Finding our new “place”. 

Maybe it was a sign. I’m not sure. You can make anything good a sign that you should do something. Or something bad a sign that you should not. But maybe it was a sign.

Like the night before I was sitting in the car in front of a hotel in Saint Augustine Florida and we had been told that there was no room for us there. The hotel had been overbooked. So after 13 hours of driving the four of us (hubby,my boys and I) had no place to sleep.

“Maybe this is a sign that this isn’t where we should live “.  I said to nobody in particular as I sat in the car. My boys probably weren’t listening because at 15 they only wanted to get out of the car-get food in their guts-and get to sleep or back in their devices. Hubby was out trying to find us a room.

Maybe it was an omen. I didn’t want an omen. We had driven all the way from home in Maryland to Saint Augustine on the upper East Coast of Florida to see if this could be our new “place”. We had planned to stop in Georgia somewhere for the night as our real destination was Orlando, Fl. Kevin had a business meeting then a trade show to work there. I wanted to see Saint Augustine. Maybe see isn’t the right word. Maybe feel is. For some reason over the last maybe five years I have had this feeling I needed to see the area. I had a feeling it might be a good place for our next place to call home.

So our hotel room getting cancelled was not a great start. It also was dark so I couldn’t much of the area anyway. But as luck would have it Kevin found another room right next door to the hotel that cancelled us. It was their last room.  A good sign right?

So the next day as we drive around the cutest town I have ever seen my spirits were high. I wanted to see the ocean and check out the beaches of Saint Augustine.

Saint Augustine is broken up into sections. There is the main city part separated by the Matamzes River -cross the bridge onto highway A1A and you are at the beach area.

We drove a ways down the beach via Google maps. I love being able to see where I am in reference to everything else. I’m a map girl (geography major here). We parked along some beach homes somewhere past many of the condos and hotels.  (Later I would find out you can drive on the beach in some parts.).  We walked over the dunes via a small boardwalk  where we saw a turtle nesting -how beachy is that? Then we were met by a huge beautiful expanse of beach with very few people on it.

And there were lots of dogs with their people. Lots. Another sign?

Kevin and I began walking along the beach as the boys decided to hang back near the beach entrance ( one loves to find shells. The other likes to complain). We dipped our feet into the the cool water -we marveled at the size and beauty of the place. And we felt instantly at home there. Was it BC it was the beach? Or was it something else?

Maybe the dogs?

I kept wondering what the dog rules were for the beach there as there was so many dogs.  All on leads. In Maryland and Delaware  where we go dogs aren’t allowed on the main beaches all summer. And I get why. It gets super crowded but it’s a bummer that they can’t go on after five pm. A better time for dogs in hot weather anyway. A couple state beaches inDelaware  have beaches where dogs are allowed. Saint Augustine was in the middle of their busy time and dogs were on the beach. I was hoping this meant something good!

But I needed to ask someone. And just as I was thinking that,  a group of three people approached us. With a dog. So I stopped and asked them what the dog rules were.

“They can come out anytime but you have to have them leashed or you can get a ticket. We sometimes let her (their dog) off leash and watch for the sheriff!”

I laughed as this didn’t look like a rogue group. They were husband and wife and daughter. All over 50 -the parents being 70ish.

We got chatting a bit more about how they felt about the area -love it. Their daughter lives in Orlando-loves it.

Then we got into where everyone was from. The parents lived in Geogia still -part time. When we said we lived in Maryland all three of their faces lit up.

“We lived in Maryland! Where do you live?”

We said we live now in Carroll County but come from Montgomery (near Washington DC). They lit up again.

Turns out the daughter who thought she was way older than us (we figured out she was only about two years older but thanks for the compliment ) had gone to a high school where we knew many people and long story short she had known a friend of Kevin’s -who has since passed away -very well. She knew other names we tossed out too.

Was that a sign? That we are walking  along a random beach in Florida and walk up to random three people and they are from where we are from?  And know people we know? If anything it proves the world isn’t so big. But it felt like a sign to me.

And the way I was “feeling” about the place was pretty positive. I felt very at home. I loved that dogs are allowed on the beaches and there when we went to walk the city later there were many in town.

