All posts by Nikki

Have some fun today, mothers-in-law!

Women, ages 50 and beyond (aka “mothers-in-law age), get so much unsolicited advice about maintaining health and happiness. It’s all about weight control, wrinkle prevention, healthy eating, exercising and pursuing hobbies. All of that is well and good. But honestly, the to-do list can be overwhelming, depressing and time-consuming. Instead of promoting good health, the list can create stress.


Sometimes, we just need to have an impromptu good time — as in Yippee! The more good times we have, the younger, happier and healthier we feel. By embracing new experiences, we become better women and more interesting, independent mothers-in-law . Surprisingly, many good times can happen on the cheap or better yet, for free.

So, erase that specter of to-dos from your mind — and replace it with one simple question, “Are you having any fun today?” My answer recently was, “No! I am not having fun today!”  Working, grocery shopping, walking the dog, running errands, weekend gardening – all culminating with “Madame Secretary” on Sunday night TV — is not enough happiness for me. I need to mix it up!

Therefore, I decided to Google the phrase, “cheap and fun things to do,” nearby. Site after site welcomed me to a world of diversions and day trips! I settled on the Montreal Jazz Festival, better known as the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal.

Montreal6 copy
A jazz-filled weekend!

Montreal is only a five-hour drive from our home. My husband and I immediately packed our bags and took off on an adventure. We enjoyed a weekend of non-stop music – in a gorgeous, international city. And, it was free — no admission fee.

Fantastic entertainment!
Fantastic entertainment!

Not having fun today? Go find some! We can’t expect our spouses, significant others, daughters, daughters-in-law, sons, sons-in-law or grandchildren to be responsible for making us happy. But here’s what we can do. Cherish family above all else — and still cultivate new friendships, experiences and interests!

What about a trip to the Montreal Jazz Festival next summer? It’s happening from June 29 – July 8, 2017.


Or why not consider a spirit-lifting activity in your local community this weekend? Let the good times roll! And have some fun today!


It’s July 4! Be a Patriot!


flag copy

It’s been a picture perfect 4th of July — a day filled with family, friends, barbecues and fireworks.  As I was preparing my traditional 7-layer salad, I started thinking.  Is there so much Independence Day hype that we overlook the historical significance?

Oops!  I’m definitely a guilty mother-in-law here!  I quickly looked up the well-known quote from the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” You’d think I’d know those 13 words by heart, but I still had to look up the exact phrase.

On a historical day like Independence Day, maybe each of us should break from the hoopla and reflect on those important words — for they declare inclusion for all people.  Historically, mothers-in-law have experienced exclusion. We’ve been the subject of unkind jokes and unfair criticism. Stereotypes.

As women, in general, we’ve all experienced inequities. Maybe we’ve earned lower pay compared to a male counterpart doing the same job.  Maybe we’ve been the victims of sexual harassment.  Maybe we’re expected to do the womanly thing, like preparing all the food for the family 4th of July picnic! The point is we know how it feels to be treated less than — or to be pigeonholed.

It doesn’t take a Susan B. Anthony, Maya Angelou or Amelia Earhart, as wonderful as they were, to make a real difference.  We are all called to be better people, to be better mothers-in-law — to be patriots in our own unique ways.  Now, go munch another hot dog — and have a wonderful 4th of July!


Yes, A Woman Created Father’s Day!

Father’s Day is June 19, and the hype is underway!  Ads are popping up on traditional and social media, encouraging everyone to find the perfect gift for your perfect Father!  I just received an email prompt to purchase a dad’s holiday in Croatia for my husband.  Whatever happened to crazy ties and comfy socks?

There are so many reminders and suggestions about Father’s Day gifts and gadgets.  Who could possibly forget that Father’s Day is approaching?

But time out!  Let’s consider the impact a mother-in-law had on creating Father’s Day.  The national holiday exists thanks to Sonora Smart Dodd, a passionate daughter, wife, mother — and eventually yes, a mother-in-law.  In addition, she was a student, artist, author, businesswoman and social advocate.

