The Stuff That Sticks

Like millions of other people, I was working and living in New York City on September 11, 2001. Everyone has a 9/11 story. Riding into work this morning, my train car was full of people talking about that day. Like a train full of veterans that lived to tell about it. Many of them had lost co-workers or family, but today, they talked about the little things. The weather that morning. People helping each other. The police walking around Penn Station with their fire arms out and on the ready.

Their conversation reminded me of the days and months and years following the sudden death of my mother-in-law. My husband, his sister and I would talk through every moment that led up to her passing over and over again. We’d be eating together, driving together, you name it – and all of a sudden one of us would start talking about how all the events unfolded. It was a devastating loss but talking about it, somehow dissecting it with each other was good for us. From the outside it must have sounded depressing and morbid, or like we were adding salt to the wound. But really it helped the healing. And it felt so nice to do it with people who wouldn’t hurry you through thinking about that day into the,” she’s in a better place” or “you’ll be ok soon”. Mourning slowly and long is ok. Mourning in bits and pieces is ok.

9/11 and the weeks that followed are both a blur and extremely clear in my head. Here’s what goes through my head today about that day:

  • I walked into the building at work not having watched the news. My boss, now one of my best friends, was coming in too. She said,” Did you hear what happened?” We went upstairs, grabbed another co-worker, and went to a company coffee shop – called Java City I think. They had two TVs broadcasting live. A tower on fire. News channels hadn’t expected to show people jumping out of windows so we saw everything. All three of us were crying. I think everyone in that shop was crying.
  • Not sure how/when we came back down to our floor, or if the other tower had been hit at that point. TVs were brought into a small conference room on our floor and people were either frantically calling home or watching the footage.
  • Here’s a totally wacky thing. There is a comedian named Jason Mantzoukas who’s quite famous now. But on that day, he worked across from our floor and did presentation building. He was the funny dude who would help put together our agenda packets, etc. He’s the one that helped bring the TV into the conference room, and I remember spending part of that horrible day with him. When I see him on Parks and Recreation or in the movies – all I can think of, is him sitting with us and crying.
  • My husband stayed behind at work (a choice he regrets now) and I walked home alone, with a hundred other people. We were like zombies shuffling out of buildings and onto the streets.
  • The next day was surreal. It was the most surreal day I have ever been through. No planes. No cars. No buses. All the stores were closed. The streets were empty uptown. Downtown was still a war zone. There was almost no one outside.
  • Everyone that didn’t lose someone in the city was huddled around a TV watching the coverage. President Bush came on and threatened retaliation. It was exactly what we needed to hear.
  • One of the most miraculous things was that my daughter was only 3. Completely, happily, oblivious to all the chaos and manic fear. I have never been so thankful for bedtime routines and snack time.
  • One of our events a few months later was at a production of The Producers, which had opened that April in NYC. It was one of the first nights after 9/11 that I remember being in a big room full of people that were laughing and joyous.

So ofcourse I’ll “Never Forget” the loss. But I remember so many other things too.

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Best Decision Ever.

Ummm…can we just skip over my explanation of not writing during the last 15 days? Ok. Thanks. More importantly – I couldn’t wait to write this post. 

We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout. Really we did. Swear on June and Johnny we did.  And when we made that decision it was filled with worry and anxiety. Are we doing the right thing? Yes. Are we too young? Yes. Will we make it? I sure hope so. But once we were married and living our little life in NYC – all that worry went away. We had a great first year of marriage. Lots of traveling for work and for pleasure. Lots of painting the town red. Not a care in the world. If we wanted to eat out at 2 AM, we could. If we wanted to leave at a moment’s notice to hop a plane to a tropical island, we could. But in reality we never did. We were pretty tame. But we were happy.

Right after the holidays we decided that this would be the year we had a baby. Unlike the wedding/marriage/decision to stay together forever thing- this was an easy one. I loved kids. He…didn’t hate kids. It was perfect. We talked it through. We made a 6 month plan. We’d get our finances locked down. We’d figure out if we could stay in the apartment. We’d figure out if we needed to buy a car. We’d take part of the year to really sort it out. But we forgot something important.

