Thursday, February 23, 2012

Batter Up!

It's Spring Season for new authors on writer Terrence McCarthy's popular blog - The Webtown Observer (TWO) . And guess who the first rookie at bat is? The MOTB herself. . . . aka Mommy-in-law. . . little ol' me. Check out my guest appearance on TWO  by clicking here. 

Terrence, by the way, is one cool mister. (former newspaper reporter, ad copywriter and creative director turned counselor in a locked psychiatric ward) married to an even cooler misses (hey, she lets him write about her). Listen to his essay broadcasts on NPR's newest and smallest radio station "Robin Hood Radio." You'll find the podcasts free on iTunes.

After a listen or two you'll want his paperback: You Had To Be There: From Web Town To Psych Ward - A Memoir ( yes,the cooler misses is in there too.) Click here for more info on the book..

 YHTBT  will be available  in ebook formats when baseball season's in full swing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Toast, the Whole Toast, and Nothing But the Toast

The Mommy of the Brother of the Bride (that's me too!) ended the previous post "in medias res" - as the Romans would say - on purpose. Honest, it wasn't to drive readers bonkers- though I've already received a couple of FB comments along those lines.  No, no, no. The rest of the BoftheB's "impromptu toast" - a honed speech he made seem extemporaneous - begs to be related in the Brother-of-the-Bride"s own words.  

(Rewind  to the start of Conor's toast)

First of all -- a word of fair warning.  The line between toast and speech is about to be blurred.  And if you don't like it, well, too bad -- because my sister is getting married today, and yours is not.

(He spins to his backpack and returns to the mike)

To be completely honest, I did not prepare anything for this toast.  I was too deeply engrossed in the stirring, emotional new release "Staying Alive: A Love Story -- written by, I don’t know, someone.  Paperback available for $10.07 on Barnes & Noble eBook for $4.99. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED -- especially the chapter about me. But ANYWHO, shameless family self-promotions aside, I would like to say a few words to you all, and of course, the newly appointed bride and groom.

Which brings me to my main point.  I am the brother of the bride. Or, BOB as the fine folks at Modern Formals have come to know me, which created some Tux-related confusion. But anyway, in most situations, the distinction of brother-of-the-bride bears a very special honor -- and this is no exception.  Yet Emily's wedding bears an even greater significance for me.
As everyone in this room is fully aware, circumstance has left me as the de-facto man of the house in my immediate family -- a title I have tried to maintain with humility, dignity, and pride over the past thirteen years. But despite that unfortunate reality of our lives, we are all here to celebrate the joy that life still brings. As my mom’s incredible book so eloquently describes, our family is not one of victims, but of survivors.  We stand before you stronger than ever before -- a strength forged by our trials, our hardships, and above all else, by our love. 

And now today, my beautiful sister has found the man she wants to share her life with, and we are here today to share in the blissful celebration of their unconditional love.  The fact that you could all be here means everything to her, and therefore means everything to me. So thank you. 

There is no greater compliment that anyone can pay to me than to say that I am my father's son, and to that end, there is no higher praise I can give either of you today other than that Dad would be proud. Emily -- Dad would be so proud of the woman that you have become, and I couldn't be more proud to call you my sister.  Your grace, elegance, and boundless kindness are the glue that holds this family together.  And Ryan -- although you never knew my father, he couldn't possibly have hoped for a better man for his beloved daughter to spend her life with. And I couldn’t hand pick a better person to be the closest thing to a brother I’ve ever had.’ve got that going for you.

But this is, after all, a toast. However, it is a Hayden toast.

(Conor returns to the nearby chair and breaks out a cold case of Milwaukee’s Best,. He invites both wedding families to join him in the rear center of the barn floor, take a beer, raise their cans) 

photo by Amy Brogna Baione

Here’s to to a lifetime of health and happiness for Emily and Ryan, to everyone we are lucky enough to share this day with, and above all else, here's to those who could not be with us today.  We miss you, we love you. Cheers.

(That's my son. I'll explain the Milwaukee Best soon enough.)

(Intro to a) Charmed Toast: Four

  • After the late afternoon breeze carried the sound of the memorial prayer for Larry and others through the gathering of family and friends. . .
  • After Em and Ry promised to love each other through thick and thin, she tempering their seriousness with a reference to his penchant for corny jokes, he, to her practice of wearing swimming goggles when chopping onions. . .
  • After we processed into a barn decorated with tiny white lights ...and the wedding party danced to music overlaid with a voice track spoken by the bride and the groom, telling stories that connected them to each member of the bridal entourage. . .
  • After we bowed our heads and prayed. . .
. . . it was time to raise our glasses.  Which brought Conor, the bride’s brother, to the microphone, champagne flute in hand.

