Tag Archives: Sister

Trading Expectations for Acceptance

Where do we get our expectations from?

If you were a child of the 60’s and 70’s like me, we had plenty of unrealistic pop culture icons.

Like the Brady Bunch. All those groovy kids in a big house with parents that never fought – and a housekeeper to boot!

I wanted to be That Girl, living in the big city like Marlo Thomas and with a boyfriend handsome as Donald Hollinger. Oh, and with hair that flipped up at the bottom and never looked out of place.

Even outside of TV (and Instagram), we see how people present themselves on the surface, and it all looks so PERFECT.

Or we find out how much someone much younger and less experienced earns and disappointment (or jealousy) kicks in.

Comparison truly is the thief of joy.

Our expectations can be dashed at ever turn. No one ever goes into a marriage thinking it will ever end. Few people take on jobs or make a career move that they think won’t pay off. You plan a vacation and don’t expect to get the flu!

We soon learn that there’s no crystal ball and there are no guarantees.

Which could be quite scary unless you believed that everything is always working out for you (and me.)

Lately I’ve been thinking about how many times my expectations have led to unnecessary disappointments. 

Is everyone required to march to the beat of MY drum?

When I impose MY idea of how people should be on them, I miss out on enjoying how THEY dance to their own rhythm of life.

My inner critic is LOUD, and the only thing that shuts it up is huge doses of empathy.

Putting myself in the other guy’s shoes for a minute silences the voice of judgment.

The good news is, we can always find our way back to love. The Four Agreements helps me with this:

  • Be impeccable with your word (Speak kindly and in truth to yourself and others)
  • Don’t take things personally (Oy!  The hardest for me.)
  • Don’t make assumptions (Another biggie.)
  • Always do your best.

Our biggest mistake when dealing with people not following OUR script? Trying to change them.  

Honey, you’ll wear yourself OUT.

I’ve decided to wave the white flag and trade my expectations for acceptance.

When I accept people, just as they are, the energy between us is completely different. It no longer drains or disappoints me to be with them. And oh how good it feels to spend time with someone who accepts me (more than expects from me.)

My friend Renee is a “no expectations” sister. She always lets me stay at her house when I’m traveling for work to Philadelphia. It may have been months since I’ve seen her, but she’ll take one look at me when I arrive and say, “Go straight to bed.”

She might have been looking forward to sister time and a long talk – but I don’t have to perform for her. I don’t have to dance around my exhaustion to make her feel our time together is worthwhile. For her, it’s enough that we are in the same house at the same time. And there will always be coffee time in the morning.

And coffee time means her husband Steve, who is a brother to me, will be at that table.

Those smiles! Pure love and acceptance.

Double doses of love and acceptance.

Renee is the one who introduced me to Angel Cards (the genesis of our Word of the Week tradition). We start every morning together picking a word for the day. There is a sweetness to the ritual that is amplified by Renee’s palpable hope that, for me, the day ahead will be the best day ever.

I can’t let Renee down, because she loves so purely and completely.

Everyone needs a Renee. And I am trying to be more like her.

More on that and a plea for help with the new Word of the Week! (The universe knows I need to work on this area, pronto!)


How do YOU find balance in your life? Would love to hear your thoughts…



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Friends are Wonderful Teachers

It’s Thanksgiving morning as I write this, and I’m thinking about my friends.

Friends have been the best teachers in my life and I think the reason why is because the love level is so high, the wall level is low.  With trusted friends, there’s no need to put up defenses or be on guard.

With friends, my heart is wide open, and revelations can penetrate deeply.

It’s not ALL deep stuff.  Though my friend Cynthia is as deep and insightful as they come, she’s my fashionista/stylist/hair/makeup and on trend friend.  Whenever we are together, there is always a conversation about, “Where did you buy that?  What serum do you use?  What diet are you on?”  We keep each other sharp (and smokin’ hot, I like to say!)

My friend Renee is a nurturer/caretaker/nursemaid/comforter who LISTENS in a way that always makes you feel heard.  She hangs on her friends words because she cares so deeply.  And research?  Just mention a topic you’re interested in, and the Inter-Nay (as we affectionately call her) conjures up the pertinent info and helps the Fab Four make informed decisions, while sending funny dog videos to keep us smiling.

