Home Sweet Home

IMG_1033It’s 10:00 on a Tuesday morning and I am hiding off in a side room that will some day be my office trying to concentrate on writing this while a man in a nearby room is working with a power drill. Or a saw. Just know it’s something very loud.

I’m surrounded by stacks of boxes filled with God-only-knows-what at this stage of the game and everything – the boxes, the wall moulding and even the palms of my hands as I type this – is covered in a fine layer dust.

Welcome to Week 7 of my new house renovation — or what I fondly refer to as “hell” — which has spiraled into something way more than I’d anticipated and confirming the assertion I’d made the day I moved out of my old house that I am never –ever — doing any of this again. They are taking me out of here in a bag.

And to be honest with you – TBH to the kids – I can think of worse places to drop dead. When it’s done and all the men and their filthy work boots are no longer stomping through here, my new house will be everything I wanted it to be. It will be a cozy and welcoming place for my children to visit and some day for my grandchildren to come stay with me and learn how to bake and read books together. There’s even room for a new Mr. Amy when he finally makes an appearance.

But it’s been an undertaking. As one of the guys who’s been here sawing and drilling most days said this morning, it’s not like the work has been relegated to just a room or two. My whole house, he observed, was under siege.


You don’t even want to know what the state of this bathroom was before I took it back from the workers. #ew

As a result, the boxes that an army of mommies helped me cart out of my old house in the days before the movers arrived remain piled throughout the house.


Behold, the view I enjoy when I open my eyes each morning.

My bed is in a pile of frames and box springs in the middle of my bedroom covered in a plastic tarp along with assorted other pieces of furniture and my kitchen consists of a toaster oven and microwave propped on a former end table in my future office. The upside is that I find myself getting into the shower immediately nowadays so I’m ready for the onslaught of workers each day brings and the downside is that my favored uniform of black and gray garb is no match for all the dust the workers produce each day. I always seemed to be smudged with dirt.

During the first few weeks of construction following the closing on the house, I was able to rent our old house back from my buyers while we packed up 13 years of our lives. But then our buyers needed us out so they could get going on work they had planned on that house so by mid-February we were looking for some place to stay while the new house was in the early stages of construction. The taking apart stage, rather than the putting back together stage. There was no way we could live in the middle of that.

Ultimately, my two boys moved in with their dad for a few weeks and I began my life as a nomad. I stayed at my sister’s for a bit and cat sat for friends over the long Presidents’ Day weekend. I drifted to a couple of other friends’ and back to my sister’s and occasionally took the boys out for a meal. It was like I’d become a divorced dad.

During my two-week odyssey I found myself going to sleep most nights in somebody’s son’s room. I slept on Star Wars sheets surrounded by a room full of Marvel Comics characters and a teen boy’s surfer-inspired platform bed. But my longest stint was back at my sister’s in her 5-month-old baby’s room. With the baby. I went to bed each night nestled under pirate-themed sheets and feeling as if i was about to be engulfed by a giant wave courtesy of the sound machine my sister uses to help the baby fall asleep. I wish I could report my dreams were filled with Pirates of the Caribbean-type adventures with me carousing with Captain Jack – or even better, Orlando Bloom – but instead my nightly musings focused more on backspashes and paint colors.

But last week, my little guy and I slept in the new house for the first time. It was weird that first night, sitting in the office/kitchen on stools from our old house and enjoying what my son refers to as a “freezer dinner” (thank you, Trader Joe’s). As I filled his plastic cup with the milk we keep in the handy basement frig we inherited, I told him I thought it was just like camping.

“It’s really not,” he shot back.

It was quiet without the drone of the nightly news that’s usually accompanying our dinners and after we’d thrown all our plates away we retreated to chairs set up in the future family room and sat side-by-side wearing headphones and watching our laptops. Nothing like bonding with a 13yo boy.

My college daughter arrived home for Spring Break at the end of the week and was aghast at the prospect of a whole week of freezer dinners. She was hoping for more of a “real meal.” So we ordered Chinese food on Friday night. I did, however, buy the girl a power screwdriver after she complained her hands hurt from putting together all the Ikea furniture we bought last week for my son’s bedroom. Never let it be said I don’t take care of my girl.


The one room in the house that’s somewhat put together, ironically for the one person who probably could care less.

But despite the boxes and the workers and the never-ending dust, it’s good to be home. I missed my children and being in our own space and believe it or not, I even kind of missed our cat (we shipped her down in Virginia to stay with my daughter and is enjoying spring semester). It’s good to have at least some of us under one roof again. And some day – much like childbirth or previous home renovation projects – this whole period will seem like one big blur. All the trips down to the basement frig to get milk for my coffee and drifting off all those nights to the sounds of crashing waves will begin to fade from my memory, much like the endless rounds of baths and bedtime stories with little ones all those years ago.

Like most everything else, it will be over in a blink.

Never fear! Even though I’m moving you can always find me here! Sign up to get all of my latest posts sent right to your inbox by typing your email into the box below. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter. [wysija_form id=”1″]



Take a Peek Inside My New House

IMG_0490When we last spoke, I was telling you about the house I just bought. You know the one, the Not-Too-Big, Not-Too-Small, Just-Right-House? The one with personality to spare?

Anyway, since then I’ve had a bunch of people tell me they’d love to get a virtual tour of the joint, and as all I really think about these days is the house – from paint colors to appliances to exactly where my daughter’s giant, queen-sized Ikea bed is going – I thought this would be an easy thing for me to start to share. Please note that all “before” photos I swiped off Zillow and are courtesy of the former owners and their realtor.

I can't even.

All that ivy and the copper bay window? Sigh. I can’t even.

First of all, the house was built around 1929 by someone – one of my friends joked he had to be Italian – who was freaked out by fire as no wood was employed in its construction. Instead, both the exterior AND INTERIOR walls were built of bricks and cement block and the floors (both first and second ) sit on top of steel, like, girders and a layer of concrete. I mean, it’s nuts and something – I’ve come to learn – you don’t really see in suburban New Jersey houses. Apparently this type of construction is seen more in city brownstones and the few houses in town that this guy built — including the house next door to me — are kinda anomalies.

“It’s tornado-proof,” my builder told me the first time he came to look at the house, and while his head shaking made me a little wary, it also made me feel kinda safe. I mean, even though it will probably prove challenging nailing stuff to its walls, I can rest easy knowing no Big Bad Wolf will ever be able to blow my house down. I am legit bullet proof now.

I’d also like to note that the house was beautifully cared for by its former owners, who made super-smart additions and improvements to it in the almost-40 years that they lived there. I keep discovering all sorts of wonderful features, from lights in closets to beautiful ceiling molding throughout the house that make me appreciate their attention to detail.

One of the things I like most about the house is that, unlike many more modern houses that embrace the “open floor plan,” my house boasts many smaller rooms. Lots of nooks and crannies to go off and, say read a book or write a blog post (or when it comes to my kids, watch Netflix).

When my youngest sister – who’s in her mid-30’s with two little kids – first came to check out the house, she only saw walls she wanted to knock down. “I’d open this whole thing up,” she said, pointing to the wall that separates my living room and sun porch.

See that wall behind the couch in the living room? The one with the giant mirror (it's not a doorway)? That's what separates me from the inmates.

See that wall behind the couch in the living room? The one with the giant mirror (it’s not a doorway)? That’s what separates me from the inmates.

I promptly told her she was crazy.

But when I was her age, that’s exactly what I did to the house we were living in. We knocked the wall down between the dining room and kitchen and widened the doorways of our living room and den, thus opening up the whole first floor.

