Out with the old, and in with the new

My day began with a day off…on a Saturday…which is very unusual, and must mean it’s a major holiday. Anyone who follows my blog knows that I’m not off on Saturdays, with the exception of christmas, new years, and easter weekend. Christmas has come and gone, as have all of the cookies, and there are no Cadbury caramel eggs anywhere near me, sadly, so clearly it is new years eve.  Here I am…all set for the evening…showered, snacks prepped,  bubbly chilling in the fridge and in sweats and snuggly socks, ready for my wild night at home.

Years ago, very  briefly,  we spent the night with some friends, but, before then, and immediately afterward, it was always spent with family and food, hors de ouevres, some chinese food and later, sushi, and everyone slept over…no great plans, no driving, no night on the town. When our children were small, it was no different. Though, having British roots, we watched the stroke of midnight on Big Ben, and called it a night at 8 pm and got the kids into bed. Sometimes the two of us made it to watch the ball drop, and sometimes not.  I’ve spent several unwell… bronchitis, pneumonia, recovering from surgeries, etc., or caring for my brood from similar issues, and more recently wisdom teeth removals, as each has reached that rite of passage and procedures are scheduled over breaks from classes. I’m content to be at home,  as planning otherwise has proven that it doesn’t really work out as hoped.

This year, it was an easy decision, and there was never really any discussion. It’s been a rough year for us, on many levels, but we are here, with a roof over our heads, and mainly intact, so to speak, and for that, I am truly grateful.

January brought great promise, as the start of a new semester began for each of our kids upon their return from traveling overseas all at once, which challenged my heart to no end while they were out of the country.  A good friend who’d been unwell began her journey back in the right direction, and I looked forward to the new year. Early February brought the truly devastating loss of a dear friend, most unexpectedly, as she had now been doing well, and for some time, and I, a grief clinician, struggled greatly with this loss. Two weeks later, my husband lost his job and I came down with the flu, but had to continue working….not the smartest thing, or the easiest, but my hands were tied between lack of coverage and lack of income. In march, though still sick, a little weight lifted, when I realized that my husband was lighter in spirit, no longer waiting for that other shoe to drop; Spring was around the corner, we began to regroup, I saw this as temporary, and we even spent more time together. Dance competition season kept me busy through march and april; applications and resumes kept him busy, and spring break brought our kids home–for the most part. I was able to see my son perform on the flute twice, and was absolutely awed by his talent. I was able to witness my daughter receiving her heritage class ring,  and be a part of the ceremony, and marveled at how close to graduation she was. We were so blessed. May brought the addition of prepping for sleepaway camp, where I’ve worked for over a decade, and some hopeful job positions, and I kept my fingers crossed. The kids were set with jobs for the summer, my daughter got a research grant and with it, tickets and an itinerary to do most of it in England…her dream come true. Then came June, a dead, top of the line,  8-month old, refrigerator, where the company refused to replace it and the numerous hours of back and forth to rectify the situation, while I constantly threw out food and money, and we lacked an appliance…and then, a BIG birthday, no celebration, the rest of my family, including my husband, traveling, and me working. I did take matters into my own hands though, and brought cupcakes and party hats into the studio for my dance students every night that week to make it a party atmosphere. I craved a celebration and being surrounded by love, which I so desperately needed, but it didn’t happen near home. I did have one friend force me to go out for a drink, and she brought me roses, bless her soul, and another friend who brought lunch and a cupcake while I waited for the second (out of 4) repair teams, each time… stumped. …And then I left for supervisors weekend at camp, where dessert was a custom made cake for me, shaped like a jalapeño! (I’m allergic to peppers; best surprise ever!) The summer came and went, and none of those jobs came through…I began to lose my faith, and then lost another friend, who succumbed to her illness. 2016 was throwing me for a loop…jerking me around, and just not being fair.  I ran away…just to change my perspective. I visited my parents in Florida, and then cried when I left, fearing that this might be the last time I’d see them. I visited my daughter, who was/is working on her thesis, and saw her being pulled from me in ways I hadn’t realized, and knew that her life has been launched like an ejection button pressed from under a seat. And then, I stopped at my brothers home on my way back, and soothed my soul by cooking the entire 3 days I was there. My kids were tucked away where they belonged, and I jumped, full force, into a new academic year,  with everything I had, while I watched my husband continue to struggle and try his hands at a business opportunity that I feared would be more of a loss on a few levels. He saw me as unsupportive, and that hurt…still does. My hunter and gatherer was struggling, and didn’t want my opinion. I questioned lots of things, and we lost our connection. The latter part of the year, being caught off guard again by election results, hurt for my family and friends, and now a master at cutting costs, cutting services, stretching leftovers like Dash’s mom in the incredibles, and feeling like everyone thinks I’m scrooge, because of it, I am somewhat bitter. Yup. I’m hurt, and bitter. My blood type really is B+, and I try to live life that way, but I am struggling.  Adulting is difficult. I’ve stretched in ways that I never knew I could. I’ve watched my friends and family struggle, and I’ve watched others go on expensive vacations, and I’ve been jealous. I’ve tried to keep my perspective, and have still given to others in any way that I could. So many others have it worse off than we do.  We were already living modestly, and way away from the Jones’.  Something truly has to give.  December brings a little bit of light again…Our extended family got together for a celebration, and I saw my family and truly spent time with them.  All are well, and I am again, very grateful, as life is precious.  We took lots of pictures together, and I’m doing a good job talking to my parents by phone, and often. I’m grateful to have them, for however long I still do, and for my kids to have all of their grandparents. Lucky, lucky us.