Photo by Amy Brogna Baione
I recall he wiped his forehead in  Lewis Black fashion. Then he said something about wanting to put more time into his tribute, but. . .
(BUT? I thought)
. . .but he had been distracted.
I expected to hear about  grad school work, late bartending hours. Instead he pulled his iPhone out of his pants pocket as if to check speech notes, the Lewis Black fidget down pat.
Before I knew it he had his back to the audience. He was taking something out of a backpack he had  hidden under a nearby chair. Then he spun back to the mike, and said,
                    “But I couldn’t pull myself away from this book, just released.”
And that was when he held my memoir up high for all to see. My memoir of loss – the loss of Larry -- which,for myself, I had ruled out of the realm of mention at the wedding.
The guests roared.

And then Conor got serious. . .

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Charming coincidence: Three

Yes, the day had seemed so very charmed, even before the late afternoon ceremony. Brilliant streaks of morning sun had shined through the window of the bridal suite I shared with my daughter, the hours before the wedding. Alone, I might have unraveled a bit, but her joyful anticipation was contagious.

Before the room pulsed with bridesmaids and photographers trying to snap the intimacies of bridal party preps: scenes of primping, light feasting, and secret notes passing from groom headquarters to bride headquarters, and back again, Em and I stole a quiet moment. One in which she opened my tiny gift to her, a charm to slip onto her bracelet of beaded memories. This one meant to commemorate her wedding day.

In this quiet time between hustle and bustle, Em immediately realized what I had realized the night before, when she and her groom presented their parents with tokens of their affection at the Rehearsal Dinner. My gift was an autumn-scented Yankee Candle, set on a glass plate, covered by a  crackled glass shade. The simple acrylic sketch of a fall tree etched on  the plate and shade displayed oversized leaves in chestnut brown, burnt orange, and sage green.  Emily’s wedding hues.

It was as if the leafy candle design had shrunk to the size of a sunflower seed, to fit the surface of the bead in Em’s gift box. 

We had surprised each other by exchanging almost exact symbols in honor of her autumn wedding day. 

And now on to the biggest charmer of them all. . .

Friday, February 3, 2012

Charmed Day: Two

Em’s brother and I walked the bride down her grassy aisle. The memorial charm with the photo of Em’s dad was attached to her bouquet. We felt as complete as this world would allow.
As with most nuptials, the outdoor ceremony also included a prayer of remembrance. The bride and groom had asked me to write a short piece for Larry and other close relatives who had passed.
Now, in what may seem like a digression, I assure you – even if the skies opened to a deluge, we knew the wedding would be a brilliant day. Em and Ry would make it so – just as Ryan’s brother had turned his very very wet wedding to a sparkling occasion with colorful umbrellas, bare feet, and good humor five years previous.
But we really really knew we would not have to play mind over matter to brighten the skies on October 8 – thanks to Doppler radar. Weather forecasters were having a field day (actually – a field week) promising perfect skies for days before and through the entire Columbus Day Weekend of the wedding.
I took the liberty of trusting the forecast and referred to the day's foregone conclusion of  brillance in the remembrance prayer -- printed below. Matt, Em's godfather, delivered it at the nuptials with elan.
Emily and Ryan would not be the caring individuals -- or couple -- they have become without the cherished connections they share with family and friends here today. From the youngest to the oldest, all of you seated before them have played an important role in shaping their love for others and for one another. We gather this brilliant autumn afternoon, the present faces in the mirror of their lives.
When Emily and Ryan look more closely at this reflection, they are able to see, by the strength of their love and belief, through another side of this looking glass. A side that reveals the faces of loved ones not seated beside us today, but present nevertheless, in particular Ryan’s Grandmother Mullen and Emily’s Gramps Hayden, Grammy and Grandpa Baione, Godmother Olivine, and  Emily's dear father Larry. The couple asks you to look deeply with them and share the company of these loved ones on this their blessed wedding day
Enough said in the spirit of remembrance,  or so I thought . . .

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Staying Alive: A Love Story Nominated for Award

My memoir, Staying Alive: A Love Story, has been nominated for the 2012 Christian Small Publishers Association Book of the Year Award in the Non-Fiction - Christian Living category. Please support it by clicking here to vote.  You'll have to scroll past 3/4s of the way down  the page to find it on the bottom right !

Voting takes place during February and March.

The memoir, a series of essays that chronicles my and my children's struggle after my husband's death over ten years ago, has been described by one reviewer as a beautiful reminder of what really matters. Others have referred to it as a personal, humorous, and inspiring view into the grief process.

These reviews and other information about the memoir can be found on my website.

Thank you for your support.