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.

Cooking-ish

It’s been a stressful few weeks…months… ok maybe year. Lots of work stuff. Lots of home stuff. I try to keep calm. We aren’t dealing with life or death at work, but sometimes we are at home. Sometimes when I am completely overwhelmed I’ll add one more thing to my day – which sounds crazy – but the one more thing is something I love to do.

I’ll make plans with friends during a busy week or run out for a quick dinner with my husband. Sometimes that one thing is just going to sleep, which isn’t bad either. But sometimes I’ll cook.

This past weekend I went home to see my family and celebrate all June and July Birthdays and Father’s Day, we’re efficient like that.

Even though my birthday was in May – I still scored a few gifts… one of my favorites was from my little bitty sister. She did done good.

I’ve been following this food writer all year, watching her videos on Bon App (that’s what the cool kids call it). I know what you’re thinking, an Indian cookbook? Not very original of me – but who said I was original? I like Mindy Kaling too (no I don’t think I look like her, and she doesn’t look like my sister or my cousin either and thank you).

Priya Krishna, the author/cook grew up with a mash-up of Indian/American food. This was very different than how I grew up. We ate food no one recognized, flavors that were nowhere to be found in restaurants – turmeric and okra and daikon. It was the 80s. Even chips and salsa hadn’t taken off yet. Plus I just wanted to be normal. I didn’t want my house smelling of garlic and onion all the time – ironically now this is my favorite part of going home, smelling all the cooking.

What was I talking about? Oh yes, I’m stressed and I need a distraction.

Some things about this book. It’s illustrated by Maria Qamar, a Desi (which means of Indian decent) pop artist out of Canada. She published a book a few years ago called, Trust No Aunty. I found out about her because my daughter loved her (this is the way I find out about a lot of cool stuff). Online she’s also known as @hatecopy. Check her out.

I love getting a new cookbook. I read it like a book book – know what I mean?

I knew the first recipe I’d try right away. It had all my favorite things. Poblanos! Serranos! White beans substituting cheese (damn you lactose)… here’s the recipe

I immediately added cilantro to this mix because… you know… cilantro. I also didn’t have fresh garlic so I used garlic in a tube… which is fresh-ish.

Funny side story – when I checked out at the grocery store with my stuff, the cashier, a nice young dude, said to me,” uhh just so you know, these aren’t jalapeños they are Serrano’s which are way spicer.” I was so impressed! I love people who give a shit. I told him how cool that comment was asked if he liked to cook, he said,” nah there’s just a lot of people who come back yelling that they got the wrong pepper.”

Yelling? About the wrong pepper? There’s so many questions I have for the pepper yeller. How was the wrong pepper choice the store’s fault? Is there really that big a difference? And lastly, ARE YOU INSANE??

Anyway, back to the recipe.

So here’s how it goes…

If you want to do it right, put the oil in first and once heated toast the cumin seeds in it first until fragrant before adding the onions. If you want to be like me… put everything in together while talking on the phone with a friend. Then add coriander and let it get nice and translucent.

  • While the onions get cooked I chopped the Serrano – not attractively but I got the job done.

  • Back to the onions… which got well-done by mistake because I ignored them while hacking away at the peppers.
  • Now…take the beans and mash them up.
  • Once mashed chunky, add the onions, the “fresh” garlic, the Serrano’s, lime and salt.
  • Again… don’t be like me. I sliced the poblanos in half so they looked like green alligators.
  • This is adorable but not the right way to stuff a pepper like this. I should have only cut half of it. Oh well. You live and learn. Except I didn’t learn and cut the others the same way.
    So I shoved the stuffing in and put them on a lightly oiled sheet pan. Here’s all my poblano alligator heads ready to go in.
  • Now go and wash your hands carefully because you’ve touched Serrano’s and poblanos. Wait about 45 min and bam!
  • Lol! Ok. So my peppers weren’t exactly stuffed. It was more like a roasted pepper with a mashed bean cake on the side but it was delicious! More importantly I did something not work for 2 hours of my day.
  • Mission accomplished.
  • ps… this is what they were supposed to look like. I debated posting this and saying I did it but of all the things to lie about, is this what I want to choose? Ofcourse not. Then I’d be no better than those wackos yelling in Shoprite that they were sold the wrong pepper. No thank you. I’ll save my lie for something else, like my weight or the success of my children or something… like a normal person.
  • Sh&t that drives me crazy – Event Planning Edition

    Guest post! RD is back and I’m here for it….

    – Overly scented florals (in general) but especially at food and wine events.  If I see hyacinths at Le Bernardin, I will smack you with them.

    – A panel event that has no stage.  Why?  Are we in your living room?  Will Uncle Ed be treating us to his Richard Nixon impersonation?  Just because people are in the back of the room, doesn’t mean they don’t want to see.

    – A podium with no podium sign, or a podium that is branded with the hotel logo.  Unless your speaker is actually from The Ritz-Carlton, you need to cover that mess up.