I, like so many others, am hopeful for a better year ahead; I am hopeful for our family, our friends and neighbors, both near and far, and for our country as a whole. I am hoping for good health and prosperity. I am hoping that love truly trumps hate, that we unite as a community, and that the world recognizes that love is love, is love, is love, is love and that it spreads faster than a computer virus. Please 2017, be kind to all of us, and let it be a happy new year.

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Hopeful“>Out with the old, and in with the new

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We go together like…

Like cookies and ketchup, liverwurst and celery, cabbage and yogurt, I can’t begin to list all of the times my husband and I have arrived at the same place, but separately…never together.   We’ve been together for almost 3 decades, but probably spend most of our time trying to connect, trying to coordinate, and trying to make it all work. It’s a crazy juggling routine that takes great skill, beyond our performing as a  part of our circus. And yes, ours is a three ring circus, complete with a big top and popcorn to go.

When we met, he was intending to move from Brooklyn to manhattan, and I was all set to attend Grad school in Delaware…or so we thought. Taken completely by surprise to be in a committed relationship, 8 weeks later we were engaged to be married, and a year later, we were.  Plans changed, locations changed, and the next thing I know, I am both, working and attending grad school full time in Manhattan, and he is working there, while both of us are living in Staten Island. We couldn’t even commute together because of our schedules, and the next few years added on clinical rotations to this, already crazed, schedule.  This routine continued for several years and, sporadically, we had surprise date nights to meet in the city to spend time together. I do miss those nights. Contrary to popular belief, I love surprises, (if dressed appropriately) (I hate being ill prepared), but, moreso, love the forethought that goes into the surprise…there’s nothing like someone taking the time to plan something with you in mind…that’s just amazing on their part.

Next came kids, and childcare, sitters, schedules, preschool, extracurriculars, gradeschool, more extracurriculars, hebrew school, middle school, music lessons, dance lessons, high school, clubs, interests, projects, and even more extracurriculars, all added to hubby’s bowling leagues, softball teams, and basketball teams, and my dual work schedule, late night patients, yoga, and all of our other things, too many to recall. We took turns, always in separate cars, to make it to each of these things, all while commuting, working crazy hours, and raising our family while trying to balance all of the pieces and also participate in events with family and friends.  …who had to be where, until when, which was closer in proximity to what or whom, and next had to be where, by when, wearing what, carrying what, and all in time to be back for who knows what.  My kids have always had backpacks, Tupperware containers, snacks, water bottles, watches, and organizers out of necessity. Others were thrown when our kids were some of the last to have cell phones of their own; where were they going on their own without us picking up or dropping off that they couldn’t find an adult in charge or a landline to use?  Nowhere that we knew. They always knew that one of us would be there…probably not both, but one of us.  And yes, very rarely, both of us. We even arrived at family functions in multiple cars, always coming from or going to separate places.