Here’s what parents of young children – who want to be able to monitor their little ones toddling around while they make dinner and make sure that their 9-year-olds aren’t watching Family Guy – don’t understand: there will come a day when all that togetherness will get kinda old. They’ll want walls – ones made of brick and cement – between them and their increasingly-surly-faced children. While it seems a good idea early on to bring the family-bed concept downstairs to the living area, there comes a time when you just want to watch the evening news without Lester Holt being drowned out by the latest episode of Pretty Little Liars or work on your laptop without someone frying an egg five feet away. Some day Family Guy will be the lest of your concerns, I’d like to tell them.

That wall between my new living room and sunporch will give me space to set up my desk to write in my own private office space and no longer have to squeeze clever thoughts in while sitting at my kitchen table and telling people where to find more milk. I will be blissfully unaware of frying eggs and what Leslie Knope is up to in Season 5 of Parks and Rec.

I'll set my desk and books up in this room, that seems to stay bright at all hours of the day and has enough windows to provide hours of distraction from Facebook.

I’ll set my desk and books up in this room, that seems to stay bright at all hours of the day and has enough windows to provide hours of distraction from Facebook.


Window treatments down and ready for painting.

Window treatments down and ready for painting.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the things about the new house that turned me off early on was its small, dated kitchen. But I’m a spoiled brat. We redid our kitchen about 10 years ago with lots of bells and whistles and it still felt new to me. I still loved being greeted by all those creamy cabinets reaching to the ceiling and shiny granite countertops when I came downstairs each morning. And we lived at our island, where we hang out and eat most of our meals. It’s a big part of our day-to-day.

In contrast, the kitchen in the new house was small and had soffits between the cabinets and the ceiling, with limited cabinet space and nowhere to sit and eat your cereal.

I would have loved this kitchen back when I first married with its painted white cabinets and Hunter green counters.

This kitchen would have made me swoon back when I first married with its painted white cabinets and Hunter green counters.


There was only one solution: the wall between the kitchen and the dining room had to go.

The kitchen is to the left of the dining room in this photo.

The kitchen is to the left of the dining room in this photo. Check out the parquet wood flooring that runs throughout the house.

Not only would that brighten the kitchen up a bit but would also give us a place to pull up some stools.

So a few days after I bought the house, this happened.

Here's the view from dining room into kitchen. Please enjoy the extremely sturdy walls, cement floor and hapless radiator.

Here’s the view from dining room into kitchen. Please enjoy the extremely sturdy walls, cement floor and hapless radiator.


And the view towards the dining room:

The kitchen will now benefit for the two casement windows in the dining room and the deep bay window as a focal point.

The kitchen will now benefit from the two casement windows in the dining room and have the deep bay window as a focal point.

The sink will now be centered under the pretty kitchen window flanked by a dishwasher and pull out trash bin.

The sink will now be centered under the pretty kitchen window flanked by a dishwasher and pull out trash bin, with a peninsula running between the kitchen and eating area with plenty of room for a few stools so I can resume my role as short-order cook.


My mom and sister would have liked to see more walls go down or doorways moved to accommodate a better layout and make the kitchen a little less choppy, the way they do in magazines and on HOUZZ. But in the end, because I didn’t really want to spend any more money and was wary of the challenges presented by those brick and cement walls, I decided to work with what I had and consider the choppy new layout part of the house’s many charms. I can live without perfect.

So, with about nine days before all of our belongings are moved into this chaos, some things are moving pretty quickly. Wallpaper has come down from the hallways throughout the first and second floors and the painters are painting every inch of the interior — even closets and ceilings. I’m staying in this house forever so I’m hoping this is one and done in that department.

I also hired someone to refinish the floors throughout the house and replace the white tiles in the kitchen and back hall with the same parquet design in the rest of the house. I am thrilled with the results thus far.

I was very tempted to go with Ebony or Jacobean stains but am glad in the end I went with the slightly lighter Dark Walnut. Anything else would have been too dark in my house.

Darker stains, like Ebony or Jacobean, tempted me but am glad in the end I went with the slightly lighter Dark Walnut. Anything else would have been too dark in my house.


So that’s where we are with the downstairs right now. Pretty much, there are a whole lotta dudes traipsing in and out of my sweet house doing unmentionable things in my potty and leaving cigarette butts on my lawn. But it is what it is and I know it will all be worth it in the end.

I’ll share what’s going on upstairs with you soon. And if you have tips — for moving, renovating or surviving said renovation — by all means, share.

I could use all the help I can get.

Never fear! Even though I’m moving you can always find me here! Sign up to get all of my latest posts sent right to your inbox by typing your email into the box below. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter. 

In Which I’ve Become Goldilocks Or: Everything is Just Right


Be still, my heart.

Lo and behold, I bought a house. Well, first I sold my old house, and then I bought the new one. And on a scale of 1 to 10, if we had to rate the events in our lives that caused us the most amount of stress – with divorce being a full-on 10 and middle school basketball games clocking in at about an 8.5 – I’d put real estate transactions right up there at around a 7 and change.

Seriously, what’s really going to do me in is the packing up my home of 13 years to move – which I’d peg at around Stress Level 8.5 – and trying to fix up my new home prior to the movers getting here. In other words, I need to get it from the war-torn state it’s currently in into something that at least we can stack boxes and furniture (but more about that another day). I’d pin that at a solid 9.5 on the Life Richter Scale.

So I’ve been busy and have a lot to tell you about, especially since I hadn’t felt comfortable publicly discussing any of my real estate transactions as they transpired throughout the fall. First of all, I didn’t want to jinx the deals and secondly, I didn’t want anything that I wrote to be misconstrued by either my buyers or my sellers because – unlike other real estate transactions I’d been involved in in the past — everyone played very nice. And I’ve come to the conclusion over the last few months, after tons of phone conversations, texts, Facebook messages and emails, that this was because all parties involved were basically very nice people.

We live in a small town of about 6,000 people, so you kind of have to be nice. Or at least it’s really in your best interest. At some point, you’re going to be standing on line with them at the deli counter or getting your nails done at the next manicure station and probably you want to avoid those awkward moments. Plus, not being an asshole is so much easier than the alternative.

I put my house up for sale by owner in July and after some initial excitement and a bustling first open house that brought a lot of looky-loos, interest kind of petered off. I mean, the house had never been cleaner or looked better, but the kids got kind of sick of having to go out to my car – which is where I shoved any signs that 5 people actually lived in my house, like dirty laundry and piles of bills and magazines – to find anything. At one point my younger daughter came in and said, “Mom, there are literally spider webs growing in the back seat.”

But, aside from one offer early on, that wasn’t exactly where I wanted it to be but gave me good negotiating experience, couples – husbands and wives, moms and daughters – came and went. They oohed and aahed and told me how gorgeous the house was, and then I never heard from them again.

It was actually a lot like dating.

But by September I had very interested buyers and we began the whole real estate dance, which was interesting because they had also chosen to forgo using a realtor. And that right there makes you have to be a little nicer throughout the process. You have nobody to hide behind because you have to talk to these people face to face. And man, I’m way too lazy to be unreasonable. It’s just easier when you’re willing to make compromises in order to seal the deal.

The one interesting wrinkle was that English is not my buyers’ first language as they moved here from a European country. So I really had to make sure during our negotiations that we were on the same page and saying the same things. I found myself often repeating what they’d said or saying things like, “Okay, what I’m hearing you say is blah, blah, blah.” And we’ve done great – other than when I took their use of the word “free” to mean what “free” means in English, in that there was no money involved, but they meant something entirely different. But by mid-fall we were under contract and ready to roll.

That’s when I needed to find myself a new place to live.

Here again is where buying and selling a house is a lot like dating. When I first saw the house I ended up buying, I was like, “Meh.” I couldn’t see past the small, dated kitchen and lack of a garage. I was too busy being enamored with little capes in town with fancy stoves. I was totally ready to pull down my pants and throw all my money at those shiny little houses with Wolf gas ranges.

