Blog Archives

Love Thy Body – Agroterra Photography

May 13, 2014

Leah DeCesare, Leah DeCesare RI, Love Thy Body Leah, Agroterra Photography, My talented friend, Lisa Gendron, has launched a project entitled Love Thy Body – Women celebrate themselves in essays and portraits. Lisa invited me to participate and I’m honored to be the first featured in her series.

Click here to read my Love Thy Body essay and to see Lisa’s artistry in photography.

I bared myself in writing and physically for this project. Lisa and I spent a chilly morning together in her studio, chatting while she snapped away, making me feel like a model.

Since the photos accompanying the essay are on the Internet, I was quite selective in what I chose for Lisa to post, but all of the images are something I’ll cherish.

Lisa shared that she treasures an old photo of her own grandmother and told me that it will be so special for my children, and even my grandchildren, to have a beautiful picture of me years from now. I love that thought.

I Wanted To Be A Writer When I Grew Up

March 25, 2013

This week’s prompt: What did you want to be when you grew up? Do you still harbor a desire to be that? When did you realize your dream was or wasn’t possible?

cursive writing, learning to write, spiral bound book, silver pen, writing hand, remembering your dreams, how to interpret dreamsI always wanted to be a writer when I grew up.

I wrote all the time as a kid; poems, stories, letters, diaries and even a chapter book which I boldly shipped off to one of the major publishing houses when I was in 5th grade. I took creative writing classes in high school, filled over 100 journals and submitted poems to contests and for publication (I did get something published in the yearbook!)

I always wanted to be a writer but life got busy and took me a different, more “practical” direction. My writing in college was grounded in academics and drifted away from creative pieces. Then graduation planted me in my beloved New York City at a face-paced job in retail buying and then public relations where my writing consisted of proposals, market research reports and press releases. The ideas were still jumping around in my head, waiting to be released.

Then came my sweetheart, then my baby, then more babies and my writing life recorded their activities and their quips, their firsts and their funnies. I have journals and letters to each of them. We moved a few times, I dove into a career in all things babies and birth and grew my expertise and knowledge along with my business.

Now, in my forties, I’m coming back around and making writing a priority in my life. Almost a year ago, I began this blog and it has helped me get disciplined about writing and I’m loving it! All those lists of book ideas, it turns out they’re actually perfect blog posts!

Childhood Pets

March 14, 2013

This Week’s Prompt: Did you have a favorite childhood pet? A crazy one? What were their names? Tell us a story about your animal companions or lack their of.

[caption id="attachment_1921" align="alignleft" width="250"]cats, black and white cat, tootsie, pet named tootsie, deaf cat, mites in cats ears Beth took this picture of Tootsie. I think he’s sleeping in a dress-up cheerleader pom pom.[/caption]

I’m allergic to cats, really allergic, but we had a cat for most of my growing up years. When I went away to college, I realized how much better I could breathe without cats. Coming home for holidays I had to be out of the house for chunks of time, the cats got to stay, I went out for air. Yet thinking back, I truly have fond memories of our childhood pets. Somehow, dumb as it sounds, I don’t really think we credited our kitties with how bad my asthma was, or we simply loved them too much.

Before the cats, there was Nicky, a husky, a sweet dog who would come to my grandparents with us sometimes, he was well-behaved and knew he wasn’t allow to leave the kitchen.

One day Nicky snapped at our neighbor, a boy my age. It was hot and he was throwing rocks at the dog, but after that incident, we had to give Nicky to another family with no children. My sister, brother and I spent many weekends at my grandparent’s house, and one day a dog that looked so much like Nicky showed up in the back yard. The details are all fuzzy, but my grandmother invited the dog in for a treat and he wouldn’t leave the kitchen! We were amazed, apparently the new family lived nearby and we were able to see Nicky a couple of times after he moved away from home.

