Wasn’t this just us?

Dear Julie, 

I was driving somewhere yesterday, and saw these two ladies walking in the neighborhood.

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You know what I thought about right? Us, circa 2004, walking our neighborhood in upstate NY with our babies in tow. Thank goodness for those walks and for you. I would have gone crazy. Actually I did go crazy but you were just my kind of crazy, so it all worked out. Our boys rode along as we hiked the ‘hood. They heard us talking and laughing and being totally relieved to be with each other. I hope these gals are doing the same. I hope they are talking about politics and religion and racial/gender equality, because we did. After days and nights spent with kids and husbands, whom we loved, it was so nice not to talk about homework, dinner or family. I imagine these ladies feeling like we did, like we were in college again with our best pal – except with a baby or two in tow. Those were such happy days! 

Now we live in different states and see each other less often – but often enough to stay on the same path. I was a bit jealous when I saw these gals, wishing to have some of this back, but then I realized it’s only gotten better. The boys we pushed around together act like brothers and we can still talk the talk, even though we don’t walk the walk. 

xoxo

Blog interrupted

So I meant to write a really coherent, interesting blog as always (ha ha), but then this happened…. My boy got his brown belt!! Yippee. Thank goodness he got some distant relative’s athletic gene.

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And then I had just 18 minutes to shower and get ready for a night out with friends – and then this happened..

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Which led to this…

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And then it was 10pm and I had to go to bed. Kidding! More like 10:15pm.
#livinthethuglife

Dear Howard, I’m not going to punk out!

Confession. Sometimes (not ALWAYS) I make plans and then cancel. I’m particularly guilty of ditching my friend Howard. Howie. Uncle Wowie to some. Here’s the formal definition of my disease:

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Retreating. It’s what I do best. Some folks also refer to this as “flaking”. I’m a flake. Sometimes. But not without a cause! I don’t just willy nilly cancel. I’m not a monster.
Here’s the reason I couldn’t come to the party, the cocktail hour, the dinner, the birthday, the birth of your first born (gulp):

- when I said yes, I meant it. I really wanted to be there. Then all of a sudden I didn’t, and it doesn’t mean I don’t love you. I do.
– sometimes I over estimate my ability to “make it happen”. For example, I thought I could work a week-long event, travel home and then go right to a party. Or… I thought I could drive the 10 hours for your baby shower, have cake, and then drive home.
– you wouldn’t have fun. Why? Because I suck at faking it. Loads of people do loads of things they don’t want to. Not me. No sir. I have no poker face. I’m a walking billboard of my emotional state.
– I thought I’d be able to volunteer for the PTA/show up for your make-up party/drive you to your friend’s house even though I work two states away and can’t ever be home by 3.
Good intentions people. Always good.
I’m lucky my friends and family don’t disown me. They all understand. Almost all do (ahem. Howard)
I’m also very understanding when friends cancel on me. I get it. I don’t judge you! I’m not mad! I may even be happy. Who knows. The point is, it’s ok.
But I don’t want to be the friend/wife/mother that cried plans. I vow to change! Or at least make fewer plans that I have to cancel.
I’ll see you tomorrow night Howard! Xoxo

Bros before….you know

We had a busy weekend. We picked up a kid at camp. We drove 3 hours to upstate NY and had a fun day with friends, came home, slept and then headed west to Harrisburg to see my family (and pick up the other kid).
We were also there to celebrate two birthdays and an Indian celebration called Raksha Bandhan (we’re efficient that way).
To be clear, there are hundreds to Indian celebrations. What can I say, we like lots of Gods and lots of ways to worship them. And by WE I really mean my people, not me. Because as I’ve told you before, I’m religious light. I dabble. The Catholic Irish Ukrainian dude I married is the same way. We do the big things. Baptism so the kids get into heaven? Check. Making sure they know how the Indian god Ganesh got an elephant head? Done. Mortal soul secured.
So we approach holidays in both religions with some whimsy. Don’t you think some of the problems of the world would be resolved with some whimsy? Whimsy is undervalued.
Anyway, back to the weekend.
Basically the celebration is about the bond between a brother and a sister. She puts a sacred thread on his wrist, dots his head with a red mark called a Tilak (red powder dye and water. Think runny red lipstick) and she feeds him something sweet. He promises to protect and love her and gives her a small gift. Lovely.
What happens if you don’t have a brother like me and my sister? You’re screwed ! Just kiddin. Our cousins step into the role for us.
Here’s some pics from the celebration. The last pic is of my cousins who payed dual roles, our brothers and the birthday boys.
Notice my sons face as my daughter feeds him the Indian sweet. Maybe next year she can feed him an M&M or something.
And speaking of tweaking tradition, one of the sacred threads resembled a football – so we chose that for my son. He missed the subtle cultural fusion we tried to create.