For me a move to somewhere else outside of Maryland- a place I lived all my life aside from one year in Boston -will have to be based on many things. Maybe signs are part of it but for me it has to be how of feel there. We also have to be practical. It has to work business wise for my husband. Which means near major highways and a major airport. It has to be near to a beach and I need to be able to put my horses someplace or have them on my land. The cost of living will hopefully be better as well.

But we also have to feel it. And for years now a place I never had been to except on tv and online felt like a place I needed to see.

I have worried that Florida would be to crowded and busy. Like many beach areas are and especially in the south. It will be.

Saint Augustine was busy during our visit. The beach was not crowded by my standards though. In my neck of the woods you have to get down to the beach to claim your spot early during the high season. Sometimes fights ensue over primes sand areas. You can hear the conversations of all around you. So the  beaches of Saint Augustine seemed deserted.

It’s almost surreal to think of a move south but the more we search for our place the more real it seems. I want warmth and sun and sand. I don’t want to wait ten years either. Waiting until the kids are done school high school is what we are hoping. So we have time to visit some places to see what we feel about them.

But Saint Augustine charmed the pants off me. And signs or no signs the feeling we got warrants more research.

As I’m writing this we are still in Florida but on the west coast now visiting my dad and his wife. While I love Marco Island it’s not a place that I’m feeling. I would want to live. It’s funny -those feelings.

On our way back north next week we plan to stop by Saint Augustine again to show our daughter Flagler College. She wasn’t on the trip down with us and she’s a junior And I think it’s worth a stop off.

Im excited to go there again -even for an hour. I feel the same pull to the place now  as I did before I ever saw it. Except now it’s more.

I’m looking foward to spending more time there. I’ll be doing my research and hoping in the end my feelings and practicality of living in a place will make sense together         . But in the end we might go with the gut and maybe rely on a few signs.

(I’ll write more about the city part in my next blog).


A night in Orlando

I’m not a party animal anymore. Yes- a long time ago I liked to have a few drinks and let loose with the best of them. But age and the hatred of feeling crummy the next day has slowed me down. Now I’m up late if it’s 10pm. 

So how did I did I find myself out at a party the other night  that didn’t begin until 9pm?  Well I wa he played out in Orlando with two of my kids and Kevin my husband who is here on business. He is working the biggest fitness trade show in the US. His company hosted a VIP party last night and we got tickets. I guess because we are important(not because it was  mandatory for employees to at least show up-enjoy wink.) So I had to go right? 

Well I wanted to go in theory but it was going to cut into my bedtime. So I wasn’t sure. Kevin could go alone except he doesn’t like doing the party scene alone and he really hoped I’d go.  Stick him in front of 5000 people and ask him to talk business and he’s your man. But some social situations make him quiver and he doesn’t drink to calm his nerves. 

Since his precense at least for some of the evening was mandatory, I was feeling like I should go -plus it would be a reason to dress up some and I had just the dress in mind to wear. One that I bought 2 years ago and loved on me but never wore.  It was one of those dresses that could go dressy or go more casual. Perfecto.  It still had tags. It needed a debut. And I had just the shoes. I didn’t care a lick about the party but I wanted to dress up some!

Was Cinderella into going to the ball to find a guy or for the awesome ball gown? I am guessing the duds. Maybe im wrong. She is nearby- in Disney -maybe I should ask her. I’m sure she’d say the clothes. 

So after a busy day walking around the trade show as hubby worked and then spent some time at the pool (so tiring laying in paradise) I was hoping to get a second wind so I could enjoy said party. After I got myself ready I was feeling pretty good. I looked ok -not as in shape as I was when I got the dress but I was looking ok and Kevin thought I looked awesome so that was the point -right? 

We had the teens to contend with. Our two sons are with us here and our daughter joins us on the next leg of our trip in Marco Island.  So we took the boys to dinner. I was a little over dressed for Johhny Rockets but that place is great for the boys. And it was right near the restaurant where the party was being held. And near a movie theater where the boys would be going while we got our groove on. 

Once we disposed of the boys (and I mean that in the nicest way) we strutted our stuff over to the Partay!!  I was kind of excited – which surprised me. 