College has been no different an experience for them.  Distances make it even more difficult, but one of us moves them in, or out, or back or forth, or to or from, and so it goes and goes and goes. This past weekend, at the completion of their finals, we had to be at a weekend family event, 2 hours north of us from home, and 3.5 hours and 6 hours north of them.  We made it there in bits and pieces, to much more of it than not, snow included, formal wear and weekend necessities in hand, snacks, tupperware, and all the essentials.  I found it humerous as each extended family member sporadically asked about each of their ETAs, while I was the one there with all of them.  If they hadn’t “checked in” on facebook, I might not have known that each of them had arrived! And, of course, with different places to get to, we each left the same way, though enjoying the time we did spend, together.

Maybe this makes for a greater sense of responsibility, time management, preparedness, or flexibility, or maybe each of those things can be amazing on their own and while  acompanying other things.  I’m not a fan of liverwurst, and celery is great with the right dip, even made from yogurt,  but who can do without ketchup or resist cookies? …None of my circus.

Laughter…The BEST food for the soul

It’s just past 10 pm on Sunday night, and I have just finished cleaning up and putting away the platters and last remnants of last night’s annual gathering of ladies at my home, otherwise known as THE GIRLY PARTY. I have been hosting this for many, many  years, as an excuse to kick off the holiday season and celebrate together, but, more so, as an excuse for those who put others first, to take a night for themselves, during what is often the craziest time of year.

Many years ago, I attended a gathering at a neighbors home that changed the way I see things. I had a newborn, and could barely get myself out on a Saturday night after commuting, working a long week, taking care of things on the homefront, trying to get a sitter, etc. It was out of the norm for me to remove myself from such responsibilities, and I hesitated to attend; My neighbor wouldn’t take no for an answer, and so, with a blown glass candy dish in hand, I went.  It was a lovely evening, with a houseful of women, who brought beautiful gifts of Christmas from around the world, one more exquisite than the next. I had no idea there was a theme. They mingled, laughed, drank, and then played a game, politely at first, and then all of them let loose! As the  night went on, they chastised each other, but lovingly, as it became apparent that they had known each other for years. I was one of two newbies, playing along, and learning the ropes. Of course as the only one who didn’t celebrate Christmas, it was certain that I was going to go home with something “Santa extraordinaire”, but I couldn’t help but laugh. Like I said, the gifts were exquisite, and picked with care. The evening flew by, I met some lovely ladies, ate well, thanked my hostess, and headed home with mon Pere de Noel.  I was invited the following year, but couldn’t attend for some reason that I don’t recall.  That spring, that same neighbor’s 14 year old son took his own life, and all of the lives in our little neighborhood cul de sac were changed forever. We remained friends, but grief brings great change, and though life goes on, it does so somewhat more dimly.

I decided that there aren’t enough moments of laughter in between all of the responsibility and seriousness that life causes, and I couldn’t have been more right on the money. I think, often, of all of the things that happen over the course of a year…all of the intentions to get together, the lunches that never come together, the dates that conflict, the distance, the busy seasons, the priorities, the cancelled plans, and the medical emergencies, and worse.  We women are the CEOS of our households and the hours are tough and often long, but if we don’t take a break, no one is going to tell us to. We are super women…we do it all, and we put ourselves last. Therefore, we owe it to each other to be the ones to take care of each other, and sometimes that takes a push to not accept no for an answer. Over the years, the crowd has dwindled from over two dozen women, to roughly 17, to about a dozen. Even some of the faces have changed, as relationships have, but what doesn’t  is the laughter that comes from these women who all work as professionals, and have families and households. They all care for others; Some who need great care, and all of them have been through trying times with their own families, relations, and even themselves…victorious because of whom they are, and how they keep on keeping on. There are a few rules that go along with this evening …Dress in what makes you comfortable, bring something edible to share, or don’t.  Bring a gift, but it is valued at $20, and please don’t spend more (this has never changed, even though it’s been decades), no spouses, no children, and no curfew. Anyone who wants to crash for the night is welcome to as well.  Allergies and intolerances are accommodated, and I shop and cook for days; hors d ouevres and dips and spreads only, but lots of them, so everyone can mingle, refill, and sit comfortably. There’s been punch, or sangria, the room is lit by candlelight, the decor is festive and shiny (afterall, I love glitter) and no one has EVER left early. I believe the record stay is around 3:30 am, or a bit later, which is pretty amazing when one realizes that it’s talking with others that keeps the girls there, and everyone leaves with a heart full of laughter, great memories, and  a gift “that any girl would love”.  We barely have room for dessert and coffee, but that’s provided as well. I love the care that goes into what each of my friends choose to bring, as we are the Queens of our own kitchens, and the best shoppers in town, but there’s no pressure.  I have many that still turn me down, year after year, or won’t commit on an ongoing basis, and those that cancel the day of, which, I admit, drives me absolutely and completely nuts for so many reasons, and just stinks after all that preparation, but there are a staple of about 10 that always come, and know the date that same night for the following year, but, they are the ones that “get it”, and know that their souls will be nourished by the laughter, when the others just haven’t caught on.  These fabulous women know, firsthand, that laughter is THE BEST way to feed the soul and they know they can count on their souls being well fed.