I am a fertile myrtle.  My body was made for baby bearing, and I’m not just talking about my hips. Just looking at babies could get me pregnant. And indeed, just thinking of having a baby was all it took. Well, not ALL it took. I’m not magic, but you get the point. I got pregnant quickly. Supersonic preggers. Look Ma, I got skills!

We were so excited. I won’t brag about how easy breezy the first months were. No morning sickness. No nothing. Just happy little butterfly flutters in my belly. We found out what we were having, because, well, you know. I’m nosy. I need to know things.

A girl!! Exactly what we wanted.

After that, instead of a Friday night movie – we’d head to Barnes and Noble and look up baby names. There must be an Irish/Ukrainian/Indian name right? Not so much. We knew the middle name would be Anne, because 1) Indians don’t really have middle names so I was open to anything and 2) My husband’s family has a long line of strong, beautiful women with that middle name. She could have no other middle name.

But there was an Indian first name that I loved. Asha. It means wish. Not just a small, penny-in-a-fountain wish – but a deep, burning, full-of-love wish. Asha Anne? It could work. I began working on my husband, trying to convince him that this was the name for our little one. He wasn’t loving it, but I think I would have talked him into it. Eventually.

2 months into my “Asha” obsession, my husband came home from work with a deeper than usual frown on his face. Then he proceeded to tell me about a woman who’d just started in his group that was making his life miserable. Anyone care to guess what her name was? Anyone? Bueller? No? It was ASHA. What? Come on!  In the words of Vizzini in The Princess Bride – inconceivable!

Long story short, we didn’t go with that name. But we found something even better. There are so many other details about that time that fill my head.

I could tell you about my doctor (I’d never met a Hasidic Jew before and the first time we were introduced he said,” you don’t ask me why I have curls and I won’t ask you why you don’t wear a dot, ok? Loved him). I could talk about the raging postpartum depression I had that lasted for months, and then one day, just turned off like a light. I could talk about how we painted a hallway yellow and called it a baby room (it was beautiful).

I went into labor at 5am. We hopped into a cab and my water broke. The driver didn’t act surprised, #cabsaredirty. I was in labor for a bit and then she was born. I remember my husband clearly saying to me, in the midst of my epidural haze, “we’re a family”. The next few hours, days, weeks, months were a blur.

I’m sure a lot of people assumed she was a “surprise” because we were so young. None of our friends were even married, let alone parents. We lived in a city where it was normal to see a twenty year old strolling around with a baby – because she was the nanny, not the mommy.

But we were unapologetic. She wasn’t Asha, but she was. Because she was a wish. A plan. A purpose.

That was 15 years ago. There’s a ton of words I could use to describe her. She’s funny, smart, beautiful, kind, thoughtful, stubborn, careful, sarcastic, passionate, loyal – I could go on and on.  Every time someone from the outside world tells me how amazing she is, I try not to do what I naturally want to do – which is to say,” I know right?”. I just say thank you and go cry in a corner.

Happiest Birthday to my first-born. Here’s what happens when you blink.  Your baby goes from this…

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To this…

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What a difference a day makes

Here’s where I spent about 8 hours yesterday…

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Here’s where I spent 8 hours today…

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Then there's this guy.

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He’s from Mars.

The Big Apple

Despite a rocky start – we had a great weekend. My son’s team won their first soccer game of the season (8-1) and the weather was beautiful.  We had promised to take one of my daughter’s friends to NYC – her very first visit, and Saturday was the day.

They had a blast – and I had a blast watching them have a blast.

Although they let me take a ton of pictures during the day – the only ones I’m permitted to show are the following:

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We started our day here. Now, you’re probably thinking that you’ve never seen this in the top NYC destinations list…well it should be. This is Glaser’s Bake Shop. On the upper east side of Manhattan – called Old Yorkville. Over a 100 years old, owned by the same family that started it and still going strong.  It’s an important focal point in our tour of the city, it’s also an important focal point in my family’s life. My husband and most of his family (including me!) worked at Glaser’s at one point or another. Herb, one of the two brothers that now runs it, is one of my husband’s dearest friends. A father figure that has been in his life for decades. He’s also my daughter’s Godfather. This is also where our little family got it’s start.  Our very first apartment in NYC was on the third floor of the bakery building.  We were married while living there – we had our baby there, who’s now 8 feet tall and showing her pal all the sites of her old neighborhood.  We wouldn’t know what to do without Uncle Herbie.