Anita never skims.  She reads voraciously and has a PhD level knowledge about matters like quantum physics, spirituality, and health.  I tend to be a Cliff Notes/Readers Digest abridged version person, so how grateful I am for a friend who digs into the depths of a thing. She, too, is a world-champion listener, and always hears what I HAVEN’T said and asks the followup questions that provoke me to think.  She has a giggle like a teenager (and the bonus is that she lives directly on Jacksonville Beach, making for a perfect getaway.)  I will, however, always wonder why we live in the same state FIVE HOURS AWAY.  Seems wrong.  But it’s better than five states away.

On our recent girls’ weekend in Atlanta, Cynthia presented each of us with this “We go back, but we also go forward” mug. My coffee tastes better in it every morning!

These are my sisters from another mother.  And then there is my sister since birth, Shirlee.  So beautiful and talented, I could have been jealous, but she has always been so good to me I couldn’t help but adore her.  One of the greatest things she ever taught me was, during bad times, mark your calendar for two weeks away.  Guaranteed, life will be better by then.  (It’s true.  Bad times don’t last forever.)  She’s whipped up magnificent meals and desserts and watching her inspires me to try them at home.  She has NEVER stopped learning – now acting in local plays (even a film!) and playing her beloved ukelele with gusto.

Could I go on? Forever.

I could mention how Roseann taught me the power of a Hallmark card to really let people know I care.  (Hallmark should send her residual checks, I caught on to this so well.)  Or write volumes about Cindy, Linda, Hillary, Chelsa, Karen, Karen (I won two Karen’s when I moved to Sarasota!), Jennifer…

…you get the point.

We celebrate Friends-giving at my apartment complex, and with EDUCATION being our recent Word of the Weeks I couldn’t help but think of how much my beautiful friendships have taught me.  

And perhaps the point is not that friends are the best teachers.

LOVE is.

Onward to a new Word of the Weeks!

How perfectly does today’s post about friends go along with SISTER/BROTHERHOOD!

Keep learning, keep loving.



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This One’s For My Sister (and the New WOW)

My sister has been my chief cheerleader and support system for 54 years.

When I cried incessantly as a baby, my parents threatened to put me up for sale in a wheelbarrow by the road.

I think in today’s world, someone would have called child protective services, but back then it was their way of saying, “If this child doesn’t stop screaming, we’re going to lose it!”

Of course, they never INTENDED to sell me, but my five-year-old sister couldn’t grasp the nuance of dark humor yet, so SHE began to scream and beg for my life.

She wanted me, tears and all.

She still does.

Always more comfortable with a drawing pad or lost in a good book, she never failed to encourage my more “outward” pursuits.  She schlepped me to Philadelphia from Buena, NJ to get my  head shots taken. When I competed in the Miss Magic 103 radio contest, and belted out my Cher impressions for the world to hear, no one laughed louder. Before and after big events,she sends me handwritten cards or flowers.  And when I’m blue? She reminds me that better days are coming.  Usually in about two weeks, if you mark it on the calendar. In man respects, my sister Shirlee has been my guardian angel.

Shirlee DiBacco has always avoided the spotlight, yet has always helped my face find the sun.

And this past Friday night she made her acting debut!

Forever she has loved the play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. An “Our Town” groupie, she’s seen the play from New York to Hammonton numerous times.  She quotes from the play, because to her, there’s a line from “Our Town” to fit any situation.

And then she saw an ad that her community theatre in Somers Point, NJ would be holding auditions for…”Our Town.”

She tried to talk herself out of it, but couldn’t shake it.  When she showed up, she practically recited an encyclopedic knowledge of the play.  She would have paid the producers to give her a part.

No need.  So captivated by her enthusiasm, she handily won the part of “Woman in the Balcony.”  The woman with a movie star face who always took a back seat and applauded for everyone else is finally having her moment.