But right before I did that, I went back out to look at all the homes in town in my price range but this time, I brought my very smart friend who saw my new-house-to-be with much clearer eyes. Instead of being snagged by wallpaper and paint colors, she pointed out the casement windows surrounded by thick glossy trim and the giant master bedroom. The house was built in 1929 and is unlike many of the homes in our town and while it lacked a shiny new kitchen, it burst with character. But most importantly, the family that had lived there for almost 40 years had taken impeccable care of the house and it boasts a fairly new roof and super-smart additions they built over the years. It might not have a garage but in its place is a nice sized family room and second fireplace.

And so I went from feeling really blasé about that brick house on the corner to getting a little tingly every time I thought about it, which is the way I believe all good romances should begin. Beware, I say, of shiny strangers dazzling you with Viking stoves so that you don’t notice the dearth of bedrooms or lack of a basement. Focus then instead on something that’s solid with a good foundation, that’s oozing with charm and could use just a little updating. The smart and funny, say, over the good looking and athletic.

But always keep your pants on because that never solves anything.

So I scooped up that adorable brick house on the corner and ever since, many people I’ve run into have told me it’s one of their favorite houses in town. It’s in a great neighborhood that’s filled with kids for my 13yo to play with and a quick walk to school and the local pizza place. I could even walk to the liquor store in a pinch.

After the flurry of excitement of the home inspection and bringing my mom and sister through to get their seal of approval, I was relegated to looking at pictures of the house on Zillow throughout the holidays while we waited to close. Closing dates came and went while I spent hours slipping down Pinterest wormholes to find just the right color for my bedroom or wood floor stain.

In fact, if anyone was a dick throughout the real estate process, it was me. My mortgage got held up in the end, causing my sellers a delay on their own new home purchase, so I was hesitant to see them at my walk through on the day I bought the house. But I walked through the front door, in the midst of movers carting out all of their belongings from the home they’d lived in for almost 40 years, and was promptly embraced by one of its owners. She told me she was glad I was buying it and when I came back to the house as its new owner a few hours later, I found a Hallmark card that they’d left atop a pile of booklets for the various appliances congratulating me and wishing my family and me many happy years there along with all their contact info, just in case.

And for the first time in my adult life, I find myself packing up for a move and not wondering where I’ll move next. Already mentally pulling up stakes for something bigger or better. I remember being annoyed when my former husband announced that he was planning to die in the second of three housese we’d bought together. I didn’t understand back then why someone wouldn’t want to keep reaching for the next thing.

But now I get it. Now I am kind of in the same boat. After years of thinking I wanted the bigger and the better – at first the house and later perhaps moving some place entirely different – I find myself exactly where I am supposed to be.

And it feels just right.

Never fear! Even though I’m moving you can always find me here! Sign up to get all of my latest posts sent right to your inbox by typing your email into the box below. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter. [wysija_form id=”1″]






If you were wondering where I’d been lately and considering sending out a search party, you wouldn’t have to look too far. Throughout the holidays and now for hours each night after dinner, I’ve been sitting on the giant red couch in my family room watching the telly. In fact, I was watching so much TV after Christmas my children became alarmed.

“You’re STILL watching television?” my 23yo son said incredulously when he peeked his head out of the kitchen on Dec. 26 to find me sitting on the couch in my pajamas mid-day powering through my fourth hour of Netflix.

I have to admit, I found this reaction to seeing me do what he – and all of his siblings – do all the time quite hilarious. Throughout the fall, when he wasn’t networking or going on job interviews, the guy was sitting in my basement ploughing through, like, a million shows and yelling at the television while playing PlayStation4. My youngest daughter watched all five seasons of Mad Men during her winter break and my 13yo somehow squeezed in an entire season of Parks and Rec on Sunday while was supposed to be scraping stickers off his bedroom door.

But apparently they are not used to seeing their mom do the same. I guess it was weird to see me bingeing on a TV show. But, like a big box of CheezIts, it was hard to stop after just one helping of Jessica Jones. As each episode ended and the little box in the corner came on indicating the next was about to start in three … two … one … I was like, “Okay, just one more.”

What is this Jessica Jones, you ask? Well, number one, it’s super-violent. Like, limb in a Vitamix, violent. There’s sex. Even, kind of, superhuman sex. And it’s very dark. Jessica is a private investigator who’s a rape survivor with some superhuman strength and gets through her days slugging whiskey (sometimes straight outta the bottle). She’s the chick who played Jesse’s druggie girlfriend on Breaking Bad who chokes on her own vomit (with the help of Walter White) in bed. So, I guess things have picked up for the actress a little in this new Netflix-original series because Jessica would kick Walter White’s ass for trying that shit. Please try to get to the end of the first episode and not immediately need to watch the next one. The ending is a doozy.

But things really get good when Jessica’s former captor and all-around-bad-boyfriend Kilgrave – played by the super-sexy David Tennant – comes on the scene in the third episode. He is so bad. Terrible. And funny and strangely likable. I couldn’t believe he was the same actor who played one of the lead detectives in Broadchurch (another series you can, and should, binge on Netflix).

I was sorry when I finished the final episode and despondent that there were no serious plans for a second season. Somehow, the series is linked to the other Marvel Comics-inspired Netflix series Daredevil, but I haven’t taken the plunge to watch that yet, frankly because I’ve been watching way too many other shows.

I’m embarrassed to tell you that I’ve watched these other series in the last month:

  • Sherlock: I never got the whole Benedict Cumberbatch thing. I saw him in a few movies and was like, “Huh.” And then I started watching Sherlock and was like, “I totally get it.” He’s wonderfully nutty and weirdly sexy in a high-functioning ,crazy-person way. Each 90-minute episode is so densely packed, it’s kind of hard to binge on more than one or two at a time. There are a couple of really good bad guys and some twists that I didn’t see coming (although that’s not that hard since I am terrible at seeing things coming). I recommend you watch the three-episodes of each of its three seasons slowly because a fourth isn’t expected to be released until 2017.
  • Mozart in the Jungle: Honestly, I never heard of this series on Amazon until it received a couple of Golden Globe nominations. And because I like to be in the know about these kinds of things, started watching with my daughter while she was home on break. It’s the young ingénue oboist trying to break into a fictional New York symphony and winding up instead the assistant to their new young and kind of eccentric maestro. I wish there was a little more music but it is like a sneak peek behind the curtain and – for godssakes – it has the fabulous Bernadette Peters (who makes 67 look beyond fabulous) so what is not to love? We quickly gobbled up all 10 half-hour episodes of the first season and are now on the final two episodes of the recently-released second season and now that the show took home two Golden Globes (for best musical/comedy series and best actor), I bet lots more people will actually know what an oboe looks like.
  • Flesh and Bone: This Starz original series has pretty much the same premise as Mozart in the Jungle. Just substitute ballet for the symphony and throw in a crazy homeless guy for good measure. But unlike Mozart, they cast real-live dancers for Flesh and Bone and there’s a ton of really beautiful dancing. There’s also a ton of Black Swan-like drama and super-skinny bodies but when the eight, hour-long episodes are over, that’s it. Apparently there are no plans in the work for a second season, so you can have some closure on the fate of the company.
  • Master of None: My kids fell in love with Aziz Ansari after bingeing on Parks and Rec but I never really found him appealing. I thought his character was kind of jerky. But I kept reading a lot about his new Netflix series, on the tail of his recent book investigating modern romance that I thought was fascinating, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Interestingly, after inhaling the whole series and finding it adorable and poignant, I encouraged my kids to watch and each one told me they tried but couldn’t get into it. I think it’s because they’re too young. It’s really aimed at folks old enough to have pondered what it means to commit to one person for the rest of your life as well as the clarity to know when they’re being jerks to their parents. I don’t know if I ever needed to see Aziz simulating having sex with someone but other than that, I really enjoyed all 10, half-hour episodes (well, not so sure about the first, but all the rest).
  • Making a Murderer: I watched the first episode while Googling all sorts of shit on my laptop and soon realized that – much like Homeland – you really have to be focused to know what’s going on. So I held off watching any more and now I’ve read there’s so much controversy over the series, I don’t know if I’m going to continue. What I really wanted was for it to be like the TV-version of Serial, last year’s much-talked-about podcast that thoroughly examined the murder of a high school girl in Baltimore in 1999 and whether her former boyfriend who was convicted for killing her was wrongly imprisoned. I binged like crazy on that – listening in my car while my son played soccer or at the kitchen table during dinner – before the final episode and thought the producers/creators looked under every single rock in their investigation. Instead, I think I’ll turn the TV off and catch up on the new season of Serial, which examines the case of Bowe Bergdahl, who allegedly deserted his Army unit and was held captive by the Taliban for five years. I’ve already listened to a couple and it’s very compelling. So much so that while listening on a two-hour drive home from my dad’s over the holidays, about 15-minutes in my 13yo yelled from the third row, “Hey Mom, can you turn it up?”

