Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Living Like a Rock Star

     For a woman-of-a-certain-age who has been complaining about being tired and achy and old, I have had a real run of good times.  Y'all heard about my adventures with Bon Jovi.  Then my FabFam, amazing friends (as I promised, this includes you and yours, Paul), and  I just kept rocking on.

There were margaritas with a childhood acquaintance who is becoming an adult friend on Thursday.  Dinner, drinks--and most importantly--dessert with a bunch of friends on Friday.

A whirlwind trip to New Hampshire for some time on the boat, lunch with my brother and his best girl, and the Toga Party to End All Toga Parties on Saturday.

I was part of a posse of 15 incredible women who saw Phil Vassar in concert on Sunday.  What a great show!  The whole band just looked like they were having a terrific time.  They totally seem like guys you'd want to hang out with.  And did I mention that Phil Vassar really knows how to fill out a pair of jeans?

Trekked to Boston on Monday for a Red Sox game.  Discovered that My Personal Chef "knows a guy", so we were able to get into the Royal Rooters Club for dinner and then get special seating on the Budweiser Roof Top Deck.

Yesterday, I was actually happy to just go for a run and sit in the hot tub after work. I have been doing a lot of complaining lately, but on the balance, my life really does not suck!

Sunday, July 28, 2013


     Dinner with friends on Friday.  Road trip to NH for a lunch with my brother, time on the boat, and a toga party yesterday.  Phil Vassar concert with an amazing group of women today, followed by dinner with friends tonight.  So, I'm a wee bit wiped out and not up to a thoughtful post.  There will be toga party pictures in the next few days.  I promise!

     Sweet dreams, friends!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Mother's Latest Scheme

         In two days, the FabFam--immediate, distant, and extended--will descend upon the cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee to celebrate big, because that's the only way my Mama knows how to do it.  See, after some ups and downs, her goddaughter/my cousin graduated from college in May.  In response, my mother is throwing a toga party.  I'll give you a minute to reread that and let it sink in.
     I'm sure you just pictured something like this:

Or maybe even like this:

Consider for a moment, though, that this is a FAMILY party.  That much of the family is well past their college days and actually into retirement age.  Try picturing YOUR parents, aunts and uncles in togas, funneling beers and dancing.

Welcome to my world.

     It's shaping up to be the party that people talk about for decades.  I'm just hoping it is because of it's awesomeness and not because of an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Who Says You Can't Go Home?

     I think you have figured out by now that I live with the belief that the next 24 hours aren't guaranteed, so I might as well fill them with good stuff when I can.  When your best friends text you and say that we're all going to see Bon Jovi, well, then, there's a few good hours filled up, eh?

     I'm 45-going-on-46.  So, Bon Jovi is definitely part of the soundtrack of my youth. I have been to a LOT of concerts, but somehow, Bon Jovi has never been one of them.  I did meet Jon Bon Jovi in the spring of 1986, though.  The band was in Boston for a show.  At the time, Jon Bon Jovi was into fencing and it happened that UMASS/Boston, where I was a student, had a fencing studio.  I don't remember how it came about, but I ended up escorting Jon Bon Jovi from one part of the campus to another.  Damn that man was pretty--perfect teeth and the best hair in rock & roll, no question.

    So I had my brush with fame, but I never saw him or his mates perform.  Until last night.  The band is celebrating 30 years of being together with their "Because We Can" tour.  It was so. much. fun.  Being with two of my besties tailgating and laughing and rocking out was great.  

     We were at Gillette Stadium, home of the World Champion New England Patriots, and the place seats 68,000 fans for a football game.  The stadium wasn't completely filled, but there were easily 40,000 people there.  Or rather, there were about 30,000 middle-aged women there and maybe 10,000 middle-aged men who were newly divorced and hoping that some of the lust for Bon Jovi would spill over onto them.  Seriously.  Jon Bon Jovi has aged well.  That man is fine and still has the best hair in rock & roll.  I have never seen so many hot-and-bothered middle-aged gals in one place.  (I say that realizing that I'm one of those middle-aged women.)

