Birthdays Can Be Hard When You’re Single

I turned 52 in the back of an Uber last month, crammed alongside my three adult kids on our way home from sweating on a crowded dance floor as we sang and danced to one of my favorite bands late into a Sunday night.

We jumped up and down to the opening chords of Tom Petty’s “American Girl,” shouting the OH YEAHs and ALL RIGHTs while pumping our hands in the air. Later, I saw that my oldest son had posted a video of me on Instagram, dramatically singing every word to “Born to Run,” my 24yo daughter looking on with a big smile, as I pressed my hand to my heart and swore to die with Wendy on the street tonight in an everlasting kiss.


I like to elbow my way up to the front of the dance floor, especially after a few vodka clubs, so I dragged the kids with me so we could watch the band up close. Later, we agreed we were slightly deaf from being so close to the stacks of speakers and wailing saxophone player.

I’m not sure what we talked about after we tumbled into the Uber car to go home. Initially, my older daughter was pissed because the rest of us were kinda wandering around deaf and tipsy outside the bar and having a hard time following directions. Eventually, she herded us into the car she had called and at some point during the half hour journey home, the clock struck midnight and the kids started wishing me a happy birthday.

And even though I really love my birthday, I mostly remember feeling relieved that I’d done the obligatory celebration and that it was almost over.

Here’s the thing about birthdays and holidays when you are single: they are hard.

I mean, maybe they’re hard for folks in relationships, too, but for some reason, I don’t remember it that way. Of course, holidays were always stressful, regardless of my relationship status. Every November I’d be sitting on my therapist’s couch complaining about how some of my family members would show up empty-handed to Thanksgiving or sometimes, just not show up at all.

But back when I was married, I mostly remember my husband doing all of the heavy lifting around my birthday. He was always good for getting tickets for us to see a show I wanted to see, or planning a gathering with friends. He loved a reason to celebrate.

Normal people probably don’t need a big commotion around their birthdays, but sadly, the Leo in me demands attention. She will settle for nothing less than a day in the spotlight filled with people celebrating her. 

Another driving force behind my birthday planning mania is that there’s also something super-depressing about having nothing to do on your birthday, especially in the age of social media. Your birthday needs to be all Insta-worthy to complement all those Facebook birthday messages (of which I’m always hoping to break 100 hbds).

Now that I’m divorced, the burden to plan and execute the kind of birthday extravaganza I need has fallen upon me. I now need to be a shameless birthday huckster and convince people to go along with it. And mostly, it’s been working.

The worst was turning 50.

While other people’s husbands I knew were organizing big parties or taking them away to Hawaii or Italy to celebrate the half-century mark, I was wondering just who I could convince to go to the movies with me, or maybe out to dinner. To make things worse, my 50th birthday fell on a Saturday, which added to the pressure to come up with something worthy of an entire weekend. It felt like I needed two-days’ worth of activities to live up to the hype.

But the problem with weekends, as any single person can tell you, is that your married friends are doing things with their husbands-slash-families. It’s hard for mothers and wives to get away on a Friday or Saturday night. When you are uncoupled, you’re more of a Monday-through-Thursday playmate.

Which left my four children to pick up their mother’s birthday mantel.

I ended up buying tickets for us to go see a matinée of the play “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” which was playing at the time on Broadway. Most of us had listened to the audiobook on our way down to my older daughter’s college graduation in Virginia a few months earlier, and we ended up talking about it all weekend — joking about the characters and trying to speak with British accents. It got to the point that we began to annoy anyone who hadn’t been in my car and listened to the book.

So I returned to New York, the city of my birth — 50 years later and this time, by bus — and my children complained about the melting heat as we walked along 41st Street and cursed my parents for having me in August (“What were they thinking?” the children moaned). But other than the excruciating weather, we had a lovely day out. The kids took me to brunch where we were served pitchers of mimosas and ate chicken paillard and the play reminded us why we had liked the book so much on that long drive in the spring.

Then it was my BF’s turn to share my 50th birthday burden, and she hosted a little gathering later that night with some of my favorite ladies where I received an alarming amount of wine and appreciated their group effort to make me feel loved and give me the attention I needed.

Another year quickly flew past, and I found myself still single and needing to come up with a plan for turning 51. Since the recipe the year before had worked so well, I decided to get us tickets to see another show and started stalking the Internet for cheap tickets to see “Dear Evan Hansen,” of which there are none. Finally, after a lot of agonizing and rationalizing — not to mention needing to see Ben Platt sing “Waving Through a Window” IRL — I broke down and bought the tickets for a matinée on my Sunday birthday that I’d had in a shopping cart for a week.

The next day, my oldest son found me in the kitchen and announced that he’d heard Ben Platt wasn’t going to be in the performance we were going to, and I went upstairs to my bedroom and cried. 

Eventually, my older daughter came up and sat on my bed and assured me that we were still going to have a great day together. That was all that mattered, she told me. I heard the logic in her reasoning and eventually dried my tears and went downstairs with lowered expectations, to match my new credit score.

We took the bus back into the city on my birthday and returned to the same restaurant we’d gone to the year before, and drank more mimosas and I had that delicious chicken again. I am a strong proponent of sticking with a formula that works.

And of course, I don’t need to tell you how phenomenal the show was, despite Ben Platt’s absence. I had a feeling the story would resonate for us, but didn’t realize how much until I heard my daughters crying on either side of me. Then, towards the end of the musical, my older daughter grabbed my hand when Evan Hansen’s mom sings:

“Your mom isn’t going anywhere

Your mom is staying right here

No matter what

I’ll be here”

Seriously. Who wouldn’t have paid money for that? Then later, after we returned home, my 15yo son came downstairs and announced he already knew every word to every song, and sometimes when we’re driving around, he’ll put one of them on and we’ll sing along. Ka-ching.