Maybe we’ll all give our screens a break and just listen to a story for a while.

If you need a break from bingeing, read me instead! Sign up to get all of my latest posts sent right to your inbox by typing your email into the box below. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter. 



DSC_0430Every six weeks or so, a brown stripe appears down the center of my head, which I used to be cool with until those darkened roots became increasingly flecked with grey wires. Now, I scurry to my hair colorist so she can wave her magic wand and return my hair to its make-believe, uniform-blonde state.

I started fooling around with my hair color about 15 years ago to lighten up my mousy brown locks with some highlights but the greyer I got, the more highlights I needed and the blonder I became. So, what was once a beauty treatment I kind of dabbled in – there was never any great sense of urgency – has now become a critical part of my maintenance schedule. It’s right up there with my annual mammogram and getting my teeth cleaned.

But I often tell anyone who will listen that even if I didn’t like how my hair gal has transformed my head, I’d still show up in her chair on a regular basis for the conversation. She’s funny, smart and remembers as much as my therapist does from one session to the next and she’s not even taking notes. Plus, she’s a rock star. Last week she paired kind of Western booties with a long black tulle skirt and I’m telling you, few people could pull off that look. She also converted to Catholicism recently and is very active in her church community, so she’s a bit of an enigma to boot.

I brought her up to date on my life as she dipped a brush into a mound of goop she’d concocted in a plastic bowl to paint my roots and she asked me about my pending real estate transactions. I told her how nerve-wracking the whole process had become and fretted that I wasn’t going to get what I wanted.

“If it doesn’t happen it doesn’t happen,” she said, parting another segment of hair to swab her potion. “Then it just wasn’t meant to be.

“You just have to believe that God has something even better planned for you,” she finished. “You can’t have any attachments.”

And you know how sometimes you hear something or read something you’ve heard or read a thousand times before but then it arrives one more time and it’s like you receive it in a whole new way? Where before you were like, “Oh, yeah. Blah. Blah. Blah,” and then all of a sudden you’re like, “Whoa”? Like the heavens open and a chorus of angels begins to sing?

That’s what it was like for me, sitting in that chair with a head full of chemicals waiting for a timer to go off. It was like a light bulb went on over my head instead.


The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve come to realize that I spent much of my life trying to manipulate outcomes, often against fairly considerable odds. I had been very attached to how I wanted my life to look.


And it worked, for the most part. In fact, a former neighbor told me well after we’d been living across the street from each other for a while that when my family first moved in, she referred to my husband and me as Ken and Barbie.

In a way, that was just what I wanted.

And that was okay until it wasn’t. Until I realized that what I really wanted out of life was less plastic and more real. Like, old Velveteen Rabit-real.

So I started letting go of things I never thought I’d be able to live without.

And in a curious case of weird timing, last week brought with it three milestones to mark my journey towards letting go.


First of all, my baby turned 13 and while on the one hand it seemed to have happened in a flash, on the other hand – with two of his siblings in college and the oldest a recent graduate – it’s been a bit of an eternity. But there was no talking me out of having that fourth child and even though I’ve had kids in the school system for so long that I remember when you sent cupcakes in for birthdays and slathering peanut butter on everything seemed nutritious and not dangerous, I wouldn’t want a life without that kid. Who else would watch “The Pioneer Woman” with me during dinner or open the window for me when I’m having a hot flash? And he’s the perfect example of someone who’s benefitted from me letting go and not trying to filter everything he comes into contact with to create some perfect person. He just is who he is, which ended up being pretty great.

That same day, I sold the house we moved in to right before I gave birth to that fourth child. Another questionable decision you could not have talked me out of at the time. But that four-bedroom colonial in a neighborhood of similar homes represented the lady I wanted to be, no matter the cost – monetarily or otherwise. It was who I thought I was.

Apparently a lot has changed in real estate since I last bought a house 13 years ago because now you no longer need to attend the actual closing. I signed the papers in my kitchen the day before instead so I could go to my son’s basketball game, so it seemed a little surreal when I got the call from my attorney on my way home from the game to tell me the deal was done.

“Congratulations,” he said before we hung up and I could feel the door close on that chapter of my life.

I looked around to commiserate/celebrate with someone nearby but only saw my four children who were definitely not interested in hearing about how conflicted I was about the sale of our home. As far as they were concerned, the whole thing was bullshit.

Instead, I took the kids out for hibachi for the birthday celebration and had a quiet drink later with my pal across the street, who made some delicious old fashioneds to mark the occasion. She, probably more than anyone, knows what a journey selling the house had been.

And finally, last Tuesday would have been my 25th wedding anniversary and instead of celebrating on one of those big trips other couples I know go on to commemorate being able to stay together for so long – like a trip to Paris or the Amalfi Coast – I took a boat into New York City for dinner and drinks with high school friends, one of whom had the honor of wearing the crazy tulle and velvet costume I’d chosen for my bridesmaids all those years ago.

We asked each other a million questions and admired each other’s hair and although not all of us have remained close, there’s a certain comfort and ease being in the company of people who knew you when. Who know the real arc of your story.

That girl they knew in high school was a bit of an unanchored mess who had a lot to learn about life and love. What all of that should REALLY look like, which, it turns out, has nothing to do with the house you live in or – alas – your hair color.


My oldest daughter and I went for a walk at the end of the week and as we picked our way down a dirt path through the bare trees, I thought about all of those outcomes I’d been so attached to – marrying that guy and having four children and living in a big house. Ask anyone who knew me back then and they could confirm how overwrought I’d been trying to make all of those things to happen.

And I thought about how I didn’t want to get so worked up again about something so beyond my control. The word “attachment” kind of kept going through my brain as we hiked and I saw the late morning sun gleaming on the water through the trees. During the warmer months, that view is blocked by leaves and you forget that the river is right there, beyond the hills of the park. But there it is, all along. We stopped to admire the view for a bit and my daughter took out her phone to take some pictures because, that’s what you do when you’re 21 nowadays.

I started to tell her all about this revelation of mine, and she listened with her usual skepticism. I usually make good on about 10 percent of the things I talk about. I’m full of big ideas. So I told her all about my desire to just go with the flow and not get hooked on any outcome – I practically started singing “Que Sera, Sera” – and then I asked her if that wasn’t, like, the foundation of Buddhism.

“Maybe,” she answered.

“Then I think I’m a Buddhist,” I told her.

“Congratulations,” my girl responded in a tone that seemed less-than-sincere.

And whether I can sustain this new outlook remains to be seen but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to start practicing Buddhism any time soon. I can, however, guarantee that the one outcome I refuse to disavow myself of is the color of my hair. I am permanently attached to being a blonde.

Never fear! Even though I’m moving you can always find me here! Sign up to get all of my latest posts sent right to your inbox by typing your email into the box below. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter. 

