Gratitude Saturday

Hmmm.  Let me think about this past week:  snow, no school (which meant my daughters SAT was postponed),wicked Sinus headache, I burned my finger on the hot coil in the dishwasher in attempt to fix dishwasher (it’s the middle finger so there is some sort of poetic expression in that) and my movie friend was sick so I didn’t get to go to a movie.  So I set up a task to be grateful?  Ha.  But I try:

  1. Sinus medicine
  2. Clair De Lune (seriously one of my favorite pieces of music ever)
  3. An email saying “NYC Public Schools will be open tomorrow March 22, 2018”
  4. Lavender (me and lavender are is a serious relationship)
  5. google docs
  6. Fandango so that my family could buy tickets for the new Avengers movie which premieres 6 weeks from now
  7. waterproof boots
  8. the building doing seasonal maintenance on the air conditioners the day the Nor’easter blew into town
  9. we didn’t get as much snow as predicted
  10. my water bottle
  11. Dream Gym – silly game app that totally made my week
  12. Coffee with blog friends (not an app or game- actual event)
  13. actually fixing the dishwasher, which leads to:
  14. dishwasher
  15. Firefighters: NYC lost a firefighter this week (in the line of duty), and he was a close friend of my Husband’s co-worker. My Uncle also his lost his life as a firefighter.  I can not begin to express my gratitude to the men and women who put their lives on the line everyday. No sarcasm, only extreme and heartfelt thanks.

No Gifts, Please

I have an odd relationship with physical gifts.  I know- you’re wondering what I am talking about.  ‘What does she mean by physical gifts’ you think.  Who doesn’t like gifts?

I am not a minimalist in the true sense of the word: I do not go full Gandhi and own a bowl, a spoon and a sari.  I have material possessions.  I have way too many possessions- an apartment filled with stuff.  But I am constantly trying to reduce what I own- there is always a donation bag in the corner of my dining room which gets dropped off on a bi-weekly basis.  Before I buy something I mentally go through the following checklist:

  1. Do I need it?
  2. Does it fit my lifestyle?
  3. Do I have a place to store it?
  4. Do I love it?
  5. Will I regret not buying it?
  6. Am I only buying it because it’s on sale/good price?

If I have answered “yes” to the first five questions, and “no” to the last then I probably buy it.  But every purchase I make has to pass the test.

So, let’s jump to physical gifts.  Someone gifts me a vase.  I look at my mental checklist and the answer to my questions is “no”.  What do I do with the vase?  Well, first I try to exchange it at the store for something I do like.  If that is not possible I donate it.  Honestly, I didn’t need the vase entering my life.  Honestly, I didn’t need the gift.

“But it’s a gift” you are all thinking.  “Someone gives you a gift out of the goodness of their heart” you say.

I say bull.

Personally, I think many people receive gifts the that giver thinks they should have.  I think many gift givers are somewhat selfish.  I’ve seen many people receive clothing that they would never wear: completely different style than what they normally do.  When the giver was buying the gift, did they think about what the person wears, or are they thinking about what they want the person to wear?  I will use my Mother as an example.  When my daughter was three years old, and my social life consisted of Gymboree classes and group dinners with other parents, my Mother bought me a hot pink, silk blazer.  Lovely item.  It did not fit my lifestyle at that time: it was way too formal for anything I participated in.  My Mother said to me “You can wear it to a PTA meeting.”  Now, I’m sure there are people that get really dressed up for PTA meetings.  I am not one of them.  PTA meetings at my daughters elementary school were held at 8:30 in the morning, after drop off.  I was lucky to be showered at that point, much less wearing an outfit that consisted of a hot pink silk blazer.  My Mother didn’t understand that I didn’t spend two hours getting dressed in the morning to attend a PTA meeting.  She gave me a gift that was something she wanted to see me wear, not something that was good for my lifestyle. (To be clear- my Mother has done this with every present she has ever given me- she thinks about what she wants me to have, not what I want.  Honestly, rather just have a card)  Also, I have seen my guy friends do this with the women in their lives.  I have seen them purchase heels, and sexy clothing, as well as hiking gear.  I have see my woman friends buy their husbands fancier clothes because they don’t like what their husbands wear.  These are all nice things: they just weren’t nice for the people receiving them.  Have you ever received an article of clothing that wasn’t your style at all?

