Sunday, September 18, 2016

Cover It With Chocolate And A Miracle Or Two

Every fall I go to a farm market and buy a big bag of hot cherry peppers to stuff.  It was my aunt's recipe, and for years, they were a staple for Wingman as he watched Sunday football games. The recipe is memorable for more than the burning sensation from the oil that stays on my hands for days after cutting and removing the seeds. Every time I make them, it takes me back to a candy company and an air traffic controller's strike.

I was working in retail for six years when my old candy buyer phoned me about a job opportunity in the wholesale field.  Two weeks after my only interview and armed with a Willie Loman suitcase, a road map and some samples, I was out selling chocolates.

I approached it in what I considered was a scientific way.  I would initially go to my biggest clients, and make subsequent visits to the smaller ones.  The first company I visited was an Italian food distributor in South Jersey, where I was ushered into the office of a guy my age who was a mustached Tony Soprano looking type. Without even shaking my hand, he proceeded to MF me and my company, shaking his cigar right in my face. I looked at him wide eyed, started shaking uncontrollably, and then broke out in huge racking sobs. He looked back at me bewildered since he had never made a vendor cry before, and then shuffled me into his car where we went to a diner for coffee. It turned out that that my predecessor had set up a bunch of small stores as distributors, and they in turn were passing their low costs to their friends/his customers so he couldn't compete. I skipped the scientific approach and went to every small coffee shop, pizza parlor and deli he complained about and told them that their distributorships were rescinded and that they had to buy from him.

He became putty in my hands and my best business friend.  When my company needed to dump inventory, I could count on him to buy all or most of what we were offering, and I always made great commissions on his account. Most of all, he taught me how to deal with men-Italian men-who had little or no respect for women in business by developing a thick skin and a backbone.

In early August of 1981, the Specialty Food Industry held its summer trade show in Chicago, and I went out early as the set-up person for our booth.  As I deplaned at O'Hare, there were news crews everywhere.  The air traffic controllers had staged a strike, and Ronald Reagan fired all of them.  As organized as the government planned it, only half of nation's flights would be available for the next week.

The show would be a bust.  Vendors couldn't get in to set up.  Planes of cargo were grounded. Buyers couldn't fly in.  On the opening Sunday, there were gaping holes where booths should have been, and aisles empty of buyers.

My distributor stopped by my empty booth and asked if I was going to the industry dinner that night.  My company was "frugal" in that regard, so I wasn't.  He said that since his parents couldn't get a plane-would I like to take one of the tickets as his guest? Of course I said yes.

When I arrived at the dinner, I found him standing in a line of men in shiny suits, waiting to shake hands or kiss the cheek of some guy.  At our turn, my distributor said, "Barbara, I want you to meet..." and I shook hands with a 40-something man with a gold pinky ring, who was in the olive oil business.  But his name jarred my memory, and I said "I KNOW THAT NAME" which of course, happened to be a very famous Mafia family name. As everyone around me gasped clutching their chests, he sarcastically asked how I knew that name. Men expected guns to be drawn.

But in fact, the previous Saturday, my aunt (of the cherry pepper fame) and uncle, had come to my parents house for a visit which always consisted of a lot of talking over coffee and an Entenmann's cake. They were tut-tutting how my 18 year old cousin was being wooed by a classmate with dozens and dozens of roses...begging her to go out with him. They were none too happy because his father was being indicted in something boxes and oregano were mentioned.

So I asked Pinky Ring Guy if he had an 18 year old son. He said no, that his boys were older.  I replied that I heard that my cousin was going out with someone with the same last name.  He said he had nephew who was 18, and after comparing notes, jumped up from his chair and exclaimed "WE'RE PRACTICALLY RELATED! MY NEPHEW IS GOING OUT WITH YOUR COUSIN!!!" Everyone exhaled nervously, he made the guy who was supposed to sit next to him move down a chair, and I got the seat of honor.

My distributor looked at me in amazement. Or disgust. I forget which.

The next day at the very empty show, Pinky Ring Guy showed up with a guy from Boston.  That distributor, another guy in a shiny black suit who looked remarkably like the undertaker from "The Godfather" and who had never bough our candy, was being "encouraged" to buy a container of product from me.  Then he brought San Francisco.  Los Angeles.  Florida.  In total, we sold 12 CONTAINERS of candy, cookies and whatever else we had to business associates of my new "relative" at the worst attended show ever.

I must now talk a little about my boss.  He was not Italian-in fact he had escaped Austria by train with the Von Trapp family and came to America. He served in the US Army as a paratrooper during WW ll, and later as a war crimes interpreter with one of the Von Trapp sons.  He was a brilliant business man, but he had one small flaw.  When he got nervous, he would start scratching himself.  Down there. With the first container, he was pleased.  By the 12th container, his pants were practically in shreds.  He was a nervous wreck that I had created a candy show monster. At breakfast the next day, he questioned me as to whether Pinky Ring Guy was really a relative or had I slept with him to get those orders. I was indignant. He was relieved.