Sonora Smart Dodd
Photo courtesy of the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau. Sonora Smart Dodd created Father’s Day.

Dodd was 16 and grief-stricken when her mother, Ellen, died in childbirth.  Dodd overcame her tragic loss and focused her energies on her family — on helping her father and five younger brothers, including a newborn.  At that time in history, many fathers faced with similar circumstances had sent their youngest children away to live with relatives.  Instead, William Smart kept his family intact. Dodd’s love and respect for her dad became the rock-solid foundation for establishing Father’s Day.

Her inspiration blossomed in July 1909, when her minister delivered an impassioned Mother’s Day sermon, more than a year after the first Mother’s Day was celebrated on May 10, 1908.  Dodd decided to advocate for a similar holiday honoring her father and all fathers.  By that time, she was a 27-year-old wife with an infant son.  Despite her youth, Dodd had a seasoned perspective on her father and his challenges as a single parent. She relentlessly championed her Father’s Day effort for more than a year, hoping it would be celebrated on her father’s June 5 birthday.  Finally, local clergy agreed to deliver the first Father’s Day sermon on June 19, 1910 in Spokane, Washington.

Could Dodd have predicted, so early on, that she would spend much of her lifetime spearheading a Father’s Day movement? Controversy and political maneuvering related to Dodd’s efforts and Father’s Day continued for more than half a century.  A movement in the 1920’s and 30’s even proposed scrapping both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in favor of a Parents Day.  Who could have guessed that Dodd would have to wait until 1972 when President Nixon officially established Father’s Day as a permanent national holiday to be celebrated each third Sunday of June?

Dodd died in 1978, at age 96, knowing she had accomplished her lifetime goal of honoring fathers.  Sonora Smart Dodd was quite the woman.  She was also a mother-in-law, like many of us.  She passed on a powerful message about the persistence and resilience of love — a much more enduring gift than socks, neckties and trendy technology on Father’s Day!

Be a Loving Mother In Law on Memorial Day

Memorial Day is always observed on the last Monday of May.  It’s a day for remembering all the men and women who have died in military service for our country.  But it has also expanded into something broader — a day for remembering anyone special —  whether departed or still alive and kicking!

Some of us visit cemeteries or attend parades on Memorial Day. Others have picnics or take bike rides.  Depending on our unique perspectives, it could be a day of mourning or a celebration of life. The possibilities are endless.


For my family, this recent Memorial Day weekend was an opportunity to catch up on household chores at a leisurely pace.  We mixed it up with smidgeons of fun.  My husband and I grabbed dinner at a neighborhood restaurant one evening.  We enjoyed gardening and a bar-b-q on Monday.  We FaceTimed our 4-year-old grandson.  It was an easy, unstructured weekend.

I also reminisced about my dad who passed away more than 20 years ago.  I posted his photo and a short tribute on Facebook — my way of publicly honoring his memory.  He was a World War II hero, but more importantly, he was my hero.  My dad’s grave is halfway across the country, but he’ll always be near my heart.

Who knew our time would be cut short when he suffered a stroke? Who knew I would never, ever again have a chance to say, “I love you.”

So here’s my post-Memorial Day (or any day) reflection.  Cherish others now.  Foster what is good in every relationship.  Be a loving mother-in-law today.  Make some happy memories!

Tired of Winter? I Am! (April Fool’s!)

I try to be happy and optimistic. But it’s been a challenging, snowy winter in New England. I’m feeling extra antsy today because we’ve had three, consecutive days of bleakness with non-stop rain. In fact, it’s snowing and sleeting as I write this. Unusual for March 31.

Another gray day!
Another gray day!

It could be worse though. In 1997, an April Fool’s Day Blizzard, from March 31 – April 1, dumped three feet of snow in our area. It was a mixture of snow, rain and sleet with gusts from 50 to 70 miles per hour. Public transportation stopped. Thousands of commuters and motorists were stranded. Hundreds of thousands lost power.

