Catskills: Part I

What do you mean you pack for him? The criticism was at the forefront of my mind as the cabin doors were closing and I stared at the vacant seat across the aisle from me.  I had chuckled at the idea of my friend packing for her husband on their trips, believing a grown man should be doing this for himself.  Except in the moment when my husband was still maneuvering TSA and our flight was securing its doors, I wished I had just packed his bag.

We arrived at the airport early, like the kind of early I will only wake for travel.  We were traveling as a family with my parents to my sister’s wedding in the Catskills of New York.  To say I was eager to get there is minimizing the feeling, I was ecstatic, the wedding celebrations were all I had been thinking about for weeks.  The anticipation of a year and a half engagement, ten-year relationship and all the suspense in sharing details for where in the world the ceremony would be had amounted to the peak of mania.  Who would have known the airport would have been buzzing with business before six o’clock AM, lines seemed longer than I’ve seen them in years for our convenient Midwestern airport. My parents and I adjusted baggage, ensured my four year-old Parker was holding a hand and prepared to find our way to the terminal.  My husband slowed with a look of confused concern, “I have to check my bag.” He borrowed a garment bag for the trip so that he could carry his suit neatly for the wedding.  My mom stepped in to reassure him the bag can be a carry-on and will fit in the overhead bin.  The concerned expression continued as he realized even if the size would fit he made packing errors which would make it impossible to bring it as a carry-on and began making his trek to the airline counter.

Security agents and airline personnel were as pleasant and accommodating as a box of hungry hedgehogs.  We watched him through the glass standing in the TSA line making slow progress to get closer to where we were.  I boarded the plane with Parker and my parents knowing my husband had not yet taken his shoes off but was literally a few sprints from where I sat.  The stewardess ignored my attention seeking as if it was impossible to stop checking seat belts to address a customer.  When she finally returned to my panic, she frankly reported “The plane is finished boarding.”  On the phone, my husband’s irritation was growing as he explained how they had only one line to accommodate security screens and chose him for a random search.  He added he was one of six people getting slowed down by processes who were meant to board the same flight.

By the time the flight was in the air I was fighting tears, all the excitement I had building about this amazing weekend were starting with a major absence.  I didn’t know what to be more mad about: TSA for only having one line to screen people, the airline for not ushering people who needed to get to flights, the fact that more than 2 oz of body wash is treated like gun powder to carry onto the plane, my perfectly-planned-for-travel pixie pants creating a sad muffin top or that I should have just packed the damn bag and avoided this.  By the time we got to flying over Washington DC (our connecting airport) and circling over for twenty minutes, then landing only to taxi for an additional 15 minutes; I decided my aggression was focused on US Airlines for insisting we had an on-time departure from Kansas City and leaving behind 6 passengers the 35 wasted minutes could have helped.

There was nothing I could do to remedy the situation so I focused on making sure Parker was comfortable with the flying experience, thankfully she laid her head in my lap and caught up on the early morning missed sleep.  One more quick flight and we landed in Albany for the long anticipated weekend.  We drove south down the interstate and then west to our destination in the Catskills.  I don’t think I had clearly envisioned what it would be likeIL01 in upstate New York, though I would have been wrong in a lot of ways.  The rolling hills of bright autumn leaves, picture perfect streams and creeks in the valleys all seemed familiar and foreign at the same time.  And even though my searches on maps and for rental properties showed limited occupied area, I guess I still imagined New York as a heavily populated land mass and was shocked at how rural living looked in the state.  The rich fall colors still clung to some trees when we arrived and by the end of the weekend most seemed to have fallen.

We checked into our hotel and waited for my sister and her fiancé to meet us after their wedding prep errands.  She was radiating energy to see us, screams of excitement and long tight-squeezing hugs.  Even her fiancé, with a typical all about business demeanor, showed a glowing smile of enthusiasm which stayed joyfully plastered throughout the weekend.  We followed them into Phoenicia, the nearest town where the main street consisted of a few restaurants, some gift shops and one pitiful grocery store.  My sister pointed out where we would be eating for dinner on Friday night at Brio’s.  I quickly realized the Brio in the Catskills is nothing like the Brio in Kansas City and I seriously overestimated the formality of my wardrobe.

