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.

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?

Hairy Scary

What if I told you that sometimes I know if I’ll have a good day or not by about 6:30 am? It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, who I’m seeing, what day it is, nothing. It doesn’t matter if the big meeting went well, if my kid got an A on the test, or if I finished a big project – although all those things happening would be great! The thing that can make or break my day is….get ready….my hair. That’s right. My hair. If it looks good, I’m good. I spend a lot of quality time thinking about my hair. One of the happiest days of my life (besides the birth of kids, marriage, etc) was the day I found a hairstylist that blows out my hair the way I like it. Lydia Esteban, you complete me. Lydia knows that although I don’t have one Southern bone in my body, I like big hair. She knows I don’t want a flat, sleek look. I want girth. I want body. She’s my hair soulmate – and I’m never telling you where to find her.

Hair takes up a lot of brain space. When I travel for work to a hot, humid place, I spend at least half my packing time thinking about what impact the local weather will have on my hair. Will I be able to wear it down? Will I need extra headbands? Should I even go on this trip based on the high humidity levels? These are real conversations I have with myself.

Last year I discovered dry shampoo. LIFE ALTERING dry shampoo. It was the biggest thing to happen to me since….blow-outs. I’m not sure who invented it – but I hope they get whatever the hair equivalent to a Pulitzer is.

I know I’m not alone in this obsession. Most of the women in my life care/worry/think about their hair all the time. I only know one freaky friend who has such good hair she can literally wash and go….literally. No Brazilian treatments in her hair, no expensive straightening products, no crazy tools. A brush and sometimes a hair dryer. I’ve even seen her hair naturally dry straight and with no frizz! WTF. I’ve seen it. It’s natural but it’s not normal. It’s not fair. I’m talking to you Julie! If you weren’t such an amazing person I’d be bitter about it. Ok who am I kidding, I’m still bitter about it.

As you can imagine, I’m always on the hunt for hair products to help make my days better. Like dry shampoo, I’ve also discovered clay shampoo and hair masks to help tame my ‘fro. I know there are a bunch of #womenrule people out there who think I should make nice with my semi-kinky, wavy, sometimes frizzy hair. But as I’ve said about my fight against wrinkles – why go natural when there are chemicals that can help? Poetic right?

Last week, as we were in the midst of a week-long event and I was on day 3 of my dry shampoo run, with no Lydia in sight…I found out about this amazing tool. This is not an ad!

The Revlon One Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer

It was an innocent conversation that one of the mom-planners was having about how this hairbrush/hair dryer combo had helped her teen. Before she even ended her story, I was on Amazon having one delivered to my hotel room. There were still 4 days left to the conference and with Prime I could have it the next day! Done done done. Would it be as good as she described? I was willing to take the bet.

And guess what? It was. It is. Let me begin by saying it’s cheap. Under $50. And, this is the best part, you don’t have to pre-dry your hair. It’s all one step!! It’s a one-handed miracle. There are over 6,000 plus reviews online. Are they all good? Nah – but did I tell you it was cheap? Even if it only lasts a few months, I’m in. I even debated posting about this because I’ll be buying these as gifts for the rest of the year, but I needed to tell you.

Below is a closer look. Don’t mind the Spanish, I accidentally changed my Amazon language settings and can’t figure out how to change them back.

Here’s what my hair looked like from wet to dry with this brush… not bad right? Who needs Lydia?! Kidding! I do…

Anyway – this post is dedicated to all my fellow hair obsessed gals. Remember when all I talked about was my Dyson hairdryer? Well mamas got a new favorite. You’re welcome.

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.

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.

Liar Liar, Pants on Fyre

Did you watch the documentaries on The Fyre Festival? Hulu and Netflix both have a version of this story. I watched both. If there were 6 versions I would have seen them all. I can’t get enough. I watched the first one twice. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me try to explain…

A young, upstart entrepreneur from NYC decides to partner with Ja Rule to host a music festival on an uninhabited island in the Bahamas (once owned by Pablo Escobar) in 6 months.

Why does he think he can do it? Because he’s been hosting “parties” for a few months in penthouses all over the city. Ja Rule performs at one of those fun parties and decides, “yeah, ok, I’ll partner with you on a multi-million dollar event”.

What happens next is a mash-up of ego, lack of experience, lack of leadership and lack of morality. It’s a hot mess.

