Category Archives: A Message from Me

Wait for the Yellow Butterfly


This is a story told to me by a friend who works at a funeral home, working with the undertaker who owns the funeral home. Since it was told to me by a friend, I have no reason to disbelieve the story. In fact, the Undertaker and the friend witnessed what happened that day. I would rather not mention the name of the establishment but that it is in the Southern Maine area. I hope it gives you comfort and opens your mind to things we may find difficult to believe.

There was a young woman who became sick with an illness which proved to be terminal. The most difficult part of being a parent sometimes is to know you have to leave your children before they are ready for you to leave. The young child left behind was a small girl around six years of age. The scene at the cemetery was somber and people were all seated and some standing around the casket. It was near time to depart and most had left, but the little girl stayed clutching her daddy’s hand. She did not want to leave and told her father that she wanted to wait for the butterfly. She couldn’t leave until she saw a yellow butterfly. Her daddy was anxious to leave the cemetery but the little girl assured him that the butterfly would be there soon. Soon a small yellow butterfly flittered down from the sky and landed on her mommy’s casket. She looked at her father and told him she was ready to leave.

My friend told me that to this day he cannot believe he witnessed this. Before the little girl and her father left the cemetery, the undertaker went over to the small girl and asked her, “How did you know a yellow butterfly would come by today?” She replied, “My mommy told me to wait and look for a yellow butterfly.”

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A Day Late and 400 Dollars Short

 Turmoil Tax

Gone are the days of more toil, more money. Now we have the day of reckoning, where we cannot even afford to heat our homes, drive our cars and put food on the table. Today is April 15th. Hope you all used Turmoil Tax program to prepare your taxes for Uncle Sam, short for “Stealing Anyone’s Money”. The question is, how are you doing with your finances? Are you tired of spending more than you make? Are you tired of having a credit card debt of a couple thousand to pay for car repairs and other needed things, such as an appliance that died? We are not talking about any luxuries or necessities, such as clothes, or going out to dinner once a year. I am fed up with how hard most of us work and it is never enough. The days of remaining independent in your own home may be changing to the ways of days gone by, but out of necessity for survival. If a few generations move in together, like families of long ago, we can stay warm and care for those we love and be able to provide sustenance for our families. 
            It does concern me that it appears those who have the most to lose sit silent when they should revolt against what is happening to the economy. The last time things were this bad was during the Great Depression. When Bear Stearns goes belly up, we should all be very concerned. Of course, I can hardly wait for that Economic Stimulus check’s arrival so I can spend it on getting much needed car repairs. I don’t mean to sound so negative, but if I am having a hard time, what about those with less? I hope they can manage in the coming years.  Sure with a child with a disability, you can get fuel assistance, and even food stamps, however… as my father always said, “Whatever the government professes to give away, they can also take it away.” So we do not accept that as there are others who truly need help. I hope that things get better for all of us. This year I had to pay almost 400 dollars to the IRS. You’d think with our deep investment in the IRS, that we would all name our firstborn after it.  For now, I think the well has run dry and lets all hope that the times they are a changin’

