Friday, May 15, 2015

OUR WEBER GRILLE PURCHASE... because LaFranc's 'No No NO' didn't work

We were recently shopping at Walmart getting annuals and tulips and black filthy dirt...  when grills popped up and my husband’s eyes went wild with desire.

Me: "Honey -- I know you THINK we need a new grill--"

Jonathan: "We DEFINITELY need a new gr--"

Me: "What about THIS one?"

Jonathan: "It'll melt down in a year."

Me: "THIS one?"

Jonathan: "Piece a shit."

Me: "Oh, LOOK! A WEBER like your father’s! I know he's been gone a while but his Weber lasted ... well -- HIS lifetime at least!"

Jon: -- strokes beard -- "Hmmm."

Me:  "You like that don't you."

Jon: "Mayyybe."

Me: "Let's just get it.  It's only $800 and all the rest are half that."

Jon: "What about the one with the SIDE burners and rack and pinion steering with push button STARTER and an undercarriage WARMER and . . . indecipherable grill gibberish from hell. . ."

Me: "Um... the diff between the Spectrum and the GENESIS and the TRON-MAXIMUS SPECIAL?  Probably the difference of, like, thousands of dollars."

J: "But they last."  Looks wistfully off to the rafters where actual birds are perching...

Me:  "Can't do it.  Can't get a grill worth thousands of dollars No. NO, NO.”

Me to clerk:  "Please construct the Ex-Caliber Maximus Death-Star Weber Elektra Special."

Sales Clerk:  "That will be half the price of your first mortgage."

Me:  "I have a credit card."

I feel like Mark Antony from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.  We have to ask friends, neighbors, countrymen, to lend us their truck... 

Cuz Walmart has now CONSTRUCTED the Ex Caliber Vlad The Impaler Weber Vaporizer Grille.

It is ready.

That is the pressie Grammy GiGi (*my future grammy handle!) is giving to Jonathan -- sans cute grandfather name -- for his birthday cuz he evidently NEEDS a Pompey Volcano on his deck.  And let me note this:

It is a good thing I just BOUGHT for him the Weber Lava Deluxe because only THREE NIGHTS ago he left our clearly faulty irregular-lava-throwing grill ON after we grilled steaks... which Jonathan remembered mid mouthful when --GASP

-- Out to the deck he ran ...

-- then... there was a flash downstairs.

I wasn't sure if it was Jonathan or the Shadow People from Ghost Hunters that come through my TV and live here now.

I'd have preferred Shadow People 

Cuz back UP ran Jonathan with our 1988 fire-engine-red flame extinguisher, mumbling the words, "GRRR--lammickFLAME-furbabblefuck.”

He returned with massive blisters held in check by bags of frozen peas.

The handles for temperature control melted right off our ex-grille. 

It is a good thing we had the Weber Millenium Falcon constructed days after the nuclear holocaust of our ex grille...   so we could enjoy newly-endless days of Grill Free Life until we find a Truck Family that loves us.

WE HAVE A DELUXE WEBER-BRAND HERO GRILLE THAT WILL LAST UNTIL THE SUN BURNS OUT BUT WE NEED A TRUCK TO TRANSPORT IT TO WEST STREET.

Family? Neighbors? Ski-Pals?  Work-Mates? Pat?? Therese?  Christopher?  Rent-A-Truck????  


. . . we can no longer FEED ourselves ...  because we cannot transport our Grill-Furbabble Maximus-Love-Falcon-Ex-Caliber-from-Walmart to our home because the grill is larger than our house.  

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GRAMPY GIVEN!!!!!!  XOXOXOXO  


Friday, April 24, 2015

All Creatures Great And Small...



You’d have thought I had learned to keep my phone at-the-ready for our next April Vacation Adventure, but no. My next undocumented jaunt involved Bardeau The Cat and it began early Tuesday at Happy Pelts Day Spa. Our friends Lauren and Paul have a similarly-styled cat as our Bardeau, and they have him regularly fashioned at Happy Pelts. Their Facebook avatar depicts one happy feline, frolicking about in his own sculpted fur, looking chic to the point of snooty. I wanted our cat to feel similarly superior, so I booked him a grooming appointment at Happy Pelts.