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On Knowing When to Say When

tree lighting

Knowing when it’s time to move on doesn’t come as easily to some people as it does to others.

I spent most of Sunday packing up my house in preparation for my move about a half-mile away some time next month. Gone now are the hundreds of books that lined the shelves in my den along with my china and crystal and impressive collection of wooden cats. Now that den is lined with a few dozen cardboard boxes, most with the word FRAGILE scrawled urgently across their tops.

As darkness crept in and stole the late afternoon sun and the box I labeled “Weird Stuff I Like” had been taped and stacked (see: wooden cats), I decided a glass of wine would be in order. It would pair nicely, I thought, with the book I’d started reading the day before. I wanted to savor my last moments of solitude for the week before my sons returned from their dad’s.

I quickly threw on a coat and headed into town to grab a bottle of red to enjoy while reading in front of a fire. As I drove down a side street towards the center of town, I noticed a number of cars parked along the side of the road and a line of traffic waiting to get through the light up ahead. It was weird, all those cars, for any day of the week in our little town, much less a late Sunday afternoon. As I moved closer to the intersection I realized what the problem was and that I was about to drive right into the center of our town’s annual tree lighting.


About 10 different thoughts raced through my mind, not the least of which was, “Do you really need a glass of wine right now?” That was quickly followed by, “Duh.” And finally, as I thought about that small-town tradition my children have been a part of for about 15 years into which I was about to collide, I thought, “Oh.”

If my calculations were accurate, it was the first time in all those years that not one of my four children would be singing holiday tunes with the school chorus at the lighting. I had made note of the date in my calendar at the start of the school year and when I reminded my seventh grader the day before about the lighting, he reminded me I had let him quit chorus in September. Oh, right. I had begrudgingly acquiesced after he promised to continue playing in the band. At this stage of my parenting game I know you really need to pick your battles and band won.

So while I was busy kneeling on an old sisal rug wrapping weird wooden cats in newspaper, Santa –as is his wont — roared into town on the back of a fire truck without us.

And it was kind of sad.

I think about – and heck, write about – that kind of stuff a lot lately. How much things are changing around here with children leaving for college and graduating from college, not to mention middle schoolers up and quitting their school choruses and abruptly ending long-standing traditions.

For years at least one of my kids was in either the elementary or middle school chorus, which performs a selection of holiday tunes at the town’s annual tree lighting early each December. They stand on risers in front of our borough hall before a throng of parents holding iPhones high over their heads to record the performance for posterity (a decade earlier, camcorders captured the moment and probably a decade before that everybody just listened to the kids sing).

There were songs celebrating Kwanzaa and the Festival of Lights (always the liveliest in my opinion) and, of course, some standards to sing along with as well. Sometimes the kids performed moves in unison – a snapping of fingers or maybe a fist shake to some “hohohos” – and a few times jingle bells made an appearance for good measure. When the singing was over the mayor would light the big evergreen nearby, Santa would arrive on a firetruck accompanied by every emergency vehicle in town replete with blaring sirens and flashing lights, and then everyone retreated inside borough hall for some cocoa and a visit with Santa.

It was certainly never perfect. Up until recently the town’s sound system was pretty terrible. Unless you were a few feet away from the performers, you couldn’t tell the difference between a “Jingle Bells” or a “Jingle Bell Rock.” Mostly, the parents in back would start to talk and drown out the singing. Then there was the year the tree didn’t light. Or more precisely, it failed to perform at the count of three. But the delay did create some tension and we were all delighted when the colored lights burst to life some 30 seconds later.

When my oldest three were young I’d put them in cute outfits and fix their hair before bundling them up in matching jackets and hats. We even had a furry red Santa cap the kids took turns wearing. I could never get my fourth child excited about wearing that Santa hat and last year he wore a sweatshirt instead of his nice NorthFace jacket and it wasn’t because it was a balmy evening. I was just thankful he didn’t wear shorts.

On the one hand, it was nice to have a stretch of time to make a dent on the packing up of our home, as it seems I am the only one involved in that process. I listened to music while slowly boxing up 13 years of my life and was secretly happy I didn’t have to drop everything to stand on the grass and make small talk and watch the back of some kid sitting on her dad’s shoulders for a half an hour.

But as I stood at the counter of the liquor store, which sits directly across the street from where the ceremony is held, and watched the families begin to disperse, I felt a pang of sadness. Parents and kids walked down the sidewalks in town towards their cars or made their way home on foot under the now-dark sky and I wished I were out there moving among them. I wished I was walking home with my own children and not standing alone in a liquor store listening to the guys who work there laugh about how fast the fire engine raced through town to get Santa to the ceremony on time.

I smiled at some families that I passed on my way back to my car and realized I did not recognize anyone leaving the tree lighting. There was a time I knew pretty much all the kids in town. I knew who their parents and siblings were and where they lived. But they’ve all moved on, it seemed, and a whole new crop of young families have rolled in to take their place.

And my own children, instead of standing on risers singing about how it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, were ensconced on couches watching football or hundreds of miles away at school. They had the nerve to grow up and move on as well.

Nostalgia is a tricky thing for me. It’s something I need to manage a little better, this knowing when to say when. Instead of letting it trip me up and feel sad that certain chapters in my life have come to an end, I need to be grateful that they happened and – as a bonus—are now even sweeter in the hazy way we edit our memories. Even though it was a pain in the ass getting the kids bundled up and out the door on a Sunday afternoon to the lighting each year and that they were all terrified of Santa and often cried when he arrived, I’ve imbued the annual event with some magical holiday glow.

It’s not a terrible way to go through life.

I went home and opened the bottle of wine and turned the knob on the gas fireplace (something I’ll truly miss when we leave) and watched the flames jump to life. I got cozy on my favorite leather chair in that den, surrounded by stacks of boxes and packing equipment, took a sip of wine, opened my book and moved on.

Never fear! Even though I’m moving you can always find me here! Sign up to get all of my latest posts sent right to your inbox by typing your email into the box below. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter. 

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The Weird Science of Parenting

SWP_TextRemember What to Expect When You’re Expecting? I mean, c’mon. Who am I kidding? Of course you do. If you’re a mommy of a certain age, you knew that book like the back of your still-young hand. Like the recipe you used for your famous seven-layer dip. Like the sound of your own baby’s cry (okay, I knew what my baby sounded like but my lactating breasts usually presumed every cry — like, at the mall — was coming from my hungry baby). Anyway, you get what I mean. That book was the parenting Bible for those of us who gave birth before the Dawn of the Internet. Before you could just go ahead and Google “How to breastfeed” and find a host of videos to aid you in your efforts. Back in the day, we needed to work with diagrams and words to figure shit out.

Books not only taught me how to do things — The Silver Palate taught me how to cook and Martha Stewart taught me to, like, be a crazy housewife — they also helped me gauge just where I was in life. They helped make me feel a little less alone. A little less crazy.

Vicki Iovine’s Girlfriends’ Guides were good for that. She cut through all the “do this” and “do that” of What to Expect and Dr. Spock and was like “Who’d do that?” and “Did you really just do that?” She had chapters like“The Droning Phenomenon”: The inability to discuss anything but your baby for more than thirty seconds (wait, that was bad?) and “Husband? What Husband?”: Taking care of the big baby, as well as the little baby (wait, that was really bad)

My blogger friends Norine and Jessica, the truly evil scientists behind the hilarious Science of Parenthood blog, are about to join the ranks of books that make you shake your head and say “Yes!” with their newly published illustrated book Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations. Their funny cartoons nail the challenges and minutea of parenting and address everything from annoying play dates to poop. Yes, poop. Unlike What to Expect, Science of Parenthood tells it like it is in the parenting trenches and not how it’s supposed to be.

