Golf Widow – A Throwback Thursday Re-Post

#TBT – Originally published on June 11, 2016

Almost a year after I first posted this, the obsession has only taken greater hold. Tony is back at it in full force, so I thought this might make a timely repost for those in the midst of their golf obsession (like him) or those sitting on the sidelines (like me). I just don’t get how anyone can want to golf that much!

Golfer at sunset


This past weekend, more than any other, I realized that my husband is obsessed with golf. His commitment had reached an all-time high, golfing every day from Thursday on, and some days he golfed multiple times. When Tony first started his tax business; I would call myself a tax widow from about January to April when he’d disappear into an abyss of tax returns. But now his business is well established and in turn he is obsessed with golf from about May to September.

Tony hasn’t always been a big golfer; only in recent years has the bug hit him hard. I don’t mind really. The truth is; summer is a slower time in the world of taxes which translates to him working more from home. This is okay, but after a while I start to feel – how can I say this nicely – irritated. Hmm, that wasn’t the nice word I was looking for, but regardless – I like to have the house to myself. Fortunately for me, golf has become Tony’s new “office” which gives us just the separation we need to keep a happy marriage going.

While Tony’s romance with golf suits me just fine, I can’t help but wonder what the attraction is. This pastime, beloved by so many, strikes me as frustrating and inconsistent at best. There are days Tony will be on cloud nine talking about the great game he had. The next day he’s glum and befuddled by his subpar performance. It seems no matter the time and dedication practicing form, swing and strategy; there is just no way to predict a good day from bad. This would drive me insane. In fact, it has driven me insane. Just last year, I wrote about my attempt to finally give golf a try. I did it and, not surprisingly, I didn’t like it.

I was doing what the instructor told me, but the ball wouldn’t go where I wanted it to. It was incredibly annoying and week after week, I saw no real progress. I thought; why in the world would I put so much time and energy into something I’m clearly not good at? I just didn’t get it and came to the conclusion that with golf; you either have it or you don’t. I most definitely don’t!

But as I continue to watch Tony and many friends enjoy this sport, sometimes in sweltering heat or pouring rain, I ask myself – what am I missing? How are they so obsessed with golf when I can’t even endure the agony of mini-golf?

As Tony prepares today for yet another busy day at “the office,” he tells me that it’s the challenge, both mental and physical, that keeps him going back round after round.

Ahhh yes –  the chase!

Are you a golfer? What do you love about the sport?

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Helen Thomas Simply Smashing – Home Decor, Gifts & More

Painting by Stephanie Mobbs Deady at Helen Thomas Simply Smashing
These lovely ladies painted by Stephanie Mobbs Deady always catch my eye.


I love to shop – even more when a store has a variety of unique items. Helen Thomas Simply Smashing of Andover offers a fabulous selection of jewelry, whimsical gifts and a wide array of home decor items including custom order rugs and furnishings.

I’ve only recently come to know owner, Lisa Schiavone (no, her name is not Helen Thomas), and have been so impressed with her passion and commitment to the arts and community.

Who is Helen?

Helen Thomas first opened in Andover Center in October 2000.The store’s name is a combination of Lisa’s middle name, also her grandmother’s first name; Helen and her husband’s name; Thomas, although not necessarily his namesake. Lisa liked the ring of the two names together and so was born – Helen Thomas. Her catchy tagline, Simply Smashing, was the perfect description of everything Lisa hoped her gift and home decor store to be – simple, smashing and everything in between.

The charm of the store is unmistakable as is the regular presence of Lisa’s mom, Cookie Gollan. Customers might find Cookie working the front of the store or running art parties for children twice a month on what’s come to be known as Fun Fridays. In many ways, Helen Thomas is as much Cookie as it is Lisa.

The Store

Upon entering the store you are greeted by a colorful selection of unique gift items such as mittens, robes, art, jewelry, pillows, candles, mugs and more.

Jewelry, home decor, art and gifts at Helen Thomas Simply Smashing
Top left: Colorful and cozy robes. Top right: Lola jewelry. Bottom left: A Stephanie Mobbs Deady signature cow painting. Bottom right: Pops of pink. Love, love, love and love!


I could spend days poking around for just the right hostess gift, home decor accessory or just something fun for me. Here are some of my favorite gift and home decor finds from Helen Thomas Simply Smashing.


home decor, candles, gifts and books at Helen Thomas Simply Smashing
Top left: Olive candles and a 3 Olive & a Twist shout out – thank you Lisa! Top right: The colorful collection of Company C rugs. Bottom left: Dog stuff – yes please! Bottom right: A must read novel, Faithfully Yours, by local Author, Ellen B. Alden.


But more than merchandise, I like what Lisa is doing in addition to retail sales. She has turned Helen Thomas into an art resource, an interior design services connection, and an activity center for calligraphy, painting and jewelry making classes. This Andover shop also acts as a gathering place for ladies’ nights out, cookies and cocktails, book readings and even pajama parties when the store stays open until midnight- how fun is that?