Except I did not know it was a Multi-Species grooming facility.  They service all creatures great and small, which should be their name. You can bring in tropical fish to have them de-scaled. Or add fur to lizards for winter. 

I erroneously assumed it was a cat-exclusive spa when their receptionist said to me on the phone, "Drop off is between 9 and 10 am, so we have the whole morning to massage, pet, and talk to the cats.  We play them music in rooms infused with essential oils.  All of this LONG before the more traumatic parts where we brush, bathe and barette them."

We wouldn't have exposed Bardeau to Tuesday’s antithesis of massage and soothing chats, if we had known he was to be honked and moo'd at as we transported him through the waiting room.

In fact, if Bardeau were not afflicted with severe dredlocks, I might have marched him out of Noah’s Ark. But since January, he had begun to ‘mat.’  He was clumped in several hard to reach spots like the backs of his arm-elbows and his entire undercarriage. 

By March the mats became impenetrable, like body armor, with new clumps forming along his spine. By April he looked like a dimetradon.

Bardeau’s most recent car ride was four weeks ago when he had his check-up and vaccinations and there was nary a sound from his cat carrier.

But on Tuesday, driving the back roads through dairy farm country, up and down, around winding bends . . . well.  The mewling in the cage got muted briefly due to Bardeau’s Lack Of Dramamine.  

When we went past a fragrant dairy farm, my husband reminisced about how he used to instruct our kids to 'Breathe DEEP!  Can you smell the Apple PIE?’  And everyone in the car would huff the farm air, nostrils hung from the windows -- then gag and wretch and he would erupt in peals of laughter.

He laughed so hard remembering this Tuesday, tears formed at his eyes.

Only when we arrived at the Exotic Animal Day Spa did we realize his eyes were leaking from Bardeau.

NO IDEA he was capable of emitting fresh Farm Smell. It was a relief to get to the Spa because IT emitted hundreds of different pet perfuming smells, even before we got inside.

Once inside, a host of comfortably-caged creatures -- some I believe to have been created with science -- were gawking at us, and then they started up with the noise-making.  Howling, hissing.  A squealing pot bellied pig. Bardeau shat himself in response, which only made him more nauseous.

He was an effluviating machine erupting like a volcano from all directions. I kept apologizing.  "I am SO sorry he is so... fragrant.  But YOU guys smell GREAT!"

"Thank you!" beamed the pleasant booking person as she seamlessly collected up the entirety of Bardeau and His Cage of Emissions.

She passed the whole thing off to a well-heeled grooming cat stylist, who resembled a hobbit, only older and more hairy. 

His name was Sven.  And he glowered at me while wafting a ham hock hand in Bardeau’s direction.  “This cat, she is RIPE.”

I've been glowered at by worse than Sven so I said cheerily, "He… is car sick. And I'm sure he's not done, now that he's next to a growling Rottweiler and that… alligator over there."

Sven ignored me and addressed Bardeau. "LET'S see what we've got!"

Sven reached his hand inside the transporter and scruffed our 14-pound cat, and Bardeau shot me Manga Eyes that said, “What fresh hell is this?” 

Sven palpated all seventeen of Bardeau’s dredlocks proclaiming his undercarriage 'ENTIRELY matted' and that Bardeau would require “The Simba.”

"Sounds good to me!  Peace out!"  and I grabbed up The Befouling Cage, hoping to leave before more glowering could happen. But the cage was intercepted by The Friendly Booking Specialist who said, "We'll be taking that from you now."

“But I was going to take it all home and wash it for Bardeau’s trip home!”

“Oh, we take care of blankets and cages.”  And this is where Happy Pelts won me over for life.  She smiled and said, "We take care of EVERYTHING!" 

Even pungent, chainmailed Bardeau smiled at the Friendly Booking Specialist.  


Sven got to work on Bardeau -- and we were OFF like a simile.  

          Regard below to see what Bardeau looks like!         (No wonder they call it The Simba!)







Meeting Baby Zofia! --- aka: My House is SO Not Baby-Safe

On my first day of April vacation, I got to visit with one of my favorite friends and her gorgeous new daughter, Zofia.  While Zofia is not all that new (she is ten months old) she still feels new to me.  Much like a previously-owned car. Only cuter and more interactive.

