The tradition of a hand-written thank you note.

The tradition of a hand-written thank you note.

I am going out on a little limb with this post. My recently graduated son is leaving for college today.  He had many thank you notes to write since his high school graduation party on June 3rd.  And, a week-long trip to Italy that started a week later delayed this a bit.  Admittedly, the writing of the notes took him a while. First, he made a list. Then, he typed what he wanted to say on a google doc, and finally, he hand wrote his thank you notes.  Most were sent out within a month of his graduation party, where the majority of them were received.

Today, as we packed the van to move him to college, he had two final notes to go out. They were personal notes he had written to one of the high school administrators and one of the teachers at the high school that he very much connected with in his final years.  Both of these young men appreciated my son for who he was in high school. Neither came to his party, most likely for the obvious reasons that it is difficult to go to one student’s party and not another. My son understood this. He knew they valued him as a person. Now was his turn to tell them the same.

Actually, I had no idea that he had written these notes. He had talked about it but I had assumed that they were done and sent out with the rest of the thank you notes last month. It was only last week when my son told me that he still needed to mail the final thank you notes to these two educators.  I put them in the mailbox this morning. As my son starts his journey in a new city, at a new school, these educators – who listened, supported, encouraged, and I believe – understood my son, will receive a heartfelt note from him.  I am so happy that they will know of their impact on him.  It makes me proud.


In this day and age of technology, receiving a hand-written thank you note in the mail is a special treat. It is a throw back to the old days when thank you notes were commonly sent quickly after receiving a gift or other such act of kindness. The note is really such a small token of appreciation and one that should not be overlooked, but sent son’s completion of thank you notes indicates to me that he has experienced the power of gratitude – of both the giving and receiving of this gift. It will serve him well in the future.

To all those who supported Matt during his years of education by teaching, listening, giving of yourself, coaching, tutoring, mentoring, and even learning from him – please consider this post a heartfelt thank you from me.  He’s on his way!


The Spider Prank

The Spider Prank

When our boys were smaller we had small several cheap remote control animals. One was an ugly spider with beady red eyes. It was a source of bad jokes, like the time it was put in their Aunt’s bed, under her comforter, when she was visiting.  The boys got a kick out of scaring her or at least trying to scare her!  Over the years, the spider was misplaced, being put in various different locations after being used to try to scare an unsuspecting visitor or family member.

It, or a spider very much like it,  made an appearance again this morning! My husband came out of the laundry room where he showers and asked, “did you put that spider in there?”

“What spider? What are you talking about?” I said in return.

“That big, black fake spider, it’s on the floor and I stepped on it! It scared me!” he replied.


Still somewhat confused, I asked, “The one the boys used to put in your sister’s bed when she came to visit?”

“Yeah, that one!” I heard him say as I went into the laundry room to take a look.


Sure enough on the floor, near the dryer, was the fake black spider with the beady red eyes! I laughed. “It must be Matt trying to prank us. He must have found it while he was packing his boxes for school. It’s kind of funny actually!”

“Well, it scared me! I just stepped on it without my glasses on and didn’t know what it was!” I chuckled and thought to myself, well, that is kind of the point, isn’t it?!

Arriving in the kitchen for a quick breakfast before heading to the YMCA, Matt appeared. “Hey – did you put that spider on the floor in the laundry room?”

Bored and sleepily he answered, “What spider, Mom?”

“Go look,” I said.

Reluctantly, he went around the corner to the laundry room to look. Next, I heard, “It wasn’t me! I didn’t put that there!”

“Oh, sorry!” I told him. “You got blamed for it! I though maybe you found it while packing and put it there to scare me!”

“Nope. It wasn’t me!” and with that he left for the Y.

My youngest came home from soccer practice. I asked him about the spider. He denied it as well, stating that it was there in the morning when he showered at 6:15. He didn’t know where it came from.