Although my own children are old enough now to be in charge of their pooping, I was reminded of little kids’ pooping preferences recently when I took my sister’s 4yo son to watch my 12yo son play lacrosse. After about 10 minutes of play, the little kid announced he needed to get to a bathroom and poop. Once there, he needed to take off not just his shoes but also his pants to perform the operation. Then, we sat and he asked me a lot of questions until the deed was done. As I cleaned him up and began explaining for like the 10th time why there was a light on the wall of the bathroom, I was reminded of this very astute scientific discovery.

Someone please remind me of this the next time I take my nephew to watch a game.

Poop happens (and usually when you least expect it).


Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks the book is pretty funny as Science of Parenthood  just hit number one on Amazon’s hot new parenting humor releases. Impressive for two self-proclaimed fake scientists.

It’s a super fun gift for the holidays, which you can pick up on Amazon or your local bookstore. All I know is that I can’t wait for them to start experimenting with teenagers. I’d be happy to help come up with some equations for that fun age group.

Go ahead and read a little bit more about Jessica (the artist) and Norine (the writer) in a little Q&A they put together for us below.

What’s Science of Parenthood all about?

Science of Parenthood started nearly three years ago as an illustrated humor blog. We use fake math and science to “explain” the stuff that puzzles parents every day. Things like …

Why are broken cookies “ruined?”

Why does it matter what color the sippy cup is?

Why can’t you put the straw in the juice box without your kid having a melt down?

Why will a kid whine-whine-whine for a toy, then lose all interest in that toy once they have it? 

Where the eff is my phone?  

 We’ve come up with some pretty hilarious theories.

Our book, Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations, is like our blog … but like our blog on STEROIDS! We utilized the blog to road test–perhaps we should say “field test”–material, and now the book contains the kinds of cartoons and writing that fans love to find at Science of Parenthood, along with all new cartoons, infographics, flowcharts pie charts and quizzes that we created just for the book. About 90 percent of the book is brand new material.

Divided into four sections–biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics–the book lives in the chasm that exists between our collective hopes and dreams and expectations of what parenting will be like … and the brutal, slap-you-upside-the-head reality of what parenting actually is. We cover all aspects of pregnancy, birth and the hilarious frustrations that come with early childhood (tantrums, picky eating, diaper blowouts, illness, sleep issues, play dates, toy creep, homework battles and encounters with crazy parents (not you, of course, we mean other parents). And you know what? You don’t even need to be a scientist to “get” it.

Our goal is just to make parents laugh. Because when you’re a parent, you NEED to laugh. Humor is a survival tool. After your tot has gotten the top off a jar of Vaseline and smeared every surface within reach–as happened to our friend Gail–or tried to “help” you paint a room and ended up covered in blue paint–as happened to Norine’s sister Shari–you have to laugh. Or you’ll end up sobbing. Or wearing one of those fancy white jackets that buckles up in the back.

 Is any of the book autobiographical?

Pretty much all of the book reflects through our experiences as parents. Take the piece “Experimental Gastronomy: A Study in Potatoes” from the Chemistry section. It’s written like a scientific paper about an experiment in which a researcher tries to determine if a preschooler who likes French fries will eat mashed potatoes. Raise your hand if you can hypothesize the outcome (see what we did there?) The piece is completely based on Norine’s inability to get her five-year-old, who loves fries, to even taste mashed potatoes. Says Norine: “I tried everything! I even offered him extra chocolate for dessert, and he still refused to take even one tiny nibble.”

 Why science? Are either of you scientists?

Not at all. We’re moms dealing with the same kind of crazy stuff everyone else is. Science just makes a great metaphor for the frustration, exasperation and humiliation that comes with everyday parenting. Think about Einstein and how he explained his theory of relativity: “Sit on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour; sit with a pretty girl with an hour and it feels like a minute. That’s relativity.” Well, that’s parenthood too. One minute you’ve got a newborn covered in goo and then next, you’re watching teary-eyed as they skip into kindergarten without even a backward glance or a kiss goodbye. And yet, when you’re into your third hour of Candy Land on a rainy day, time seems to stand still. (If you haven’t played Candy Land with your toddler yet, trust us on this. The scars never really heal.)

Where did you get the idea for Science of Parenthood?

Our “eureka” moment came when Norine’s son, Fletcher, came home from school talking about one of Newton’s laws of force and motion: An object at rest stays at rest unless acted on by an external force.

Says Norine: “That instantly reminded me of Fletcher with his video games. He’d sit on the couch and play games all day if I didn’t confiscate the iPad. I jotted down, Newton’s First Law of Parenting: A child at rest will remain at rest until you want your iPad back. Later, I posted that on Facebook. It got a good response, so I started posting other parenting observations and giving them a math or science twist, like Sleep Geometry Theorem: A child will always sleep perpendicular to any adult laying next to them. Both of these are fan favorites and two of the very few cartoons we pulled from the blog to include in the book.

“As a writer, I’m always looking for new ways to tell stories. And in that eureka moment, it struck me that math and science make fantastic metaphors for telling the universal stories of parenting. Like scientists, we parents are always fumbling in the dark, searching for answers, wondering if we’re on the right track and second-guessing our methods. And because a picture is still worth a thousand words, I knew that these science-y quips would be a lot more popular on social media if they were illustrated. So I called Jessica and asked if she wanted to illustrate a book of these funny observations.

“Jessica was the one who saw that Science of Parenthood could be much bigger than a single book. She saw the potential for a blog and a social media presence and ancillary products. She quickly secured a domain name for us and created a Facebook page and Twitter feed. She began illustrating the observations I had already banked. Two weeks later, we debuted on Facebook; a week after that we rolled out the blog. Now we’re three years in, and along with Science of Parenthood, the book, we have mugs and magnets and posters featuring our images. Earlier this year we published two collections of humorous parenting tweets—The Big Book of Parenting Tweets and The Bigger Book of Parenting Tweets.  

Where can readers find Science of Parenthood?

You can find the new book on Amazon and in bookstores.

And you can always find Science of Parenthood on Facebook (www.facebook.com/scienceofparenthood), Twitter (www.twitter.com/sciofparenthood), Pinterest (www.pinterest/sciofparenthood) and Instagram (www.Instagram.com/scienceofparenthood).

Here’s a list of tour dates to meet the “scientists” in person: http://scienceofparenthood.com/tour-locations

About The Authors

Norine is the primary writer for Science of Parenthood, the blog, and Science of Parenthood,the book. A longtime freelance magazine writer, Norine’s articles have appeared in just about every women’s magazine you can buy at supermarket checkout as well as on The Huffington Post, Parenting.com, iVillage, Lifescript and Scary Mommy websites. Norine is the co-author of You Know He’s a Keeper…You Know He’s a Loser: Happy Endings and Horror Stories from Real Life Relationships (Perigee), Food Cures (Reader’s Digest) and a contributor to several humor anthologies, including Have Milk, Will Travel: Adventures in Breastfeeding(Demeter Press). She lives with her husband and 9-year-old son in Orlando.

 The daughter of famed New Yorker cartoonist Jack Ziegler, Jessica is Science of Parenthood’s co-creator, illustrator, web designer and contributing writer. In her “off hours,” Jessica is the director of social web design for VestorLogic and the writer/illustrator of StoryTots, a series of customizable children’s books. Her writing and illustration have been published on The Huffington Post, Vegas.com, InThePowderRoom.com and in Las Vegas Life and Las Vegas Weekly. Jessica was named a 2014 Humor Voice of the Year by BlogHer/SheKnows Media. She lives with her husband and 11-year-old son in Denver.

If you would like Norine and Jessica to visit your book group, contact Norine at norine@scienceofparenthood.

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Post-Thanksgiving Thanks

Both of my daughters told me at different times last night, after the Thanksgiving remains had been boxed and bagged on shelves in the frig and every spoon and pot lid had been washed and left to dry, that it had been a better day than they had expected.

“Why was that?” I asked.