 

 

Happy Belated Friendship

There are so many stages in life that bring you friendships; What is the saying…? There are friends for a reason, and friends for a season…

We make friends throughout our school years; There are those first friends, and first sleep overs, and those we played with outside our homes; I am not from the “playdate” generation, and spent most of my time in school and studying dance, so that’s where the bulk of my alliances came from. Of course these friendships changed as did my level of education, expertise,  and my extra-curricular activities. My family belonged to a swim club with several families, and i went to day camp there, but eventually moved onto sleepaway camp where I made friendships like no others. There’s something about camp friends, but I’ll address that interplanetary experience at another time. I attended Hebrew school three times per week, and once our tiny congregation went bankrupt, those relationships were affected, especially once we joined a congregation relatively far from home, and though a couple of us shared the common bond of “family expectations”, they had their own relationships with those they attended school with, and there was never anyone close enough to home to hang out with. I joined the chorus in middle school, and formed some wonderful friendships.  Blending harmonies and rehearsing for concerts with those with the same love of music was fabulous, and gave me something more local and in addition to the  friends that danced with me. There’s an inborn competitiveness amongst dancers, and though we share the same love, we compare ourselves in many ways.  I didn’t realize at the time how this would be the start of my journey in musical theatre, performing, and working professionally in the arts, which might be the closest thing to being an additional (and sometimes even a replacement) family.

Then came High School…and Sing…and Musicals…and Dance Team…and drama…and cheerleading…and still dance.  I spent more time at my school, wearing purple, of course (go pirates!) than I spent anywhere else or with anyone else, day after day, late into the evenings, and often on weekends. I studied French, and made alliances with a few of those students, as I guess knowing a language will do (plus, our instructor of many years, passed away prior to our graduation, and though she was strict, she had been an amazing educator).  I was also in a specialty science program, and homeroom, because of the program, and struggled to keep my A average, but didn’t realize how many others were having difficulty in that program as well until MUCH later on in life. However, while others were glad to move on to the next chapters of their lives, I was devastated to leave.

I was accepted into college by early decision, so I knew early on where I would be going. I was concerned that I may’ve decided too quickly as my friends’ acceptances came in, month after month, and they claimed that I couldn’t relate to their stress, while I panicked that I had put all of my eggs into one basket.  The end of the year activities were momentous for me, and I prayed to hold onto those friendships and memories, and be able to spend time with those I experienced those things with, on a continuous basis. But, we all know, of course, what happens when you all head off into different directions, and those relationships suffered, though I tried desperately to hang on.  Distance took over, as did life, and other interests…some were completely out of touch, both, emotionally and geographically, which upset me greatly, some were working full time, some got married right out of school, and one even had a baby right away, which was soooo far from my world.  I got caught up in a double major, a minor, performing, auditioning, papers, exams, founding a sorority, a serious relationship, a bad break up, and building a career and, eventually, a life.

I ended up unintentionally  taking what is now referred to as a gap year, when I was wait listed for law school, and began working for a law firm as a paralegal on a high security floor, where no one spoke to each other, and then, eventually as a trial prep assistant in the court system, where confidentiality reigned again, but I enjoyed trying to make a difference and shared that with my coworkers.  I then attended graduate school, while working full-time, and commuted back and forth, including clinical rotations to all hours of the night, and it wasn’t until I took my last two classes that I made a connection to two other grad students. One of them, I have since lost touch with over the years, but I was placed into a project with these two lovely ladies, and though our lives were very different, our values were not. I am happy to say that I am still in touch with the other, though life has had its twists and turns in both of our lives.  When I had my daughter, she passed on her favorite little dresses from her daughter from 8-10 years prior, claiming that she had never felt the desire to pass them onto anyone until she gave them to me, and that I had become like a little sister to her.  I was very, very  touched, and we truly took really good care of those dresses and only wore them to special places, loving it, every time. We don’t speak often, but can always pick up where we left off, now, almost 25 years later.