  The restaurant/bar Cuba Libre was impressive. Kevin’s company pulled out all the stops. Outside they had  two women that were like ten feet tall dressed in gold sequin dresses  standing sentry at the door. They were a sight to see and many people were taking photos.   Inside the restaurant looked like a little town in Cuba. Well I haven’t been to Cuba but I’m thinking that was the effect they were trying to go for. It had beautiful dyed concrete floors and the walls were all fronts of buildings so you felt like you were out in the streets. 

Kevin’s company had rented the entire place for the VIP party for the night. Very private and posh We got there early hoping to make the rounds and then make a quick exit. But there weren’t many people there yet so we’d have to wait a while to make our precense known.  So we may as well make the best of it I thought. 

We migrated to the upper level via a very lovely and long stairway. I got a drink. I said hubby doesn’t drink. I do occasionally and usually no more than one or two. I’m a lightweight. 

We began to see folks Kevin knew arrive and we said some hellos. I was kind of bored and chilly upstairs and I wanted to bail and go back to the hotel room and watch hgtv. But we pressed our way back downstairs and thats where the real action was. The dance floor was packed and the DJ played EDM (electronic dance music) which I didn’t know much about (and still don’t really) until my almost 18 year old daughter got into it. I was ways poo pooing her love of EDM and told her all the kids do at those EDM events are drugs-I’m a harpy sometimes.  And maybe that’s true but I was sort of digging the music at this event. I couldn’t do that nightly my brain would be mush from the intense bass. But I could see why my daughter might like it! Hopefully drug free. 

The dancing was infectious I kind of wanted to jump in. Kevin isn’t a dancer at all and he said I should jump in the fray if I wanted to but I had only one drink in me and it was a small one. I needed more alcohol to fuel my dance legs-so I opted to stay on the edge of the floor and dance some and take photos. And it turned out that I got some kinda cool photos.


A hired photographer was walking around and taking photos of groups and we got in a photo thus cataloging our attendance at the party-(later I would photo bomb another group -it was too much right in my face not to do it – a little of the party Anne is still inside me!) So –hey -after being in an official corporate picture and a photo bomb we could go now there was proof of our attendance -except we didn’t leave. We were kind of having fun watching the dancing .  It wasn’t a place to hold any conversation so I just said hello and smiled a lot. Which was fine with me. I don’t like screaming over blaring music. 

The bummer of the night for me was that the place was getting smoky – they had a cigar making bar set up outside on a terrace. (Cuban bar thing I guess). There are still smoking areas at bars in Florida -outside- but the smoke wafted inside as the doors opened and closed.  And I am super sensitive to smoke. I can’t believe I ever smoked years ago. It boggles me how I did it. But it was getting bad so we went back upstairs hoping for a respite from the pungent cigar smoke – but the smoke was up there too. 

We sat for a bit watching the dancing and I felt myself getting sleepy and a little sick from the smoke . Ugh I’m so not a party girl. I needed a coffee to wake up except I don’t drink caffeine anymore. I know – I feel bad for me to! 

I think Kevin was just waiting for me to say we could go so he had an excuse if anyone from work asked why he left early. 

It was a good party. And the fun was in the watching I think. Though I would have danced maybe if I had another drink. Maybe. 

The company tried to make it a nice night for clients with the dancing and drinks and finger foods. They even had artists doing caricatures -on iPads -my have things changed. I had to take a pictures of that. 

We took a turn in the photo booth they had in a corner and even donned some kooky hats – I still have our photo booth pictures from 18 years ago. Back then you didn’t see them at parties or weddings like you do now.  I wonder if any over indulged parties took photos in there later in the evening. 

Alas I wouldn’t find out as the smoke forced us to have to take leave. No more watching the dancing from the floor of the balconies. We had to squeeze our way  out the door to head home. 

I am not a party girl. This event was so out of my element but it was good I went. And with people of all ages dancing I didn’t feel too old. I think I’ve been feeling old lately for some reason. It was kind of fun really and we realized as we left it was after midnight. 

Way past Cinderellas bedtime and mine-and I didn’t lose a slipper. 

But I already had the handsome prince.  

that last shot i wasnt ready for!


Nanas Desk 




I tackled another piece of furniture this past couple weeks. My grandmother’s (aka Nana) desk is one of my heart pieces of furniture. It sat in my Nana’s apartment for years- I recall when she bought it- from Sloane’s furniture in Bethesda, MD.