I checked the local weather report, and no blizzard is headed our way this April Fool’s Day. It’s predicted to be sunny and in the upper 40’s.

Hardy New Englanders braved that nasty blizzard 17 years ago. They inspired me — and I resisted the temptation to hide under my comfy blanket today! Instead, I grabbed my winter parka and summoned my trusty sidekick, Gus. Doesn’t he look excited?!

Gus, waiting patiently for his walk.
Waiting patiently for his walk.

We sprinted outside for an icy adventure.

There’s a saying, “face what you fear most.” Well, I don’t fear snow and sleet. It’s more of a ‘dislike.’ However, my ‘dislike’ this morning turned to sheer joy for my buddy, Gus. Leaving the house makes him ecstatic! And seeing him so happy, in turn, warms my heart. The ice has melted, leaving puddles of fun behind.

Standing in a puddle, just for the heck of it.

Simple, small wonders abound.

Mothers In Law, Romance — and Basketball?

Mothers-in-law need romance. When I met my husband many years ago, I thought he had a dash of the romantic in him — kinda’ like Mr. Darcy, from Pride & PrejudiceWhat was I thinking? (Go figure . . . I was a starry-eyed English major at the time.)

Basketball Flowers?
These flowers remind me of basketballs.

As I reflect back, my husband is more of a wannabe Larry Bird from Indiana rather than a Mr. Darcy from Derbyshire, England. Larry Bird, retired forward for the Boston Celtics, is my husband’s all-time favorite. He was a 12-time NBA All-Star, winner of three NBA championships and the league’s MVP three times.

Over the years, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I married a die-hard basketball and all-round sports fanatic whose fantasies used to involve me. Now, he’d probably prefer to meet Larry Bird! For the most part, my husband’s passion for basketball has blended into our perfectly seamless life together. (Big wink here.) I think it’s healthy that he still plays on a league twice weekly. And I don’t mind that basketball pops up unexpectedly in conversations — like a few weeks ago when I needed to run a quick errand to Springfield, Massachusetts. I asked a simple question which led to a visit to the Basketball Hall of Fame, located there.

Me: Would you like to come with me to Springfield?

He: Sure! While we’re at it, let’s stop by the Basketball Hall of Fame. I know you’d love it!

Me: Uh, okay.

We drove for 45 minutes. My errand took maybe five minutes. Our conversation continued.

Me: Let’s have lunch somewhere fun!

He: The Basketball Hall of Fame has nice restaurants.

Me: Uh, okay.

Minutes later, we pulled up to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, named after James Naismith who invented the sport in 1891. It’s an impressive, 80,000 square-foot facility that draws fans from every corner of the globe. It’s dedicated to honoring worldwide contributors to the sport of basketball, including coaches, players, referees, managers, executives – you name it.

My husband and I explored the exhibits, had lunch, and visited the Hall of Fame Store where he bought a t-shirt and a cap.

Basketball Hall of Fame Store
Basketball Hall of Fame Store

We paused a few minutes to watch young basketball hopefuls shoot hoops in an oversized basketball court. One boy wildly dribbled the ball, lost control and it accidentally hit his little brother. The younger boy let out a wail, and his big brother consoled him.  Another wiry kid took a jump shot, but his aim was way off. His dad strolled over and proceeded to coach him on foot position. A blonde girl wearing a bright red, Just Do It t-shirt made two baskets in a row. She grinned ear-to-ear. These kids were making history in their own right, and we enjoyed watching their antics. But, it was time to head home.

Before leaving the facility, I made a quick stop in the women’s restroom. Wow. Everyone should check out these powerful hand dryers! They’re designed to look like basketballs.

Hand Dryer
Basketball Hall of Fame Hand Dryer

As my husband and I drove home, our conversation went something like this. (Keep in mind, we’ve been married a long time . . . )

Me: Did you see the hand dryers in the restrooms?