I think gifts can be seen as an obligation, sort of like, I spent money on you, so you need to like me.  Someone gives a gift, and they expect something in return.  That’s not why you give a gift.  That’s not why you do anything.  You give something to someone because you want to.  You give a gift that will please the recipient, that has meaning to the recipient.  When you give a gift, it’s not really about you.  Well, it shouldn’t be anyway.  Have you ever given a gift because you wanted something in return?  Have you ever received a gift that came with strings attached? (and I don’t mean bows and ribbons)

I will tell you the gifts that I do cherish and love.  My birthday always falls around Mother’s Day, so every year my daughter writes me a letter.  I hang these letters up around my vanity in my bedroom.  My Husband usually gives me a spa gift card because he knows that I love a spa day.  These are the things that are important to me.  These are the things that make me happy.  If I really want/need something on the expensive side,I don’t expect it as a “gift”- I talk to my Husband and if it’s economically feasible I just buy it. (to be clear- the jeweler is not on my speed dial- the majority of my jewelry is costume.  My last expensive purchase was my desk chair, and even that wasn’t egregious)

So to sum up this VERY long post:

  1. Are you giving a gift that is the style of the recipient, or something that they want?
  2. Are you expecting something in return for the gift?
  3. Have you ever received a gift that was not your style or hated?
  4. Do you think you only deserve nice things if someone else buys them for you?
  5. Do you think I’m just a wee bit crazy? (tread lightly!!)





My Sister was in town recently, which as I’ve told you, means I saw a bit of my Mother.  She usually has something to say about our parenting skills (again, you know how much I like people talking about my parenting)  My sister and I have always been open about talking to our daughters about sex (age appropriate).  The conversation went something like this:

Mother: I don’t know why you have to talk to the girls about sex

Me: Well, it’s a natural thing.  I want daughter to learn the right things and not have hang-ups.

Sister: Yeah.  I don’t want my kid to feel shame when thinking/talking about sex

Me: Totally.  The way you taught us left me filled with shame.

Mother: No it didn’t.  I was very good about teaching you those things.

Sister: No you weren’t.  I felt shame too.

Mother: No you didn’t.  I did it the right way.

Me: Mom, if we’re both saying the same thing, you have to at least consider that what we’re saying is correct.  You tried, but we’re telling you that your method didn’t work.

Mother: Yes it did.

I know parents make mistakes.  I’m sure my daughter has a list that she’s waiting to spring on me.  But I HOPE that I can acknowledge when I made a mistake, when I did something wrong, especially if my daughter tells me.

My Mother is a know it all (seriously- she makes me look like an amateur) Whenever someone says anything, she knows better.  My daughter mentioned that she wanted to look at a certain college.  My Mother immediately said, “That’s in a bad neighborhood.”  I asked, “When were you there?”  My Mother said “40 years ago.”  Now I realize that some things stay the same.  But guess what?  Some things change.  My Mother had no basis for her statement, but she will say it loud and repeatedly.

I really know that my Mother has my best interests at heart.  I know she says things in order to help me out.  But here’s the problem:  her statements are not always logical, factual or realistic.  She will read one article on something and declare it the absolute law, because it backs up her beliefs.  She will not even consider another opinion on pretty much anything:  there’s her way or no way.  And she has opinions on everything.  My daughter wanted a certain type of make-up brush for Christmas, which I bought her.  As soon as my Mother saw it she said “You don’t want to use that.  It’s horrible.”  Had my Mother ever used this item?  No.  Does she know anyone personally that used this item? No.  She just didn’t like the idea of it.  I told her that sometimes people need to try things out themselves- learn from experience.  She just shook her head at me.

See, that’s another issue with my Mother’s parenting skills.  She gave us a road map as to what we should and should not do.  She told us exactly how to proceed through life without teaching us how to make a good decision.  She never taught us to think about our actions.  We all know this is bad.  We need to make mistakes.  We need to get hurt.  We need to get dirty.  I know my Mother did these things out of love because she didn’t want us to feel pain or hurt.  But guess what, you still feel pain and hurt, because those things are unavoidable.