Lisa happily custom coordinates in-store events just as she does many of her customized products.

Personalization is one of the countless reasons customers love shopping at Helen Thomas. Many of the gift and home decor items available can be made to order in any way the customer desires. Lisa DiAntonio of Green Park Studios sells her line of custom printed wall art and fabric printed pillows, aprons, table runners, hand towels and more through Helen Thomas. Her items can be custom created with anything the customer would like to see printed… favorite Christmas carols, a love poem, family names, etc.

Custom wall art with inspirational quotes
Left: Art by Michele Boshar. Right: customizable wall hangings by Green Park Studios.


Working with local artisans like Lisa DiAntonio has become the cornerstone of Helen Thomas. Formerly an artist’s representative, Lisa Schiavone values craftsmanship and artistry. She is committed to featuring more local artists like prolific painter Stephanie Mobbs Deady and Michele Boshar whose inspirational collage art is featured above, left.

With so much to offer at Helen Thomas, Lisa does not want the experience to be about buying alone. She is continually working with local charities to give back to the community. Just last week she held a Local Artist’s Night in support of Lazarus House Ministries in Lawrence.


Michelle Boshar, Ellen B. Alden, Lisa Schiavone, Lisa DiAntonio and Stephanie Mobbs Deady at Artist's Night Out
Michelle Boshar, Ellen B. Alden, Lisa Schiavone, Lisa DiAntonio and Stephanie Mobbs Deady come together for Local Artist’s Night in support of Lazarus House.


Looking for something fun to do TONIGHT, 12/8/16?

Lisa is hosting a Sip and Shop from 6-8pm with a portion of proceeds going to Project Home Again. Bring in a new or gently used blanket and receive 20% off any blankets in store!

There are many ways to shop this holiday season, but consider purchasing your Christmas gifts at a local home decor and gift shop like Helen Thomas where special and simply smashing have a meaning all their own. Stop in any Thursday night before Christmas for holiday shopping parties – open until 9pm.

More to come in 2017

What can you expect to see from Helen Thomas in the future? To begin, more focus on interior design and home decor services. In addition to the Company C, Dash & Albert and Pine Cone Hill home products lines already available, Lisa will be working with local interior designers to bring you more of what you love for your home. The back of the store will be transformed into a design center while the front of the store will also be getting a fresh, new look with more of everything you know and love from Helen Thomas Simply Smashing.

You can shop Helen Thomas at the Andover location, below, and see more beautiful gifts, art and decor on Instagram.

Helen Thomas Simply Smashing, 90 Main Street, Andover, MA 01810, 978-475-7981


*This post is sponsored by Helen Thomas Simply Smashing with full support from 3 Olives & a Twist. Thank you for supporting the brands that help to support 3 Olives & a Twist.

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Writing a Travel Book: My Never-Ending Story

pictures and pages from Beth's first travel book

So, I’ve written a travel book. Well, some might call it a travel book, a travelogue or a travel memoir, but really what it is, is a travel experience. I like to call it “Eat, Pray, Love” meets “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” I started it in 2012 and here I am in 2016 working on what I hope to be a final revision.

The process of sticking with it has sometimes, most times, been tough. I know some fellow writers who will understand this and I wonder; why do I, why do we put ourselves through the pain?

The book is about my summer 2012 journey to Greece, Italy and Turkey. My parents, sister and her family, and my own family unit traveled together for our first, big family trip. The experience was so hilarious, momentous and memorable that I left the Mediterranean thinking, I could write a book about this. So I did. I call it “Musing Mediterranean.”

When I began MM, I didn’t have my magazine column, “Matters of Life & Beth” nor did this blog exist. My writing style was very different then. Over the years, I have found and come to enjoy the writing voice I use here and in my column.

Now, after going through multiple revisions and having the book professionally edited, I am starting over from chapter one to take what I have and rewrite it using the conversational voice that suits me now and the writer/author I want to be.

There are days when I feel like the edits will never end. There are always changes to be made and after reading and re-reading the story, what feels like a hundred times, I feel like it will never be done.

I have never been so dedicated to a personal passion so much as this. Tony will often say, “I can’t believe you are still working on that.” Honestly, neither can I. I am more of an immediate satisfaction type of person. If don’t see short term gain, then I usually move on to something where I can.

My book is different. I believe in it and I enjoy immersing myself in it even when I dread and severely procrastinate opening the file to get started. It’s a strange contradiction. I sometimes worry that if I dread working on it so much, maybe I shouldn’t be doing it; but I keep going. There are also days when I fear that it is boring or stupid; but I keep going.

If ever I understood a labor of love, I think I can fairly say that this book is mine.

I don’t know what the end game for this book will be, but for now I am going to work through this final, or near final, phase and hopefully soon revel in the glory of completion.