She placed it on the wall in the living room that contained the kitchen on the other side. When you opened the door into her apartment the desk was one of the first pieces you would see. I often saw her sitting there writing checks to pay the bills. I remember her stuffing the envelopes and licking both the envelope closed and the stamp to place on the envelope. This was before the days where we had self adhesive stamps. I can picture this as if it was just yesterday.

I loved that desk. I marveled over it. A small secretary desk that didn’t take up much space but seemed to hold so much.  When my Nana passed away in 1987 I was 23 and living with her at the time. I was dealing with a chronic illness and I was not working.   I was profoundly sad at losing her. She was my best friend. I had never lost anyone I loved before to death. It was on the whole a very hard time in my life.

A couple months after she passed I found out her condo was being sold by the relative that had bought it for Nana to live in years before. I asked my dad to buy it and rent it to me after the relative said they only wanted to sell it.  My dad didn’t want to buy it – and that may have been the biggest blessing for me- bc to live there was living in memories so thick that I was drowning in sorrow. So I had to move. I needed to live my life.

My dad decided to sell and give away some of her furniture. He offered a bedroom set to me knowing i didn’t have one. I had just rented a room in a house from a friend and had just found a job that would actually lead me in an odd route to my career as a software engineer. I didn’t take him up on the old ornate dresser he offered – in hindsight I wish I had. I told him I wanted my nana’s buffet, her gate leg table and her desk.

Well, he knew I didn’t have room for any of that where I was going.  So he took the pieces and placed them in his own home. They would follow him through a couple moves. After the loss of his wife a few years later he moved to an interim apartment while he built a home in Florida. When that move happened I was finally settled in an condo that I owned and the gate leg table and hutch came to me. Dad must have loved that desk too because it mades its way to Florida with him. That was ok, I knew I would have it someday.

Someday came sooner than I thought. My dad became tired of living in a big Floridian house and he decided to downsize into a condo. He asked me if I wanted some furniture and part of that booty was my Nana’s desk. Finally it would become mine.

By this time I was married and living in a a home in Mount Airy, MD. My Nana had been gone almost 15 years. I remember the desk was delivered in a box with its legs detached. It survived a long trip from Florida well.

We unpacked it and placed it upstairs on our open landing. You could see it when you opened the door if you looked up. I could see it from my bed if our door was open as it often was because we had little kids. I would sometimes look at that desk and I would see Nana sitting there on the old chair reading over something- and I would smile.

That desk survived the move to our farm and was placed again right where you could see it when the front door opened. When we moved in the owner of the home had an old grandfather clock in the space where Nana’s desk was going to go.  He asked if I would like to keep the clock. I said “No I already have plans for that space.”  I had placed that desk there in my mind before we even moved in.

We have been here over five years and that desk has sat majestically in that spot- but it was getting a bit worn. I never thought I would take paint to that desk but the desk wasn’t an antique really – but the wood top had finish that was splitting – and it was saying boring to me – it never had before but now it was. I waited a while on painting this piece – but once I tackled my Nana’s side board I knew it was only a matter of time before I painted the desk.

So a couple weeks ago I walked up to the desk with a paintbrush full of white chalk paint. And I looked at the desk and I swiped it with paint. I felt ok. I removed the jade lamp (also from my Nana) and the other odds and ends that sat on the top- we pulled it from the wall and the painting commenced.

I changed my mind on the color and then wanted to add patina. I added too much..the desk and I fought for a while. I was scaring myself that I had really messed this one up and to a piece that I loved. I  panicked a little – but in the end I think the struggles were worth it. I love the end result. And yet again I learned much.

I did not paint the inside yet. I wanted to leave some of the original finish uncovered for now- I didn’t want to cover up all the surfaces that Nana had touched just yet. I might paint the inside gray later and add a chalkboard finish on the desk when its it open.

I plan on this piece following me to my next home and there it will have a prominent spot- maybe even a place where you it can be seen right when you walk in the front door.