Then, and I swear the years are coming at me on an accelerated cycle where 365 days have been compressed into maybe 300, yet another birthday approached.

The nice thing now is that my kids just assumed we were doing something to celebrate 52 together. “What are we doing this year?” they started to ask in, like, June.

Since my credit cards cannot handle five tickets to see a Broadway show, I needed to think cheap. For the last few summers, I’ve headed south with a group of women I like to call my Little Mommies to a Jersey Shore summer staple, the Parker House, to dance on a Sunday night. It’s a a big white house two blocks from the ocean with a wraparound porch where you can sit and eat and a bar inside that’s pretty clubby on a Friday night in July and where anyone over 30 would look really out-of-place. But on Sundays, they have bands down in the basement tavern that play lots of Bruce and Tom Petty and the likes and it’s a blast being down there with a big posse pushing your way up front to dance the night away. It’s pretty joyful.

As my birthday fell on a Monday this year, getting a group together to head to the Parker House seemed like a good way to celebrate my birthday, and then I wouldn’t care what I ended up doing on the actual day of my birth. It also helped that three of my four kids are now 21 and that my baby was not the kind to feel left out.

I put an invitation out in text and email to all my groups of friends but, as it was August, folks were away or busy entertaining out-of-towners. In the end, two (Gold Star) Little Moms hauled themselves down to show their love and dance — and it was perfect. We met up with two of my sisters and a brother-in-law and later, my baby girl, who’d been making beds as an intern at the Hotel Hershey all summer, arrived after her shift to join the fun.

We tumbled out into the warm August night and my inner Leo was satisfied with the celebration.

Lately, my dad has taken to telling me that he is impressed with the relationship I have built with my kids (he’s also always telling me that I don’t want to die alone, which is his way of saying, “Start dating, already.”). He admires how the kids and I still go on vacations together and that they show up to celebrate my birthday. “You have a family,” he says, and it resonates since I struggle with my family of origin. Even though my divorce shattered the fantasy I clung to of creating some perfect family, I think I might have ended up with what I really needed instead.

Jennifer My Therapist often reminds me of this phenomenon. She’s impressed that my adult children actually want to pay to go on vacation with me. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a whole lot of dysfunction swirling around us — you should have seen the argument the kids had in Florence this spring that erupted over a pizza drizzled in pesto that should have been the real reason for tears, it was that good. One child stormed out of the tiny pizza place — where one little Italian man kept shoveling slices in and out of a giant oven, taking orders from a long line of customers — and I went out to reason with that kid and came back inside to talk to another kid, when all I really wanted to do was sit there with my glass or red wine and enjoy the magical pesto pizza I’d dreamt of eating for months.

But to our credit, I really think we’re all trying to figure it out. I think we all feel deep down that it’s worth trying to work through it all. When we are able to see past each other’s masks — through the hurt feelings and miscommunication — to see the person struggling inside. I think that’s what keeps us together. Pesto helps.

Prior to heading out to dance on my birthday eve, my two older kids and I had a drink, and my oldest son took a sip of the margarita I had made and asked if he could give me his birthday card.

“Well, my birthday’s not until tomorrow,” I told him. “Why don’t you wait?”

“I can’t,” he said, handing me the grey envelope. He’s the kind of person who gets a bee in his bonnet and just can’t shake it. The card itself was pretty funny, with a cartoon of a little yellow duckling on the front asking its mom if she remembered all the times he had said mean things and did things she told him not to do. “Thanks for letting me live,” the little duck says at the end, and my son thanked me for letting him “live 25 years on this Earth,” in his note below.

“I love you more than you know,” he wrote, and although there have been times when I’ve really wanted to throttle my oldest kid, I know that deep inside he’s a mush. He’s like my very own M&M, sweet and gooey deep down, once you get beyond the hard outer shell.

Tucked inside the card were two pieces of paper folded together, and when I opened them up, saw that they were two tickets he’d purchased for a performance next month of the show “Mean Girls” on Broadway. 

This. Was. Unexpected.

“I got you two tickets, but I was hoping that you’d bring me,” he said, and I told him that sounded like a perfect date. My daughter joked that she should have given me her gift first, and we finished our cocktails and called an Uber to go out and dance.

Happy birthday to me.

It turns out, my inner Leo is hungry all-year-long! Please consider feeding her by signing up for my highly-erratic newsletter, which sends my latest post right to your inbox (who needs Facebook?). 


Waving Through a Window

This summer, there have been times that it’s felt like the whole universe has been conspiring to get me back here, to my dusty old blog. There have been some moments it’s felt as if the Blog Gods have grabbed me by the shoulders and given me a good shake before asking, “Amy, wtf are you doing?”

The truth is that I’ve felt stymied for a while–creatively, professionally, economically. I’ve reasoned that I should find places that pay money for my writing instead of giving it away for free here. But then I lack the motivation and chutzpah to pitch any of my work. I compare myself with other writers I read and admire and think that my writing could never measure up to what they produce so–it seems–effortlessly. If you looked at my Documents folder, you’d see dozens of unfinished essays, which is def a metaphor for my modus operandi.

Then there are all the other voices in my head. All of those mouthy bastards. Some of the internal monologues come through distinctly in my voice — the snipes of self-loathing and indecision — but there are other voices festering in there as well. Family members from whom I’m estranged. People I used to be married to. The mother of my good friend. A writing mentor.

I hear those voices and I cringe any time I read something that I’ve written. It’s like, “What am I thinking? Who cares? Will they care?”

Sometimes, all those voices seem to be standing in the way of me telling my story, which is all it really is, my take on things that happen in an ordinary life. But really, I’m starting to think it’s just me unable to get out of my own head.

Recently, I’ve gone back and read some of the things I’ve posted here over the last 5 years and am sometimes shocked that I went as far as I did in some pieces. That I shared as much as I did. But at the time, I had zero issues with occasional oversharing. It felt kind of cathartic.

