Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Resolutions and reflections

  Sometimes as the 2000's fly by me at the speed of light I stop and remember the whole wonder that growing up with the idea that it would be the year 2000 meant for this 20th century girl.  My sons are born in a different century then me !!!! It seemed so mystical so "totally crazy".  Of course for those apocalyptic types business boomed - after all the end of the world had to be coming right ? I love how they reappear a few years later explaining how their calculations were wrong but for a fee they can tell you the real end of world and sell you supplies to survive it.  I do not have that approach to anything - if it is true am pretty sure there is nothing I can do to stop it and let's face it this fashion conscious girl is not walking around with a tacky, overstuffed backpack full of survival gear for her and her kids "just in case".  I gave up packing like that going between my parents post divorce - the weekend bag to my Dad's went from an Olympic weight lifting event with "just in case" everything from a punk to a royal ball party outfits to a fairly decent size (leave some of the hairspray, 2nd blowdryer, banana clips - it was the late 80s hair required it's own luggage - at his house) reasonable bag.  

So here we are on the edge of 2013 - flying to 2014.  I have never been a big resolution person.  I realized the folly in my making them as I usually gave up smoking in my youth on that night only to wake up and try to salvage at least one from the pack I had so determinedly crushed in my resolution the night before.  I once gave up a man on New Year's because I realized that my feelings for him did not reside in my heart or my head but in shudders and shivers and his feelings for me resided no where.  I actually stuck to that one (shiver).  

Instead of resolutions that I may or may not keep or even remember I have recently started to do reflections on things that I may be missing in my actions or life.  Last year I realized how long it had been since I had painted - something I so love doing and yet it had fallen to the basement, brushes stiff, canvases well stored where I would look at them once in a while.  Now with the boys being older I dragged them all up to my sunroom and 2013 was the year I started to paint again. 

This year I am reflecting and there are a few things I would like to make sure that I focus on.  Things that may not mean much to anyone else but do to me.  There is the book that I always want to write, have notes all over the place for a new one, but never seem to get it together to do.  I know that for as easy as it is for me to write how I feel I am not always as comfortable eye to eye saying things, so they go unsaid too often (maybe 3-4 people besides my kids ever broke that in me).  There is also my new Nike fuelband which is making me reflect and resolve to walk a little more, do a little more  - overpriced placebo on my wrist is already working. 

In 2013 there were things that went right, events that hurt, but as with any year I took away from each experience the sense of how lucky I am overall to have the life I have even with the bumps (sometimes craters) in the road.  

Do you make resolutions ? Do you stick to them ? I wish you well with them but don't be too hard if they cannot always get done. 

Happy New Year - raise a toast, kiss with gusto and reflect on what you want for 2014 while storing away what 2013 meant to you!!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night

This is going to be short (maybe) and sweet because it is Christmas Eve and I LOOOOVVVE Christmas.  I liked it when I was a kid but as a mother of children I love it that much more. 

I am not one mired in traditions but I do like them - however, my husband who is not what one would call change agile loves traditions.  For me the writing of cards, the picking of gifts (which takes me a while because I do like to find something unique for those very close to me) and the decorating of the house are my staples.  

In our house though we also have a few Christmas Eve traditions that I have grown fond of and which I am told, with a smile and please, that I cannot deviate from.  We usually are running around looking to finish last minute errands and food shopping for Christmas Day, which we always host.  As the darkness falls, well maybe after the darkness falls since that is at like 430 PM or so around NY, we gather round and have some nice cheeses and crackers (my boys like Manchego, cheddar and Parmesan and we add 1 or 2 stinky cheeses for me and a fig jam on the side - already tasting it). Our meal is a sun-dried tomato cream sauce over fresh pasta with shrimp, garlic bread and a nice tricolor salad.  Dessert is had an hour later as we snuggle on the couch (one boy on each side of me) to drink Williams-Sonoma (yeah, yeah I know but I am ok with my snobbism) hot chocolate and have some chocolate chip cookies (I cheat and use Pillsbury most years) and watch Polar Express.  We leave some cookies for Santa with a note from each boy by the fireplace.  