Painting Process-

All Paints Maison Blanche

  • Began with white paint on one side and changed my mind
  • Began again with Jolie Blonde – 3 coats.
  • Tried a glaze on the back and nope not good.
  • Used Organza Creme (leaves a metallic sheen kind of) in Pewter and I used too much and hated the effect.
  • Panicked!
  • So I went back over the piece with some of the yellow paint and kept working with it (painting it on and wiping off if needed) until I got the effect I wanted.
  • I painted the drawer hurricane grey and I added a stencil in the Organza Pewter
  • I distressed desk and drawer as needed
  • Used three coats of light brown wax (2 coats on legs) and when dry I buffed with a #0000 steel wool.
  • I “antiqued” the hardware by painting over it and then painting with a glaze in coal tar color.

Here is the gallery- :

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Tea cart anew 

My latest furniture painting victim is a tea cart I got from my sister-in-law Leslie. It was in her family I think for a good while. She didn’t have room for it anymore and asked if we wanted it. I am not sure she knew we would transform this piece and maybe that is better…often we get used to seeing a piece of furniture in one way and it might seem horrifying to think of it being painted over and transformed anew. I did send her photos as the transformation was underway and she was sent back her thumbs up.

This was one of those projects that took a while. I began last fall in the garage/studio. But the weather turned cold and I didn’t want to work out there – plus paint dries slowly in cold as I learned on a couple short attempts to work on the cart on cold days. I was able to get it nearly complete out there thanks to some indian summer days.

The project got tabled (no pun intended) for a while over the holidays and early into the year. The top of the cart was ready for its last coat of paint so I got inspired and asked my husband to bring it inside so I could work in the warmth of the house. Originally, I wasn’t going to paint inside the house but one day in January I looked at an old piece of furniture and I realized I needed to paint it bc I really didn’t like looking at it anymore (see my post on that project here) and I brought paints in from the garage and painted the small chest into a new piece that I now liked again.

So the painting studio had moved inside. Chalk paint has no odor so nobody was being bothered by the smells- but the clutter – well – thats another thing entirely. I certainly am not the biggest messer-upper in this home so I will not listen to any complaints about my paints and supplies covering our dining room table!  And the TV is not blocked in any way so all is ok in Sweeneyland.

For the tea cart I had an inspiration piece that I found online.  I wanted to just have at it with no cheating(surfing the net for ideas) but I had no idea what I could do with a tea cart. I also thought there might be some way to deconstruct it and make it into something else – but as soon as I saw this picture below I decided I wanted to do something like this.


Inspiration Piece- loved the red wheels!

I used Maison Blanche Paints and for this project I used their Maison White – which is whiter than the paint in this picture – in hindsight I might have used their Vanilla color but I like my results. I also used a grey color called Hurricane as the base coat on the top. I crackled the top using their Crackle Extreme product. The top coat is the Maison White which cracked well and exposed the Hurricane color underneath.

Here is the cart as I received it- it wasn’t in bad shape at all – it was well cared for- it was just a bit boring:

The Process was as follows:

  • Took apart the piece as much as I could and  wiped it down to get all the dust off.
  • NO Sanding needed with this chalk paint and so far that has rung true.
  • I began with the bottom part and painted it with three coats of Maison White.
  • I distressed it using a medium grit sanding block. Mine dried for at least a week bc I was taking my time- but it can be distressed within a couple hours of drying  even sooner probably.


  • I added a stencil and after it dried I distressed some more.
  • I then varnished it with two coats of Maison Blanche Varnish. I didn’t feel like waxing this piece and I like the varnish finish.
  • I took the top and painted it with a couple coats of the white on the underside of the top.
  • Then when dry I painted the top with the Hurricane color and let that dry. I applied  a crackle medium (Crackle Extreme by Maison Blanche) and that sat for a month or more waiting for me to finish it with a top coat of Maison White.
  • I added the top stencil after the white paint dried and I sanded a bit as there were a couple areas that felt lumpy- probably from the crackle medium where it was put on a little to think by yours truly.
  • img_3019
  • I finished the top with three coats of varnish.
  • I spray painted the carts big looking wagon wheels with blue Rustoleum Paint. I had two very nice days in the last few weeks that allowed for me to spray paint in the garage.
  • img_2871

Wagon wheels before paint

  • The small wheels and drawer pull I painted with a hammered metal finish spray paint also by Rustoleum.
  • I put everything back together and Voila…a new trendier tea cart.
  • Here it is completed(click on the photos for a larger picture):


Every time I tackle a new painting project I learn something. This time I learned that you can take your sweet time doing something and not stress about it. I really enjoyed the process. The other thing I learned is that if you make a mistake- I make some each time I work on furniture piece – that you can undo most of them. Paint is more forgiving than I thought. AND if I end up hating the entire thing I can always start over!