Okay. So, it wasn’t there at 10:30 last night when I went to bed. It was there this morning when my youngest showered at 6:30. Hmmm?! Well, it is a fake spider, so it didn’t walk into the laundry room on its own, I thought to myself.

I’m guessing the prank’s on me! I had a bad day yesterday and am thinking this is the way my 18-year-old and his friend were trying to make today a little brighter! Ah, you have to love a good prank! However, it is still being denied.  But, to whoever is responsible, just so you know, you did make my day much brighter than the darkness of yesterday.  Thank you!


And, now, I’ll go put the spider away, until it’s time for to play another prank!




How does being an optimist, a pessimist or a realist effect your happiness?

How does being an optimist, a pessimist or a realist effect your happiness?

What do you classify yourself as? Are you a pessimist, an optimist, or a realist? Part of my husband’s change in jobs last January was to get away from a work environment in which there was a lot of negativity. This included cynical attitudes, disparaging remarks, and general lack of support for the department from administration.  As one can imagine, being around negativity breeds negativity.  Negativity at work spills over into negativity at home. We have had many conversations over the last few years about the need for both of us to be less negative.

In the same vein, over time, I felt myself becoming a more negative person. I feel that part of the reason this occurred was that I tried to “fix” some larger issues that existed in our community. The process of fixing the issues was like fighting city hall and included many things related to belief systems, what people valued, and wanting equity for all students.  It also included my belief in student centeredness, which some might ascribe to verbally, but fail to act in such a way that validates what they said.  It was draining. The lack of my ability to be an agent of change, led to some negativity on my part.  I realized this, did not care for it, and took actions to change. Part of the change has been to read several books this summer on finding joy. They’ve been enlightening and over the last few months, the negativity has lifted in our home. If you are interested in what I read, the titles and some brief review can be found in an earlier blog. I have to tell you that it did take a concentrated effort on the part of myself and my spouse.

My husband now works with a manager who is very much an optimist. She sees the glass almost full (not even half) most of the time! She sees the good in people, not the bad. She exudes positivity in work and most probably in life, as whole. Much the same as the negativity and pessimism rubbing off, the optimism and happiness with life does as well when you are around joyful minded people. It has been interesting to watch the shift in attitude – almost like a mini-social science experiment! And while, my husband is not an optimist, he has shifted away from cynicism. As for myself, I kept reading. And, more importantly, I thought about what I said before I said it and watched my tone. I expected less, talked less, and appreciated more. I let my appreciation show – even for the little things.

One of Rubin’s Happiness Project tenants is:  “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.” (Rubin, 2015, pg. 297)  I found it to be great advice!

However, yesterday, I fell into the same old unattractive, complaining mess, that I have exhibited in the past. Since I had not been acting negative, being short and snappish, demanding, or having an impatient tone, I  noted when I fell back into this late last night when I discovered laundry needed to be done at 10:30 p.m. for my son’s soccer training camp t-shirts. Let it be said that he has been doing his own laundry this summer, and essentially this was “his” problem – he did throw the wash in, but only after I had to remove my load from the dryer and transfer another one of my loads from the washer. So, unfortunately, it involved me, as well, just at the time I was getting ready for bed!  I know there were multiple ways of handing this and don’t really need someone to point that out but it was this event that pushed the negativity that had been growing over the course of the day into a full boil.

While I laid on the couch finishing Rubin’s book (I was not sleepy anymore and felt the need to reclaim some advice on happiness), it struck me that more was going on here than a late load of laundry or over-scheduled soccer practice in 90 degree heat.  Summer grad courses end Friday, my second son goes off to college on Friday, the garden at school needs weeding (every day),  registration needs to take place for new courses, a new school year looms ahead, and more. It is a time of transition and that seems to bring out negativity in me. After a lot of self-reflection, I think the negativity stems from being anxious about all the changes.

