The Wolfeboro Project: The Ugly Truth

The Wolfeboro Project: The Ugly Truth

Porch addition051417Damn that #HGTV! Between #FixerUpper and the other home makeover shows I’ve watched for the past 10 years, I thought I was savvier than most. Frankly, I know nothing about home improvement.

Today marks one year since we closed on what I continue to call my ‘Happy Place.’ It’s

obvious to us now, we’re looking at a 10-year project. Unless we come into a bucket-full of money, we’ll renovate what we can ourselves and plan and budget for the major projects.

After just a year invested in this project, here’s my best advice if you’re considering a fixer upper:

  1. Be sure the bones of the house are in good shape: unless you’re buying a ‘knock down,’ be sure you have a solid home – from the windows and floors to the roof and walls.
  2. IMG_0390Location, location, location still rules; if you love you view, neighborhood, home site – almost everything else is cosmetic.
  3. Break projects down into smaller, manageable chunks. Doug managed to re-do the guest bathroom in a weekend. But we made sure in advance, we had all the necessary items including a new vanity and fixture, flooring, lighting, most major accessories, paint for the walls and cabinet, etc. We could not have completed the update in a weekend if we did not have all the items and supplies.
  4. Pick your battles: it’s easy to disagree about a project. Realize not everything will go your way. Compromise, compromise, compromise.

All this as I work in my office listening to a comedy radio channel blaring outside and our three artisans are literally hammering away at the screened porch addition. Doug is really admiring the craftsmanship (yay); I just want it to be done. Patience, Brenda.

We chose our contractor mainly because Doug really liked him. I yielded since Doug had a background in construction. So he is able to talk construction language with the contractor – which is hugely important.

Once this addition is done and we can enjoy New Hampshire days and evenings on the screened porch – then we’ll breathe a while – and figure out what project is next.

The fixer-upper truth may not be pretty, but we keep our eye on the prize knowing it’s a long game and worthwhile.

Remembrance: His Laugh Lives On

Remembrance: His Laugh Lives On

Two years – 724 days – or an eternity; that’s what it seems like without my dad. The two years of healing since his death in 2013 has been an evolution. Most often, I remember him sweetly. Frank Jorett was a kind, gentle soul; a happy man overall with a legion of friends; so many friends and people he touched that

New Hampshire 2011

New Hampshire 2011

we were overwhelmed at his memorial service. The line of people wrapped around the block for hours.

A tear falls as I write this remembrance. Nearly every day, I know dad is watching. His belly laugh is still strong in my memory. His voice in my brain is clear and solid. I miss him wildly during baseball season. Out loud, I’ll comment, “What did you think of that call, dad,” as the Phillies or whoever I was watching play of the field of dreams. Now, my husband, Doug is watching baseball more intently. In this postseason, he is turning on the games and checking the scores – sometimes before I even give it a thought. Perhaps dad’s spirit and my unflinching love of baseball have inspired Doug.

Dad & Mom at the Phillies 2007

Dad & Mom at the Phillies 2007

Our family misses dad every day. A recent dinner with the family brought us together to mark a long celebration of my mom’s 80th birthday (not until 2017). The gathering of an organization my family has been involved with for decades, brought many of my dad’s friends, too. One man came up to use and told us the story of how every day since my dad died, his day starts with prayers that start off remembering my dad. He told us how he had so

Joretts at Artisans event - without dad

Joretts at Artisans event – without dad -2015

much fun with my dad. He did so much work for the organization – because he loved the camaraderie. The event was special – but I could not help but wish dad was there in body, not just spirit.

While two years has passed, it is clear sadness bubbles up when I least expect it. The new normal of holidays and occasions without dad has been difficult. Marking October 24th does not come without a tear – though it’s important to remember that smiles and laughter marked nearly every day of dad’s life – especially in the last years. Mom calls dad her rock; she continues to adjust and evolve with a circle of

Dad at Adam's high school graduation dinner at our house; he was always a jokester

Dad at Adam’s high school graduation dinner at our house; he was always a jokester

friends, trips with senior groups and a full schedule of things to do. My brother, Steve, misses dad in many ways since they spent so much time together shopping and running errands. Now Steve, who lives closer to mom, is at least a ‘stone’ for mom and she depends on him.

