Christmas Decorations

[Picture-heavy post] When I was a kid, mom always called me Thomas Edison. I loved lights. Lightbulbs of any color fascinated me. After a trip to the firehouse one year, where they had red and green light bulbs, I wanted one. Dad had some red paint from the house in the garage so I took it up to my room with a white lightbulb, and I painted it red. I was so excited to have the red lightbulb, I brought it down to show mom. She kindly discarded the potential fire hazard but then we went to get some colorful lights.

Every year, one of my favorite activities was decorating for Christmas, from setting up the tree to convincing dad that it was okay to have more and more lights each year and that they were perfectly safe. Once I was on my own (and single again) in 2006, I was able to fully decorate my space as much as I wanted. And so I did. My challenge was always to do something different. It was my tradition; put on Harry Potter movies in the background, and while Harry worked his magic, so did I.

I will typically start decorating around Thanksgiving and keep adding things, up until my annual Christmas party. I never need house lights or lamps on once I have all the Christmas lights on. It’s even pretty easy to read books without eye strain, there are so many lights inside and outside. It’s not a competition for those houses you see on the news, but it’s my little piece of heaven.

Because of how things are at this moment, I’m not going to be able to create my extravaganza or host a party this year. So I thought this would be a good time to take a look back at the decorations from the past. Apparently, most of my photos in later years are from the parties themselves and not of decorations, so those aren’t included (to protect the innocent, of course).

Okay, here we go…


My first Christmas tree of my very own

And of course lights in the bathroom hanging from the shower curtain

A little touch-up for the lamps with red and green bulbs

The doors, all wrapped with gift wrap.

Lights above and below the cabinets

The front wall and door, because why not?

The tree in the center of it all

A snowflake point of view

Across the room view

My PhD research posters made it to the festivities

Snowflakes from the ceiling

Gotta have Rudolph somewhere

The birth of Sofa Claus and Santa Chair!

Towels added to the bathroom

Even the fridge gets decorated

2007 (Not sure why there aren’t more photos…)

Little Max waiting for Kim to return from her car

How else do you wrap hangers as a gift?

Tree’s second year with all the new ornaments everyone had brought the first year

Frosty and Rudolph gadgets were added to the mix


Tree year 3 at night

The beginning of the Christmas card display

Hey, down in front!

The return of Sofa Claus and Santa Chair

Red and green paper for the snacks

All the stockings were hung

Food table is ready

Lights around the door

Shiny paper for the cabinets

Goody “bags” for party attendees

Hiding the ugly shelves

The view from the zzz room


A diamond of garland and lights on the ceiling

Wrapping doors with paper and lights

Now ALL the cabinets were covered

The collection atop the bookcase

The elliptical machine… as Rudolph

The tree is still kicking

Party food for an army of elves


Rudolph wanted a close-up (this was before the term “selfie” was being used)

As seen on TV… oh wait, that’s a slideshow of current and past Christmas on display during the party

Flying reindeer

Rudolph returns

The long view

Wrapping that fridge and those cabinets again

Lights in the bathroom

Lights in the bedroom

Star on the ceiling

The CVS Reindeer are flying in

The north pole! (What else do you do with a large cardboard tube?)


My classroom door at school (which I duplicated this year)

Santa Snuggie at school

With some “real” lighting

So many ornaments on the tree!

Closets are covered

Looking toward the restroom

Filled stockings

Sofa Claus and Santa Chair have moved

Icicles from the ceiling

Reindeer in the kitchen

Glowing orb

New lights for the bathroom

Glowing gifts

A tree of lights for the ceiling

Mom, Dad, and Kim’s house

Mom, Dad, and Kim’s tree


Shiny door

Song puns in pictures

A periodic table shower curtain, complete with errors

The rainbow room

Even the outside of the door to my apartment was decked out

The bows and ribbons that had been attached to gifts from Kevin’s mom and aunt

The kitchen

Looking into the blue room

The tree

Wreath on the window

Witchy the Snowman

Critters on gifts

The overview

The view

Santa snuggy on a lamp


Display cases with backlighting

The holidays can be puzzling… Classroom door in a year where I taught HS physics and so had fewer 7th graders

2013 (First year in Kevin’s house)

Santa Claws

With the new surround sound system!

