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.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Our House is a Very, Very, Very Fine House

Last Saturday night, I held my first "dinner party" since Wingman died.  I only invited a few relatives, friends and neighbors.  The majority of my guest list was contractors, carpenters, painters and plumbers.  Any and all of the people that helped put my house back together after Sandy.  It was exactly one year ago that we started deconstructing the house, so it only seemed fitting that Saturday should be the day to celebrate the end.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hey Seoul Sister

This certainly has been an eye-opening way to spend my birthday.  While the celebration is over here in Asia where everyone in the house is sound asleep, according to my watch it's only 4:21 in the afternoon, still my birthday in New Jersey. I like this 37 hour day.

For the first time I'm having a difficult time finding a funny story to tell. Sure I can recount yesterday's bathroom adventure at the sheep farm (couldn't do the squatting over a hole in the floor-gimme a toilet puh-leeze)! I can say that as a foreigner, I wasn't required to watch the propaganda film at the DMZ, but after a lengthy indoctrination, am ready to fight, fight, fight. I can tell you that a car full of Koreans eating strong-smelling sushi rolls first thing in the morning is about as close to feeing hungover as I have been in a very long time.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Catch Me Now I'm Falling

I think I need to get my eyes checked.  Then again, my eyes may be fine-I've been known to be a bit clumsy all my life.  But the fact remains that three times in the past year I've taken some real nasty spills tripping on cracks in the sidewalk or missing curbs. 

The first happened at lunchtime in the company of my financial advisor.  He brought me a new life insurance policy to sign so that my kids will be sure to say they love me when I die.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

That's What Friends Are For

It's redundant for me to say that I had a really crappy year last year and I'm still 20 days away from the anniversary of Sandy which stopped the clock for another 6 months while I worked to rebuild my house.

That being said,  I've also had two of the best experiences this year.  My first granddaughter was born the week before Sandy, and I was thrilled to be present when granddaughter #2 was born.  Shock of all shocks after having three sons! I've gone on trips, had lunch and dinner with countless new and old friends, closed the door on some things and opened my heart and mind to new ones-including writing this blog.

Amy at A My Name Is Amy nominated me for an award that she herself has been nominated for.  No, I won't need another new pair of shoes for this award ceremony.  This is recognition among bloggers for writing something that other people either like or find amusing and sometimes say "Damn, she's good."  Professionally, Amy is everything I want to be in a writer-she produces smart, concise pieces that are humorous, with some raw emotion thrown in for good measure.  Personally, I envy that she is 10 years younger and 4 sizes smaller than me. And since we're both without men and share a love for things that are bad for us, it makes me love her all the more.

Friday, October 4, 2013

They Paved Paradise...(Redux)

Last week, there was a grand opening of a big-box shoe store the next town over, where a bankrupt book store once stood.  You might expect someone with over 50 pairs of shoes, boots and sneakers to be clapping her hands and jumping up and down. Instead, I got tears in my eyes when I stood looking out to the highway at their new front door.

The store is on the same spot as the home I grew up in. The front door is dead-on with where the kitchen window use to be. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Who Says You Can't Go Back?

You could say I'm a bad person because I never liked old people. My Italian grandparents died when I was young, and my Irish grandparents moved to Florida around the same time, so I never had that bonding experience helping them cross streets or whatever.  When I had my catering business, they tried my patience in the wholesale food store by asking the cashier to do stupid things like weigh their oranges separately to see which ones were the heaviest. I swore every time one gray-haired old bag got in front of me. 

Years later, I answered an ad for a sales job, not knowing that it was in a retirement community. I would never have considered working for, or with old people. When I was asked to come in, I figured I'd do it for the interview experience.  But the woman who took me around showed me active seniors doing Tai Chi and water aerobics, walking and biking on lush grounds, living in nice apartments in a planned Wrinkle City. Besides, they got their main meal in a beautiful dining room, so there was less chance of seeing them in the grocery store asking the cashier to figure out which cantaloupe was the heaviest. I was hooked. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How Long Has This Been Going On?

I ended an affair yesterday, and I admit, I'm upset with myself and how I let this happen.  My friends must have guessed for some time now that something was going on, what with the changes in me. No one said anything, but then again, I probably would have shot the messenger.  No, I had to learn for myself.

I had to end my affair with eating junk food in bed.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bell Bottom Blues

To the nice uber-famous rock star I waited on last week who makes more money in 20 minutes than I do in a year, and who brought the jeans that he didn't want (size 32 x 32 neatly folded) out of the fitting room: THANK YOU.