And he didn't pay me one dime of commissions on anything from that show.

The following year, right after Wingman and I got married, Pinky Ring Guy called me up and wanted to help us out with a home.  He took us to his brother's house-what even now I would say was a mansion. All I remember was that the pool in the back had a fountain, as well as the brother's company logo in imported Italian tiles embedded on the bottom.  The house was listed for $350,000 when the average price of homes back then was about $85,000.  So totally out of our price range that even Wingman was nervous about the motive.  They wanted to keep it in the family, so if we could make a nominal payment, the family would hold the mortgage, and then buy it back from us at a later date. Wingman was adamant that we were being set up, so I used my distributor friend to help me decline their most generous offer.

Some years and two career changes later; I attended another Specialty Food Show, and made it a point to look up my distributor.  He was there, looking thin, pale and very sickly.  It turned out that he had cancer, and not long after that show, I learned he passed.  His company is huge now and when I go shopping, just seeing everything with the bright yellow labels makes me smile and yet get a little sad.  If he were alive today, I wonder if he would be retired with kids and grandkids, or still shaking cigars in vendors' faces making them cry. Probably no to the latter. He helped me develop a backbone. I helped him become compassionate towards young people starting out in business.

My aunt is gone too. And my uncle.  He taught Wingman how to make great Italian bread.  She taught both of us how to cook her way which was good, basic Italian food. And right now, my eyes are tearing up.  Partially in remembering them and a lot of good family times.

And partially because I still have lingering bits of hot cherry pepper oil on my fingers when I wiped my eyes.  Man, my eyes really do burn, as my distributor would have said, like a MF.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Just Sit Right Back And You'll Hear A Tale, A Tale Of A Fateful Trip

Last Saturday, as most of the shore area was making preparations for Hurricane Hermine, I was at a friend's mother's funeral Mass. She lived a good long life, and the church was filled with a mix of family and friends. Afterwards, everyone mingled on the front steps, because after all, it's always at weddings and funerals that you get to catch up with the people you seldom see.There, I saw a couple I haven't talked to in over a decade. We met on a cruise ship in 2001, run by our mutual friend.  The cruise would be Wingman's and my first (and last) cruise together because of, what else-a hurricane.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

If You Believe In Forever, Then Life Is Just A One-night Stand

Today is the fourth anniversary of Wingman's death. Four years. 1461 days. Time has passed both like the speed of light yet like watching paint dry.

The night he died, I went to the hospital with a decaf coffee and a buttered Kaiser roll. Wingman had regained enough of his memory after brain surgery to remember commuting to NYC for his film editing job. The Kaiser roll was for "the bus".

He didn't know that we (his brother, our youngest son and myself) had arranged to have him moved to another hospital the following morning. He was sitting in a chair when I arrived-eating mashed potatoes with chocolate pudding that he said was gravy. Our conversation was comical because threads of his memory were coming back like Dumbledore's Pensieve. He talked about climbing a mountain in Canada. He said he spent the day playing Army in the back yard and complained that he had to be the German because his Jewish school friend refused to.

He wanted to go home. He demanded his clothes. He tried to get up because he wanted me to take him with me. I promised that I would go and get his clothes. He couldn't remember my name, but told his aide that I was "the bitch".

Another small part of his memory that had come back to him.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

When A Man Loves A Woman

Like most young women, I dreamed about meeting my Prince Charming who would sweep me off my feet and marry me. Of course, he would propose with a diamond ring befitting his princess. I had mine all picked out. A heart-shaped diamond in a plain white gold band (because I wasn't savvy enough yet to want platinum).

When I met Wingman, my list of suit-wearing, corporate job holding requirements went right out the window because he was in a band. But that didn't stop me from wanting that ring.  As time went on and friend after friend got engaged and married, I got more and more agitated.  When was it going to happen to me?

Then he hit me with the bomb: he thought we should see other people because I wanted to settle down and he didn't. When he found out that I actually DID date someone, he wasn't real happy about it. And he did something quite amazing in the parking lot of the bar that he was playing at.  He proposed.

Not with a heart shaped diamond, but with a Burger King onion ring. He was "pretty sure" we could be a good couple.  It wasn't quite the romantic prose I had hoped for, so I did the only logical thing-I ate the onion ring. Which was actually a good thing, because the next day, he called to say that whatever he had said the night before I should forget because he couldn't remember it anyway.