I don't know why I didn't snap a thousand photographs of Baby Zofia yesterday, performing feats of strength usually reserved for Olympiads or super heros that fly.  Like wielding my six-foot nine husband’s seven-pound shoe, with her pinky.  Pictures say a thousand words, like, “Ya know what they say about tall men and big feet!?”

Yes. Small children get lost in their foot ware.

Anyway, Baby Zofia was oodles of afternoon fun!  And now that I am about to become a Grand Mama times TWO, it was blissful to learn just how unprepared my home is… for babies.

Our house is the least baby-proofed zone in the Cosmos. Babies would be safer on Saturn.  Or the Sun.

Zofia emerged intact but I can't say the same for a cluster of vine tomatoes I didn’t want anyway, three wooden Easter eggs still rolling themselves down the stairs en route to the Mutility Room (which thankfully Zofia never discovered), the cat’s mood, or two-thirds of a peeled apple she could almost fit in her mouth due to what I believe is a genetically-superior adaptation where she can unhinge her jaw like a snake.

It’s not that any of these items necessarily posed a threat to Zofia.  It was the lightning speed at which she could acquire them.  One second, she was harmlessly tapping a glass slider, appearing to enjoy the wind moving trees outside. And the next, she was a room away chewing the fifth page of a photo album while lifting a four pound lid off a cast iron pot.

“How did I MISS those?” I asked myself, mentally reviewing a half dozen baby-level hazards I had pre-removed: the cat box, workout weights that might crush a toe or break a tooth. Anything that might pinch, choke, cut, blister, drown, emblazon or impale.  Our home was the equivalent of Guantanamo Bay, and I had only removed the first layer.

I also learned that a ten month-old baby is like a hamster. You know how they make their bodies flat to squeeze inside small spaces? I swear I lost Zofia inside walls three times. 

I COULD have lost her inside a storage compartment in our new Riding Coffee Table, but it’s so large and intricate, and Riding, that its hinged trap door is its least interesting feature. This coffee table lives on four casters and roves throughout the living room of its own accord.  A stiff breeze and the table is mobile. I am kicking myself that I didn’t whip out my phone to capture video of Baby Super-Z moving a 97 pound cherry table the size of Buick from one side of the room to the other. 

Eventually the Nap Monster visited, and my friend had to collect Baby Zofia and a few baby sundries and whisk her away so I could stop drooling and nodding off in front of them. 


It was a joyful, awe-inspiring visit, a testament to our species, and commentary on how quickly one can fall in love.  I missed Zofia the instant I lost sight of their car motoring down the street. And I became instantly greedy to speed gestation so I could meet my two grandbabies, due in late summer.  A summer I vow to remember that my phone can take photos and videos.  They aren’t just for writing blogs anymore.

Diamond In The Roughage

On my recent commute to the school where I teach, I hit the directional to make a left-hand turn and noticed in my periphery that my engagement ring looked odd.

It was because the diamond was missing.

You know, I gasp even now, just writing this. But when it actually happened, I was barely flummoxed. In fact, I instantly started troubleshooting: 

 ... Let’s see. I DID slide my left arm into a nylon fishnet arm-sleeve and my ring claws caught the netting. Ergo, the stone will be on the floor... it's wood.  I'll use a flashlight.
 -------------------------------------
And with a plan to recover my diamond firmly fixed, I pulled into the parking lot and marched into school.

But once I shared my plight with co-workers, their eyes went wild with terror. Some welled with tears.  One colleague commended me on my stalwart demeanor and I realized, 'I know! Right?

Fortunately the bell rang for period one so I didn’t have time to panic.

Later that morning, our department had a lunch-time  meeting -- sans food -- but slated to last only ten minutes. It took about an hour, like LensCrafters, and the bell eventually rang for us to teach afternoon classes. I was famished.

When I got to my classroom, a handful of students were loitering at the door and I blew past them to get to my salad. As more students filed in, I shoveled a plastic forkful of salad and chicken into my mouth. Yum.

Another forkful and –

WOW that felt like a plastic particle from my fork or shrapnel from a recent kitchen cleaning. Not swallowing THAT.  

I spat arugula and chicken into the trash.

And because I teach high school, no one noticed I’d spat chewed food into the trash in front of them --  because … I teach high school. These were seniors -- busy chatting and organizing their lives, trying to text without me seeing, mentally erasing me from the room.