Billy McFarland, the young entrepreneur that I mentioned earlier is either a smart dude who let things go out of hand, or a sociopath who let his ego lead every decision he made. Maybe a bit of both.

The documentary tells a month-by-month, day-by-day story of everything leading up to the non-festival. Here’s what they did first. They created a slick, well-produced teaser. They filled it with top models. They went to the island where they wanted to have the festival, stayed on private yachts (not on the island) and partied for a few days while they filmed the promo. Turquoise seas, beautiful women, expensive boats, it had it all. The promo was incredibly well produced. I think you can still watch it somewhere on YouTube. The company they hired to do the teaser gave them an incredible digital and social presence. Their website was super slick and their marketing was off the hook. Really high-end and modern.

They spent the next few months designing an experience. Luxury tents. Luxury villas. Beautiful packages that made you feel like you were going to a music festival in some private piece of heaven. And it had a price tag to match. Each package was thousands of dollars. And they all still sold out, in record time.  Through their social campaign (which was genius), they sold every package they had. All the tents. All the villas. Sold.

Just one problem. There were no luxury villas or tents. All the images were created. Nothing was real.

Turns out the island they originally wanted couldn’t be used. The owner of the island had only one deal-breaker in the contract – don’t mention Escobar – so what did they do? They mentioned it in the first teaser. Game over.

Luckily Great Exuma was near-by. This island, under other circumstances, was a much better place to host a festival. It had infrastructure, hotels, restaurants, etc.

Sadly, by the time they decided to go there – everything was sold out. The only thing they were able to get was some undeveloped real estate on one side of the island by the water. They grabbed it.

The details of what went down are so crazy. Instead of luxury tents – they put up hurricane tents left over from the last season.  There weren’t enough homes on the island to get for private villas, so those who signed-up and paid for one got a tent too. And they didn’t even have enough crappy tents. 380 for 900+ people attending.

Not enough food. Not enough bathrooms. No plan B for rain. The attendees were f**ked. The musicians who agreed to perform weren’t any better. There was barely a stage – let alone multiple stages for a festival. Most of the acts started dropping out. Still, the producers let the event go on.

In the end, it was a nightmare. You can google how much of a nightmare it was.

I can’t tell you how validating it was to see those documentaries. I watched the first one with my husband. The entire time he kept turning to me and going, “ohh babe, can you believe it?”. Even he knew. He knew because he’s been married to an event planner for 20 plus years.

I couldn’t believe it. But I could believe it. It was totally believable. Let’s be honest. People think they can do it. On the surface it’s a job that literally everyone thinks they can do. Oh you planned your sister’s shower? Sure! You can be a planner! You organized the office pot-luck lunch? Sure, you can plan a 1,000 person event. Go for it.

I would re-title those documentaries as, “So You Think You’re An Event Planner?” or “You Are Not A F**king Event Planner”.

Go ahead. Roll your eyes. I know. You’re a teacher (love teachers), or a nurse (love nurses), or whatever. You are impacting the world. You’re maybe literally saving lives. But here’s what I know for sure. I know that in this world of big picture thinking, one thing is lost. Execution. No one likes to say they execute. Everyone wants to be a “strategist”. Big thinking. Not big doing.

Ok, sure, you had a really great idea. A world-changing idea. Awesome. Good for you. Can you actually execute it? Can you plan the steps it’ll take to get it done and make it happen? Can you think 10 steps ahead to all the problems that might pop up and solve them before they happen? Can you manage the emotional toll it’ll take on people to get them to do what you want them to do for your idea to come to life?  And can you do it without complaining and whining? Better yet, can you work for never-ending hours and days while pretending to be happy and smiling the whole time? Can you be a 20 year professional that’s managing million dollar budgets while still being asked to get someone a tampon in the middle of an event – and do it without question? If the answer is no. Please, for god’s sake, go back to your day job. If the answer is yes, welcome. You are welcome here. In the group of people who immediately start figuring out how to get something done.

When I saw those documentaries I was so moved. In the last few years, a value has been placed on people who can weave a good story in 280 characters. People who can produce slick, marketing ads and pieces that last about a minute or two. They are digital geniuses. They can make an idea viral. Get a million impressions. Which is great. But guess what they can’t do? They can’t execute. They can’t figure out the one million things that need to go down before something happens.