Her friend Barb, husband Tony, friend Chris – and the STAR, my sister, Shirlee, celebrating with ice cream after Our Town’s debut on Friday night.

And I am so proud of her I could just burst.

I’m flying up to see her final matinee next Sunday, the 12th. And I am equally delighted that she (and my mom) picked our new Word of the Week!

I wonder what new things are right around the corner for us this week?

Let’s be explorers!



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A Stranger, Yet a Sister – and the New WOW

I met a stranger this week who turned out to be a sister.

It had been a particularly difficult day, with a myriad of work and personal matters mounting as they sometimes do.

My method of blowing off steam is to head to my evening Zumba class and jump around like a maniac to pounding music.  Shaking up a storm and sweating always helps to re-set my frame of mind.

This particular class started late – at 7 PM – so it was close to 8:30 PM by the time I pulled into my parking garage at the apartment complex.

Frustrating!  A space was (oddly) not available on my floor, so I had to go up another level.  This had never happened before.

As I got out of the car, I saw a young woman heading to the car parked next to me.

It is always my practice to say hi to strangers, and as I did she said, “I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but I just found out my boyfriend is cheating on me.”

Then she fell into a puddle of tears, and I gathered her into my arms.

It didn’t matter that we were strangers.  In an instant, we were sisters. 

When her sobs subsided a bit, I asked where she was going.  Fortunately, her mom lived close by – but I wasn’t confident that she was in a frame of mind to drive safely.  So she handed over her keys and I got her to her mom’s (knowing Uber could easily get me home.)

During the drive she shared her heartbreaking story.  Her intuition had told her something was off; he protested…then she discovered a series of salacious texts that confirmed her fears.

He held the financial power, so her only choice was to leave.  I held her hand.  I told her to feel her feelings (which is the lesson I have been learning.)  “There’s no better place to be than with your mom, where you can have a good cry.”

The wound was too fresh to offer more than that…but I did sneak in my sister’s favorite line of comfort: “In a few weeks you’ll look back on today and feel completely differently.”  Time has a way of healing wounds, or at least making them less pronounced.

We can sometimes even see that we dodged a bullet by not getting the thing that we wanted.

I held her hand, got her safely home – and marveled at the privilege of being there for her.  It was a Divine hand that had provoked me to go to that late Zumba class and that had filled up all of the normal parking spaces, causing me to be at exactly the right place at the right time to meet a need.

I told her,  “God really loves you.  And just the way he took care of you tonight is how He will always provide.”

And in meeting her need, He met mine.  How quickly the pesky matters of the day faded away when I saw a gentle soul hurting.

Really, isn’t this what life is all about? To love our fellow man…and woman.  To act as a sister or a  brother, even to a stranger?

More on Sister/Brotherhood and the new WOW:

TRUSTING that this week brings you peace, and smiles, and confirmations that “it’s all going to be okay.”



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Meet a Fabulous Lady: Shirlee DiBacco


I am the bashful one on the left - the only known documentation of me being camera shy.  That cutie on the right - that's my sissy.  And today is her day to know how loved she is.
I am the bashful one on the left; this is the only known documentation of me ever being camera shy. That cutie on the right – that’s my sissy, (Edna) Shirlee Costello DiBacco.  She is the best person I know…in fact, she’s probably the best person MANY people know.  Today is her birthday, and a fitting occasion to celebrate her fabulousness.

Today the best gift God ever gave me was born.  She arrived five years before me to show me the way…

…the way to apply makeup and walk in platform heels; to introduce me to Cat Stevens and Tony Bennett (not literally, but musically); to endlessly carpool me (never once complaining) and to let me borrow her clothes.

Most of all my sissy, Shirlee DiBacco, taught me – over and over again, by example – what it means to love.  

And not just when she intervened, vehemently opposing my parents threats to  put me in a wheelbarrow and sell me to another family if I didn’t stop crying.  (Listen, this was the 60’s and moms and dads weren’t as mindful of the fragile psyche of a toddler.  And they weren’t REALLY going to sell me.  At least I hope not.)