     I have to confess to worrying that maybe I'm too old to pull off a full-on tailgating-with-my-girlfriends-before-raising-cane-at-a-rock-concert.  It's true that I might be too old for an embarrassing attempt at jumping into a mosh pit or faking the stamina for a three-day-festival with hipster bands or something like that.  Last night, though, I realized something.  EVERYONE--including the band--was my age or older.  For the most part, nobody was trying to relive the glory days of their youth.  We were all acting our age.  We just happen to like to rock (and talk smack about hot guitar players).  This age might not be so lame after all.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Late Edition to the Official Summer of Awesomeness To Do List

     So My Other Favorite Niece (because they are ALL my favorite) posted these flippin' dynamite pictures of her son (right) and his buddy after messing about with GLOW IN THE DARK BUBBLES.

Photos courtesy of Crystal Allen

Astounding!  Awesome!  Amazing!

     I'm totally gobsmacked by the whole idea of glow-in-the-dark bubbles.  I didn't even know there was such a thing!  I am pretty much a total bubble freak.  I've always loved bubbles, like any kid, right?  Things got serious when I had a chance meeting with charming kite makers at a Dead show in Philly in the late 80s.  I'm not kidding, making kites was their business.  How cool is that?!  Anyhow, through them, I met a guy who was developing a wand that would make gigantic bubbles.  I got to test market some of the prototype models, until he came up with a  version that folks can buy in stores today.  (Or search the 'net for DIY versions.  Cool stuff, kids.  You're welcome!)

     My status as the Bubble Girl was pretty much sealed at that point.  Any of the World's Cutest Kids in my life know that they can hit me up for some bubble fun pretty much anytime, anywhere.  My coworkers, too, have been known to come to me when they need a "bubble break."  At this very moment, on my desk at work, there are no fewer than three different bubble containers.  In my purse right now there are at least two bottles of wedding bubbles leftover from Saturday's festivities--which included making GIANT bubbles at the end of the reception that floated across the beach and bounced off the lake to tremendous delight. (Sadly, no pictures have materialized.  They were glorious, though!)

     So, now that I know there is such a wonder as glow-in-the-dark bubbles, I have a new item for The List.  I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ugly Guy Rock Really Rocks UPDATED 7/19/13

     So, my Favorite House Guest and I came up with the ultimate idea for a mix tape/satellite radio station/playlist:  Ugly Guy Rock.

     Think about it.  All the best rock and roll is put out by the ugliest guys ever:

  • Bob Dylan
  • Tom Petty
  • Lyle Lovett
  • the entire Rolling Stones
  • Steven Tyler
  • Geddy Lee

This is nearly endless.  Right?

So, thanks to my Favorite House Guest, you, too, can enjoy Ugly Guy Rock from the comfort of your personal computer:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It's Silly, I Know, but I Put it on The List

   For years now, I have wanted a pair of cowboy boots.  For no real reason, just because I like them. It is NOT some Taylor Swift thing.  No, I don't country line dance.   I don't have a barn.  I haven't ridden a horse in three years.  I just have a little girl's affinity for cowboy boots.  I know it's silly.  I've been accused of worse things.

     So, when the Official Summer of Awesomeness To Do List was being drafted, I put "buy cowboy boots" on it.  Two weeks ago, Thing 1 came to visit me, sporting brand new boat shoes.  They were adorable.  We talked about our affection for cute footwear.  And that's when I said, "I'm doing it!"  I took out my laptop and my daughter and I found me a pair of cowboy boots.  They are flippin' adorable.

     Of course, because it's me, there was a wee bit of drama.  Apparently, the online store I used does not confirm your delivery address, only your billing address.  Unfortunately, the last delivery address I used was my for my Personal Chef's parents' place--I sent my mother-in-law flowers on Mother's Day.  So, the boots went to Maine instead of here.  That's okay.  One of my in-laws' favorite things to do is go to their small town post office and ship packages to their relatives.

     Friday morning, while I was drinking my morning coffee, my postman dropped a box on my stoop.  I am now the proud owner of a pair of very girlie, leather tooled cowboy boots.

     I wore them all day with yoga pants and a tie dye while I prepped for our friends' wedding.  Because I really am that ridiculous.  Sunday night, I wore them with a sundress when my Favorite House Guest took my Personal Chef and I out to dinner. It was then that I discovered something about my Personal Chef that I did not know in our 25 years together--he has a thing for cowgirls. Who knew?

     So, there's another thing to cross of the OSA To Do List!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Catching a Few REALLY Joyful Moments

   This week has been jam-packed with wedding preparations.  My dear friends Mike and Joseph got married on Saturday.  My Personal Chef, our wonderfriend Chef Kim, and I catered the whole shebang.