I took one last bite not bothering to use a fork, then jumped into our work together. When that class ended, I jumped back into my salad.

As I stabbed at another chicken and greenery bite, I was struck by the sense memory of having bitten into something hard an hour ago. In fact, one molar in need of costly dental work screamed, “That was probably a DIAMOND you moron.”

I raced to the trash to dive for my worfed out food.

In front of my next class ambling in.

Due to being younger freshmen, they took instant notice of their teacher hunched over the trash, rooting about like a homeless ferret -- and became paralyzed, but said nothing. So I continued rooting until I retrieved what might have been the remnants of an autopsy.  One child gasped.

I explained in my most respectable teacher voice, that this was chewed chicken, which I had personally chewed an hour ago, and I NEEDED it.

The kids screamed silently. 

I placed the clot onto a tissue and poked about.

And

THERE

In the midst

Was

My

Diamond.
-------------------------------------------- 
This is where I had to recreate the storyline so my students were caught up and I could keep my job. 

Pretending I was the star investigator in my own CSI episode, I explained to the children that, in the early morning, I’d slid my ringed hand through a nylon sleeve and caught a prong on my ring, which I’d felt.

Without realizing this loosened the stone, I jostled my hand about in my morning routine, and the final dislodging happened when I thrust my hand into a Family-Sized Salad Trough, then thrust mini-handfuls into my Travel Dish.

“I think you saw the rest.”

They were awestruck.

I noted what a blessing it was to chew my diamond. “I might have 'thrust' it into the bathroom trash, deep inside my linen closet or the laundry hamper beneath. It might have ended up in our dishwasher, the garbage disposal or an industrial sized carton of cat food.”

The fact that I didn't swallow the diamond when I ate ravenously, they believed to be divine. That the diamond didn't sink to the bottom of my travel dish? That my second forkful contained the diamond then rode on the molar needing a root canal?! 

One freshman, the kind that’s good at math, suggested my diamond had a better chance of ending up in lunar orbit than my mouth.

And, like that -- the miracle of the occasion erased forever the image of an adult they personally knew engaged in public, ebola-trash-diving -- so that, before their very eyes, she could bring forth … a diamond.

It became a lesson in destiny, plotline, metaphor and sense imagery. And thanks to dramatic irony, I later learned the cost of replacing that uninsured stone was the same as my root canal estimate.

It was the best lesson I’d taught all year.

Mostly it was a lesson that dumb luck and grace are often indistinguishable.  So we have to be ready for the signs. Like the one that read, “Our office provides financing for dental work starting at $7000.”

Run, I told them  – don’t walk – from these signs. You never know when a dying molar might have the fate of an engagement diamond resting, quite literally, upon it.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator? -- An Explanation of Alzheimer's Disease for Children



   I just finished re-reading Come Back Early Today – A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy by Marie Marley, Phd. 
   Max Wallack had invited me some time ago to co-author his children’s book,  Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator? An Explanation of Alzheimer's Disease for Children.  He sent me Dr. Marley’s memoir last winter, as one way I might prepare for our work together.   
   Last winter was a profoundly difficult time. Roughly four months after my husband Jonathan’s diagnosis with Multiple Myeloma, an incurable cancer of the bone marrow’s plasma cells, I found myself in the dead of a snowy January, housebound alone for a week. Our daughter Abby was away at college in Salem, Massachusetts, battling the snowy front closer to the ocean.  Her Dad was off at Dana Farber for daily out-patient collection of stem cells to store for a future stem-cell transplant.  This is typical front line treatment for his disease.  He was staying nightly at our son Zachary’s place in nearby Watertown. 
   The collection process occupied an entire week rather than the one or two days we’d planned on.  Some of his aggressive autumn therapies had suppressed his body’s ability to produce stem cells, so different techniques to stimulate stem production were employed.
   It was at this time that I began poring through Dr. Marley’s memoir and a strange thing happened.  Rather than enjoying this precious chronicle as one way to prepare to co-author a children’s book, I found myself relating to its author.
    Marley, too, struggled with the shock and awe of living with a profound and incurable illness, then processing the illness itself, and its various challenges. She even shared, in a very early part of her memoir, her struggles with employment, as was I!  More precisely, the two of us were getting acquainted with ‘unemployment.’  In her case, she was a new PhD struggling for a university position.  Mine was a bit more self-imposed as I embraced the role of caregiving and medical research.
    The pinnacle of our parallel was a stalwart love that kept everything forward-moving.  For Marie Marley, her love for Ed and his for her was the bedrock from which she moved out of her sadness, toward a healthful self-identity and an evolving, beautiful relationship with her life partner.  Marley writes in her third chapter:

