Chapter XVII

because you never know someone from the very beginning



Ten Years

My father died ten years ago today. You can read about that here if you like. Ten years is hard to process. How does one do that? By days and years clearly. What else? By what’s changed? By what’s different? Children had, weight gained, meals enjoyed, places lived, chins, jobs had, money made, money lost?

How would he process it? That’s the thing I miss – knowing what he’d say. I don’t really know what he’d say about ten years having passed since he died.

So I’m taking the “What Would He Recognize” route. I don’t look too different. He’d comment on wrinkles. He may say I’ve put on a few pounds and that’s a good thing. He’d say my husband looks better with the glasses he now wears. He’d recognize Avery. He’d be able to pick his other four grandkids who he didn’t meet out of a crowd. He’d recognize our home and our home city. Still here, ten years later. We lost a cat and that would make him sad but we still have Max and that would make him laugh.

He’d ask “So, what’s new?”

Well, Dad, you have all these new grandkids and mom is still stirring up the firehouse (not new but awesome anyway), your other daughter and son in law live near mom with their amazing three children (he’d fake gasp and say “THREE! I always knew that child would have three kids!”) so their lives are filled with sports, toddler antics and train and garbage truck obsessions (he’d love that last bit and encourage a wildly impractical collecting habit). Also, Dad, all of your thousands of records and CDs are gone but they’re in a good home (he’d say “I’ll speak to your mother about that.”). I don’t think I’d mention that Donald Trump is President. He wouldn’t believe that anyway.

He’d probably ask about work. He never understood what I did in finance (“She does something with money – you’d have to ask her. She ignored me when I said she should be a priest.”) but he always asked about it. So now the answer would be “So a couple years ago I decided I was done with the whole corporate thing and with the encouragement of my husband and business partner decided to end all of that and now we own and I run these cafes – two of which we bought and well, one which we opened exactly a year ago – actually on October 25th nine years exactly on the day you died. Yes on that day we opened a restaurant in New York City.

This is where I have a hard time…I don’t know really how he would have reacted. Or what exactly he would have said. What’s hard about that is that I feel like I always had a sense of what he’d say…we were pretty good at finishing each other’s sentences, you see. But on this I’m stumped.

I do know he would have listened. “Well, tell me about that!”

So I’d say a lot including “When we jumped into this café venture it was assumed we’d open more. I never knew how many but at least one. Three months after buying two we embarked on opening a third. My husband found the perfect spot in Park Slope. For nine months we tore down, planned, designed, bought, built, spent, unpacked, stocked, hired, prepped, sweated, cried, laughed, cried more, spent more, had night sweats, got excited and then opened. It’s been absolutely great. I mean the cafes drive me nuts (they’re like your kids – you LOVE them but they can make you insane) but overall they’re great and the new one has performed beautifully. I feel lucky. Very very lucky (and all kinds of grateful to the loads of people who helped and are still there today making it great every day).”

He’d say “Tell me about the food.”

And that’s how we’d carry on. The one other thing I know is where he’d sit. He’d like the new café and if he were to join us today on our one year birthday he’d sit at table 6. It’s a corner table, a little tucked away, with a view of the rest of the café. He’d like that seat. He’d spread out with his books and get a iced black coffee and hold court. He liked to hold court and listen.

That’s what he did, he listened. So maybe it doesn’t matter so much that I don’t know what he’d say.

Dad, see you at table 6.

Summer 2015 Wrap-Up

And what a summer it was! In a nutshell:

Sister Philly trip and a 12 course dinner! A blue chicken? Lots of BBQ. Art playing in Brooklyn Bridge Park. A Foo Fighters concert! The Brooklyn Cyclones and the Staten Island Yankees. COTTON CANDY. Avery mastering stilts. Family kayaking on the East River. Pink lemonade on hand at all times. Fish tacos and a day at an awesome NYC beach. Rollerskating. Crab picking in Red Hook!