Then the cats. We never had more than one at a time, yet since we had several through the years, apparently we didn’t have very long-lived cats. There was an orange cat named Ginger, I can’t remember his story at all, just a picture in my head and his name. Then we had a sweet black and white cat who we named after a favorite childhood story book character: White Faced Simmony. It comes from Master of All Masters, a book memory that makes me smile.

Childhood Sick Days – Soap Operas + Chicken Soup

March 8, 2013

I love to document life, in videos, writing, art and photos so I am jumping on this thoughtful and inspiring project, Mom Before Mom, started by Carla at All of Me Now.
See the Mom Before Mom category for more of my posts in this series:

How did you get your name?
How did you celebrate childhood birthdays?
What was your childhood bedroom like?
What was your favorite home cooked meal?

The Family Car

This week’s prompt: Who took care of you when you were sick? How did you spend sick days? From soup to ointments to old wives tales, how did your family teach you to heal?

childhood sick days, soap operas, chicken broth, before I was a mom, childhood asthma, kids throwing up, freezing chicken broth, homemade broth, Soap operas and chicken soup. That’s what comes to mind first when I think of my childhood sick days.

In the days before DVR, DVDs, On Demand and a zillion channels to choose from, we had the basic channel numbers up to 13 (PBS), and some were only static. So being home sick meant getting to stay in my parents bed or on the couch and watch daytime television between naps.

Sip some flat ginger ale, watch As the World Turns, choke down dry toast, flip to Price is Right, a slug of fuschia Pepto, now it’s time for Hollywood Squares.

I have memories of both of my parents, and both of my grandparents caring for me at different times, in different ways when I was sick. Daytime, home-from-school sick was solely my Mom’s gig. She took care of me and my Dad would come see how I was feeling when he got home form work.

There was a holiday we hosted one year when I was sick enough to stay in bed. I remember a haze of visitors to check on me, to slather me anew with Vick’s Vap-O-Rub, to take my temperature with a glass thermometer that stabbed under my tongue and always crept out toward my teeth.

The Family Car

February 21, 2013

I love to document life, in videos, writing, art and photos so I am jumping on this thoughtful and inspiring project, Mom Before Mom, started by Carla at All of Me Now.
Carla explains the idea behind Mom Before Mom: “So much of memory keeping is focused on capturing our children’s experience but what of our own? Who will capture the mother’s journey as a woman? Who will honor our journey if we don’t honor it first?
My hope is to make this a community effort. To gather a group of women, writers, storytellers who are eager to write from the heart and share themselves. So I invite you to join me.”

I’ve accepted her invitation, see the Mom Before Mom category for more of my posts in this series:

How did you get your name?
How did you celebrate childhood birthdays?
What was your childhood bedroom like?
What was your favorite home cooked meal?

This week’s prompt: What kind of car did your family drive? What played on the radio? Where did you sit? Take us on a road trip.

sunny road, learning to drive, 70's cars, driving in the 70's, Carol and Paula, The magic garden, yellow vega, Do you remember Paula and Carol on the kids show, The Magic Garden?

As soon as I read this prompt, the first thing I thought of was my Mom’s OLD yellow Vega with wood paneled sides. My sister, Beth, and I would pull the seat belts from the front (did they even make seat belts in the back in the 70’s?) and we would make swings out of them. We’d sit on the straps pretending to be long-haired, guitar-playing singers. The yellow Vega, good times.

The next family car I remember is another imitation-wood paneled mobile, a green station wagon, in which we all begged to sit in “the way back,” the third seat that faced backwards. No one was buckled in. We’d sometimes even stand up behind my Dad driving and rub his shoulders or sit on “the hump” in the middle of the floor of the back seat.

In later years, my Mom drove Hondas and my Dad drove Buicks, though there was the impractical, sporty white Mazda RX7 that my Mom loved until she got stuck on a steep hill with the standard shift! That was a fun car, not a family car.hide and seek moon game, moon games, car games, siblings in the car, kid distracting in car, driving with kids, moon through the trees,

On night drives, Beth and I would look out the windows and play a hide-and-seek kind of game with the moon. “Moon, moon, come out, come out, wherever you are,” and we’d search for it on different sides of the car as we followed the winding roads.