“He could have ended our relationship, and no one would have blamed him, least of all me, considering how unpleasant and stressful those depressions must have been for him.  But as far as I know, he never considered that option.  He was there for me no matter how far away I was from him.  He wasn’t able to make the deep depressions go away, but his steadfast love, caring and support made them far easier to bear.  I have often shuddered to think how I would have managed those dark days without him.”

   The passage above was steeped in irony.  At the time, I was trying to emotionally navigate the unthinkable: the prospects of my husband’s battle with an incurable cancer.  That week, he was at a myeloma center at Dana Farber, receiving harrowing treatments while I was snowbound at our home, with endless chunks of solitary downtime.  Reading this poignant love story was meant to be an academic exercise for a writing project.  Instead, it drove home how lucky I was to have a similarly stalwart love in my life.  Ed was to Dr. Marley what Jonathan was to me.
   But the irony was troubling: the patient himself in both cases was responsible for bringing their women comfort. 

   Early in my husband’s diagnostic process, I was SO busy distracting us both with research, collecting a rainbow of bottled supplements, joining website support groups and sites for myeloma trials -- ultimately speaking and writing in medical jargon.   Or in alternative-medical jargon:  hatha, vinyasa, bikram yoga, acupuncture, curcumin and alpha-lipoic smoothies.
   None of that frenetic activity provided the strength I needed to move forward with confidence and faith.  That all came from my husband.
   I relate deeply to Dr. Marley’s words, “I have often shuddered to think how I would have managed those dark days without him.”     
   Fear of life without my spouse caused trepidation in the first place:  how ironic that he was the antidote for my fears.
   But it's also been through the writing process (email shares, journaling, my blog) -- but especially my work with Max Wallack in this beautiful educational children’s book -- that I continue to educate myself.  And any teacher will tell you, education is the real antidote for fear.
   A seven year-old protagonist named Julie spans three years of her own young life remaining stalwart, holding faith and constant love in her heart.  Part of this young character’s “hope” is her future, a word that, to many caregivers, is the enemy.
   But there young Julie hangs her hope: hope to grow up to engage in Alzheimer’s research; hope as she watches her grandmother participate in exciting new clinical trials; hope that one day there can be an end to the “incurable” side of Alzheimer’s.
    I was honored to help breathe life into Max's character.  It was through Julie that I was reminded of bravery, love and hope. 
   If a seven-year old protagonist holds courage to enhance her present by ‘living strong’ inside it and embracing her future, so can the rest of us.
   Seventeen year-old Max has actualized Julies’ dream in real life. He currently studies in his junior college year at Boston University and works in the Alzheimer’s research field.  This children’s book is autobiographical for Max.  At a tender age he became a companion and caregiver to his own great grandmother following her diagnosis with Alzheimer’s.  And ever since he’s devoted each day to easing patients’ suffering by inventing adaptive equipment, recreational supports, and ultimately searching for a cure.
   We all do battle in one way or another with fear and foible:  overall I feel lucky to have in my arsenal my husband, four kids, the writing process, and friends such as Max who give me as much time as I need to “learn.”
   Today marks a special day:  I must say farewell to a fellow traveler I only knew through support groups, firefighter John Knighten, whose battle with an aggressive sub-type of myeloma finally ended peacefully last evening.  The end of his journey was apparent to all of us about eight days ago, but now that it is here, I feel no fear.  Just gratitude to have known of his strength and stalwart love of his own family.  
   In the end, the strength of love is all that matters.  Even fictional seven year-old Julie knows this.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Don't Scratch or You'll Get a Cigar


My good friend Max Wallack and I just collaborated on a children’s book that teaches about Alzheimer’s disease.  It has been a wonderful experience, learning about this disorder and appropriate caregiving strategies from Max. The working title will be Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator? and it is due for release later in July. But don't worry about marking your calendar. I'll be writing a LOT MORE ABOUT OUR BOOK IN IMMINENT POSTS read about Max here

Max Wallack of, Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator?
The writing process never ceases to light me up from the core.  Max and I were working together on phrases and word balance when the copy editor in me kicked in.  Max is breezy and fun to work with, because I’ll explain why something needs work, and he finds strategies to rewrite.  Some authors require hard edits, but I’m a teacher so the 'process' is important and Max is a process person. After a long back-and-forth over one section of the book, the final result satisfied us both and I said to Max, ‘NOW we’re cookin’ with gas.’

