I had never had a full beard before.  I decided to grow it out in the fall just to see how it would look.  For those of you who have been wondering what my mom thinks of my beard, here’s a clip from the fall I’d forgotten to post.  It also features one of my mom’s favorite sayings when I was growing up… “Because I said so!”

Valentine Cactus

My mom is always my Valentine. When we were kids, every February my mom would buy my brother and me a Valentine gift. Something small. A box of chocolates in the shape of a heart. Candy sweet tart hearts. Sometimes something sweet, paired with something practical, like new socks. And there was always a Valentine card signed, “Love, Mom” attached to whatever she’d bought.

My mom never stopped being my Valentine, even after I moved out. My first year in the dorms in college my mom sent me flowers for Valentine’s Day. I was so embarrassed to be getting flowers. I called to say thank you and she asked how I liked them. I said they were alright and a couple of the older guys on the floor made fun of me, but it was ok. The next year, she sent me a Valentine’s Day cactus arrangement. Much better for a guy’s dorm room.

When we moved my mom and I was packing up things in the house, I found a box with Valentine cards my brother and I gave to her over the years. Valentines I’d forgotten about, but that my mom had kept in an important place.

I’ve had lots of special people in my life who’ve given me nice Valentine gifts or took me out for a nice dinner, but I think I’ll always remember my cactus as the best gift from the Valentine who loved me the most!

Here’s a pictures of this year’s Valentine gift I put together and mailed to my mom from me and Joey. Don’t tell her you know what she’s getting! 🙂



We had a black and white cat named Sniffles. We didn’t name it Sniffles. The neighbors did. He was abandoned at the pre-school where my mom worked, and she brought him home. The neighbor’s wanted him, so shortly after we adopted Sniffles at our house, he moved next door and was adopted by the neighbors, and named Sniffles. Then when the neighbor’s moved several years later, Sniffles was re-adopted by us. This cat was destined to be maladjusted.

My mom once asked my brother, who was in high school at the time, to take Sniffles to the vet. My brother, being in the difficult teen stage of not wanting to do anything other than exactly what he wanted to do, decided to enact some revenge for mom having asked him to run the simple errand.

It turns out in fact that Sniffles had some sort of infection and needed an antibiotic. The vet phoned the prescription in at our local Rite Aid. This Rite Aid was and had been used for all of our prescription needs for 20 years. We also used it as our convenience store, stopping in on the way home to pick up toilet paper or toothpaste or a Birthday card we’d forgotten all about. It’s safe to say that we were in Rite Aid several times per week. My family was so entrenched in the inner workings of Rite Aid that my mom could name everyone who worked there and give you the latest office politics.

My mom stopped in to Rite Aid to pick up Sniffles prescription. She went up to the pharmacy window and in an exchange I can only imagine involved lots of “how have you beens” and chat about the weather and the changes in the neighborhood, my mom asked for the prescription for Sniffles DeMarco. The pharmacist rustled through the prescription bags but couldn’t find anything.

He looked again. “I don’t have anything for a Sniffles DeMarco, but I do have a prescription for a Nipples DeMarco.” My mom knew instantly what had happened. While at the vet with Sniffles, my brother “officially” changed the cat’s name. In an act of sheer fortitude, my mom acknowledged the prescription as hers, and rushed out of the Rite Aid.

Our front door opened with such anger and with a such a bang, it sounded like she had kicked the door in. My mom’s voice echoed through the entire house, “Who…the f*$@…changed the cat’s name…to Nipples?” If she was concerned about that name being announced across the Rite Aid, she had become comfortable enough with the thought of it to scream it through the neighborhood.

My brother, fearing the wrath, did what anyone would have done, he blamed his brother. “Matt did it,” he said. This had the opposite effect because it only made her madder, “He’s in college. He doesn’t even live here anymore!!!”

And like she was left to do so many times in the course of raising two boys, she walked upstairs to her room, shut the door, cooled down, and went on in spite of what we put her through.


Milkshake Cup

Mom has been working with Vanessa, a respiratory therapist, to help her to learn to eat slower, drink slower, and avoid choking. Now the true irony of this is that up until the last couple of years, the opposite has been true…my mom took FOREVER to eat. She would eat so slow that the rest of us would be finished with our seconds before my mom ever made it through a first helping. I always swore it was her mechanism for getting us to stay at the dinner table longer and talk. (I’m still not convinced that wasn’t the case.)

Now she likes to down the drinks as fast as possible and she eats as if someone might take anything left on her plate three minutes after it’s set in front of her. As a result she ends up taking in too much at a time, or swallowing air and coughing while she eats. While the Vanessa has been working with mom the last two weeks, she’s been on pureed food and thickened liquids. I’m not posting a picture of it. Your imagination is accurate. YUCK! But they are about to upgrade her diet because we think we’ve found a workable solution…a device I’ve dubbed the milkshake cup.


Here’s how it works…a special yellow tip at the bottom of the straw prevents the liquid from coming in too quickly, much like a thick milkshake. And the extra long straw means it takes more effort to get the liquid up. So by restricting the amount of liquid that she takes in one sip, she limits the number of times it “goes down the wrong pipe.”

And the milkshake cup has a tight fitting snap lid and a hole that the straw can’t fit through because of the milkshake tip. This is key because with an earlier experimental cup, mom got annoyed with the restricted flow, pulled the straw out and poured the liquid through the straw hole in the lid and into another glass that she could down in seconds. As Vanessa says, “Your mom is a very smart woman.”

But so far so good with the milkshake cup. We used it for coffee and fig newtons and it worked like a charm. Here’s hoping she takes to it.