Next year, we are repeating our vacation in New Hampshire with another week with mom, Steve, his wife, Sue and our son, Adam. It’s a wonderful time; but it again will be without dad. And that is front of mind for me – still – two years since he left us.

Finding My Rudder

Finding My Rudder

A major event that I produced is now past. Everything went well; the event was well received; kudos’ were exchanged and I move forward. Except I need to adjust myself.

It’s been just over six Imagemonths since Dad died; nine months since his surgery and about a year since he found out the cancer was back. Grief is an unknown for most people. We do not know how we’ll deal with the sadness and loss. For me, every day brings a moment of memory. Some days are better than others. Tears flow now as I write this.

My amazing cohort in the planning of the major event that just passed spent some time on the phone with me advising me that basically, I need an attitude adjustment. During the stressful weeks leading to the event, some of my actions and reactions were off the charts; we all have intense moments. What she described to me gave me extreme pause and the knowledge that I have been rudderless.

My new normal is without dad. Baseball season reminds me of that every day. He was who I talked with about the Phillies’ pitching; a great Chase Utley play to first and whether Ryan Howard can make it through the season without major injury. The day before the event, we orchestrated a photo-op at a school. To take the aerial photograph above the scene created by children, Ladder 24 came to the scene. The firefighters assisted me into the bucket of the extension ladder and from 90 feet above, I snapped the shots.

Dad was a retired firefighter. Ladder 24 is the last fire truck he stood in front of in May 2013. My mom, dad, husband and son were Imagedriving back from a Sunday lunch and I knew we needed to stop at the firehouse. The firefighters on duty knew me and welcomed us into the house for a short and meaningful visit. Dad was in his element; talking about firefighting days, sharing stories with the men on duty. The photo I have of mom and dad at the firehouse that day and in front of Ladder 24 mean a lot – especially now.

My son was grateful to see his Pop-Pop in his element; the camaraderie of a firehouse is like family. I grew up knowing this. Dad’s easy-going, happy ways made him always popular among his colleagues. That is why I have felt rudderless. I know I’m turning the corner; I feel as though if I could just talk with him for a minute, I’d get my bearings again.

Time will pass; I will make the needed adjustments in my attitude; I’ll breathe and wait while situations play out. Dad would want me to do that. I can hear him now.

Coming Home

The parenting rules blur when your son or daughter is in college. You may want to guide them, offer advice from your years of learning and experience and prevent them from making mistakes you may have made. Well, forget it. For the most part, your college-aged children want you to let them go.

We have one child – everything is one and done; we go through experiences once and move on to the next experience. Since September, I’ve learned that our son rarely wants to hear our advice. He’ll listen to our friends or just about anyone else when it comes to college-aged advice – but not us. After I got over my slightly hurt feelings along with the desire to impart my wisdom on our son, I’ve realized, he just wants us to LISTEN.

EndFall2012_20121212_02 - Copy

Son & grandparents – Dec. 2012

He called us last week. We talked – or mostly HE talked for much of the 30-minutes. We asked questions showing our interest – he answered. In an earlier call, he went on about how the spring semester is so very different from his fall semester. In my had I was thinking, “Gees, didn’t I tell him that?” Of course I did; taking a look at his spring course selection, I knew he’d have a ton of reading and I told him so. This got more intense when he made the honors program. He did NOT want to hear that from me. He had to experience the challenges himself. No warning from mom was going to penetrate his defenses.

Which leads me to my final revelation. Weeks ago, our son chided us for making plans so far in advance: vacations, dinner reservations, parties, etc. He called last night – Tuesday – to say he was thinking about coming home this coming weekend and did we have any plans. That is HUGE for him. Normally, he’d call us 15 minutes before – or after he wanted to do something. I can clearly see that he is starting to manage his schedule and look forward.

So, when he calls, I listen – and take notes. That way I am forced to listen; I have a record of what he talked about and I can ask good, relevant questions that engage him in the conversation. I guess I’m growing up, too. And I can’t wait to see our son this weekend.