To the women occupying the two rooms next to him with their obnoxious teenage sons, and who left no less than 27 button down shirts PLUS sweaters, tee shirts and pants (all unbuttoned and inside out) for the common shop girls to take care of for you: A POX ON YOU AND YOUR SPAWN.  And please, go back from where you came.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Sounds of Silence

Laura Linney is my favorite actress.  Has been for years.  When I was cast in a reading of "Love Letters" years ago, I was thrilled when someone said that I was just as good as she was in the role. If I could ever be an actress, I would use her as a role model.

And this week, I used her performance in "The Big C" for just that.

Last Thursday, I had my annual mammogram.  Only thing was, I hadn't been in four years.  I knew that in 2011 I put it off because I lost my job, had two sons get married (with three ceremonies on two continents), got Wingman into rehab, got another job.  I missed it in 2012 with the deaths of Wingman and his father, losing my home and losing my job again. I know, no excuses. Anyway, I went for the big squeeze, and was mildly concerned when the technician said she needed to take a few more films of one of the girls. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sympathy For The Devil

Last week, I out to dinner with an old friend and we discovered that we both know a short, roly-poly balding guy who is certainly no Tatum Channing in the looks department. My friend had worked with him, and Wingman had coached with him.  Her observation about him was "That pig." He should rot in hell for the way he behaves." (He hit on her while being married to a nice, roly-poly woman.)

Funny thing is that I had the same experience with that guy and had wished for the same outcome for him. But if you were to ask the priest who was my high school religion teacher, he'd say it was my friend's fault and mine.  But not Roly-Poly's because according to him, men are innocent of all actions when it comes to being around women.  Which makes women responsible for everything from the Kennedy assassination to global warming. And me responsible for the bad judgement of men for over 30 years...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Bucket List

Admittedly, we were dirty fighters while we were married. I was the queen of sarcasm, while Wingman's weapon of choice was blaming. He gave up playing in a band to marry me, his film editing career in NYC to be close to the kids and worked a job he particularly didn't enjoy to allow us to live the lives we lived.  I'm not going to say that his arguments were totally unfounded, yet I would counter that everyone makes compromises and sacrifices in life.

When Wingman died, I thought about all the things we said we were going to do and never did.  Early on, we were fortunate enough to be able to travel because of one of my jobs.  But looking back, there were a lot of years that I can't remember a single trip, vacation or otherwise important occasion.  That's sad for both us and for the kids.

Friday, August 16, 2013

(Don't Fear) The Reaper

I had a nightmare as a kid about the bogey man climbing up through a hole in the bedroom closet floor. He wore a harlequin suit, had a spiked nose to match the knife he carried, and cut my hand off when I turned on the light switch next to the closet. For years, I used a pencil or ruler to flick the switch from outside the room, fearing having him leave me with a bloody stump.

Then there was this crazy neighbor with red hair and freckles who had even crazier friends.  They tied me to the weeping willow tree in the front yard, put tent caterpillars all over my face and body, and said they would kill me if I cried.  My mother chased them away as they watched caterpillars crawl on my hair, lips and around my nose.  To this day, I still cringe when I see tent caterpillar nests in trees.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Tattoo You

I have to admit that I am totally fascinated by tattoos. And tattoos seem to be everywhere and on everyone but on me.

The first tattoo I remember was a great-uncle who had a Popeye-like anchor on his forearm.  It was dark blue and sort of faded, and I wondered where and why he got it.  Because he was a chain smoker with a loud, barking cough whenever he spoke I never asked him about it, thinking that he would cough up a lung with his answer.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Let's Make A Deal

Women tend to change their handbags like they change their underwear.  Many of them have as many handbags AS they have underwear.  Not me though.  I do have the underwear (and I promise, I change it regularly), but I tend to use the same bag until the handles are ready to fall off.  Which tends to pose problems, because things go into the bag that have a hard time finding their way out. 