A trip to Mom’s where we bought my nephew a fish named Charlie. Aiden rode a bike without trainers and we birthday’d Farm Style. Popeye’s Chicken. Lamas. The perfect peach pie. Last minute pizza party for 23 Brooklynites to say “see you next year!” to friends moving to Spain. A week in Cape May! Aiden actually swimming and Avery riding the waves. Arcade games. Beach hole-digging. A pig roast with our feet in the sand and a clambake with our toes in the grass. A new blog about MENUS. Garden kale and fridge white wine. And now, enjoying September and pumpkin anticipation…

I Remember

I am not normally one to obsess. I don’t hoard things. I am generally able to move on. But then there are little things that get me. Chocolate pudding. Racerback shirts. That pair of jeans. The opening music of Friday Night Lights (not to mention that entire series – best show EVER). And this song, I Remember by Deadmau5. Listening to that song takes me so many places – it came out in 2008 but because it’s all clubby it takes me right back to London in 1993, some NYC club in 1996 the name of which escapes me, Greece in 1998, Boston in 1999 (I know that last one doesn’t exactly scream “cool hot trendsetting venue” but trust me – Boston had a club scene). You can drive to it. Run to it. Make dinner for your kids while listening to it “Mommy…are you dancing?” My 3am clubbing days might be gone (until the kids go to college) but the dancing days will live on FOREVER.

Stay Young; Bake Cookies

It’s August. It’s hot. It’s time for a batch of unrelated updates. This weekend I took the kids to see my mom, sister and her family. While at home I spent some time with my dad’s old stuff. I do this every time I go home and every time it’s worth it. I ran across an OpEd he wrote in 1964 for the local White Plains paper. That was before I was born, but while growing up we spent a lot of time in Westchester which got me thinking about childhood memories…things like riding in the front seat of a car next to dad while we ate chocolate ice cream cones. For some reason that kid thing reminded me of when I used to climb the tree out in front of our house, feeling triumphant up to the top. Feeling triumphant made me think about the other end of the spectrum – Failure. Recently in my personal workout journey I missed a deadlift that I had made before. From that came a little rage (if that’s possible…only a LITTLE rage) and feelings of doubt (crap what happened?). But then I thought about how life isn’t a straight line and some days you win and others you don’t. The key is getting back on the horse and to keep working. Which made me remember that work matters more than talent and if you’re following any of Carol Dweck’s great work, you will know what I mean (I encourage you to read the whole article – it matters for adults, kids, relationships…). Speaking of relationships, that got me thinking about how much I value mine. My spouse in particular. We know a number of people going through very tough marriage times – some lasting, some not – and I am reminded that marriage is not a solution for a relationship, it’s a choice. A choice we make every day. I am feeling now for the people we know struggling with this choice. That got me thinking about how that choice manifests itself and for us, we are not alone here, it’s in the little things like moving the laundry to the dryer, picking up socks, listening when your partner speaks. This weekend when I got home it was about how my amazing husband thought to do the grocery shopping and in the course of that made us a pie. It was a fabulous peach pie (all gone now). Thinking about that prompted a thought about creating and making things. I have a new little project I’m working on related to Menus. I love making up menus. So I am posting a menu a week on the site. They aren’t fancy – but they are fun. And making them gives me a chance to think about what we would like to cook in different situations. I am also a person who wishes I had been born with artistic talent but rather than wallowing in my lack of talent I am jumping in head first and putting a little image alongside each menu. When is the last time you used markers, or crayons? I HIGHLY encourage this childish behavior. Who says kids are the only scribblers?  Please check it out HERE.

It’s a very happy birthday…

43 so far…

A poached egg over spinach and Canadian bacon. Laughing watching Home Alone in bed with the kids as we woke up this morning. Lunch with old friends. A new coffee maker (automated!).  Wandering the Village with Avery and then a gorgeous walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. Perusing a new cookbook with my feet up on our deck. Listening to church bells and kids jumping on a trampoline two doors down. Cool breeze and a blended up bunch of berries and bubbly water. GRILLED STEAK. Mushrooms. Cauliflower. Wine. Fresh raspberries with a little cream.

And lots of outreach from friends and family. 
What a happy birthday it’s been!!