No Complaints

I went through the painless process today of having blood work done. It’s the first step in what will be an involved process as I tackle this hip device dilemma. As depressed as I felt the end of last week and into this week, I couldn’t help but realize that I’ll be just fine.

There I was at the lab, rolling up my sleeve for the two minutes it took to have blood drawn. I’m not one to watch the needle go in and the blood flow, so I looked out the window. Snow squalls were whirling around pretty hard at that hour. Outside, a man was wheeling a young woman to a van after she had been at the lab. She appeared to have on her lap what I’ll guess was her entire medial history in a huge binder. The man lifted the woman out of the wheel chair and she maneuvered awkwardly into the front seat of the van.

In that moment, I knew that no matter what happens along the way during my saga, I will probably never be in the position of that young woman: wheel-chair bound; dependent on others to help her do so many things. I think of my friend Dan who has been a quadriplegic for decades and my friends, whose son will need their care for a very long time. What everything really comes down to is – love, family and friends. The rest is just speed bumps; minor glitches; stuff we just have to handle. We fix things – then move on. What counts is how we live and love with other people every day. I have nothing to complain about.

Turkey Anytime

A turkey dinner with all the trimmings has come to represent Thanksgiving. On a cold, January day, two months after Thanksgiving, the smells of turkey and the trimmings wafted through the house today. After a morning of some work and errands, I stuffed the 10 pound bird and put it in the oven this afternoon. I even made cranberry sauce.

MacCheeseRemember your favorite meal as a child? Was it macaroni and cheese (from scratch – not the boxed stuff)? Meatloaf? Even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can be comforting. Food is an amazing trigger of memories. When I think of macaroni and cheese I remember my grandmother’s casserole dish with its wood base. I was really young, so in my mind’s eye, that casserole dish was really big. I loved my grandmom’s mac and cheese. My mother also made terrific macaroni and cheese, which is probably why I have never made boxed mac and cheese.

Tomorrow, we’ll visit our son at college. We”ll be taking along some homemade spaghetti sauce and pasta and homemade chocolate chip cookies. Like mother; like son.

When Do You Stop Worrying?

The book I read to my son over and over when he was little had a memorable verse: “I’ll love you forever; I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” It seems no matter how much time passes, I am always thinking about how he’ll turn out. Will he make the right decisions and choices that will lead to his happiness? Will he get in over his head with his schedule? Is what he is doing already in college sustainable?
I suppose this is all about letting go. He is 18 and testing his limits. Right now he’s succeeding beyond all our expectations and probably his own. He’s discovering the world is his oyster and he wants to take advantage of every opportunity.
The hard part is tripping and falling on your face. While he’s done his fair share of that already, I just hope and pray he finds everything he’s looking for. Perhaps he doesn’t know what IT is just yet, but it will be wonderful to hear from him when that light bulb goes off. I long for the day when we may hear, ” Hey, Mom and Dad, thanks for everything you did to get me here. I couldn’t have done it without you.” I may not say this out loud to him but, “as long as I’m living, my baby he’ll be.”


Do you respect other people and then expect a least a little respect back? I don’t think that’s too much to expect today, but apparently, I’m wrong. I was listening to NJ 101.5’s Dennis and Judi show on the ride back from a client in Ocean County as I usually do. (Driving through the Pinelands gets a little monotonous and counting the number of dead animals along the side of the road just doesn’t do it for me.)
The question and discussion of the hour was “Have you ever gone off on a police officer?” I know it happens, but I could not believe the number of people who admitted to freaking out on a police officer. I always find it amusing when you see one of the police reality shows when the obviously belligerent or drunk person suddenly realizes he or she is in a heap of trouble and gets polite by calling the officer ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am.’ Um, it’s too late, pal.