So that was stop one. We loaded up on Herb’s famous black and white cookies and off we went.

And since our sweet tooth was raging after Glaser’s – we headed right to Dylan’s Candy Bar (check!). The only place where I’ll let my kids eat from a chocolate fountain. Which, generally, I think are really gross. I imagine buckets of cheap, melted chocolate being used over and over again. Yuck. But the last time we were here, I spoke to the woman who ran the fountain – and she said they throw out the unused “liquid” and if they see anyone’s finger/hand/hair/body part touch the chocolate – it’s over. They shut it down. Is this true? I dunno. But I liked her attempt. So I was ok with the girls partaking. I passed on it. Communal dipping fountains are just not my thing. No matter what the nice lady says.

We hopped on a subway (check!) and headed downtown.

We landed right in the middle of a street fair.

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From there we walked to Washington Square Park (check!) and then to Union Square (check!)- who needs America’s Got Talent, these performers were much better.

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The girls – “ummm…do you smell that….”

Me – “incense! That’s incense! Let’s keep walking…”

Then my daughter’s pal said,”I’ve never been in a taxi.”

We fixed that. We made her flag the cabbie down (stealing it from an angry young hipster to boot!).

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(that’s a slurpie in their hands, and per Mayor Bloomberg, it’s a small)

We ended the day in Times Square (check!). By then the girls were tired, hungry and worn-out.  Success!  I took some touristy shots – but they liked their selfie the best.

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These two beauties are even prettier on the inside.

Not your average Joe.

10 days into my life as a freshman in college, I walked over to my friend’s dorm room to see if she wanted to catch an early dinner. She couldn’t, she was helping an old neighborhood friend catch-up on some math notes. She introduced me to him and I gave her a look – sure you’re “studying”. Later that night she came over and I got the scoop. They really did just study. She had known him for years. She and her brother spent tons of time with his outgoing, friendly sister. Him, not so much. But he was cute. Super cute. And super intense.  I found out everything about the dude. This guy was not here to have a good time. He didn’t laugh easily and he was almost always working.  He was a bit of a loner. The few friends he had were loyal and protective – just like he was. This was the guy for me.

The next part of the story is up for debate. He says I stalked him until he gave in. I remember it differently. Same outcome. I was 19, he was 21.

College was a blur of happy memories. Summers in NYC, jobs on campus and off, friendships and drama and occasionally some classes. We broke up a few times, for a day or two. Then he apologized and I took him back (again, I’m sure he has a different version but this is my blog. There’s no fairness in blogging.)

He graduated before me and moved into an apartment down the block from the dorm. He had a roommate named JFK (seriously. and he was as quirky as his name.) By the time I graduated he got a better job and moved into his own place. I moved in quickly after.

He’s never said to me that “he needed space” or that “he’s not sure he wants to commit”. From the very first day he was all in.

What followed was the anti-NYC story. Marriage and babies in our late 20s and early 30s. It didn’t make sense to many – but it was so natural to us.

We are a bit of a mismatch.  We always have been. Different things make us tick. As you know, I like to get to know people. any people. I love a good chat. I’m all about a party. I love to laugh, I do it often and at really silly stuff. On paper, I’m the kind of person that drives him batty and he’s the type of person that I would keep away from. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of music. I only know what I like. He’s emotional, intuitive and can breathe fire in a nanosecond. I’m pragmatic, fickle and it takes a lot to get me angry. But we have a really good time together. I won’t say the yin/yang thing because it’s not all that zen. It’s volatile and passionate and I wouldn’t last with anyone else.

A couple of days ago, on his 43rd birthday, 22 years into knowing him – I told him that this would be our best year yet. And he looked at me and said,”it better be.”

When I named this blog he couldn’t figure out why the word “wife” came before the word “mother”. He thought my role as a mother is what defined me, the thing that mattered the most to me. He was wrong.

