care for everyone. I want affordable (not free) college/trade schools. Pro-choice is not pro abortion. I want criminals to be punished and not be able to buy their way out of jail. I want justice system reform. I want racism to die a lonely painful death. Speaking of death, I want the right to die on reasonable terms. We need to make public education a priority. We need to collectively stop being war mongers. Equal pay, equal rights for all not just the privileged. My campaign slogan – Just don’t be an asshole, OK?

What are your Ted Talk topics?

 

So Far…

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So Far…

Relationships are slippery suckers aren’t they? Sometimes it’s hard to find the perfect grip to keep them from slipping away. Too much pressure, not enough, longevity comes from the ability to apply just the right amount of pressure, that and dumb luck.

A Facebook friend posted about her insecurity within her decades long marriage. She wondered why so many years and 3 kids in, why do these feelings still show up, when does the insecurity stop? My guess is (23 years in) that it doesn’t? Insecurity isn’t a constant companion in my marriage but that bitch does visit from time to time, completely uninvited.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the negative thoughts come from an accurate observed change in your spouse or the internal bad wiring most of us have to diagnosis and re-configure. We’ve been told that half of marriages end in divorce forever, that’s not entirely true. To get an actual percentage, you’d have to study a specific set of marriages over a lifetime to see how many dissolve.

If you’re curious, I found an interesting read on the topic. No proper notes of the specific studies or statistics touted, more of a compilation of weird divorce nuggets put together by a law firm (my guess is they specialize in divorce)Weird Divorce Stats

One statistic stated that the average length of a first marriage that ends in divorce is 8 years. Seems to me that a lot of marriages end once the kids finish high school or after the wife turns 50 which often happen around the same time. Women file for divorce more frequently than men somewhere between 66 – 75%.

According to the weird list I linked above my marriage is doomed. We met in a bar (24% more likely to divorce), my parents divorced (50% increased risk of divorce), we have a daughter (and 5% to the doomed calculation)…Geezus we are already at 79% chance of implosion and I haven’t even gotten to our premarital sexual history and lack of strong religious background yet. Our calculated risk for divorce is somewhere around 200%…But wait, we live in Pennsylvania, are college educated and have children, phew, we might make it. Some of these stats are ridiculous in their specificity.

So what makes a marriage work? Obviously this varies by couple, there isn’t one universal magic formula. Personally, I’m just grateful that I still like my husband and it seems mutual at this point. We still “enjoy” each other’s company (wink) and we know when to give the other space. I try to find new ways to keep him happy…no not that, I’ve already done everything I’m willing to do there. Now I mulch or weed and make the bed, the real sexy stuff no one told you about in early ’80s Home Ec class. I try to take some of his burdens away and when I need help with something, I’m specific and neutral in my requests. That seems to be working so far.

Heaven Sent

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Heaven Sent

I used to visit her on Tuesday mornings. I would make a cup of tea and fill up the pan with warm soapy water. Kelly would soak her feet a few minutes and we would chat about whatever caught our interest that day. Sipping tea, chatting like old friends though we didn’t know each other that long.

She created a Facebook page for people with cancer so they could pass along items they no longer needed – wigs, walkers, canes, commodes, anything. Kelly wanted to help anyone in need, she was keenly aware that there were many people in need. We also talked about her children – a daughter and two sons. The daughter was married, her youngest son was in middle school, the same age as my boy.

After about 10 minutes I would take one foot out and pat it dry. Then I would give her a pedicure, she always liked a good pedi. It isn’t something I excel at but that’s what she wanted, so I fumbled my way through. She was always grateful for my attempt, a genuine smile on her face. We did this for months before I left for vacation.

That summer my family spent 3 glorious weeks in Italy. Exploring as much as we could – Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, Lucca, Orvieto and Rome. My husband speaks fluent Italian and he got us some great rental properties to stay in. It was my all time favorite vacation. It was magical, the four of us in a place of beauty, enriched in history and the food, my God what a time we had.

When I got back home I was preparing to jump back into my schedule when I heard the news. Kelly had passed away just a few weeks after her 48th birthday. Today her birthday came up in my Facebook feed, she would have been 51 today. I turn 51 next week.

I think of her youngest son often. I didn’t know her that well, I was just a hospice volunteer that would visit once a week, make her tea and paint her toes. Sometimes I wonder why life is so hard for some people and seemingly so easy for others. Why did I get to go to Italy while she perished?

Life doesn’t make sense, there is nothing fair about it. So today Kelly reminded me how precious life is and how fleeting and unpredictable it can be…I feel like she would have wanted me to share that message, so I am. Happy Birthday in heaven Kelly.