Well, we can’t be perfect.  I know the changes are part of life – a good life.  My true self is neither being a pessimist nor an optimist. It is being a realist. So, that means dealing with life changes in the best way possible. And, being grateful my children are active, intelligent, hardworking individuals helps me to put a t-shirt that needs washing at 10:30 at night in perspective. Yesterday was yesterday. Today, I’m going to take Rubin’s sage advice and be “a little more happier” not only for me but for everyone else.

Today is Slice of Life Tuesday, which is hosted by TwoWritingTeacher’s on their blog. It is a wonderful community of supportive writers each sharing a “slice” of writing about their life. I am grateful to be a participant in such a group! 

Cerulean: A Color Poem

Cerulean: A Color Poem

Cerulean sounds otherworldly.

Can it be?


Cerulean: a tinge of deep bluish purple in the vastness of outer space.

Rich, yet cold, Cerulean says, “I am deep.”

Deep like a never explored ocean trench,

Deep like the bottom of an ancient water well,

Deep like the color of your loved one’s eyes filled with



Cerulean, can you hear it?

It is the rhythm of ocean waves

Lapping on the side of your kayak when you cannot see

Land any longer.

It is the sound of nature’s hunger.


Cerulean is the not so complete darkness

Covering the sky when the moon is full.

It is the entrance to a cave, damp with dew in the dusk.


Cerulean is the deep hue of a concord grape

that stains your fingers, tongue, and plate, not only with

that deep, endless color but fills you with a taste of autumn.

It is sweet but tangy and unusual,  too.


Cerulean. Do you know it?

Can you see it? Can you hear it?

Can you taste it?










This poem was written two years ago as I worked with third graders as part of a writer’s circle. I always tried to write right along side the students to model what my expectations were. I enjoyed the process as much or more than the results. Color poems are a wonderful way to have students use adjectives and try to create a picture in their reader’s mind. I miss it.


Silent Sunday: August in My Yard

Silent Sunday: August in My Yard

Russian Sage & Karl Foerster Grass, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2018.
“Soon” the apples will be ready! 
Incoming Hummingbird! © Carol Labuzzetta, 2018
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on Hydrangea, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2018
Thistlesin the Summer WM
A Stunning Weed in My Yard, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2018.
Fruit from our own trees. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2018.
“Daylily” Unknown variety. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2018.
Common milkweed pods in one of my butterfly gardens. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2018
Swallowtail Framed, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2018
Swallowtails in Summer, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2018
Wild Blue Lupine – a Prairie Native added to my yard this year & blooming out of season.                  © Carol Labuzzetta, 2018
Red Admiral Butterfly, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2018.
The Joys in One’s Own Garden

The Joys in One’s Own Garden

Today was intended to be a day to finish a homework assignment and a paper, both due tomorrow. But, my husband awoke with other intentions. He was going to pick pears off of our trees that have suffered this season and attempt to dehydrate them.  They are delicious, albeit very small. I was frank, bluntly telling him I had no time to help with fruit harvesting today.  After that, and after getting  a few routine chores done , I set about my assignment tasks. In short order, progress was made that allowed me to go out to the garden, myself.

It’s hot already, and predicted to be 90 today. If I was going to get the eight mums I bought in the ground, I needed to start early in the day. Immediately, I was distracted, however. My bird bath was scum green, the feeders were empty, my chrysanthemum fountain was empty, and the hummingbird feed was dry.  As I took care of some of these yard related tasks, I happened to glance out and see a swallowtail visiting one of the many hydrangeas that dot our yard. Taking no time to grab my DSLR Nikon 5200 camera (which has been used recently by my portrait making son to photograph beautiful young ladies in sunflower patches), I instead whisked my iPhone off the counter and headed out the hydrangea beckoning all the butterflies. There, I identified not just one swallow-tail but two, a painted lady, a red admiral, and a monarch. Five types of butterflies feeding all at the same time on one bush!  What a sight! I’ll surely be doing some Photo shop work on some of these – so beautiful!