Monday, May 9, 2016

Sittin In The Morning Sun, I'll Be Sittin When The Evening Comes

Back when the kids were in grade school, we took one of our very infrequent spring vacations to Florida.  Wingman was in charge of gassing up the car (yes, we drove) and packing his own suitcase.  I was responsible for packing: clothes for three boys, a cooler with lunches and snacks for the road, activities to keep them occupied so they didn't annoy us or kill each other, getting the homework assignments that they would miss and packing school supplies, ordering tickets for theme parks and coordinate travel plans with in-laws who would be meeting us there.

Did I mention packing for myself as well?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Back Of My Neck Getting Dirty And Gritty

I have this waking hours fantasy.  As I work in the yard, a deliciously handsome young man walks down the street.  He pauses in front of my house and I watch him surreptitiously through the flowers: White shorts, low white Cons, shirtless, with sun-bleached hair, a golden tan and washboard abs. He crosses the lawn.  I look up at him-his skin glistening with a faint sweat.  His eyes are green, flecked with gold and he has a small cleft in his chin as he smiles down at me.  He pushes a wisp of hair out of my face and asks "what can I do to make you happy?"

I reply: "Weed my garden."

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Love Is Lovlier The Second Time Around

It started with a snide comment I made when I read that 66 year old Billy Joel was getting married for the fourth time on July 4th to his 33 year old girlfriend. "Really Billy? A woman four years older than your daughter?" It was followed-up by a half-hearted good luck wish for an old school chum who married his fourth bride (the third was only 6 years ago) two days before my birthday. I wrote that I just erased him from my short list of potential second husbands.

But the kicker was the black envelope with gold lettering that I received at Thanksgiving. It was to the fourth wedding of the man I met for the first time the same day as Wingman. Deja vous...we had been guests at his first wedding, (where he received, then re-gifted Tiffany wine glasses to us the following year at our wedding). We were at his second wedding where the bride shared the same first name as the previous Mrs. Somehow, we missed his third wedding and never learned if her name was the same. And now, finally this one which included those surprise words after my name: "AND GUEST".

2015 was a year for love. OK, probably no more than the past few years, but one where I was invited to three of my friends' children's weddings. They were lovely ceremonies and the receptions that followed were all gorgeous affairs in perfect weather (compared to Wingman and I who got married in a nor'easter). But like all young people, the brides and grooms had very little to do with anyone other that their friends. To now be invited to one where the bride and groom are my age and one where I know some of the crazy skeletons hanging in the groom's closet?  Unfathomable.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

One of the things that Wingman and I use to enjoy doing was cook...although we were not good cooks together.  I am a "follow the recipe to the tee" type of gal, while Wingman liked to experiment with ingredients.  Sometimes they were a hit, and other times, like honoring our Korean daughter-in-law with kimchee-stuffed Stromboli bread, left a lot to be desired.

When we first met, he was amazed by the type of magazines I subscribed to. I read Bon Apetit like most women read Cosmo, and Food and Wine was my Vogue bible. Wingman's first Christmas gift to me was a set of frying pans (and no, at 21, they were not well received). But the cooking magazines opened doors to amazing meals.

One summer weekend after our honeymoon in Italy, we went to a farm and picked our own basil to make a pesto pasta dinner for friends. They admitted that they stopped at Mickey D's for burgers before arriving since they had no idea what pesto was or if they would like it. Like them, there was a lot we needed to learn over time as well: like that duck was extremely fatty and that you should add water to the roasting pan while cooking.  A lot of smoke and a small fire one Easter Sunday had everyone shivering in the early spring weather while we tried to air out the house, screaming at each other "why didn't you know that???"

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Smoke Of A Distant Fire

Back a few long years ago, I was honored to be a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding.  We wore beautiful wine colored gowns, had wreaths of dried flowers in our hair.  I sported an 80's Diane von Furstenburg-esque long perm kept in place with massive amounts of hairspray.

At the reception, I danced with a long-time friend of Wingman's.  We circled the dance floor and he dipped me backwards gracefully. As I came back up, I saw this look of horror on his face, and he started hitting me in the head.  People all around were starting to scream, and I saw the photographer coming towards me with a water glass and a wet linen napkin, which he threw on my head and doused me with cold water.

The reason for the hitting, screaming and sudden cold shower was that my dance partner had dipped me into live candles and my dried flowers and the back of my hair had caught on fire.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Might As Well Jump. Go Ahead And Jump!

When I was working at Wrinkle City, A/K/A the retirement playground for rich old people, the very cute executive chef gave a talk one day about how a person's taste buds change as they get older and they lose the ability to enjoy food as much.  He went on to say that you have to add lots of texture and spice to foods to make them more appealing.