And I immediately wondered how relevant this idiom would be for him.  It wasn’t even relevant to me when I was little – hundreds of years ago – when my father spouted it. I was in fourth grade and he had just retired, and together we’d either complete an oil pastel painting or cover a living room wall in new paneling.  I’d hold the panel up, he’d pound in a million finish nails. 

“THERE we go, Carolyn.  NOW we’re cookin with GAS!”

“We ARE?” I wondered.  We had an electric stove.  The only kinds of gas I was familiar with included petro, laughing, and intestinal.  But I sort of assimilated the expression through context and never asked specific questions.

Idiomatic etymology fascinates me as an adult, so I looked into this one. It seems gas cookers began to replace wood burners in 1915, so that’s when the concept of ‘cooking with gas’ began. Owning a new gas cooker would be in vogueall the rage.  The phrase itself was first linked to Bob Hope in 1939 when he began using it in his Hollywood radio show.  But it was coined by Deke Haulgate, founder of the Haulgate College Football Ranking system, who worked for the American Gas Association -- but that is not what today’s post is about.

Today’s post is about chicken pox.  And children.  And books from which children learn.

Writing a children’s book with Max and thinking about idioms brought to mind the many phrases young kids ‘hear’ before they learn to read.  Any parent can tell you tales of their kid’s impressions and imagery regarding common phrases. Even the idiom An Old Wives’ Tale caused one of my kid’s to believe that when a woman reaches a certain age, she grows a tail.  

Another of my kids wondered how to spell ‘kosh’ which he pronounced very carefully. So I could spell it.  Which I did.  “K O S H.”  Then I noted helpfully, "The word doesn’t exist."

“Yes it does. You know!  Like, when you throw ‘kosh’ into the wind.” 

It was interesting to me that he didn’t want to know what a kosh was.  He wanted to spell it, so he could use it in his fiction writing. When he was six.

He did grow up to be an English major.

Which brings me to chicken pox, which this particular child contracted in the late 80s at summer camp.  And he brought a contagious case back to his brothers. I apologize to them in advance because I am dating myself and them. Two of my four children would later be vaccinated for chicken pox.  But before the vaccine was invented, two of my ‘earlier kids’ erupted. 

As my husband and I slathered them in calamine and baking soda pastes (I love concocting a good witch-poultice), tossed them into Aveeno oatmeal soaks and smeared them with Benadryl lotions, I recalled one of those Old Wives' Tails. 'Don’t scratch or you’ll get a scar.' To this day I hear folks advising children not to scratch at a mosquito bite, lest they get a scar.

Well, as far as chicken pox goes, scars are related to the depth of a particular ‘pock.’ That ‘old saw’ about scars comes from the Dark Ages, before the invention of Neosporin or the microscope.  So when pioneer children scratched a rash with their microbial black fingernails, I’m sure amputation would result.

Fortunately, when my offspring contracted mosquito bites OR chicken pox, I also slathered them in Neosporin. And checked their nail beds with my Home-Kit Hypochondria Microscope.

Back when I had chicken pox, I was four.  This was way back in an era when humans emerged from caves speaking in grunts and Old Wives Tails, like “Don’t scratch or you’ll get a scar,” which I definitely heard from my ancestors' mouths and which definitely terrified me.

Before I go on, the story of my chicken pox always makes me feel like I was the victim of child abandonment JUST BECAUSE I erupted in a contagious body rash and, days later, was shipped off to my Aunt and Uncle. 

But it wasn’t like that. 