The infinitely happy couple had dreamed of having their wedding ceremony in this outdoorsy romantic location.  They wanted their vows to be spoken in front of immediate family on the deck of his uncles’ resort like cabin retreat from city life.  All of the planning and organizing was finally coming to fruition, they were busy with final arrangements and checking into their own secluded cabin to meet up with us later.

In the haze of fatigue and frustration from the missed flight fiasco I omitted the discussion of plans for the evening and focused on the relief of knowing my husband would be flying out on the next available flight in the morning.  (This was paid for by the airline for recognizing their error in IL02abandoning six passengers.)  Finally when I clued in that dinner plans needed to be created a quick search lead me to finding a restaurant my sister and fiancé had never tried in their trips to the upstate getaway.

We met up with them for dinner at Peekamoose, an adorable spot further up 28.  The restaurant had a dining room, a playroom, a tavern and a patio off the side where you could enjoy a complimentary s’more after a meal.  We sat in the tavern where unique furniture, an eclectic grouping of artwork and tree trunks tastefully strung with white lights made for cozy gathering spaces.  The food exceeded expectations

A meal described as the cheese part of ravioli without the confinement of the pasta. Yum!

A meal described as the cheese part of ravioli without the confinement of the pasta. Yum!

starting with appetizers, bread and spreads.  I even took a picture of my meal, uncharacteristic of me, in the pleasure of the restaurant, the trip and the pending event.  Topping of the décor and the food was the entertainment of the night.  My daughter, deliriously excited and tired, interacting with her equally excited uncle.  At some points it was difficult to tell who was laughing more and by the end it was contagious to other tables at Peekamoose.

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Parker and I went directly to bed after dinner and both slept a solid twelve hours.  In the morning when we were nearly ready my parents came into the hotel room talking on speaker phone with my sister.  She added her fiancé’s uncle to the conversation to provide directions to the cabin where we would help them with wedding set-up.  He described turns, streets, crossing bridges, up hills, down hills and crossing back bridges.  IL04Between mascara brushes I watched my parents listening intently as the directions continued to mount.  Our morningIL05 chore was to pick up pumpkins before going to the cabin.  We found a market on the side of the highway to buy pumpkins and have a photo-op with a bear.  Then fearing my parents didn’t write a thing down in addition to no cell phone reception in these remote parts of New York, I didn’t think we would make it to the cabin.  To my surprise, like a comedic skit about two people who have been married for forty years, they bantered about the directions all the way up the mountain following my mom’s lead until we pulled into the driveway of the cabin – not making a single mistake.

Sister, fiancé and uncle were outdoors and dirty to greet us in the middle of potting flowers for the deck.  Not long after we arrived the fiancé’s family, also traveled the day before from Kansas City, got to the cabin.  After all the greeting and explaining why my hubby was not present, everyone jumped into tasks of moving, mowing, and decorating.  The cabin in the woods had a stunning kitchen, a magazine quality bathroom with soaker tub and the deck opened to views of a pond complete with a fountain.  My dad took my husband’s travel delay as an opportunity to escape the wedding prep and we left for lunch at the Phoenicia Diner and then a trip back to Albany with Parker.  At the Peekamoose I was impressed by the emphasis on local foods, then at the diner I realized this was just the norm in the area.

There was no chain restaurants and no franchise locations near the Catskills, it was a refreshing reprieve from my normal.  Except on the way back from Albany, after being reunited with my husband, I needed to kill my chai craving and made my dad stop at Starbucks.  I guess others felt the same withdrawal from franchise addictions because it was the longest lines and wait of any Starbucks I have been to.

