Catskills: Part II

The day of the wedding finally arrived.  I readied my little girl to her finest curled perfection and dressed her in the fall colored dress my mom made for the occasion.  I left Parker with my husband and dad so the ladies could all hurry off to my sister’s cabin in the woods.  Thank goodness she happened to pull up the country road behind us to follow her through the winding twists and turns we would never have found on our own.

Heather was radiating with bridal thrills and couldn’t wait to get the ceremony and celebration started.  My sister-in-law immediately went to work on her hair spraying, twisting and pinning.  Her soon to be sister-in-law prepared mimosas, because what bride prep wouldn’t be complete without some champagne?  My sister’s NY family/friends had made amazing individual gift bags of products, I Wedding Cabinshamelessly would never be able to justify buying on my own.  Although I had already gotten dolled up back at the hotel, I wanted to start over with my new colors…  Instead I took pictures and waited by my sister as her cup holder.

Once hair was set and make-up applied, my mom assisted Heather with putting on her dress.  While dress shopping I warned my sister not to find one too fast and to let Mom help with putting it on.  I remembered back to my own dress shopping, my mom was loving trying on dresses more than me.  Not just looking at them, the actual helping wrestle into them, lacing, zipping and adjusting.  I felt like I was taking a favorite hobby from her when I decided on one dress.  I knew that moment between my mom and sister was a special one, the final time she would be zipping up a daughter, I’m sure one or both of them had a tear.  She emerged from the bedroom, adorn with her beautifully simple satin gown to admiration.  Her soon to be mother-in-law helped with the finishing sentimental touches; jewelry from each of the grandmas who wouldn’t be physically present for the day.  Upon final observation at herself in the mirror the bride reported “Damn, I’d marry that.”

All of the guests were present when we arrived at her fiancé’s uncles’ cabin.  It was just the atmosphere they had planned, immediate family and a few close city friends on a cool fall day.  The party was underway as many guests had already poured drinks and were enjoying each other’s company on the deck.  Heather did a little touch-up in the bedroom before meeting our dad on the side of the house ready for her big entrance.  Guests found their seats, Parker and her cousins were ready in their claimed row holding hands.

My sister was stunning and my dad proud as they walked through the row of pumpkins, up the steps and down the aisle towards her waiting groom.  I wondered if he was as shocked as we all had been when she decided to wear a veil, if he was it was masked by the expression of pure happiness when he saw her.  The ceremony was officiated by her fiancé’s uncle, and he spoke to how honored he was to be asked and to be able to share his cabin for the event.

Following the ceremony, traditional wedding pictures were taken.  I acted as the photographer, keeping within the conditions they didn’t want strangers as part of the day at all.  They report they love the pictures, however, it was crazy anxiety provoking to know the pictures they will look back on FOREVER from this day are

I promise there were a lot more wedding pics and they are my sister's to have.

I promise there were a lot more wedding pics and they are my sister’s to have.

ones I am responsible for or responsible for messing up.   And simultaneously with pictures the party began.  A full bar, lawn games, socializing, adventures in the woods and crafts for kids, appetizers and dancing on the deck.  Once pictures were taken, some suits were replaced with jeans.  My husband also wanted to participate in dressing down, except his hodge podge of what he happened to bring must have been frightening to our company of high-class New Yorkers.  Imagine dress shoes, funky dress socks, light blue shorts and a black college hoodie.

With my sister living half a country away, I was removed from all she had been doing with wedding details.  Her attention to including grandparents into the day was thoughtful testament to how much they both appreciate their families.  On her bouquet was a thread of small pictures of four sets of grandparents. Wedding Day Heather hand painted wine, martini and brewery glasses with trees and fall leaves especially for the day.  Inside the cabin it was clear she spent a huge effort on exactly how she wanted the tables to appear with table cloths, runners, flower arrangements, and candle holders created the day before out of split logs and gourds.  And just like there was no professional photographer, there was no professional caterer, although you would think the fajita dinner was professionally done.

Since Parker already adores her uncle and his family, I was thrilled she would be able to meet his other significant family there.  It was a magical evening to watch her and her cousins interact with his family as if they had known each other their whole lives.  Throughout the day and into the night laughter and happiness came from two people and their families, the pieces fit just as they were meant to.  It was comfortable, intimate and personal just as they had been planning.

On Sunday, we figured since we had made our way to the Catskills of New York, we would need to visit Woodstock.  Disappointed by the fact that the actual farm where the hippie festival took place is not even near Woodstock, we still enjoyed the town, the hippie shops, hippie restaurants and hippie signs warning to STOPFracking.  My husband, parents and child found our way to the Woodstock Flea Market where we searched for an inexpensive replacement wedding band for my husband and settled for a hippie-toy guitar for Parker.  What could be more fitting as a souvenir from Woodstock?  We made one last rendezvous with the married couple before they headed back to New York City.  It would only be a few more days before we’d see them again for more wedding celebrations back in Kansas City.

