It’s that time of year again. I’m beginning to see pictures of kids and young adults heading back to school. How does the summer go by so quickly? Morgan heads back to Pittsburgh in just over a week, and it feels like she just got home! Oh, how these girls are going to miss her (Mom and Dad, too)!
Isn’t it amazing how fast our kids grow, how quickly the seasons change, and how each year of our lives seems to be shorter and shorter?
Sometimes, I feel as though I must have slept through a week because I just can’t believe it’s gone already.
Our family loves to entertain. I’ve written about taking friends crabbing, hosting our annual Mother-Daughter Cookie Swap, and hosting huge gatherings for holidays, graduations, weddings, and any other occasions that come along. I get a real thrill out of seeing a new RSVP pop into my inbox, and I spend hours planning menus, setting tables, putting up tents, decorating, and trying to make our home feel as festive and inviting as I can. I love finding and sharing new recipes as much as I love making the same beloved recipes over and over.
Whether we’re hosting a large event or simply having friends over for lunch or dinner, inviting others to our home and finding a way to make it special is the way I show my love and appreciation for them. That’s how our annual cookie swap got started–as a way of inviting our closest friends into our home to celebrate the gift of their friendship and let them know how special they are to us.
The Gospel reading this past Sunday was about the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. I heard recently that for two-thousand years, theologians have gotten the story wrong. The modern interpretation is that the story is not about a miracle but about sharing. Supposedly, the Apostles asked the boy with the bread to share, and once he shared, everyone else decided to share, too. We’re now told that Jesus couldn’t really make five loaves and two fishes feed five-thousand people, and we should accept that this is just a nice story about the good side of humanity.
On Sunday, Father Michael gave us his own take on this story. He confirmed that it is about sharing, but not in the way that modernists believe. Jesus asked the Apostles where they could get food, and Andrew answered, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”(John 6:9). Jesus told the Apostles to share the boy’s food with the crowd, and miraculously, they had their fill and then “collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat” (John 6: 13). Father told us that God was able to perform this wonderful miracle because one little boy was willing to share all that he had.
When Ken and I got married back in 1993, we knew that we were going to be parents right away–his mother’s Golden Retriever was due to have a litter of puppies just a few weeks after our wedding. We were both very much dog people and were raised with dogs in the house. We brought our first baby home a few days before Christmas, and the timing could not have been more perfect. That was the winter of the great ice storm that crippled most of the Mid-Atlantic, particularly the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Ken was working in Annapolis and was stranded. I was home alone–two hours from my own hometown–with no friends, no family (I still hardly knew Ken’s family), and nowhere to go. I was housebound with nobody but Tucker to keep me company. I’ve often kidded that it was that puppy who got me through the first year of being married.
There are few things our family enjoys more during the summer than crabbing in the rivers and creeks that extend from the great Chesapeake Bay like multiple fingers from a hand. These offshoots, consisting of salt, fresh, and brackish waters, are as much a part of Ken and me as the blood that runs through our veins. I come from a long line of watermen and boat builders dating back to the Ark and the Dove that landed on St. Clement’s Island in 1634. Much of my family history was woven into my book, The Devil’s Fortune. Ken began working as an apprentice on a crabbing boat when he was eleven and owned his own boat by the time he was fifteen. Our girls are water creatures, especially our youngest, a champion swimmer and proud holder of a boating license since she was twelve.
As much as our family enjoys crabbing together, what we enjoy even more is taking other people crabbing. There’s something about it that appeals to people on so many levels that it’s akin to a spiritual event. In fact, our former Associate Pastor, Father Olsen, summed it up best several years ago. After we went crabbing, steamed our catch, and sat down to eat, he said a blessing over the food. He thanked God for the experience of harvesting, cooking, and feasting on God’s earthly bounty. It was such a beautiful moment that I still think of it each time I sit down to eat our catch.
I’ve written many times about my first trip to Israel and the friends I met on that trip who have become family. Since that trip in 2016, we’ve shared many happy times and some sad ones, always leaning on each other and witnessing to our faith. This week, we received the news that we lost a second pilgrim, and the Lord gained a new saint in Heaven. Just weeks after we returned from our sojourn, one of our most beloved pilgrims was killed in a plane crash. He was a veteran who continued to fly missions as a civilian bringing home POWs and MIAs. His loss came as a great shock to all of us. Just as sad, and initially shocking, was the very recent passing of a dear, sweet woman who has been battling cancer since our trip five years ago. The news came two night ago, and my friends and I are in the midst of sending flowers and planning our travel for the funeral that coincides with Hurricane Elsa. I’m sorry, Elsa, but you are no match for the strength of our Frances.
