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.

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.

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❤️

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.

Pardon the interruption…

But had to share this. I love my husband. I’ve loved him on and off for 23 years of marriage and 27 years together. He’s a creature of habit. Once he likes something he sticks with it.

Can you guess what he likes currently?

Rao’s, we have a problem.

I think I’ve told you all before that growing up we only had Ragu Traditional. I had Saturday morning spaghetti while watching cartoons – The Smurf’s usually. Why breakfast? I dunno. My Indian mother didn’t know too much about pasta hours I guess.

But this is where we are now. Rao’s for the whole town. You want to try another type of sauce? Too bad. This is what you’re having at our house.

Also – I didn’t line them up like little soldiers for this photo. This is how I found the cabinet.

Send help, or maybe a nice pesto we can have for a change.

Mother Mercy

A letter to all those I love,

Thanks to dear friends for understanding when I missed your birthday and forgot about your dinner party. Thanks to my kids when they were younger for letting me take calls while you watched TV in the other room on a sick day. To my husband, thanks for letting me be distracted during date night, movie night, any night. To my mother, I know I’ve been away for every Mother’s Day in the last few years, but I love you and we’ll do something together when I get back.

Thanks to the stay-at-home moms who always picked up my kids and chaperoned a field trip. I’m so grateful that you didn’t judge me, or if you did – that you still helped me.

To my hardcore friends who never make me feel bad for falling out of touch. I know I missed your call and just sent a quick text, but I miss you and I’ll call you back when I stop traveling so much….soon….maybe.

Love, your barely-keeping-it-together-mother-daughter-wife-friend

***************************************

Today was May 12, 2019, Mother’s Day and my 23rd wedding anniversary. I’m not with my children, my mother, or my husband. I’m onsite working an event as I’ve been doing the last few years. And it’s ok. I’m spending it with other people who are also not with the ones they love. It’s not awesome, but we do it. We do it because we love our job. This job makes us happy. And our families get it….they may not be happy about it, but they get it. I hope. We hope.

Everyone is having a different kind of day. Doing a different thing. And we all make it work.

I know a strong woman who gave birth this year but never got a chance to take the baby home – but she’s still a proud mama and refuses to hide that she had a tiny soul for too short a time.

I know other people who spent the day with no mom this year – or last year or the year before. It hurts their heart to see all the posts and think about what they don’t have anymore. This is a pic of my husband, his sister and their lovely mother Terry. She will forever be missed.

You make it work. Even when your adorable twin boys send you photos counting down the days till you come back like my friend Patty.

Or how about my friend Ev, the life of the party, especially for her kids. She’s not a regular mom, she’s a cool mom (name that movie).

Sometimes you don’t make it work – like when you’ve been married 23 years and you completely and utterly forget about it.

I missed something else today, I missed my little baby girl moving to NYC to start a summer internship. I couldn’t be there to help pack or get her ready. I couldn’t get her first Metro card, or help her figure out how to get to her new job. I missed it.

And I missed this guy too. Sometimes I feel like the Grubhub delivery man sees him more than I do…

It’s ok. It’s all ok. I read something first thing this morning that stayed with me all day and made me feel better from Elizabeth Gilbert….

Dear Ones:

Recently I was at a conference where the question was asked, “HOW MANY OF YOU ARE AFRAID OF TURNING INTO YOUR MOTHER?” Nearly everyone in the room stood up.

This made my heart ache.

My heart ached not only for the people in the room—who were all beautiful, creative, imaginative, and wonderful human beings. It made my heart hurt for their mothers—who will never stop being judged as failures.

Because, my God, we never stop blaming the mothers, do we? How many years, how many dollars, how much energy have we all spent as a culture, talking about how mothers have failed us?

What I want to say today is: Can we take a break—just for one day —and show some mercy to the mothers? Because being a mother is impossible. I don’t mean that it’s difficult. I mean: IT IS IMPOSSIBLE.

What we, as a culture, expect from our mothers is merely that they not be human. Mothers are meant to be some combination of Mother Mary, Mother Theresa, Superwoman, and Gaia. It’s a merciless standard of perfection. Merciless!

God help your mother, if she ever fell short. God help your mother, if she was exhausted & overwhelmed. God help her if she didn’t understand her kids. God help her if she no gift for raising children. God help her if she had desires and longings. God help her if she was ever terrified, suicidal, hopeless, bored, confused, furious. God help her if life had disappointed her. God help her if she had an addiction, or a mental illness. God help her if she ever broke down. God help her, if couldn’t control her rage. God help her, because if she fucked up in any way, she will be forever branded: BAD MOTHER. And we will never forgive her for this.

So this is my question: Can we take a break today from judging the mothers, and show them mercy, instead?

This doesn’t mean that what happened to you at the hands of your mother was OK. This doesn’t mean that your pain is not real…it just means that maybe her pain was real, too.

And if you are yourself a mother, and you never stop judging yourself for how you are failing…can you let it go for one day? Just for one day, can you drop the knife that you are holding to your own throat? Mercy. Just for one day. Let us find mercy.

Mercy on you.
Mercy on everyone. 
Mercy on the mothers.

LG

So with that, I want to wish my strong, loving, dedicated mother a very Happy Mother’s Day. I hope I turn into to you and I hope we all show each other some mercy.

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