I’d like to get back to that.

It’s what connected me to every person who’s read something of mine and said, “Me, too.” Not in a #metoo, Harvey Weinstein/Matt Lauer, kinda way, but more in the, “Totally,” vein. As in, “I totally get it.”

The kids and I got to go see “Dear Evan Hansen” last summer, which is something I highly suggest you refinance your house to do. It’s epic. Anyway, there’s a song the main character sings in the beginning, called “Waving Through a Window,” and it’s about how all any of us wants is to be seen. To be heard. To be loved. It’s what connects us all at our core. You can watch him perform it here to get a sense of just how moving the song can be (here I pause to watch for the 100th time).

When I first thought about writing personal essays, or maybe a bigger memoir, I felt hampered by the fact that my story was just so ordinary. My divorce, in the scheme of things, was pretty run-of-the-mill. I mean, we had some exciting moments, don’t get me wrong. But it wasn’t like my ex had a second family stashed somewhere in New Jersey or had gambled all our money away. We just didn’t get what we needed from each other, and no amount of couples therapy or red wine was ever going to fix that fact.

(Teachable moment: Kids, don’t get married when you’re 24.)

I remember saying this to a college friend early on in my separation, how my story was a dime-a-dozen. We were sitting around after dinner in her Brooklyn Heights apartment with friends, sipping grappa, which I was about to find out was not only very strong but could lead to blackouts. I told her what was holding me back and she shook her head and told me that my thinking was all wrong.

“People read to feel connected,” she told me. “They want to know that they’re not alone.”

Of course, it would be another few years before I put that logic to the test here on my blog, when I quickly found that both men and women, folks my age and way younger and older — some with kids and some without — would tell me they could see pieces of themselves in my stories. Snapshots from their own lives.

I was sitting around a long picnic table having dinner with friends this summer in Montauk, all the way out at the very end of Long Island, where glass box beach houses sit atop a bluff overlooking the Atlantic and there are long stretches of beach with more rocks than people, when one of the women in our group starting talking about my blog.

“You were so fucking brave,” she said of the things I wrote, and I felt kind of proud because this woman was no shrinking violet. I also noticed she’d been speaking in the past-tense.

Earlier in the summer, I met some women at a local bar that sits along the Shrewsbury River and offers a front row to a spectacular sunset most nights. It’s all pinks and purples stretched across the sky and slowly dipping into the water.

We stood in a circle with our drinks in clear plastic cups and someone that I knew introduced me to the gal she had come with. “I don’t want to come off as crazy,” this new girl quickly said, “but I love your blog. I even wrote you fan mail a few years ago.”

And this woman in neither divorced nor as old as I am. Just another human struggling on this planet to make sense of things.

Finally, just last night, I was at a mixer for my baby’s high school football team at a local bar where we stood outside on a deck and clung to our icy vodka drinks to help us not melt in the oppressive New Jersey heat. I ran into a gal I went to high school, with whose son is now in high school playing football, and she always has something nice to say about whatever crazy thing I’ve written here over the years.

“I’m not getting your posts any more,” she immediately told me. “Do I need to sign up again?”

I told her that no, I’d just been lame lately, and she said she missed reading my stuff.

“You’re in luck,” I told her, “because I am posting something tomorrow.”

You know how Oprah is all, “Pay attention to the whispers of the universe”? That eventually, the universe will start shouting at you if you don’t?

I’m pretty sure that’s what these most recent incidents were. The universe shaking me by the shoulders and telling me to write. Anything. Just write.

So, that’s what I’m going to do.

Are you waving through a window, too? I totally see you. Sign up to get my posts right in your inbox in the erratic fashion I’ve accepted, after 52 years, is just the way I operate. We can wave to each other (I’ll try to remember to comb my hair and put on a bra).

Friday Faves: Bra-llelujah People!

Just a heads up: things are getting less-than-sexy around here.

When I was younger woman — with younger feet — I’d listen to my mom going on about the importance of comfortable footwear, showing me the latest pair of Sketchers or New Balance sneakers she’d just order online, and I’d be teetering around in high heels and think, “Sucks to be her.”

Well, obviously you know where this is headed, as I’ve already admitted here to wearing on the reg boots that resemble the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter and getting shots in my feet  so I can, like, wear Birkenstoks.

Now it seems that same sensibility has traveled northward on my body and is affecting my choice of brassieres of late.

During my final days at Athleta, a period we refer to around here as The Big Legging Grab — when I was buying things left and right from that place on the pretense that, without my 50-percent discount, I would never be able to shop there again — I stocked up on a sports bra that had become my undergarment of choice due to the extreme level of comfort it provided. It had just the right amount of compression to hold everything in, but didn’t dig into my torso — that area right under your boobs, that really should have a name — like my regular Double D Wacoal underwires.

Okay, let’s pause and discuss the importance of a good bra, especially when you’re old and stacked, like me.

After 50, my priority shifted from wearing something cute — I mean, as “cute” as a Double D can be — to wearing something comfortable. I realized early on that this particular Athleta sports bra was doing absolutely nothing for my physique, but decided to overlook that compressed, uni-boob look in favor of how comfy the thing was. Like practically wearing nothing but, honestly, I find wearing nothing both uncomfortable and slightly unwieldy.

Ladies, you get it.

And then there’s that whole phenomenon of what happens to your body after you hit the half-century mark. It’s like you’re one of those candles stuck into a bottle of Chianti at an Italian restaurant and are beginning to melt. Like someone lit the wick at the top of your head and everything has started to drip.

But recently, I went to buy a pair of jeans and the saleslady was my age and of course, the conversation eventually drifted to our shifting bodies and boobs in general, and she pulled the bra strap out from under her t-shirt to rave about her Spanx bra.