Frances’s passing comes at a unique time for me. My parents have always paid summer visits to our home, with the exception of 2020, and they have been here all week. What makes this trip unique is the duration of their stay. Rather than just a long weekend, they are spending an entire week with our family, and they brought my 15-year-old nephew with them to spend time with my girls. We’ve watched many classic movies that the kids haven’t seen, played cards and games, visited the local maritime museum where Morgan works, stopped into the shop where Katie works, and spent a fair amount of time on the boat. It’s been a wonderful week, and I’m sad to see it coming to a close. Mom and Dad will head home tomorrow night after my book launch, and I will head to Pennsylvania to stay the night with a friend before the two of us drive to New York for the funeral.
While I always enjoy every minute that I am blessed to spend with my parents, the coinciding of these two events gives new meaning to this precious time. We are not meant to waste a single minute of our lives or our time with our loved ones. Frances knew that. My parents know that. I pray that the rest of the my family knows that. Bickering and fighting and petty disagreements should never come between people who love each other, and every day should be faced with courage and strength, joy and peace. Frances taught me that. She taught all of us that.
I have a thousand things to do today, but I wanted to check in and let you know that I’m working on some fabulous launch celebrations for the release of my new book.
Join me for my first ever Book and Wine Dinner!
I’m so excited to announce my first ever Book and Wine Dinner! On Thursday August 12, I’m partnering with the amazing Laurie Forster, sommelier, to offer an exclusive event at Scossa’s Italian restaurant in Easton, Maryland. You may know Laurie from her appearances on The Dr. Oz Show, Fox Business Network, NBC and ABC News, or from one of her many interviews with Brides Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Wine Enthusiast, Sirius Radio, or Martha Stewart Living! Laurie will bring her expertise and her joyful personality to an evening of food, wine, book talk, wine talk, and lots of mingling, talking, laughing, and toasting. To be part of this exclusive ticketed event, visit my website and buy your ticket today. Spots are limited in order for everyone to enjoy this intimate evening in a beautiful setting on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. For Info and Tickets
One thing I learned at an early age is that life is not all about work, and work is not all about the absence of fun.
This past weekend, my parents were visiting for Father’s Day. Mom and I spent a little bit of time in town–we live right outside of the Maritime tourist destination, St. Michaels–and visited my girls at work, Morgan at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and Katie at Simpatico, a fabulous Italian market. We all went crabbing, along with Ken’s mom, and feasted on our catch with Rebecca and Anthony who joined us on Father’s Day afternoon. We went to Mass, did a little gardening (thank you, Dad for the new forsythia!), and relaxed, happy to enjoy Mom and Dad’s first time staying at the house since 2019.
While I was making desserts on Sunday afternoon, we listened to a playlist that I created which consists of all the music we listened to when I was a kid. At one point, I looked at my mom and said, “I made this list because all these songs remind me of non-football Sunday afternoons.” Mom smiled, knowing exactly what I meant. She added, “When we’d play all the old records and clean the house before the start of the work week.” I nodded and said, “Yep. We’d blast music while cleaning and doing laundry, but what I loved most is how we’d dance and sing while we did our chores.” Those afternoons are among my favorite childhood memories.
I learned so many lessons on those Sundays, lessons like…
Earlier this morning, I read that spending trends among Americans are changing. Rather than buying things (which we all did a lot of over the past year), Americans are buying experiences (which we did very little of in 2020). People are realizing that they have enough stuff but not enough experiences. People are not only ready to get out of their house (and out of their pajamas and sweatpants) but to get out into the world.
I’m always amazed by those who have little but live a lot. By that, I mean those who sell everything and buy a sailboat or an RV and live life as one grand adventure. A few years ago, friends took their four small children (and I mean really small–ages 3-9) on a sailboat trip around the world for a year. I can’t even imagine that! Ken was enthralled and talks often about selling everything and living the rest of our lives visiting one campground after another.
If you’re from the Mid-Atlantic, have traveled here, or are familiar with the area at all, you know that one of the area’s claims to fame is its Maryland Blue Crab. I was blessed, not only to be born in Maryland, but to be born into a family of master boat-builders and to a grandfather who was a waterman. I grew up with blue crabs as something we took for granted rather than as a delicacy. There weren’t big crab feasts for us where we invited all of our friends and neighbors and enjoyed the special meal. No, crabs for us were sometimes a regular dinner but more often an evening snack, usually accompanied by whatever the most popular prime-time television show of that night was. And it was pretty much a daily occurrence at Granddad’s house.
I knew that my grandfather was smiling down on me when I met my husband, a young man who had been working on the water since the age of 11, who owned his own boat, and paid his way through college by catching crabs all season. For most of our marriage, it was the seasonal crab haul that took us on our vacations and added a little more spending money to our pockets. For the past several years, Ken traveled extensively; and while his travels took him, and often the whole family, to beautiful and exotic places around the world, they also took him away from his favorite pastime–being on the water and catching crabs. That all changed in 2020.