Behind the car memories that make me smile, I have a hazy vision of using the seat lines to divide up space between my brother, sister and me. These were creases that could not be crossed without peals of “Ma-om! He’s on my side!”

One car had an 8-track player and we’d listen to Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Carpenters, and Bobby Vinton. Or we’d talk. If he wanted to talk with us or instill some wisdom, my Dad would pull one of us aside with the invitation that was really a directive, “Let’s go for a ride,” and we’d slip out together. Many a talk of life, boys, problems, or praise happened driving along with my Dad. He still does that now (but no longer drives Buicks).

I sat in the front seat at some point, certainly younger than we let our kids, and my Mom used to shoot her arm out across me when she was stopping short or someone cut her off. She knew it wouldn’t do anything to really save me, but it was her automatic mother-reaction. In her car, she’d tote us around and deliver Meals on Wheels.

My Dad always upgraded to the latest model car with the newest gadgets. He had an early model “car phone” installed in one car, it was like the one in the movie Sixteen Candles that was wide and thick and awkward, but it was SO COOL!

8 track tape, 70's music, orange 8 track, The Carpenters, Buicks, old car phones, green station wagons, third seat in family car, Driving on longer trips, my parents would sometimes find an oldies station and would shout out the names of the songs and dig into their memories for the names of the singer or band. I laugh at that so often as Nick and I now blare songs from our youth and subject the kids to shouted choruses and name that tune. At least our songs aren’t “oldies.”

They’re not, right?

Growing up, our cars, much like a kitchen in a home, were central to family life. Functional transportation, yes, but really, community on wheels.

Celebrating Childhood Birthdays

February 8, 2013

This is my fourth post in the Mom Before Mom series started by Carla at All of Me Now.

This Week’s Prompt: How did you celebrate your birthday?

Happy Birthday Leah, Birthday cake, decorating a birthday cake, kids birthday cakes, pretty flowered cake, peach flowers,Like in last week’s Mom Before Mom post about favorite home cooked meals, my Mom was central in making birthdays special growing up. She baked, decorated, planned, wrapped, hostessed and cleaned up after.

Most of my memories of my earliest birthdays are from faded square pictures. My friends and I all dressed in frilly pink party dresses, a cardboard throne decorated for the birthday girl, streamers, balloons and presents.

My birthday is in early November, so as I got older, I often had Halloween-themed birthday parties. Decked out in costumes, my friends would arrive and between autumnleah's birthday, 1970's birthdays, old birthday photos, pink party dress, birthday girl games, my Mom would lead us through a mini haunted house in our finished basement. We loved the nervous feeling and giggled nervously as she told us a legend, blind-folded, and we had to step over imaginary creatures, touch unknown brains and we somehow ended with our face in a plate of flour, I wonder if she remembers how the story went.

Even for my sleepover parties, my Mom planned games like dressing up relays. One year, I remember my Dad getting angry because some of my friends dressed my little brother up as a ballerina and then tied together the pink tights at his feet. I got in trouble, but it still makes me laugh!

As a Mom, I really don’t love slumber parties, but for my birthdays, just like my kids now, I always wanted to have a pajama party. My friends and I would line up in our family room and do the hustle to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. (Can you guess how old I am?)

Favorite Home Cooked Meal

February 1, 2013

I love to document life, in videos, writing, art and photos so I am jumping on this thoughtful and inspiring project, Mom Before Mom, started by Carla at All of Me Now.
Carla explains the idea behind Mom Before Mom: “So much of memory keeping is focused on capturing our children’s experience but what of our own? Who will capture the mother’s journey as a woman? Who will honor our journey if we don’t honor it first?
My hope is to make this a community effort. To gather a group of women, writers, storytellers who are eager to write from the heart and share themselves. So I invite you to join me.”