Then life happened…Marriage, careers, kids, moves, overtime, the kids’ extracurricular activities, losses, changes, and the friendships of theirs that take over in between driving to and from everything.  It’s much more difficult to form friendships when not in school, and the other things take priority over your own needs.

But, every so often, a gem of a person comes out of the woodwork, if you paid close enough attention, and didn’t push it on your kids as an expectation for them as well…lately, I have realized how lucky I have been to have rediscovered those GEMS that I found along the way, but only began true relationships with as of late…

Barbara…The wife of a high school friend that I have become very close with, when he and I hardly speak anymore. Sabrina…A girl from my high school French class who I always liked, but we just ran in separate circles.  And Pam…The mom of one my son’s close friends from his high school…now that the kids are in college, we have gotten to know each other better, and I really enjoy spending time with her.  It is true for me, that Facebook has assisted in these “re-kindlings” of sort.  The ones that pay attention to your posts, your humor, don’t have their own ulterior motives, and follow up…just because. I do have fewer close friends than years ago. I do believe that less is more. I never understood those that needed lots and lots of friends, or to be the mayors of their communities, and because I put so much into relationships, I am often disappointed when others don’t do the same.  This has been an epiphany for me as my mom feels the same, and we talk about it often, the fact that we are “best friend kind of girls” and as we age, those best friends leave us for many reasons.  I also talk with her more often than I have in the past, and I truly enjoy those phone calls, but just as long as she doesn’t ask me what’s really going on, because sometimes, I’m disappointed in myself, and some of the things that didn’t work out the way that I had hoped, but, that’s life, I guess.  I’m lucky to have my mom around to even talk to, when others I know, do not.  And, another bonus… I’m also close with my daughter, but, we joke, that she’s the older one in the relationship at times, more often than not.  Women, more than men, need these intimate connections and camaraderie to feed their souls and regroup.  I returned to sleepaway camp 12 years ago, and am glad that I did.  I get to help others form these relationships; Some that will last forever, and some that will just be for a season, or a reason.  I still take dance classes, and yoga to further feed my soul.  I’ll never be able to keep up with the Jones’, but I hope to find further gems to add to my happy belated friendships. There’s absolutely nothing like them, and you must be ready when their brilliance begins to show.

 

FAFSA Family Fun

The day after a major holiday is usually the only 2 days I have a day off during the year, That is with the exception of Sundays, twice a month (depending on the season). I’ll probably blog about this at some point,  but I digress. Those 2 days off are usually new years day and black Friday. If I am lucky enough to have my family at home, I always have this amazing fantasy that we will spend the day together, after I return from a much needed yoga class, cozying up together from breakfast time, throughout the entire day, and then into the evening, either perusing a movie, or catching up by the fireplace.

The truth is that this NEVER happens, as reality wins out, but I’m guessing that you already knew that was coming.  There are platters, dishes, and wine glasses to wash and put away, tablecloths, kitchen towels, and pot holders to launder, the continuous loading, running, and emptying of the dishwasher, and the overall reinstituting of normalcy to put the house back together as much as allowed, give or take the number of visitors.

The kids sleep in, and I look in on them, cherubs that they are, peacefully recharging, contentment on their faces, hearts full, bellies happy, and I marvel how they have gotten this big, this independent, have lives of their own, and schedules to abide by, and I am grateful for their goals and accomplishments, and even give myself a little pat that I had a little something to do with their upbringing, and I didn’t mess it up completely. We all know, there are days as parents when we just KNOW we did that, so these moments restore my faith in my own humanity, even if few and far between.

I give them till 10 am, then 11, and then 12 before I begin to lose it…I’ve been taking care of the rest for hours and just want them to get up already…picture Christmas morning in households across the country with the  kids and parents in reverse.  I refrain from barging into their respective rooms, climbing onto their beds and clucking like a chicken, though the thought does cross my mind. I have one task that I used to “celebrate” new years day with every year, and need their assistance to do their part, but none of us have any desire to do it, and they KNOW it has to happen. And, thanks to the government, the FAFSA, as those of us affectionately call it,  is now available October 1st (like anyone can get to it then or even wants to).  I decide, by noon,  to log onto the site on my own and wing it until I need their input. I mean, how bad can it be? We’ve done it several times before, but, alas, much like the pain of childbirth, I forget….