I don't think that holds true just for food, because it certainly applies to my life.  One day last month, I found myself coming home from an event (alone-no +1) thinking that I am loosing my joie de vivre. The event was certainly beautiful, but was absolutely no fun because I'd stopped feeling the textures and tasting the spice.  I'm maintaining Wingman's gardens but all I see are the weeds. I'm a manager in one of the top, hip nationwide retail stores, but all I think about is NOT working anymore and traveling.

I needed a serious bitch-slap.  One to wipe the RBF off of me.  You haven't heard of RBF? It's the new buzzword this summer, a/k/a "Resting Bitch Face".  I look in the mirror and it's not just resting.  It's everyday.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

When I was in my first full-time job, I had two friends who were seriously in the market for the guys who would be good enough to marry them.  We would sit at lunch and I would listen to them make lists of the qualities that their husbands would have to have.

I thought about what I wanted as well: I didn't care what his profession was, but a man who wore nice suits and wing-tip shoes to work. A good tan to set off the crisp white (or I would accept baby blue) shirts and rep ties that he would wear.  A nice car (the BFF was dating a guy with a yellow Corvette). And, when the time was right, someone who would propose to me with a heart-shaped diamond engagement ring.

When I met Wingman, the list went right out the window.  He was a part-time bartender going to a local community college after giving up an out of state football scholarship because he was homesick.  His wardrobe consisted of one peach polyester suit, and a drawer full of tank tops and tee shirts with holes. He had a motorcycle as well as a car with no muffler that sounded like her nickname: "The African Queen". And, after dating him for six years, he gave me not a rock, but a rocking chair to "seal the deal".

But he did have this great guitar.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Doctor Doctor, Gimme The News

When I was a kid, there were not as many choices for doctors as there are today.  There was the old-fashioned pediatrician who made house calls.  As a budding first grade Typhoid Mary, I brought home Chicken Pox and infected the whole house.  The doc came with his black bag and said "Yup.  Keep 'em home," condemning my mom to whatever the incubation period was for probably a few bucks for the diagnosis.

Then there was the GP-the man who had an office in the front of his house, who examined us with a Popsicle stick in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Dancing To The Rhythm That Is In Our Soul On Saturday Night, Saturday Night

From the day I met him, Wingman was a huge fan of Saturday Night Live. After all, it never competed with a single Yankee game on TV.  And perhaps, Saturday Night Live owes him a big debt of gratitude for helping create one of their more popular skits.

I met Wingman at a party. We tried to find common ground (certainly not our heritage with me being Irish/Italian and him Czech/Polish) but we did like the same movies (Casablanca) and TV shows (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman). He was incredulous that I had never seen Saturday Night Live, which as the second season began, became a weekly ritual for us.

Wingman was working as a bartender at the time I met him, and knew a guy with connections to the show.  He called me one night in June and in a voice three octaves higher than usual, squealed "I got us an invite to the SNL season ending cast party!" For two kids from the burbs, this was beyond cool.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Shower The People You Love With Love...Show Them The Way That You Feel

With very few exceptions, 2014 turned out to be more "MEH YEAR" than "MY YEAR". True, I finally got a full-time job as a manager with the company I worked part-time at for six years, and couldn't be more grateful.  In November, I became a grandmother for the third time in two years-this time a beautiful baby boy who was named after Wingman. But beyond that, the year was quite unmemorable. Which made writing at a certain point difficult.  If I wasn't interested in my life, why would anyone else be?

All things considered, with 2012 being my personal worst year (Wingman dying, Sandy destroying so many belongings in the house as well as losing my job all within 92 days) this year was at least tolerable.  As I recall, 2014 was more about getting it together than getting together.

That's not to say there weren't good times.  The trip to Florida to help someone deal with her ex was great.  Surrounding myself with thirty or so cute college boys for a home-cooked meal in March was a night I'll always remember.  And, of course, nothing could beat the surprise birthday party my kids threw for me in October. But it was New Year's Eve alone in 2013, followed by the same on Valentine's Day and Mother's Day which turned most nights last year into my own version of Groundhog's Day.  There were too many nights sitting alone WITH the dog and not enough nights putting ON the dog.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

It's My Party And I'll Cry If I Want To

When my BFF reached her milestone year, she planned her own party. She picked the place, the food and the guests. It worked out so well that I planned to do the same thing this year. And as my birthday was also the same weekend as the NYC breast cancer walk a friend and I planned to participate in, I figured I'd have it the week before. So back in the early spring, I mentioned my party plans to my son. His response was for me to walk in another city another month this year.

Could it be? Was I imagining that the men-children responsible for every stretch mark and quite a few gray hairs and frown lines might be planning a party for me? Could they have inherited that from Wingman?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

If You Like Pina Coladas...