A couple of summers ago, we were vacationing in New Hampshire. We’d gone out after dark for ice cream at our favorite dairy, Sandwich Creamery; which is way off the beaten path. (Isn’t everything in New Hampshire?). My husband was driving my brother’s minivan and I think six or seven of us were stuffed in the van. Well, Doug drove through the main part of Moultonborough a little too fast and a police officer tucked on the side of the road hit his lights and pulled behind us in seconds. Well, my sweet mom, who I guess lost her senses for a split second, was a bit annoyed we were getting pulled over. She opens the minivan’s sliding door to get out. We all yelled “Stay in the car!” Or words to that effect. We scared the wits out of her. She couldn’t understand why she had to stay in the van. Meantime, Doug got off with a warning – I can only attribute it to goodwill tourism AND that Doug was genuinely polite; fully admitted he’d gone too fast through Moultonborough and would never – ever do it again.

Police have a tough job. They serve us well. Respect is a given.

And Nobody Got Hurt

Parenting an 18-year-old is no box of chocolates. No matter how many times you try to press to your young adult that the truth is better than a lie, he or she seems to want to test you every single time. Our son is no different. Without divulging details, Adam has tested our trust several times in the past months (and probably years), and I can only hope nobody will be hurt in the end. The problem is, every time he tells us where he’s going or who he’ll be with, I wonder, “Is that REALLY what’s going on?”

Whether finding out he was with a friend who wrongly took a parent’s car out that ended up with damage or drove to a young lady’s house when he said he would be with the guys, you have to wonder, “Is this how we raised him?” Of course it’s not. Of course we taught him telling the truth is always the right course to take in life. We taught him lies only get bigger AND that we’ll probably catch him in the lie. We often have and will catch him.

Understanding why young adults lie is difficult. We were that age once of course – which holds absolutely no weight when you tell your son or daughter that fact. A

Frontal lobes- not fully developed until around age 25.

Frontal lobes- not fully developed until around age 25.

major part of the problem is simply that young adults’ brains are still under construction. Yes, they think they know everything and you could not possibly understand anything they are going through, but that again points to their maturing brains. In an article I found on a U.S Health and Human Services site called “Maturation of the Prefontal Cortex,” you can read plenty on the development of the brain, risk taking and this part of the anatomy that some call “The CEO of the Brain.” This section of the referenced article sums this up – albeit clinically:

“Adolescents take risks to test and define themselves. Risk-taking is both beneficial and harmful. It can lead to situations where new skills are learned and new experiences can prepare them for future challenges. Risk-taking serves as a means for discovery about oneself, others and the larger world. The natural and normative proclivity for risk-taking plays a central role in adolescent development, making it a time of both great potential and great vulnerability.”

This fact does not make me feel any better; the researchers say the mortality rate for 15-24 year-olds is more than TRIPLE that of the rate for grade school children. Friends, we cannot live in fear everyday that something horrible is going to happen. We can only love our children; let them know we care and are concerned about their behavior and that there will be consequences for risky behavior and choices.

For now, I can be thrilled and quite proud about one very special achievement: our son earned a very respectable cume of 3.53 in his course work for his first semester at college.

Should Auld Acquaintance…

And so it goes…another year has passed. The memories can be fleeting or quite significant. Depending on which direction you turn, you may think Kim Khardashian’s pregnancy is a big deal (really??) or more than likely something closer to home has been etched into your brain’s Rolodex (remember that?).

WashDC_20111203_65 IMG_0130In no particular order, here are some biggies that you may relate to:

1. Son graduates from high school

2. Son is accepted to college (and gets fairly good financial package)

3. Son gets through his first semester relatively unscathed

4. Our jobs/business/marriage/life-in-general continue to go well

What’s next? Presuming we all survive the fiscal cliff and skip resolutions involving food and fitness, we can look forward to:

1. Pitchers and catchers report around Feb. 14

2. Boating season springs anew – possibly as early as March

3. Another vacation is planned (Woo-hoo! It’s a big reason for living)

4. Family and friends gather often for good times

There’s a line in the movie “Bridges of Madison County” that applies today as we begin another year and think about change. National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid played by Clint Eastwood says it well: “Things change. They always do, it’s one of the things of nature. Most people are afraid of change, but if you look at it as something you can always count on, then it can be a comfort.”

So fear not – change will come – embrace it – and have a glorious new year.