A couple of Friday nights ago, a friend of mine was the opening band at a local club.  Following his set, I joined him, his wife and son at a restaurant for something to eat. My friend was having a difficult time reading the menu, what with being a vain rock-and-roller and all, so I slipped him my reading glasses knowing I had a spare pair in my bag. As I felt around, I came up with a pair...but it was missing an arm.  So I fished some more and came up with a pair of sunglasses.  Then another pair of sunglasses. Plainly embarrassed, I continued looking in my bag, while their son was looking at me incredulously, and I located yet another pair of readers sans arm.  Now I'm perspiring, and I duck my head under the table, so no one can see what else might be in there. I finally found the pair that I knew I had, and as I emerged from under the tablecloth, three pairs of eyes were staring in silence while the waitress stood waiting patiently to take my order.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Golden Lady

Back in catholic high school, we had a retreat where we watched a movie about a sweet young college girl.  One day, the girl heard some jazz music, saw a clarinet player on stage in a bar, and the next thing you knew, the girl was drinking, smoking and doing some other clearly non-catholic things. Later in our all-girls class, the nun explained the movie to us by saying that the musician was Satan, the clarinet was a phallic symbol, and we would probably end up in Hell if we dated musicians.  She stressed that drum sticks, guitar necks, and anything that could be squeezed, stroked or blown into was a phallic symbol and should be avoided at all costs.

I spent the better part of a week reading Webster's Dictionary trying to figure out what the heck a phallic symbol was. There was no spell-check back then so I  concentrated my search on words that started with the letter "F" not "PH". And I was a little shocked when I finally found it.  Let's face it, I doubt Scripps ever used that word in their National Spelling Bee.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Put Me In Coach, I'm Ready to Play Today

When I was eleven years old, I dreamed that The Beatles bus would break down in front of my house.  The Beatles would knock at the door, ask to use the phone, and when Paul McCartney saw me, he would demand that I join him on their tour.  Today, I dream about finding a full-time job with benefits.

I think the Beatles dream, even with two of them dead, has a better chance of happening.

Looking back, I've had some freaking wonderful jobs in my life.  I was the candy buyer for a major department store where I traveled to Europe to sample and buy the finest chocolates and cookies in the world.  I also worked for two of the largest European candy companies.  Wingman got to see me in action with one of them on our honeymoon in Italy,when he was permitted to sit in on my presentation to the president and CEO for a new holiday collection. A year later, as I was awarded the #1 salesperson for America at our international sales meeting, he was sunning himself poolside in Sorrento with the bikini-clad wives and girlfriends of the rest of the European sales team. He enjoyed the fruits of my labor, that's for sure.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

I remember a brain teaser in grade school where you had to figure out how to get three cannibals and three missionaries across a river in a small boat built for only two passengers.  To prevent a disaster, there can never be more cannibals than missionaries together.

Somehow, I always think of my brothers as the cannibals and me rowing the boat. I never worry about the missionaries-I just have to make sure the cannibals don't try to kill each other.

I am the oldest of five siblings. Until my parents added onto our house, we were wall-to-wall kids with the four oldest sleeping in one bedroom of a two bedroom house.  Maybe that's where the problems started-I slept alone in a cot, my sister had a crib and the boys had to share a bed.  After the house addition and with the arrival of the last baby, the now three boys bunked together in what definitely wasn't the city of brotherly love.  At dinner, we needed rotating seats, because my brothers could never sit next to each other without fighting and they didn't want to sit next to my mother's right hand for fear of being slapped, stabbed with a fork or other DYFUS-reportable offenses.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

A couple of weeks ago, I made a young woman cry.  Not just cry-first she teared up, then sobbed, then wailed, THEN threw herself down in dramatic fashion in loud, convulsive gasps.

And I'm surely going to Hell because I did it in church.

It all started when the music director at my church made a plea for musicians to join the bell choir. She said bells were easy-all you need to know is how to count to four.  Sometimes only three.  No problem-just like when I told Wingman I could play tennis. Sure, I had a tennis racket in the back of the closet that I won at a work picnic. Sure, I had a couple of tennis balls that we use to throw to the dog.  What could be so hard about a hitting the ball over the net? Two hours later, a frustrated Wingman told me I needed to find a new sport. I apologized for my teeny little fib, and he took me for a drink.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Luck Be a Lady Tonight

It is true that I have been on a losing streak since last summer.  Casino Craps bosses would take the dice away after the number of snake eyes I can throw in a row and send me packing to their competition. It's bad for business to have a loser on the tables.

So what does a person do who has broken the mirror, while walking under a ladder, with a black cat in in her arms wearing an open umbrella hat?

She buys lottery tickets.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Torn Between Two Lovers

I was married to Wingman for 30 years and dated him for another six prior, before I gave him the "marry-me-or-hit-the-highway" ultimatum.  Which didn't leave many other years to date. But I did have a first love. A high school first love who committed suicide last week.