Our house

Our house aglow

Merlin in the tree

Mom, Dad, and Kim’s house

Mom loved these reindeer

Mom, Dad, and Kim’s house

Mom and Dad’s tree

Classroom fireplace with stockings and window


Merlin helping to assemble the tree

Cutest gift under the tree

More decorations


Across the way


Basement decorations

Ribbon tree, in memorium for Kevin’s mom


Merlin helping with the decorations

Santa Max

Monty’s turn to help

Our House

Mom, Dad, and Kim’s house


Party food

Santa travels by balloon when the reindeer are on vacation


Do you see a Monty?

The tree — before ornaments

Tree-trimming Time Lapse video: 2016-12-11 13.57.55




There are many different types of depression and it affects everyone differently. Some of the common symptoms include loss of motivation for things you once enjoyed doing, difficulty sleeping or eating, low energy, poor self-image, and difficulty concentrating. Depression affects people of all ages. Sometimes it is prompted by a drastic change in circumstance. Other times, the cause is unknown. There are genetic tendencies; in other words, it can run in the family.


It is difficult for me to say this, but I have been struggling with a form of depression since this past summer.


At first, I didn’t know what was wrong. I was tired. I couldn’t do things like I used to. I didn’t want to write or play video games – two of my favorite hobbies. I was content collapsing on the sofa binge-watching TV show after TV show. Seriously, I watched all seasons of The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Arrow, Supergirl, and Marvel’s Agents of Shield, not to mention a dozen or so movies. It’s crazy.


We were renovating our upstairs and we were proud of the work we were doing, but it was so hard to get things done. I used to be able to paint a whole room on my own in a day, but here it was taking much longer in smaller rooms. It wasn’t adding up.


School started and I was back to my regular schedule. Usually by the end of the first week, I know 98% of my students’ names. This year it took me three weeks to know them without hesitation. I missed a handful of days because I just couldn’t get moving in the morning and I felt unsafe to drive.


I was also finding it hard to make decisions, whether big or small. I couldn’t choose things. I couldn’t commit. My brain just wasn’t cooperating. My good friend got married and I had to push myself onto the dance floor, and I’m usually the one who has to be reminded to sit and eat.


In October, as I was looking back, I realized I was a shell of my former self and it was time to seek help. Even getting to the doctor’s office was a wild chore. I was misled by GPS on one turn and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it, so I drove around this extra loop for twenty minutes. I was in tears by the time I got there.


I have been on medication ever since. The first one helped me reclaim some of my energy but I was so dizzy, it defeated the purpose. The new medicine, I’ve had to wean myself onto very slowly. I’ve had three major concussions in my life and the doctor is trying to ensure I don’t have a similar reaction. It makes sense to take it slow, but I wish it would just work.


Each day is random for me. Many days, each hour is random. There are times that talking is a challenge. I have a hard time in groups because of all the interactions that take place. And concentration of any kind is draining. 


What does this mean? My life passion of teaching has been extremely difficult. I’m the teacher who jumps on desks and sings songs and walks around the room. I do 5000 steps just from being on my feet. But this year, I’ve had to sit for most of my lessons. There has been more group-work time for the students. (That’s not a bad thing, actually.) It takes longer for me to grade things. And most unfortunately, I can’t always be there. It breaks my heart that my students aren’t getting the absolute best of me, but they’re getting the best of what I’m currently capable of.


I spend every off minute I can recuperating. I’ve asked for help where I can and I pace myself the rest of the time. With any luck, as the medicine does its thing, I’ll be more and more my old self.