A young work associate and I were discussing dating.  "It's so hard", she moaned.  "All the guys act like The Situation or Paulie from The Jersey Shore.  They never stop checking out their phones or texting. You just can't meet a nice guy who wants to have a CONVERSATION."  I thought about that for a moment and offered this:

Imagine the lush African plains.  There are rivers and lakes, where all species of animals, birds and reptiles have plenty of water and live together peacefully. Now, think about that same African Plain during the dry season.  The lakes have dried up to muddy puddles and only the most aggressive animals get to lap up whatever swill is left.

That's the difference between the dating pool in your twenties and at my age.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Record Shows I took The Blows

By now, half the civilized world has seen the Gatorade ad celebrating the career of Derek Jeter.  And I must admit, it brought a tear or two to my eyes as well.  A classy guy who was born two years after I graduated high school, who makes 12 million a year playing baseball ans another $18-20 million a year in endorsements is retiring. But what brought a tear to my eye wasn't that ad, or his retirement.

It's that he dates women half his age.  Which makes the men MY age who think they are as classy as he is, want to date women half THEIR age.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Answer My Friend, Is Blowin' In The Wind. The Answer Is Blowin" In The Wind

When I finally decided how to commemorate the second anniversary of Wingman's death, I was reminded multiple times that what I planned to do was illegal.

Since he was a lifelong fan, I planned to leave some of his ashes at Yankee Stadium.

It happened that the anniversary was a day when the Yankees were in town during Derek Jeter's last season and it also happened to be Paul O'Neill bobble head day. Paul O'Neill was my favorite Yankee so to me it was a no-brainer.  A baseball game...a bobble head doll...maybe a beer...and a bag of ashes. What more could he ask for from me?

Well, for a $10.00 donation to the Yankee's charity foundation, I could put his name on the Jumbo-tron. For some reason, I found it insanely funny envisioning "The New York Yankees Welcome Wingman" knowing that part of him was resting in Monument Park.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Love When You Can, Cry When You Have To, Be Who You Must-That's A Part Of The Plan

A year ago, I thought that my head would explode if I didn't write down or talk about what I was thinking and how I felt.  Lately though, I've felt almost the opposite-that other people's heads will explode if I say what's on my mind.  And since yesterday was the second anniversary of the day I first thought to myself, "Wow, I'm a widow now..." I tried to think of where I was then, where I am now, and what I've taken from this experience.  Here's what I've come up with so far:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

And I'm Never Going Back To My Old School

Wingman and I bought our first home in his hometown about a year before his first high school reunion.  On that evening, we planned to have a few friends over for a nice, sophisticated apr├Ęs-reunion soiree.  Some carrot and celery sticks, wine in the wedding crystal...

Well, the friends we invited told a few of their friends.  Who mentioned it to others.  By the end of the night, the announcement was made from the stage that the after party was at our house.

I have never seen that many people in one place legally.  Crammed in every corner, in every room. The screened in porch was packed, even on that cold (I believe November) evening.  Not to mention that there was sex happening EVERYWHERE in the house-even in the bushes outside.  Younger high school kids, who had nothing to do with the reunion, showed up with a keg, thinking they could PAR-TAY.  The house was filled with Newport cigarette smoke (that school's butt of choice) and Wingman's brother who was living with us at the time, came home to find cocaine lines being drawn on his dresser.

Ah, the eighties.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Last Night I Didn't Get To Sleep At All

There were a lot of things that Wingman bought over the years from TV ads that were crazy.  Stupid even.  Expensive as well.  He bought Saturday Night Live videos and Time Life music CD's, pillows that help you sleep, shoe lifts for fallen arches, even a program from a real estate guru to make millions flipping foreclosed homes.  But it took a snoring dog next to me in bed to put me into the category of "What Was I Thinking?" when I succumbed to the middle-of-the-night infomercial. 

Besides inside vacuuming and dusting, I am now forced to take on Wingman's outside house responsibilities or pay someone to do them, like putting up a fence and installing a sprinkler system. Rather than pay someone to stain the deck that had to be replaced when the tree fell on it during that "she-who-must-not-be-named" storm in 2012, I decided to do it myself.  All 175 spindles and 68 deck boards and steps.  I envisioned a summer spent, not at the beach but on my knees with a stain brush in one hand, sort of like Lady Liberty getting sucker punched. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I'll Always Love My Momma (She's My Favorite Girl)

I remember being in 8th grade when my Mom had my youngest brother.  When I went into her room to visit for the first time,  she was crying in pain, and I went screaming down the hall for a nurse.  She later had "one of those talks" with me, saying that childbirth pain is hard but beautiful and you forget it quickly.  I wasn't big on the pain threshold back then and thought "I'm never having kids if it hurts."

