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.

There’s a Bow on This Blog Post – by Hetal

Saved the best guest post for last! BTW – who knew that these guest bloggers would write about me?? Had I known earlier, this would be a regular thing. Seriously. Anyway – here’s my little, bitty sister’s post…my basic take-away from this was that I taught her everything she knows….so…..anyway….enjoy!

I spent some time this past weekend thinking about what to get Neha for her birthday.

But “itty bitty sister,” you may be thinking, Neha’s birthday was last week. I know, okay? Sheesh. We’re all doing the best we can out here.

Anyway, my presents to her have varied in years in form and function. Some years I really knock it out of the park–I get texts from her on a later date about how much she loves the thing I got her. Some years I get her a card sometime in June. I wonder if she notices how inconsistent I am (that’s a lie–I know she does).

Although it may seem to her that I simply forgot to get her anything, the years I showed up with nothing really meant that I spent painstaking hours thinking about what to get her, got angry, and finally gave up. Is there a way to bottle up that trauma and put a bow on it? Because that shit should count for something.

Unlike many of the people I buy books for, Neha actually likes to read, so when I heard an interview with an Indian American cookbook author who had a new book coming out, I tucked it away. Then, over the weekend, a food blogger I know she also follows on Instagram posted about the book. She raved over it, featured several pages and recipes, and I thought, damn it. Because even though I didn’t ask her, I know Neha saw it. And tucked it away. I know that cookbook is being Amazon Primed to her house as we speak, and that there is a 60% chance that I’ll be unwrapping it for my birthday this month.

Because that’s the thing. If you’ve ever met me, you’ve probably thought about how different I am from Neha. And you’re right in a lot of ways. We’re over a decade apart in age, chose very different career paths, and kinda different life paths. Neha left for New York City when I was six, and really didn’t look back. I don’t blame her. In fact, as someone who spends her days with countless 18-22 year olds, I’m impressed at her bravery and independence at that age. You’ve probably heard some of her wacky stories from college. I’ve heard them all at least twice. And the truth is, I could never have done half those things.

She also knows way more than I do about the important things in life: makeup, wine, and reality tv.

But in other ways, we’re weirdly similar. Same sarcastic humor. Same love for food. Once we showed up with the same-ish housewarming gift for our cousin Sweta and her hubby Wendell. For a while we had the exact same iPhone case–bought separately. I know what Neha is thinking right now: she’s thinking that these ways we’re similar–that’s me taking after her. I’ve wondered about that myself over the years, though I’d never admit it to her face. Has she really had that much of an influence on me? Maybe, maybe not. But if saying so gets me out of having to think about her birthday present anymore, well, pass the bow, please.

The gobble gobble 

It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving – my absolute favorite time of year. Who would have guessed that a vegetarian Indian girl who never even really acknowledged the holiday until 1991, would be this obsessed. I hear my husband saying it’s all him. He’s the reason I love it. Maybe. 

First turkey day ever: Milford, PA circa 1991

Memory: Aunt Dee Dee (whose real name is Mary inexplicably) handing me the sausage to cut up for stuffing. First time I ever touched sausage. Good times.

For years we went to her house every year – even right after my little baby girl was born. Speaking of baby girl – she came home for the holiday. On her 18th birthday. We missed cake for breakfast so we did cake at a normal time. 

18. As in a year younger then I was when I went to my first Thanksgiving in Milford. This is some twisted time warp. But she’s home! And by home I mean she’s out with friends but in the same town as us. I’ll take it.

 We also saw some oldies but goodies. Katherine. Howard and Luigi. Santa. And Janey. The picture says it all. It’s blurry. Off center. Everyone’s smiling – even Howard – he’s the bald head floating on top of Janey. (On a side note) Katherine has her tree up. We have neighbors who have lights up. I know it’s tradition but I’m still rocking the pumpkins. I need to hold on to pumpkins people. And that is in no way a diss to Christmas-on-Thanksgiving people. You do you.

So anyway it’s the Tuesday before…Thursday  and all through the house, not a creature was stirr… that’s not true. Creatures are stirring. They’re stirring all over the place. 

Turkey #1 is in the brine! Do you brine? Do you dry rub instead? Do you do none of the above and your turkey comes out better then mine? Don’t tell me.

I brine because I’m a sheep to The Food Network. If Ina tells me to do something – by god I do it. My brine is a combo of mulling ingredients and things I’ve heard are good to dump in there.  Yes that is star anise in there. And yes, also some dried apples and pepper cloves. Citrus? Yep. Onions and garlic? Yep. Good turkey. Nice turkey. What do I care – I’m not eating it! Just kidding..  And now something that has nothing to do with anything but is just as important. I want to share a photo taken by an amazing photographer(among other things) in our town – who as fate would have it just happened to be my baby girls soccer coach in middle school. Small beautiful world. 

He took this pic of the lake in our town. I screenshot (or is it screenshotted? Is that even a word?) it a week ago and have been looking at it ever since. I was totally going to pretend that I took it – but he’s too nice a guy. Thanks Pat for sharing your talent!