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Camera Ready

A couple of months ago my father-in-law gave us an old Polaroid camera.
It wasn’t for a birthday or anniversary or any milestone. As is his habit, he’ll periodically give something to one of the kids that he thinks is important for them to keep and carry on. Many times it’s a piece of jewelry that means something to him, or a pocket-knife that was passed down by his dad, or even a nifty flashlight/lantern combo (flashlights are important). Occasionally he’ll give some sort of a weapon. Nothing scary. There’s a certain bayonet that lives in our house, in case of, you know, a zombie apocalypse.
It’s a sweet tradition.
This camera came with a story. As almost all the gifts do. A family legend that involved money owed, the Montauk police, false accusations, corruption and bravery. I can’t do the story justice, you’ll have to ask him yourself. What I know is that the good guy won. And thank goodness. This camera would go on to take the photos that helped define my husband’s family. It was quite the thing to own back then. State of the art and high-end. But photos were always important to the family.

We love photos in this house too. We’ve loved them before you could take a thousand a day. They are the art in our home and the gifts that we give.
Some of my favorite photos of my husband and his childhood were taken with this camera.  I posted a few below.

The shot of him in Carl Schurz Park by the river as a baby – look at that fierce dress his mom is wearing! On a side note, for years I thought it was called Carlshultze park because of my hubbies’ thick NYC accent.
The other shot is of his dad, in Montauk, soon after he got the camera. I love that picture.
But my all-time favorite shot. The one that I still catch him looking at on a regular basis, is the one on the couch with his mom and one of his sisters. Laughing. Carefree. And completely happy.
I know it wasn’t the camera that did that. But it was there. It helped capture the moment. In that room. By the river. In the field.
So we put the camera where it belongs, right alongside these amazing pictures in our home.
I get a little sad thinking about what I’ll give to my kids. I imagine it going like this,” Kids, here’s my iPhone. The first one ever created. It’s -1G. It’s what I used to take shots without filters and without posting or tweeting. Cherish it.”
Oh well.

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Happiness is a grocery store

Shoprite

To fully comprehend this picture and the impact that it will have on my life, I have to tell a short short story.
We moved into our lovely neighborhood in 2006. It’s a charming little nook. A little gem lined with big Oak trees and regular sized homes all in a row. There’s a great walking/running/dogging/biking path that goes all the way through and is used often. We loved it immediately.
It’s full of kids and friendly neighbors that have become some of our closest friends.
There’s even a small little cluster of stores in walking distance.
When we first moved in, the cluster consisted of a Blockbuster Video(!), a pizza place, an ice cream place, a Kohls, a supermarket, a Starbucks and some stores in between. Some Friday nights were spent going from Blockbuster to pizza to ice cream. What can I say, we are easy to please.
But the true jewel to that center was the grocery store. It wasn’t special. But it was good. Good and close. Good and convenient. Good and easy. And then it was gone.
Since it left, our community has been reeling.
Blockbuster folded soon after. Coincidence? I think not. Yes, we still have pizza and ice cream and Starbucks. We’ll always have Starbucks. Once one of those opens up it does not shut down. In case of natural disaster, just run for the nearest Starbucks. It’ll survive anything (and there’s free wifi).

In the dark times since then, we’ve had nothing. Well, truthfully, we’ve had lots of things but really-close-grocery-store wise, we’ve had nothing. In our close community there have been rumors and rumblings about a Trader Joe’s. And then we heard some buzz about Whole Foods. But those things were a pipe dream. A fool’s wish. And let’s be honest, I’m not fancy. I just want a place to go get some emergency supplies (“I forgot I need to send grapes to school today” or “We’re out of milk. Again.” type of emergencies). A CVS drug store opened up down the road a few years ago. I remember walking in for the first time and seeing that they had a refrigerator section. I almost cried. Do you see how desperate I am?

About a year ago, maybe less, we found out that all our…ok my… dreams were coming true. My grocery store dreams were coming true.

Now we are just a few weeks away from the grand opening of a beautiful, new store. I bought a dress.

The whole center is a buzz. New paved parking lots. New crisp paint on the walls. A reason to get up in the morning! Just kidding. Not really.

 

 

 

 

 

Chin up

Today is my mother-in-laws birthday. She would have been 63 years old. We lost her suddenly and tragically almost 8 years ago. For a while, all I could think about was the day she died. How she was just there, in front of me dancing, and then not. How I just heard her laughing and yelling at her sisters, and then not. I replayed that day (like all those that loved her) over and over again.

But now I think about that day less and less, and the other days more and more. You know the expression,”life of the party”? She was the definition of that. A firecracker that could be warm and loving one minute, and sharp and witty the next. She was one of the funniest people I have ever known. She was a storyteller too – born with the gift of narrative. Her stories were told with her words and her hands and her eyes.

She lived a tough life, survived single motherhood, raised two amazing kids, worked non-stop, and never showed it. If you met her, you’d think she was the happiest, go-luckiest person around. Because she was. She made the best out of everything. She lived her life, however short, fully. No one will ever say she didn’t have fun.

I know wherever she is now, she’s laughing and making everyone laugh with her.

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