By the time we made it back to the cabin, wedding preparations were complete for the day and there wasn’t anything to do except wait for dinner.  My sister was proposed to on her fiancé’s birthday and together they thought it would be fitting to get married on her birthday.  Since there wouldn’t be an opportunity on Saturday for the birthday celebration, we all planned to gather for a thirtieth birthday dinner in town on Friday night.  I left the dress I had brought hanging in the closet and opted for a more casual “weekend in the woods,” attire.  At Brio, our long table of family enjoyed beer and pizza.  Parker plopped herself down in the chair by her cousins where she colored and played contently throughout the meal.  My sister opened gifts and blew out candles.  It was clear her thirtieth birthday would be an unforgettable celebration and it was barely getting started.

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Next: The Wedding Day

 

 

Happy Day

Sisters & FriendsAn older sister should be a positive influence, a leader, a helper and an inspiration.  An older sister should be a support, a nurturer, and a defender.  She should be calm and rational during times of adversity, she should be fun and creative the rest of the time.  An older sister should have wisdom and ability, she should be motivated and disciplined.  She should love with her whole heart, and not just her family and friends but her fur babies too.

In my family, I am the older sister, except these characteristics are things I look up to in my younger sister.  My younger sister is someone to admire, she is strong, beautiful and has a bosses’ dream work ethic.  Today she turns another year (and decade) older and I am so proud this amazing woman is my sister. I am bursting with excitement to be able to spend the whole weekend with her and with family.  Because, today is not just her birthday, it is also her wedding day.

They are a perfect pair, complimentary in everyway.  Their communication is enviable, they have amazing adventures around the world together, and have supported each other to fulfil their own individual goals.  He knows just what to do to make her giggle, which in turn makes him giggle.  The whole scene just makes you want to gag except all you can do is try to contain your own giggles, because they are so adorably wonderful together.  I’m so excited to be sharing this happy day with them.  I can’t wait to see what the next thirty years will bring.

I LOVE YOU SISTER!

Camping Cheers and Six Years

Camp Site“This is one of Mommy and Daddy’s favorite things to do.  We want to share it with you and have fun together.”  I explained to Parker as she completed round 2 of timeouts in the car.  She nodded and smiled, apologized for whining and fussing, and we returned to blissfulness at the picnic table.

Camping is one of our favorite past times and this was our practice run for Parker.  My husband figured it would be better to start with a day trip to a camp site and see how she managed.  Although, right away she began asking where is the tent and how are we going to sleep?  Her curious mind was satisfied with our explanations to only stay out a while and not all night, then she jumped right into collecting twigs for helping Daddy to start a fire.

For a four year old, who seems constantly stimulated by toys, puzzles, books, electronics, music etc.  It was quite an adjustment for her to create her own fun, to explore in nature and to sit still to watch the fire (for about 20 second intervals at a time).  In hindsight, I could have brought more toys to help her stay content.  After all, there are only so many times you can fill a hallowed acorn shell with water for the Frozen Anna doll before that gets old.  Or maybe it was just a perfect way to demonstrate to her, you don’t need “things” to have a good time with people you love.  During our camping adventure, Parker and I hiked in the woods.  Or On Our Adventure Hike Lake Clintonshould I say she waddled down to the lake and then clung to my back like a koala bear while I clawed my way back up the steep ravine.  She assisted Daddy with gathering supplies and cleaning up.  She observed other camp goers and commented on the super swanky RV’s, “Can we get one of those?” And of course, she devoured the always necessary camping dessert.  Except as soon as her s’more started falling apart and getting her fingers sticky, I had to be the holder while she took bites and then carefully wiped her fingers and lips back to unsticky perfection.