 

Thanksgiving week is on – and in the words of Jim Morrison or Mandela or Bobby Flay…the only way out is through. Let’s do this.

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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Carrot Cake 101

A couple of years ago I was gifted a fantastic cookbook called “Flour”. It is based on a bakery in Boston called Flour Bakery (duh). I love this book. I’ve made many of the recipes. I even went and found the bakery in Boston. Like all pilgrimages, there was a little bit of let-down (what? you aren’t impressed that I have your cookbook and love it? I’m not the first person to come in and want to chat about it?) – but in the end I felt validated. Croissants have a way of validating me.
My two go-to recipes are the banana bread and the carrot cake.
My two biggest fails from the book are the granola bar cookies and the chocolate almond dacquoise. That’s another story.

I made the carrot cake this weekend. Try it. People will hug you for it.

As always – here’s the recipe and the visual. You know I like pictures.

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Notice I added raisins. My man likes raisins. What can I say.

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Sift the flour, baking soda and powder, salt and cinnamon. My “sifter” is a strainer that I warped in the dish washer. Just an fyi.
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Cream the oil, sugar and eggs. 

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Add your carrots. Please don’t use the pre-shredded ones. They are covered in some sort of nuclear coating so they don’t stick together. But that coating also make it impossible for them to soften in the cake. So go old school and shred by hand. 
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Add vanilla. This is a homemade bottle my little bitty sister gave me a while ago. I keep adding store bought vanilla and trying to extend the life. Poor me. If only SOMEONE would make me more. Anyhoo.

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Add raisins if you want to or if you’re maritally committed to.
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Combine the dry and wet ingredients.

Divide amongst your pans. If you are are suspicious of non-stick pans like I am – add some non-stick spray. Otherwise, be normal and healthy and skip this step. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes .
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I forgot to add pecans to the ingredients photo. So sorry. These very very important. Toast a cup and let cool.
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Then using a highly evolved Ziploc bag/bottom of a plastic bowl method – pound them into pieces.
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Make the frosting by creaming butter, powdered sugar, vanilla (poor poor me) and cream cheese together in an empty kitchen, better to do multiple tastings.
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Frost between layers and frost. You only have to make the top look pretty. 
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Take the pecans and use them like Spanx all around the cake. They push and tuck all the unruly bits into place. You have a tight, toned and together cake. 
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Refrigerate for an hour before serving and then sit back and accept all the love. 

Happy Birthday Ho Ho Ho

We spent the weekend with one of my husband’s favorite aunts. I adore her too. She lives in a beautiful home in the Pocono Mountains of PA. She invited us to celebrate both my husband’s birthday (past) and her birthday (coming up). I made my husband’s favorite, carrot cake.

Besides the fresh, cool air – the first thing that hits you when you walk into the house is….well, see for yourselves.

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Notice anything?
Here’s a close-up.

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Have you ever seen a prettier tree…in August?
We teased her about it mercilessly, as any loving family would. She gave us a very rational, reasonable reason for it. But I can’t remember what it was. The twinkling lights were distracting me.
The funniest thing is that by the end of the night, we were all gathered around it and felt completely and utterly normal! Who’s crazy now?
Here’s a pic of the amazingly sane woman with a completely done up Christmas tree in August and her beautiful daughter.

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And here’s a quick pic of the carrot cake I made. I’ll write a detailed post with recipe tomorrow. Again, I can’t focus because there’s a Christmas tree in this house and I love it. I vote for year round trees! I vote for crazy!

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3 year old blog

Yesterday was a big blog day around here – wifemothereventplanner turned 3. Happy Birthday blog. Mazel to us! It’s been so much fun. Yes I don’t write as often as I should, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still in love… With blogging. Absence makes the heart grow fonder right? Ahem.

Connected to this blog is an email, wifemothereventplanner@gmail.com.
I don’t check it often because it’s a scary, dark place where weirdo people from the internet lurk and hide. But buried in that pile of crap are actual, normal humans asking questions. So! As my gift to you – because I’m a humanitarian like that – I’ll answer a few of those questions. Enjoy! And be scared for me.

Are those your real kids or do you get the photos from stock photography? I’m starting a blog but don’t have kids – should I get some photos of kids?

Umm. Yes. Those are my real kids. Although I never even considered the stock photography option. Look for a future post of me wearing a bikini on the beach. It’ll totally be me.

Love your blog but don’t push the posts. Don’t write unless you have something interesting to say.

Ok. Thanks.

How do you decide what to write about and what to keep out?

Easy, if I think you’ll enjoy it in any way I write it. I don’t write as editorial -many bloggers do that successfully. But giving you my opinions on politics, religion, etc isn’t my bag. I don’t think you really want to read another take on Obamacare or Prop 8. I do think you want to read about my obsession with Kate Middleton! Am I right?

You should change your name to TVloverwhonevercommentsoneventplanning.

Wow. Ok, point taken. More posts about TV shows.

Please protect your kids and stop posting their pictures.

Thanks mom.

What advice would you give to new bloggers? Is it worth it?

No advice. Just start writing. There are no rules. And it’s definitely worth it.

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