In the morning the sound of boys rushing down stairs and back up to "wake us up", us have been up for some time waiting for them so they can tell us how Santa came.  The madness of the gift wrap flying and the sounds of excitement never fails to make me warm and cuddly all over.  Each son helps me give out gifts from under the tree. Our guinea pig Bob usually has given presents to them as well as getting some treat himself (each pet from our beta fish to our last guinea pig Jessie has always been pretty generous).  The boys love that the gifts are not only from us and their family as well as from Santa, Mrs. Santa, Rudolph, Frosty and host of other characters (and it is from different sources since each handwriting and pen color is different after all ..ehem yep).  

Me I love their excitement but I also admit I love those presents for me - the value of them is not in the price but in what was chosen (though would be lying if I ever said that the sight of that Tiffany blue box with a red ribbon does not especially please).   

We are fortunate and can give our children gifts and a home filled with love. I was going to be all PC, but who are we kidding it's not me, and say something profound about the need to not get gifts - let's be honest getting gifts is fun and my wish is that every child had something that made them smile when they opened it up on this day not that mine don't.  We remind the boys that they are deserving of a gift because of their actions throughout the year, a kindness or an achievement.  

Merry Christmas to you all and may your traditions bring you joy, may your gifts bring you laughter and may you share a moment where you tell the ones you love that they are the spirit of this holiday.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gifts of Christmas Past, Present and Future

I just saw a very interesting play version of a Christmas Carol -- cast of only 5 and really entertaining. Since it is really, really close to Christmas I thought a blog about either carols (yeah they may be a little cheesy but come on they still get us in the spirit -- unless you are in retail and listen to them on a loop for hours ... I have a few favorites and 2 even make this girl get chills) or gifts.  I consulted my blogging friend and she gave me a great idea to write about gifts that I loved, that I loved giving and the "unfortunate kind".  

So at the stroke of this keyboard first we will visit the ghost of gifts from the past.  Travelling back to a long time ago when I was about 7 and my parents were in Austria, immigration camp trying to get to the States, and I in Romania.  Needless to say that my gift list was really only to be with them, my mother was a mess about leaving me but at Christmas according to her and my father well she inconsolable.  However, they had jobs while there (you know those Austrians it's not all Hills are Alive all the time - productive people) so they sent gifts back to me.  Among them was Milka (a purple papered chocolate bar that was about 2 feet long) I savored every single square, still among my favorites when I am in Europe.  The other gifts from family were meager in a Communist country but they were there.  I did not love the chocolate enough to not miss my parents of course but I did love them for sending it to me.  We leave this place to my first few Christmases in the US.  My parents came with nothing, that is literal not metaphorical, to no one here but they did have a belief in opportunities. I remember a bicycle (a lovely, banana seat yellow one - this goes among the "unfortunate kind" -- why you ask ? well because I apparently cannot ride a bicycle, I crashed, tumbled on my own feet and to this do not even attempt the stationary ones at the gym - a PT person I met once told me it is not that uncommon and that now I would have gotten some therapy for it - therapy for a gift = unfortunate kind still).  My parents worked hard for the dolls, loved GI Joe, and the gifts and I had my parents. As we leave that happy scene I go to the land of  19 years -- there is me all happy and big haired with my boyfriend at the time and an ankle bracelet.  Now if you are not from a NYC borough this may not mean a thing. However, it was a BIG deal - you did not wear on ankle but on a chain around your neck, it had 2 "wings" of gold that your names and anniversary went on and in the middle there were little diamonds around a heart.  Thinking it is the 80s version of the "pin" that boys gave girls in the 50s.  That goes into gifts I loved - ok cause I loved the boy too.  Both are gone. 

Here we are in the present and gifts from my boys bought with their allowance money totally make the I LOVED IT best list.  They are well thought out and they take great pride in making sure they pick, pay and get them wrapped themselves. There is the Tiffany catalog that I leave little (ok not little big circles) around you know to help their father in his quest.  Christmas present is also about how much I love to buy presents for people.  I just love it.  I put a lot of thought into gifts, and yes I do some gift cards, but I like to see the person light up as they look up and see that somewhere, sometime during our conversations they mentioned something and here it is.  I like to shop in all sorts of stores and find unique gifts.  It is also a time where through my company and on my own I try and buy a few things for kids in need.  Their letters make me cry because they just want to smile and get a sparkly something in a life filled where basic needs are often not met.  That makes my BEST GIFTS EVER list - the joy from giving to others and seeing them get happiness.