I showed my sister-in-law the finished tea cart and she loved it. I asked her if she would like it back – but she didn’t have room for it. I am glad bc I sort of become attached to these pieces as I work on them. This will not bode well if I keep accumulating furniture as we have a small home and not much room! I have no idea as yet where I might put this cart.

And if I ever want to sell anything I paint I will need to release my feelings for them and let it go out into the world. I have had to do this with photography as I have sold a few of my photos lately and at first it was a little hard to see them go but now I am glad someone somewhere has an “Anne Sweeney” on their wall.

I have always longed to be creative because it was what my heart told me to do. I fell in love with photography early in my 20’s. After I got that bug I never looked at the world the same. Every field became a scene for a photo- I looked at the light in a new way.  I began was writing as a kid and I journaled my way through high school. My favorite part of my job way back when I was a programmer/software engineer was creating the processes which drove the program.

For me art is a form of therapy – its a way to pour my feelings into something- I get something back from it as well. And I when I share my creativity it may inspire or effect another person.  I have been wondering why I have such a hold on some of my art.  I write (and that is a form of art) and I send that out into the world freely and I share my photos all over the internet where anyone could claim them I suppose. So why did I feel such a hold when it came to selling them in a frame- the original is not really anywhere except as bits and bytes on a computer why was it so hard to put them in a frame with a price tag? And now furniture? Why I am feeling so attached?

I need to ponder on this a bit more because I think the answer is important for me to know.

In the meantime I will keep doing what I do bc it brings me joy.

…… ‎”Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” ~Steven Pressfield



Moments you don’t forget – life full circle



I wasn’t sure I should take the photo. Sometimes you see something so sweet yet so intimate that even though it is a photo worthy moment you hesitate to snap the picture. But I had to snap the picture…its what I do..I view life looking for camera worthy moments. This was one – and one that might be sacred to my husband someday.

It was simple- my husband washing his 90 year old mothers hair over the sink. I stood holding a towel- then my camera – then the towel again.  I could have washed her hair but it became clear to me as we ate lunch during our visit that Sunday and chatted and then later prepared for the hair washing that my husband wanted to wash his dear mother’s hair.

My heart swelled as I watched the scene- I tried to busy myself – so I felt like I was helping but I was really just a spectator looking upon a scene so sweet and so endearing. I wondered how many times she had washed his hair and helped him dry and comb it. All those years gone by. She raised six sons. Six sons who love and care for their mother now in her sunset time.

My mother-in-law should be proud. She and Dad Sweeney – who we lost last December- raised some terrific sons. Each one different but each one a good man. I got to be married to one of them and I am grateful.

The first year Kevin and I were married and it was Kevin’s birthday  I sent my in-laws a card thanking them for raising such a good and loving person.  I often find myself wondering how I lucked out and got such a good guy as my husband.  Maybe it is a little luck and maybe fate and maybe a reward for something I did right sometime.

But as I watched my husband wash his mom’s hair I loved him just a little bit more than I did when I woke that morning.  It was the circle of life. Mother caring for child – child caring for mother.  What a wonderful testament to the mother she has been to her children.  A loving bond created. A love that will live on even as death separates them for a time.  Love is a thread that binds us from this world to the other. Love–the sweetest gift we can have on earth.

I am so blessed to have seen this love come full circle between mother and son. That is a gift to me.




Back in time – memories of life

Sometimes when I least expect it a memory from my past will pop into my head like a little bubble. Sometimes the memory is fleeting and it’s gone in a second. More flashback than memory. But other times there are the memories that come front and center into my thought. They wind their way into my brain slowly unfolding a story from my past.

Some are bittersweet and some sad some make me cringe wishing I could go back in time and change them.  Change what I did or said. I wonder if I did the opposite if I would be where I am now – married to Kevin, mom of three adopted kids, living on a little farm in Maryland…would I have had breast cancer if I had done something in my past differently. Would that small change have sent me on a separate life trajectory than I am now on?