Smores Attack

It was a wonderful idea my husband initiated on a beautiful fall day.  The outing was a reminder of what we do together when we are having fun, being adventurous and working well together as a team.  On our sixth wedding anniversary, I am so thankful to continue to do the things we love to do together and to get to share this experience with our daughter.  Cheers to six years, to camping out, to cheese and crackers, to being more of the best and less of the rest, cheers to daily celebrations of happiness and to many more anniversaries (and campouts) in the future.

Camp Kiss

Happily Ever After In The Present

Sam Smith’s song “Stay With Me,” will forever be my anthem for the summer of 2014.  Despite my belting out I’m on my knees only to realize much later the actual lyrics are You’re all I need.  The month of August came and went blasting me into new perspectives and refreshed determination.  I started securely and ended with so much uncertainty.  I lost my job and I thought my marriage was over.

Through the last two months I have been blessed with compassion and understanding from so many connections.  My appreciation for friends, family and colleagues who reached out, both in direct and subtle ways, can never be explained.  I am truly honored for all of the people in my life, those who are still present and those whose paths crossed at opportune times.  The lessons I have learned through stressful times and challenges difficult to overcome, have been invaluable.

Thank you to my family for unconditional love and support. For encouraging me when I was down, for special unexpected deliveries, for sharing your own personal stories of heartache, for offering reading material, opening your home to me and for being a faithful ear. I am so thankful for an incredibly unique cast of characters I get to call my family.

Thank you to my friends who are like family.  Attending a stress relieving happy hour, receiving a letter or phone call, and meeting up for a meal has been powerful tools in helping me maintain sanity.  I know in the last year I have lost my emphasis at staying connected to friends as my energy has been devoted elsewhere. I am touched to have so many friends who intentionally make themselves available for me.

Thank you to former colleagues in my recent position. I have regrets with how things unraveled and I didn’t have the closure I wanted with the team members, residents and families I had grown so attached to. I appreciate hearing there is no animosity directed towards me, only understanding it couldn’t have been any different, so I will continue trying to make peace with it.  The connections I made there, my advocacy for the team and their hard work was all genuine.  My hope is some of the progress we had made will stick beyond my employment.

Thank you to my daughter for tolerating the uncertainty in our lives in stride.  She was during this time and continues to be my everlasting joy.

And thank to my husband for clearing the muddy waters, for recommitting to why we are together and the future we will develop successfully.  If there is anything we have learned in our six loooooonnnnggg years of marriage, it’s that it takes work.  I know we are prepared to put in the overtime necessary to get life back on track and we are already well on our way.

Life happens for a reason and the challenges we are presented with have purpose.  I know this to be true and in the midst of crisis, this reminder came from my friends and family.  Because of the love I felt during the hard times, August was the both the best and the worst month, and I felt so much happiness despite my life’s circumstances.

Live Happily Ever After Now

Red Hope

Yesterday I was thrilled to find a sea of unity on my Facebook wall in the form of a simple red equality sign.  In case you’re one of the few without a Facebook or Twitter account, the equality sign has been promoted by the Human Rights Campaign in the wake of the congressional hearing on same-sex marriage.  The HRC released a statement stating “the original image has been shared more than 100,000 times and created upwards of 10 million impressions in all 50 states – not including countless user-created versions.”

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Yay!  It makes my heart smile to see people empowered to express their stance on a hot subject.  The equality sign posted on a Facebook wall or replacing a profile picture is not a means to ignite an argument with non-supporters or demand a high level of activism which can often dissuade people from becoming involved.  The equality sign was an awakening and measurable shock to congress, though more importantly an encouraging message to the gay community.  The LGBT community faces discrimination and hate in ways most of us cannot relate.  I hope the sea of red yesterday was a sign of support, progress and love. I also hope the volume of equality signs visible yesterday was an inspiration to non-supporters to reconsider their position.