Parenting, part 1 (optimistic title)

WHERE to begin…now with the older child in Kindergarten, I thought it a good time to start noting what we’ve learned about parenting in the 8 years of childrearing (2.5+5.5) we have under our belts.  Not that any of you need to learn from us – rather, to create a Told You So document for the kids when they have kids (karma’s a bitch by the way).  See the thing is, I am in awe of people who have more than two.  If we had more than two we’d need a lot of land, a permanent baby nurse and an electric fence, for starters.  So we stick with what we’ve got.  As the daycare teachers say, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset!”

First, get a crew of babysitters.  You need a team.  Someone who can cover various workdays.  One or two who are willing to stay late on weekend nights.  Someone mercenary who is basically willing to answer the call at all hours.  And make sure the kids like them.  If the kid really doesn’t like them, you won’t either.

Next, find parenting books/resources that work for you.  This works for me.  It’s a little awkward in the middle of a heated interchange to tell your kid “Hold on!  I have to look that up” but I’ve done it.  Scoff if you will, but this parenting thing doesn’t come as naturally to me as others.  I need professional help and I have a library of that.  I’ve also developed the habit of reading a few pages on my way from work to pick up the kids – it helps me get into the right frame of mind.

Speaking of frame of mind, have you noticed that so much of parenting is really less about the child and more about you?  Oh yeah dude, trust that if you have ANY issues (anxiety, fear of flying, Oreo’s addiction) that you were able to manage easily pre-kids, a 3 foot child is uniquely qualified to shine a bright light on that junk.  Figure yourself out. Little cracks in your ability to be calm and mature become chasms and there you are, yelling at a being no larger than a smurf.

My husband accuses me of Projecting, a term I have come to hate but probably because he’s right (I call it Planning and Forecasting…whatever). But when it comes to kids this can be dangerous.  See our daughter tussle with another child about a toy and in my mind, fast forward ten years and there she is in a stolen car doing donuts on our front lawn (another reason we are not likely to move to the suburbs – no front lawn).  And then we get back to The Reasonable Place.  See, the thing about parenting I’ve found is you feel the stakes are so high.  It all matters so much and we (I) can put so much weight on the small things.  What do we learn?  Chill out and try try again.

Just know that once you have more than one almost everything in the house is about “Justice and Property Rights”.  No words of learning or wisdom here, just calling it out because when we defined it this way rather than “Having two kids is about a lot of yelling and grabbing between them all the time” world got a little better.

Lastly, it’s all about you.  The more you take care of yourself as a parent the better parent you will be (BTW, I am not talking about the parents who define this as “hey kids we’re taking off on a three month trip because we need ME time”).  No, I mean the basics (find time to exercise, read, play a game, talk to a friend, have a sit down dinner without your kids).

Actually this is last, we’re learning to ask for help.  Send the kids to a playdate.  Do some tag team parenting – not everything needs to be done as a whole family.  Find a friend who you can talk to about this stuff with no judgment.  As my friend Suna poetically says “it takes a village, yo!”  I could not agree more.

This is a big learning process for me and a lot of times it’s not easy – so it’s with optimism that I write Part 1 – as they get older it is bound to get way more complicated – and I am hopeful that as time marches on there will be more Aha! moments…because it is so wonderful and it goes so very fast.

Let Me Eat Cake

I have a love hate relationship with my birthday. What a cliché. It’s not that I am all torn up about getting older. I still feel pretty young but with a relatively solid sense of self (usually). I like cake. I love seeing friends and hearing from people. But no matter what I do, there is a part of me every year that is tempted to stay at home. By myself. In bed. Watching movies and taking naps. Let’s start again on May 4th.

It’s the nostalgia. That’s what it is. On a normal day I am present with work, family, friends. But on a birthday you are reminded of everywhere you have been, everything you have done, everyone you’ve met. You hear from a lot of people. For me that is a bumpy ride. I start with feeling the tussle of wanting more time to see people who mean a lot to me. And then I am transported to Hyattsville, Scarsdale, Greenbelt, Georgetown, London, New York City, Boston. Even Sodus. It’s a marker. I have trouble thinking about many of these places (people) and not becoming deeply emotional. It’s too much.

I tend to get very emotional. And quiet. How am I 41? How am I a college graduate? Better yet, how do I have an MBA earned many years ago at this point? Two kids, two cats and a house? Oh forget it. We own a car, for Christ’s sake. How does that even happen? I am old enough to have taken bike trips around Europe by myself. We make arrangements for schooling…for our five year old. I shop for my own groceries and my mom has no involvement in scheduling my dentist appointments. My little sister has a job, and a house and drives a minivan. My father is gone and has been for almost five years.