I’ve accepted her invitation, this is my third post in the series.
Last week’s post: What was your childhood bedroom like?

This week’s prompt:
What was your favorite home cooked meal as a child? Did you help make it? How did it make you feel? Share the scents and sights and flavors.

salmon with asparagus, salmon dinner, kids eating fish, getting kids to eat vegetables, healthy snack ideas, healthy dinner ideas,My Mom cooked homemade meals every night. We ate at the table my Dad built. My parents, my sister, brother and I each had our own spot at the table, literally and figuratively.

We had our seats, but we also had our say. More than the food, I remember the discussions, the laughing, the problem solving, and the sharing that happened around that table. We devoured side dishes of daily check ins, gobbled up glimpses of business decisions when my Dad purposefully told stories from the office. We were fed lessons from the news along with our green beans and explored family values and decisions.

On the nights when my Dad was on a business trip, we would get visits from an imaginary Italian woman, Granny Fanny Nesserole. My Mom would slip into this persona and accent while we tumbled into fits of laughter.

My Mom made dinners special. It was usually our job to set the table, but some nights, she would set the table in an extra special way, with flowers, candles, pretty china and she would serve an appetizer before the main course. On Valentine’s Day, we would come to the table and each find a card and small package wrapped in green salad, wooden salad bowl, family dinner traditions, pass the salad, tomato salad, mom before mom, pinks and reds.

We always had a salad with dinner. My Dad would ask for the salad bowl when we were all done and he’d eat the rest right out of the serving bowl. Sure, we learned manners at the dinner table, but that was his thing and we thought it was normal. One night, I remember my Mom was serving liver (back in the 70’s when it used to be healthy) and my Dad, before taking a bite announced, “If that’s what I think it is, no one touch the salad!” A bit of family lore.

What Was Your Childhood Bedroom Like?

January 26, 2013

I love to document life, in videos, writing, art and photos so I am jumping on this thoughtful and inspiring project, Mom Before Mom, started by Carla at All of Me Now.
Carla explains the idea behind Mom Before Mom: “So much of memory keeping is focused on capturing our children’s experience but what of our own? Who will capture the mother’s journey as a woman? Who will honor our journey if we don’t honor it first?
My hope is to make this a community effort. To gather a group of women, writers, storytellers who are eager to write from the heart and share themselves. So I invite you to join me.”

I’ve accepted her invitation, this is my second post in the series. Last week was about how I got my name.
This week’s prompt is: What was your childhood bedroom like? Give a tour. How did it change as you matured?

[caption id="attachment_1549" align="alignleft" width="231"]sisters dressing up, kids playing house, girl dressing up as boy, sisters getting along, sisters laughing, siblings playing, pink suitcase, A favorite activity, Beth and I dressing up. I was 7, she was 5.[/caption]

I lived in one house, in one bedroom for my entire childhood. Until my later years of college, I even came home to that bedroom from school. (It was fair that I eventually got bumped, my brother had grown up with the booby-prize of a bedroom.)

Birth Hill Road in Newtown, Connecticut. A white colonial up on a hill and my bedroom was in the back corner, facing “the Big Rock” in the woods. My sister, Beth, and I shared that room when we were little, my Mom painted Raggedy Ann dolls over our beds in place of head boards. Each doll held a flower and faced the other.

Once, years after the Raggedy Anns were painted over, when we had redesigned the layout of the room and had our beds meeting in an “L” shape, our little brother was running from tip to tip of each bed and then tripped, perhaps on a sister’s foot if memory serves me, and launched into the corner of a windowsill. Hospital. Stitches. Angry Mother.

I’m not sure how old I was when Beth moved down the hall. Her new room was very cool. My Dad built cabinets and shelves out from the wall so her bed nestled into the wall. Book shelves and curtains made it a cozy nook.