My Mother gave us the facts that she thought were important, not the facts that we needed.  And I have accepted that she didn’t know any better.  I have no issue with the fact that she made mistakes.  My issue is that she refuses to accept that she made mistakes.  In her mind, she did everything right and would not have changed her parenting choices at all.  This is why it is difficult to have an adult relationship with her.  She still tells me all the things I am doing wrong with regards to everything, and still tries to give me directions on how to live my life.

Yes, today is blog as journal day.  Today I randomly write down things that annoy me about my Mother, because it is somewhat cathartic to write the words down.  When I write it down, it releases a little something in me.  I feel a little bit better.

And as always, I often wonder why I am so screwed up, and then I spend some time with my Mother, and I wonder how am I so normal.

The Orchid Show

I love flowers.  Can’t grow them, but love to look at them.  So, every year I attend the New York Botanic Garden Orchid Show.  When I began going, it was a family event: the husband and the daughter included.  Time passes, and now it’s just husband and me.  It’s bittersweet, because my Daughter has a whole life of her own (which is great) but I miss those little moments.


I’ve been attending the orchid show almost since its inception 16 years ago.  Though always beautiful, I don’t think this years show is as pretty as past shows.  My husband always makes the same joke every year:  he says, “Didn’t we see this flower last year?”  I smile and snap another 300 pictures.

Today is a wet, cold day in NYC.  School is closed due to threat of impending Nor’easter, though no snow is to be had quite yet. Hope you enjoy the pictures!

And no- I have no idea what any of these flowers are called.  I just think they’re pretty!

They Were Better

I’ve talked about my daughter before, but I’m going to give you a few relevant facts so that everyone is up to speed.

  1. Very hard working and strong work ethic
  2. Wants to be a lawyer
  3. Co-Captain of her high school law team
  4. Very competetive

In the winter/spring, the law team competes in mock trial.  The teams are assigned a case, and the students research the case and act as lawyers and witnesses and compete against other teams.  There is a great deal of work involved in being on a team such as this: she probably puts in a minimum of 20 hours a week when they are prepping. (on top of the other responsibilities she has) So this is a fairly large commitment.

So, a few weeks ago they competed.  And while their defense team won, their prosecution lost.  I knew how much she wanted to win, so I told her that I was sorry that they lost.  And her response was simple:  “It’s Ok.  They were just better than us.”

She didn’t blame her teammates.  She didn’t say the judge was biased.  She didn’t complain about their mentor law firm (who really did let the team down- but that’s a whole other story) She just said that the other team was better.  She said that her team was well prepared, that everyone really performed above expectations, that they gave it their all.  They just weren’t good enough.  She said it didn’t reflect badly on her teammates because they left nothing on the table, but sometimes in life you can do all the right things and still lose.

Now, I’m going to go with nurture again, because I’ll take all the credit because I’m ultra competitive.  So seriously, I don’t take losing lightly- how did I end up with a child so mature about losing?

Here’s the thing:  I have some rules in the house.

  1. If she wanted to join something or take lessons, she must finish out stated commitment- go to all lessons, go to all games and practices
  2. These commitments come first- she wasn’t allowed to not go to something, especially in a team situation, because I stressed that it is a team, and teammates show up
  3. You always give 100% of your effort.  The end result doesn’t matter, but the effort and work do
  4. I made it very clear that sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose, and that’s life
  5. Life is not fair
  6. You can’t win something if you don’t try it (this isn’t really a rule, more of a saying, but I preached it a lot, so I’m including it)

My daughter has a room full of trophies and plaques and certificates.  She has had her fair share of wins.  But she has also had losses.  She has been losing things since she was young.  But I have shown her that if you lose, you get to be sad, or mad or whatever emotion you want.  But then you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get on with it.  Because sulking is not a lifestyle choice that winners have.  Winners keep going- even when they lose.  Winners are always in the game.

So what’s the lesson?  I’m the greatest parent in the world?  Not even close.  But you need to think about the lessons you’re teaching your kids.  Someday they are going to make all their own decisions: they need to be prepared for that.  Make sure you’re stressing the important things.


