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.

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.

Behind the Scenes: Lessons Learned from Neha

Guest Post! This is from Sarah. Let me tell you all something about Sarah. She could run a small country if she wanted to, that’s how smart she is. I’m not sure what serendipity led her to the same company as me, but I am forever grateful. During my first few weeks at this job, I felt like an alien. I was “one of these things does not belong with the other” material. Then I found Sarah. And Jeanette (another lucky strike). I don’t know why I trusted them both immediately – but I did. And it made everything ok. These are the people I hope will start their own blogs, because people need to have them in their lives, like I’ve been lucky to have them in mine.

Guest blogger here – I’m Neha’s friend, Sarah. She assigned me to write a blog post “by Friday. Not draft. Final copy.” I asked her for a topic or a word count and she said “no rules.” So I decided that to share the lessons I have learned from her over the past 5+ years with you, dear readers.


“No Rules” I brought my two and a half year old to her house with one request — please tell him that to hang at your house that you have to use the potty. We arrived, I tried to start the show with her about the potty… and she blatantly ignored me. “Um, there are no rules at my house” and then proceeded to feed my son chocolate, French fries, cake, flavored seltzer, and any TV show he asked for in a reoccurring loop. I secretly hoped he would pee his pants on her couch while he was under her spell. Another time she whipped out a big toy truck on a random Saturday to buy his affection. It worked. Lesson learned, visits to her house may only be about indulgence.

Earlier this week, I asked my little guy what is his favorite thing. He answered “Tia Neha” and then “cocktails.” 🤦🏻‍♀️ He is two and a half.

Friendship with Neha means telling her everything big and small In jlooking at the history of our texts, it’s everything from “please help me, I’m in a bind” to “Is this crazy or normal?” to “are you aware of how many orange cars there are in PA?” I feel like I must tell her all of my big and small thoughts. After her blog post last week about the Revlon hair dryer, I had to confess and apologize to her that I’ve had that for two years and never told her about it. Then to atone for my sin of omission, I sent her approximately 17 texts, including links, of my most important hair products, tools, and why. Yesterday I texted her a play by play about how I got and now have pink eye.

Don’t Only Drop the Ball, Through It Out the WindowAnd Neha has become the place I bring my confessions and guilt… and most of the time, she tells me that I am too uptight and let it (whatever “it” is) go. After hearing this for five years, during which time I became a parent, I have fully embraced not only dropping the ball, but throwing it out the window.
A few months ago, my husband asked me if we have a nice Easter outfit for our son the day before. Nope! Can you try and get one today? Probably not because it’s second on my list after my top priority of taking a nap. Little guy wore his “fanciest” sweatshirt. While playing in his sandbox today, our little guy decided to take off his shorts and underwear. Sure dude, now we have a “nudie beach.” Sand got in every possible crevice. I sprayed him down with the hose afterward like a dog.
Let’s forgot the “should haves” or niceties. Friendship with Neha is getting permission to tell someone who is being crazy that they are crazy, or declining an invitation no reason given.
So I leave you with that — don’t just drop the ball, throw it out the window. It feels great. And if you need permission…email Neha, send her your confession, and she will tell you to stop being so uptight.

I’ve been away from home too long…

No matter where I go… if I’m away for work or fun too long I start coming apart. I can always tell when it’s time to come home when instead of packing up my stuff, I want to throw out every outfit I brought with me.

And this….

Time to get home.

We’ve had some busy weeks and some sadness in between. Our family lost Lexi, short for Lexington, as in avenue in NYC.

I’m happy she’s at peace now.

About 8 years ago, we took the kids to Mexico for vacation. It rained one afternoon and the resort had the kids do a clay paint activity. My son found a little kitten and told us he wanted to paint it for Lexi.

This little statue has sat next to her food bowls ever since. And this is where it will stay.

I’ll leave you with something funny. Here’s the best thing I found in Austin,TX…

I’ll be thinking this in all my meetings at work this week. They’re not kidding when they say,” Keep Austin Weird”. I’m definitely in.

Girls girls girls

This is a short little story about my baby girl and her group of baby girls.

Random fact… all their names start with either A or B or J or K. I’m not sure what that means but it means something… right?

They’ve known each other for years, some longer than others. They’ve gone to the same schools and different schools. They’ve made good and bad choices together. They’ve drifted apart and drifted back to together.

Each is on a different path, in a different place. But when they come home, they come together. In the past few years they’ve created traditions of their own, kept connected. It makes me so happy.

It doesn’t just make me happy for them, it makes me happy for us. The world. I’m so excited to see what they will do. Where they will go.

When Kera was little and she’d bring home a new friend, I could always tell the ones that were the real deal. They would be the girls who said hello, came into the kitchen, sat down for a chat. These are those girls.

She has a great group of guy friends too – but nothing makes me happier about the future then seeing these smart, witty, beautiful gals. We are going to be ok.

Now if only they’d let me hang out with them…

Blog dump

I got called out. Last night we were all sitting around talking about things (end of high school, end of school year, politics, The whip and nae nae, etc), and my daughter quietly turned to me and said, “Mom, why can’t I see any of your blog posts pop up on my Facebook anymore?”…. Why? Oh. That’s easy. Because I don’t write them. LOL. Ahem. Got a problem with that? Then they all started.

“Why don’t you write?”

“Are you done with the blog?”

“Do you need ideas?”