“Spanx makes a bra?” I wondered aloud, and she said it was great under everything — t-shirts and sweaters — and that she wore it every day.

Gentlemen, you have no idea how hard it is to find a bra that works under a t-shirt, where after 15 minutes of wear, your boobs don’t start spilling out of the top or that’s not digging a trench into your back and creating a big ripple under the fabric.

I got a total bee in my bonnet for this bra and, needing to see it in person, drove 45 minutes to the closest Spanx store to me here in New Jersey to give it a test drive.

I bought two, a black and a nude, and they’re all that I wear, alternating accordingly.

It turns out, the style I bought is dubbed the Bra-llelujah and you will be yelling the same thing once slip it on. It’s not Spanx-y, tight compression. It’s not like the “medical” undergarment that Tina Fey talks about here.

It’s just nice and smooth, and the front closure provides smooth, full coverage and the wide straps don’t dig into your shoulders but they also stay put. But most magical is the extra-wide band in the back that somehow smooths out that whole situation so you avoid wincing when you give your rear view the once over.

The Bra-llelujah comes in a padded and unlined version, and I opted for the latter as all that extra padding just adds to an already generous bust and, frankly, just makes me look dumpy. I like the minimizer effect and unlike the sports bra, my front view has a little more definition.

Depending on your cup size, there are a variety of styles to choose from and I have my eye on a lacy number I’d like to add to the bra stable at some point. In the meantime, although the bra doesn’t resemble anything I can remember from Harry Potter, its magical properties — able to obliviate and levitate the bustiest of busts — is as impressive as a hat that can sort.

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Friday Fave: Too Much TV

There’s a weird amount of amazing things on TV right now. Like, I don’t even know how I get anything done.

With the weekend upon us, I wanted to share the shows I’ve killed lately, in hopes that you, too, would share what you’ve been loving.

  • Better Things: Two seasons on FX. Comedy. Louis CK had something to do with it but please disregard because then you will miss falling in love with Pamela Adlon, who created and wrote. She plays a single mom to three girls and my daughters and I LOVED it. Like, obsessed, especially with the Season 2 finale.
  • Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: One season on Amazon. Eight episodes about an hour each. Late 1950s NYC comedy scene and the young, Jewish housewife who’s trying to break in. Written by Gilmore Girl creator Amy Sherman-Palladino who cast the amazing Tony Shaloub as the dad. Really wonderful and, as is her wont, dialogue galore courtesy of Palladino.
  • Somebody Feed Phil: Six, one-hour episodes on Netflix. He’s the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond but my girls don’t know what that is. They just think the nerdy Jewish dude who travels and eats his way through six different locations is hilarious. We binged it last weekend. Now, I totally need to go to Thailand and Lisbon (he also goes to Israel, Vietnam, New Orleans and Mexico City). Fun.
  • Poldark: Three frothy seasons on PBS. I mean, what’s more fun than a period Masterpiece Theater piece with a cute guy galloping around the Cornish seaside? The main guy’s from The Hobbit and any time he appeared sans shirt, my daughter and I would yell, “Hunky Hobbit”! I mean, we thought we were funny.
  • The Crown: Two seasons on Netflix. Like, duh. Everyone loves it. This season, we get to see what a PIA Phillip was back in the day. Big Daddy doesn’t like to be anyone’s subject. Especially his wife’s.
  • Victoria: Two seasons on Masterpiece Theater. Speaking of which, turns out good old Albert didn’t much like taking a back seat to his queen, either. Just started back up on PBS last weekend so there’s plenty of time to catch up. Plus, you can help me bring Victoria’s hairstyle back. I used to call it my “Jane Eyre” look, but now it’s “The Vicky” or “Queen.” Now, all I need is a crown.

Okay, not quite sure what I should start watching next. Please, by all means, give me some suggestions!!

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Your First Colonoscopy: What to Expect


This fall, after undue pressure — nay, bullying — from a friend, I scheduled my first colonoscopy. I’d recently turned 51, which is apparently the age when we up the magnification on the readers we buy, stop wearing high heels and schedule things like colonoscopies.

The first available appointment wasn’t until January, which I felt would give me enough time to warm up to the whole thing. I’m going to be blunt: I do not like the idea of anything going near my hiney. Capice? But I’m heading to Mexico at the end of the month and so looked at it as one big post-holiday cleanse. A method, if you will, of purging my tummy of all the cheese and bread I ate throughout December.

But what I’ve come to learn, much like worrying about bringing your fourth baby home only to learn the baby is the least of your problems, the actual colonoscopy is no big deal.

In the days leading up to the event last week, I was frantically searching the Internet for information about the prep, which I had no idea was such a big thing. I thought you just drank some poison the night before the procedure, evacuated your colon, and that was that.

What I was looking for was like a “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Your First Colonoscopy” or a “Girlfriend’s Guide to Cleaning Out Your Colon.” How-to books are what got me through pregnancies, breastfeeding and teaching myself how to cook and garden. I don’t know where I’d be without Dr. Spock, Martha Stewart and the Silver Palate ladies.

I guess I like to be told what to do.