The Water Bottle

I love my water bottle.  I mean, I really love it.

  1. It holds 32 ounces of water
  2. It’s curved like an hour glass, so it’s easy to hold
  3. It’s narrow enough at the bottom so it fits comfortably in cup holders at the gym and most movie theaters (this is actually rare for a bottle that holds 32 ounces)
  4. The cover is pink!
  5. The cover is a screw top, which means that unless I don’t close it properly, it is leak-proof, so I can throw it in my bag without worry

In short, it is my perfect water bottle.

Now here’s the story:  A few weeks ago I was at the movie theater.  I left my treasured water bottle at the movie theater.  I realized it when I was about halfway home.  The movie theater is about a 30 minute walk from my house, and it’s also not a convenient mass transit ride. (I live on the east side, the theater is on the west- it’s basically a Manhattan nightmare).  I was very bummed.

When my daughter got home she asked about my day.  I told her my tale of woe.  She sympathized.  She knew what that water bottle meant to me.  So she put her coat back on and made the trek to the theater and retrieved my water bottle for me.

My daughter did the hour round trip to get me my water bottle.  She simply said, “I know you would do this for me.  I know you have done this for me.”  There are no words for how I felt.

Now, this is one of those moments that I am going to say it’s nurture.  My daughter was nice to me because I have been an awesome Mom and raised her to be an amazing person.  Don’t you dare tell me it’s nature…

So, is it silly to be enamored with a water bottle?  Yes.  Was it necessary for my daughter to spend an hour retrieving the water bottle?  No.  Do either of those things matter?  Probably not.  My daughter did something sweet for me that didn’t cost any money, and she did it without expecting anything in return.  That’s pretty much the only gift I will ever need.

Sunday Wrap Up

Another week in the books!  Wow!  How are we halfway through March?!

What I Watched

“Game Night” (movie)

NCAA tournament

Fixer Upper

What I Listened to:

Led Zeppelin

David Bowie

Eagle Eye Cherry

Sarah MacLachlen


Belle and Sebastian

What I Saw:

Armory Show (this is a big art show, where dealers from all over the world set up little galleries inside a big space) I had recently seen a documentary about the French street artist JR, so when I found he was showing at the Armory Show I knew I had to attend.  His work is very cool- he takes photos and blows them up and it’s really too hard to give a proper explanation suffice to say it’s fun and interesting.

What I read:

You know I’m still reading “Portrait of a Lady” (Henry James)




Gratitude Saturday

This was a tough week to find gratitude.  I found myself cranky and out of sorts.  But here are some of the things I found on the bright side.

  1. Villanova basketball
  2. Hot tea on cold, blustery days
  3. Subways being on time when I’m running late
  4. Lavender Epsom Salts
  5. Afternoon Tea with my Tea Society
  6. My decision to take three deep breaths
  7. The use of blog as journal to unload my thoughts

Advice: Should You?

This week I spoke of opinion/criticism and I spoke about family.  Today, we’re going to sort of combine the two subjects and talk about advice.  Specifically, parenting advice.

I do not like to receive unsolicited  parenting advice.  There you have it.  I don’t like when anyone tells me what to do with regards to the child that I am raising.  If I want an opinion, I will ask.

Also, I do not offer unsolicited parenting advice to people.  If someone asks my opinion, I will gladly give it, but…  Sometimes I do talk about parenting when I am blogging.  Though I may be giving advice, I am not aiming it towards any specific person, I’m merely sharing my thoughts on a subject.  I think writing about parenting in the abstract is not really advice (my blog, my rules)

I have a rough plan when it comes to how I want to parent my child.  If something is not working, I figure out how to change course.  So far, this method has worked for me.  The rules that I have thought about and put into practice work FOR ME.  They are great in our specific family dynamic.  They might not be great in someone else’s. (my house, my rules)

I have had people scoff at my parenting notions.  I have people that make very passive aggressive comments about how I choose to raise my child.  To say I get annoyed by this is an understatement.  It’s not that I don’t value other opinions, but let’s just say that I don’t like certain things about their children, so why would I want to repeat their mistakes?  This most closely applies to my Mother, because I see which of her actions caused my bad behavior patterns.  Behavior patterns that I find so abhorrent that I refuse to have my child ever thing the same way.  But enough of my emotional baggage for today.