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Customer Service

Customer Service….Whatever happened to Customer Service? When was Customer Service replaced with a toll free number? At the risk of coming across as negative, I sometimes wonder why people are so frantic to talk to a “real person”. It is not just the older generation who feel this way. Many people are reluctant to use the toll free number for the US Post Office, when in fact it is very efficient. When asked for the zip code for your local post office, you are given the local number to your office. Yes, I have spoken to them several times this year as our mailbox has had several hits from the snow plow this year. 
             What about a trip to the grocery store these days? You can spend $150 dollars, transfer money to the cashier and receive change back without ever having the cashier make eye contact and sometimes not even a thank you. I have been witness to several conversations between bagger and cashier as if I am not even there. So much for the customer feeling valued. Maybe it is not all their fault, because most of them are masters of Multi-tasking. I am amazed that they can talk on the phone, and keep six or seven IM conversations going at the same time. I think being a cashier is a demanding job but it also requires some people skills and eye contact with your customers and a thank you is a necessity. Perhaps the management should revisit this on occasion.
            Speaking of customer service, I had a great experience recently regarding a used computer we purchased online. My son has wanted a Mac computer for some time. We looked at new ones and they were not within our price range. So my son checked online at a few places. He found a business called DV Warehouse at  and spoke with Patrick at ext 14. They have a regular number and a toll free on the website. My son enjoyed the computer for a month or so and we found the drive not working correctly. Patrick verified that it was still under warranty and also is in the process of correcting another small problem. If you need a Mac, I recommend this company as an alternative to spending big bucks on a new computer. As for customer service, they are exceptional. We waited a little over two months to correct the problem but it was not all their fault, as they were waiting for parts and had been sent defective parts. When we received it, it had been packaged with care and was in excellent working order. I am skeptical of purchasing online however Patrick was patient and professional with my many emails. He just wanted to be sure we were happy with the final product. I highly recommend this company.
            How many really go the extra mile for the customer? My current job involves customer contact all day. If they were treated badly by another person, I promptly apologize and tell them I will stay with them until we solve the problem. Even if they may be directing their frustration towards me, I just listen and try to give them good service to make up for a bad experience. Today’s world we are prompted to death: press this, press that… am I talking to a real person? To top it off, if your option is not there, you try pressing ‘0’ and hope to reach a switchboard operator….and then you hear , “I’m sorry, that option is not available….Goodbye” Yes, I have almost blown a gasket when I have spent 15 minutes trying to navigate the menu.
            Lastly, one of the funniest experiences I had this year was when I tried to renew my Norton Antivirus. I had to call tech support and after four connections, I was connected through a New York number to Raj who lived somewhere in Southern India. Imagine, my surprise after he told me to login on the address bar. He explained that he would be taking control of my mouse. (OK I thought… what the heck do I know?) The next thing I noticed after I logged in, the mouse was moving all by itself, like a OUIJA board. He was talking to me at the same time. This is after supper, and I was a little tired, looking a bit ragged as well. He asked me, “Suzan, is that you?” Well I sat up straight, fixed my hair and smiled, “Yes it is me” Then he asked me, “Is that your son?” I looked over at my son Mike and said, “Yes that’s Michael at the table” I then looked at my husband and said, “I can’t believe that he can see us” I said this in a low voice because I did not want Raj to hear me. My husband was cracking up with laughter and told me I must be nuts. He said, “Suzan, He can see your screensaver.” [The screensaver has a picture of my family] Hey what do I know? I am glad I can at least entertain my family.

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Coffee with Dad

Life presents me with stories upon stories that I feel need to be written. I have a working list that waits for me to steal the time to write. 
     Yesterday, I dutifully spent my morning at Westbrook Historical Society which is the best place I like to be when I am not with my family. I viewed some home movies with Scott Irving and he shared some very interesting new stories he had researched at the library concerning early Redbank. I will be writing soon regarding those stories, thanks to him
    A few days ago, I received correspondence from an author, Rhea Cote Robbins, who writes of her Franco American experiences of growing up in Waterville. She teaches at the University as well. There is a concern that Franco American voices are being suppressed and books written by them are being denied availability for purchase in some of our State’s institutions. Who can speak of Maine and deny the rich Native American and French Canadian voices that populate our state? Her web site is  and also her blog is where she voices her concerns. 
     Last week, it was a visit to the cardiologist to get my son Mike’s meds adjusted to a higher dose and get an echocardiogram. While there, I ran across the hall to the pulmonary doctor to leave a quick note with a straight forward question. I was concerned with Mike’s congestion, experienced after he eats. Anyhow, I wrote that if she was busy, I could call back or she could leave me a message. Heading back across the hall to the heart doctor, Mike was already in a room getting prepared. A short while later, the receptionist came by to ask if the pulmonary doctor could join us. I replied that it was ok if the heart doctor was ok with it. It worked out well. Mike got some good care from both doctors and they were both aware that some of his function was compromised. Together we worked out a few solutions. What a day for multitasking. I am thankful for his doctors.
     Last night, I went to Staples and spent almost 1 ½ hours making copies of all the stories I posted on regarding Redbank. I then purchased a nice binder and included clear sleeve protectors along with an introduction about why I started posting my Redbank pictures. Today, I called my father to see if he wanted to go along with me to present it to the South Portland Historical Society. After the presentation, he took me to Tim Horton’s in Millcreek. This is the topic for my blog today…. The conversation we had over coffee.