From my pretending to be butterfly paparazzi, I morphed into the gardener once again and proceeded to get some of my new fall mums in the ground.  While working I gazed at lovely pink coneflower, striped petunias, and a plethora of zinnia. As these summer, heat lovers fade my new mums will grow, spread, and bloom into colorful masses at the end of my driveway.

Cone Flower, 2018.


Cone Flower, Cheyenne, and Bubble Gum Pink Petunia, 2018.
Zinnia, 2018.

Many things went through my mind as I worked in my gardens in the heat this morning.  First, and foremost, is that I find joy in taking care of my own gardens. I love the color, the peace, watching things grow and change with the seasons, and knowing I am doing it for no one but just my own enjoyment (unlike school gardening).  In my search for sources of joy in my life this summer, I can honestly say gardening in my own yard is a source of joy for me. While I sat on a pink fleece blanket to soften the ground against my aging knees, I thought of my friend Cheryl who was an avid gardener. She moved away some years ago to Florida. I am sure she is still doing some great gardening there! I thought of other friends, and how we really do not have many common connections and what strengthens that friendship or is now making it fragile.  I thought of my parents’ yard, and my love of plants and gardening from whom I received some of each from my mom (house plants and indoor gardening) and dad (yard work and outdoor gardening). I grew Portulaca for the first time this year, and will do so again. It reminds me of the garden around our pool when I was a teen. We had portulaca and prickly pear cactus in those beds. I love the connection I now have with butterflies. I realize that attracting them to my yard provides me with great pleasure.

Portulaca, 2018.

Through gardening, I am reminded of the joy of being alive, being well, being curious, and able to pursue activities I love. Through gardening, I have definitely have a source of joy in my life.  How do you receive the gift of joy?

Savoring the moments of piles on the floor and cluttered closets

Savoring the moments of piles on the floor and cluttered closets

Over the last two weeks, I have realized that I really need to do some closet cleaning. This feeling has been augmented by a couple of factors. One is that my middle son is packing to go away to college.  He leaves a week from today.  Outside of his room, in the lower level of our house, there are piles that are growing and then being reduced at the same time as the items get categorized and put into boxes.  He is doing a good job and I am trying to stay out of it, for he will be the one to unpack and needs to know where he put a particular item. Currently, I am trying to savor the moments with him, so while the piles for any other reason would definitely agitate me, these are not. They’ll be gone and so will he, sooner than I want.

The other factor that leads to me wanting to clean out is that I’m reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. In it, she discusses the “jazz” or “jolt of feel good hormones” she got when she cleaned out her closet. Hmmmm. I’ve cleaned closets before and while I felt purposeful while doing it and accomplished when finished, I am not sure I got a “high” in the process.  I somehow recall feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by the task. But, the walk in closet I share with my husband has been calling me for a couple of months, or maybe it’s been years, to really give it a good cleaning. While not a packrat or a hoarder, things still accumulate. It’s time for a purge.

Purging won’t be easy for me and this is probably the single most important reason why it is not done more often. I sentimentally hold on to things – too many things. There are pieces of elementary school artwork from my boys, piles of my papers written in the past four years of grad school, out grown clothes, favorite sweatshirts from college, my stash of candy, extra school supplies, my “gift” tote – where I store gifts for people who I have purchased out of sync with their respective birthdays or upcoming holiday, six dictionaries I bought for my writer’s circle some years ago, and so much more. But, each time I look at these things I recall a memory or the person for whom they were bought or gave them to me. I recall the hours of work I spent on crafting a paper I was proud to turn in. I am almost ashamed to say I still do that as a 50-something old woman. But, having the paper reminds me of my own hard work.

A large part of Rubin’s book – one of her “commandments” is “Be Gretchen.”  I’ve been embracing that ideology and am finding that I’m happiest when I’m “Being Carol.”   I am who I am. When I am being truest to myself, even with all my quirks, intensities, and yes, even cluttered closets, I am happy.  So, the piles downstairs will disappear. soon enough. My closet will stay cluttered for just a little longer, and I’ll savor these last few days with my son.