Then there was the night in high school when I was forced to endure going to my other two brothers' Pop Warner football games.  When one brother got speared, the doctors thought he might have a cracked rib, so they put him in an ambulance to be x-rayed.  Mom went with him while Dad stayed behind as a coach. In the next game, that younger brother got clipped and hurt his knee.  As he was put into the second ambulance, the first one pulled in. Mom got out of one ambulance and into the next to go to the hospital again.  I thought to myself "I'm never having boys. They get hurt too much.  Just girls."

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Boys Are Back In Town

This is a story about a super baseball team and a super storm.

Admittedly, up to his senior year, son #2's high school baseball career was as painful as Michael Jordan's was in basketball.  (Jordan was cut and fought his way back on the team...son #2 had a JV coach who begged to keep him because he saw potential where the varsity coach saw none).  At a showcase his junior year, an assistant coach for a southern college saw him pitch and liked him, but alas, he was only there scouting position players and catchers.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Desperado, Why Don't You Come To Your Senses? Come Down From Your Fences, Open The Gate

No this is not my yard.  This is the yard I WISH was mine.  Right now, after this week's torrential rain, the gullies (where the dead arborvitae were removed from) are two 60' long breeding pools for mosquitoes.

There grass seed hasn't begun to take root yet, and since we've had first, extra dry and windy, then ridiculously wet and freezing weather, the seed doesn't look like it's going to germinate and will be there until the birds conveniently roosting there eat it. I guess Scott's colored the seed blue so I can tell what a failure my lawn is going to be through every granule just laying there doing nothing. Wingman would have been out there with his hoses, sprinklers, weepers and secret weapons all the while cursing the seeds into growing. Me, I watch from the window while checking out what's happening on Facebook.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Every Step You Take I'll Be Watching You

Back in high school, a friend of mine had a H-U-G-E crush on a classmate.  Besides knowing his schedule, she knew about his hobbies, his address and his family...even though she never spoke a word to him. She was the first stalker I ever knew.

She wanted to take the bus to his neighborhood and walk past his house.  That's as serious is it gets when you're 16. Since her curiosity made me curious as well, I went with her.  Unfortunately, we got off the bus MILES from his house, and walked until almost dark.  We could barely see the house before we had to turn around and walk back to find another bus to take us back to town.  I was grounded for weeks for not telling my mother how late I was going to be.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Let My Love Open The Door

Over the course of our thirty year marriage, Wingman had some eccentricities that we would continually argue over.   For example, when the boys were babies, I couldn't hang pictures over their cribs, or later beds, because he was convinced that if/when we had an earthquake, the pictures would fall off the wall and kill them. 3000 miles from southern California, and every time they had a quake, he's say "You see?  I told you so.  It could happen here too."  Really, there's no arguing with logic like that.

Friday, April 11, 2014

I'm Just Sitting Here Watching The Wheels Go Round And Round

It's April 11th.  I don't have my taxes done.  My yard looks like a war zone with dead grass, holes and ruts where the dead bushes were removed.  The house is a dusty mess.  I just threw away a container of mold with a few strawberries poking through. My granddaughter's birthday is tomorrow and I don't have her gift, much less have it wrapped, and I'm working until 10:00 tonight.  Then again, I also haven't shopped for or mailed an Easter present to my granddaughter in Korea, and that takes five days to get there once it's mailed. My taxes aren't done, the gas fireplace doesn't light, both garage doors squeal and I missed putting out both the recycling and garbage cans this week. The fence permit that took me two weeks to get to boro hall was just denied so I have to start over again.  I'm washing my hair with body wash since I'm out of shampoo and using my battery-powered toothbrush manually since the batteries died. I haven't written a word in my blog in over three weeks, AND DID I MENTION THAT MY TAXES AREN'T DONE???

Monday, March 17, 2014

Somebody Shake Me, Wake Me

Saint Patrick's Day.  Once, a one day, get-out-of-Catholic-School-free day, and now a holiday that starts right after Valentine's Day and ends with one giant hangover a month later. Ouch.

My earliest memories of the day are rushing home from public school to watch Captain Jack McCarthy (Cap'n Jack) on WPIX hosting the parade down Fifth Avenue while my Irish Mom boiled a big pot of corned beef, cabbage and potatoes on the stove. My Italian Dad would relish that once a year treat while my brothers and I would gag.  I think I might be the only person still to have never eaten a corned beef sandwich at Kelly's-the most famous Irish bar in the area.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Don't Leave Me Hanging On The Telephone

If I were starving and my only two options to live were to either chew off my own arm and eat it, or work as a telemarketer calling people just like me, I'd have to say:

"Pass the ketchup."