My parents both worked for the Quaker Oats Company and there was an annual convention in Chicago they attended for as long as I could remember. The year I contracted chicken pox, I was recovered from the worst of it during this annual convention. So I was packed up for my annual visit with any number of family members I used to ‘vacation with’ for that week.  This year, my calamine lotion and I got to visit my Auntie Barbara and Uncle Phil because their kids had already had chicken pox. Anyway, my Uncle Philip always reminded me to “Not scratch or you’ll get a scar.”

I was four and had no idea what a ‘scar’ was, but my Uncle Phil was very good at articulation. So what I heard was “a cigar.”

For some reason I knew more about cigars than scars.

I definitely didn’t scratch my healing pox after that.  Uncle Phil to me was a giant of a man with dark hair, brilliant eyes and behind them, vast knowledge.  If he said I would get a cigar if I scratched, then I definitely would get a cigar – so I did not scratch, lest each pock sprout a tiny lit cigar.

It was horrifying.

Anyway, Max and I finished our educational children’s book about Alzheimer’s disease, Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator? and we were really cookin with gas, the world was our oyster, life was a bowl of cherries, and don’t scratch or you’ll get a cigar – which will be the title of our NEXT award-winning children’s book.

We each bring our personal passions to the writing table. Teaching young children about Alzheimer’s disease is Max’s passion and my honor to co-author. Ensuring pre-schoolers not envision lit cigars popping out of old mosquito bites?? That’s mine.   

Friday, June 21, 2013

"A thing of joy is a beauty forever" --The 2013 LOVE PARTY REVIEW

Our son's wedding, The Love Party '13, was a triumph!  I cannot say with complete confidence that it was "The Wedding of the Millenium" or even of 2013, because theirs was the first of five extended-family weddings on tap, all for people we love dearly. But I will say that, of all the weddings involving the marriage of our offspring, this one was the BEST.

<----Oh, here are samples of the dozens of wedding-white throw pillows at the beautiful residence in Burlington, Ontario where their nuptials were held.  Each had been liquid-embroidered by the bride's sister in either BOS or YYZ to represent the airport codes of Toronto and Boston. Our two memento pillows are nestled at home in Douglas next to a book entitled, A Day in the Life of Canada so I can sit in our sunroom, scroll digital photos of our son and daughter in law's day, glance back at those pillows -- and smile.

And that book about Canada.  A few years ago we "borrowed" it from our family lake house at Winnipesaukee to "decorate" the Douglas guest room for Nick and his future bride's very first stay here for American Thanksgiving. I was so excited ... and so nervous. 

Our home has multiple slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune:  doors with actual holes, a shower stall where water runs downhill, 'away' from the drain, and as I'm sure you recall, one renovated bath with glass pedestal sink whose broken faucet perfectly matches the tub's broken scalding gusher that our plumbers, Roosevelts I and II, are unable to repair.

But I was determined to make the guest room beautiful.

This particular guest room is accustomed to being transformed. In the past 27 years it has been a master bedroom,  Zachary's Toddler Suite, Newborn Abigail's Nursery, Jake's Bachelor Pad, Nick's Garage Band Practice Space, and Abby's middle-school homage to The Color Purple.  It has been spray-painted black, sponged in blue, and bordered in floral to enhance a hue called "lavendar-violence" that Abby selected in 8th grade.

It was overdue for 'freshening,' so I bought some white floor-length drapes that I 'tossed' at the curtain rods then allowed to flow elegantly to the floor. Into two outlets I plugged pure ambiance: mini lava lamps with softly-roiling glitter. On the night stand I placed a crystal and silver jewelry box with wedding-bell relief-art I'd received at someone's bridal shower years ago.  This I filled with romantic Chapstick.

And I stole all of Abby's heart-shaped pillows and tossed them about the guest room. The largest one -- in hot pink -- the size of an inflatable raft -- I pinned to the far wall to cleverly disguise a hole.

And in the center of the queen bed's new comforter I positioned a Beanie Baby Turkey to commemorate the holiday.

We adorned the vanity with belts constructed of fabric and metal hearts, and I placed some college portraits of Nick on the dresser. As a finishing touch, I lit purple candles moments before they walked in with luggage. But there, in the corner, as a beacon of Leah-welcome, was a captain's chair bearing the book, A Day In The Life Of Canada, so she would not miss home.

The total effect ... was not unlike stepping into a brothel.