It’s interesting to think about I suppose but we can’t change the past. And if changing one thing back then would change who I am married to or who my kids are or would mean I wouldn’t have the sweet dog that sits by me while I write -well then I guess I don’t want to change a thing even the regrets -except if there was anything I could change to not have had cancer maybe I would have done that. And there we go again- to change that one thing might have changed many things not just the cancer avoidance.

But some memories I would never change and when they pop into my head I run through them as best as I can trying to pull all the moments into my brain -trying to feel like I felt in that moment.

…I am in Cape May NJ with my Nana -I’m 5 or 6. We are out for our evening fun after having dinner in the hotel dining room. She puts me on a little ride in a tiny amusement park that we frequent most nights. The ride is a set of little boats that float in a little pool. They go around and around. I love that ride.  Nana smiles and when the ride is over she takes my hand and walks me across the street to the boardwalk and we get ice cream or candy. The smells of Morrows Nut House permeate the air. I love that smell to this day. The beeps and blips of the nearby arcade call to me. She takes me in to play a couple games of Skee Ball. She plays Joker Poker and I watch -trying to understand the game. We walk back to the hotel along the boardwalk that front the ocean and I smell the salty air, I am tired. We cross the road back to our hotel -she helps me get ready for bed, tucks me in,  and kisses me goodnight. I feel loved and safe.

Those beach memories with Nana go on for years. As I got older my younger brother joined us as well as childhood friends, Nana would sit outside the arcade and patiently wait while we played for hours. Sometimes she would come in and play a bit and then retreat for then retreat to sit back outside. In later years, she would stay at the hotel and sit with friends she knew from 30 years of staying at the same hotel – and let us go out alone with a curfew that we never broke.

Even as a teen when my girlfriend and I would head out to the arcade but would instead meet up with some boys we had met at the beach earlier and the would proceeded to spend a little quiet time on the beach we got back in time so as not to make nana upset. I can remember that beach night so well..hiding behind an overturned light boat on the dark beach lit up by the moon – kissing a boy who smelled like mint gum.

Nana taught me manners she told me her rules on life and she would sometimes gossip to me about people. She was a huge part of my life until I was 23 -the year she passed -1987.. There isn’t a day that has gone by since that I haven’t thought of her. There is not one memory I have of my time spent with her that I would ever change-even the times she got mad at me- which was rare but you don’t get an Irish woman can be brutal -especially the silent treatment – that could go on for days. But I can pull those memories in and live them again with her. I still miss her.

…Then there is the first time I rode a horse -I was 11- I fell in love. I can’t remember the horses name but I spent years going to that farm – I rode a bus out to a big farm in the country every Saturday with my best friend -Eileen- and we would spend much of the day learning to ride and we also took a barn class where we learned about the care of horses. We would buy candy for the bus ride home. That was back when I didn’t care about my weight yet – I was a chubby girl but could ignore the comments of mean peers- it was before my battle with my body image began. I loved that candy on that bus.

One Saturday Eileen got to bring home a young dog that had been found on the farm. Her parents said yes to letting her have the dog – they named her Duchess. I was jealous- I remember- but we had a dog -I just wanted more. A feeling I’ve had all my life and a dream I have made come true in my adulthood.

I remember sitting on the bus with Duchess up front and Eileen petting her head in assurance. I remember getting off the bus and Duchess jumped into the blue station wagin to begin her new life in the suburbs. Duchess was part of our backdrop until she became old and gray and her job was done. What a memory. Eileen is still my friend – the longest friendship  i have had -of about 48 years- more like a sisterhood. There are so many memories with her in them.

…A Tom Petty song came on the other day and the memories washed over me.. I was back in high school. I was in a Ford pickup truck four-wheeling with one boyfriend in the fields that surrounded our town that are now giant homes or shopping centers. Then I am with first real love in high school in his Datsun, then we are sitting on the beach after prom with our close friends Debbi and Chris – we are drinking some beer and fighting about something. I liked fighting with boyfriends back then.

Then another memory…  I’m in the car coming home from a REO speed wagon concert with four girlfriends and we flash our bras at some truck driving by. I remember closing my eyes and laughing in embarrassment and I recall the crazy freeing feeling of it.

…I remember meeting Kevin – my now husband- in 1981 when I was a freshman in college.  We wouldn’t date or marry until 17 years later but I remember that first meeting and thinking he was kind of annoying. Never would I have given him a chance in 1981. So I am glad life to us on different paths until we both matured and I was ready to let a nice and solid human into my life.