So I decided to write one myself. Okay you guys, here’s what to expect for your first Big C:

  1. THIS IS A TWO-DAY EVENT: I had no idea that the poison-drinking started a full day before your procedure. Originally, my colonoscopy was scheduled for the morning after I was going to see one of my favorite writers, Kelly Corrigan, give a reading at my local book store. I figured I’d go to the event and then come home and clean out my colon. Sound thinking. But, like, a week before I decided to actually read the big packet of paperwork the doctor’s office had sent months earlier and learned that I was supposed to drink the first of two bottles of poison the afternoon before the procedure. “Maybe,” I thought, “that just alerted your colon that a big reckoning was coming later that night.” So I called the doctor’s office to ask and the receptionist started to laugh. “Honey,” she said, “you are not leaving your house once you drink that.” Who knew? So I decided to choose Kelly Corrigan over my colorectal health and rescheduled for the spring. But then through some scheduling magic, the office called back and offered me a spot the day before Kelly’s appearance and I hope she could sense the squeaky-clean colon vibe I was giving off in the audience as she read.
  2. YOU NEED TO ELIMINATE THINGS FROM YOUR DIET A FEW DAYS BEFORE: Really, you’re encouraged to eat like a 14yo boy for the few days leading up to the Big C. Carbs and sugar are dandy but you’re supposed to lay off stuff like seeds, nuts and raw broccoli. I’m down with that kind of prepubescent eating, even though in my every day life I’ve started ingesting way more quinoa and kale than hot dogs and Doritos. Like a good rule follower, the kids and I went to Bobby’s Burger Palace the day before The Purge and I not only enjoyed French Fries and onion rings but topped it all off with a Nutella Banana shake for good measure.
  3. CONSIDER A PRE-CLEANSE: Okay, eating that giant meal the night before The Poisoning was stupid so I decided to pre-treat my colon and took some Ducolax before bed (the Internet, and my doctor, says that’s okay). Good call because it started moving things along before the freight train came through later that day.
  4. YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO EAT FOR A WHOLE DAY: This was way worse than the colon cleanse. I am terrible at denying myself anything, much less food for an entire day. I drank a ton of water and sipped some bone broth I’d bought, but by dinnertime I was lying in my bed delirious. I kept thinking about how a friend confided that she’d cheated a little on her prep day and ate a pancake. And her sister had eaten a bagel. I furiously scoured the Internet for data supporting this idea and naturally, found a study claiming it was better to eat a little something. “Say no more,” I thought, and went downstairs and made two pieces of sourdough toast with butter that I savored like it was a 5-star meal. I knew my colon was clear after the first go-round of poisoning and felt confident the second round at 12:30am would push out the toast and apparently, it did.
  5. BUY SOME HARD CANDY: I’m not gonna lie to you — that poison tastes horrible, but not the way I’d imagined. I thought it was going to be thick and brown and taste like some allegedly healthy concoction I’d bought at the health food store a while back to help fight off a cold. Now that tasted like legit ass. But the colon prep I drank (and ps, every doctor seems to have a different way/formula to do things) was clear and super sweet but then also insanely salty. My advice: drink it a little chilled as fast as you can and then have something tasty to suck on after to get rid of that flavor from your mouth. I gagged like crazy when I drank the poison at room temp at midnight. Also, I’ll never eat Wurther’s again.
  6. FIND SOMETHING TO TAKE YOUR MIND OFF OF YOUR SITUATION: After I drank the first round of poison I pretty much took to my bed for the rest of the day (when I wasn’t in the bathroom) and watched TV. In fact, I binged the entire second season of Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None,” which I highly recommend, except if you’re prepping for a colonoscopy. It turns out, the lead character is a big foodie and travels to Italy in the first two episodes to learn to make pasta. It was torture and probably what lead to the eating of the toast five hours later. 
  7. FORGET MULTITASKING: After I drank the first bottle, I decided I’d start up some laundry and pretty much got one sock in the washing machine before I had to turn around and run to the bathroom. Later, I went back and put another sock in and then had to race back to the john. Pretty much, it took a really long time to get that load going. Plan on spending at least an hour post-poison near a toilet and have some reading material or an iPad on hand and obviously, since you’re old like me, glasses to see anything you’re trying to look at.
  8. FORGET SLEEP: My poisonings were slated for 12:30pm on Monday and 12:30am before my 8am Tuesday procedure. I dozed a little before the second dose and then was up until about 2am, when things started to calm down. I came home after the colonoscopy and passed out for a while.
  10. THERE WILL BE GAS: Apparently, you get pumped with air to allow the doctor to check out your colon but all that air needs to go somewhere. I had asked the doctor prior to the procedure if she’d make sure to try to get it out of me (which I’d read about on the Internet) and although she said later that she did, I experienced a lot of gas pain throughout the entire day. Lying on my stomach helped but Tums and a bowl of plain yogurt and banana did not. I felt fine the next day
  11. THINGS I WISH I COULD FORGET: By the time the day of The Big C arrives, you are anxious to get it over with and happily don your thin gown with the opening in the back and present your arm for the IV if it means you’re that much closer to eating. It was over an hour before they finally wheeled me back to the room where the anesthesiologist strapped the oxygen over my ears and up my nose. While we chatted, the nurse asked me to roll onto my left side, which was unfortunate because up until then, I thought I’d be blissfully unaware of the reality of what was about to happen; but then she began tucking a pad under my hiney (which had become exposed when the gown fell away after I rolled over). But the indignity is quick because before you know it, you’re konked out. I remember the doc injecting something into my IV and I immediately felt a weird taste in my throat. I said something about it and then the next think I knew, I was coming out of the sedation haze and talking about fresh pasta in the recovery room.
  12. YOU DON’T LOSE THAT MUCH WEIGHT: At least I didn’t. Maybe two pounds for all that suffering. That Nutella shake probably didn’t help matters. I still have a lot of denying of myself to do to feel good about putting on a bathing suit in like three weeks.

In the end, I am glad I did it. The doctor found two little polyps that she removed for biopsy but felt confident they were benign.

While I joke that I did it to lose weight for a trip, the truth is that I learned recently how a colonoscopy can save lives. This fall, the husband of my good college pal — the guy she dated way back when, who played football and remained the perfect specimen of health all these years later — was diagnosed with rectal cancer following a colonoscopy. He’s going through treatment now, which sucks, but imagine if the mass had remained undetected? Honestly, if that dude can get cancer, we all better get ourselves checked.