Here you are last ghost - dressed to the nines and no gloomy, scary ghost for this girl.  It is the future and I was just flown in my car (cause yes I believe the movies) to my sons apartment.  There they are in college themselves now, grown and my babies at the same time.  Look at them they are sharing a place to save some money, they have nice girlfriends who appreciate the fashion forward funny and fun Mom the boys have (the perks of being the author is you get to make up the story) and they are enjoying their lives and their youth.  My gift a small box from Tiffany's which they chipped in to buy -- and whatever is in there makes me laugh and smile.  

I love gifts - giving and getting.  My worst gift ever still is a needlepoint purse with an farm picture that I would have had to needlepoint in myself (ummm it was not the gift per se that annoyed me it was the fact that really you must have never met me to buy me that or you found it while blinded by mysterious illness).  My best present ever - ones that meant something to me and said you actually know how much I like (insert thing here).  My favorite gift that I ever gave - the toys to the children in need and the thank you letters I received.  Christmas is a great time and gifts - come on who doesn't really want a gift.  So this season buy with love, buy because you want to show the person they are important enough for you to have thought through and found something that is special to them and enjoy the gifts that were well intention-ed for even a needlepoint bag brought you a smile and laugh.  

Oh and speaking of gifts if you can buy local as well big box store, buy brick and mortar and online, buy from those businesses you choose to support and not from those who you do not and buy from the heart.  If you need a 2 independent businesses there is always Hampton Paper Designs (those calendars are gifts that are much loved) and Nelly Rose Designs (hand-knitted and unique).  

Off to finish those last few things on my list --- sometimes naughty gets you an even bigger present with me.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Perspective ..

As the seasonal rush starts, or started, I thought this past week what I want to make sure is never off my list is Perspective, as in "The ability to perceive things in their actual interrelations or comparative importance".

It is kind of easy to lose it but I am pretty determined not to.  This past week a terrible train derailment happened on my metro north line.  A train that I take at least 5 days a week.  A train on scenic route which allows me quiet time to read before and after work, to look out the window at the beautiful Hudson river, to chat with my fellow commuter train friends and to listen to music quietly (what a difference a lot of that is from my subway experience - which is more "exciting").  The train derailment is a huge tragedy where many people were severely hurt, people died, a train operator will forever be tortured for falling asleep for just that many minutes and many are just that much more likely to hold their breath as they go through that turn.  This derailment led to those of us who need this line to have to make alternate plans.  There were drives to other towns, parking lots full and more crowding.  It is easy to lose perspective when these things become part of a routine.  It is important that we do not.  It was inconvenient but PERSPECTIVE folks - we were not on that early Sunday train, we are able to walk a little further from a parking lot to a station still while some on that train will never walk again, we are able to plan with our loved ones while others lost theirs, we are alive enough to complain about the inconvenience. 

A young actor died in a car crash.  Tragic for any young person to go.  An 90+ man died in a place far from our shores.  I am not sure which one got more press.  Perspective - while the loss of a young life is more tragic than the loss of one who was able to enjoy many years on this earth the loss in this case of Nelson Mandela for me is the one that should have gotten more coverage.  The actor is sad and my sympathies are with his family and friends.  The death of Mandela gets my sympathies for us all along with his friends and families.  

I met a woman at the hair salon and in chatting with her realized she is that upper percent that even the 1% can seem less than wealthy too.  She was lovely and in speaking with her I was impressed by how money was what she had not who she was.  She spoke of values and of making sure that giving is a the best gift to teach children.  I never expect this level of folk to "give it all away" that is wrong and frankly ridiculous.  I do like to see that they use their money to help those in need.  She was one of the nicest and most real people I have met.  Perspective - the media and many want us to learn to judge one another but truth is unless you know the person you do not have that perspective. Perspective - you can be rich and be happy sharing. 

So as I start to enjoy the lovely decorations, start to check off gift lists I want to make sure that we all remember that we have much in the way of one another, that sharing a piece of my heart and love with someone is a gift I easily wrap in a hug, that the gifts I give make the people who get them smile and give them pleasure for knowing that I picked it just for them and most of all that I enjoy the moments of Christmas.  

That is my perspective and I am holding on to it ...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Happy 80th Birthday - Milestone celebration

This month my Dad would have had a milestone birthday.  He would have been 80 on December 9th.  It has been over 20 years since he died and yet on holidays or my children's milestones I still miss him.  This fact alone would have surprised me at one point in my life for ours was not a smooth relationship.