 

I boot up my laptop, arm myself with a copy of last year’s taxes, my previous log in info and past completion receipts, get online, type in FAFSA.GOV, and then, the fun begins..fafsa-image

The site, forever challenging my notes, my memory, my tax returns, and challenge questions, not to mention our unreliable Wi-Fi, manages to take a task that should take the returning user 10-15 minutes, straight to a complete melt down, a possible trip to the ER for a stress test and immediate admission to the cardiac care unit, all in under four hours….so much for 15 minutes.   My cherubs, beckoned to assist, become beyond unreasonable, colorful in their language (which I despise immensely; My mother never let me use the word hate… “I despise that immensely or intensely…she preferred intensely.)  and I admit to clearly being no picnic either, huffing and puffing, beyond frustrated, but the LAST thing we want to do after that is be together.  What makes a site so challenging that it can, so easily,  destroy the fabric of a family as we know it?  I’m all for heightened security on a site that contains so much personal information, but, if I have all of that information, in addition to the answers to all 5 challenge questions, can’t they then presume that I’m their parent?   I mean, what’s next….photos from their births?  A copy of their tuition bills? Do we need to get matching tattoos? I mean, who would WANT to spend time on the site for fun?  I can think of a plethora of things that might be more fun to do as a family, and none of them contain the initials FAFSA.  Isn’t it enough that there are other things to take care of while they are home, like flu shots, dental cleanings, eye exams, and clothing alterations? Not to mention the dreaded answers to questions like “is your suit clean for the bar-mitzvah in a few weeks that you are soooo thrilled to be attending with us and the rest of your extended family because there is nowhere in the world that you’d rather be?! Oh, and did we mention that you’ll be sharing a room with us at the hotel because we knew we could torture you further? …Good times.

Personally, and I’m sure most parents will agree with me here, the  whole site should just be reconfigured to be much more user-friendly…unlock a free glass (or four) of sangria with each question answered or section completed…earn a free night at an expensive hotel for overall completion, or even just provide a free movie ticket for each member of your household that you claim.  If they did that, then immediately thereafter,  you could each attend the movie of your choice without having to sit in the same theatre with each other…so much for quality time spent together…it’s a fantasy, but it seems like a plan to me.

 

 

 

 

 

What’s two more?

The sweet potato casserole, string bean casserole, apple pie, pumpkin pie, and orange cranberry jelly are all done. There’s lots more to do… However, the fridge has been cleaned out and set for the preparation of the rest of the meal, and yet organized enough to allow for the storing of the yummy leftovers that will feed us and sustain our hearts for the  next few days. I have now shopped three times (yes, I’ve made another trip since my last blog; fingers crossed that three times is the charm) (yes, I remembered the rolls–thank you) the linens and platters have been pulled out, and the dishwasher has now been run twice. Dinner is in the oven and also in the crockpot.  I am off to work, and the empty nest will begin to fill tonight while I am out  and will continue to do so, well into the wee hours. In the morning it will be very quiet while everyone who has returned home remains asleep, or, at least,  pretends to be,  while the hubby and I head to work. I’ll be back to tackle the now empty, but not a chance tomorrow, sink, regroup, and head out to my second job. The craziness has only yet to begin… This year, I’m not quite ready, but I welcome it. The house will not be nearly as full, but the preparation is no different, the aromas that waif through the air are the same, and the smoke detector will go off, and the yelling will begin, as if it’s been scheduled.

I will miss having my folks here, and my brother and sister in law; my husband’s parents have not come for many years, and as my family has married and moved, other traditions have taken over, so I hold very tight to those who do come. However, this year I have been thinking a lot about two people who have been gone now, for several years…

My brother in law, is an only child, born to parents who had him later on in life,  long before my career driven generation evolved.  His dad, a long time  Cantor of a large temple, and his mom, everything you would imagine of a loving, adoring wife and mom, who walked everywhere along king’s Highway  Brooklyn, to shop, launder, and care for her family, as they, naturally, didn’t drive. I didn’t meet these people until they were in their late 70s, and they were my grandparents contemporaries, rather than my parents’. Nonetheless, we welcomed them into the fold with open arms, when he and my sister became engaged, and then married, four years after I did.  They often turned me down when invited over…”it’s such a schlep”, “it’s not necessary”, “we’re just fine staying home”, “we keep kosher and wouldn’t want to make things difficult for you”, and the famous “we can’t leave skippy (their dog) that long; he might die”. Ummm…seriously?