So if you’re old and over 50 like me, schedule your colonoscopy today. Peace of mind — not to mention your colorectal health — is worth suffering through a couple of bottles of poison and a day with (practically) no eating.

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Embracing the Last Teenager in My House

It’s just me and my 15yo son left living at home and I find we make quite the odd couple. He wrinkles his nose at the quinoa I keep trying to make us for dinner and I am mystified by the noise he calls music that thumps from his bedroom.

Like, is Lil Uzi going to seem like the Beatles to us some day? And if so, I don’t want to know what’s coming down the pipe for my grandchildren.

But my son and I have found that watching movies together is where we can meet in the middle (luckily, I have cinematic tastes akin to a teenaged boy).

You can read about it here on Grown and Flown.

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Friday Faves: Audio Edition

This fall, I’ve spent a lot of time wandering around the woods with my dog and listening to a variety of audiobooks and podcasts wearing my groovy new over-the-ear headphones. I have either really big or really small, like, ear openings because I could never get earbuds to stay in my ears. It would be so annoying to be marching around, anticipating one to pop out of my ear at any moment. It kind of detracted from the whole listening experience.

So the new headphones have opened up a whole new audio world for me and I can’t recommend them enough (NOTE: I’m no sound expert — I don’t know my bass from my treble — but these seem perfectly fine for the price).

What have I been listening to? I’ll tell you:

  • My kids are SO tired of hearing me talk about this, but the audio version of George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo was BEYOND amazing. Like listening to an opera or something really epic. It’s based on the true story of Lincoln going in the middle of the night to the cemetery to hold the body of his 11yo son, Willie, one more time. The bardo is that place in Buddhist tradition between death and heaven and hell and the cemetery is filled with a bunch of ghosts stuck there and voiced by tons of amazing people urging Willie to move on. Parks and Rec’s Nick Offerman and the writer David Sedaris voice two of the main ghosts and Meghan Mulalley is perfect as a cussin’ crazy lady. The story is interwoven with letters and other pieces that document the era plus there’s some old-timey Civil War music for good measure.
  • I found myself crying — yes, crying — walking behind my dog listening to Brene Brown tell me, “Not belonging in our families is still one of the most dangerous hurts. That’s because it has the power to break our heart, our spirit and our sense of self worth.” Yikes.
  • Do you know Jen Sincero? She’s a frigging badass and encourages you to be one, too. She also wants you to make hella money.
  • If you are insane and good at following through at things, like my BF, you can try listening to all 35 hours of this, like she just did. I thought about it for a hot second and then remembered I have a 6-hour maximum attention capacity.
  • I found an audio of Ann Lamott giving a workshop based on her popular Bird by Bird. The audio’s pretty terrible, it’s from the 90’s, but she’s so likable it’s worth it.
  • My 25yo son and I got hooked on this podcast on a drive home from somewhere recently and it’s only 6 one-hour episodes and worth finding out what happens in the end. It also made me rethink a guy I dated a while ago who I now think might have been homeless. Another yikes.
  • If you can handle any more news in your life, I’ve been enjoying The New York Times “The Daily” podcast, even though the host speaks so slow it’s like the show is geared towards folks who don’t speak English as a first language. Nice deep dives into the news of the day, be it Harvey Weinstein or net neutrality.
  • The headphones aren’t just for the woods. I’ve been waking up early most mornings and listening to this guided meditation and honestly, if we all did I think we’d all be a lot happier. And more peaceful
  • Sometimes, I don’t even wear headphones while listening to stuff. My girlfriend Alexa, who hangs out on my kitchen counter, introduced me to the Holiday Favorites station on Amazon that’s not the same old Bing Crosby/Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer routine. It made me feel really good about Alexa and forgive her for not knowing the answers to a lot of questions we pose and for also butting into conversations when she thinks we’re talking about her. Rude.

I’m always looking for new things to listen to so please share what’s got your attention lately!

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My Thanksgiving Battle Plan

Preparing for Thanksgiving dinner is like getting ready to go into battle. It’s all about putting together your marching orders, gathering your troops and executing the plan.

But weirdly, I kind of like it, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve been doing it for years.

The first time I hosted Thanksgiving was about 20 years ago and I think I fed around that many people. My mom came over the day before with a couple of my sisters and we all worked side-by-side peeling pounds of potatoes and chopping apples and celery for the stuffing. I didn’t grow up doing these kinds of things with my family — Thanksgiving dinner just kind of appeared – so it was a great team-building exercise, watching my mother stir the butter into the bread crumbs and monitoring the amount of half and half we poured into the potatoes. When we sat down to dinner the next day, we were pleased with the creaminess of the potatoes and nodded to each other as we tasted the apples and sausage in the stuffing. We gave each other a collective pat on the back.

Now that my girls are older, they have become my Thanksgiving soldiers. Our chopping and stirring is in lockstep. There’s no one I’d rather go into battle with than those girls.

Over the years I’ve kept copious notes of my Thanksgiving prep efforts. What worked and didn’t work. Different centerpieces that I tried. The Paula Deen sweet potatoes that made everyone swoon in 2006 and how a homemade pie crust would have been a better match than the Pillsbury affair I paired with the delicious filling in the apple crumble I made in 2007.

This year, we’ll be making dinner for a much smaller crowd than usual. On Thanksgiving it will be my kids and their dad sitting around the table and honestly, I couldn’t think of anyone else I’d rather gather and give thanks with. Unless Oprah wants to come. There’s always room for Oprah.

There are a few staples in my Thanksgiving menu. My stuffing is always a sausage and apple combo (the carmelized onions are the secret-sauce); Barefoot Contessa’s pumpkin banana mousse tart is so delicious you forget pumpkin is involved; and it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without cauliflower served with a white béchamel sauce on the side.

