Call it the “everything’s fine” filter….

Sometimes the picture doesn’t tell the whole story. We all know that. This is the age of social media. We filter, we tweak, we tune-up. Every post or pic looks like it was smooth and effortless. I thought I’d share one of my favorite pictures from this past weekend and give you some scoop on what happened right before this cute shot was taken.

First, some context: It’s my cousin’s baby shower. That’s her in the adorable dress with the adorable bump. We were so excited to celebrate with her and her hubby.

My sister and I had helped her plan all the details. I wanted to be there early enough to help set-up so I came the day before. Drove to my hometown, spent the night with my mother.

I Got up early, showered and came down to breakfast with my parents. I was dressed for the day but didn’t have my make-up on or my hair done.

My mother said, “I like your gown.” Hmmm – gown? It was a long dress for sure, but I didn’t focus on it.

Some more context: the night before, after dinner, my mother had laid out nightgowns for me in the bedroom. This may seem strange to many people – I think an immigrant parent is needed to fully understand this. There’s always a clean nightgown waiting for my stayover. There’s also a brand new toothbrush, toothpaste and anything else you need. If, for any reason you ask for something my mother doesn’t have for you… you better know that there’ll be 19 of those things next time. To make up for this time. It’s very sweet. On this visit, however, I’d brought my own pjs. I’m 47. It’s completely normal to want to wear my own pajamas. Right??

This did not go over well. She’d laid out a winter one and a summer one – what was the problem? Why couldn’t I just wear those? After a 10 min of conversation, I convinced her that I was ok but so thankful for the options. I had my own nightgown.

Back to breakfast. Once done, I ran upstairs, put on what I considered a full face of make-up, blew-out my hair before the eventual drop of humidity would kink it out, and headed out the door. As I was leaving my mother said,” oh you’re changing out of your nightgown at the party?”

It took me a minute to catch-on. My what? I calmly smiled and said, nope, this is my actual dress for the party. Not my nightgown. Up until that moment I thought it was a really cute dress.

What’s the moral of the story kids?

Yes, just wear her nightgown.

Anyhoo I’m in such a good mood about the shower I don’t even get fazed. I get into the car, in my nightgown dress and head to the venue.

In the car were the flowers, the cupcake toothpick flags, the pink and pumpkin colored chocolate covered strawberries, the gifts, the welcome sign and some other things we needed to decorate. Because I didn’t have enough stuff in my car, I made a pit-stop and bought balloons – just in case.

I pulled up to the venue, parked right at the front door blocking the small entry way but decided it was ok because it was just for a short time. I just wanted to run in and grab a cart to take all the stuff inside.

I came back outside with the cart, opened the driver’s side door to unlock the trunk, dropped my keys on the seat and pushed the unlock button and shut the door. But it wasn’t the unlock button. I locked the car. For the very first time in as long as I can remember… I locked my keys in the car. Right on the front seat. An hour and a half before everyone was going to show up.

Did I mention I also left my purse in the car? Did I mention my phone was in that purse in the car?

I stood there staring at what I’d done for about a minute and the baby momma-to-be showed up. I put on my biggest smile and said, “can I have your phone?”.

Long story short – everyone should have AAA or is it Triple A or maybe Triple AAA. It’s worth every penny. Especially when you’re blocking a major entrance to a venue with your big old Subaru and have everything you need for someone’s party in the trunk. Everyone should also always serve mimosas at baby showers.

We got everything out. 30 min to spare.

So now look at the picture again. A couple of mimosas and a quick break-in later, everything was as perfect as it looked. Nightgown dress and all.

High highs and low lows

August. You crazy, nutty bitch. You’ve given and you’ve taken away. You’ve made me insanely happy and insanely sad. At the end of this year, when I think about all the best times and the worst times – I’ll think of you.