On the one hand, I’m lucky because I don’t have the worst of the emotional symptoms of depression. Most of my feelings are due to knowing that I’m not able to do more right now. And I don’t know how to accept that. Everyone has been patient with me and I’m grateful for that. There are times where I just need to sit in silence and let my brain calm down and relax.



Photo by Mike Dennler on

I feel like I am a smaller version of myself trying to pilot the full-size version of me. Think how exhausting that would be if each action, like moving your arm, required concentrated effort to move while also being several times its normal size. That’s about how it has felt. Every action is a chore. Draining. Difficult. Every day is like climbing a mountain in fog.


I’m mostly in cheerier spirits and I try to focus on happiness and on the things I have been able to do. I try to keep up with my awful puns, even if I can’t say them in the moment. I try to keep with my usual routines and that means getting out of the house for more than just work.


They say it’s one day at a time. I often feel like it’s one hour at a time. I push through where I can, I rest when I must, I do what I can, and I have to let the rest go. I’m glad I sought help when I did. Things would have gotten so much worse if I hadn’t. I’ve always tried to be the trooper and fight through, but sometimes we just need help. For me, this was one of those times.


And with all this going on, my mom suddenly, unexpectedly passed away one month ago. I don’t even know how to handle that on top of everything else. Some days it feels more real than others, that she is gone and I can never talk to her again or do lunch or go to a show. Other days it feels like I just haven’t called her recently. It is a strange pain. But I have her kitty with me everyday, a gentle reminder of how much love she had for the world around her.


I share this in case you are going through difficult times. Don’t let yourself suffer. Get help sooner, not later. There is no hero award for making it through without help. And to all those who see me with a little less bounce in my step, this is why. I’m ok. I’m just struggling. To my family and friends, let’s still get together and have some laughs. I will need rest breaks but it’s just how I have to cope right now. To my students, your well-being and education are still my priority. I’m just a little slower but I’ll be ok.

I’m not asking for sympathy, just understanding and patience. There are plenty of people literally fighting for their lives who are in worse situations than this. My heart goes out to those of you dealing with such things. May you find your light and hope in the days ahead.




July 27, 1945 was the magical day that our mom, Linda, came into this world. She grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts with her sister, Diane, and her mom and Dad. My mom was very close to her dad and to her uncle Lee and her grandmother, Mémère. They were her biggest supporters while she was growing up.


My mom did many things, from binding books, to nursing, to studying to be a teacher. Then she met John and the world changed again. Mom and Dad married on September 9, 1967 — that’s 50 years ago — and they moved to Brooklyn, where, a year later, my brother John jr. was born. The family continued to expand and when Lisa was on the way, they found a quaint little house in Levittown, and there they set the roots that would grow to this day.


Our lives were fraught with ups and downs, but my mom did everything she could to persevere. I don’t want to focus on the hard times but there are a few key moments that explain the heart of who my mom truly was.


I remember, in third grade, I was doing well in school. So well, that the material was too easy for me. Mom worked with the school and was able to get me split into some fourth grade classes ahead of my time. I was enrolled in the Enrichment Program, where I did special projects. In 4th grade, I was very sick and had to have my tonsils removed. Later that year, I broke my arm and in the X-rays, they discovered I had a tumor growing. I needed surgery to have it removed. I’ll never forget the report card that said I had missed 72 and 3/2 Days. Through it all, Mom made sure I had ice cream – even though vanilla tasted like wood – and had tutors coming to the house to make sure I didn’t miss my education. When I went to fifth grade, I still went to my Enrichment classes. I had no idea they had kicked me out because of all my absences in 4th grade. Mom went and fought for me and got me reinstated into the program.


In seventh grade, we were all part of the science fair. I had worked with my granddad to create a robot moth, thanks to a remote control car of Kim’s we demolished for parts. Mom and Dad came to see me in action. What I didn’t know at the time was that Mom had had massive periodontal surgery that morning, where they had removed half her teeth. She was in complete and total agony. But she was still there by my side.