He: Didn’t notice.

Me: Wow. They’re total works of art.

He: What do you mean?

Me: They look like basketballs!

He: Cool.  Didn’t notice.

Me: What stood out the most for you today, Honey?

He: The life-size statue of Larry Bird . . . now that’s a work of art! (Big smile.)

I wonder if other mothers-in-law (and women, in general) engage in similar, romantic conversations with their partners. Or, am I the only lucky one? (Let us know!)

Red Hot

Red Nikes
These stand out in a crowd.

Aren’t these shoes the cutest? I happened to be standing in a crowd at a college graduation recently and spotted them.

I disagree when people say women of a certain age should dress in a certain way. Maybe mothers-in-law should start a new trend and all sport red Nikes.  Would you wear these?

Check out Nike Shoes where you can custom build your shoes to your own personal style, colors and performance preferences.

Mother In Law Farmers? Heck Yeah!

This farmer pulled out in front of me at a stop sign. No, I didn’t honk my horn. He had the right of way, so I sat back and enjoyed the ride, cruising behind his tractor at 15 mph.

Heading home

We live in Massachusetts, and there are some gorgeous farms here. Many are located in towns just outside Boston. According to 2010 statistics from the USDA Economic Research Service, farms total 7,700 statewide and the average size is 67 acres. About 5,465 men and 2,226 women farm here. That’s about a 2:1 ratio between men and women. It’s impressive that so many women are accomplishing what’s often considered a ‘man’s job’ — besides being mothers, mothers-in-law, and grandmothers.

My husband was raised on a Minnesota farm and loves the dirt there. I know that sounds weird, but occasionally, he’ll spout something like, “There’s no dirt like the rich, black soil in Minnesota.” He typically makes such pronouncements when he’s digging around our backyard and suddenly hits New England ledge.

Digging up dirt

Out of curiosity, I decided to compare the two states – Minnesota vs. Massachusetts. A little agricultural rivalry between the Midwest and East Coast is always fun. Minnesota has 81,000 farms. That’s more than ten times the number in Massachusetts, and they’re large, averaging 332 acres. A total of 73,631 men and 7,361 women are farmers there. The percentage of women farmers in Minnesota is lower compared to Massachusetts. But if you think about it, 7,361 women in one place could make a fair-sized town.

Farming is definitely big business in Minnesota, but Massachusetts also has a proud agricultural heritage with many dairy farms, livestock operations, cranberry bogs, apple orchards, pumpkin patches and even Christmas tree farms. Regardless of where we live, farms are vital to our national economy.  They also provide us with beautiful scenery and bountiful harvests.

My mother-in-law was a farmer’s wife. A Philadelphia girl, she fell in love, married a Minnesota farmer, moved 1,300 miles away from her family and managed to raise four lively sons. She also tended fruits and vegetables, canned, sewed, cooked, and cleaned. She actively volunteered in her church and community and handled many other responsibilities. She traded city life for a challenging but rewarding life in a small farm community. When I think of my mother in law, I think of the frontier women who helped settle this country. She was a pioneer and a farmer in her own right.

So, hooray for our farmers — and especially for those strong, confident women who are successfully breaking the gender barrier and running farms. I say, “You go, girl!”

(Click on your state and discover some interesting agricultural facts from the USDA.)


Front Lawn Garden

Driving to the grocery store the other day, I spotted a house with a front lawn of colorful, blossoming flowers. No grass – just pretty flowers. It was a welcome vision after being stuck in traffic on one of the hottest days this spring. My car tediously inched along a dusty road, jam-packed with construction vehicles, forklifts and orange caution signs.

Yellow House
Fun with flowers

In New England, streets are repaired during the spring and summer. Cracks are sealed. Potholes are filled. Asphalt perfumes the air. You don’t dare open your car windows – ever.  My patience was shot. “We all have limited time. We all have to be somewhere,” I kept thinking.