I’ll think of my daughter finishing up a summer in New York City doing an internship. She loved the work. She loved the city. She loved her roommate. Every time I spoke to her I heard excitement and confidence. I don’t know what I would have done if a child of mine hadn’t loved the city that I love. I would have gotten over it, sure. But I would have held a grudge, truthfully. I would have looked at her with a raised eyebrow…. what’s there not to love? But thankfully she felt exactly the same way I feel. Her exit interview with the CEO included an offer for her to come back and work there. Ofcourse it did. Who wouldn’t want her? A high high for sure. This is her below – one in from the left..the one with the big smile on her face.

When she finished with that internship and finally came home, we all went away for our annual summer vacation. This year, to Iceland. It seemed more like a week on the moon. Beautiful. Striking. Gorgeous. Everywhere you turned looked like a green screen version of reality. Even now, when we look at photos – they look fake. And the country is as friendly as is it beautiful. We spent a week exploring, climbing, hiking, swimming, eating and sometimes fighting (let’s be honest). But it was still perfect. Another high high.

While my girl was spending her summer bulking up her LinkedIn profile, my son spent the summer learning how to surf. He never took a formal lesson (to my chagrin), he just learned from friends. He fell in love with it. Which made total sense. He’s a great swimmer, he loves his skateboard….ofcourse he’d love surfing! It all added up. Once he’d had his fill of beach trips he started looking for a job. I suggested he take a lifeguard class, and miraculously, he agreed. He passed the class and got a job as a lifeguard at a local cougar haunt..errr I mean gym. My little baby boy was going to save lives! Ok…not really. But he was going to watch little brats while their parents got drunk at the pool bar – that’s something to be proud of right? The kid who I have to sometimes remind to brush his teeth, got a job. He had to fill out a W9! What is happening here??!! A high for sure.

I have one more little high. My work team got together for an offsite. We met for a day of eating and drinking and swimming. No agenda. No work talk (that wasn’t juicy gossip). Just fun. It’s a humbling, lucky thing to get along with the people you work with. It’s a miracle to like them. Maybe even love them! This group of people that I work with makes the job feel like fun. And we’ve been through some ugly times. I mean…ugly. But at the end of the day – we stick together. I can’t imagine my time at this company without them. High high! This pic isn’t from this year but I love it.

So that leaves the low. The low low.

And it really was the lowest low.

About a year and a half ago, my husband’s aunt was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

Let me back up.

Mary Ohl was born Mary Dahill – we all called her Dee Dee. Sister to Terry and Peggy. Mother to her boys. Wife to Dennis and then Walter (or Teddy, as we know him).

Fiery redhead and New York City hellraiser, she spent her early years drinking, working and causing overall havoc. Eventually she settled down – had her boys – and became a nurse.

By the time I met her, she had already retired. She was no longer a nurse. She no longer drank. No longer raised havoc – atleast not in the bars in the city. By the time I met her – she was a devoted mother to her son Dennis. Dennis was born with a form of retardation that she never actually explained to any of us. All we knew was that he was special needs, but I’m not sure we could ever verbalize what he had. Which is exactly how she liked it. She told me once that during Dennis’ early years, she tried to ignore his disability. She pretended it didn’t exist. She ignored it. She had a ton of guilt about those fuzzy years that were drowned in alcoholism and dysfunction.

It wasn’t until she got sober that she found her true calling. To give Dennis a life. A big, full, complete life. She spent over two decades researching every resource avialable to him, every opportunity due him. She joined national organizations, gave speeches, helped find programs to help him – anything she could do to solidify his independance, she did. She even helped other parents find the same resources she found.

Today, Dennis is a happy, nurtured man. He has a job. He lives on his own (with some angels who take care of him). He makes his own decisions and choices. He loves music and he loves to dance, like his momma.

As a mother, I think I’m doing all I can to make my kid’s lives better. I usually feel pretty good about it – until I compare it to what Dee Dee did. The cold, hard focus she had to make sure he had everything owed to him was and is a lesson.

She was amazing. She had a wicked sense of humor, she was overly generous but at the same time – she held a mean grudge. She laughed hard. She yelled hard. She was a dycotomy, like all amazing people are.

We found out about her Cancer from other people. She never called or told anyone. In fact she was pretty pissed when we all showed up to her hospital room before her surgery. Even then she pretended all was well, annoyed that we were making such a big fuss about it.