The Woodstock Flea Market

The Woodstock Flea Market

 

 

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.

peekamoosegroup

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.

IL06

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!

My Sister and My Friend

You know the old cliché about being born sisters and choosing to be friends? I am fortunate to have this be true in my relationship with my sister. She was born a little over two years after me and I cannot remember a time before she was in my life. In childhood we varied from the best playmates to typical sibling rivalry. There were times, being the older sibling, I used to get so irritated having a tag along sister invading my time with friends. And there were times I was overjoyed to have her to team up against our older brother, only to have it later being the two of them teaming up against me. As teenagers, it became more difficult to get along consistently. Both of us exercising independence and unique interests, it became easy to judge and criticize each other unfairly. As we matured and both moved past high school our relationship strengthened again. It became clear while each of us had our own great friends we are really best friends. Friends who laugh at nonsense, finish each others song lyrics, work to repair arguments, travel to see each other anywhere in the world the other may be, and friends who are honest, supportive and do their best to help each other. My sister and I are mirrors in so many ways and complete opposites at the same time.

My sister has been an inspiration to me for a long time and especially in the last year as it seems everything she touches turns to gold. She is emotional, yet passionate. She is impossible to wake up, yet never late. She loves people, though maybe animals more. And she is dedicated and hard-working even when it doesn’t come easy. My sister is talented, creative, popular and fun. She is exactly the kind of person I would choose as a friend.

In the last year she has had so many successes and reasons for celebration. Sometimes the success and celebration comes with heartache, well it does for me anyway. As I write, she is riding across the country to New York City where she and her fiance will make their home, or shoe box as it is in NYC. She left early this morning, on my birthday no less, for the start of the next chapter. And while I am thrilled for her adventure, living it big in the city, I can’t help but be sad. No more spontaneous meeting up for dinner, drinks or frozen yogurt and it will be a long time between hugs. She just left and I already miss her.

Rainbows After The Storm

This week started out with heavy storms, both literally and figuratively.  Last Saturday I woke up with a horrific headache and no pain medication in the house to take besides some heavy post-operative pharmaceuticals I didn’t think my ailment called for.  With my husband gone to an appointment I did my best to prepare a suitable breakfast for Parker and then sit as still as possible at the table while she ate.  It seemed any movement would send a shooting pain and bending over was agony.  I rushed my daughter, as much as a two-year old can be rushed, to hurry her eating so that I could get back to bed.  I sadly denied her requests to be picked up or to sit on my lap because it hurt too much.  She cooperated with my ailment, as children mysteriously do in times of need.  We finished in the kitchen and retreated to my bed where she sat quietly watching Elmo while I lay, eyes closed hoping my husband would be home soon.  The throbbing got to be too much at one point and I rushed to the bathroom to get sick, Parker calling on the other side of the door to see if Mommy was okay.  I crawled back to bed and text Reggie to get home as soon as possible.

I didn’t leave my bed much during the weekend, hurting and frustrated at having to cancel all of our weekend plans.  The anger I felt from the wasted time of having to lay there, when I had so many things on my to-do list not getting accomplished, probably made my head even worse.  By the time my migraine was subsiding on Sunday afternoon my body was achy and weak.  Despite having to suffer through the weekend the bright side was it happened on the weekend and would have been more difficult to interfere with Reggie’s schedule during the week to have to take care of Parker.  He did do a great job taking care of Parker too, even utilizing ‘phone a friend’ to find out how to take the day old french braid out of her hair.

With the week starting out so rough I didn’t have high expectations there would be much happening this week.  I was pleasantly surprised to have three big rainbows after the storm.

On Monday, back in touch with life and people, I learned my cousin had passed her test to begin an instructorship path recognized by the Thai Boxing Association of the USA.  She first told me of this test back in December painting a picture of a long examination of strikes, kicks and grappling lasting hours.  Had I been present to observe, the violence would have left me cowering in a corner rocking with my head between my knees.  Surrounded by peers, valued instructors and  the founder/director of Thai Boxing Association she was honored with the title of Khru meaning teacher.  I am so proud of her for this achievement, not only because she honestly has the strength in her tiny frame to kick ass, this accomplishment means so much more about her endurance to overcome obstacles she has in her life.  Truly amazing!