We all have our faults. We’ve all made mistakes. But through thick and thin, the family and friends who matter to us, stick with us through it all. Mom was there for me in my darkest times, when I felt I had no purpose. And even though we watched her in her darkest hours, she fought for us, always. She put our needs ahead of her own, time and time again.


Last May, Kevin proposed to me and this past April we had our wedding. Mom had been through several foot surgeries, a literally broken back, and necrotic hip that needed to be replaced. Yet she was determined to be at our wedding, to walk the aisle with me, and to have our mother-son dance together. As we drew closer to the day, we weren’t sure what she would be able to do. But… She came to our wedding. She walked down the aisle with me and my dad. And she danced with me.


Mom and Dad just had their 50th wedding anniversary. I can’t imagine what my dad must be feeling. But I know Mom would want to make sure he eats, and for him to find happiness in the days ahead.


Mom loved people and the critters in her life. She would feed the birds, tuppence a bag, and the birds all knew when it was feeding day. The cardinals would shine their red feathers and flutter through the yard. We had dogs, rabbits, teddy bear hamsters and gerbils, turtles, fishes, an accidental ferret, and – of course – the cats. There was Tammy, who had her kittens in the fireplace, and Rocky and Pogo and Shadow. 


We all relied on Mom in our times of need. We sought her counsel on everything, from the big decisions to the small. I will miss the silly times we laughed about the word ‘water’ and her saying ‘ferblunjit’. 


She would pray to Saint Anthony if she lost anything and to Saint Francis, keeper of animals. I will miss how she always talked to Mémère who used to call me Senator, and to granddad who would always find her a parking spot. Like them watching over her, I know she will always watch over us. She will always be in our hearts, forever and always.


Today is a difficult day, but the date is special. It’s a friend’s birthday but also, it’s 11/7/17 — all ones and sevens. Kim was born 11/17/77 all one’s and sevens. Rearrange the digits of today’s date and you get Lisa’s birthday, also all one’s and sevens. And if you add up the ones and sevens in today’s date, you get 17, a one and seven. Clearly, there’s a deep connection. And if we take that sum of 17 and combine those, we get 8 which is the same shape as infinity. Forever will Mom be with us.


Her favorite story of all time was Yentl. It is about a Jewish girl who wanted to know about the world around her, not just her one piece of sky, but women were meant to be housewives and deliver children. They weren’t allowed to be educated, or taught to read. But Yentl had a dream and her Papa believed in her and he taught her anyway. And when he died, Yentl pursued her dream, dressed as a man to blend in, and she prayed to her Papa daily. Mom so loved the essence of this story that it was on repeat in her car and has been for ages. 


This lives in me as it does all of us. Mom always believed in us despite the odds the world set against us. From this moment on, I will ask: Mama, can you hear me?


And so, I leave you with this…


Piece of Sky (Yentl)

Tell me where

Where is it written

What is it I was meant to be?

That I can’t dare

It all began the day I found

That from my window I could only see

A piece of sky

I stepped outside and looked around

I never dreamed it was so wide

Or even half as high

The time had come

(Papa, can you hear me?)

To try my wings

(Papa, are you near me?)

And even though it seemed at any moment I could fall

I felt the most

(Papa, can you see me?)

Amazing things

(Can you understand me?)

The things you can’t imagine

If you’ve never flown at all

Though it’s safer to stay on the ground

Sometimes where danger lies

There the sweetest of pleasures are found

No matter where I go

There’ll be memories that tug at my sleeve

But there will also be

More to question, yet more to believe

Oh tell me where?

Where is the someone who will turn to look at me?

And want to share

My every sweet-imagined possibility?

The more I live, the more I learn

The more I learn, the more I realize

The less I know

Each step I take 

(Papa, I’ve a voice now!)

Each page I turn 

(Papa, I’ve a choice now!)

Each mile I travel only means

The more I have to go

What’s wrong with wanting more?

If you can fly, then soar!

With all there is, why settle for

Just a piece of sky?

Papa, I can hear you

Papa, I can see you

Papa, I can feel you


Papa, watch me fly!