Abby's Beanie Baby Collection up on an armoire meant that dozens of artificial eyes were trained on the bed and its turkey... adding macabre notes of voyeurism that even I could not anticipate in my most inappropriate musings.

Did I mention the college portraits of Nick were photos of him drinking Jack out of a bottle wearing nothing but a size 5 ladies' thong?

It was the mini lava lamps that put the whole thing over-the-top.  Neither Nick nor Leah slept a wink.  But that is not what today's post is about.

The Burlington, Ontario residence where Nick and Leah were hitched
Today's post is about the OPPOSITE of home hideousness.  The venue for our son's wedding was of monumental elegance and understated beauty, as was the bride and her attendants, her parents, and the host and hostess of the candle-lit evening, Gary and Katie.  Even the town of Burlington had rolled out her red carpet, sprucing already gorgeous store-fronts, quaint shoppes and the Ontario Waterway in preparation for the annual Sound of Music Festival.  In fact, Burlington's brand new pier and magnificent tower -- the culmination of nearly a decade of struggle -- happened to be completed the day before the wedding and was lit for the first time as wedding guests from out-of-town drove into the city.  And each night the sky was alight with celebratory fireworks.

First Kiss as husband and wife

Burlington put on her best show for our our son and daughter-in-law's most cherished day.  Even the weather was picture-perfect for the rehearsal, then the June 15 ceremony.

A glimmer of 130+ guests in attendance, amid resplendent foliage
Beauty of nature, beauty of heart -- of intent.  The beauty of "future." These were the hallmarks of the day.

Graeme and Doz, both musician friends of Nick and our family (from Bang Camaro and The Vershok) turned to soak it all in, and Graeme commented to me, "You know, Canadians are beautiful people!"

"I know!" I gushed.  "Aren't they generous and sweet?"

"Well, yeah, that, Carolyn," said Graeme.  "But I am talking about physical beauty.  These are the most gorgeous people I have ever seen."

Doz nodded enthusiastically. These guys are both from the UK.  Graeme is from England and Doz is from New Zealand so I said, "Canada can't be that different from the rest of the UK, can it?"

I have visited New Zealand and, frankly, found everyone there quite fetching.  And my long lost relatives hail from Cornwall and pictures of them are not un-flattering.

But essentially, Doz and Graeme were right.  Everywhere we turned, beauty abounded:  the maid of honor, (she technically lives in New Zealand!), is jaw-droppingly beautiful.  And, like the bride, her two sisters have contagious, brilliant smiles and faces you don't want to look away from.  Plus, you know the adage that if you want to know how a bride will look in a decade, look at her Mom?  Well, theirs is gorgeous.

 I met a beautiful girl named Moira and another named Petra, three of the most handsome young gentlemen triplets on earth, their relatives, Stefan and Julien who not only spoke French in front of my daughter sweeping her off her feet, but were gentlemen to the core and as handsome as the triplets.

As this magical evening wound down and an Ontario sunrise threatened, I had one disparaging moment where all the beauty and the tall and the amazing made me feel a little weathered and un-tall.  Maybe even un-waif-y. But there was no need.

I looked around again and realized the Canadian beauty wasn't specific to Canada.  The Bostonian best man and our sons were pretty difficult to not stare down and the groom, of course, glowed.





Abby, below, caught the beauty bug.

                                                                 Our second oldest son's
                                                                  beloved,
                                                                 Alexandra,         ------>
                                                                 was fashion-model      
                                                                 hot.
               


                                               ^^^
                              I couldn't stop re-applying lipstick.

What all of us were experiencing -- was genuine joy, everywhere.  Joy is a powerful beauty-accessory.

The happy couple had named their wedding the Love Party. It was.  And that brand of love made everyone FEEL and exude sheer beauty.

Thank you to my daughter-in-law for falling in love with our son . . . and bringing joy & beauty to each of the 130 people at that Burlington home.

Most of all, thank you to our son Nick, for growing into this profoundly beautiful man and husband who deserves nothing less than the best.

We are so happy you both found the best, and continue to create the best in each other. 

Of all the beauty we were privileged to witness in these last days and years, this has been the most beautiful.  You continue to enhance each other . . . I've never seen anything like it.

Enjoy Costa Rica and Happy One Week Anniversary in a few hours~! 



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