     It was beautiful.  As the Matron-of-Honor said, "You know it was a successful wedding when you look out into the seats and everyone is crying."

 Photo by Pam Pratt

Photo by Pam Pratt

Photo by Ruth Foley

Every happiness, my friends!  

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Original "Maine Weekend" Post

We have arrived in Maine for the weekend, visiting my Personal Chef’s parents.  They live in a tiny, rural town in what New Englanders call “Mid-Coast Maine.”  When I say tiny and rural, I mean there are still main roads in town that aren’t paved.  There are no cul-de-sacs.  There are no chain stores.  Actually, there is only one store in town.  It’s a convenient store, hardware store, gas station, and lunch counter. 

They are 15 minutes north of the Bath Iron Works shipyard and 20 minutes east of the state capitol, Augusta.  Most of the folks around here work for the shipyard, for LL Bean, or farm. 

The family’s little, red ranch house is on the banks of the Eastern River.  It's a tributary of the Kennebec.  In the late summer, we often see moose.  In recent years, there has been an American Bald Eagle’s nest just across the way.  In the winter, when the river freezes over, smelt shacks sprout up for a few months.  Smelt shacks are tiny sheds used to protect ice fishermen from the cold weather while they work to catch the tiny, sardine-like fish.

Everything here moves in a quiet, determined, timeless way.  For young people, it’s too quiet, too slow.  They cannot wait to finish high school and leave. My Personal Chef certainly felt that way, migrating south to Providence for college and never looking back.  Until recently.  His people have been here since sometime in the late 1600s.  Their roots run deep.  His roots run deep.  Like generations of men before him, he works hard on his job, works hard on his home, and works hard on his family.  He is most at ease outdoors and among the wildlife.  He has worked in cities—first Providence, then Boston—for decades, but he is never really at home there.

His parents have gotten old. We don’t come up to visit nearly often enough, so the changes in them are startling.  Each trip now is spent engaged in a series of chores to help make life a little easier for his folks.  Today, despite the 90 degree temperatures, my husband and sons are out mowing the lawn.  Well, I call it a lawn, but really it’s a three-acre hayfield.   On our next trip up, later this summer, there is talk of painting the house.  It is hard for my husband to see his parents losing a step.  Doing some manual labor for them helps soothe his unsettled bits.

The chores are about done for this trip.   The Evil Genius and I have already been down to the strawberry farm on a reconnaissance mission.  We plan on getting up early in the morning to pick some for him to bring to the beach (he's spending the week with friends on Popham Beach) and for us to bring home.  It’s the same farm my Personal Chef worked on when he was 13, so the Evil Genius thinks it’s pretty cool.  And it is.

Since we’re dropping him off for the week, we will DEFINITELY make it to the beach tomorrow, too.  The only thing that is still in question is whether or not we’ll catch the Portland Seadogs game tonight or tomorrow afternoon.   We’d all like to, but this trip is really about being with the FabFam.   It’s a blessing that my children know their grandparents.  Indeed.

Monday evening prologue:  So, you already know that we didn't make it strawberry picking or to the Seadogs game.  We did make it to Popham Beach, but only to drop our youngest son off with our friends in the wee hours of the morning before heading to the hospital with his brother.  He hadn't yet slept and was weepy.  It broke my heart.  To get a call last night that he was having a marvelous time playing in the surf and running around the old Fort Popham went a long way to easing my mind.  I just heard that today they hiked the rocks and spent more time on the beach.  We're a resilient bunch with a terrific support system.

I'm Not Really Falling Behind...Much

     As I noted in my Friday post, the FabFam traveled to Downeast Maine (which is actually north from here) to visit my Personal Chef's parents.  We were having technology issues, so I drafted a very nice blogpost Saturday that I hoped to upload at some point.  I still will, when my laptop and internet service are both in the same place.

     I did completely skip blogging yesterday.  And I'm not going to apologize. 

     Yesterday was an awful day, spent trying to keep Thing 2 safe in the midst of a mental health crisis that not only affected him, but has deeply affected my husband, my children, my in-laws, and his closest friends. Oh, and me. By the time we got back from the hospital and got everyone settled, it had been more than 24 hours since I'd slept. So I took a shower and went to bed.