Do you have a labor of love?

To learn more about my travel book “Musing Mediterranean,” visit my website.

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Advice for College Students

graduation cap and diploma

June is always a busy month for me. We take on three family birthdays, Father’s Day and, of course, the typical end of school chaos.

This year we had the added pleasure of attending several high school graduation parties. Interestingly, these celebrations struck an emotional chord with me, more so than anything else. Watching these young graduates reach this pivotal milestone conjured up old feelings of when I went off to college. New feelings also emerged as I realized how soon I would be seeing my own children take this step toward adulthood and independence. I reflected on my college years and thought about what my advice for college students of today might be.

I was vicariously excited for the new phase of life these young, enthusiastic people are entering. I considered my own college experience and couldn’t help think about how I could’ve done it differently. I entered UMASS Amherst from graduating class of 60 girls at the Academy of Notre Dame in Tyngsboro, MA. I was scared and totally unprepared for the culture shock I would face. I would say my first real taste of freedom was intoxicating and toxic at the same time. My freshman year was rough, but I eventually got my act together and made it through the final three years. The one thing I didn’t do, was take my undergraduate education as seriously as I should have. I often wonder where I would be now, career-wise, had I been a better student and more tuned-in to the classes and opportunities I had available to me.

From the time I was little, I knew I was a creative person, yet I majored in business management and marketing. I considered a minor in art, but blew it off. Why? I’m honestly not sure, but I regret that I didn’t explore that further. Business didn’t excite me then or when I took a job in the financial services industry as a post-graduate.

Advice for College Students Today

If I could’ve told my young self a few things before heading off to college, here’s what I would’ve said:

  1. Relax and take it slow. Know your limits and remember why you are at college. Study first, party second.
  2. Your destiny may not yet be clear, but pay close attention to the classes and experiences that you are most enjoying. Your future success and contentment may very well be tied to your passions. It doesn’t always work out that way, but exploring the possibility will at least ensure you don’t utter the phrase, “coulda, woulda, shoulda.”
  3. Think ahead – really think ahead. Take time to consider what you want to do in life and whether you can see yourself happy on your chosen career path long-term. Change what you need to change, but commit when you’ve got it figured out. Seek the help of professors, parents and mentors. Don’t coast through college without a plan.

As my girls get close to graduation, I’ll be doling out more and more advice based on my own experiences and I’m sure they’ll beg me to stop. I know that those four years can be easily wasted or optimized and I want the young people of today to make the most of them. Their future selves (and parents) will be glad they did.

What would your advice for college students be?

Students graduating tossing their caps
College bound.
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Peter Gammons Talks Baseball, Passion, and Success

Signed baseball by Peter Gammons and a Louisville Slugger
Signed ball by Peter Gammons from Monday’s event and Tony’s battered, Pete Rose, Louisville Slugger.


The Event

On Monday I accompanied Tony to a client appreciation event held at the law offices of Greenberg Traurig in Boston’s financial district. Being there brought back fond memories of my time working nearby on Franklin Street.

I debated attending wondering what I could offer in a room full of lawyers. As it happens, my cousin David is a partner at the firm – catching up with him alone would be a treat (he’s one of the funniest people I know.)

The spacious and sleekly designed office space was also a treat. The outdoor patio on the 20th floor really sold me. When I stepped out and looked up to the tops of the surrounding buildings framed by blue sky, I imagined spending many a lunch hour enjoying this lovely retreat. Not surprisingly, it’s rarely used. Partners are too busy and associates wouldn’t dare be caught lounging outside.

Peter Gammons Takes the Mic

I soon turned my attention turned to the evening’s keynote speaker. The firm brought in esteemed sportswriter and baseball television analyst, Peter Gammons.

I’m not going to lie, baseball isn’t my game, but as soon as Gammons began speaking, I was fascinated with his in-depth recall of dates, statistics, players and general baseball knowledge. His remarkable knowledge and clear passion were inspiring. He commented on everything from the problems with youth sports to what it takes to be a star, along with countless anecdotes of his encounters with baseball greats.

I found his story about recognizing a great hitter most fascinating. Read his full story here. He explained that only great hitters like Ted Williams, Don Mattingly and Mark McGwire have had the experience. It’s when the seams of a fastball connect with the bat of a perfect swing in just the right spot on a foul straight back – or something like that. The perfect storm of power and placement results in the burning smell of ball striking bat.

The Message

While most of this baseball talk was lost on me, I took from it two things – the passion, dedication and natural ability to be great at something will lead you to unique experiences reserved only for a select few. I would like an experience like that someday. If you love something, like Peter Gammons does baseball, you can engross yourself in it so completely that your passion alone will bring you success and personal fulfillment.

I have found my passion in writing. While this discovery came later in my life, I’m very glad to have uncovered it and am committed to seeing where it will take me.

Have you found your passion?

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