 I’m kind of obsessed with this blogger lately so thinking I might try these brussels sprouts she wrote about recently and even though the aforementioned Whiskey-Apple Crumble Pie is pretty delicious served warm with vanilla ice cream, I’m tempted to try Melissa Clark’s Apple Gingersnap Crumble. This sweet potato casserole is also kind of calling my name.

One thing that I’d never change are my mashed potatoes because not only are they consistently perfect (using a ricer ensures the smooth consistency), they can be made the day before. Go ahead, give them a try. And happy Thanksgiving.

Mrs. Pezzuti’s Mashed Potatoes

5 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes

8 oz. cream cheese

1 c. half and half

1 stick butter

1tsp. onion salt **

1 tsp. seasoned salt **

1 tsp. salt **

¼ tsp. pepper **

Peel potatoes cook until tender and drain. (Here’s where the ricer comes in.) Beat softened cream cheese, seasonings, and hot potatoes and butter with hand mixer. Blend well and add half and half.

Put in a buttered 2-quart casserole (preferable a shallow one). Brush top with butter.

Bake at 350-degrees for 30 minutes (can be made 1 to 2 days ahead and refrigerated). Place on foil on cookie sheet, may bubble over.

*If making in advance, give ample time for reheating, taking dish out of fridge well in advance and heating in oven for at least 30 minutes.

**Season according to taste. I use a lot more than what the recipe calls for.

[This is pretty much the same recipe if you’re the sort who needs a video.]

What are your Thanksgiving staples? Share in the comments below!








Running Out of Gas (Literally)

Have you ever wondered what happens when your car runs out of gas?

Oh good, you’ve come to the right place.

As of this weekend, I have run out of gas four times. Don’t you feel good about yourself now? You’re welcome, America.

Really, I’d like to blame Sheila, my one-year-old Subaru Outback. She’s done it to me twice so far. I’d like to say it’s because I can’t get a handle on what her Low-Fuel alerts mean. Like, just how serious is she? Because the messages that pop up seem pretty casual. Kind of like, “You might want to think about getting gas at some point.” Not: “I’M GOING TO STRAIGHT-UP STOP RUNNING IF YOU DON’T PULL OVER IMMEDIATELY TO REFUEL.”

I guess I need those kids of messages. The procrastinator in me processes most warnings as suggestions unless shouted or WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS.


The first time I ran out of gas, I had a couple of kids in the car with me and was racing home from an activity when the car just pooped out. My son, a teenager at the time, was so disgusted that he got out of the car and walked home while I waited for a non-judgmental friend to come with some gas in a can.

The second time I ran out of gas, I wasn’t even driving the car. My girlfriend came over before we were heading out for the night and she took my car (for some reason, I can’t remember why) to go to grab a birthday card at the CVS and called me to say the car had died and I ran out to fetch gas and get it going again. I’m sure she wanted to punch me in the face.

So, here’s what happened this weekend:

I had about a 3.5 hour drive north on Saturday for a lovely wedding in Saratoga, NY. I filled up my gas tank, plugged the hotel into my GPS, downloaded an audio book and was on my way. For my return on Sunday, I assessed my fuel level and it seemed like I’d just make it home with what was left. I drove home listening to my book and eating a delicious almond croissant while keeping an eye on the needle as it slowly moved towards E. At one point, I even pulled off into a gas station on Route 17 in North Jersey, a stretch of highway littered with gas stations, to think about driving by the house I grew up in, decided against it and got back on the road. The gas seemed expensive and I had a bee in my bonnet for filling up when I went to Costco later.

In fact, as I rounded the corner onto my street, I was still wondering whether I could bypass the local gas station (pricey!) and make it to Costco, when I felt Sheila kind of shudder. If I hadn’t known any better, I would have thought I’d accidentally shifted into one of those weird gears that are on the car that I don’t really know what to do with.

But as an expert in the field of running-out-of-gassery, I knew immediately what was happening and began trying to pull over to the curb, which is where Sheila pooped out, about 5 houses away from my own, which was honestly really considerate of her. Except I really had to go to the bathroom from all the coffee I drank with my croissant and my feet were killing me from all the dancing the night before.


Luckily, knowing it was only a matter of time before it happened again, I’d picked up one of those red plastic gas cans a few months ago, which I grabbed out of the shed and had my daughter drive me to the local gas station, where a gallon of gas was 10-cents more expensive than the station I pulled into up north. And my hands smelled like gasoline for the rest of the day.

So, that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Sheila’s back up and running but I do think she is gently trying to send me a message. The last time she ran out of gas was literally in my driveway. I jumped into her to get to work one morning and she was like, “I don’t think so.” But I think Sheila’s onto me. I think the next time I forget to feed her, she’s going to have to teach me a lesson and stop running, like, on a highway or something.

Honestly, I wouldn’t blame her. She’s had enough of my baloney. I’m sure if she could talk, she’d tell me to get it together. Unlike my children, Sheila still has hope that I might change. Now, my kids don’t even flinch when I call and say, “I ran out of gas.”

I told my 14yo and he was like, “Standard.”

And so, it seems, it is.

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Girls Weekend Getaway: North Fork of Long Island

Continuing with tradition, my trusty Ladycation squad took a late-summer getaway to celebrate yet another 50th birthday in yet another off-the-beaten-path location.

Last year, we rented a fabulous Airbnb in Woodstock, NY and ate, drank and hiked our way around the Catskills. The motto of that trip was “Whiskey & Boys” and I have it embroidered on my wall to prove it.

The year before, we flew up to St. John’s in Newfoundland where we made lots of friends, danced to Irish music and kissed a frozen cod. The slogan for that trip was, “What happens in Newfoundland, stays in Newfoundland.”

This year’s birthday girl chose the North Fork of Long Island as our destination and we drove out one Friday morning in September for our three-night stay and got out there in no time, which is a bit of a miracle.