     We all woke up above the ground today, so there is still hope for us all.  We have really good doctors and clinicians who have been responsive and helpful.  More importantly, we have a great support system of family and friends who  check in on us frequently, feed us, pour us drinks, listen to us whine, take care of the other kids and the dogs, pray for us and all the countless things that they do to keep us upright.

     It still sucks.  It sucks that our son, through no fault of his own, was born as "That Kid."  It sucks that we are "That Kid's Parents."  It sucks that our other two children get caught up in that suffering.  It sucks that they have been shortchanged so often when it has taken all of our energy and attention to take care of their brother.  It sucks that there are WAY more folks who are actively non-supportive of him or us. It makes it just that much harder to travel through this difficult life when the neighbors judge you,  gossip about you, and then ostracize you because of your sick child's inappropriate behavior.  It sucks that the illness manifests so inappropriately.

     And so it goes.  The sun rises.  The sun sets.  We have to fill the hours we're given with something.  I will spend them trying to alleviate my son's suffering, and perhaps some of my own.  And I will cherish the joyful moments when I can catch them.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Summer of Awesomeness To Do List Weekend

     The FabFam is heading Downeast to Maine for the weekend.  It's been months since we've visited my Personal Chef's folks.  So that's what we're doing.  We are also going to:

  • Pick strawberries at the farm where my Personal Chef began is "farm-to-table" career more than a couple of decades ago.
  • Catch the Portland Seadogs game
  • Celebrate my sister-in-law's birthday 
  • Kayak in a local saltmarsh (because the Eastern River is a big ole' mud bog now and we'll wait to kayak the Saco later this summer)
Before heading home Sunday, we're going to drop off the Evil Genius with one of my sisterfriends and her sons for a week of camping at Popham Beach.  I'm delighted for him, and more than a bit jealous that he gets a week of surf lulling him to sleep and waking up with the sun lifting up out of the Atlantic each day.  (When I say he is camping on the beach, I mean ON. THE. BEACH.)  

That's at least FOUR things to cross off the Summer of Awesomeness To Do list!  

Happy Friday, my friends!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

My Fourth of July Story

     Happy Independence Day, Friends!  I often refer to myself as an Irish Girl, but truthfully, I am second generation American and enormously proud to be so.  However, one of the gifts of having Irish ancestry is the beautiful way that through storytelling past generations are a very real part of our present.

     And so it is that I know the story of my Pop's journey from Belfast to Boston as if I were there.

     In the early part of the last century, during what the Irish refer to as "The Troubles,"  my great-grandmother, Anne Marie,  ran what she always called "her hotel" in Belfast in Ireland.  (All of Ireland was still part of the UK then.)  Really, it was a pub with a few rooms on the second floor.

     My clan is Catholic.  Nobody has ever talked about what he did, but my great-grandfather, Hugh, like so many Irish Catholic men in Belfast at the time,  was a target of the Black & Tans.  My grandfather, John Lennon (no, not THAT John Lennon) was a baby.  It was a very dangerous time to be a male, Catholic baby in Belfast.  Like something out of a Bible story, grown men were murdering baby boys so that they didn't grow up to be Catholic men.  My great-grandmother used to hide her only son under the bed at night to keep him from being killed.

     As the story goes, Hugh was on a hunting trip in Scotland with some of his mates when a band of Black & Tans came to the house looking for him.  In anger that he wasn't home, they went to the pub across the street.  The publican had seven sons.  They were lined up against the bar and executed.  It was horrific and it terrified my otherwise fearless great-grandmother.  That very night, she packed up my Pop, her nephew (who worked as a handyman at the hotel), and the niece that worked as Pop's nanny and fled to London.  She wired my great-grandfather, who met them there.  They never returned to Belfast.  From London, they sailed to New York.

     My great-grandmother must have been a successful business woman.  Unusual for Irish immigrants at the time, they traveled in cabins, not in steerage.

     When they finally landed in New York Harbor, it was July 4, 1921.  The city was in full celebration with Naval ships joining in by firing in salute.  Upon hearing the gunfire, my great-grandmother exlaimed, "I didn't leave Belfast to land in the middle of a fokking war!"   Obviously, she was eventually convinced to leave the ship and begin a new life in America.

     Because of this auspicious start, my Pop, who was as stoic as a statue most of his days, made a tremendous fuss about July 4th every year.  My childhood is filled with memories of family barbecues in his backyard with too much food, lawn games, a walk to the best parade viewing spot in town, and best of all, the rowdiest jam sessions ever.  Musician relatives and friends would lead the rest of us.  (I will never forget the site of my father's Uncle Pete wailing away on a garbage can as part of the percussion session.)