It doesn’t help that I work with a lot of young people. When I mention Depeche Mode half my office thinks I am talking about a flavor of ice cream.

How did this happen.

I miss parents on my birthday. I still have one. But what I mean is I miss the parents who decorated the dining room with streamers and sang happy birthday after giving me a ten-speed bike.

I miss being little.

I like where I am – I do – but on birthdays I miss being a kid. Maybe that’s what it is. Maybe that is why birthdays are quiet for me. I feel ungrounded. I am out of control and I am amazed at what is behind me.

I need to turn present and forward. Birthdays though – they tug me backwards. All of a sudden I have a desire to read everything Joan Didion has written.

Maybe that is why you get flaming cake on birthdays. Take too long to be in the moment – linger too long in the past – and your whole cake melts away.

I hope it’s chocolate 🙂

Dad, Meet Me In NYC

Sometimes you sense something bigger is going on around you.  Today my larger power manifested itself in Pandora.  As I arrived at work and booted up my computer, I also started Pandora and wouldn’t you know, the station that launched was “Dad Inspired” and the first song was Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue.

See, I started this post last night so the addition of the music is only additive.  And telling. Four years ago today, October 24, 2008 was the last day my father walked this earth.  He died at 12:05am October 25th.  So really the 24th is the day I like to focus on. The day he went to the Olive Garden to “have some soup” and the day he had a burger and a milkshake for dinner and then offered a toast to my mom and the hospice nurse at the house as one of his last conscious gestures. The day I last spoke to him and before telling me he was going to have soup he told me about the visit he’d had from the bishop of Washington which he described as a “rather grand occasion.”  Indeed.

So what of Rhapsody?  Wasn’t he more of a Grieg or Rachmaninoff guy?  Mostly, yes but my dad and I shared a love of NYC that is best captured in that work.  He took me to Manhattan when I was maybe five or six.  We trained down from Scarsdale where we were visiting friends and we walked.  And walked and walked and walked.  We did this every year and he even took me there as a gift when I finished middle school.  The memories are vivid and capture not just dad and our relationship but New York at it’s best.  We went to Wolf’s Deli and I ate a ruben made for a man (I was about nine) and pickles which were always on the table and maybe a coke. We went to Bloomingdale’s when I was maybe twelve and he bought me a Keith Haring Swatch.  We went to Tower Records (also 12…I was nearly kidnapped.  True story.) and Academy Records.  I dragged him to vintage and punk stores on Broadway because we just didn’t have places like that in Maryland.  There was a handsome cab ride in Central Park.  We had burgers at the Hard Rock Cafe and of course we got the t-shirt.  We always took cabs.  Dad was not a subway guy.  NYC was our ritual, dad, daughter and the big city.

Because of him I think I knew when I was five that NYC was to be my home.  Last year we nearly moved to San Francisco.  Plans changed and we are happily still in Brooklyn.  We were excited about moving – good time for a life change, friends out west, wine country…what’s not to like.  But NYC was the last place he knew me to live.  He’d been to our house in Brooklyn.  He’d been to all the places I lived in NYC – all six apartments.  How could I move?  What a weird feeling.  Leaving NYC was like leaving a piece of him behind.  How strange.

We may move someday – you never know – but for now we are here.  And even though Wolf’s is gone and Tower is a distant memory, NYC still lives and breathes on and in many ways so does he – TLD, DAD.  And that is a good, nice and wonderful thing.

Family Vacation – a list

Great vacation week. Included:

mountains, water slides, a hike, a lonely lake, a root beer float, a couple of runs, family, hot tubbing, shimmy shaking baby and a no floaty swimming four year old, reading, noting, ferry boat riding, wedding place remembering, a day with no kids while they were in camp! cooking, a pie, chickens, tempura green beans, sit ups and push ups, a past 6am wake up for all, apple cider donuts, high falls gorge, an Oreo stacking contest, massages and hot coffee on a high porch overlooking tall mountains. And more. Grateful.

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