…There is my wedding day where my hair looked awful. Surely if I could go back and make myself look better on that day I wouldn’t change the trajectory of my future too much would it?  I was such a wreck that day. Kevin and I both not loving being the center of attention even in the small crowd that we had gather for the event.  I woke in the middle after the wedding and ate some of,our wedding cake that  the staff left in our room. I  was really wishing I had said yes to some sandwiches that were offered in addition to the cake. In all my nervous anxiety I didn’t eat much during the reception. No wonder so many brides and sometimes grooms pass out on their wedding day. I was 35 and I couldn’t believe I was actually a Mrs. I never thought I would marry but always wanted to if the right person came along- and there was my new husband sitting up with me munching on cake at 3 am – a match made in heaven.

…Then there are the memories of adopting my kids. The first time I met them. There starting school, their soccer games , and school presentations. The years at the beach just being a family – the beach as an elixir for so much. We’ve marched so quickly to present day. There are so many  mom do-overs I wish I could  do. Parenting is hard and you do your best but I definitely have moments I’d like to take back and get another take.

For many years I went to therapy for my anxIety disorder.  Early on I lived by my bad memories. I was so negative and I lamented about the hurts of my past. Things I wished I could change but couldn’t. I don’t like to say it but I did had a bit of a victim mentality back then. One day my therapist did some regression therapy on me. Kind of a hypnosis and we went back to grab some memories out of my past and as we went along memories of my Nana would pop up. All good memories that would leave me with a lifted heart when I came up from the hypnosis. I realized the that I actually had great memories from my past and I could pull those up as easily as the bad ones.  As I practiced this over the years – on focusing on the good memories that came up and skimming over the bad ones I find I can’t recall as many bad memories anymore -especially the ones I held onto as a victim-the ones that held me back – the ones that even if I could go back in time and try to change them,  it would be very hard to do bc it was the work of others that caused the pain.

I still have my plenty of cringeworthy memories where I made the bad choice -dating someone bad for me- saying something mean to someone – the ones that I wish I could change. But I’ve learned that it’s better to focus on the memories that lift the heart. Even the sad ones. …The day I said goodbye to Nana, the day we filed bankruptcy , the day my son was cut from baseball with only one other kid (that happened yesterday). Those memories are sad but they are peppered with love and learning . I am so blessed to have had a grandmother that meant so much to me to this day, I learned a lot from the bankruptcy and how strong my marriage is, and well maybe holding my teen sons hand while we both wept about his being cut from the team -maybe that moment is sad and sweet at the same time.

So when Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” or ACDC’s “Dirty Deeds” comes on the radio I am sure to have memory pop into my head that I will grab onto and try to feel that moment just for a minute.  …I am with my friends at the pool where one friend is working as a lifeguard for the summer- we are laughing and smoking cigarettes and basking in the sun and the freedom of the summer -playing the radio too loud and annoying people around us. The radio echoing against the building that surround the pool. … Im singing at the top of my lungs with my husband and kids in the car as we drive somewhere. The kids used to bop along, then later they just cringed at our antics they have earbuds in their ears listening to their own tunes.

I love living in the present but I admit that I am sentimental about my past because my memories hold so much joy along with some pain. It’s all in what you let in I suppose.

Not long ago we found a music toy that was given to us 15 years ago by a woman who cared for our son Luke when he was a baby -it hung on the crib so he could push the button and make the music play. I picked up the toy and it began to play (amazing batteries) and I was almost 15 year back in Luke’s nursery rubbing his leg as he was trying to get to sleep, then I was in our bedroom listening on the monitor as he talked to himself in his baby babble and hit the buttons on that toy and giggled as the music played and played.  Nope – not a memory I would ever want to change and I am so grateful for the moment of being pulled back into those moments again to hug the feeling close again. The smell of baby and the memory of the simpleness of that time even with the fatigue and cluelessness of being a new mom to an 8 month old baby.

To me many of memories are a gift. Even the ones I’d like to change. They are the part of the threads that makes up my life. It is My story good parts and bad.  I think I’m going to put on some Madonna or some Foreigner– or maybe some Kansas – oh those memories that the song “Dust in the wind” can conjure up.