I met him through my brother-they played on the same summer baseball team.  He was a hell of a shortstop-he lettered in high school as a freshman.  His dad died when he was young, so he was raised along with two brothers and a sister by his sweet little Japanese mom.  Being half Asian, his looks were exotic, and with his long shiny black hair, just a little bit dangerous-so different from the Catholic School boys I saw every day.  He was three months younger than me which put him a year behind me in school. Imagine-me a cougar-in-training back then.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Color My World

It's no joke when I say that what Queen Elizabeth in 1992 called her "Annus Horribilis" was nothing compared to what I went through in 2012.  So what if three of her kids separated and/or divorced and one of her daughters-in-law wrote a tell-all book? Big deal that she had a castle fire and had to charge admission at Buckingham Palace to pay for it!  Didn't she still have her husband (pompous, arrogant jerk that he is), a job that's only requirement is to wear pretty party hats and a couple of other castles to escape to?

From July to the middle of October, there were days that I felt pretty good about my life and where it was going.  I had great friends and family who were constantly there for me, my oldest son and daughter-in-law were expecting right around my birthday and I found out that I was going to be a grandmother for the second time this April, complements of son and daughter-in-law number two. Then, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, my world was picked up, spun around and dropped into uncharted FEMA
territory.  Only in my version of Oz, the movie was filmed in reverse-the color went out and everything changed to black and white-heavy on the black.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Grazing in the (Crab)Grass

One of the things that my Wingman was the best at was maintaining the yard and especially his pristine lawn.  I mean it, that grass stood at attention when he went outside.  If the NY Yankees' grounds crew had ever done a flyover of our yard, it might have garnered him a new career. I however, chose to be on a need to know basis only-I just needed to know the grass was green while he mulched, de-grubbed, sprayed and spread "stuff'. 

If he wasn't already dead, Superstorm Sandy would have killed him.  Forget that there was three feet of water everywhere inside the house.  Wingman would have had a heart attack seeing the mud that covered the Arborvitae. Lumber, marsh reeds and trash was everywhere.  All the beach grasses were smashed from floating debris.  The tree that sent out shoots that he cursed every spring was uprooted and perched precariously on the deck and roof, preventing us leaving by the back door.  And when the service came to take down that tree, the crane and chipper left deep ruts all over the back yard.  But priorities prevailed. The house needed all of my attention and six months from the day I left, I was back in. I didn't look back.  I also didn't look out the window.  Until last week...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Miss Congeniality

Before last summer, I was someone's Miss America.  Someone chosen as his best of the best.  And, for a brief time, I think I'm safe to say that my sons also thought of me as their Miss America, or at least the best of the peanut-butter-and-jelly-set moms.  Two of them are married now and their wives wear the crown.  My youngest has a girlfriend who is taller, thinner and prettier than I ever was.  Everyone I know is someone's Miss America...but not me anymore.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to go out on a Friday night and headed to a local church carnival.  Walking alone with my snow cone,
I mused about the teenagers mixing and mingling with excited hopes of finding that first love, the young moms and dads taking pictures of their kids on the rides, the senior citizens holding each others arms as they maneuvered over cables and curbs.  It was a raucous smoky crowded night and I was a little depressed being alone.

One Is The Loneliest Number...

Growing up, there were seven people in my family sharing a three bedroom, one bath home.  At college, I lived with three girls in a one-bedroom NYC walk-up.  I shared my first post-college apartment with my best friend, and when she got married, my boyfriend/future husband moved in.  We raised three active sons who for the most part stayed close to the family. As dysfunctional as we all might have been, there was some comfort in having someone around to at least tell you that you were dragging toilet paper on your shoe or had spinach in your teeth.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Three Times a Lady (Or how this blog got started)

It's 18 days short of a year since my IRS status changed from "Married" to "Head of Household". Most of the house is different now-no Yankee games on TV, no dirty dishes in the sink, no vodka bottles hidden in the garage.

My husband of 30 years passed away of a pulmonary embolism; a complication of brain surgery after a long battle with alcoholism. The night he passed, I went to the hospital with a buttered hard roll for him: his healing brain had reverted back to his NYC commuting days when he'd grab a coffee and a roll for his bus ride to his film editing job. 

You Just Keep Me Hanging On

One evening last week, I was working the phone like my job was in a call center: stressful and with frustrating results.  The buyer of ...