The day she came out of her surgery, she started planning Dennis’ 50th Birthday party. And boy was it a party!

12 months after that, a few weeks after Dennis’ 51st birthday party, she took a downturn. There’s a Tom Petty song that I think of whenever I think of her….it’s called “Swingin”. The line in the song is, “..and she went down….swinging”. That’s Dee Dee. Swinging.

We came back from Iceland on Saturday. We went to go see her on Sunday. She passed a day later. The lowest low. The bottom of the lows. An angry low. I didn’t realize how angry I’d be. I hated them all. The hospital. The doctors. The oncologist. The social workers. The nurses. I felt like they all betrayed her. Betrayed all of us. Why didn’t they prepare us for how quickly things would go downhill? Why didn’t they tell us how drastic the road would be? It was a low low low.

But, in all honesty, I think if you would ask her, she wouldn’t agree. She lived on her own terms. She did exactly what she wanted to do. She never ever followed advice or listened to anyone – stubborn to the end. She lived every day after her diagnosis by her own terms. Her rules. She was a force of nature. And nature is beautiful and destructive and unpredictable. It all makes sense. It’s probably exactly as she planned it.

August is over. September is here. This weekend our family will celebrate new babies coming this fall and spend time planning a happy wedding next summer. The weekend after that we continue the celebration with another family wedding, and the happy times continue. Just like Dee Dee would want them to.

Here’s to the high highs and even the low lows. I hope they never end.

Service please! Pretty please?

Here’s an unfiltered picture of where we’ve been for a couple of days. Peaceful. Beautiful. Wide open beaches with no fighting for the best view…everyone gets a good view. We try and come to this little piece of heaven every year. It’s a fancy place but we come all unfancy. We stay with family. We avoid all the crazy crowded restaurants. We try to vacation like a local.

Except we’re not local. We know it. They know it.

A couple of years ago, my husband’s godmother took us to the most delicious little pizzeria in town. It was so unassuming and relaxed – but the food was no joke. The lines out the door proved it.

We began going every time we visited. It was always a sure thing.

You sit. You order a $20 dollar bottle of wine. If you’re my husband you order the seafood fra diavolo, and If you’re me, you get linguini with garlic and oil… because cheese is no longer my friend. And without fail… the food is good. Really good.

Is it slow? Sure. Is it the best service? No. It’s a pizzeria, we get it. I’m not looking for a concierge level experience. I’m looking for bare bones. I’m looking for some water. I’m looking to get the stuff we ordered getting to us. Maybe a quick, brief check-in to see if we need anything. Basic.

Tonight we got none of it. Nothing.

Let me back up.

Admittedly I’m a tough critic of restaurants – food and service. It’s my job. It’s what I worry about all the time. Service. Food. Experience. My husband is the opposite. By the burly looks of him you’d think he’d be the harder judge. But he’s a softie. His mom waitressed to make ends meet when he and his sister were little. He heard all the stories of crabby customers. It’s a hard job. Thankless. Under appreciated. He’s very very sensitive to that.

His idea of a tip for bad service is 18%. It’s his ultimate “gotcha”. If that man leaves you less than 20% you basically didn’t serve him at all. I’ve seen him overtip at every level. I’ve seen him go back to a restaurant where someone else has paid for our meal just to confirm the tip was good. He’s nuts! In a good way. I am mostly in agreement with this. Except when it’s bad service.

We’ve lived with this dichotomy for our entire relationship. I know he can’t take it if I ask the person waiting on us for more than 2 things,” excuse me, can I get some salt?”, “can we get some water?”. That’s it. That’s all I get. And I’m fine with that. Do I mentally make note of all the things that could have gone better? Ofcourse! Do I say anything? Almost never. Like practically never. Between my husband and my kids, the goal is always the same. Don’t make trouble. Just let it go. And I usually do. But not tonight.

Tonight was the worst service we’ve ever had. Worse than the time our waiter left his shift and never told anyone he still had a table. Worse than the time the woman waiting on us was having a full blown fight with the kitchen staff. This was… epic bad. I’m not going to go into detail. You can guess. I’m sure it’s happened to you too.