Happy Birthday baby.

This post will make him extremely uncomfortable and exposed – so why not go for it and add photos right?

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Wowie Wedding

This was a weekend full of very important things. My little sister’s birthday (even though I forgot how old she was turning, damn you math!). It was also Father’s Day weekend, and I happen to know and love some of the best fathers around.

And then there was this.

Saturday afternoon, in a magical garden tucked into a park, right smack in the middle of a big city – we went to one of the most beautiful weddings that I have ever had the pleasure of being invited to. It was full of emotion, love, and humor. We only knew a handful of people at the wedding – and yet, each and every one of us there was so connected to the couple – that we felt connected. The ceremony was full of tears and joy and Madonna (the lyrics to Express Yourself were read aloud). There was even a happy heckler (the groom’s father) – in other words, perfection. The happy couple were two guys who never thought they’d be able to celebrate love in this way – legally and recognized.

The past few weeks in the East Coast have felt like the Tropics. Wet, dark, damp, humid, and hot. But not yesterday. Yesterday was divine. Literally blessed. If you listen carefully when you look at the pictures, you can hear birds chirping and the angels singing. True.

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And here’s the handsome couple. The Brooms (coined by them not me!).

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What did you expect? Pink boas? Well, maybe later.

After the vows we all walked to the reception and spent the rest of the afternoon drink…errr…I mean….celebrating. Lots of food. Lots of laughs.

Weddings are always beautiful. They are always touching and emotional. But, let’s face it, they aren’t always fun. You don’t leave a wedding thinking that’s the best time you’ve had in a while. You usually want to wish the couple well and get out of dodge fast. Not this wedding – this was a blast. When can we do it again!?!

Here’s some more spectacular views from that afternoon/evening/night. These photos should be titled,”God loves the gays. Here’s proof. Get over it.”

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And here’s me with one of the Brooms…the one that busts my chops constantly, the one that never misses a chance to make fun of me, the one that took me on my most favorite date night of all time, the one that knows enough secrets about me to break up my marriage and get me fired all in one fell swoop….Ok – that’s it. I have to spend more time with the other one.

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Congrats to Howie (uncle wowie to some) and Luigi!

The Lunch Table

This picture is circa 2000.
I had just gotten a job at a Fortune 500 in NYC. After two years of being at home with my baby, I was back at work as an event planner and loving it. Technically I wasn’t a planner until a year later – in the beginning I was an admin.
An admin to an insane, crazy, brilliant woman who ran our group. The woman who gave me a 45 minute lecture on using colored folders instead of beige folders (the colors distracted her as she walked by my cube). The woman who called me from the Tarmac while boarding a flight to tell me she doesn’t like prop planes and why hadn’t I known that and I better fix it ASAP (I couldn’t because there were only prop planes flying to this part of Colorado. I had offered to book her a car the day before when I warned her about this but she hadn’t been listening, something about researching the perfect toilet – no joke).
But all those moments that would have driven me to quit turned into funny stories we shared. Funny war stories at the lunch table.
We worked really really hard. Almost 24/7. Weekends. Holidays. For no money. It was rough.
But every day, we had lunch together – the whole group. There are a few ladies missing from this pic but this was the core group. We also had a Swiss National and a Brit.
We bitched, we ranted, we raved, but most of all – we laughed.
This restaurant lunch was a rarity. Almost all lunches were either in the cafeteria or at a table on our floor.
No one from other groups ever joined – probably because they weren’t invited. This was anti-networking. This was cocooning.
The majority of the lunch was used to make fun of each other. And there was plenty of material. Marriages, weirdo eating habits, childhood traumas – all ripe for the picking. We left our egos in our cube. Belly laughter ensued.
Then we’d go back to working our asses off.
There were weddings, babies, break-ups, promotions, and more.
The crazy boss lady left. And shockingly, in hindsight, I would miss her. Aside from the batshit crazy episodes, I learned a lot from her. And from all those ladies.
It was and continues to be the best job I ever had.

(not sure why I have glasses on? contact lense malfunction that morning?)

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