     I owe my comfortable American life to so many, but it all began with a formidable Irish woman hellbent on protecting her family from terrorism.

     As my Nana (Pop's wife) always said, "Happy Fourth of Julilly!"

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Not Quite as Last Minute as Last Night...

        Sigh.  I think I don't have to develop a blog habit.  I have to develop a time management habit.

     I have nothing to write about.  Work was really good today.  I got to hang in the hot tub.  Grilled burgers for dinner.  The whole family went to watch fireworks.  I bought a pair of cowboy boots.  (Cross it off the Summer of Awesomeness To Do list!)

     Overall, a very satisfying day.  And for tomorrow's holiday, there are many options:  Cape Cod, Cool Cousins, Block Island, Boston...  Well, whatever adventure we decide upon, I'd best head to bed and get to sleep.  I'm going to need the rest.

    Sorry for the lame post.  Hopefully, I'll do better tomorrow.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Just in the Nick of Time

    A random list of things that I pulled off just in the nick of time--like this blog post:

  • This week's newspaper column.  I came RIGHT up to the deadline. 
  • My remarks for last Wednesday's Rotary banquet.  I finished them at my office 45 minutes before the event.  (I'm sensing a theme.)
  • The Oasis of Awesomeness furnishings.  I was still moving stuff in place.  Andy was screwing in towel hooks just as our first guests were arriving.
  • The biggest grant I ever wrote.  It was a federal grant worth millions of dollars that got submitted SECONDS before the official cut-off.  Thank you kind tech support lady in Virginia!
  • All the loose ends at work before delivering Jack.  Andy was driving me to the hospital and I was on the phone with my secretary with last-minute business.
  • Getting married.  I was an HOUR late for my own wedding.  I arrived just before creating a family scandal.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer of Awesomeness To Do List Special Event Update

     I meant to post this last night.  And then I forgot.  <shrug>  I was too busy having a ball.  Yesterday, much of my extended family--the SOPs and the Men Who Love Them--gathered for our first, possibly annual, Family Photoshoot Fandango and Barbecue.

     Last winter I read an article that I'd share with you if I could find it.  It was written by a professional photographer who hated how she looked on film, so she avoided getting into pictures by being the person taking them.  And then she was in a serious accident.  When she finally recovered, her children (or maybe it was her parents or her husband) asked to have family portraits taken.  With her in them.  After her near-death experience, she realized that she might never be thin enough or have the right hair or whatever else she had decided wasn't "good enough" about herself, but that to her family and friends, she was beautiful.  I'm doing a terrible job explaining this.  It's a shame I can't find the story she wrote, because it was wonderfully written and resonated with me deeply.

     I told my girlies about it and proclaimed that we were all going to have family pictures taken.  Now, I am my mother's daughter, so it went from "we should get our family pictures taken" to "let's have a family picture taking party."  My family and friends are always game for a party.  So it was settled.  It was an early addition to the Summer of Awesomeness To Do List.

     After much schedule juggling we found a date that EVERYONE would be off work, didn't have a sporting event, wasn't traveling, and could all be together.  Then I convinced a photographer friend (the charming, talented, and exceedingly patient Jason Marzini) that this would be a good idea.

     All this was planned way back in March.  (I wasn't kidding when I said it was tough to schedule everyone at the same time.)  In May, when we lost David and Evelyn, everything changed.  There were several private conversations about whether or not to reschedule it or to even have it at all.  Personally, I thought it was more important than ever to capture our extended family on film.  Even I was worried about how the actual event would play out, though.

     I shouldn't have been.  It was an absolutely wonderful day.  There was plenty of food--my Personal Chef fired up the smoker and the SOPs can all cook, I tell you what, so we had a summer feast that I would put up against any food show any day.  Jason did an amazing job getting our families looking great.  (He even got my twenty-somethings to smile!)  The new hot tub got inaugurated in style.

     Evelyn and David were brought up frequently and fondly.  There were plenty of sidebar conversations where we checked in on each other and all the other drama we have in our lives, because none of us are just dealing with the loss of our friends.  We all have work stuff and health stuff and money stuff and relationship stuff going on.  It's life.  It's messy and complicated.  It's life.

     And yesterday, life was pretty darn good.