To clarify how bad it was, when I said to my husband at the end of our dinner,” wow, she’s getting zero tip. None.” I waited to hear what I thought he’d say, which is,”no freaking way”, instead he said,”yep”. I couldn’t believe it. No talk about how harsh I am. No talk about her having a bad day. Nothing. Just full agreement. She was worse than I thought.

So. For the very first time since I’ve known him – about 25 years – we left no tip. By the way, even though this was a very casual pizzeria type place, our bill was over a $100. That’s how this town rolls. And guess what? The food was worth every penny.

Even now, hours later, we are both guilt ridden. Justifying to ourselves why we left her no tip. Trying to validate our actions so we can sleep tonight. It’s no bueno.
We weren’t rude. We weren’t mean. But it still feels rotten. Have you ever done this? Please lie and tell me you have. Going to bed now. Full of regret, guilt and antacids.

You can’t always get what you want…

You know what’s funny about this picture? If you guessed me in a T-shirt…. you win. If you guessed me in a rock band T-shirt… you win even more.

In our family, I’m odd man out – and not just because I live in a house full of water signs and I’m an air sign. No. I’m the weirdo in the family that doesn’t like music. I mean I LIKE music… I don’t LOVE music. I mean I love some music…and I love to dance… and I love Beyoncé…but I could do without it. Almost all the time. I’m big on silence. Or TV. Or talk radio. Basically minimal noise that can lull you into a deep sleep at any time. Groovy right??

Let me now introduce you to my husband. This is a man who will tell you that music defined his childhood. Music was a saving grace, a passion. He vividly remembers buying his first speaker. His first cassette tape. He remembers every concert he’s ever been to. Although he forgets how I take my coffee at Dunkin, he has an encyclopedic amount of info on decades of music.

This is him… have you ever seen anyone happier to be holding a foam tongue??

Music is everywhere in our lives and in our home. We have, per capita, more speakers in our average sized home than most hotels I’ve been to.

When we get into the car his first instinct is to turn the radio on. Mine is to turn the radio down.

Its no surprise, and I’ve talked about it before, that he passed this love of music on to our kids. They all love music. They share music. They talk about music. It’s exhausting!

I mean I passed stuff onto the kids too. Jack is slightly paranoid about germs and Kera loves spicy food – so it’s not like I got nothing, but it’s not as big as this collective love they have for music. The biggest thing to happen to our family was when they switched from iTunes to Spotify. They share playlists. They Shazam new songs from each other and talk about the next live band they want to see. I’ll never forget how proud my husband was when our daughter went to her first live concert. I was worried she’d be mugged and drugged. He was worried that she’d think the band was bad. These are true stories people.

Here’s a secret….I would pay good money to never go to another concert (did I say that out loud?). Don’t tell them. They already think I’m an alien.

Ok so you get it. Back to the picture. So why is the person who cares the least about going to see The Rolling Stones the only one wearing the tee?? Why is the person who loathes wearing clothing with words wearing giant red lips?? Because I’m a good mother… that’s why!

Actually it’s because that night wasn’t about the music at all. Let’s face it – while they were listening to the songs, I was thinking about the how much the large LED screens cost and how the tech set-up could have been a teeny bit neater.

That night was the first time in months that it was the 4 of us together. Alone. Alone together. You know what I mean.

I could have cared less about what Mick sounded like (good!) or how old Keith looked (super duper old!). We tailgated. They let me take pics. We wore silly ponchos when it rained. It was the best. I’d do it again tonight. Or like next month because it was a really late night last night.

It may not have been what I wanted – but it was exactly what I needed. Rock on party people.

Rose you selfish b&t*h

Did you see this article? Finally the New York Times and the world is acknowledging something I’ve been talking about for over a decade.

I’ve been saying this since 1997. In the theater. As we’re watching the movie. I was saying this. Rose….there’s room for both of you! Make some f’ing room for Jack! But nope, she just watched him freeze to death.