(On a side note, if you do not have children- please don’t ever tell someone how to parent.  Just remember, everyone is the best parent in the world until they have children)

Now we come to the crux of my problem that I am writing about today.  I think my Sister is making a huge parenting mistake with my niece.  Notice how I used the word think.  I don’t know for sure if it is actually a mistake.  I have no actual psychological training with which to base my thoughts on, I’m going off of instinct.

I know that I don’t know everything (seriously- I know it often appears as if I think I know everything, but I really don’t think it or know everything).  But… My logic meter is telling me that my sisters actions don’t compute.  My emotional meter is telling me that my sisters actions don’t compute. Yet, I remain silent.  Because I don’t like to give parenting advice.

Should I break my rule?

When breaking a rule, you have to ask what the benefit will be.  I run the risk of my sister not ever speaking to me again. (she runs a little hot and holds grudges and is a blamer)  I run the risk of her giving me unsolicited advice.  But…is telling her my feelings going to be beneficial to my niece?  See, that’s the unknowable thing- I have no idea if I’m right and my sister is wrong.  I have no idea if my way of doing something is actually better.  Because there are no definitive rights and no definitive wrongs when it comes to parenting.  Different things work for different people in different situations.  Parenting doesn’t come with a rule book.

I’ve actually talked around the specific subject with my sister.  I know her feelings on the issue and I’ve tried to hypothetically point out things to her, so I know her stance.  To delve more into it would be pushing the boundaries.  I know I don’t like when my personal boundaries are pushed:  shouldn’t I respect the boundaries of others?  The issue is also one that would never specifically affect my child.  I have no personal knowledge of the issues faced, so it makes my opinion less valuable.  Do I have the right to comment on something I really know nothing about?

So here I sit- wondering what the best course of action is.  Because I just don’t know what to do.



Relationships: Family

Since John Mahoney of “Frasier” fame passed away last month, I’ve been working my way through the reruns.  Along with being a funny show, it was also filled with surprising bits of wisdom.  One episode has Daphne asking “Why is it so easy to love our families, but so hard to like them.”  Truer words were never spoken.

My Sister and my niece were in town a few weeks ago.  They live in Seattle (I know- odd Frasier connection), so we only see each other once a year.  As they were staying with my Mom, this meant I saw more of my Mother and Father.  Even though my parents live in New Jersey, I try to limit how often I see them.  Because, you know, it’s easy to love your family, but hard to like them.

Nothing increases my stress level more than time with my Mother.  Arguments abound.  We’ve never learned how to communicate with one another.  Every conversation turns into a yelling match, and a show down as to who can interrupt the others the most.  I don’t think I completed a sentence for four days.  It ends with my Mother saying something along the lines of “I’m not screaming.  I’m Italian.  This is how we talk.”  My Father is the opposite though- he sits stoically in the chair and says little.  And my Sister, well, she is the Queen of pushing buttons.  She is also the most sensitive person on the planet.  She thinks every sentence uttered is a personal attack against her.

Happy day.

I love my family.  I truly do.  But spending time with them is excruciating.  I had a headache for the better part of the week because we are truly unable to communicate with one another in a rational manner.  I feel like I’m walking on eggshells when we are together.  I try to stay calm, but my Mother and Sister often say the most ridiculous things.  Ok- to be fair- they may not be ridiculous if you are a stark raving lunatic, but if you’re trying to be a somewhat logical, rational person, their statements may come across as a tad antagonistic.  My Mother has opinions on most subjects.  If she doesn’t have an opinion on something it’s because she doesn’t think it’s a “worthy” topic.  Needless to say, my Sister has the exact opposite opinions of my Mother.  And she makes that known.  In fact, I believe that all the residents of my 19 story apartment building know her opinions on everything.

But I think you get the idea that the visit was mainly spent yelling.

I love my family.  I know they love me and would always be there if I needed them.  I just have a great deal of trouble being in the same room as them.

Never fear.  There will be a few more posts that detail some of the more fun moments of the trip, as I try to logically break down exactly why you can love, yet not always like your family.