“Because you were much calmer than you usually are when we have people over,” said one girl.

“You didn’t act like a freak,” observed the other.

And it’s totally true.

I’d offered to host Thanksgiving for my family this year, willingly and despite the fact that I’m preparing to move in the next month and that I just had the good fortune to return from a trip to Disney World with my 12yo son a few days before. So, I knew what I was getting into and the challenge going into it was how was I going to keep it all in perspective?

Historically, this is how I acted before any event I hosted:

When I was still married, I’d make my husband crazy as I tried to channel Martha Stewart in the linoleum-lined kitchen of our first house, barking orders at him while I baked and broiled and slathered things in tapenades and aioli and actively ignored the needs of any infants or toddlers living under our roof.

Things didn’t really improve after I got divorced as I just transferred all that pre-party rage onto my children. Somehow, at the end of the night after all the guests had gone home, no one ever concurred with my assessment that all the crazy had been worth it. It seemed anyone who’d lived through my entertaining mania would much rather have been locked in solitary confinement or water boarded than forced to withstand my verbal flagellations.

But I am tired of trying to pretend to be perfect and apparently, after reading all the reactions to that zany video I posted on Facebook, I haven’t been the only one trying to make people think that we don’t sit on our sofas or sleep in our beds or generally live in our house. So many women saw themselves in that crazy Gayle character as she raced around her house with a vacuum barking that she wanted to have the place “looking like Disney on Ice in one minute.” We saw how ridiculous we were.

I mean, it was just my family coming to dinner; my mom, a few siblings and their families. Did I really need to impress them with elaborate desserts and centerpieces? Did I really care about finding the perfect sweet potato recipe that would complete their meal?

In the end, I let go of everything. Instead of making every last dish on the table, I delegated much of the cooking. I set the kids’ table up in the den that is now lined with moving boxes filled with the books that used to line the shelves. I ignored the fairly large dust bunny that remained behind the powder room door even after my oldest son vacuumed the entire first floor. And when, just as my brother was preparing to carve the turkey, I discovered I’d forgotten to take the stuffing out of the frig to heat for dinner, I simply threw into the microwave to heat and broiled in the oven to crisp up the top. It wasn’t perfect but it got the job done. Oh, and we didn’t even have sweet potatoes on the menu this year.

As many of you who stop by here know, I super-love the writer Elizabeth Gilbert. I can’t get enough of her thoughts and voice. And I’m reminded this post-Thanksgiving morning of her pronouncement that “done is better than good.” Sometimes we get so snagged by trying to be perfect that we’re prevented from doing anything at all. Or, I’d like to add, we focus on stuffing and dust bunnies and not the stuff that really matters.

Repeat after me.

Repeat after me.


Instead, yesterday I enjoyed sneaking my two nieces some shiny chocolate coins I’d set out in my fanciest china bowls on the kids’ table for them to nibble before dinner. I watched as my four children took turns holding their two-month old cousin and then marveled as my oldest son cradled the baby in his arms and cooed and made faces that brought a big, dimple-cheeked smile to the baby’s face. And when the meal was over and I could not shovel one more forkful of mashed potatoes into my face, I sat and enjoyed chatting with my family instead of jumping up and clearing the dishes from the table.

And when two of my siblings, whose appetites I’d taken into consideration when I ordered my giant bird, failed to show up for the meal without a call or a text, I let that go, too. In the end, I’m sorry they missed such a nice afternoon surrounded by our family.

I asked my friend Dan – you know, that Girl-Whisperer guy – what his favorite part of Thanksgiving was as we worked out the other day and instead of the turkey or a certain pie, he told me he was looking forward to the prayer before the meal he would serve at his house. He’s been through a lot this year, like radiation and chemo and kind of dying, and said he had a lot to be thankful for and was going to write something to share before the meal with his family. He wanted them to know how much they meant to him.

I thought about that prayer a lot, too, while getting ready to host my own Thanksgiving feast. I thought about how lucky I was to have all that I do, like my family and my health and the means to afford a heritage turkey that had been hand-fed golden corn kernels and some gourmet gravy to go along with him.

Now I only hope I bring the same zen approach to my upcoming move because the pile of boxes in my garage make my heart race a little bit every time I walk past them to get to my car. I’ll just need to get that done, too.

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That Time I Was On TV

2015_bmw_m5_frontviewA couple of weeks ago, my girlfriend texted and asked if I was around the next day to help out with a project she had going on at work. She’s the marketing guru at a local BMW dealer where they were filming a TV commercial and needed some extras and, since it’s my lifelong dream to be on television, I immediately agreed to stop by and pretend to purchase a luxury vehicle. I mean, why wouldn’t I?

But honestly, I didn’t take it too seriously. I assumed she was hedging her bets and loading up on extra bodies for the shoot just in case. So thankfully, I opted to shower the next day, but didn’t get too gussied up to go out and about glamorous central New Jersey. I had on a sweater and those jeans you buy that already have holes in them. You know, the kinds that workers are probably snickering over at the factory as they rip. “Stupid Americans,” they say as they tear at the fabric and shake their heads.

Around noon, my friend texted to say they were going to start shooting in about an hour and was I able to come by the dealership. I was already out so told her that would be no problem but was it okay that I was wearing ripped jeans.

“NO!” she responded, and I told her I’d go home and change but wondered why they couldn’t just hide my crappy pants behind a desk or something. I just assumed my role would be that of the blonde lady of a certain age in the background talking to a sales guy in a showroom filled with other people.

So when I walked into the dealership — after a frantic search through my closet for something that A: looked like what I’d imagine a lady-of-a-certain-age would wear if she had the means to buy a BMW and B: fit — I wondered where everybody was.

I found my girlfriend who brought me over to meet the advertising guy running the shoot and it quickly became apparent that my role had been significantly upgraded to that of the 5-Series Owner Bringing Her Vehicle In To Be Serviced And Driving Away In A Loaner Car. In other words, there’d be driving involved, along with getting in and out of cars and pretending to chat with the friendly BMW service boy. And I would not be hiding in the background.

About half way through the filming — which was stressful because fancy cars don’t start up with keys or go into reverse by pulling down on gear shift like my six-year-old GMC — I started to laugh at the craziness of the situation.

“Had I known this was going to happen I’d have gotten my hair done or lost 10 pounds at the very least,” I said to my girlfriend.

But we had fun going through the scene a few times and I got to drive two gorgeous vehicles and pretend I was a fancy lady whose kids had flown the coop. Plus, everyone who works at the dealership was super-friendly leading me to believe that were I really bringing my car in to be serviced, the experience would be as pleasant as we acted out that day.

When it was over, I happened to drive by the crew who had moved out to the front of the dealership and I rolled down the window of my mom-car — which has logged almost 100,000 miles driving up and down the East Coast toting children to look at and live in colleges and has magnets adhered to the back door to prove it — and said to them, “Well, back to reality.”

And that’s what happened. I went back to my normal life of counter wiping and sandwich making and forgot about my moment of stardom. My gal pal across the street – the one who lends me miso for recipes and solves my problems and feeds me wine when I need to escape my people – also went over the car dealership that day and played the part of the Fancy Lady Buying a BMW. She called me when she was finished pretending and we both agreed it was a fun and random thing we just did.

And then while texting another mommy this week, she asked is I was in a commercial. She said she and her husband were watching Monday Night Football and the ad came on and he paused it and asked, “Is that Amy?”

I was horrified.

My costar and I had agreed that we never wanted to see the thing and figured we never would since we don’t really watch TV and certainly not Monday Night Football.

But right on cue, our marketing pal emailed us the link to the commercial yesterday and we squealed as we saw ourselves onscreen and started to howl because, really, we’ve started to look alike the way pets start to look like their owners over time. We spend way too much time together and the result is that we both fancy that same blonde-lady look. We’re hoping someone comes up to us when we’re out together and asks if we’re the BMW Twins. That will make my life.