I always thought that maybe they just didn’t believe that I would abide by their laws of kashrut, or didn’t want the chaos of being in a houseful of people, or just weren’t comfortable, but,  slowly, and with my persistance, they came.  Yes, at first, they came with their own food, (who does that?!) but, eventually realizing that I had prepared specifically for them, they came without it. Jeff, did have to schlep back and forth to Brooklyn for them, but they wouldn’t sleep anywhere else. Over time came this little dance we would do…Me: “we’d love to have you.” Them: “We don’t  want to trouble you.” Me: “What’s two more?” Them: “Okay; we’ll consider it.” (So non-committal, but, they were older, and often unwell).  Even when his mom, Ruth, was ill and in the hospital, I could eventually convince his dad, Max, to come, and allow him to enjoy a walk around our neighborhood, which he so enjoyed, and he’d allow me to send back leftovers for Ruth. Over time, this became less and less often as they became less able to come and go, and it began to take a toll on those that had to “schlep” them.  …And then they were gone, within a short time of each other. I never had the pleasure of having my own grandparents for a big family holiday, but I’d like to think that Ruth and Max represented that whole generation for me, and maybe even for anyone else that has been here.

Just a couple of weeks ago, my brother in law, Jeff and I were talking about how different it is to have so many less people coming this year, and he said something that stilled my heart…”you know”, he said, “my mother loved you… You were one of her favorite people…always including them, making food FOR them, and pushing them to get out and be a part of the family instead of alone.”   I was speechless. I really had NO idea, and thought I had annoyed them continuously to leave their comfort zone. Sometimes you really have no idea what it means to be asked, again and again,  to be a part of something. We all need to know that you really DO want us there.  So, if you’re like me, make lots of food, and can’t scale to size anyway, or even not so much, think of asking someone to join you, that has turned you down before, because hey, what’s two more?

13.45 pounds is NOT that big

My Thanksgiving shopping is done. Well, round two anyway…

Years ago, I used to earn that “free turkey” within days of the start of their promo with just my usual shopping list; With a houseful of eaters, spending $250 was hardly difficult, and sometimes, I could earn a second one and donate it. (major score! Feed others who can not feed themselves.) …And then the goal became $300, then $350, and, more recently $400. #Seriously? and all for a turkey? That turkey also went from “your choice, between 22-28 pounds”,  to a store brand, frozen,  16-22 pounds….or a ham, or a lasagna. The price per pound also went up over time, so a $30 bird became a $50 bird. Ok, I get it, technically,  but come on.  Does the average family have that kind of money, and if it’s a half pound per person, does the average household really have that many people at their table that day? Or even need a big turkey? And how many other side dishes and hors d’oeuvres are also being served? Not to mention, dessert, which any triptofan coma induced person MUST experience within moments of finishing their meal…though at our house, we play Balderdash first… but that’s a whole other blog post!

I was brought up in a household where food is love, and I have to admit, this holiday is my favorite…wonderous smells, seasonal colors, gratitude, family, good wine, warm rolls, fresh from the oven, and laughter, devoid of religiosity or gift giving. I prep for days, with everything imaginable, and thanks to having the flu together with a newborn many years ago, the hubby takes care of the bird and makes his fabulous cranberry/sausage/oyster stuffing, which, I have to say  is to die for. There’s a vegetable platter, dips,  crackers, hummus, a cheese platter, stuffed mushrooms (but only if I can get the really big ones…Fingers crossed that i find them for my son who returns only for them, I believe) sweet potatoes, and sweet potato pie for those “not watching their sugar, gluten, or dairy”, string bean casserole, Brussel sprouts, regular (inside the bird) stuffing, the hubby’s famous stuffing, two kinds of cranberry sauce (fresh, whole-berry, homemade with oranges, and the jelly one, because I love the sound it makes when it leaves the can…no joke.) And then there are the pies…

We usually have about a dozen or more people at our feast, and I wrap up care packages for all of our guests, and keep a stash for ourselves for those fabulous little midnight sandwiches stacked high on dinner rolls with everything served on a giant dining room table, that takes up the entire table. I go for the 26 pound turkey, just to be safe that there’s enough…until new years? And, let’s be honest, I don’t stop eating from the beginning of prep until somewhere around January 5th, and that’s only because the FAFSA has to be filed.