I know I have many conservative friends on Facebook who don’t support gay marriage, and sometimes it’s bewildering to me why they don’t talk about it publicly.  It’s like they want to keep their narrow-mindedness a secret, maybe deep down they know they are wrong for trying to impose their religious beliefs to control others.  In stark contrast, I see so many ignorant insults being flung anonymously on forums and posts.  Here is what I know for sure: The change is going to happen.  So the faster the non-supporters work their way into acceptance the easier it will be for them to make the adjustment.  Even better, their children can grow up accepting and loving rather than fearing and hating.

Marriage and Club Misery

e&mMy grandma, Eleanor, passed a little over a month ago. I wrote about her the day it happened, blessed with the image of her passing surrounded by family and love. Grammy has been on my mind daily since. Our family gathered at her home the night before her memorial service and I spent a great deal of time going through and collecting photographs. Call me a hoarder or even obsessive, I don’t mind, I love pictures. I waste hours upon hours looking through photographs, taking pictures and editing pictures. For as much as I stress to others the importance of being in the present, I spend too much time stuck in frozen images from the past.

I never met my grandfather, my sister and I even commented last month about how awkward we sometimes felt not knowing how to refer to him. I don’t really know how he was addressed by his grandchildren, so I sometimes would say “my dad’s dad,” or “your husband” if I was asking Grammy about him. She did talk about him a lot too, often telling us how he would have loved us and how much he adored children. He died of a heart attack while my dad was in college. Grammy was never interested in dating or remarrying, she already had the love of her life, she would tell us.
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And even though I never saw them in real life together I know it was true. Grammy teared up talking about him sometimes, as if the decades since he had been gone hadn’t eased the grief she felt. I knew she still missed him desperately. During the memorial service family members talked about the love they shared, how they were always affectionate and caring towards one another. I still can’t wrap my mind around how she loved to iron his clothes just because it was for him, I do try to mimic the same enthusiasm for mundane tasks – trying to appreciate the ordinary.

Even without the stories, I know my grandparents were in love through the photographs I found in Grammy’s albums. Many of the pictures have one or both of them looking at each other instead of the camera, in many pictures his arms are around her squeezing tightly. Happiness and mutual respect exude from the black and white images. Their smiles are pure joy.

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My grandparents appeared to have the marriage everyone dreams of, they managed to stay dedicated to each other and their relationship. Was it just easier back then?

On Oprah’s interview with Jamie Foxx they got to talking about marriage. Without directly quoting, she said something about having a difficult time naming 5 couples she knows who have a “happy marriage.” Of course this statement made me ponder the same idea, how many couples do I know who appear to be happily married? Why is it so hard to stay happy in a relationship?

It’s as if married couples buy into Club Misery after saying “I do” and forget it takes work to create mutual satisfaction in a relationship. Friends can get carried away griping about their spouses, unintentionally creating a breeding ground for negativity in a relationship. On top of the social acceptance for the misery of marriage we are also tainted my social media distractions. There is less necessity to correspond with the love of your life when you can connect with whoever pops up on the Twitter or Facebook feed about the appealing subject of the hour. By the end of the day when significant others finally reach each other they have exhausted the day’s news with virtual friends.

I’m frightened for the next generation of individuals hopeful of finding love and happy marriage with a significant pattern being established of meeting and dating online. Manti Te’o, for example, maybe the only national story of this kind though he is certainly not the first to fall in love with a fake profile. The MTV show Catfish highlights even more of these cases, I can’t stop watching because I am shocked at how much people will trust in the hope for love.

e&m4So part of me wonders if my grandparents had it easier with their relationship in the era they fell in love? Or did their passion for family and love stems from some early struggles long before the internet. They did get married following The Great Depression, a time when Grammy’s family lost their business and had to close their stores. My grandfather was also drafted to World War II after Grammy gave birth to their first child. I wonder if these major life events helped to shape their relationship and reinforce what really matters the most.

Without being devastated by financial loss, being separated by war, natural disasters, illness or any other tragic events, what would it take for couples to focus on what really matters? Couples need to strive to love more, to be more devoted and to demonstrate more respect for marriage, it doesn’t have to be miserable unless you allow it.