Listen, back in 1997 even my husband and I could fit on that door. Now, deep in our 40s….maybe not so much. But back then we sometimes slept on a twin mattress together – on purpose.

Anyway this post isn’t really a post. I just feel so validated. So heard. Finally. This post will not go on…. get it?

My darlings

This quote by Aldous Huxley was posted by a good friend a few weeks ago. Besides the fact that we are legit living Brave New World, I’d forgotten how much I loved his writing.

I sent the quote to my kids immediately. They’re used to it. I’m always sending them videos or quotes or things I need to make sure they see and know. Not sure it ever sinks in but I’m calling it an effort and checking my parenting box for the day. Sometimes that’s all I have the energy for.

“Lightly, lightly”…. it is the best advice.

I think about it at work. At home. On social media.

I’m pretty good about not overthinking. Obsessing. I don’t have too many talents but one has always been that I can walk away from anything or anyone that makes me feel bad. I’m not into it.

Someone said to me that I’m always in a good mood. That’s not true. I’m always trying to be in a good mood. I see no point in being miserable. I also think it’s almost always a choice. Unless there’s abuse involved or if you’re a young child – you can choose to not be miserable. At least try.

I know it’s easier said than done. I know there’s a lot of competition for joy out there. Everyone’s got their own definition of what joy looks like. That’s ok. Because there’s enough for everyone. It’s abundant. Your joy may come from hiking a mountain, mine comes from Bravo. Doesn’t make it any less or more joyful.

Don’t let the quick sands drag you in. Don’t scroll Instagram or Facebook and be angry. You’re using it wrong. Don’t blame the game. Use it for what you want it for. Walk away from the rest.

Same goes for people. There are a lot of people in the world. A lot. Like everyone else, I’ve found some good people and I’ve found some duds. The duds have to go. Doesn’t matter if they’re friends or family. It doesn’t mean that they are evil or bad or that they’ve done me wrong in any way. I just can’t carry their weight. Too heavy. Too hard.

I also know that I’m a dud in someone else’s story. I get it. I’m ok with it.

I’ll keep reading this quote. Maybe you will too❤️

Baby’s got back… and ribs

I’m still stressed. This means I’m still cooking. Except this time I’m testing out a recipe for a bbq we are hosting this weekend (Ironically I’m not stressed about this at all, although I should be since we have ordered, cleaned, bought nothing for it). Anyway, if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a life long vegetarian it’s that bbqs mean meat. Usually even the veggie burger is cooked in a nice layer of beef fat left over on the grill. So this time – instead of a vegan veggie friendly recipe… I’m working on ribs. Baby back ribs.

Nothing reduces stress like smelling pork for 4 hours… I read that on a pillow.

I followed about 4 different recipes that I mashed up.

Basically you take a rack of baby back ribs… make sure your babies have some fat to them. This isn’t a time for lean mean pork ribs.

A dry rub needs to go on overnight (or two). You can mix any of the following: salt, onion powder, garlic powder, a packaged mix – like I did. BUT the key is this… add a cup of brown sugar to whatever mix you end up with. I also added a dash of cayenne to shake shit up.

Once marinated – bring to room temperature. Fully. I’m talking 2 hours outside on the counter hanging out. Do it.

Preheat your oven to 250 and add a cup of chicken stock and 2 tablespoons of any vinegar you have to the pan. I used white wine vinegar. These two things help the cooking/tenderizing process – according to Alton Brown circa 1997. Here’s the rub I used if you’re curious.

Cover tightly and leave it alone in your heated oven for 2.27 hours (I only tested this with one rack of ribs so 3 hours was too long and 2 seemed too short. 2.27 seemed right).

This is what it will look like. Mine came apart when I tried to lift it. A good sign.

Don’t get rid of the juices on the bottom. Strain and add to your favorite bbq sauce. My family loves this one. I haven’t found anything veggie to put bbq sauce on so I have no idea if it’s really good or if my family just has simple tastes – both could also be true.

Smother on the sauce and grill on high. Shouldn’t take long.

Baste, grill, repeat.

Cut them up like porky, sticky lollipops and you’re done!

Stress gone. Meat delivered.

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