My Dad and I had what I have termed a great, wonderful love you Daddy relationship when I was small, a what and yes I know I know I will do nothing right relationship in my late teens, a I will judge you as you judge me Father early twenties and I miss you and thank you because I loved you Dad relationship since I made peace with that middle period.

I cannot believe that the man who loved a party more than anyone I know is not around to celebrate this milestone birthday.  Since he is not around I thought I would celebrate it publicly for him with a party in the virtual world of blogs.  

So after years of wondering where to have this party the venue has been chosen.  It is a small Romanian restaurant in Sunnyside, Queens.  Not the more "popular" Casa Romana but a smaller one.  This is chosen for the familiarity that it will have for a man who loved the United States with a passion and patriotism rarely seen, so much so that he tried to runaway to it when he was 9 to it (until he missed his Mom and went home), but whose soul still had that Romanian spirit.  The food will be familiar, there will be a band and he will of course own the latest iPhone loaded with playlists.  The food will not be diabetic friendly bring on the carbs and meats people this is a celebration.  There will be too many appetizers, too many entrees because a good Romanian party must have too many of these in order to ensure that every guest finds something to like.  The place will also have been chosen to fit my father's philosophy that you do not have an end time to a party - this baffled him with weddings in the States - after all how do you tell people go home when they are still raising a toast and dancing?  So this party will start at 7 pm, he will be told that it starts at 6 so he can be there by 7:30, and it will go on until the last person has left.

The music, oh many weeks will have been spent making playlists to play.  My Dad loved new electronics so I think the world of MP3s would have thrilled him.  Finding songs from his youth, in Romanian, in Italian, in Spanish, French and of blues and rock and roll.  Oh yes there will be Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, some big band and Elvis (def Elvis) along with any newer songs he may like from the radio (which he will call me and ask me the name of).  The party will have him dancing with every woman in the place and in a circle because this 80 year old Dad is the 40 year old energy Dad I remember.

He will tell jokes, some off color, and deliver them with his excellent sense of timing.  He will be proud of me (because by now he sees that though I did not become the doctor he told me to be I still did well) and tell other people about my wonderful sons (they have his sense of fun, music loving, humor and they are BOYS - a big plus for him) and whatever number wife will be there (the man liked the idea of marriage - what can I tell you) my Mom and her husband will be there too - an truce has long since been called between them and in the end she can still appreciate his sense of love of life since she does not have to live with him.

During the night there will be political arguments that trust me make John Bohner eating with Nancy Pelosi look like a Match.com date gone well.  There will be curses and insults and "what do you knows" thrown around - it will intimidate the husbands and wives who are not Romanian that we the children have married and brought to this party - and eventually there will be some wife who ends the nonsense with that way they have always done it.  There will be much shaking of the head at the "liberal" kids who "know nothing", have been "brainwashed" with their growing democratic ideas, who will see that this is how it all started with stupid, talk and BOOM the Iron Curtain - after all Democrats, shudder for this group they want government to take over... ahhhhhh!!!!!

There will be poker possibly as the party is winding down for those who know my father loved to play.  There will be more food and more music and the wine will be flowing - now it will not be any wine that Wine Spectator would even have heard of but it will be "spritz" - wine with seltzer and it will keep them from being too drunk and last much longer. Speaking of drinking there will be a toast, with crying and a memory, a mention of someone who has died and how much they would have liked to be there, a moment when they left Romania, a moment when they first became American, more crying almost every time someone raises their glass to drink.  We Romanians are big toast makers and emotional.

As the night is winding down he will have a piece of his favorite - Creme Caramel - and more toasts including many from him thanking all who came and all who have passed in his life.  Regardless of the number of guests he will have made each one feel as though they were special.  At the end the tables will be a mess and as waiters clean up, a few die hard friends will still be there -- there will be some very old Romanian music playing and it will make you cry, even if you do not speak the language (point of contention for some of these folks at how few of their grandchildren speak it "but what can you do we moved here so maybe it is for the best" said with a deep Romanian accent (do not imagine Bella Lugosi he was Hungarian accent different).

Thank you all for coming, for the gifts I am sure my Dad will love (especially the gag ones - he once sent a pair of dentures to a very vain friend who was turning 40 something, wrapped magnificently) and he will be content because he thrived in this setting.

Happy 80th Birthday Dad - how I wish I could have actually thrown you this party.  Happy Birthday and thank you for teaching me to love all these things so much too.  Happy Birthday and I miss you -- La Multi Ani !!!