My memories of when I had the room to myself are of tons of matching furniture, my parents had bought a double set for when I had my roommate. On my own, I loved organizing the shelves and my closet, I was neat and savored having my own space. I had forgotten until writing this, I had a bunny collection on one of those shelves, various ceramic bunnies in all sizes and poses, wonder where those are now.

As a teen, I got my own phone in my room for Christmas, it was just a house phone, connected to the one family phone number, but it was MY phone, in MY room with privacy! It had a really long cord and no cradle, it was 80’s hip and could be hung up on any of my many dresser surfaces.

I didn’t have much input into the decor or scheme really, which didn’t bother me, but I loved arranging the things I had and keeping my space organized. The colors were peachy and a green shaggy kind of rug, evidence of my 70’s childhood. The dressers had hutches attached to most of them and there were sweet little apricot flowers and a basket weave-type pattern in them. Not my style now, but I loved them then.

Over the years, it changed and my Dad even put in another window facing the woods in our back yard. He was always an awesome builder and woodworker but my Mom would attest (and complain) that he wasn’t big on prep or clean up work. He loved the demo part of the job and cut the hole for my new window without putting down a drop cloth. For months and months after that job was done we heard pieces of sheet rock going up the vacuum (remember, it was shag carpet, lot’s of room to hide plaster chunks!)

That room framed my ordinary everyday life: Late nights of homework, sleepovers with friends, talking with boys, posters on the back of my door. And that room framed the extraordinary life moments: Primping for dances, gowning for proms, talking with boys.

Years after I moved out, my bridesmaids and I stood in my old bedroom in front of an air conditioner in the no-longer-new-window, lifting our dresses to the cool breeze on that scorching July day. I was so thankful that Nick, my husband got to know the home and room I grew up in, but my kids never did.

When my parents sold the house and moved out not long before our first baby was born, the whole family was together and we walked room to room and everyone shared a memory for each room. Laughter, tears from laughter, tears from sadness, sadness from good-bye. Nearly three decades of family memories lived in those rooms, so many of them in my corner of the house.

How Did You Get Your Name?

January 17, 2013

I love to document life, in videos, writing, art and photos so I am jumping on this thoughtful and inspiring project, Mom Before Mom, started by Carla at All of Me Now.

The idea is that our children only know us “Mom,” “Mommy,” or “Mama” but don’t know who we were before we had that name. Each week, Carla will provide a prompt which will result in a collection of stories from me to my children, giving them a glimpse into me, before I was their Mom.

Our first prompt: How did you get your name? Did you always love it? Have you ever wanted to change it?

leah name, cut out letters, ransom note style words, collages, magazine letters cut out, meaning of Leah, Hebrew Leah, crafty name,

I don’t think my parents had a reason for naming me Leah, except that they liked it and the second runner up, Jennifer, had just been used by my Mom’s friend. My middle name is Jane, after my mother, which is special to me now, though I’m not sure I appreciated that when I was younger.

Growing up I looked my name up in a baby name book for it’s meaning: the weary one. Seriously?! For someone who loves the meaning behind things, this was a bummer, and anyone who knows me will confirm that I tend to have a lot of energy. A-Lot-Of-Energy! (Over years of my overachieving ways, though, I have over-committed myself at times and have felt weary.)

I’m not sure I prefer the more modern meaning: delicate. I’m pretty bold, self confident and consider myself a strong, passionate woman. However, when I really consider the meaning, I think my heart is empathetic, open and honest, and so it can feel sensitive and fragile. I hate feeling misunderstood – I’d never make it in politics!

As a kid, I was the only Leah. There was another girl about six years younger than me, who spelled her name Lea, but until college, she was the only other person I’d ever met who had my name.

Generally, I liked being individual and having an uncommon name, but I craved something personalized. Other girls had signs on their bedroom doors announcing “Carrie’s Room” or had stickers, hair clips or jewelry labeled with their names. Nothing ever had Leah on it. Nothing.

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