My mother left for Jacksonville, FL on work duty this morning while most of us were still sleeping. It was nice that Dad offered to take me to coffee as it is seldom we converse without interruptions. I was his only employee for ten years and we had lots of stories that still keep us laughing today.
Dad talked about Mom and how they were so lucky to be compatible throughout the years. They were in High School when they met, she being from Portland and he from South Portland. I heard many stories of how he walked across the bridge to see my mom in all types of weather. One time it was a blizzard and he headed back to South Portland around midnight, from Brackett Street. He stood shivering waiting for the bridge to come down, when the man in the bridge booth yelled, “What are you waiting for?” My dad replied “Well, for the bridge to come back down” The man replied, “You have a long wait. It is scheduled for six months repair” Dad took the long walk back to Anthoine Street. They did not know that I was about to change their lives forever. My mother became a mother at age eighteen. To complicate their lives further, my father failed English his senior year and had to repeat the whole year. This year, we all moved to Anthoine Street where my dad’s family lived. The very day my father graduated with the class of 1960, my mother had a home ready for them to move into located in Redbank in July 1960. He worked full time in his senior year as well as attending school all week. They had no car for the first two years of marriage. In fact my father hitchhiked to work most of the time. My mother’s parents helped my parents as much as they could with child care and so forth. I recall every Sunday was spent having dinner with my grandparents.
 My dad spoke of my mom with great respect when we sat over coffee today. He said ,“Your mother could do anything. I don’t know how we did it. I grew a garden and she canned everything. We did not have money to go to McDonald’s or places like that with you kids. She made a nice home for us, and just knew that she had to care for all of you. She learned to sew, cooked her own bread, and learned how to crochet and knit. She helped me start my business. She even learned about layout and design from working in the sign shop alongside of me. Your mother is a smart cookie.”
 The conversation drifted from time to time about how people have so many unreasonable expectations today. He doesn’t understand how someone could think of getting plastic surgery and think it is so important. He said he thinks people miss the big picture about what is so important. Dad asked me, “What would someone say today if I asked them to help with the garden and put up some vegetables?” His answer was what I expected….I do not know if anyone ever slows down enough today to invest the time needed to raise a family, staying married and having disappointments along the way, or even just tending a garden….but trudging forward. With each generation perhaps some of these values are lost and it is up to us to fight to maintain a little of what good things we may have had growing up. I believe it was our strong family support that helped us to realize, even if it was a little later in life, that we had it pretty good. Of course today was a real pleasure to hear my dad speak of my mom with such respect and admiration for her. I know she feels the same.
These photographs were taken when my dad was in his senior year of high school(His 2nd senior year) The picture with my mom in her striped sweater was worn from dad carrying it in his wallet.

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The Medical Field: It’s a Two Way Street.

The past couple of days have been hectic. I have desired to write every night and have been unable so I decided on these occasions that I just try to stay connected to you, my readers. The past week has been a wide range of emotions.
 My uncle has dementia and is nearly eighty. He broke his hip about two weeks ago and thankfully his son is doing his very best to provide care for his dad. It is stressful to say the least. I have not seen my uncle for awhile as he lives in a facility where he can get 24/7 care and his world is more manageable. Since he went to the hospital, I have seen him a few times and had nice visits. The caretaker in me is strong as ever. I worried he would get pneumonia, as he was short of breath, and I know that happens so often with people after surgery. I believe the quality of care is compromised as many places are understaffed. Last year, I used a cough assist machine for my son for 4 times each day for 4 days and this kept him from getting pneumonia. I was exhausted but he stayed out of the hospital and this was my goal. When a person cannot cough unassisted, a cough assist is used for patients with Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular dystrophy and other illnesses. Anyhow, I was worried and my cousin confirmed that the nurses were getting him out of bed regularly. It is hard to see the people you love lose their abilities.
 Then on Valentine’s Day, I took my 2 dogs, Daisy Mae and Schultzie to the groomer. When my son, JT, picked up the dogs, as I was at another appointment, Schultzie was not well. He was falling on the ice and my son attributed it to being slippery. I thought the dog appeared to be drugged and my other dog was acting strangely as well. The following morning I took Schultzie to the vet who confirmed he had a heart murmur [He is an old dog of 14] He noticed the dog tilting to the right and showed me his eyes rolling to the right which also confirmed that he had a stroke. He could not keep his balance, very disoriented and as if he was in a drunken state. He received a steroid shot and took home some anti-inflammatory pills. It was a tough day. My sister was also having a medical procedure that day as well. She is doing well.
 Since it has been a week of many medical affiliations, I have thought about some instances which may help some of you. Nobody knows you or your loved ones like yourself. I have had the pleasure of meeting some fine doctors and I have met a few whom I have questioned. I have drawn a few conclusions from my own experiences and some from the stories of others. I believe a good doctor is one who educates us and allows us to educate them from time to time.
 One doctor told me that I needed to tell my son, Mike, everything that would happen to him with his prognosis. This was after he became dehydrated and was found to be taking medicine which was appropriate for most people but not for people with Muscular Dystrophy and as a result, he went into cardiac arrest and respiratory failure. The doctor who told me this was the doctor who brought him back to life, not once, but 4 times. This was a rare instance when he thought my son might end up using a ventilator for the rest of his life. I shot back that my son was nowhere near having bad pulmonary functioning at this time and we never expected this to happen. I was so angry and the doctor knew this. The reason behind his stern manner was that there are many people who never tell their children anything about their illness. The kids sometimes grow up believing that the disease is their own fault. All a parent needs to do is to listen to their kids questions and give them an age appropriate answer. Do you think I knew this from day one? NO!!!! I grew into it as my son taught me along the way. Kids need information on their illness so they can be empowered along the way. This doctor could not possibly know all of this because he probably did not have a disabled child. The school wanted him to know all about his illness as well, life expectancy and all of that. That is our job as parents to guide our kids along the way, so they are emotionally healthy as well. To tell a kid or anyone for that matter that they have 2 years to live [just an example]… is to take away all hope and dreams…. It is not right. We have to grow into everything. I have had many experiences with doctors, and schools, mostly good ones.
 Perhaps you will understand why I became so emotionally charged when I heard this story. I know many types of parents who have disabled kids. I believe there is a fine line between denial and neglect. To deny a surgical procedure which will make quality of life better for a child is beyond my comprehension. Scoliosis surgery is needed for many who use wheelchairs. The window of opportunity for the surgery is limited as it has to be done before the kids are put on heart meds. The spine crumbles and the lung function is greatly compromised. Most who do not receive this surgery, cannot sleep in a bed as the pain is great. I know some who sleep in their wheelchairs. Pulmonary function decreases about 15-20 % each year if the surgery is never done. One parent had a brother who died from this illness and it has affected how she is raising her own boy with the same illness. It is as if his illness is a shame and they try to keep it all a secret. I feel bad that the boy probably does not know what is happening to him. Of course this is no business of mine but it makes sense the doctor blasted me that day. However, I am not one of those parents. My husband and I have tried to provide both of our sons with the resources they needed along the way.
 The big lesson here is that if things do not seem right , do not be afraid to ask your doctor questions. They are human and sometimes make mistakes, but they should listen to your concerns.  Advocate for yourself and your loved ones.