Beautiful inside and out, Shirlee is a wildly gifted artist, a David Letterman groupie, an unbeatable Scrabble player, and in recent years, a runner (!) and ukulele player (!).  If she hadn’t been so nice to me, I’m sure I would have suffered a lifelong inferiority complex.

Today’s tribute, though, is not mine to give.  It comes from her firstborn, Deena DiBacco.

The apple didn't fall far from the tree - Deena is a stunning beauty, too - and her gift for putting words together is a treat we can all enjoy today.
The apple didn’t fall far from the tree – Deena is a stunning beauty, too – and her gift for putting words together is a treat we can all enjoy today.

Take it away, Deena…

As Mother Earth has sprung new life into being since the beginning of time, our own mothers do the same. They give birth to us, creating and recreating the gift of existence across time and space.

My mother is one of these women. In mid-June of 1985, I left the warm comfort of her womb and took my first breath, screaming and thrashing under harsh hospital lights.

The moment a child is born, a mother begins a deep journey of the heart.

Life becomes no longer about self, but about a precious child.

This was the journey my mother had yearned for. The journey of motherhood, she knew it, was her life’s purpose.

But she could never have realized, as she rocked and crooned to me in my first hours of life, how dense and tangled our path together would become.

The difference between my mother and other mothers is this: my mother gave me life, and then she had to save my life.

I could fully go into my story. A living hell on Earth. The multitudes of dark demons which I conjured into her life for many years.

But there is really no point.

The end result says it all.

Here I am, shining. Better than I could’ve dreamed I’d be.

All because my mother is who she is.

A woman whose beauty and radiant white light, whose ferocious raw-edged sheer will, whose unshakeable faith, sliced through all the despair until we healed it.

Amid all the darkness and blackness and hopeless emotions pulling her by the roots, this woman stood strong in her faith that God would find a way for me.

If the path to healing involved her being beaten and brutalized in the process, she would accept without question.

She refused to abandon hope, she gave years of her life to help her first born climb out of darkness.

Her love, I see so clearly, was selfless.

My mother sacrificed so much of herself to see that I could heal.

Thanks to her, if I never experience the miracle of having my own child, I can at least glimpse its brilliance. She showed me how sacred a mother’s love truly is.

My mother never gave up on me. Her faith, character, pure heart, selflessness, and her unwavering, unconditional love rose above all boundaries of ego. She refused to let the dark in, so long as her light was shining.

It is not easy to keep the light burning in a dark place.

But I have never known another being so committed to serving good, to upholding the light, as my mother. I am humbled to know my blood courses from the same source as hers.

Shirlee smiling
Mommy taught me medicine of the heart. She taught me that love and light will always conquer, for no dark can exist if there is even a glimmer of light present. She is, always was, and always will be my light.

When it was too dark for me to see my own way, she shone for me. Now that I can see again, I will make up for time spent blind by spending the rest of our journey together in full appreciation of her. I see her now. She is the ultimate mother, the ultimate nurturer, and the embodiment of unconditional love.

As she cared for me, my mother cares for all she knows and loves. She refuses to judge, she seeks out the good in each human being she meets. She serves, seeking nothing in return. Creating happiness in others is her source of joy. She is loving, she is kind, and her soul shines brightly.

My mother has a servant heart, a sword of truth, and the will to uphold all that is good.

She is an angel to many.

To my greatest teacher of all, on the day of her own birth.

God was smiling the day he created you.

Thank you for being my mother.

Shirlee and Deena and David
Deena, Shirlee and her youngest, David. So much shining going on in this photo I need sunglasses.

And from me, a million thanks for being the best sister ever…

Mom Shirlee and I
And a faithful daughter to our Mom.

…and the wife of any man’s dreams (particularly, Tony’s dream come true.)

Shirlee and Tony

And of course, Daddy’s little “Nee-nee…”

Shirlee and Daddy

Every role you play is infused with love and grace; kindness and beauty.

This week’s FLUFFI word of the week is TRANSFORMATION, and it is lovely to consider how one person’s life can be a catalyst in this holy process.  Your life, my wonderful sister, is a perfect example.

Feel free to send some love Shirlee’s way today and leave a comment!

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