So there I was, crabbing and grumbling to myself, when this house emerged along the roadside. It was a surreal apparition amid a cloud of construction dust. It made me smile. Some inner voice compelled me to pull off the road. I parked, leaned over and grabbed my trusty point-and-shoot camera from the glove compartment. (This Mother In Law is not into fancy photography or anything fancy, by the way.)

I climbed out of the car and snapped a few photos. I admired the lovely flowers for maybe five minutes and walked away feeling refreshed with a happier attitude. Fun has a way of showing up in odd forms and unexpected places. In this case, ‘fun’ was the calming magic of flowers.

Flower lawn

Those flowers made me think of my daughter-in-law because she had just planted a similar perennial garden with her mom. It’s in the front yard of a charming, bluish-green house she shares with my son and their three-month-old son. I thought about how their flowers will grow year-after-year, more radiant with time – just like their love and their little family.

Now, that will be fun to watch.


Be Good to Your Mother In Law. It’s Father’s Day!

It’s Father’s Day . . .

It’s Father’s Day and I’m thinking about my dad. It’s hard to believe that he died so long ago.  It seems like yesterday although 24 years have passed. Back then, I was pregnant with our second child — a daughter.

I received two life-changing phone calls on that memorable day. The first was a long-distance phone call from my mother.  She was crying and said, “Your dad has passed away.” My heart started pounding. I spent several hours pacing, tearfully asking myself the usual questions when a loved one dies. Why did this happen? What exactly happened? How could this possibly have happened?

Then, there was the second phone call. It was the nurse from my doctor’s office. I heard excitement in her voice. “Great news! You’re pregnant!”  I felt a jumble of conflicting emotions – complete joy and utter sadness. I was overjoyed to be pregnant but unhappy that our precious baby would never meet my dad. And, our six-year-old’s journey in getting to know and love his grandpa had ended far too soon.

There would forever be a void. The grandpa-and-grandchildren fishing trips would never be. Maybe my father would have taught his grandson to golf. He had been a caddy as a boy and had a perfect golf stance and swing. Would he have called our daughter, ‘Baby?’ It was his pet name for me. Possibilities for a relationship between my father and my children had vanished.

So, it’s Father’s Day. It’s natural to reminisce about the 45 years of marriage my father and mother shared. I remember a recurring conflict between my parents — the mother-in-law issue. My mom didn’t like my dad’s mother. She pretended to get along in public but complained to my father privately.  My mom also made thoughtless remarks within earshot of her kids. I’d hear her tell my dad, “Your mother wants us over for dinner on your day off! You should be spending your free time with me and the kids — not with your mother!” Or she’d say, “Your mother favors your brother over you.” Another one was, “Your mother spoils your sister’s kids and ignores ours.”  The complaints went on and on, and my dad just listened. He never uttered a retaliatory word. I know it bothered him, and it bothered me. I was a little kid, torn between believing my mother’s nasty comments and trusting my own immature intuition. Did my grandmother deserve such harsh criticism? I had no evidence. She always seemed at ease, often hunched over her stove or wiping her hands on her colorful apron, while a mob of grandkids ran in and out of her house.

Long ago, I realized my mom’s behavior was wrong. For whatever reasons, jealousies or insecurities, she was absolutely wrong in harping about her mother-in-law. It was toxic to our family and hurtful to my dad. He was a good husband and a patient and loving father.  He was a good son. My father didn’t deserve the mother-in-law drama that his wife stirred up.

My mother passed away a few months ago. I am saddened, on this Father’s Day, that she missed an opportunity to make my dad happy by accepting his mother. She missed an opportunity for herself as well. Compassion and communication can heal relationships and misunderstandings. For my parents, there is no going back — no second chances. No more Father’s Days. No more Father’s Day gifts. For the rest of us, there is hope.  The possibilities are endless. We are always a work in progress.

Today is Father’s Day, and I’m remembering my father. Love you, Daddy.