In the past couple of years, I have gone completely ballistic on telemarketers and people from call centers.  Granted, there are times when I can't distinguish them from the men calling about the transgender club that my phone number use to be associated with.  Other times when I've pretended to be the maid, the babysitter, even stooped so low as to say I'm the nurse taking care of a dying patient just to mess with them.

Friday, February 28, 2014

We Use To Be Friends

At last count, I have 775 Facebook friends. Somewhat less than a friend with 4,992 but certainly more than another with only 21. So why am I so bothered by the few who have unfriended me in real life?

Like, a couple of weeks ago. I decided to go out on a Friday night and see a band.  I got to the front door at the same time as the guitar player's wife and son, and we exchanged pleasantries.  She told the bouncer that they were on the guest list, they entered, and left me to pay the $22 cover charge to get in.

Did I mention that she and her husband were in our wedding and Wingman was in theirs?  Boom.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

And When I Die, And When I'm Gone

When Wingman died, my sons and I went through the big bin of things that held his most treasured mementos, looking for anything that might represent him at his wake.  There were envelopes of ticket stubs from concerts he attended (Chicago and Bruce Springsteen at Madison Square Garden in 1973 for $6.50!), a bag of rings from bubble gum machines, the name off the back of his high school football jersey, and a HUGE stack of letters from his first girlfriend.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

All The Single Ladies

It didn't come as much of a surprise when I picked up this week's work schedule.  As usual, I'll be on (not just on-call) tomorrow night, which just happens to coincide with that most hallowed holiday for lovers.  Ah yes, Valentine's Day.  Depending on who you talk to, it's either the most romantic...or the most stressful day/night you can have.  The good old days of giving that special someone a nice card, a bag of conversation heart candies stamped with "So Fine" or "Cutie Pie" and calling it a day are as passe' as Lindsay Lohan's acting career.   
My first Valentine's Day with Wingman only happened because the band he was in succumbed to their girlfriends' pressure not to practice that night. Valentine's Day that year also happened to coincide with a Nor'easter.  After getting through flooded roads, my car got stuck in the mud in front of my beachfront apartment.  In the time it took him to help me push it out to higher ground, the chicken I was cooking for our romantic dinner burned to a crisp. I mean really burned.  Non-edible burned.  Wine-couldn't-help-it burned.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Life Is What Happens To You While You're Busy Making Other Plans

Fifty years ago,  two cousins were sprawled in front of a black and white TV, waiting for the Ed Sullivan show to start. The sophisticated older cousin, one week shy of 11 years old was explaining to the 9 year old  just who this Beatles band was.  When "I Saw Her Standing There" started, the older cousin sang out "One, Two, Three, Four". The stubborn younger cousin, probably already suffering from her first case of SAD, argued saying it was "One, Two, Three BOP." A general cat fight ensued, with the older cousin calling the younger one stupid.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Horse With No Name

I guess the BBC wasn't the only one confused about what the current Chinese New Year was supposed represent.  I was under the mistaken impression that this-the year of the horse-was to be my year.

Instead, I just learned from feng shui experts that this year is going to suck.  The masters say that we, my fellow horses, will have chaos, disputes and money problems. Throw a little wood and fire into the mix (our yin and yang earth signs) and we've got the makings of a real apocalypse. Somehow, I can't shake the image of a Trojan Horse going up in flames in my ugly, flooded-out yard with all the dead trees and bushes adding flames to the fire..

Monday, February 3, 2014

They've Given You A Number And Taken Away Your Name

A couple of years ago, a family friend who has a private investigation company hired one of my sons to do some surveillance work for him. My son went to a soccer field and photographed a woman thought to be cheating. She was there alone watching her son, then went to lunch with a woman friend. All very innocuous. He got paid for his time, gas and even the hotdogs he ate.

After my adventure this week, I've considered asking this guy for a job.  And I'd work cheaper than my son because I don't eat hotdogs.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tell Me Why

The other day, someone asked what's wrong with me-that I use to be charming to be around but lately, well, all I seem to do is yell and act like a bitch.

Moi? Well, I act like a bitch because YOU are an @$$.  Really.

I tried to think back to when I lost my perpetual smiley face, and started adding a profanity to every sentence like a dime school rapper. It seems to have happened right after Labor Day.  When my tan starts to fade and I put the shorts and tee shirts away in favor of denim and leather, I become the female version of Kanye West.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Where Are You Now?