No. No thank you. Ideas I have. Infact, that may be the problem. I have too much stuff to write about. I can’t organize it all. It doesn’t all go together. It’s a mishmash of opinions/thoughts/experiences. It’s good stuff, it’s bad stuff, it’s all over the place. It’s a schizophrenic mix of events during the past few weeks that I’m afraid I can’t prioritize.  Look, even me describing it is a hot mess. But I’ll try. I’m warning you all now. There’s stuff in here that is really really great, and stuff that’s really really meh. But I have no time or patience to separate those things…so here you go.

I hated Disney. There. I said it. It’s been weighing heavily on my mind. We had a really good event there. It wasn’t crowded. The weather was amazing. My family loved it. The service levels at the resort are bananas good, the people are super friendly- but guess what – not my thing. I even met and hugged Mickey himself and felt…nothing. I guess I’m dead inside.

I did not hate my 20th wedding anniversary. 20 years. Same dude. #goodlife

I turned 44. Here’s where I stand. I have a shitload of white hair. My lady bits are having some issues (you’re welcome for the overshare), looks like I have to be a normal human and see a doctor more often.  I’m grateful for the very deep relationship with my manicure/pedicure gals. Nothing feels warmer than me walking in and all of them smiling and saying, “hello Neha! Mani/pedi/wax?” Yes. Yes. And really yes. I’m also happy to have friends who are still around even though I talk to them less than I write this blog. I’m thankful for all the usual stuff too (kids, family, job, yada yada).

I’m obsessed with Seinfeld, again. This may be bad news for my obsession with Everybody Loves Raymond, I’ll let you know.

God grant me the serenity to accept my family and friends who love Trump. In my mind I imagine even Oprah has friends and family like that – and what would she do? Would she look down on them? No way. She would openly embrace them and love them. For they know not what they do. I’m gonna be like Oprah. Forever.

I am sick of talking about how busy I am. I’m done. I can’t hear myself anymore. If I were listening to me I’d tell me to shut-up. Enough. What am I? The Queen of Sheba? No. Not. I’m riduclous. I will find something else to talk about. Starting tomorrow….I’ve got a lot to do today.

We went to a wonderful, beautiful wedding. I love weddings. I love all of it. I find nothing cheesy or boring about weddings. This is the great mystery of my life. I love weddings but I also loved eloping. Go figure. Maybe I like OTHER people’s weddings. Anyway – it was beautiful and fun and touching. Mazel tov to Keith and Danielle (and Cora the cutie!).

Guess what? The day after that wedding I went to another wedding…err.. wedding celebration. Two lovebirds who found each other later in life but make every day and every moment count. The love story of Marcello and Lorraine gives me serious feels, as my son would say. They are joyful and generous. As I get older I no longer find humor in marriage sarcasm. I love couples who love. Openly and happily. During one of our book club meetings a few months ago (Babes with Books lives!), a new member described her dating life with her then boyfriend by saying,”we spent the next two years falling in love before he proposed.” Come on! That’s some beautiful stuff right there. I told you I’m getting old and soft. One more thing to share about this day…during the time that Marcello and Lorraine were falling in love in Italy, he took a photo that captured a special moment in their courtship. That day, that beautiful photo memory ended up on their wedding cake as a surprise to the couple. Tears flowed from both the bride and the groom. No hiding that kind of emotion and love.

Work is going well. My team and I have lots of fun together. Atleast I think we do. Am I one of those people that think their team likes to hang out with them when deep inside they are all miserable and unhappy and would much rather be anywhere but with me? I dunno. I’m going to start a group chat with them and find out.

My daughter went to senior prom. My son got his blackbelt. It was the best weekend ever.

I’m wearing color, and I don’t mean grey. Or is it gray. I don’t know how long it’ll last and I still like wearing all black – but I get a lot less slack this way. People like it when you mask your inner darkness with chunky yellow jewelry. If I were an evil super villian I’d get away with it all just by wearing a light, flowery shirt. Just an fyi.

Beyoncé. Lemonade. Everyday. When you’re talking to me, just know that’s what’s going on in my head.

Have you had enough? I’ll try to be better..I still have more to tell you…it’s just that I’m so busy 🙂

Times they are a changin’

Last week we decided to make what seemed like a few small changes. We have a playset in the back yard that hadn’t been used in years. With a 17 year old about to graduate and a 12 year old boy obsessed with his trampoline, we thought it was a safe bet to get rid of it.

But as it was being taken down, piece by piece, I had a sinking feeling. I don’t remember being that emotional when we moved them from the crib to the bed – maybe because the rest of their room was still covered with toys and they were still a version of land locked with us at home.

The other change was a much needed refresh of my daughter’s room. New paint, new dresser, new bed. It was time to say goodbye to Ikea furniture that lasted her for more than a decade (held together by glue and prayer). But even when we were cleaning out the room it still felt like she would be in it. She picked the colors, the furniture, etc. It didn’t feel like an end, just the next step.

When the kids went from carseat to booster to nothing, we celebrated. When the training wheels came off, we celebrated. Even when my son left his elementary school last year, we celebrated. Our babies were amazing but we have a lot of fun with our kids. We live in a neighborhood that let our kids bike around, walk around and now drive around. We always felt so happy when they made another, brave step. Maybe because at the end of those steps they came back home. It didn’t feel like an end.

The playset being taken away felt like an end.

I know it’s normal and parents all through time have done this. I know there are bigger moments to come, graduation, weddings, etc. But this feels like a big movement. A home that doesn’t have little feet that’ll climb the slide. A home where I don’t stand at the kitchen sink and watch them play. Truth be told they haven’t touched it in years, and it’s a great big eyesore, which is why it was so easy to decide to get rid of it. Still it stung.

Here’s a look down memory lane and then the memory being demolished and taken away. Just kidding. Not really.
 

   
    
    
  

 

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