My second rainbow came from a friend sharing some bun in the oven news.  She and her husband are expecting and I have been trusted in her closest circle to hear before it’s made public (so shh, this is a secret.)  I’m ecstatic for her to begin the adventure into parenthood and to help her as much as I can (with advice from long distance) dealing with the pregnancy ailments.  Feeling sick , feeling tired, back pain, side pain, urgency to pee, loss of sleep, loss of appetite, increase in appetite, swelling, sweating, being easily irritated and no glass of wine to fix it – I don’t know how women can love it!?  The enjoyment I found in being pregnant came with the movement, first just tiny flutters, then kicks, somersaults and finally and obvious cramped space where neither of us could move much.  Although I wasn’t a woman who loved being pregnant, I wasn’t in a rush to deliver her because I knew for that time only she was all mine before I would have to share her with the world.

heather&kyleAnd finally the third rainbow came last night in the form of a proposal.  My little sister, Heather, and her long-time boyfriend, Kyle, are officially getting hitched.  I happened to be at my parent’s house when she called to share the news.  When my mom began shouting into the phone “Really?  Really?”  I immediately assumed my brother had hit it big calling from Vegas.  She put it on speaker phone and we all celebrated with cheers and tears.  When my mom continued the jumping and cheering after the phone call Parker looked at her shaking her head “Silly Nana,” she said before joining in with “Hooray” and dancing.

Ironically I had just been thinking of Kyle earlier in the day counting my brothers and sisters.  Biologically I only have 2 siblings, all together I calculated six wonderful brothers and five beautiful sisters I recognize as my family.  Kyle has been my brother already for years, it never mattered what their legal status was.  We always knew they would live a happily ever after together, now there will just be a party to celebrate it.

So with the start of the week wrecked, I am ending it with a smile.  Life is beautiful.

Dollhouse Foreshadowing

My sister and I spent endless hours playing with dollhouses when we were little, I’m talking NASA astronaut training hours.  Our first dollhouse was constructed by my mom from a wooden craft kit.  The four room house was decorated and redecorated by painting the interior, gluing felt for carpeting and paper on the walls.  We bought furniture and accessories down to potted plants, tiny picture frames, dishes and tea cups.  Later we planned to add to our dollhouse neighborhood and each bought our own craft kits for additional houses.  My house, like many of my master-minded projects, never got completed.  I lost the directions and the beginnings of a large three-story house remained untouched in my parent’s basement for nearly 20 years.  Call it divine intervention interrupting either mom’s hoarding reservation in throwing things out or my inability to follow-through with projects; the remaining contents in the doll house kit got wet in a minor leak in their basement and the house was finally set out on the curb.

The clean up effort lead my mom and I to rediscovering the remaining dollhouses last week.  I assumed at some point I would introduce my daughter to the houses, thinking maybe when she is a little older.  Two years old is too young for the fragile old wood, it doesn’t light up or make sounds like other plastic houses she’s seen, and all of the itsy-bitsy accessories to keep track of is enough to cause me an aneurism.  In a few years I figured she would love the houses.  Then as quickly as the dollhouses were at table level and within reach, a childhood wave of sentiment rushed over me and I couldn’t wait for her to wake up from her nap to come and play.

My mom and I sorted through the miniature time capsule of our youth, cleaning up, dusting off and discarding what was broken or not worth keeping.  My sister was mighty pleased, back in the day, to use some creative skill in making her own dollhouse furniture.  Foam haphazardly covered in fabric as the bed would have been fit for a dollhouse equivalent to a crack house.  There were a few surprises in the excavation of the houses which ironically seemed accurate in our lives today.  My sister’s house was filled with pets, including two tigers.  This spring she will be completing her vet tech degree and the journey to get her there was inspired by her time working with the tigers at Endangered Animal Rescue in Citra, Florida.  (Click HERE for more on that story.)  My sister plans to work with a zoo veterinary department and continue her passion with big cats.

The other foreshadowing shock from our childhood houses, we found a black family.  In our suburban caucasian home I can’t remember or imagine why we had purchased a black family.  Perhaps my sister and I needed a way to distinguish who’s dolls belonged to each other?  Were we impatient with a store who ran out of white families?  Could it be my sister and I wisely saw a value in increasing the diversity in our dollhouse community?  Whatever the reasoning was back then it has long since been forgotten and I’m sure my twelve-year-old self would have never been able to know she would one day fall in love and marry a black man.

dollWith the components freshly sanitized, small accessories stored away and rooms reconfigured the houses were ready.  I barely withheld my desire to wake my daughter up to come and play…  Finally she arose and joined us downstairs to get her first glimpse of the hand crafted childhood treasure.  Parker jumped right into investigating the pieces of furniture, opening the refrigerator, rearranging the living room, and pointing out the bird-cage.  She opened the toilet seat and promptly put the little girl on it, holding the “mommy doll” near by to applaud her when she finished.  Dollhouses may predict the future and when a two-year old plays it replicates her present life with plenty of potty practice.

If you are interested in having your own fun with this creative and playful hobby you can find doll house kits online or at craft stores like Hobby Lobby or Jo Ann ETC.  In the Kansas City area you can check out Mini Temptations at 3633 West 95th in Overland Park, KS for a greater variety of houses, decorations, furniture and accessories you can see first hand.