Okay, some thoughts about Long Island: I really love it. But if you’re not already on Long Island, it is a bitch to get to from New Jersey. The traffic can be daunting, trying to navigate your way around New York City.

But the North Fork is so special – especially after the summer crowd has left – I’d be willing to brave driving there during a Friday rush hour. It’s so worth it.

Geographically, Long Island kind of juts east towards the ocean, with the ends splitting into a fork. The bottom half is the South Fork (the Hamptons, Montauk) and the top is the North Fork (Greenport, Orient) and they are two different worlds.

As you drive towards Orient Point, at the end of the North Fork, you can feel all the space. Farmland for as far as the eye can see. Farm stands. It’s not honkytonk or touristy. Having lived in New Jersey forever, I’m impressed with how much undeveloped land remains out there. Undisturbed stretches of waterfront. Really beautiful.

We stopped for a late lunch at Case’s in Southold, which we found down a long road off the highway that didn’t seem right and just when we started to doubt our GPS, we saw the water and the sign for the restaurant. We sat outside on the patio looking out at the water and drank icy cold local rose and decided it couldn’t get any better. And then it did.

If I could have the honor of marrying the lobster roll that I ate for lunch, I certainly would. But that would mean I couldn’t have devoured every last bit of big mound of perfectly dressed lobster meat on the perfectly toasted top-split roll. At the end of the weekend, we all decided it might have been our favorite meal, of a lot of fabulous meals.

 BEST LOBSTER ROLL EVAH (look, I even had to take a little nibble out of it before I could take a picture of it)


Other weekend highlights included our perfect Airbnb in East Marion, our day spent driving around Shelter Island and gawking at all of the to-die-for houses and the all-rose vineyard in Southold that made up feel like we were sitting in the South of France.

I can’t imagine what staying in the North Fork would be like during the summer season, much less trying to get out there. I highly recommend a late summer/early fall visit when you can rub elbows with the locals and feel like you’ve kinda got the place to yourself. One caveat: getting Uber or Lyft rides was a little dicey and another reminder that we weren’t in Jersey any more.

If you’re thinking of going, here’s what I recommend:


Airbnb: Our rental was pricey but fabulous. It sleeps 8 comfortably with 4 bedrooms, so would be great for a few couples or families to rent. Stylish décor; all the amenities you could ask for and cool outdoor space to hang.


Fork & Anchor (East Marion): Get the #15. It will change your life.

Love Lane Kitchen (Mattituck): We stopped here on our way home Monday morning. Totally charming. Awesome coffee. Put poached eggs on anything, I am a happy girl but on top of kale with avocado on the side and I just might start talking dirty to you.


Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market (Greenport): Unassuming set up on the dock in Greenport that’s pretty cool inside. Oysters. Rose. Cheeseboards. A little old xxx guy preparing it all who took a shine to me. On the menu, it says you can shuck your own oysters if you’re feeling adventurous, and one of our ladies asked the server, with a straight face, “Is it hard to shuck yourself?” which, as you might imagine, became the weekend’s catchphrase.

The Halyard (Greenport): We ended up here on Sunday night as a kind of consolation spot when we showed up to a nearby vineyard that had already closed and we couldn’t believe our good luck. Brand new. Insanely stylish. Perched on the sound. Killer sunsets. Ditto the cocktails. Would love to see what the rooms look like in the adjoining hotel and think dinner watching the sun set on the outdoor dining area would be beyond romantic.

Flying Goat (Shelter Island): At the Shelter Island Golf Club. Great place for cold local beers on tap and French fries after a morning hiking through the meadow (see below).

Four & Twenty Blackbirds (Orient): I don’t LOVE pie, but I would kill for this pie. All kinds to try. We had a savory pocket filled with mushrooms and a little cheese, a stone fruit number and a custardy baby pie. We sat at a table outside and said we were just gonna nibble and gobbled them all up.


Brix & Rye (Greenport): Another one of our top weekend faves. We stopped for pre-dinner cocktails and ended up staying to eat. A little dark and not a lot of tables but being there in off-season helps.

American Beech (Greenport): We sat outside on a very quiet night. Chic. Delicious food.

Noah’s (Greenport): Also chic and delicious.

To Do:

Croteux Vineyards (Southold): You would think that four women heading out to the North Fork of Long Island would mean that we’d being hitting up all the wineries but we only made it to one. If you can only go to one vineyard, I cant recommend this one enough. It really does feel like you are sitting in the South of France and the wine is delicious. Plus its owner, who was pouring the rose and working the register the busy day we were there, was super easy to look at. Plus, he was featured on Mo Rocca’s “Everything’s Coming Up Rose” piece on CBS Sunday Morning this summer.

Lavender By the Bay (East Marion): According to its site, one of the largest lavender farms in the country. Our Airbnb had baskets of dried bundles around the house lending just a hint of lavender to the room, so I knew I needed to go. Fun to walk around and just see all the flowers going on forever. Shop lets you buy it in all manner of shapes and sizes.

Mashomack Preserve (Shelter Island): Covers one third of Shelter Island and run by The Nature Conservancy, the preserve offers a variety of habitats – fields, woodland, marshes and tidal creeks. What most struck me was the ingenious way that have woven technology into the experience. Along one of the trails there are stops with barcodes you can scan with your phone and listen to commentary specific to where you are. Not to mention, the scenery will knock your socks off.

Dam Pond (East Marion): Directly across the street from our rental, we mosied over to get one last look at the sound, which we did from atop a cliff at the end of a path. Cool.


Old Orchard Farm Store (Orient): Charming little shop westopped into roaming around Orient, where I found two really awesome Christmas presents.

Mercantile North Fork (Greenport): Okay, the real reason we didn’t make it to the three vineyards we planned on hitting on Sunday was that we got sidetracked here, wondering how we could ship the entire store home to New Jersey.

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