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Taking Care of your Photos

Today, I was very excited to pick up a print of the old newspaper photo from the Portland Evening Express dated June 28th, 1972 the day of the Bike Race in Redbank. I did contact the Portland Newspaper Archives contact person, Marcia MacVane, who researched to find that many negatives from that time had been thrown away. I wanted to go through the correct process. I explained that I wanted to get a negative made and post the picture. She said as long as it was in the public domain that it could be used. Although it is not an overall exciting picture, I have wanted to post this because of all the kids in the background. On the back, I had written their names when I was twelve. Left to right: Terry Lallo, Lori Nelson, tiptoeing behind her was Judy White, Barbara Applegard, Suzan Roberts in center, Lisa DesMarais, Mark Murphy, Laurie Reynolds, little girl in front Kelly Labbe, Scott Jaynes. The original photo was never ‘Fixed’ correctly in the darkroom so chemicals turned it all brown with age. They wanted it for their before and after photos as it was an excellent example because the photographer shot the picture 4x and had to work hard to enhance the print process to bring out the image. It was in such terrible shape, that it could not even be scanned. I paid a standard 15 dollars for an archival negative and another 12 dollars for an 8×10 print. It was worth having a record of it. If you are interested, I have had many negatives made along with prints from my antique photo collection at B&W Photo Lab at 142 High Street, Portland. They are excellent and their work shows the quality. It is worth preserving your collection.
I am also posting a few more samples of their work. If you are serious about your photos, you can reach them at 207-772-4947, as they are only open a few days per week. Or you can check out their website at   BWPHOTOLAB.COM

Some of these other pictures are ambrotypes which were given to me when I was a teenager. The woman with the round face is my great great grandmother, Martha Roberts [born 1842, photo taken 1863] from Saco Street, Westbrook. The thin faced woman is Marietta Brooks Roberts [born 1837, died 1872] – her sister in law. They look remarkable with negatives made and new prints, as the jewelry is very noticeable.

B&W also took a negative of this Polaroid which was taken by Judy Watts and made a B&W print. It has great detail. Notice all the kids behind me in that Cadillac. We took off like a flash around MacArthur Circle with the kids on their bikes following us. I had no idea that day that I was chosen to wear a crown, being the one to sell the most raffles [The prize was a lawnchair, won by Mr. Arthur Giroux, who was owner of an oil company] My gown was custom made by my neighbor Cathy Swan who took an old prom dress belonging to my mom’s cousin, Carol Ross and tailored it to fit one of us girls. In the home movie made by my dad, I accepted a ribbon and a crown and later had to get dressed in my gown inside the community hall bathroom. I was so painfully shy.

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