Billy McFarland had no planners working for him. He had digital teams and marketing teams. He had supermodels and rappers. He even had someone called a “producer”. But no planners. To give credit where it’s due – he did have some people with festival experience that he ignored. But those people basically went along with a plan they knew would fail.

One of the things that is the most troublesome about the documentary isn’t the attendees, ok fine, they didn’t get a music festival. Uptown problems. They had to go back to Miami with their miniature dogs and flower halos. Boo hoo. To me, the saddest part was that the island residents were dragged into making this nightmare happen. Hundreds of workers signed up to help Billy and his crew. No one got paid.

So maybe calling Billy an entrepreneur is wrong. He’s a cheat. A fraud. A con man. And I know that’s what this story is really about. But what I got from it was so different. His story validated and brought to life everything I know to be true. You can be a big idea guy or gal. You can be good at tweets and posts and ‘grams. You can get a thousand likes, and a million impressions, but can you bring that vision to life in the real world? A world full of bad weather, cancelled flights, broken technology, and unhappy people? Can you handle it? Maybe. But let’s be honest, probably not.

 

 

 

Does it burn?

I like skincare products the way people like their pets. I’m OBSESSED. And I like them all. I don’t discriminate. Drug store cheapie? Sounds good to me. Expensive beauty product of the moment? Come to mama. I’ll bring them all home. Nurture and love them.

Face masks are all the rage… but I’ve been doing masks since 8th grade. When I discovered that a good layer of Calamine lotion dries on your face and can be lifted off like a mask. I don’t remember what led me to that discovery. Probably a slow tv night.

I get facials at least once a month – which sounds high maintenance but I balance it out by sometimes buying clothes at Costco (shhhhhhhh).

As I’ve written before in my other post (Product Ho), I have no loyalty to products or places of beauty. I’ll go anywhere. And I’ll drop a facialist (that’s a word right? Spellcheck is saying no, but it’s a word) quickly if she tells me I have to be more delicate with my skin. Delicate?? Nope. Sorry. My favorite question when buying most face products is,” does it burn?”.

Most people ask that to confirm that it won’t burn. I am asking with gleeful excitement hoping a layer of skin comes off with use.

That said – none of the stuff I’m using right now is that harsh. The retinol wipes are a bit…chemically… but in a good way.

Here’s what my nighttime/daytime routine looks like. This is what I’m doing while you’re at the gym, or cleaning your homes, or making the world better…

This stuff is awesome! I told you I have to wear make-up now to save my marriage right? So making sure every bit of my Tammy Faye Bakker mascara comes off before I go to bed is essential. This stuff looks and feels like Vaseline going on – but once it touches water it completely changes and dissolves. Taking Tammy right down the drain where she belongs. RIP.

I’ve tried every face scrub on the planet. Kate Somerville makes a $69 one that does the exact same thing this does. Trust me. I started using this the same time I experimented with the Calamine lotion face masks. It’s harsh. It’s drying. Put your big girl pants on and use it.

Kiehl’s has been my moisturizer since my baby girl was born. We lived on the Upper East Side in New York City, home of their original store. I was having a tough time postpartum and needed a pick-me-up. My husband surprised me with a giant bottle of their ultra moisturizer. It’s been what I’ve used every night ever since. I know it’s a bit too oily for some folks – and it does go on like a brick house, but I love it.

Cut to this year – coming back from a work trip with some co-workers and wandering the airport (Dublin airport? Delhi airport?), we found this. It’s like a little bottle of sunshine. For those days when I’m not trying to save my marriage and I don’t wear make-up, I wear this.

I don’t know if I believe in eye cream. But of course I use it every night because of 2 reasons, 1) I’m a slave to marketing and 2) I will fold like a cheap suit when a salesperson tells me a product is great. Why wouldn’t I trust a perfect stranger whose job is to gain commission off what she sells me? Duh. It’s a no-brainer.

Ohhhhh these burn. They burn so good. Ignore your eyes watering. It’ll be fine.

I snuck this in even though it’s not the same genre as the other products because it’s so good! It basically shellacs my face after I put my gobs of make-up on. It’s like laminating yourself for the day. In the words of Ina Garten, “how bad could that be?”.

Thanks for letting me share. What are you using? I need to know. I need to judge. Xoxo

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