  Back when I worked at "Wrinkle City" (A/K/A the retirement community), our security manager had a skewed opinion about the health of the residents: if they didn't die around the New Year, they would be good until summer.  And statistics say his opinion is correct-January IS the month when most people die-followed by December.  Which is probably why my social calendar has been filled recently with more wakes than parties. These wakes are stressing me out, and it has nothing to do with who is in the casket.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar

In the past few weeks, I have:

Spoken with authority to a tax attorney and realtor to help someone out
Cooked a gourmet dinner for 25 people
Pushed a woman's car out of a busy intersection
Bought a snow blower after negotiating the price
Celebrated New Year's Eve in Manhattan by myself
Chastised a drunk on a train 
Changed my own windshield wiper blades

Yeah, I know...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Reliving In Our Eloquence Another "Auld Lang Syne"

New Years Eve's my second New Years Eve since Wingman died and I did something crazy. I went to New York City to see the ball drop in Times Square.

Probably not one of my more sane ideas. Still, I also have this other insane idea that when I die, instead if a dash between my birth and death year on my tombstone, I want there to be dotted lines and a few question marks to indicate the "WHAT WAS SHE THINKING???" moments. Like this one. It was the coldest New Year's Eve in years. And I did it solo.  I haven't done anything solo on New Years Eve since I babysat in high school.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

I'll Be Home For Christmas

So the hoopla of Christmas is more or less over.  As usual, it took a lot less time to open all the gifts than it took to buy and wrap them.  And by the look of what they gave me, I would say that my family know me quite well: they were caffeine related from son #3 and wine related from #2.  I got to speak through Skype with son #1 a couple of times this week. I saw granddaughter #1 from across the globe and held #2...even better gifts.

Friday, December 13, 2013

And They Call It Puppy Love

"Good fences make good neighbors" wrote Robert Frost.  Well, what do you do if you don't have a fence, and all the bushes on the perimeter have died because of the salt water?  And what do you do if your bad next door neighbor happens to have children who are heroin addicts and are either dealing or buying from their house?

You get a puppy.  One that will grow up to be a B-I-G dog.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Signed, Sealed Delivered

Although I've only been writing this blog for about five months, I sent out Christmas letters with my cards for more than 15 years.  It began when I would talk to myself as I read the letters I would get from my more-accomplished-than-me family and friends.  They recounted tales of their talented spouses who could build family rooms out of recycled toilet paper rolls, their children who volunteered tutoring orphans in advanced calculus while scoring perfect 1600's on their SAT's, and their cats who cleaned their own litter boxes.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Oh Christmas Tree

Two years ago, while working two jobs, I put up 14 Christmas Trees, two Christmas villages with over 40 houses, baked many dozens of cookies for friends, hosted a wedding reception for 80 guests eight days before Christmas and cooked a Christmas Day dinner for 30.

Last year, my only tree (next to my growing-up-twin-bed in the bedroom I occupied at my parent's home because of that "She Who Must Not Be Named" storm) was a Charlie Brown tree sitting on a shelf. No villages, no weddings, no Christmas dinner.

What's that saying?  The bigger they are, the harder they fall? Ouch.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Before The Parade Passes By

There are few things that clearly define Thanksgiving for me. 

There's football-particularly high school football.  From the time I was young, there was always some cousin, brother or son playing somewhere.  Games played on crisp autumn mornings with moms and cheerleaders wearing big pompom chrysanthemum corsages while turkeys roasted at home. The most popular members of the senior class being elected Homecoming King, Queen and their royal court.  In the blink of an eye, I went from wishing I was in high school, to being there, to ruefully looking back on those days. And it ticks me off that the big corsages went out of style before I ever got to wear one. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

What Will Be Will Be

So next week starts my favorite time of the year.  Even though Thanksgiving isn't "my holiday" meaning I'm not hosting, cooking or decorating, it is the prelim for Christmas and all that is good about the shortest, coldest days of the year. Family.  Friends.  Carols.  Cooking and Baking.  Gifts for those I love.  I've already got the new replacement decorations lined up for changing from the brown and orange fall decor to greens, silvers and golds. Let the fun begin.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Rikki, Don't Lose That Number

I have a love/hate relationship with my phones. I admit it. And, of course, by "phones," I mean that one of them is a device that allows me to speak to and text friends and family, read and send emails instantly, and search the web for answers to any question that might pop into my mind. I don’t ever have to wait to get back to someone, while I check my Facebook and Pinterest pages or my blog stats on Blogspot. It’s all very convenient. Very efficient. Very cool. The other one just lets me talk which is, well...boring.

Monday, November 11, 2013

What I Did For Love

I am no different than every mother I know in what I've done-normal and not so normal-for my kids.  Let's pass over the stomach stretch marks that look like the road map of Cleveland I got in three pregnancies, especially from son #2 who weighed in at a whopping 10 pounds, 12 ounces at birth.  Forget the sagging breasts obtained nursing them.  Disregard the facial wrinkles and gray hair from worrying over every illness from jaundice at birth, bronchitis, scarlet fever, allergies and pneumonia, to the more serious Esophagitis, Appendicitis and Juvenile Diabetes.