My kids died when they saw the ad. “I can’t believe my mom’s in a commercial,” said my 12yo son. “It’s so weird.”

My older college girl texted after I sent her the link, “Oh my god you’re actually in a commercial,” and my younger college girl texted, “I CANT EVEN BELIEVE THIS,” followed by, “it is so beyond weird.”

As we texted I mentioned I wished I’d gotten my hair done, to which she said, “yeah i was gunna say, your hair needs some help,” and not for the first time I wished she was home so I could pinch her.

So, that’s my brush with fame. It made me appreciate the trickiness of acting – like I can’t even imagine what it would have been like if I actually had to say something because it was hard enough remembering to put the car into park – and was something I never anticipated, as usual.

And while I wasn’t compensated for my efforts monetarily – I mean, my BMW girlfriend was SUPER appreciative and I did have lots of fun – I’m hoping I at least get a date out of it. It is airing locally on Monday Night Football and if the dealership would just scroll my email in the two seconds I’m on screen, I’d consider the whole thing a success.

It’s way cheaper than Match.com.

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Virtual Reality

IMG_0004As the opening scene of the original “Star Wars” movie unfolded on our TV screen Saturday night – the mammoth underbelly of the Imperial Star Destroyer slowly crawling into view – I turned to my 12yo son and said, “Dude, you don’t even know how amazing this was back in the day.”

That is, I would have liked to have said this to my child but instead, I said it to the mound of throw pillows he’d dug himself under to better fool around with the new iPhone we’d bought for me earlier that day. The kid may not know how to get a dirty pair of corduroys into a laundry basket, but man, he knows everything you need to know about the iPhone 6s. He’d already seen “Star Wars” and given the magical machine in his hands that does things we’d never dreamed we could do 38 years ago, he was pretty unimpressed with tractor beams and light sabers. They were so 1977.

That first “Star Wars” movie – you know, if you’re of a certain age it’s not the fourth “Star Wars,” it’s the original, and it’s really the only one worth watching – came out the summer I turned 11 and I probably saw it in the movie theater at least five times. I loved the action and adventure. The feisty princess (projecting). The bad boy Han Solo (foreshadowing). The comedy. It cemented my love of all-things fantasy and is probably the reason one of my favorite books of all-time is The Mists of Avalon and how I became a dedicated “Game of Thrones” fan.

But aside from all the elements of the story, I was wowed by the movie’s special effects. I mean, after growing up on a steady diet of “Lost in Space” and “The Jetsons” that all of us children of the 70s ingested, this take on a futuristic outer space felt so real. This wasn’t just robots cleaning up after us or screaming, “Danger!” We felt like we were there, speeding through space in our rebel ship to save the universe from evil. We could feel the energy level shift when Darth Vader entered a room or when Luke Skywalker removed his fighter helmet to use The Force and blow up the Death Star. We were right there.


My son was off from school on Friday and as we ate breakfast we watched a segment on “CBS This Morning” (thank God Charlie Rose has not succumbed to hashtags and what’s trending) about students using these cool cardboard viewers from Google that brought lessons to life. In the piece, we saw that the kids were learning about the ocean reef and my son and I agreed those magical viewers would be awesome to use in school.

And then one arrived in our driveway the next morning.

As part of its new foray into virtual reality, The New York Times sent its Sunday paper subscribers their very own Google Cardboard headsets to view movies that were created based on content in the paper. You download an app to your smart phone and can become immersed in the story when you look inside.

My 12yo son quickly put the thing together, downloaded the app, velcroed his iPhone inside the box and became engrossed in the little box of cardboard with his headphones plugged into his ears.

I watched him turn his head from side to side and then, with the viewer pressed close to his face, look down towards the ground and wave his hand in front of the viewer. Even he couldn’t believe what was happening. When he was finished, he reported he watched a movie about a French artist in New York City and another about refugee children and described a bit of each movie and encouraged me to watch for myself.

But I wasn’t super gung ho at first. I’d heard, of course, of virtual reality. I’ve seen people on TV wearing headsets to play video games and aren’t there whole movies based on the concept (hello, “The Matrix” series?). I was just kind of skeptical that it wouldn’t live up to the hype. You know, like, the reality part. Plus, I wanted to eat lunch.

And then I put the cardboard box up to my face and my son pressed play.

It. Blew. My. Mind.

I finished watching the first movie – it’s about 10 minutes long – which immerses you in the back story of a recent NYTimes Magazine cover photo. You look up and see the city’s skyscrapers and down to see the city’s sidewalks and all around people are walking or standing and things are happening. And I don’t want to spoil the end but if you are afraid of heights, do not look down.

I pulled the viewer away from my face and said to my two sons standing in the kitchen, “This is a crazy, crazy world.”

I mean, who would have thought? This was probably what it felt like when our grandparents watched a man walk on the moon on their televisions.

While that short movie showed off the tricks of virtual reality, the film that supplemented this Sunday’s magazine cover story, “The Displaced,” turns a spotlight on the plight of the 30 million children around the world driven from their homes and proves why virtual reality is such a compelling new medium for storytelling.

The movie focuses on three children who have been displaced by upheaval in different regions of the world. Twelve-year-old Hana is a Syrian refugee whose days begin at 4:00 a.m. to go pick cucumbers with her family in Lebanon.  We get into the truck with her under the still-dark sky to drive to the field and watch her haul crates of vegetables atop her small shoulders. “In Syria we had lots of toys and things to do,” she says in a voiceover as we watch her and a bunch of other children drive home at the end of the day in the back of a pickup truck. “Now we just have each other.”

Oleg is 11 and lives in the rubble of his Ukranian village that had been decimated when fighting broke out in April 2014. You see him and his buddies picking their way through the debris of a schoolroom as he says that they used to joke about how great it would be if their school was bombed. “I’d never say that now,” he says.

Finally, there’s 9-year-old Choul whose family escaped fighting in his village in South Sudan and is now living in the legit swamp. We go for a virtual ride in the back of his crudely-made canoe as he paddles through the reeds and listen as he says he’s heard that although a death by crocodile — which they’ve spied — would be slow, it would be better than being killed by the fighters.

But the most profound moment for me was a scene that I found myself standing in the middle of a Sudanese field with dozens of refugees — mostly women and children — as sacks of rice were dropped from a plane flying high overhead and watched as the refugees rushed in to claim the heavy bags, hoisting  them over their heads and shoulders. I could only thank God or The Universe or my Lucky Fucking Stars or whatever it was that blessed me so that I did not have to run through a field to claim my food. That there by the grace of God I had been saved from that life.

Because this – along with bombed-out schoolrooms and little girls who are sleeping in tents and waking in the middle of the night to pick cucumbers all day, is a reality for 60 million people, half of them children. And I am so, so very lucky that for me, that reality was virtual. I am so grateful for all that I have been blessed. But I am also grateful – to Google and The New York Times – for letting me experience what that reality was like more powerfully than I ever could have imagined through just words and pictures (and I really love words and pictures).

Being immersed in these three children’s lives – however briefly – was a reminder of our humanity. How, despite where we live and what we worship and the color of our skin – we are all the same. We are parents and children, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, friends, human beings. We are people of the world and it seems to me that what really separates us is dumb luck. It’s just luck that I was born to parents of means in the United States rather than in war-torn Syria, the Ukraine or Sudan.

It is through some stroke of luck my 12yo sleeps at night in peaceful New Jersey on a bottom bunk under a starry comforter surrounded by Pokemon stickers. That he gets up each day and eats a pork roll and egg sandwich before school. That his greatest fear is the zombies he’s seen on TV and being wrestled by his older brother. And he carries a magical machine in his pocket that gives him access to things I would not have thought were possible when I was 12.

And that this is our reality, I am eternally grateful.

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