This year, we will be 7 people. It just so happens that we have a big family event a few weeks later, so all of the out of towners have opted to not travel twice. I’m really not sure how to prepare for this.  I have trouble scaling to size, and I am pacing myself. I also have to admit, that with money being tight, I’m not going to qualify for that turkey. In fact, I bought one outright to help meet the criteria, and I still won’t get there. I have a few forgotten  incidentals to go back for, like the rolls…I must not forget the rolls…must not forget the rolls…rolls…but its not going to get me a “free” turkey.

Though it is only 13.45 pounds, so I still can’t help but wonder, and it taunts me; will that be enough?

No appliance November

November always makes me nervous. VERY nervous. Weird things happen in our house within days and/or weeks after  Halloween when initially my anxiety begins to set in.

We’ve had sewage come up through our guest shower, lost a sump pump, air conditioner, vaccuum, dishwasher, clothes dryer, garage door, stove; our furnace in 2012, while my floridian parents were here after super storm Sandy, and, just last year, our refrigerator,  after I had just finished stocking it for thanksgiving, but only a week before the pipe under the kitchen sink burst, leaked through the first floor and flooded the basement, all while taking out a printer along the way, causing ink to splatter the walls and carpet, and destroying the insulation in its path. Oh, did I say we had a houseful of people still staying here enjoying the holiday weekend?

I begin looking at our appliances in a distrusting way as soon as the leaves begin changing color. November first comes and my faith in prayer is restored with great importance. We set the clocks back, and I take a deep breath. I begin organizing and shopping for Thanksgiving, and begin whispering to and petting our appliances, willing them to be gentle with me.

In our state, teachers convention/college visitation weekend arrives, and I begin to get the shakes. I walk around, greeting each appliance, and tell them what a great job they’re doing and how great it is to have them with us. I tally which of them has been around the longest, and which might decide to bite the bullet.

The phone calls go back and forth between me and my parents, confirming holiday plans, flights, and transportation, and then, it happens….my parents arrive from Florida, the temperature drops dramatically, and the snow begins to fall. In all fairness, the snow has fallen on October 13th, during my nephew’s bar-mitzvah,  but yes, my parents were here.

Now, they swear that they are not a part of the equation , but it IS pretty suspicious, AND even my Facebook friends have noticed a trend.

We already need to replace our sliding door that self-imploded in August while I was away, and I’m concerned for our washer, dryer, dishwasher, and, especially, our hot water heater. I lack trust, like a girl who has been cheated on before, and I have to admit that I am secretly thrilled my parents are skipping the turkey this year and flying in for a family affair in December. …Maybe it will buy us time? Maybe it is them? Or maybe my appliances suffer from seasonal depression.

All I know is that in the last few days, 3 different light bulbs blew out within hours of each other, and just an hour ago, I flipped on the light switch in our master bathroom, and three bulbs simultaneously  exploded, and I was left dumbfounded….cue the twilight zone music…I have glass to clean up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The birth of a blogger

About a year ago, my daughter, who happens to be a fabulous writer and blogger, asked if I would step in as a guest blogger.  Her college roommate had been a guest blogger, and she was truly epic.  Having never done anything like this before, I initially hesitated, I mean, how could I compete with people who are naturals at this sort of thing  but then I thought, how bad could I be, and this could  really be fun!

The blog coincided with her return home for Thanksgiving, and quickly evolved into our traditions of her returning home and the requirements to “squeeze it all in” while she was home for a mere 72 hours. There are always specific things that you want to do with/or for your kids before they leave you again, but I didn’t realize until then how funny we are together and how silly  some of those things really are!

Now, almost exactly a year later, I’ve been thinking about that blog post and how much I am looking forward to not only their return home for Thanksgiving, but the traditions that it brings. I decided, as well, that blogging should also be one of those traditions, and not just for her, better known as “leaves of logan” or for her college roommate, “sticks of sara”, but for me as well.

I give you “cloves of Carolyn”.