    – Rude staff.  I’m giving you money.  Act like you work here.  Better yet, act like you work for me!  Because at least for the next few hours, you do.

    – Columns.  No one wants to “work around” you.  We’re not in Greece.  This isn’t The Parthenon.  Time to find a new venue.

    – Uninformed folks who refer to an event as “a party.”  If it was a party, I’d be having fun… Not running around like a crazy person trying to make sure nothing goes wrong.

    – Wired microphones.  Bob Barker called.   He told me to tell you that this is the 21st century.  

    And finally….It costs what it costs.  I don’t work on commission.  

    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.

    Guest posts coming at ya….

    It’s after 11pm and I’m still up, I’m super proud of myself. I’m almost pulling an all-nighter.

    I wanted to let you all…let you ALL…that cracks me up. I wanted to let you three know that in the next few posts I’ll be featuring some guest bloggers. Some you’ve read before on here, and some new. They are funny, thoughtful and smart smart smart. I don’t know how I duped them into being friends with me – although one of these folks is my little bitty sister who had no choice 🙂

    Each of these amazing writers should have a blog of their own, but until then I’ll happily take a backseat and share the work!

    By the way – if anyone else wants to try their hand at this, hit me up!! You can even be anonymous, although what are you afraid of? Have you read the crap I shovel out? You’ll be fine.

    Anyway – tune in tomorrow for our first guest blog of 2019. It’s one of my favorite people. Her humor is only surpassed by the amount of Christmas trees in her home during the holidays (seriously a lot of trees). She’s an old colleague and forever friend – RD is in the house.

    She’s an event planner, dog lover, and all around garden enthusiast – she likes birds almost as much as I do – and I know you will love her. To see her older posts go to the search icon and type in Guest Post, or come back tomorrow and check out her latest!

    Good night – or should I just say good morning since it’s 11:38pm?? What do people do this late at night? I don’t get it.

    Xoxo

    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.

    ilife

    On a flight back from Texas last Friday night I listened to a couple of good podcasts. The first was about murder, of course. But the other one was Arianna Huffington talking about sleep and bedtime, not that I have issues with either – I usually have pj’s on by 7pm if I’m home. My bed is one of my all-time favorite places to visit, and insomnia has never ever been an issue for me. But there was a part of her talk that completely got to me. She said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we took care of ourselves half as much as we take care of our phones. We are obsessed with our phones being on full-charge, not running out to battery life. We make sure our phones have the latest updates, apps, etc. and are in constant fear of losing our phones. How many times have you had a moment of panic thinking you left it somewhere or forgot it at home? Wouldn’t it be a revelation if you cared about yourself like this? Are you running on empty? Are you protected from viruses? Are you updating yourself with what you need to keep current?”

    That was pretty mind blowing for me to hear. Do I take care of myself that well? Ummm that would be an N to the O, No. I treat myself more like an old burner phone. I’m useful, but not meant to coddle and protect. Nice.

    Last week, at the end of a big event, we had a speaker who challenged us to make a bucket list. He asked us to take a moment and write down all the things we would aim to do before we died. He called them “moonbeam” goals. Things like, climb the Alps, write a book, meet your childhood idol… you get the point. Big things. People around me started filling up their page, it was as if they’d been waiting their whole lives to be asked this question. What do you want to do before you die? I drew a blank. It was hard. Why couldn’t I come up with one thing? What’s my dream? I put down 1) volunteer more. Ok. That’s something, it’s not nothing, but I already volunteer. And that didn’t seem “bucket listy” . Then I thought of number 2) go to the doctor more often. Seriously. That’s what I thought of. WTF? I had to have at least 3 before we were asked to share with our neighbors. I panicked and put down 3) run a 3K. Run a 3K?? Running 1.8 miles was my moonbeam activity? So lame. Who knew I was so lame? Don’t I have dreams? Ambitions? And let’s be honest here, I’ve never even run for a train before. All of sudden my dream is to run? This was a sad state of affairs. I always joke that I’m dead inside, but maybe I really am. How is it possible that I can have a longer discussion about the TV shows that I watch than my dreams and ambitions?? This was no bueno.

    Just for fun/to mentally torture myself, I decided to ask a couple of friends what their list would look like. One said she’d like to be the keynote speaker at a big event. Another said he’d like to learn how to farm, real farming with cows and dirt and shit (his words). But others were stumped like me – which made me feel a lot better. Someone also reminded me that I’m constantly saying that I want to be a detective and solve a mystery. I reminded them back that I was kidding. It was a joke. I mean I think it was a joke. Although I really do think I could solve a crime if I put my mind to it. So maybe that’s on my list… 4) be a Private Investigator (danger free crime-solving, ala Jessica Fletcher please). Do you have a bucket list? Have you ever tried to write it down? Tell me please, I now need to know everyone’s bucket list! Maybe I’ll get some good ideas.

    This is all I have for you tonight. Just some random musings on a Tuesday. Are you treating yourself as well as you treat your phone? Are you on low battery? Do you have a good screen protector? Ok that doesn’t make sense, sorry. Went too far 🙂

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